What to do with our half-hearted affection?

Do we know the law of the disciple?

As Christians, we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If choices must be made between natural families and him, Jesus is to always take precedence. It is his decree that we deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we are to walk after his model and in his footsteps. Never are we to put our hands to the plow and turn back. Never are we to deny him. For all our days we are to rejoice in the promised persecution attached to his name, and we are to persevere till the end. Whether we eat, drink, or whatever we do, we are to glorify him. Some have even said this is our “chief end.” As disciples of Christ, this is our summons. This is our commandment. This is God’s will. This represents the Law of our Friend, Sacrifice, Savior, Lord, and King.

Do we think too highly of ourselves?

As Christians, we are “prone to wander” and never faithful. Sure, there are seasons when we love God with some of our heart, soul, mind and strength, but never days when we love him truly and fully. Without a doubt, there are certain days when we are radical in our worship, but then consider the countless times we are reluctant and reserved. We flip, and we flop. We go from being bold and ambitious one moment to bashful and apathetic the next. On Sundays we are all-in and on Monday’s we are AWOL. We stand and we fall. We take up our cross and then lay it down again. In the words of D.L. Moody, “We are called to be living sacrifices. However, the problem with living sacrifices is that we tend to crawl off the altar.” We continue to be lawless.

Do we need the Gospel today?

Therefore, let’s turn to the Gospel … again. Aren’t we thankful for the Gospel? Aren’t we glad we do not have to perform to get saved or stay saved? We have been atoned for by grace alone. We have been justified by the works of one — Jesus Christ. Our Father declares us to be what Jesus is — holy and saintly. His work is thorough and his declaration immutable. Forever we will only be that which we are declared to be — set apart children of the Father, clothed in the righteousness of the Son, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Relax, glorify, and enjoy God for a moment. Sabbath in your Savior.

Then, let us continue on in our worship; let us mourn our sin and repent. True believers, isn’t there something within us that causes us to want to love Jesus more than we do? Don’t we wish we hated sin more than we do? Is not there some evidence of changed passions resulting from the Holy Spirit? Don’t we desire to be more faithful in our service? We know it is true — if we could look Jesus in the eye today, we would bow the knee, tell him our sin, long for him to wipe our tears with his robe, embrace us with his arms, and hear him say once again, “I forgive you; I have already forgiven you; I will always forgive you.” Wouldn’t we then beg him to make us more faithful from the inside-out?

Recognizing our half-hearted affections, what are we to do next?

Are we to locate a church holding a revival service and go take our seat on the anxious bench? Are we to walk an aisle, sign a card, burn a candle, or write a check? Maybe we should endeavor to find the nearest arena with the powerful band and famous preacher; perhaps it is there can receive a fresh “zapping” from the Holy Spirit? Are we to find a monastic order and abandon pleasure? Or perhaps we think we are to “double-up” on our devotional reading and Bible memorization. We know we are not right. We know our fervency is fickle. We know Jesus deserves much more than our half-hearted affection, but what are we to do?

Perhaps we ought to listen to Jesus. Let us hear how he addressed Simon Peter, a faithful and faithless disciple with half-hearted affection:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”     (John 21:15-19)

Peter had heard the “Law of the Disciple” and had signed up to follow Jesus. He wanted to walk worthy of his Lord.

Peter then proved to be lawless. He thought too highly of himself and reasoned he was not the fickle disciple. Verbally, he argued with the Lord and expressed love greater than all the other disciples. At evening time he boldly stood with sword in hand. However, only a few hours later, he proved the duplicity of his devotion. Three times Peter disassociated with the Lord and swore he knew not Jesus.

However, Peter found love, forgiveness, peace, and hope in the arms of his Crucified Friend. He was redeemed, reconciled, and restored to ministry. Like Judas he had played the repugnant prodigal, but he was re-called to minister. Despite the public and heinous nature of his post-conversion sin, Peter was to be an ordained disciple-maker of the Lord.

On this particular day, Jesus met Peter on the Galilean shore. The following is a short summary of their conversation:

“Peter, do you have full-hearted, sacrificial, covenantal love for me like I have for you?” (agape)

“Jesus, you know all I have a friendly affection for you.” (phileo)

“Peter, I know you do not have a full-hearted, sacrificial, covenantal love for me like I have for you. I know you only have a friendly affection for me. Now take your friendly affection and go minister for me — feed my people.”

“Peter, do you have full-hearted, sacrificial, covenantal love for me like I have for you?” (agape)

“Jesus, you know all I have a friendly affection for you.” (phileo)

“Peter, I know you do not have a full-hearted, sacrificial, covenantal love for me like I have for you. I know you only have a friendly affection for me. Now take your friendly affection and go minister for me — tend and shepherd my people.”

“Peter, do you really have a friendly affection for me?” (phileo)

“Jesus, you know; I really do have a friendly affection for you.” (phileo)

“Peter, I know you do not have a full-hearted, sacrificial, covenantal love for me like I have for you. I know you only have a friendly affection for me. Now take your friendly affection and go minister for me — teach and feed my people.”

Jesus went on to describe the faithfulness he would work within Peter. Peter, though having a duplicitous and half-hearted affection for his Lord, would persevere and be preserved. Peter would remain his disciple till the end; not even death on a cross would separate the agape-loving Lord from his phileo-loving disciple.

Therefore friends, the Lord knows us inside and out. He knows our sins well, for he died for each and every one of them. So what ought we to do? Let us right now:

  • Hear his Law and understand his will
  • See our sin and not minimize our half-hearted affection
  • Run to Christ and inwardly repent
  • Supplicate for increased faithfulness
  • Then take whatever affection we currently have and go to work for Jesus and his church

Christ plans on using you.

Christ plans on using disciples with half-hearted affection.

That is really good news, for half-hearted disciples are all he has with which to work.


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