Christ looks at his disciples and says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:15-16) While a relationship with Jesus is “not based on works lest any man should boast,” a sweet experiential relationship with the Savior involves faith that leads to works, hearing that leads to doing, and loving that leads to obeying Christ’s commandments. The affection one has for Christ manifests itself in actions on behalf of Christ.
Perhaps some illustrations will help drive the point home. Consider the soldier who, because of his love for country, enlists in the armed forces and risks his life in defense of his friends. His affection for his nation manifests itself in valiant, self-sacrificing action.
In like manner, the husband who has true affection for his wife will manifest, prove and show his legitimate affection through corresponding actions. Yes, some do stay married merely out of duty, out of testimony, for convenience, for the children, or for financial or other pragmatic reasons. Such individuals may be men of integrity who honor their sacred wedding vows and love their children, but they are not men with Christ-like and Christ-honoring affection towards their wives. No, the honorable husband sincerely honors and adores his wife; he has sincere and tender affection, and he proves it by his encouraging words and works. In a solid Christ-honoring marriage, heart-felt affection manifests itself in hearty action.
In the Bible, one reads of the love of the Heavenly Father. One then sees him prove his affection for the world by sending his own son that whoever believes in him might not perish but find eternal life. Likewise, the affection of the Son for both the Father and the Elect is legendary. A greater affection is unimaginable, and a greater love has never been shown. Christ comes to the earth, walks in obedience, recommits in the garden, ascends the cross, accepts death, and descends into the grave. His incredible affection for his Heavenly Father and his earthly children is clearly shown in his indescribable actions.
So it is with those who are first loved by Christ and find themselves in love with Christ. We are called to respond to his crazy love with a radical love of our own, and this radical love is to be proven by our affectionate actions. Jesus looks at Peter and says, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” He desires to see actions that prove Peter’s affection. So with similar intent he looks at us and says, “If you love me, keep my commandments; if you have affection for me, prove it by your affectionate actions.”
But now for a moment somber contemplation …
As we consider our internal affection and external actions, this leads us to experience a bit of spiritual sorrow. As one has said, “Our talk talks, and our walk talks, but our walk talks louder than our talk talks.” So we are forced to admit that our talk and our walk are communicating different messages. Yes, in the church on Sunday, we are amongst those who sing passionately and loudly of our love for God. However, in the world on Monday we show our love hesitantly and sporadically at best. Yes, sadly, as we humbly and accurately assess our working, doing, obeying, and acting, we are forced to admit we do not serve him as we ought, and this is because we do not love him as we ought.
So how ought we to respond today? First, let us rest in the affection and action of Christ for us. Rejoice that we are saved by his love and not our own. He died for our apathy. He died for our self-worship. He died for our duplicitous affection and disobedient actions. Great and without measure is the love of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for repentance sinners atoned for by Christ.
Secondly, let us seek to excite our own internal affections for our heavenly Lover. Let us open our Bibles and read of his love. Let us turn on our radios and sing with the saints of Christ’s underserved grace, mercy, and affection. Then, let us gather regularly with the family of God and allow their excitement to become infectious. And all the while, let us present to him honest prayers of repentance, adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication. Let us honestly talk to him about our coldness. Let us continue on by proclaiming his goodness and remembering his benefits. Then let us supplicate well; let us plead with him to warm our cold and apathetic souls. Friends, the Fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5), so let us use the people of grace, the place of grace, and the means of grace to increase our affection. According to Romans 5, the Holy Spirit will pour love into our souls. We will then be further enabled to keep our chief end by glorifying God and enjoying him forever.