July 19, 2016

Him Whom My Soul Loves

"Rose early to meet with him whom my soul loves." Robert Murray McCheyne 

I think about that quote from McCheyne now and then. How dearly that man loved his God; and he fostered and kindled that love by rising early to meet with the maker and lover of his soul.  

There is a flippant, lightweight, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend kind of Christianity that exists in many evangelical churches. This can be displayed in music full of sappy emotionalism and empty platitudes: "Jesus makes me happy all the time", "Jesus, lover of my soul, Jesus I've lost all cognitive control." It also can be found in devotional literature that focuses little on the person of God and doctrines such as His holiness or His majesty, contrasting them with my sinful estate; rather the focus is on how He feels toward me, with little to say about why He might feel that way or what He might expect of me. These things are really easy for me to pick on, and frankly in many cases they do need a correction or even a flat out rejection. 

But I wonder if their popularity isn't due to something missing in the stuffier, love God with all of your mind and strength types...like myself. That is, the understanding that we are to love God with all of our heart and soul as well; and that this does in fact speak to the emotions, the feelings, and the affections that we experience. Put another way, loving God requires more than knowing the right facts and doing the right things. It also includes feeling the right way. 

Here is my shot at what I call evangeli-fluffism: While the impulse to love God in an emotive way is right, the method of focusing on those feelings themselves is flawed, and lead naturally to a very poor result. Saying that believing in Jesus makes me happy all the time isn't only corny, it's not actually true. Jesus does not make me happy all the time, because, by the presence of His Holy Spirit within me, He is often pointing out things in my life that are less than fabulous. I do well have my soul on a state of constant abasement, as John Owen said.  

But this abasement, this despairing of my own merit, ought to lead me to a place of wonder and awe. That the God of all the universe would condescend to love a sinner such as me ought bring forth from within feelings of gratitude and thankfulness. We love Him, because He first loved us.  

Emotion is not the sum total of love, but true love certainly includes an emotive aspect. Those who think otherwise are fools.  

We cannot grit our teeth and muscle our way through the Christian life. To borrow from Chalmers, our hearts must experience the expulsive power of a New Affection. Love for sin, love for worldliness, love for foolishness; these things do not vanish on their own or by dint of willpower. They are chased out by a deeper love, a truer love--a more emotionally compelling view of the world. 

What causes the soul to long for God in the morning? The mind? It sure helps. But what drives those decisions? What pushes our mind in particular directions? The habits and beliefs of our hearts. Love God, this is the First and Great Commandment.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).