As a follower of Christ one of my greatest desires is to love God with my affections. Both the Bible and my own experience have taught me that love is far greater than a feeling. But I have also learned that love cannot be devoid of affection. I’ve often used the illustration, borrowed from John Piper, of a husband giving flowers to his wife on valentine’s day in a disinterested, unaffectionate manner. “Honey, these are for you. I didn’t want to give them to you, and I don’t care if they make you happy. All I know is that I’m supposed to give you something today, so here!” Can you imagine how a wife would respond to that?
I have come to believe the same thing holds true with God. God wants me to love him; to sacrifice for his kingdom, to humble myself for his namesake, to make him the center of my life. But God wants me to do those things, and more, with affection! God isn’t interested in disinterested service. So the question is, how do I increase my affections for God? I believe one answer to that question is to think.
Thomas Goodwin,a 17th century Puritan preacher, once wrote:
Indeed, thoughts and affections are…the mutual causes of each other: “While I mused, the fire burned” (Psalm 39:3); so that thoughts are the bellows that kindle and inflame affections; and then if they are inflamed, they cause the thoughts to boil; therefore men newly converted to God, having new and strong affections, can with more pleasure think of God than any.
It’s a powerful connection to make. Our thoughts fuel our affections, and when we have affections for something we think about it more. Consider about how this works in a romantic relationship. If you think about the person you love, you tend to love them more. And the more you love them the more you tend to think about them. The cycle keeps repeating itself as your affections and thoughts grow.
It works similarly with God. If you want to have greater affections for God, think about him. This process can seem so strange today. For many people there is an ocean of difference between the thinking theologian and the passionate Christian. Nothing could be further from the truth. Non-passionate ‘theologians’ aren’t doing real theology, and non-thinking ‘passionate Christians’ aren’t really passionate about God–their passionate for whatever their thinking about. My plea to Christians is to think. Think about God, think about Scripture, think about doctrine. Wrestle with the simple and difficult truths of the Bible. Read books by godly men and women who teach the scriptures to you. Become the best theologian you can be (the question, after all, is not ‘are you a theologian?’–for every Christian is–but are you a good theologian?). It may feel a bit awkward, but if you want to love God, think.