AFECTIONPrint This Page.
Yielding one’s affection to the lord may be viewed by the Christian to be a most difficult task, yet the Lord is concerned with One’s affection more than with any Other matter. He demands him to present his affection wholly to Him and let Him lord over it. The Lord asks for first place in our affection. We Often hear people talk about consecration, but this act is simply the first step in one’s spiritual walk. Consecration is not the destination of spirituality, it is but its beginning. It leads a Christian to a sanctified position. In a word, without consecration there can be no spiritual life. Even so, nothing is more paramount in one’s consecration than is his affection. Whether or not this has been yielded determines the truth or falsity of consecration. Its acid test is affection. Relatively easy is it for us to hand over our time, money, power, and countless other items; but to offer our affection is exceedingly difficult. This is not to imply we do not love Christ; perhaps we love our Lord very much. Nevertheless, if we grant first place in our affection to another and relegate Christ to second place, or if we love someone else while loving the Lord, or if we ourselves direct our affection, then what we have offered is not considered consecration for we have not yielded our affection. Every spiritual believer appreciates the necessity for affection to be offered first. For without that, nothing really is offered.
God the Father demands absolute love from His children. He is unwilling to share Our heart with anyone or anything else: even a He should receive the bigger share, He is still not pleased. God demands all our love. Naturally this strikes a fatal blow to One’s soul life. The Lord bids us part with what we Ourselves cling to, for it divides Our heart. He asks us to love Him totally and to utterly follow Him in love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22.37). “All” denotes every ounce of it for the Lord. He enjoins us to reserve not one tiny particle of affection which we ourselves can direct. He calls for all. He is a jealous God (Ex. 20.5), therefore He does not allow anybody to steal the love of His children.
Yet how many dearly beloved ones have their claim on the believer’s affections besides God! Perhaps an Isaac, a Jonathan, or a Rachel. Wherefore God insists we lay our beloved ones on the altar. He cannot tolerate any competition. Our all must be on the altar. This is the Christian’s way to spiritual power. And shortly after the sacrifice is laid on the altar—nay, after the last sacrifice is duly placed thereon—fire will come down from heaven. Without the altar, there can be no heavenly fire. How, then, will one ever have the power of the Holy Spirit if he does not take up his cross and offer everyone whom he loves to the Lord? This is not an empty altar, for fire consumes the sacrifice on it. What can the fire consume if there is no sacrifice? Brethren, neither our mental understanding of the cross nor our endless talk about it will give us the power of the Holy Spirit; only our laying everything on the altar will. If we continue to harbor some secret rope uncut, if our heart secretly retains some oxen and sheep and an Agag, we will still not experience the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.
How much the work of God has suffered because of our failure to let the Lord be the Lord of our affections. Many parents cling to their children for themselves and permit the kingdom of God to incur loss. Countless husbands or wives are unwilling to make sacrifice and thus the harvest is left ungathered. Numerous Christians are so attached to their friends that they sit back and let their brethren fight at the front alone. It is deplorable how many think they can love their dear ones and the Lord simultaneously, not comprehending that by loving these, they cannot love the Lord. We persist in living in the soul if we cannot say with Asaph: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee” (Ps. 73.25).
We cannot but stress the significance of our loving the Lord with our whole heart. Nothing satisfies His heart as does our love. The Lord looks not for our laboring for Him but for our loving Him. The church at Ephesus, according to Revelation 2, works and toils for the Lord, yet He is displeased with them because they have abandoned their first love. If our service is rendered for love’s sake the Lord will certainly be pleased; but what value is it to Him if we undertake endeavors for Him without truly possessing a heart for Him? We should be aware how possible it is to labor for the Lord and yet not love the Lord. Let us ask God to cast light on the reason for our activity. Is love for the Lord strong within us? What is the use of calling out “Lord, Lord” and working diligently for Him while simultaneously the heart has no love for Him? May we have a perfect heart towards our dearly beloved Lord!
God’s children have never fully understood how their loved ones could hinder their spiritual growth. As we begin to have other loves besides a love for God, however, we do discover that He gradually loses significance for us. And even should our loved ones love God, we probably will love Him for the sake of our dear ones rather than because of God Himself. Hence our relationship with God descends from the spiritual to the carnal level. We never ought to love God for the sake of another person or thing; we must love Him for His sake alone. Should a believer love the Lord for his dear one’s sake, his devotion towards Him is governed by the one whom he loves. God has thus been done a favor in that the loved one has been responsible for turning the believer’s love towards God. And consequently God becomes indebted to that loved one for the devotion He receives from the believer. Today the loved one propels the believer to love God; tomorrow the same one may cause him to abandon his love to God.
Moreover, when we are inclined towards someone we can hardly preserve our heart in quietness; usually we will be stirred by our emotion to seek feverishly to please the other one. Most likely the desire to draw near to God will be less than the desire to draw near to the loved one. In such a case the Christian will doubtlessly exhibit diminished interest in spiritual affairs. Outwardly nothing seems changed: inwardly though his heart is entangled with his dear one. Spiritual interest, if not totally lost, is surely greatly decreased. Furthermore, the Christian’s aspiration for the vainglory of this world is excited beyond restraint. In order to obtain the attention of his loved one he will seek to impress that one with the things, fashion, beauty, glory, and other aspects of the world. God and His demands go by the board. Be it therefore known that man can love but one person and serve but one master at a time: if he loves man, he cannot love God. We must sever all secret relationships with man.
Actually, only God can satisfy a Christian’s heart; man cannot. The failure of many is to seek from man what can be found only in God. All human affection is empty; the love of God alone is able to fully satisfy one’s desire. The moment a Christian seeks a love outside God his spiritual life immediately falls. We can only live by the love of God.
What then? Does this indicate we need not love man? The Bible repeatedly charges us to love the brethren and even to love our enemies. Accordingly we know it is not God’s will we should not love man, but He does desire to manage our affection towards all men. God does not want us to love others for our sake but to love for His sake and in Him. Our natural likes and dislikes do not have any part here; natural affection must lose its power. God wants us, for love’s sake, to accept His control. When He wishes us to love someone, we instantly are able to; should He also desire us to terminate our relationship with someone, we can do that too.
This is the pathway of the cross. Only as we allow it to cut deeply so that we have our soul life delivered to death can we be rid of self in our affections. If we genuinely have undergone death we will not be attached to anyone but will be guided solely by the command of God. Our soul life, as it experiences death, loses its power and becomes as much as dead in the matter of affection. God will then direct us how in Him to renew our love for men. God wants us to create in Him a new relationship with those we formerly loved. Every natural relationship has been terminated. New relationships are established through death and resurrection.
How contrary such a course seems to Christians, and yet how blessed it is to those who so experience it! In order to substantiate, for the believer’s own profit, his consecration to God, God often “strips” him of that which he holds dear. God endeavors either to secure our love towards Him or to strip us of our love. When He employs the second way He will either cause our loved ones to change their hearts towards us or make it impossible for us to love them by setting up environmental obstacles such as their moving or passing away. If our heart is sincere in consecration, God will deprive us of everything so that He shall be the only One left. To possess spiritual life in reality we must be willing to forsake all we love. Whatever conflicts with our love to God, God demands us to forsake. Spiritual life forbids the dividing of our affection. Any error in our affection—be it an error of intention or purpose or excessiveness—is judged by God to be as wrong as an error in our hatred. Love and hate, when from ourselves, are equally defiled in the sight of God.
Once the believer has passed through a purifying process he will observe how unalloyed his affection towards men now is: no longer is self mixed in with his love: all is for God and all is in God. In his former affection he loved others but loved himself more, because he esteemed his own self more important than they. But now he is able to share the sorrow and joy of others, to bear their burdens, and to serve them with affection. No longer does he love what his own self loves, but loves those whom God loves; no more does he count himself above others, but regards them as his own self. He is today in God and loves himself as well as others for God’s sake: he can therefore love others as his very self.
Let us understand that the lordship of God over our affection is an indispensable requirement to spiritual growth. How undisciplined and wild is our affection! If it is not subject to God’s will it shall endanger our spiritual walk at all times. A mistaken thought may be corrected easily, but an errant affection is nearly unmanageable. We should love the Lord with all our heart, permitting Him to direct our love.
Loving the Lord Soulishly
Right here we should sound a note of warning. Never think we ourselves can love the Lord. Whatever comes from us is rejected by Him; even loving Him is unacceptable. On the one hand, the believer’s lack of deep affection towards the Lord grieves Him greatly; on the other hand, one’s loving Him with soul power is not welcomed by God either. Our affection, even when used to love the Lord, must be entirely under the spirit’s management. Too many love the Lord with a worldly love and too few, with God’s pure love.
Nowadays the Lord’s people primarily employ their soulical power to absorb the things of God. They speak about their Father God, call the Lord their most beloved Lord, and contemplate His suffering. By so doing their hearts are filled with joy and they feel they are now loving the Lord. They conclude this feeling is from God. Sometimes while meditating on the Lord’s cross they cannot withhold their tears because they seem to experience such an unspeakable burning affection for the Lord Jesus. These things nonetheless pass through their lives like ships sailing through the sea: no lasting trace is left behind. Such is the love of countless Christians. But what is this kind of love after all? Such love as this is the sort which only serves to make one’s self happy. This is not loving God, it is loving pleasure. The visualization of the Lord’s suffering seems to have touched his heart, but its inner truth has not affected his life.
How powerless is the suffering of the Lord in a believer’s heart when merely mentally or emotionally conceived! In contemplating His suffering one becomes inflated and proud, viewing himself as loving the Lord far more than do others. He talks as though he is a heavenly man; actually, he has not moved one breath away from his pitiful self. He gives the impression of loving the Lord so much, and for this reason others admire him. Even so, his love is nothing but self-love. He thinks and talks and desires after the Lord only because in so doing he can feel happy. His motive is for deriving pleasure and not for the sake of the Lord. Such meditation secures to himself a comfortable and pleasant stirring, and so he continues to meditate. All is soulish and earthly, neither of God nor of the spirit.
What, therefore, is the distinction between spiritual love and soulish love towards God? These two are not readily distinguishable outwardly, but inwardly every Christian can detect the true source of his love. As the soul is our very self so all which belongs to it cannot draw away from self. A soulish affection is one in which self is working. To love God for the sake of personal pleasure is carnal love. If a love is spiritual it has no self mixed in with loving God. It means to love God for His Own sake. Any affection which is totally or partially for one’s own pleasure or for reasons other than for God Himself emanates from the soul.
Another way we can distinguish the source of love is through its results. If one’s love is soulical it does not empower him to be delivered permanently from the world. The believer must continue to worry and struggle to break away from the world’s attraction. Not so with spiritual love. Here the things of the world just naturally fade away before it. The one who participates in that kind of love despises the world, considering its things abhorrent and abominable. Henceforth he appears to be unable to see the world because the glory of God has blinded his physical eyes. Furthermore, a person who experiences such .love as this becomes humble as though he has dried up before men.
The nature of God’s love is unchangeable. Ours alternates all too readily. If it is our habit to love God with our own affection we shall turn cold towards Him whenever we are unhappy. We shall lose our own love should we have to go through a long period of trial. Our affection towards God will recede when we cannot obtain the pleasure we expect, because we love Him with our own love and for our own sake. If it were God’s love it would remain in the condition of loving Him through every circumstance. “For love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave . . . Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (S. of S. 8.6,7). The believer who genuinely loves God will persist in loving Him regardless what he encounters or how he feels. A soulical affection ceases when the movement of emotion ceases; but a spiritual affection is strong, ever unrelenting, for it never relinquishes.
The Lord frequently leads the saint through painful experiences in order that he may not love the Lord for his own sake. When one loves with his own affection and for his own sake he can only love when he senses the affection of the Lord. However, one who loves with God’s love and for His sake will be made by God to believe in His love rather than to feel it. At the beginning of a Christian life the Lord uses many ways to attract the believer to, and to assure him of, His love. Later, He desires to guide him further on by withdrawing the feeling of love while leading him on into believing His heart of love. Please note that that first step of being attracted by the feeling of the Lord’s love is necessary for the believer’s subsequent deeper walk with the Lord, because unless he has been drawn by the Lord’s love he shall be powerless to forsake all and follow Him. During the initial stage on a Christian’s spiritual path the feeling of the love of the Lord is vital and helpful, something to be sought diligently. After an appropriate time, though, he ought not cling to such feeling, for to do so will bring damage to his spiritual life. Various spiritual experiences are apportioned to different steps in one’s spiritual walk. To encounter a certain experience in its corresponding stage of life is both proper and profitable; but to hanker again for those early experiences at a later stage in our walk constitutes retreat or retardation. After the Lord has made a person feel His love, He wishes Him to believe in His love. Hence when one has experienced for a time the love of the Lord in his emotion, God will remove that feeling (although not immediately) in order to create in him the essential belief that the love of the Lord never changes. Consequently, let that one not be surprised should he, following a period of feeling the Lord’s love, lose that feeling. The time has now arrived for him to believe in the Lord’s love.
Guard against One Thing
We have learned that in walking after the spirit we need to keep our emotion calm and quiet; otherwise we cannot hear the voice of intuition. Unless our affection is thoroughly quiet under the will of God our heart will be intermittently disturbed and the guidance of the spirit will hence be interrupted. A believer should always notice in his spirit what person or thing easily activates his affection. Should Satan be impotent to overcome a believer in any other respect, he will tempt him through this particular point involving his affection. Innumerable Christians have failed on just this issue. Great caution must accordingly be exercised.
Nothing activates our affection more than friends, and among friends the opposite sex stirs us the most. Due to differences in natural endowment, the opposite sexes attract each other. Here is not only a physical complement but a psychological one as well. Yet such attraction belongs to the soul: it is natural: it ought to be denied. It is an established fact that the opposite sex can easily stimulate affection. The stimulation by the same sex is much less prevalent than that by the opposite sex. For some psychological reason there is overwhelmingly more attraction to the opposite sex. This is the common and natural tendency. A slight stimulation occasioned by the opposite sex generally stirs up deep affection.
Obviously we are now speaking of the natural tendency of man. For this very reason a Christian who wishes to walk by the spirit must take note of it. In our association with people, especially in the matters of love, if we treat the same sex in one way and the opposite sex in another we know we are already under the operation of the soul. If we treat them differently for no reason other than that one is of the opposite sex, then our affection remains natural. To be sure, such stimulation by the opposite sex can be mixed in with proper motive. A Christian must nonetheless recognize that should there be such mixed motives in friendship his social intercourse is not purely spiritual.
A worker in his work and while at work needs to watch lest the thought of the opposite sex makes its intrusion. He must resist all desire to be glorified among the opposite sex. All words uttered and mannerisms affected due to the influence of the opposite sex diminish spiritual power. Everything must be done quietly with a pure motive. Remember that it is not sin alone which defiles; whatever issues from the soul can defile as well.
Does all this signify, then, that a believer should not have friends of the opposite sex? The Bible does not so teach. Our Lord when on earth had friendly fellowship with Martha, Mary, and other women. So the question fundamentally must be: is our affection wholly under God’s control? Or is the working of the flesh somehow mixed in with it? It is perfectly proper for brothers and sisters to fellowship; only there should not be mixed in with it the working of the soul.
To sum up, a Christian’s affection must be entirely offered to God. Whenever we feel it too difficult to hand someone over to God, we know our soul life has ruled in that area. Where our affection is unable to yield fully to God’s will, much unspiritual mixture must be there. All soulish affections lead us to sin and draw us to the world. An affection which is not inspired by the Lord will soon be transformed into lust. Samson is not alone in the history of man in failing in this regard. Delilah is still cutting the hair of man today!
We stated earlier that affection is the hardest element for a believer to offer: ergo, its consecration becomes the sign of true spirituality: ergo, this is the greatest test. He who has not died to worldly affection has not died to anything. Death to natural affection proves one’s death to the world. To covet and to lust after man’s affection demonstrates that the Christian has not yet died to self life. His death to soul life is substantiated by his forsaking every affection other than that for God. How transcendent is a spiritual man! He walks far above human natural affection.