Two Ways to Roar the Flame of Your Sizzling Heart

The human heart is a strange creation. Its beautiful yet so greatly distorted from the Fall from the creators intentions. How much of our emotions, feelings, and affections have been twisted due to sin? Within my own heart the struggle for holy motivation can be a perplexing struggle.  Like Paul in Romans 7, what I continually wish I would do I have no desire for. Though I rationally understand I should seek the things of God, my heart almost buckles in confused anxiety at the task. The roaring furnace of affections for Jesus seem to diminish to a cooling ember. The longer I live as a human being and the longer I live as a Christian, I find myself convinced of my own depravity. The more I grow in holiness the more I'm also aware of my own sinfulness. I'm convinced that I must desire God and long for him, but how can I force myself when I don't? Isn't that the bondage of ritualistic legalism? Can I conjure up desire for God when I feel apathetic towards him? Is the Christian life a continual struggle for desire?

I believe Jonathan Edwards was right when he argued that "true religion consists in great part in holy affections". Within my person the affections are what fuels my thoughts, actions, and motives. My affections are what propels me.  Because of my own sinfulness, left apart from Christ my sinful heart leads me to destruction, but thanks be to God that I'm given new affections alongside a regenerated heart!

Though I possess these new affections, as I've been born again, the old affections come up time and again. Regularly I find my desires for the things of this world creep into attempt to overtake my desire for Christ.  The fight for the Christian life is within – between the old man and the new.  To die to self is the great calling of every Christian, and it is a calling only able to be achieved by divine grace.

So what are we to do when the old affections seem to suffocated the new? How do we wage ware against the old man? Let me share with you two primary ways.

1. Get on Your Knees in Prayer

First, we must get on our knees.  Because our new affections for Christ come from a heart regenerated by the Spirit, we must pray for revival within our own hearts.  We must fall on our face and cry out for divine mercies anew.  Though we desire him not, we must call out to the one we hope to desire.  And he is faithful to help his poor children have hearts which long for him. The hungry poverty-stricken sinner is filled with the righteousness of holy affections a fresh.  Yet, prayer is the means God has ordained to give them to us, because the prayer of desperate and pleading faith glorifies God as we express our dependency.  God gives grace to the humble. Those who come to him empty-handed as beggars will quickly find their hearts revived yet again by divine grace.

2. Kindle Your Heart with the Scriptures

Second, we should kindle our hearts with the word of God. Though sometimes our hearts grow cold, we need them lit again. Though we cannot start the fire of passionate desire for God (only the Spirit can do such work), we can set the kindling of his word around us. Often when we begin to pick up our Bibles or read through the Psalms, the Spirit comes to set ablaze our hearts.  The Spirit works alongside the Bible. The Bible kindles our affections, preparing for the Spirit to renew and refresh our weary hearts.

So if you are struggling this day to desire God and if the old man seems to be overcoming the new, get on your knees and saturate your heart in the word.  You will find that as you do, in time God will send the fire of heaven to your soul to light your affections ablaze again.  The wind of the Spirit will blow upon the cooling embers of your heart and cause the flame to roar again.

Why Do Teens Abandon the Faith in College?

Paul Tripp in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Handstalks about a practice he calls "Fruit-Stapling", in which we staple good fruit to a tree with bad roots.  His point is that often in personal ministry, we never get to the heart of the matter.  Often times ministry is focused on the external, and neglects the internal.  Tripp applies this truth to teens leaving the faith in college.  Here is what he writes:

This is what happens to the teenager who goes through the teen years fairly well under the careful love, instruction, and oversight of Christian parents, only to go off to college and completely forsake his faith.  I would suggest that in most cases he has not forsaken his faith.  In reality, his faith was the faith of his parents; he simply lived within its limits while he was still at home.  When he went away to school and those restraints were removed, his true heart was revealed.  He had not internalized the faith.  He had not entrusted himself to Christ in a life-transforming way.  He did the "Christian" things he was required to do at home, but his actions did not flow from a heart of worship.  In the college culture, he had nothing to anchor him, and the true thoughts and motives of his heart led him away from God.  College was not the cause of his problem.  It was simply the place where his true heart was revealed.  The real problem was that faith never took root in his heart.  As a result, his words, choices, and actions did not reveal a heart for God.  Good behavior lasted for a while, but it proved to be temporary because it was not rooted in the heart


The Heart and Emotionalism

When I was a young Christian in High school, I remember attending a Christian Youth Conference/Rally in which I will keep nameless.   The first time I went, it was like nothing I have ever experienced.  You see I was a small town, Baptist boy who only ever grew up to organ/piano duos, and a tone deaf choir.  Being thrown into the relative, loud, youth friendly environment, was a pleasant shock to me, but this overly emotional form of the Christian faith ended up hurting me more than it helped me..  Now please take note, I am not commenting on loud youth rallies, rocking worship music, or a relative, contemporary, post-modern worship time, because I actually help lead and organize a service that could be put under some of these categories.  This change was such a shock to me, and I being a young believer, not mature enough yet in my faith to realize what was happening, became a ruler of my emotions. This emotionalism created in me a weak and fluctuating faith, based on how I was feeling that day. I think we, as Christians, should be very careful with emotionalism, not just in worship, but in all aspects of faith in our lives.  You see the human heart is corrupt and deceitful.  This is not just my pessimistic opinion, it's what the bible teaches.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

You see despite the thought of optimists in this modern age, the human heart is inherently evil.  It can't be trusted.  When we allow our emotions to rule and control our lives, we create a relationship with God that has more highs and lows than a mountain range.  This is a characteristic of immaturity in the Christian faith.  When we rely on the truth of God to control us, then we can enter in to a sturdy, steady relationship with God.  Although there are still high points and low points, the difference between the two is that they are not as nearly drastic.  I have seen a walk with Christ based on emotionalism hinder my own faith, and many other friends. I want to take a few moments to discuss just one specific caution out of the many, about the dangers of emotionalism that concerns me.

Tell me if you have heard this one before, "God told me I need to date this person"  or "God told me to do this or that".  The thing that amazes me about most Christians who say this is how quickly God changes his mind.  The more I listen to these people, I begin to believe that God must be schizophrenic.  I have actually heard a believer tell me that God wanted him to date this person, whom He knew nothing about, and she also lived thousands of mile away.  Needless to say after a week, God changed his mind.  I've heard the same thing from people concerning missions, giving, serving, and many more.  I believe that God can lead you and reveal things to you through your human emotions, but remember the human heart is in its nature evil.  As a result, the wisest thing to do is to "test and approve" what God's will is. (Romans 12:2)  You can do this by first and foremost, by making sure it does not contradict God's word.  If it ever violates a clear command in scripture than it's a no brainer; DON'T DO IT.  It's not what God is telling you.  The second way you can approve what God's will is through the validation of the Christian leaders and mentors in your life.  If the people closest to you think it's a bad idea, you might want to think twice before doing it.  In conclusion, discovering the will of God can be tricky sometimes, but never ever let your emotions be the only deciding factor. I have found it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to emotionalism.