There are two words that I chose, some weeks ago now, as my hallmark for 2018––affectionately dependent. I’ve been trying to imagine what being affectionately dependent looks like in daily life, and what it doesn’t. That second part, what it doesn’t look like, is what I would like to spend a couple moments on just at first. I think it can be described by two more words––conveniently appeased.
Those two words describe fairly well where I stood prior to January of last year. My desire to not to go to hell, because admittedly that’s what I was after, was appeased, was satisfied by Christianity. I use the word “conveniently”, though I may find a slightly better word at some point, to describe a sort of comfort, a relative easiness. Christianity was suited to appease or satisfy my desire to not to go to hell, and so there I could be found, my goal achieved, my want appeased. Had my desire been for something else, perhaps pleasure or something of that sort I may have just as easily adopted hedonism.
On the other hand, affectionately dependent takes the seat near opposite. Simply put, instead of using something––the gospel–– to appease or quench my desire to stay out of hell, that is, self-preservation, I have now come to see, the veil has been removed, as Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16 puts it, that the thing I had been using to get something else was the very thing I actually needed.
I was shown that He, Christ, is what my heart truly desires. That’s where the affection part is. Now that I’ve begun to see the beauty and perfection of Christ Jesus my heart desperately wants him. Paul, in Philippians 3:8 says it this way, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” Likewise, we find similar language in Hebrews 10:34, “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one”.
Christ Jesus, to the affectionately dependent, is immeasurably greater and more valuable than anything or anyone else. If you believe that, you’ll have an attitude along the lines of Paul’s in Philippians chapter three or the man in Matthew 13 who finds a treasure buried in a field and in joy sells all he has to buy that field. This attitude will motivate you to take risks for the gospel, for Christ, for the Kingdom, for you simply have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Paul, in Philippians chapter one, makes such a statement, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
However, if you don’t believe that, if you don’t treasure Christ above all else, you’ll have an attitude like I did, and like most of religious America does––God is nothing more than a get-out-of-hell free card. It will leave you with a lifestyle synonymous with those who are turned away in Matthew chapter seven. Verse 23 puts it this way, “I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness”. Fundamentally, that is saying “Depart from me all you who lived as if I had never given you a law to obey”.
Then of course, “dependent” comes in, for we can’t do without it, bringing the meaning that Ephesians 2 so clearly explains. God has made us alive together with Christ, he has raised us from the dead by his power alone. Titus 3:4-5 says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” additionally John 15:5 speaks to this. It says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
We observe in scripture that being born again and abiding in Christ is virtually synonymous. For example, if we look in Matthew chapter seven the marks of a true believer are clearly laid out. 7:16 says, “You will recognize them by their fruits”. So truly, if we are unable to bear fruit apart from Christ, as John clearly establishes, and true and false believers are recognized by their fruit, or lack of fruit in the unbeliever’s case; we see that abiding in Christ is absolutely essential. Furthermore, he is not just essential to have a life described as fruitful, but life in Christ, that is, deliverance from our sin.
Furthermore, in Mark 1:15 we find John the Baptist declaring, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” This statement could, however, be better translated or understood as, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; therefore, live a life of repentance and faith in the gospel.” This present tense verb usage (how the original Greek is written) indicates continuation, which is exactly what is required in the true Christian (Washer 2013). Hebrews 3:14 says, “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end”. Additionally, in Matthew 24:13 we find a similarly stark sentence, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved”.
So, truly we are dependent, yet affectionately so. John 14:15, just across the page from 15:5 describes my meaning for “affectionately”, at least partly. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That does not say love is obedience, it says if you love me, if your affections are in me, you’ll do this other thing, called “keeping my commandments” (Piper 2015). Furthermore, Luke chapter seven unpacks this response to the love of Christ quite well, “She loved much because she had been forgiven much”. Philippians 3:8, as mentioned previously develops this further. Also, worth noting, Philippians 3 calls us to “Rejoice in the Lord”, while Psalm 16 as well as others such as Psalm 1 verse 2, and 119 verse 35 among many describe the joy and pleasure that is found in God and his ways.
Therefore, we are affectionately dependent, we can’t live without Christ, for we can do nothing apart from him, yet we don’t wish to imagine what it would even be like. We absolutely need him, but we absolutely want him, not his gifts, him, Christ Jesus, the most desirable thing in the universe, we count all as loss in comparison to him. Our desires have been supernaturally changed, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Truly, we have been given new affections.
That’s why, being affectionately dependent, not conveniently appeased, I can seek Christ as my all satisfying treasure, my favorite, knowing fully that apart from him I’m totally helpless, dead in my trespasses and sins, rightly dammed to hell completely and justly, but also knowing of the fullness of joy there is in his presence. I have to have him, in terms of dependency and in terms of affections.
Yet, what happens when we find ourselves to be dull in heart, most certainly dependent upon Christ, but not necessarily affectionate, or simply lacking affection altogether? I believe when we find ourselves in such a state, as I indeed find myself at often times, we have to ask ourselves the question, “do you want to want him?”. I’d argue the answer to this question is deep and foundational to the distinction between affectionately dependent and conveniently appeased.
We find repeatedly, especially in the psalms, examples of the author rejoicing in, or commanding himself to rejoice in, the Lord, to bless the Lord, and to praise the Lord. Psalm 16:11, 92:4, 119:14, 16, 24, 35, 47, 92, 174 and Philippians 4:4 are a small fraction of the abundance of verses that speak to such a mindset.
We don’t automatically become perfectly obedient after conversion but rather struggle against our flesh, that is, our sinful nature. In fact, this struggle and fight against sin, empowered by the spirit, is a mark of a true believer. Mortification of the flesh, as the puritans called it, is what we are commanded to do in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”.
When you don’t desire the person of Jesus Christ, do you struggle with that? Do you hate the fact that you don’t desire him as you should, that your affections aren’t where they should be––behold the wickedness of the flesh. Again I ask, do you want to want Christ, do you plead with him through prayer to give you the desire, admitting whole heartedly that you are so weak you can’t even want him by yourself, you even need him for that, you need him to need him. Perhaps I should say, then, we are dependent upon him making us affectionately dependent.
Or, referring back to the question posed, what happens when we find ourselves to be dull in heart, most certainty dependent upon Christ, but not necessarily affectionate, or simply lacking affection altogether, do you find yourself settled and refined with the fact that you don’t desire him, that you aren’t in love with him, or even wishing to be gripped with weight the person of Jesus Christ? If this is the answer, then I would reason you are conveniently appeased. That’s the very basis for it––my affections aren’t there, but he’s my get-out-of-hell free card, my desire to avoid punishment is quenched, is appeased, so I don’t care that my desire is not for God, that I don’t enjoy him.
So then, naturally, the question of bridging the gap between the two (conveniently appeased and affectionately dependent) comes to be. For truly, there is not and there cannot be, peace between the two, they are at odds, seeking different things. The bridge I believe is the cross, it’s salvation, regeneration, rebirth.
Let me make myself clear by stating a few questions and answering them, just to insure I don’t suggest something I don’t intend to and show, the best I can, the fundamental differences between affectionately dependent and conveniently appeased.
Being affectionately dependent, am I motivated to seek God to avoid his wrath, hell? Yes.
Being conveniently appeased, as I formerly was, am I motivated to seek God to avoid his wrath, hell? Yes.
Being affectionately dependent do I follow Christ seeking to glorify him, magnify him, worship him––for he is worthy––and because my heart desperately wants him, or at least, in dullest of times, wants to want him? Yes!
Being conveniently appeased do I follow Christ for the reason just mentioned?
No, he’s my ticket out of hell, I don’t adore him, my heart is not in love with him, it’s after deliverance, pure deliverance.
Christ crucified and resurrected, the person of Jesus Christ, is for the conveniently appeased the means to an end, whereas to the born again believer, the affectionately dependent, he is the end. The first is idolatry while the second is Christianity.
To the conveniently appeased, everything in “Christian living” is motivated by the search for deliverance, to the affectionately dependent, it is motivated by love for God because of deliverance and because of the new desires, desires for Him, that our new nature strives unto.
An affectionately dependent person no longer, since being converted from convenient appeasement, sees the people and things he spends time with as the means to satisfy his desires, but rather sees them as opportunities to satisfy one desire. This single desire, the thing which he is using all things, relationships, work, play, etc. to accomplish each day is to glorify God. This desire is the driving force behind all his actions. Motivated by affection for and dependence upon Christ, he is not found seeking to satisfy some longing here and another there, but rather working, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to unite all things under this one desire to glorify God.
Of course, this desire to glorify God is only brought about by the fulfillment and constant sustainment of satisfaction in God, not his gifts, but him. Therefore, although to the affectionately dependent glorifying God is their utmost desire, they realize without first being satisfied in God they will not be able to glorify him. Thus, we are left with a twofold desire––to be satisfied in God so that we may glorify him––and they are working simultaneously together in order to produce an affectionately-dependent individual. For truly, we cannot glorify and extol God if we aren’t ourselves satisfied in him.
Yet again, we face the problem of our fallen nature––we don’t desire God and find satisfaction in him as we should. In Matthew 22:37 we find the greatest commandment––“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. Neither you nor I have ever done that, we’ve never loved God as we are commanded to love him or as he is worthy to be loved. We are not then individuals who claim what the Pharisees did in Matthew 23, but rather claim what Paul does in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate”. The problem is in fact that we struggle to be satisfied in Christ, the problem is in fact, us, again. Therefore, once more we are driven, out of dependence, out of sheer incapability, back to the cross, to God. We cannot live as we are called to without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, sanctifying us and manifesting the desire for God in us. I should perhaps say, then, what I said some lines ago now––we are dependent upon him, God, making us affectionately dependent. Behold the grace of God.
I then ask, somewhat rhetorically, why exactly it is that so many acclaimed “Christians” in America are not frequent in prayer, foreign to the idea of treasuring scripture, and a bit skeptical when true believers talk about the beauty of Christ with excitement, adoration and joy, and live primarily as the world does with a bit of biblically founded moralism. I’d argue it is because they are practical moralists, as I once was, who accept the Christian creed and are motivated to be relatively moral because they have an understanding that hell is hot, somewhere no one wants to end up, and that Jesus is their deliverance from such a place if they simply repeat a prayer.
When we begin to stop and look at things–– Christianity in America––what do we expect other than rampant practical moralism? If you grew up in a Christian home you can testify to the fact that since you were three years old you were told that hell is, as I said, hot, somewhere you don’t want to go and somewhere you can avoid ending up there by praying a prayer, asking Jesus into your “heart”, and going to church. Furthermore, even if you haven’t grown up in church, you are likely familiar with such prayers, with such descriptions, and would have an understanding of the gospel that portrays salvation as a mere decision of the human will.
Inviting Christ into your life or asking him into your heart isn’t a response to the Gospel that is found in the pages of scripture. The presentation of the gospel, in scripture, comes in an authoritative command––repent and believe the gospel––followed by obvious and substantial changes and fruit bearing in the convert because of the continual work of the spirit––not a credal prayer followed by fruitless, unsanctified lives. Philippians 1:6 says it this way, “…He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.
Yes, Christ Jesus is our only hope and our only deliverance from the wrath of God, he’s the only way as John 14:6 says so starkly (“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”). We are saved by faith and faith alone, yes, but I am simply getting at the fact that our belief in Christ, our clinging to him ought to be drastically different than what is commonly preached and portrayed in America–– it ought to be biblically founded, it ought to be and must be, to say it plainly, real and legitimate.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. We have been saved, we are not any less right with God than we will ever be––that’s incredible to think about––we are children and heirs as we read in Romans 8:17. Therefore, having been delivered, our transgressions atoned for, we are legally declared right with God.
Prior to rebirth we sought deliverance, being born again, having been delivered, we seek God, yet not solely for deliverance any longer, we seek him because our hearts desperately want him, his law, the person of Jesus Christ. Our affections and desires, they have been supernaturally changed, we are now affectionately dependent.
Piper, J. (2015). Loving Jesus More Than Life. Retrieved from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/loving-jesus-more-than-life
Washer, P. (2013). The Gospel Call and True Conversion. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.