Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Vision (4/19/12): Am I really a Christian? Answering Eight Doubts (Continued)

Simplified and Abridged from Thomas Boston
Note:  In his spiritual classic “Human Nature In Its Fourfold State,” the Scottish minister Thomas Boston (1676-1732) lists eight “cases” where a true Christian might have spiritual doubts about the authenticity of his faith.  Here is the fourth of the eight doubts:

Fourth Doubt:  I sometimes feel that my love for the things of this world is greater than my love for God.  How then can I call him Father?  Indeed, it sometimes seems that the affections I used to feel for God are gone.  I fear that all the love I ever had for the Lord has only been like a fit and a flash.  I fear I am a hypocrite.

Answer:  It cannot be denied that an overriding love of the world is a certain mark of an unsaved man.  “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15b).

Still, the most active affections are not always the strongest.  A little brook sometimes makes more noise than a mighty river.  The strength of our affections can only be measured by the firmness and steadfastness of the root.  Suppose a person meets with a friend who has been out of the country.  He has not seen this friend for a long time.  His affections for that friend might, in the moment, be stronger than his feelings for his own wife and children.  Would we conclude that he loves his friend more than them?  Surely not!  Even so, though a Christian might in the moment be moved with love for something in this world, this does not mean that he loves it more than God.  Love to God is always more firmly rooted in a believer’s heart than is any worldly enjoyment.

If there is ever a competition between love for God and love for the world, one of the loves will win.  Do you want to understand your spiritual state?  Look into your own heart and lay the two loves in the balance.  See which outweighs the other.  Ask yourself in the sight of God whether you would part with Christ for the sake of anyone or anything in the world.  If you honestly answer that at this command you would cast away what is dearest to you in the world for Christ, then you have no reason to think you love the world more than God.  On the other hand, if you love someone or something in the world more than God, then you are not a believer.  Consider the following two texts:

“He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37).

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

From these texts, we can infer that one who is ready to part even with his father and mother for the Lord’s sake loves them less than Him.

 In addition, consider that there are two types of love for Christ:

First, there is an emotional love for Him.  It is like a dart in the heart.  It creates a holy love-sickness in the soul.  It longs to enjoy the beloved.  It is like the longing described in Song of Songs 5:8:  “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him that I am sick of love.”  Or it refers to a fullness of love, as in Song of Songs 2:5:  “Stay with me flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love.”  Such strong feelings are usually found in young converts who “sing in the day of their youth” (Hosea 2:15).  They are sometimes so on fire for the Lord that they are even ready to criticize godly persons who have long been believers just because they do not share the same strong feelings.  They mistakenly think that there is far less religion in the world than there actually is.  When the froth settles below the brim in his own cup, however, such a man finds in himself the same things he once criticized in others.  This should humble him.  It should make him know his daily need for the blood of Christ for forgiveness and the Spirit of Christ for sanctification.  So he grows downward in humiliation, self-loathing, and self-denial.

Second, there is a rational love for Christ.  This love is shown by a serious concern for God’s authority and his commands.  When one has this love, he wants to please God by obeying him, even if he does not feel strong emotions.  “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3).

The emotional love for God does not always continue with you.  If you lack it you have no need to consider yourself a hypocrite as long as you maintain a rational love for Christ.  This is true in the same way that a faithful and loving wife has no need to question her love for her husband just because she does not have the same emotional experience of love for him as when they first married.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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