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« Bible Verses – RSV (Revised Senior Version) | Main | Christmas Faith »

Can You Control Your Affections?

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-4

The advertisement said it all: “Love is love.”  The obvious implication—or more accurately, propaganda—jumped off the page.  “You can’t control who you love.  Humans are helpless pawns in the chessboard of life.  Raw instincts gush up from the unknown sources of the soul and dictate to us the objects of our affection.  You love who you love and you can’t do anything about it.”

This contemporary wisdom shoved down our throats by the media, by academia, by Hollywood and special interest groups have now taken their philosophy to the next level.  They preach at us not to make any attempt to re-route or re-direct anyone’s “natural” affection away from its unrestrained flow.  Not only must we refrain from interfering with it, we should encourage its expression and affirm its consummation.  The real enemies of social evolution, they say, are those extremist moral policemen who keep trying to force outdated mores onto the emerging generation.  (These enemies are better defined as Christians.)

Lest you think this is just another tirade against sexual orientation and the goals of the LGBT crowd, it’s much bigger than that.  Let me state my point another way:  The shrills who say you cannot control who you love have launched a frontal attack against the essence of Christianity.  Why?  Because the primary mission of every believer is simply to love God!  “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Luke 10:27.  According to Matthew’s gospel, the entire body of scripture rests on this seminal command.  But the insidious corollary of the new philosophy is that no one can be, or should they be, forced to love God against his or her will.  The concise version of this idea is this:  “You cannot tell me who not to love, and neither can you tell me who I should love!”

Therein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the fait accompli of contemporary thought.  For liberal adherents, the argument is over.  It essentially holds that the Bible goes against the very nature of humankind; therefore, Christianity is more than wrong—it is evil!  This thought forms the basis for university policies, professors’ lectures, movie themes, sitcom plots, popular magazine articles, best-seller books, contemporary music lyrics, judges’ decisions, legislative regulations, corporate initiatives, executive edicts and the entire cultural trend of our era.  For the majority of them, Christ and His cross have already been hauled to the dustbin of history.  

Anyone who buys into this thinking, in spite of its pervasiveness, pits a few decades of popularity against millenniums of established principles.  One need look no further than the sexual revolution.  Multiple studies of transgenderism, for example, reveal the deeply troubling post-surgery experiences of those who have gone that route and cite suicide rates of up to ten times of the rest of the population!  One writer says that the only thing that is rare is the media reporting of these conclusions. (

The scriptures teach that the problem has nothing to do with physical anatomy.  The real problem is the condition of the heart.  (Proverbs 4:23)  Affection has always been under the control of the individual.  The Apostle Paul underscores this truth when he directs us to “set” our affections on things above.  The use of the word set speaks to thought processes.  It comes from the Greek word phroneo, which means to exercise the mind, to have a sentiment or opinion, or to interest oneself in a certain thing.  (Vine) 

In other words, each of us has the ability to organize our thoughts and impel our emotions around the subject of our choosing.  The power to reject or deny any entity that makes an appeal for our love is a choice as well.  The only way our affections gain the upper hand over our choices is if we give them permission to exercise that power.  In other words, we have to cede the control of our heart to someone or something else.  While others can use physical restraint over us (e.g. POW’s), they cannot commandeer our love.  That’s why we are told to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”  John 2:15.

You can set your affections on things above, but it requires a conscious decision to elevate your spiritual eyesight to heavenly or eternal goals.  How can believers do that?  We do it in the same way we make all of our life’s decisions.  We weigh the importance of the spiritual over the physical; we judge the value of eternity over time; we understand the superiority of the Word of God over the word of man; we discern the difference between Satan’s subtle lies and God’s proven truths; we examine the lives of faithful believers as opposed to those who reject the Bible. 

The outlier in the formula is called the flesh.  The flesh mitigates against wise choices and rational thought.  Flesh is the force that keeps dopers doping.  It’s the yearning that pulls alcoholics back to the bar.  It’s the lust that drives sexual immorality.  It’s the desire that makes liars lie, gamblers gamble, thieves steal and killers kill.  Freedom from the flesh means crucifying the flesh.  Thus, the Apostle goes on in his epistle to say, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.  Do not deal kindly with your flesh: it will not deal kindly with you.

Determining who and what you love is not a random act, the spin of a wheel or the roll of some phantom pair of dice.  It is a choice.  People make choices every day.  Many of them are hard choices, but they make them anyway.  As for me, I choose to love the Lord Jesus Christ.  I do this because He first loved me.  I also do this because out of a world of possibilities, it is absolutely the best choice I can possibly make in this world!

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