"But how insensible and unmoved are most men, about the great things of another world! How dull are their affections! How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small.
How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of his giving his infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in his dying agonies, his bloody sweat, his loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory; and yet be cold, and heavy, insensible, and regardless! Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here? What is it that does more require them? And what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise, if not such a one as this? Can anything be set in our view, greater and more important? Anything more wonderful and surprising?"
That was Jonathan Edwards talking, from his Treatise on Religious Affections. Where is your heart today? Are you living for God out of love for Jesus Christ for all he was done for you? Or are there other things in your life that are about as important? Jesus calls you to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind”—is that rhetoric or reality? Now find the time, read it all, we need to be thorough about this: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/affections.ii.html
My world is the “evangelical” one. We are worrying over declining interest in the gospel among those millennials, and the consequent inevitable aging and dying of the church. We know how indifferent our whole culture is to the Christian faith and we don’t know what to do about it. We are hated because we oppose abortion, and are just about ready to stop talking about it. There is less and less interest among us for careful study of Scripture, and too many of our sermons don’t go anywhere.
It just can’t go on this way. Something has to change, we need Awakening. But what would that look like? Solutions to all those problems, or more than that? Just being able to lean back and be content with the way the world and the church are going again?
As I was growing up, about everyone in town went to church and the major sin was cutting your lawn on Sunday. No hookups, girls went off to see an aunt for a few months. Of course we were Christians with our Bibles on coffee tables, dusted off now and then. Somehow some of us knew there had to be more and we located it.
But we were all so casual about it, so sure it would all come together and work out. We didn’t see how indifferent we were and what was about to happen unless we called out to the Lord and got with it for him. So today’s obvious collapse of the reality of the risen Jesus and his glorious good news is in a way a good thing, it’s getting through to us finally how we ourselves with our casual gospel brought it on and were traitors to Jesus.
Yes, Lord, yes, bring us Awakening now, show us and the world around us again that Jesus is alive and well, and that his love endures forever and how hopeless life is without him.
That was what was on Edwards’ heart. Knowing some things about religion doesn’t cut it, reality has to be loving Jesus, being joyful about him, wanting his glory to be known and seen, first of all in our own hearts. Not listening to the culture all around us and too often in us, but listening only to Jesus in his Word. Read Edwards and see again and again how easy it is to settle for much too little, how easy it is to focus on how deep our own religious experience is, without caring about offering up so much glory to Jesus.
Thank you Jonathan, it’s not about how we feel but about how we should know and rejoice and praise and love. (It’s that old high-tech theology word extraspective again, looking straight at Jesus instead of circling around and looking at how we’re looking).
If it’s looking at really who he is, then let me tell you how it’s playing out with me, a feeble beginning but a start. For years now I’ve been cynical about theological conflict between friends of mine on both sides. It looks like the other side has its mind made up with no interest in listening. So what should I do with that? My long journey in church history tells me: it’s always that way, Christians don’t want to listen to each other, no big deal, what’s wrong with me that I can’t let go? People pray for me that I’ll let go. Jesus said the point of all he does is that we should be one, but Jesus, it’s high time you let go too. (My friend Diane Langberg is a blessed helper, or is it helpful blessing?. Some get upset about sexual abuse of children and they get told, just let go—and then Diane lowers the boom, what, what, let go and chill out over what’s happening to those children?!) I’m learning slowly to go with Diane and Jesus, and Jonathan too, don’t let anything go, but persist in godliness and faith and prayer.
So now I’m working with that conflict, writing my letter to ask people to say more to help other people understand, and then praying about it—and expecting my prayer to get Jesus’ attention and be heard! Not even, quit unless it happens right away, but cling to Jesus and wrestle with Jacob! Stop thinking about what’s next when this doesn’t fly either—but expect the Lord to care for his people and bring them back together. There’s my major heart change, how does that sound to you Jonathan? Genuine or fake?
Then there’s that wonderful church, a place where the Lord has shown himself again and again, and where Jesus has been real and lively. But now no one expects the preacher to do more than describe. The elders agree to that, almost everyone agrees. Is that just me, generations behind where the action is today, just tuned out, get over it? One of these days there will be really something I’ll have to get over I know—but this isn’t one either. How can it be? Hey, Lord don’t let me write off this church to get used to super-casual Jesus.
I guess that’s as far as I’ve gotten today. Jonathan, I know it’s minor league for you, but this is what you’ve found in the Word, isn’t it? Hope of Jesus and Joy in Jesus and especially Love of Jesus? It isn’t a messy world where nothing will ever make. No, that's not the world of the living God at all. His world is brim full of gospel hope.