The Forgotten Question: What Is the Direction of My Affection?
The Pursuit of Passion Series: Reflection 4 of 7
Editor’s Note: In this fourth installment in a series of meditations on what passion for Christ and his supremacy looks like and where it comes from, David Bryant reveals the often overlooked power of hope to ignite in us undying devotion to Jesus as Lord.
In one of his most quoted observations, C. S. Lewis writes:
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak (emphasis added).
His point? Once we grasp the grandeur of God’s promises in Christ, and the glorious hope he opens to us, it is impossible to remain neutral or dispassionate toward him for very long.
Jesus amplified this truth when he addressed the church in Philadelphia:
The Holy, the True—David’s key in his hand, opening doors no one can lock, locking doors no one can open—speaks: “I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut . . . I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown (Revelation 3, The Message, emphasis added).
Is he opening any doors for you? How has this fact tightened your grip on him?
Fervency for Christ Springs From Hope in Christ
In its final form our salvation in Christ will climax with nothing less than a full-on 180-degree turn—a face-to-face encounter with the Redeemer in glory. In that hour Christ will totally, thoroughly, and forever occupy our attention, our affections, and our allegiance.
But there’s more to this desired outcome.
Whether here and now or in the Consummation itself, as the great affection of our lives, Christ is also concerned with the direction of our lives. Christ wants us to focus on him, but he also wants us to focus on the same future he’s focused on.
Furthermore, he wants us to follow him into that future—to head out with him each day as far as he intends to go with us, whether to the ends of the earth or to the end of time.
In other words, the uniqueness of Christian passion lies in its response to both an eternal Person as well as an eternal hope guaranteed and encompassed in that Person.
So, if we want to experience expanded fervency for God’s Son, a key question you and I must explore is this: What is the direction of my affection toward Christ?
Two important confessions will make up the answer.
First is our confession about what we do not have. This leads to the passion to flee away from our own sin, emptiness, and bankruptcy into the finished work of Christ.
Second is our confession about what we still need. This leads to the passion to pursue more of everything Christ is and Christ offers. We want to lay hold of him more firmly to take us where we’ve never gone before, but where we desperately need to go.
Affection depends on direction.
Jeremiah Speaks About Fervency and Hope
Jeremiah (called “the weeping prophet”) provides a great case study of the impact of hope on passion. It is found in his book named Lamentations (a pretty passionate word in itself).
Despite all the judgments and sufferings and fear that he and Jerusalem endured while under siege by Babylonian armies, the promises of God gripped his soul even more. Time and time again in that one little volume, Jeremiah exudes burning zeal for God’s eternal purposes with Israel. He exhibits total dedication to the promised reign of God. Listen:
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have HOPE: . . . his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him . . . Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love (Lamentations 3, NIV, emphasis added).
How much more should I as a Christian exude and exhibit passion for the One in whom God’s never-failing compassions have reached their apex and permanently enveloped me through Jesus our King?
How Can We Not Be Passionate for Him?
Consider some examples of the grace—bringing us great hope—that’s fresh for us in Christ every morning we wake up:
• God promises to usher Christians into eternal blessings in heavenly realms with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1). How can we not be passionate for the gifts that come through Christ alone?
• God promises to bring every facet of Christian existence under the redeeming control of Christ Jesus (Hebrews 1). How can we not be passionate for the reign found in Christ alone?
• God promises to conform every believer to Christ’s image so that who he is now is who we’re about to become (Romans 8). How can we not be passionate for the beauty of Christ alone?
• God promises to magnify his Son’s glory among the nations, using disciples like us to do it (Acts 1). How can we not be passionate for the mission of Christ alone?
• God promises to move Christians forward victoriously with his Son, consummating our journey in his day of glory (Philippians 3). How can we not be passionate for the praises of Christ alone?
Every God-given expectation we treasure, drawn from thousands of promises throughout Scripture, is designed to nurture in us deep affections for the Redeemer who secures and embodies the hope those prospects proclaim. He is the key to the future—to our future.
Therefore, we can never think too highly of God’s Son, nor put too much stock in him, nor grow too deeply in love with him. As a traditional hymn reminds us, we are:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest we will shout and sing —
standing on the promises of God.
Feeble or Fervent?
On the other hand, a feeble (rather than fervent) passion for Christ ought to suggest one’s outlook is seriously bereft of kingdom-sized hope.
Spiritual complacency may indicate we’ve lost (or maybe never had) whole-hearted convictions about who Christ is, what he imparts, and particularly where he leads.
Sometimes our passion founders because quite frankly, we just don’t think enough about eternal realities to ever get very excited about them in the first place—or about the One who fulfills them.
As Christ’s disciples we ought to live with such holy ambitions for greater displays of Jesus’ praise that our lives become inexplicable apart from the great truth of Christ and our hope in his supremacy.
But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you (1 Peter 3, Amplified Bible).
Hope in Christ ought to possess our hearts with zeal for him as Lord. At the same time, this hope ought to dispossess us of every other affection outside of our love for him.
But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight . . . you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3, NLT).
Thus, a main thesis for this series of meditations on fervency for Christ remains solid:
A comprehensive vision of the supremacy of Christ
will always transform our hope in Christ
into a consuming passion for Christ.
Now, do yourself a favor.
We’re reminded in 2 Corinthians 1 that all of God’s promises are fully confirmed for us in his Son. Therefore, pick out one of the thousands of them that has meaning for you. Maybe start with promises in the book of Hebrews. Take one minute to reflect on how, first of all, that promise belongs to Jesus, points to Jesus, is fulfilled in Jesus, and will magnify Jesus. Next, note how those sixty seconds helped enrich your vision of Jesus, your worship of Jesus, and your desire for more of Jesus.
Now, repeat this one-minute discipline each day for the next 21 days. You will never be the same again!
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.