the Affections of the Heart.

Reading God’s word is not something that should be difficult in your life. You, who profess to know and love Jesus, should want, desire, crave, to know more and more about Him. It should be your passion, your motivation, your everything. “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you…Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 1:23-24. Peter here begins by reminding them that they have been born again “through the living and abiding word of God.” And this ties into the last verse, the big IF. “IF you have tasted that the Lord is good.” He is saying that IF you have truly, genuinely seen Christ and accepted Him into your life, you should LONG FOR this spiritual growth, that begins by simply READING the Holy Word of God. Authentic faith is never a mere human decision that can be made by willpower without a transformed heart. It is the opening of the eyes of the heart (Eph. 1:18) to see Jesus as more precious than anything. IF you have experienced this, truly, then you should long for Jesus, long for His word. That is a huge indicator of an authentically transformed new creation in Christ. If you do not have this longing, this passion, to read God’s word, to know more about who God is and what He has called you to do, then I would encourage you STRONGLY to take a look at your heart and figure out where you are. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believer in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:13-17) This “hearing” can be audible, or it may be through reading. In whatever way it comes, the point is the same: faith is brought into being and sustained through the word. “Therefore, we should give ourselves to this word, not halfheartedly, but with a passion to see and savor the very beauty of Christ that the word is designed to impart.” If you are not reading the bible, you are not growing. If you do not have the desire to read the word, you may not have experienced Christ in the way you thought you have. And shoot me a message on this, because I have lots of biblical back up for this one.

A lot of people confuse God for emotion. But let’s clear this up right now. What do I mean by this? I am going to use a passage from one of my favorite authors and theologians, John Piper. Listen to this. “When I speak of moving from seeing to savoring, or from seeing truth in Scripture to savoring what we see, I mean savoring the reality behind the words, not just the words themselves. Perhaps this is obvious. But I know from my own experience the danger of being excited merely with the structure of a test that I just discovered. I’ve tasted the danger of being excited merely with the logic of a passage that I finally caught onto, or even worse, being excited that I might now be able to win an argument with this new insight. In other words, there are superficial, and even evil, ways to experience happy emotions when reading the Bible. This is not what I am calling for. When I say…that we should aim in all our seeing to savor God’s excellence above all things, I mean the very excellence of God himself, not merely the excellence of the words about God’s excellence. Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving literary beauty and logical clarity. The subtle danger is when that kind of savoring deludes us into thinking we are really savoring divine reality behind those words. Unbelievers can savor the bible as literature. There is nothing necessarily spiritual about it. God warned us about this kind of savoring in Isaiah 29:13

                “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…”

This kind of thing can happen when we are ‘worshiping’, and it can happen when we are reading the bible. A real emotion can arise- even a kind of ‘fear of God’, as Isaiah calls it- and it is not more than a response to a biblical commandment. It is not a response to the living God. You can, perhaps, feel the weight of this-and the difficulty. There are glories of God that we can see only by reading the Scriptures, so word and linguistic structures and logical arrangements of propositions are crucial. But we can get lost on the very bridge designed by God to take us to the reality. Or, to change the image, we can admire the shape and position and cleanness of the window and miss the mountains beyond.” This is the reality behind the Words of Scripture. So often, especially those who struggle with even just opening the word of God, will try and muster up some kind of emotional reaction to prove to themselves that there is purpose to reading the word, that they are “feeling” God speak to them. That is not how this works. To experience God, through Scripture, is to read the word and see Him. Do not get stuck at the surface. Take long moments to really understand what the words are saying about God, what are they revealing about what or who God is. Savor His goodness because He is good. We should continually pray to experience affections of the heart that correspond to the reality we are seeing in the bible. And “affections” are not what you are probably thinking right now. There is a song, we sang it at a worship service this morning, where it says “Our affection, our devotion, poured out on the feet of Jesus”. It says this A LOT actually. And I thought of that word, and I wondered “does anyone in this room actually understand what this word means in relation to the ultimate purpose of God for his people- ‘the white-hot, everlasting worship of God’s infinite worth and beauty’?” And I quickly answered my own question with no, most likely not. Affection, emotions, feelings, in the spiritual sense, that is what is seen in and through scripture, is not referring to physical experiences like sweaty palms, shaky knees, racing heart, trembling lips, or tearful eyes. Those are bodily reactions. And those, more often than not, are mere reactions to music or “communal fervor” or desperate circumstances or a dozen other things that are NOT born of the Holy Spirit. Or, they may be true reactions of the heart-and therefore truly precious. (But make sure you are honest with yourself, because what is the point of lying and missing out on the truly amazing experiences God has for you?) By “affections” I am talking about emotions like gratitude, hope, joy contentment, peacefulness, compassion, fear, hate, anger, grief, desire. None of these is merely physical. “Angels, demons, and departed saints without bodies can have these ‘feelings’.” When these are awakened and formed by the Holy Spirit, this is when the Bible calls them “spiritual”. “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (or interpreting truths in spiritual language, or comparing spiritual things with spiritual)” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Most people confuse these “reactions” with the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit is an entirely different entity that people do not understand, mostly because they do not even try or want to, but that is a different subject (stay tuned).

So, as this is just the beginning of this subject, I want you to have the opportunity to engage in the supernatural experience of reading Scripture. I am so passionate about this, because I am so passionate about the Lord. The big “IF” is not as daunting in my life. I am confidently a lover and believer of Jesus Christ and I know this full well, because I have the absolute desire to read His word, every day and learn more and more about Him with each moment that passes. And because I have experienced this, I want YOU to as well. My hope and prayer is that each person on this Earth, who already claims to know Christ, will ACTUALLY know Him, will TRULY be transformed by Him, and will WHOLEHEARTEDLY follow Him and love Him with ALL that they are. But one cannot grow in this faith without reading and savoring the Scriptures. So to begin you all, I am going to end with this scripture I came across the other day. Do not get hung up on the literary beauty of it, but actually see what the words are saying. I am praying continually over these next few days, that whomever comes across this, will open up the word and find God.

PSALM 19:7-11

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