The Nature of Real Faith

Posted by TJ Klapperich on 12/11/2007

Currently in America many people claim to be Christians, even Evangelicals. The problem is that the behavior of is less and less Christian each day. People profess to believe in Christ and yet by their actions they denounce him. It is not just Hollywood and Television that have declined in the last several decades; the basic behavior of Christians has declined. While thinking about this trend, I recently rediscovered a quote by Jonathan Edwards that I found quite helpful. Edwards noted that many who claimed to be religious lacked a real sense of sin in their lives. In his work Religious Affections he said, "All gracious affections are broken-hearted affections."  


Let me take a moment to explain how Edwards uses the various words in this quotation. The term affections refers to emotions, but not the base visceral responses cheaply conjured up or manipulated. Edwards primarily uses the word affections to refer to the profound emotions commanded in Scripture (Love, Hope, Compassion, etc.). By using the word, gracious, to describe the affections, Edwards is indicating those affections that are the result of saving grace in the life of a Christian. In other words those affections toward God that come not from human will, but from the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Edwards maintained that real love for God, real hope in God, real joy in God is rooted in broken-heartedness. In other words, only an understanding of a our real sinful standing gives us the true deep love, joy, and hope commanded in Scripture. Any emotion that a person claims to have toward God, if it is not rooted in a profound remembrance of sinfulness, is not truly a work of God’s grace, but a counterfeit. It is possible–and quite common in our media culture–to arouse cheap emotions that are not rooted in God’s grace or genuine faith, but are simply sentimental. They are the equivalent of a Hollywood tear-jerker. They may move people, but they are not the kind of emotions God is pleased by. It is not because they are too emotional. It is because they are not emotional enough, they are counterfeit.