I have a confession: I love reading, but I don’t often take the time to. I’m also a pretty avid consumer of podcasts and blogs, so I come across a lot of authors and ideas. It’s not uncommon for me to find myself buying a book with all the best intentions, then realizing months (or years) later that I’ve completely forgotten about it.
Matt Chandler’s To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain is one such book. I vaguely remember buying it shortly after publication back in 2014, but never got around to reading it. Whoops.
Last weekend, as I settled into my airplane seat, I realized that I had left home in such a rush that I had forgotten to bring something for the flight. Thankfully, I remembered that I had downloaded this on the Kindle app on my phone, so I settled in and began reading Chandler’s exploration of Philippians.
As I was reading, Chandler addresses Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:12 to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” As he tries to shed light on this passage, he offers a pair of questions:
What stirs your affections for Jesus? What robs you of those affections for Christ? (p.101)
It’s so easy to read that and think, “Yeah, that’s good! I’m gonna highlight it. That was really good.” And then I move on, excited for the next thing that I’ll be challenged by.
But lately, God’s been convicting me about my obedience. I love learning, but if learning never changes my life, then what good is it? And although Chandler’s book is not Scripture, I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in me, encouraging me to stop and take a few moments to reflect on these two questions. So here goes.
What Stirs My Affections For Jesus?
Morning devotions. I’m one of those evil morning people. I love getting up in the quiet of the morning, early morning light filtering through my window, opening up my Bible, reading, and then journaling a short prayer. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m terrible at actually practicing this regularly. But when I do, I love it.
Pragmatic reading. I love thinking about Scripture practically. I really get a kick out of reading a passage and then reflecting on what it means for my life, how I should change my life.
Hearing about God’s work. I love talking to people about what God’s been doing in their lives. It’s exciting to me to hear what people are learning, how they’re being challenged, and how they’re growing. It’s inspiring to hear about how people are hearing from God and obeying him.
Discussing ________. I love talking about the Bible/theology/Christian living/stewardship/discipleship/the Church. Dialogue is stimulating, and I love fleshing out my thoughts and pushing them against the thoughts of others, especially if the result is more clarity in how God wants us to live our lives.
Nature. I love walking through the nature, breathing it in, and praising God for the world that he’s made.
Teaching. I love sharing the things that I’m learning with others, especially when they get excited about it, too. It brings so much joy to me to teach others and help them grow in maturity in their relationship with Jesus.
What Robs My Affections For Jesus?
I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty fun reflecting on the things that make me excited about Jesus. But, this one was harder to stomach. (Side note, Isn’t it weird how much easier it is to think about positive than it is to think about something negative? No lie, as I was starting to think about this section, I suddenly found myself scrolling through IG instead.)
Isolation. This is a tricky one, because I’m an introvert. I like being alone, and I regain my social energy by being alone. But I have also found that it’s when I’m isolated that I am most prone to straying from Jesus. When I’m by myself, that’s when I’m most vulnerable to Satan’s whispers, to the various temptations that may cross my mind.
Busyness. When I get busy, I become distracted. I become tired. I lack energy and motivation. And that’s when I become most vulnerable. This compounds with isolation, because when I’m feeling wiped, I want to be alone.
Distraction. I am an avid learner. I love to learn, and when something strikes my fancy, I pour myself into that thing. Sometimes my fascination only lasts a few minutes. Other times it can last for months. The tough thing about this is that most of the time, I’m not fascinated by something inherently bad. When Chandler writes, “[M]orally neutral temptations are far more apt to rob me of my affections for Jesus Christ… I can easily justify sinfully indulging in things that are non-sins because they are little things…” (p.99) I totally relate. There’s nothing wrong with learning how to manage my money well… until I realize that I’m dangerously close to idolizing money. There’s nothing wrong with exercising and training… until I realize that I’ve become fixated on how I look. There’s nothing wrong with playing video games or watching TV or following sports… until I realize that I can tell you all the item builds or plot lines or player stats, but can’t recall the last time that I’ve tried to memorize a Bible passage.
Perceived Self-Sustenance. I’ve noticed in my life where I begin doing something following God’s leading, and he works through me. Then I begin to think that I’m doing well, and stop leaning on God’s grace and mercy to continue the work that he’s begun. That’s usually when I crash and burn, causing a lot of harm to myself and the people that I was supposed to be serving.
This post has gotten a lot longer than I had intended (sorry!), so I’m going to wrap it up here. I really enjoyed this brief reflection exercise, and I encourage you to take some time and write down your own answers. I hope you find this exercise as enlightening and encouraging as I did.