01 The Place of Our Affections

By John Thiel, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, mp3

Scripture reading: Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Where are we to place our affections? And what actually generates affections in the first place, especially towards God?

The Lord requires our undivided affections. {TDG 13.4}

What a statement this is. When you talk about affections, can that be required of you? If you read it all on its own, this particular statement tends to make your affections to become as an expectation which you have to generate within yourself. This is why we want to consider the word of God on this subject and the stirring of affections.

God speaks here through Jeremiah to His people and to all of us:

Jeremiah 3:13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. 14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

God says, Return unto Me, O backsliding children. Why? For I am married unto you, He says. The Lord requires our undivided affections, just like in a married couple each partner would require the affections of the other to belong to them, and not to be diverted to anyone else. God says, I am married unto you; return to Me.

Exodus 34:12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: 13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: 14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name [is] Jealous, [is] a jealous God: 15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and [one] call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;

Our danger is to pass by what is written here. But we are not affected by pagan gods, are we? The fact is that anything that takes our affections away from God is a god, a pagan god. God is here saying, Take heed to yourself; remember the covenant that we have made together. Just like in a marriage, the covenant that a believer makes with God is a covenant that makes him belong to God, and God to him. It is a marriage covenant by which we swear, I will serve no other gods but God. I will not have my affections directed to any other. That is the reason why, if we have friendships with, or affections for some other object outside of God, it is called adultery. God says, My name is Jealous; I am jealous. As in a couple, when one partner takes his attention to another human being, the other one becomes jealous.

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

James writes here to the Christians and tells them that God is jealous over His people. If they have a friendship that takes their affections away from God, that is a serious crime. It is adultery. Many people make marital adultery more serious than adultery of affections stolen away from God to the things of the world. But this is just as, if not more, serious. Unfortunately people don’t see it that way.

What then is the meaning of affections? What are the affections that we should have towards God and not towards the world? Affection is: an emotional attachment, an emotional fondness, love, tenderness, and warmth. You can see that there are many Christians today who have a form of godliness – they have times for worship, and singing, and gathering together in the church – however, when it comes to emotional attachment to God, they have many other emotional attachments in other directions. That is why James said, You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that your emotional attachment to the things of the world is adultery to God?

Therefore God requires our affections because we are married to Him, as people who have made a covenant with God. You can now understand the meaning of those following words:

Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.

The church is the woman, and Jesus is the Bridegroom. The true marriage between a woman and a man is poorly understood today, because it is written for our times that, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” But this is something abhorrent in the Bible. God says to His church, “Give Me your heart, and observe My ways. I am your Lord, your Husband. I want you to have your affections, your heart, upon Me, and to observe My ways.”

If I am affectionately bound to someone, won’t I desire to do what He requires of me? You can see why it says that, The Lord requires our undivided affections. The affections that are in my heart are required – I am called to give heart-service to God. This is where our affections should be as God’s people.

Who is the One to whom our affections should be solely directed? The Majesty of the universe. He has affection for us. Why is He jealous? Because of His affections. When God created us, He was a God of affection; and those whom He created He had a yearning to spend time with, to have affectionate relationships with. This Majesty of the universe has such a strong affection for the human race that it is written that, God so loved the world. How much? So loved He the world. So affectionate was He to the human race that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

He gave His only begotten Son, the Person who was the most intimately wrapped up with Him. The relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an extremely close bond. So much did God have affection for the human race that He permitted the severing of a deep, intimate fellowship that He would have liked to retain. He brought Jesus down to this world and became one with the human race. This is how affectionate God is to us. The Spirit of Prophecy here enlarges some words of Jesus:

“Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.” That is, My Father has so loved you, that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In becoming your substitute and surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities, your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father. {DA 483.5}

Do you really understand what this is telling us? God loved Jesus already. But He had such an affection for us that He was looking for someone to redeem us from the sins we had fallen into by Satan’s terrible deception. He said, I love them so much, who will help Me deal with this problem? And Jesus said, Me; I am prepared to go. So the Father said, I love You even more now than I ever loved You before. I am even more affectionately bound to You because You are prepared to do this; because this was the only way We could redeem man back to Our hearts again, to bring their affection to Us. So Jesus can say, “My Father has so loved you, that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you.” It’s so easy to just read those words, isn’t it? But God wants us to appreciate Him as the Majesty of heaven and understand that He has affections for us, and that His affections for us are so deep that His affections to His Son became even stronger by the fact that He would go along and do what He did.

Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. {6BC 1073.8}

This is our problem. As sinners we are incapable of rendering true obedience to the law.

The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. {Ibid.}

Loves him how? The affections of God are so deep towards His Son (and He loves Him even more for making a way of escape for us) that, as the sinner responds to what Jesus has done and believes and truly relies on the benefit that was given through Jesus, He makes that sinner the receptacle of His affections, as though he was His own Son. This is God’s affections. No wonder then that we hear Sr. White expressing such words as these:

The dear Saviour seemed very near and very gracious, full of mercy and love. I feel like serving Him with my undivided affection. {UL 127.2}

As she contemplates the amazing things of God in Jesus (just as we are seeking to do here), something triggers in her heart. She says, “My Saviour seemed very near and very gracious. I feel like serving Him with my undivided affection.” Her emotional attachment is here expressed. It comes as a consequence of reflecting upon the affections of God towards us in giving us His Son.

This is something which we actually need to enter into. How imperative it is that we have this affection. We are not looking at this statement “The Lord requires our undivided affections” as an arbitrary thing. The reason why He yearns for this is that He is so affectionate Himself and He wants to share with us His affection in giving us His Son. We need to open our hearts to this story, because it is the only story that God could generate to create affection in our hearts to Him. He yearns for us to pay attention to this.

By faith we behold Him here and now. In our daily experience we discern His goodness and compassion in the manifestation of His providence. . . . The pure in heart see God in a new and endearing relation, as their Redeemer; {RC 378.5}

The person pure in heart looks upon God, and he is endeared. His emotional attachment is drawn to God.

…and while they discern the purity and loveliness of His character, they long to reflect His image. They see Him as a Father longing to embrace a repenting son, and their hearts are filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. {Ibid.}

Joy unspeakable – they can’t even express the joy that wells up inside as they see God like this.

The pure in heart discern the Creator in the works of His mighty hand, in the things of beauty that comprise the universe. {RC 378.6}

When you look at the beautiful nature around you there is something that endears your heart to the beautiful; and that is God’s creation. It has been marred by sin, but we can still see some of this. Yet it is more than that.

In His Written Word they read in clearer lines the revelation of His mercy, His goodness, and His grace. {Ibid.}

You see it clearer. It really starts to affect your feelings.

The beauty and preciousness of truth, which are undiscerned by the worldly-wise, are constantly unfolding to those who have a trusting, childlike desire to know and to do the will of God. We discern the truth by becoming, ourselves, partakers of the divine nature. {RC 378.7}

The pure in heart live as in the visible presence of God during the time He apportions them in this world. {RC 378.8}

To live in the presence of God, to have an affectionate relationship with the presence of God.

And they will also see Him face to face in the future, immortal state, as did Adam when he walked and talked with God in Eden. {Ibid.}

That is something to meditate about, to actually have this relationship and walking and talking with God, and one day face to face with the affections so strongly pulsating through our being. This is the appeal of the gospel ministry.

Gospel Appeal

Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ,

If you have made a covenant relationship with Him, if you have given your heart to Him,

Colossians 3:1 …seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Really search through them all. Find the amazing revelation of God’s affection to you.

Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Why?

Colossians 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

The story of redemption is the thing that generates this kind of reality. We become affectionate because we have died with Jesus who died with our sins.

The subject of the atonement of Jesus, of the nature of Christ, becoming one with us, a subject that has been tossed around by debating discussions, actually does something strange.

Psalm 104:33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.

The writer was trying to express something which he was deeply affected by, the solicitation of God’s love upon his soul which brought forth such words. “I love God so much I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet; because my affections are upon Him.” When you first become attached to someone in marriage who you love very much, before the marriage, those days of getting to know each other and beginning to love each other are so precious; there is a romance there. You can’t stop thinking about that person. That person becomes everything to you. Sadly, once marriage has taken place the romance wears off and there’s not that much affection anymore. But it is meant to be.

In our meditations upon God, they are sweet, and we are glad because we are meditating upon Him. How important is this endearment? As we meditate upon Jesus and all that He means to us, taking upon Himself our weak condition so that He could actually save us, this is meant to endear us to Him. God has done this to warm our hearts towards Him. I have seen this time and time again throughout all my ministry: If I deal with subjects that are exciting, people come alive; but if I deal with this subject, a large number of people say by their body language, When are you going to get to something exciting? But think carefully. How important is this endearment?

Endearment

Psalm 119:97 O how love I thy law! it [is] my meditation all the day.

The law? We need to keep the Ten Commandments, don’t we? Otherwise we will be lost if we don’t keep them. So people fall into this terrible trap of law, law, law, because we have to be saved by keeping the law. But there is here something more than just keeping the law.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! [yea, sweeter] than honey to my mouth!

There is an affection here, an affectionate bonding to the Lawgiver that makes them interested in His law; not because they have to keep the law to be saved, but because they are affectionately bound. Without the affection, what is our danger? Why is affection so important?

The True Witness declares, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” … Notwithstanding all this, the church is found wanting. What is the fatal deficiency?–“Thou hast left thy first love.” Is not this our case? Our doctrines may be correct; we may hate false doctrine, and may not receive those who are not true to principle; we may labor with untiring energy; but even this is not sufficient. What is our motive? Why are we called upon to repent?–“Thou hast left thy first love.” {1SM 370.2}

My meditations are not constantly upon the One who is the most endeared to my soul. You have lost your first love. Our doctrines might be correct. We may hate false doctrine. We may not receive those who are not true to principle; we may labor with untiring energy; but we are still falling short.

Let each member of the church study this important warning and reproof. Let each one see if in contending for the truth, if in debating on the theory, he has not lost the tender love of Christ. {1SM 370.3}

I felt this so deeply myself. When I was in New Zealand I was arraigned before top-leading men of the church because I taught the nature of Christ, and they told me that I was wrong in what I was teaching. Then I had to defend my faith by presenting the truth. But I could actually feel that in this debate I was losing hold of my love in Jesus. I could feel the danger, and I said to them, Look, I don’t want to go into this. I love this message so much, it is so precious to my soul; and you are bringing me into conflict here, and I don’t want it. But I had to, and the Lord helped me through. This is what can happen.

Has not Christ been left out of the sermons, and out of the heart? Is there not danger that many are going forward with a profession of the truth, doing missionary work, while the love of Christ has not been woven into the labor? This solemn warning from the True Witness means much; it demands that you shall remember from whence you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; “or else,” says the True Witness, “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5). O that the church might realize its need of its first ardor of love! When this is wanting, all other excellences are insufficient. The call to repentance is one that cannot be disregarded without peril. A belief in the theory of the truth is not enough. To present this theory to unbelievers does not constitute you a witness for Christ. The light that gladdened your heart when you first understood the message for this time, is an essential element in your experience and labors, and this has been lost out of your heart and life. Christ beholds your lack of zeal, and declares that you have fallen, and are in a perilous position. {Ibid.}

Can you see this grave danger of not seeing affection in conjunction with God? We can get wrapped up with the excitement of debate over the subject, and lose our relationship of affection. We must pay close attention to how serious the debating excitement over doctrinal correctness can actually be.

Excitement

Debating ministers are the most unreliable among us, {3T 217.2}

What? Debating ministers are unreliable? But they’re debating for the truth! Why are they unreliable?

…because they cannot be depended upon when the work goes hard. Bring them into a place where there is but little interest, and they manifest a want of courage, zeal, and real interest. They depend as much upon being enlivened and invigorated by the excitement created by debate or opposition as does the inebriate upon his dram. {Ibid.}

I want you to examine yourself, as I had to examine myself time and time again. As this battle for pure doctrine is entered into, the excitement of the battle and the conflict is what we start to depend upon. The motive of our being faithful has been shifted to excitement over doctrinal discussion. And these members of the church who get excited over the debating of the subjects, are most unreliable, because when the excitement of the battle on conflict of doctrine is not there, they have no real interest. They depend “upon being enlivened and invigorated by the excitement created by debate or opposition.”

These ministers need to be converted anew. They need to drink deep of the unceasing streams which proceed from the eternal Rock. {Ibid.}

What a serious thing this is. This is to do with our salvation. We need affections that will keep us going with God’s truth, no matter if everything falls down around us and there’s no excitement anymore, to still be able to go forward because my affections are centred upon this wonderful God; and I am going to battle through all the negatives because of that.

Dry as the Hills of Gilboa

If we are concentrating on the doctrines, and the law, and the law, and the law, and on debating over these things, this is what happens:

As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. {1888 560.4}

Preaching the law, the doctrines, and the pure messages, and getting so wrapped up with them that we actually lose our affections to God, our first love – that is what happens. It is exactly what I know happens. I saw it. My father was doing it, and I fell into the same danger as it was coming to me, and I could feel I was losing something by trying to defend the subject that meant so much to me. Then I had to go and spend time with the Lord in nature again and in the beauty of the contemplation rather than just in the defending. It is so insidious this thing, because as soon as you read something that has affectionately warmed your heart and then it’s being turned into a debate, you start reading and you start thinking, Oh! This is better! I’ll show them this… and, Oh! I’ll show them that! And I’ll prove it this way, and I’ll prove it that way! and this captures you. And the next minute, your love and your affection for God has been sapped out of you. This is serious. What does this debating do?

“Caviling, {LS 325.1}

That’s what it does: we cavil. One says, No, it’s this way; and the other person says, No, it’s that way. So we cavil.

…ridicule, {Ibid.}

That person can’t see what you are showing them, so in your heart you begin to ridicule them.

…and misrepresentation can be indulged in only at the expense of the debasement of your own souls. {Ibid.}

Sr. White wrote that in reference to the problem they had in 1888 on that very subject. She was warning them, You are going to be debasing your own soul.

The use of such weapons does not gain precious victories for you, but rather cheapens the mind, and separates the soul from God. Sacred things are brought down to the level of the common, and a condition of things is created that pleases the prince of darkness, and grieves away the Spirit of God. Caviling and criticism leave the soul as devoid of the dew of grace as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of rain. {Ibid.}

This is what Sr. White meant when she said you’ll become dry if you only preach the law, the law, and the law.

Confidence cannot be placed in the judgment of those who indulge in ridicule and misrepresentation. No weight can be attached to their advice or resolutions. You must bear the divine credentials before you make decided movements to shape the working of God’s cause. {Ibid.}

Can you see the seriousness of this?

Emotional Attachment

To come out of this and back into an affectionate binding to my Lord and Saviour, to have the truth with an emotional attachment to the One who gives this truth, we read the following:

The Lord requires our undivided affections. If men are not wholehearted, they will fail in the day of test and proving and trial. When the enemy shall put his forces in array against him, and the battle seems to go hard, at the very time when all the strength of intellect and capability, and all the tact of wise generalship, is needed to repulse the enemy, those who are half-hearted will turn their weapons against their own soldiers; they weaken the hands that should be strong for warfare. God is testing all who have a knowledge of the truth to see if they can be depended on to fight the battles of the Lord when hard pressed by principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world and wicked spirits in high places. Perilous times are before us, and our only safety is in having the converting power of God every day–yielding ourselves fully to Him to do His will, and walk in the light of His countenance. {TDG 13.4}

It is a relationship with God that is needed – that is the issue – an affectionate relationship with God, to be endeared to Him. This is the only way by which we will come through successfully.

Our affections, our emotional attachment to God and to Jesus, need to be in place. They need to be placed upon God and Jesus, and upon His truth connected with their Persons, not segregated from the Person. This needs to be our full and complete focus. And in having that affectionate bond to Him, from Him then we shall place our affections upon each other.

Romans 12:10 [Be] kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

This counsel that we must have affection one toward another, cannot exist without our affections to God. Then only can we have this brotherly love that bears patiently with each other, as God bears with us. As we see how longsuffering God was to Lucifer, how longsuffering we will be to one another. And we will have affection that draws and endears each other’s affection one towards another because we are concentrating on the Man of the Bible, on the God who is behind it all. Let us tenaciously cling to the scene of God’s affection for us, and let this permeate all that we do.

Amen.

Posted on March 30, 2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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