Dear Friends,

The danger of catching or being a carrier of the disease of spiritual sloth
(June newsletter) can occur when we wrongly look at the standards or lifestyle
of other Christians rather then the life Christ calls us to and commands us
to live in the Scriptures. This is the life he modeled and his disciples (after
Pentecost) imitated and called us to live out in the epistles. “Remember
your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their
way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today
and forever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8) The exemplary leaders, Jesus being the
perfect one, from Peter and Paul in the early church to the saints over history
who imitated the lifestyle of Jesus (by the power of the Holy Spirit) are the
ones we are to look at and model our lives after. This includes lay people and
businessmen, not just famous preachers and missionaries etc., but “unschooled
and ordinary men that had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13) The identifying
mark is Christ-likeness, not position or fame.

The opposite of spiritual sloth is passion and zeal for God. Jesus was so full
of zeal for God that they killed him and Jesus said the world would hate us
even as they hated him (John 15:18-25) as his love and righteousness and justice
brought conviction of their sin and hatred. We see this call to passion and
zeal in the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The
second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31) The highest
expression of love of neighbor is the Great Commission to go and make disciples
(not just converts) teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew
28:18-20) Notice Jesus doesn’t say to teach them his commandments but
teach them to obey his commandments. And the first commandment we are to teach
new Christians to obey is to love God passionately and out of that love for
him to love our neighbors compassionately. Christianity is a life of passion
for God and compassion for others (compassion is heartfelt sympathy that moves
us to act.)

Jonathan Edwards, in his book Religious Affections, says: “The
nature of human beings is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection:
love or hatred, desire, hopes, fear, etc. These affections are the “spring
of action,” the things that set us moving in our lives, that moves us
to engage in activities. When we look at the world, we see people are exceedingly
busy. It is their affections that keep them busy. If we were to take away their
affections, the world would be motionless and dead; there would be no such thing
as activity. It is the affection we call covetousness that moves a person to
seek worldly profits; it is the affection we call ambition that moves a person
to pursue worldly glory; it is the affection we call lust that moves a person
to pursue sensual delights. Just as worldly affections are the spring of worldly
actions, so the religious affections are the spring of religious actions. The
Holy Scriptures clearly see religion as a result of affections, namely, the
affections of fear (of God), hope, love, hatred (of evil), desire, joy, sorrow,
gratitude, compassion and zeal. I believe that no one is ever changed, either
by doctrine, by hearing the Word, or by preaching or teaching, unless the affections
are moved by these things. In a word, there is never any great achievement by
the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things.”

Let’s examine our Christian life in light of our affections. How much
do I fear the Lord knowing one day I will give an account to him for the way
I kept his commandments? (As one man said about his recently deceased wife:
“She has gone for final exams.”) How much hope do I have in God’s
promises especially for eternity to move me to obedience in this life. Unbelievers
have a fading hope as each year of their life they move further and further
away from what they hope in – business success, good times, family and friends;
while we as Christians are moving toward our deepest hopes and longings in the
glorious promises of heaven. (1 Peter 1:3-4) How passionately do we respond
in love to the almost incomprehensible love of God who in all his majesty and
power and hatred of our sin and evil, became a Man, suffered with us in this
fallen world, died a horrible, humiliating death that was our due, delivered
us from an empty, meaningless life enslaved by sin and more so saved us from
an eternal torment of misery and pain with no hope of deliverance, and then
promises us eternal rewards for obedience. As the song says: “O how he
loves you and me.” Why is our love so puny in response? How deep are my
feelings for injustice and oppression, or vileness and vulgarity, or hurting
people in my circle of friends? Are they deep enough to move me to pray and
reach out? How grateful am I for what God has done for me? Do I regularly feel
gratitude and thanksgiving swell up in me for the goodness of my Lord or am
I always looking at the glass as half empty?

If you’re feeling convicted right now, which we all should, than we are
ready to hear Jesus’ answer on how to deal with this pitiful lack of affections.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3) If you don’t already know it, people are not basically good.
God’s word says, “no one is righteous, no one seeks God, no one
does good, no one fears God.” (See Romans 3:9-18) In our human nature,
we have affections for all the wrong things but Jesus says when we realize we
are poor in spirit and mourn over our sins (rather than the consequences of
our sins) and admit our need for God’s power to enable us to respond to
his amazing love with right affections, he saves us, fills us with his Spirit
(Holy Spirit) and keeps on filling us as we stay in this place of need and humility
and dependence and obedience. The gospel is a message of God’s righteousness
and strength given for our sin and weakness, especially our weakness to live
the Christian life in passionate love for God and compassion for our fellow

Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? We cannot live this radical Christian
life Jesus taught and modeled unless we admit our inadequacy and cry out to
God to fill us with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 5:18 God’s word not
only commands us to be filled with the Spirit but the actual translation of
the verse means to be being filled (controlled) by the Spirit, constantly, continually.
Maybe we can be a nice person or not commit vile sin, but can we turn the other
cheek when insulted, pray for and bless those who persecute us, not lust, not
love money more than God and not sinfully worry about our needs, etc.? This
is all spelled out in the brief but powerful Sermon on the Mount, the Christian
Manifesto. And we are called to actually do what it says which is impossible
in our own natural goodness. We must stay in a constant state of need and thus
receive supply to live the Christian life. If you hunger and thirst for righteousness,
I’ll fill you God says. (Matthew 5:5) If you ask you will receive. (Matthew
7:7) I think Jesus means we’ll receive his power to live a life that glorifies

I suggest we read the Sermon on the Mount with this perspective in mind: That
you and I are called to do everything Jesus says in these three chapters (Matthew
5-7) and that there is nothing in this life or the life to come that has anywhere
near the importance and significance for our temporal and eternal good than
what Jesus tells us to do in these verses. This will not only drive us to our
knees, it will keep us on our knees which is where the Christian life is won
or lost, day in and day out. “For this is what the high and lofty one
says-he who lives forever whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit
of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15)

Lord, please fill us with the Holy Spirit and give us the grace to humbly fear
you, passionately love you, compassionately love others and be constantly aware
of our need for you day by day, trial by trial, and more importantly, blessing
by blessing. May zeal for you and your kingdom consume us and mark our life
with Christ-likeness.

For the glory of Jesus. Amen

Len and Kristen

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