07 Battle of the Affections

By John Thiel, Godly Affections That Motivate Series, mp3

Scripture reading: Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

When I first read those words as a child I was waiting for the Lord to do something, to go along and put that new heart in me. And I have experienced over the years that this kind of expectation of God just doing something like that, is in the mind of a lot of people. We have this idea that, God will do a miracle and touch my heart somehow by some supernatural, physical operation. Therefore we want to ask the Lord what He means. What is His method of putting a new heart into our being? Jesus gave us an indication of the method that God would use to put new hearts into our beings:

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Can we understand by this how God is going to put a new heart inside of us? Jesus was referring to what was ahead of Him. He would die on the cross, He would be lifted up; and by Him being so lifted up, the prince of this world would be cast out and men’s hearts would be drawn to Jesus. By the action of the death of Jesus Christ, of being lifted up before the world in His sacrifice for our sins, Satan would be driven out of the people’s minds and the hearts would be drawn to Christ.

We cannot appreciate our Redeemer in the highest sense until we can see Him by the eye of faith reaching to the very depths of human wretchedness, taking upon Himself the nature of man, the capacity to suffer, and by suffering putting forth His divine power to save and lift sinners up to companionship with Himself. {TMK 287.3}

It was by Him suffering, by Him experiencing the suffering of our nature, that He would lift us up to companionship with Himself.

O why have we so little sense of sin? Why so little penitence? It is because we do not come nearer the cross of Christ. Conscience becomes hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, because we remain away from Christ. Consider the Captain of our salvation. He suffered shame for us that we might not suffer everlasting shame and contempt. He suffered on the cross, that mercy might be granted to fallen man. God’s justice is preserved, and guilty man is pardoned. Jesus dies that the sinner might live. Shame is borne by the Son of the Highest for the sake of poor sinners, that they might be ransomed and crowned with eternal glory. {Ibid.}

This is what will lift us and change our attitudes: Jesus, our Redeemer, is appreciated by our beholding Him coming to the depth of human wretchedness, taking upon Himself the nature of man, the capacity to suffer. And as you behold Christ in His suffering, as you look at Him, as you meditate upon Him in His atonement with you, what will it do? It will lift the sinner to companionship with Christ. The meditation of the cross of Jesus does something to us. It arouses our affections to God. My heart becomes soft. He puts a new way of thinking, of feeling, into our being by placing the sacrifice of Jesus before our mind’s eye. This is why it is so imperative that we understand what happened when Jesus became a human being. We need to really understand the impact upon Him when He partook with us in the likeness of our sinful flesh. What kind of suffering was that? As we behold that, and as He suffers in Gethsemane, as He is lifted up on the cross thereafter and He cries out, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? our hearts are touched. We marvel at what God was prepared to do to reach us and create in us a heart that is affectionately inclined to righteousness and truth.

Lift Him up, ‘tis He that bids you,
Let the dying look and live;

If you are dying spiritually, if you will look you will live.

Let the multitude behold;
They with willing hearts shall seek Him,
He will draw them to His fold;
They shall gather from the wayside,
Hastening on with joyous feet,

Something will happen inside of a stony-cold, sinful heart as you behold Christ in His great condescension. We are admonished in the Spirit of Prophecy to lift Him up and bring Christ to the people so that the hearts can be changed.

The true teacher will try by precept and example to win souls to Christ. He must receive the truth in the love of it and let it cleanse his heart and mold his life. {CT 67.2}

As a teacher, if you are going to bring people to Christ, you must have the love of Jesus pulsating in your own heart.

Every teacher should be under the full control of the Holy Spirit. Then Christ can speak to the heart, and His voice is the voice of love. And the love of God, received into the heart, is an active power for good, quickening and enlarging the mind and soul. {Ibid.}

What is it that will change my heart? What is it that will make me alive? It is the love of God received into the heart.

With his own heart warm with divine love, the teacher will lift up the Man of Calvary, not to give the students a casual glimpse, but to fasten their attention until Jesus shall seem to them the “chiefest among ten thousand,” and the One “altogether lovely.” {Ibid.}

This is what is needed. The teachers of the gospel should have an experience with the God of our salvation, and their hearts should be aflame with the love of God, so that they can then present before the minds of the students Jesus, lift up the Man of Calvary, “not to give the students a casual glimpse, but to fasten their attention,” so that the presentation of Jesus before the mind’s eye will be so vivid and alive that Jesus becomes the most precious being in their life. It’s up to the teacher to bring people to that. The admonition is that he is to lift up the Man of Calvary before the mind’s eye.

I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption, {SD 221.4}

What is this monument of regeneration? What is it that will change and regenerate the heart?

–the Son of God uplifted on the cross of Calvary. This is to be the theme of every discourse. {Ibid.}

If we don’t have the glorious manifestations of Jesus and His love in giving Himself in the atonement, then it just becomes a dry information study. And people might know the facts of Bible truth, but they do not have their affections stirred.

Jesus is inviting and drawing by His Holy Spirit the hearts of young and old to Himself. . . . {SD 221.5} 

He is drawing. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”

When Christ crucified is preached, the power of the gospel is demonstrated by the influence it exerts over the believer. In place of remaining dead in trespasses and sins, he is awakened. {Ibid.}

What will the true meditation of the cross of Jesus do? It will take the sinner out of the death, out of the stony-heartedness. It will impart to him such a vibration of love that he will receive a new heart.

Lift up the Man of Calvary higher and still higher; there is power in the exaltation of the cross of Christ. {SD 221.6}

The power of God, the power that will change – this power is found in the uplifting of Jesus. The heart is reached by the meditation of the nature of Christ in becoming a human being, suffering with us in our human flesh.

When we ask the question, Lord, how are you going to change my heart? How are you going to put a heart of flesh into my being? The answer is that, He will do it by the operation of affecting our vision, our mind, by His wonderful sacrifice; and uplifting Jesus like that is the all-important thing.

An Awakening

As we are awakened to this amazing love by beholding Jesus, our affections are stirred.

When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being. To have a change of heart is to withdraw the affections from the world, and fasten them upon Christ. {AG 100.2}

What does it mean to receive a new heart? It is to have Jesus uplifted so strongly before my mind’s eye, to meditate upon Him, to explore the detail of the atonement. It is a very fascinating thing to me that as I have done this over the years, people have made experiences, the church became alive; and then the ministers who don’t quite see correctly the atonement of Jesus put a blot on it. They take away the detail by saying that Jesus did not have sinful flesh. They take away the impact of the true nature of Christ, and therefore the people become legalistic, instead of being affectionately bound to the truth. There are so many who are like that. And that is the reason for the message of Laodicea, You say you are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and you don’t even know how wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked you are. Why? Because Jesus has been removed from the contemplation of the truth. It is all just a passing glimpse, instead of the deep research into this.

To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives. What is the sign of a new heart?–a changed life. There is a daily, hourly dying to selfishness and pride. {AG 100.2}

That is what a new heart is about. The affections are so fastened upon Jesus Christ and the Father that, as we meditate on these amazing divine revelations, it touches us right down into the depth of our soul. And as we do this we will die to selfishness and pride, we will die to sin; we will overcome. For the professed Christian world, as the uplifted cross in all its reality, in all its multiple dimensions of the love of God, is not just casually passed across but really dwelt upon, there arises within the human being a struggle. Our affections are being drawn to God in a very powerful way, but they are in other directions as well. The natural man has affections to the things of this world. So the struggle begins.

A Struggle

The moment Jesus really comes into the experience of a person there is an attraction to Jesus, I want to follow Him, I love Him; but there are also other loves, other affections, and the struggle rages:

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

You want to follow Jesus but there are affections that are pulling the other direction, so you can’t follow Jesus properly. Then there are those other affections that call us to the world, but there are the affections to Jesus that prevent me from going after the world, and I am caught in a vacuum where the question arises prominently before my mind, Which way will I go? It pulls me this way and that, left and right. I am being pulled in two directions inside of me. My affections to Jesus call me to obey Him, to want to follow Him for the rest of my life, but the affections that are in the natural man, the natural heart, are also pulling, but the other way. So there is this struggle. The good I want to do I fail in doing, and the evil that I don’t want to do I do.

Our affections are being drawn upon by Christ, by His cross; and we are told that we must keep on looking to Jesus, and make it our life business. But the Spirit of Prophecy also says that some people would rather not do it, because they know exactly what it means. They know where it leads to; they have to give up certain things, and they don’t want to look there long enough, in case they would have to make those choices and decisions. So they don’t stop to look long enough. This has been an experience of mine. I couldn’t believe it. One person I was studying with was becoming so enthralled with what I was sharing with him; and after about four Bible studies he discovered he knew more than all the ministers of the church he used to part of, and he came back with a thrilling story, That was amazing! After four studies I’ve got so much knowledge! But after another few studies he could see his affections were being drawn away from what was natural to the natural man. And after eight studies he said, Stop, I know where this is leading, and I’m not prepared to go there. This is a reality. Many people are doing that today. When it comes to the affections being drawn all the way to God, to follow Him without any reserve anymore to go after any of the ways of the world, that causes people to think, Wait a minute, I don’t know whether I want this. The natural man, with his affections earthward, is fighting against that choice. And that struggle is well illustrated in one of the conversations Jesus had during His ministry on earth.

Mark 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

What was this young man doing? What was affecting Him? He knew Jesus Christ; he had heard lots about Him. What was he doing? He was running, he was affected. His affections were causing him to come running and kneeling before Jesus. This is what we do as Christians, don’t we? We are affected by the Lord, and we come to Him, and we kneel before Him, and we look to know how we can be saved. I want to have eternal life, please, show me; I want it. And Jesus answered him:

Mark 10:19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

What does the young man answer?

Mark 10:20 …Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Jesus was giving him the answer to his question, and so he said, Oh, I’ve done them from my youth! I love keeping the commandments of God. But now notice how Jesus looks upon him. Here was a young man who was showing affection, and Jesus returned his affections:

Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Can you see something here? To really have your affections so firmly fastened on Jesus means that you are going to sacrifice your affections for the world – your possessions, or the affections that Satan uses to bind you to the unbelievers. The young man understood exactly what Jesus said, and his facial features began to drop. You can just about imagine him. He was really longing to get the right answers, but those that he wanted.

Mark 10:22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 

Where were his affections? What was happening to them? His affections were towards Jesus, and he wanted to be with Jesus in eternity, and Jesus said, Well, come and be with Me now. Jesus wanted to make him one of His disciples. Jesus loved him! Doesn’t Jesus love us too when we come to Him and kneel before Him and ask Him, I want to be saved, what must I do? Jesus says to us, I love you too. Then He says, Come, take up your cross, and follow Me. Oh oh… This is what the young man said, What? I have to let go of my affections for what I actually possess? That was too much. He grieved. There was an internal grieving.

Christ would have the young man understand that He required nothing of him more than to follow the example that He Himself, the Lord of heaven, had set. He left His riches and glory, and became poor, that man, through His poverty, might be made rich; and for the sake of these riches, He requires man to yield earthly wealth, honor, and pleasure. He knows that while the affections are upon the world, they will be withdrawn from God; {CS 211.1}

My affections are drawn to God through this wonderful work of the atonement of Gethsemane and the cross, and as they are drawn there, the affections that hold me here on earth cause the affections to God to be withdrawn from Him. This is the struggle. Jesus knows that, but we often don’t know it.

He knows that while the affections are upon the world, they will be withdrawn from God; therefore He said to the young man, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.” How did he receive the words of Christ? Was he rejoiced that he could secure the heavenly treasure? Oh, no! “He went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” To him riches were honor and power; and the great amount of his treasure made such a disposal of it seem almost an impossibility. {Ibid.}

As you can feel your heart strings being drawn to God as He creates in you a new heart, the affections of my natural man are also there, and there is a struggle which is expressed in the experience of the rich young man. To tear away my affections from those things that will draw my affections away from God, is nearly an impossibility. This is exactly what we have seen many times in the past. To follow God’s way will make you feel like having your life-blood drawn out of your heart. “That’s too much!”

The affections upon the world withdraw the affections from God. It is this tug of war that every Christian meets, and will meet if he hasn’t already. There are many Christians who are very affectionate to certain things of this world, and they are also affectionate to Jesus, but when God requires some breaks of their affectionate ties to this world, like the rich young ruler they say, Oh no! It hurts too much to have to let that go.

Christ’s invitation to us all is a call to a life of peace and rest–a life of liberty and love, and to a rich inheritance in the future immortal life. {TMK 287.2}

This is the invitation He gave to the rich young ruler.

We need not be alarmed if this path of liberty is laid through conflicts and sufferings. The liberty we shall enjoy will be the more valuable because we made sacrifices to obtain it. The peace which passeth knowledge will cost us battles with the powers of darkness, struggles severe against selfishness and inward sins. {Ibid.}

We are touching on the realities here. This is not an emotional religion. This is an affectionate choice. Which side of the struggle will I choose to connect my affections to? As the Lord draws my affections to Him, and Satan is there to draw our affections to this world, there is a struggle. And we should not be surprised at it.

We need not be alarmed if this path of liberty is laid through conflicts and sufferings. … The peace which passeth knowledge will cost us battles with the powers of darkness, struggles severe against selfishness and inward sins. {Ibid.}

We have this fairy tale idea of religion that God is going to put something inside of me and now I’m going to do everything because I’ve become a robot. But no, that is not the way it’s going to happen. The Lord does not force us to give up our affections to the things of this world, but He does draw our affections to Him. This is God’s nature. He still leaves us to deal with our affections. It is a struggle.

Seduction of Affections

And in these last days what is the enemy of Christ doing to deal with our affections when Jesus is drawing our affections to Him?

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

In the latter days people will depart from God’s pure ways. How? By heeding seducing spirits. You want to really understand this. It is seductive. Think of the seductive music of the world, all the seductive attractions of the world – and remember, Satan comes as an angel of light to seduce, so that, if it were possible, he would deceive even the very elect. Because our natural man with its natural affections is still there, and these affections often get confused in our mind in regards to our affections to Jesus. So we are in this battle and struggle, and Satan today is making our life extremely hard by all the seductions that he places before our mind’s eye. Examine closely where you and I have our affections on certain things which, if they are there, will actually weaken my very definite choices to do everything that Jesus wants me to do in every respect. My affections are seduced to the things that Satan has placed before my mind’s eye. The book of Revelation talks about deceptive miracles. What does the lamblike beast with its American dream do? He will do miracles, so that the affections of the people will be upon those miracles. What are those miracles that you can become affectionately bound to? The technology! These are deceptive miracles. How much we rely upon the technology. And if my affections are on the technology and I don’t just use this world but I begin to abuse it, I become trapped affectionately by the technology of today. This is one of those things. We are surrounded by seducing spirits. Satan is using everything to draw our affections so that they will be drawn away from our affectionate obedience to our God. We must be aware of the affection-drawing material to be able to withstand in this terrible battle.

The Things of the World

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world.

There are lots of things that we can love, isn’t there?

1 John 2:15 …If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Why? Because the affections for these things will draw your heart away from the Father.

1 John 2:16 For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

If my affections are bound to things of this earth I will go down with them, because they will pass away. The only person who will have everlasting life is the one who does what Jesus said to the rich young ruler, who takes up his cross and follows Him. “Give up that which is going to tie you down to this earth by your affections. Let your affections be drawn to Me,” says Jesus. “Look at what I did for you that drew your affections. I gave up heaven. I gave up that which was good, to engage with you in your sin, condemnation and guilt; not to sin, but to suffer the guilt of your sin. Can you see what I am trying to do? I am trying to draw you back to what I gave up for you. You want to give up, so that I can have you with Me in the eternal values.”

These words of 1 John are a perfect summary for you to examine what is going on inside of your heart. Do your affections fasten upon the things of this world? anything, some things that are even good in themselves? The Testimony of Jesus tells us that there are many people who have their affections on things that are good in themselves, but they do not have their affections on the Lord. If you have your affections on the Lord, the things that are good in themselves and which are going to pass away will no longer hold your affections.

Everything we do after we have our affections fully on God, God makes it meaningful to us, not because we have our affections on the things of the world, but because we do everything to the honour and glory of God. And if there are any affections that will take us away from that, we are not touched because my affections are not there. The apostle John says, Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world, because if you love those things in the world, if you have affectionate bondings with them, then you will lose your affections for God. That is a reality. I know this to be true; and what a battle and a struggle it is within my own being to keep the affections withdrawn from the world. This is so essential.

Heart Idols – Something Goes Flat

How grateful we should be that we have not been left in the darkness of heathenism to worship hideous idols of wood, the work of men’s hands. The living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all created things, is our God, and he is worthy of all honor. I was led to inquire, Have I set up idols in my heart? Have I allowed anything to come between myself and God, that he should not be supreme in my affections? {RH, January 29, 1884 par. 18}

If I have affections for other things and I do not have my affections supremely placed upon God, there is a problem. But if my affections are upon Him and He is supreme in my affections, then those other things are incidentals which don’t interest you. But it requires us to remove our affections from the things of the world.

We need individually to make close investigation on this point. The love of money, pride in dress and display,–anything that diverts the attention from God,–becomes an idol. {Ibid.}

These are the kinds of affections which can distract us. The love of money – money can buy a lot of things, can’t it? And I love money so that I can buy what I need to buy. The love of money is the root of all evil, the Bible says. Pride in dress and display – when I was younger I got into these suits and I thought, It feels really good. I had some of these trousers that the cowboys of the West wore, and I had these big buckles. I loved it! But then when Jesus became very big to me, I had no more attractions to these things. Oh and those big cars – how men get involved with the old cars today. My generation, they are still attracted to these old Ford custom liners, those Chevys, etc. Their affections are attracted to these things. We are to inquire within ourselves and examine closely. We need individually to make close investigation on this point, because if I have an affectionate interest in any of that, it will get in the way of my making God the supreme object of my affections. It will get in the way! I don’t want to know it, but it will. I’ve experienced this. I get the struggle, and I think, But no, I still love my God; and after a while I discover that something went flat with my God. And it was because my affections were with the world; some things in the world got in between and I had to come fleeing to the Lord for mercy. And I love Him so much, I don’t want these things, and they are no attraction to me when He is the supreme object of my affections. Let us examine ourselves in the light of all this.

Words and acts testify plainly what is in the heart. {OHC 283.4}

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Your words and actions will show where you heart is.

If vanity and pride, love of self and love of dress, fill the heart, the conversation will be upon the fashions, the dress, and the appearance, but not upon Christ or the kingdom of heaven. {Ibid.}

This is very characteristic. People come to church all well dressed, and I hear this among some women sometimes, “Oh, I like your dress. Look at this, this is nice.” Sabbath is there for discussing the beauty of Jesus, isn’t it? This doesn’t belong into the Sabbath. In fact, we dress to please God, not to please the eyes of the world or each other.

If envious feelings dwell in the heart, the same will be manifested in words and acts. {Ibid.}

As we examine the feelings and affections that pulsate within our breast, what are we doing with them?

Putting Away Sin

To discover the affectionate impulses that arise within my flesh in contrast to the affections that are drawn by Jesus – this is our exercise.

Provision has been made whereby every soul that is struggling under sinful practices may be made free from sin. {TMK 237.2} 

Are we struggling in the battle? Do we want to be free? How can we?

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). {Ibid.}

What am I to do if I want to get the victory, if I want to conquer those feelings and those affections for the world? I must behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The Christian is not to retain his sinful habits and cherish his defects of character, but he is to be renewed in the spirit of his mind after the divine similitude. {Ibid.}

How can that happen but by beholding?

Whatever may be the nature of your defects, the Spirit of the Lord will enable you to discern them, and grace will be given you whereby they may be overcome. {Ibid.}

This is what we need to do – to discern. We need to discern what is going on deep inside of me. It is the Spirit of God that will help me to do that. And how will these defects be overcome? By the grace of Jesus, by beholding Him.

Through the merits of the blood of Christ you may be a conqueror–yes, more than a conqueror. {Ibid.}

Is that some magic? No, it is as you behold the merits of Jesus. As you meditate upon the merits of Jesus you will be conqueror, because your affections will grow so strong for Him that they will cast out the affections for the world. That is how it works. The Holy Spirit will help you to discern. As you meditate on these things you will discern something inside of you. You will discern the things that hold you down in your affections. And as these affections are pulsating through your system,

Ask the Lord to reveal to you yourself; place your life under His searching eye, and when He lays hold upon your case you will see that you have made grievous mistakes, and what you supposed was of little importance was offensive in the sight of Heaven. You will see that there is a decided need of thorough transformation of character. You will realize that you must put away the evil of your doings, and cooperate with God and heavenly angels who are sent to minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation. {TMK 237.3} 

We need to be honest with ourselves when the Holy Spirit comes along to help us discern what we are doing with our affections. I must let the Spirit of God show me what I am doing, whether or not my affections are bound by silken cords to those who are the enemies of the cross. Let the Holy Spirit show you what things you still enjoy in this world affectionately and which get in the way of your affections for God and Jesus Christ. This is the call of God’s word to us. It is not just to accept the fact that Jesus did suffer in human flesh like we do, but we must go into the detail of that and let the merits of the blood of Christ, the merits that we contemplate, stir our affections. We must put into practice this exercise.

Self must die. Every practice, every habit, that has a harmful tendency, however innocent it may be regarded by the world, must be battled with until overcome, that the human agent may perfect a character after the divine Pattern. . . . {TMK 237.4} 

The crooked ways, the perverse doings of those around us, are not to dim the luster of our piety or to lead us to conform our habits to, and assimilate our customs and practices with, the world’s. Let the prayer go forth from the lips of those who claim to be the sons and daughters of God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24). {TMK 237.5}

I must permit God to search the deep, internal, affectionate battles, and understand that there are things that I need to let go – my thoughts, my wicked ways that get in between. They are wicked, not because there is necessarily something wrong in themselves, but because they separate my affections from the One who bought my affections. This is a very important thing to discern. So let us go to and do what we have here been called upon to do.

Amen.

Posted on April 20, 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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