We are continuing this series of posts reflecting upon Jonathan Edwards’ “Religious Affections” and we saw last time that God sovereignly regenerates sinners by His grace alone. Now let’s consider his second proof or evidence of genuine conversion.
Number Two: A truly regenerated person loves God first and foremost for who He is, not primarily for the benefits or blessings that He may bring in salvation that we enjoy. The converted soul enjoys the Giver of the gifts above the gifts themselves.
In our consumeristic evangelical subculture, we have been trained to think that loving Jesus is all about what Jesus can give me and how He can bless me. Don’t get me wrong. We receive tremendous blessings from Christ, but that should not be the motivation for us to love Him. We love Jesus because of who He intrinsically is regardless of whether we ever get blessed by Him.
Listen to how Edwards describes this: “Christians don’t first see that God loves them and then see that he is lovely; but they first see that God is lovely and that Christ is excellent and glorious, and their hearts are first captivated with this view…Love for self and what happiness they may attain in this glorious God is secondary and consequential to their recognition of his intrinsic beauty.”
In other words, the truly regenerated person comes to faith in Christ not primarily for the benefits that Christ gives, but simply because in coming to Christ, we find the greatest treasure in Him alone. He is enough in and of Himself.
Often times in evangelism, we try to appeal to the benefits of coming to Christ as the motivation to see sinners repent and believe instead of showing them the intrinsic worth of Christ Himself. We tell sinners that they can “have their best life now” or that they will “have peace, joy and love and a better life” or that Jesus will “improve your life”. The Word faith prosperity false gospel promises no sickness, unlimited wealth, and no suffering as long as you sow your seed into some charlatan televangelist’s ministry.
Why does a sinner come to Christ? To “get stuff” from Jesus or to “get Jesus”! Edwards argues that a truly converted person comes to Christ simply because he or she sees the infinite worth and beauty of Jesus as altogether lovely and that He is supremely to be treasured. They don’t elevate the gifts above the Giver.
A few years back I read a powerful statement by John Piper in his book “God is the Gospel” that has haunted me ever since. I think his words capture Edwards’ sentiment.
Listen to Piper: “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauty you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there.”
Ponder this truth. Do you love Jesus because of what you get from Jesus, or do you love Jesus simply because you get Jesus.
Matthew 13:44–46 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Jesus is the treasure! Jesus is the pearl of great value! Do you in JOY leave everything else behind to GET JESUS as your ultimate satisfaction?
If you have, then this is strong evidence that you have been genuinely converted by God’s sovereign grace.