Gospel-Driven Reflection and Affection, Part 1

A Gospel-driven believer (and church) is characterized by a mind that is gripped by the truth of God and a longing for the person of God. A Gospel-driven believer rejects the common yet erroneous notion that profound reflection quenches fervent affection.

A Gospel-driven believer rejects the polarization that exists within in many Evangelical churches today between intellectualism and emotionalism. God is not honored by a stoic intellectualism or by shallow emotionalism. Both the mind and emotions are crucial.

John Piper has written,

    In the Christian life, emotions are crucial and thinking is crucial. God is not honored by either an unfeeling, joyless, loveless intellectualism or by an unthinking, uncritical emotionalism. Both are needed- minds that are gripped by the truth of God acquired through the serious and rigorous study of Scripture, and hearts that are on fire with intense emotions of love for God and His glory, awe of His majestic holiness, gratitude for His mercy, and fear of His wrath.

    In the final analysis, what God wants most is our hearts. That was the problem with the Pharisees-they honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8)…

    …the way God longs to reach our hearts is through our minds. It is through the truth of Scripture that we become transformed people through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This truth comes through the discipline of careful reading of the text (Ephesians 3:4) seeking to find the author’s intended meaning. The role of the Holy Spirit is not to add anything to the text but to make the heart of the reader humble so that he or she will welcome and embrace the truth (I Corinthians 2:14).

    Thus our position could be summed up as follows: “The heart is crucial, through the head.”

It might be helpful to interject a footnote regarding emotions and affections. When I speak of emotions or affections I am referring to internal longings, desires, passions, emotions that are rooted in the truth of Scripture that the mind has first grasped. I am not speaking of a shallow emotionalism, which is nothing more than a euphoric experience, a heightened state of psychological euphoria that is completely unrelated to the truth of Scripture (e.g., the feelings people experience at an NFL football game when their team scores a touchdown to win the game).

Saving faith is based upon the truths of the Gospel as they are revealed in the Scriptures. In our postmodern culture, it is not enough to say, “I believe in Jesus.” Just this past week I had a conversation with a professing believer of thirty plus years who thought that Mormons were for the most part orthodox in their faith.

True saving faith requires that a man rightly understand the person and work of Jesus as He is revealed in the Gospel, which is given to us in the Scriptures (cf., 1 Cor. 15:3-4, “according to the Scriptures…”).

Saving faith is based upon the truths of the Gospel, as revealed in the Scriptures.

The Reformers of the 16th century defined true saving faith as consisting of three parts, each described by three Latin words:

    notitia (knowledge, an intellectual grasp of facts), assensus (assent/belief, the conclusion that yes, the facts are true) and fiducia (trust, the conviction that these facts are true for me).

So, it is vital to note that saving faith is based upon the truths of the Gospel. Yet, true saving faith is more than simply an intellectual grasp of facts (cf., James 2:19) though again it is not less.

The idea of dead orthodoxy is a contradiction in terms. To be sure, it is certainly possible to have correct ideas about God and yet lack true affection for God. Fallen angels understand perfectly who God is yet they have no true affection for God (James 2:19). However, if orthodox truth does not lead to greater affection and love for God and people, the problem is not with the truth but one’s own heart. A lack of desire for God is not just a head problem it is also a heart problem (Matt. 15:8; Rev. 3:15-16).

When it comes to truth, we do not study truth for truth’s sake. We do not study just so we can win theological arguments. We study truth so that we might be led to the Truth. We are not saved by propositions but by a person. To be sure, propositional truth is vital but only in so much as it points men to Christ who is the Truth.

A lack of desire for God is not just a head problem it is also a heart problem.

Without question, the Christian faith is propositional and based upon profound and life-changing doctrine. But, it is important to keep in mind that Christ is not only the content of our faith but also the source of our life.

Christ is not only the content of our faith but also the source of our life.

One only needs to read the Psalms to see the inseparable connection between affection for God and true faith. In Psalm 42:1-2, the Psalmist cries out, “1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”

In Psalm 27:4, the Psalmist declares, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in His temple. (cf., Ps. 73:25-26; 143:6; 119:40, 123, 131, 174).

Again, in Psalm 111:2, the Psalmist writes, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.” The believer studies God’s works in creation and redemption precisely because he delights in them and the more he studies the greater his delight grows.

James Montgomery Boice commenting on this passage writes,

    “The unbeliever can look at these things (i.e., God’s works) and ponder them…The Christian not only looks at them and ponders them but also delights in them, for he or she sees them as the works of an almighty and ever-glorious God. Recognizing their source leads the Christian to a delight in God himself,” (Psalms, vol. 3, p. 909; compare Ps. 111:2 with this brief article: Ignorance is Bliss).

Thus, the Scriptures forbid an artificial distinction between truth and life, profound reflection and fervent affection. Such realities cannot exist without the other. Saving faith will produce affection for God and doxology (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Tim. 1:5, 17).

How then are such affections created and sustained?

To be continued…

2 Responses to Gospel-Driven Reflection and Affection, Part 1

  1. […] God not only by understanding Him with our minds but also by desiring Him with our affections (see Part 1). Yet, if we are honest, we often fail to desire God in the way they […]

  2. […] muse « Gospel: Not About You (primarily) Led unto the TRUTH March 16, 2008 John Fonville:  “When it comes to truth, we do not study truth for truth’s sake. We do not study just so we […]

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