For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. (II Corinthians 5:14-15)
As I meditate upon these verses, two important truths stand out to me. First, we all have something that is the primary control factor of our lives. Second, we are all living for someone or something.
What is the primary control factor in my life? I think I would have to answer the question this way — it depends on the moment the question is asked. I wish I could say that I was consistent all the time, that the love of Christ was continuously what controlled my life. But this simply is not the way it is.
The primary control factor is that which drives my life. It influences my thoughts and behaviors. It affects my emotions. This control factor is a very powerful force in my life.
This control factor is primarily dependent upon my spiritual condition. When I am in an intimate relationship with Christ, I realize how much He loves me and His love takes the its proper place on the seat of the affections of my heart. When I am not in close relationship with Him, something else occupies this seat and whatever that is become the primary control factor of my life.
I borrow the phrase, “seat of the affections of my heart” from Jonathan Edwards’ great work, A Treatise on Religious Affections. What is on the seat of my affections (what i love most) drives my feelings, behaviors and beliefs.
As I mentioned earlier there are many things that can occupy that seat. The most common is self — me, myself and I. My self love controls me. When this is the case, I feel, act and believe what pleases me, what gives me temporal gratification. I believe that I must live for me, for the now. I do what makes me feel good. It is all about me. I become the captain of my soul.
When self love becomes my primary control factor, many secondary factors begin to influence me. For instance, I will begin to let the love of pleasure (hedonism) control me. This is why many men become addicted to pornography. Their self love begins to influence their feelings. I begin to think that I have a right to do what feels good to me, what brings me pleasure. If it feels good, it is perfectly acceptable because my love for me is what drives me. Thus these feelings begin to control my behavior. When a pattern of behavior is established, I then justify in my mind (I believe) I am free to do whatever makes me feel good. The mind is a tricky thing!
When self love is my primary control factor, my love for others is influenced by selfish motivations. I begin to love others with a conditional love. “I love you if…” “I love you when…” Let me flesh this out. This kind of love is driven by how another makes me feel. When you make me feel good, I love you. When you disappoint me or don’t do what I expect you to do, I don’t love you. When you refuse to give me the please I desire, I choose to stop loving you. When self love controls me, I easily justify the abuse of alcohol, drugs, sex and a host of other things that give me pleasure.
Remember that my control factor is primarily dependent upon my spiritual condition. I will continue with this thought in the next post.
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