The great Puritan leader John Owen is quoted as saying...
"Fill your affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin".
His quote is straight, to the point, and full of truth. But how many of us on a day to day basis truly practice what he suggests? How many of us truly are so enamored with the cross that there is no room for sin? It goes without saying that there will ALWAYS be sin in our lives-it is who we are, on this side of heaven. But as we think about the cross-is it changing us? Does following Jesus with our entire lives (that's called being a Christian) make one difference to us? Is there Fruit of the Spirit living inside of us showing itself more than it did a year ago?
For most of us, myself included, we are more enamored with ourselves. Too many days in my life, i'm more concerned about the day to day goings on to think upon the glorious nature and beauty of Christ. I find myself constantly finding something to worry about and stir my affections away from Christ. And quite honestly-it could be anything. I know that many of you can relate to that. Even many men, called by God into ministry, can relate. We are too busy (even with doing good works) to simply sit, think and mediate on the lavish grace the cross brings to our lives. Because we are too busy for that, rightly relating to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ is not even on our radar.
This is where we as the church come in. You see, each one of us are in the same condition. We are all people who desire to follow Jesus with our lives, but on a daily basis we fail. We are sinners. Whether it be we struggle with fear, insecurity, pride, or any number of many other things-we all struggle. The lie that the enemy would like us to believe is that we are the only one that has struggle-and everyone else around us have perfect lives. Countless believers I talk to, when discouraged, communicate this to me. It is the subtle trap of believing that God wants to strike you down and has it out for you. As the church, we come together not to keep the "machine of church going", but to keep each other going. When we live life together, and not just attend services together, we encourage, we mourn and we celebrate with one another.
Believer in Christ, God loves you. He sent his son to this earth to die a brutal death and be resurrected, for your benefit and for His glory. This is what this season is all about. This should stir us. This should make us scream from the rooftops, Glory! As we mediate on this, it should change the way we treat people, the attitudes we take, as well as our character.
When we fill our affections with the cross of Christ, the struggles and cares of this world begin to fade. Do they go away? Far from it. In fact, as we draw closer to Christ, they many intensify, as the enemy knows and does not want us to worship God. The difference is the posture with which we take. When we take a posture of gratitude for the cross, and trust God for who he says he is in the Word of God, rather than trusting in ourselves, God receives the glory, and we rightly view ourselves in light of it.
In simple terms, filling my affections with the Cross of Christ means i'm not filling my affections with something else. What are you filling your affections with instead of Christ this holiday season? Is it yourself? Are you really impressed with yourself, or vice versa, are you really not impressed with yourself? Either way, you are getting the affection and not God. Is your job and or life stage or health filling your worry and affections, rather than the glorious cross of Christ?
This holiday season, if you do only one thing, I challenge you (and me) to mediate upon the cross of Christ and how glorious it truly is. Read the Christmas story in the Gospels. If you are a follower of Christ with your life, it should bring your affection to its correct posture, and the cares of this world, while still present, will not consume you.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.