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.