McDonald’s, Jonathan Edwards, and Holy Affections

When I was in elementary school, I craved McDonald’s. When my parents let me pick the meal for the night, McDonald’s was the choice. If you had told me that I could eat McDonald’s every day of my life, I would have thought you were describing heaven. I enjoyed Big Mac’s and number 3 combo meals until college, when I had a series of life-altering experiences.

First, I was in another country and was overjoyed to discover McDonald’s was there. I devoured lunch one day but became very sick. Evidently I ate lettuce washed in water that was not purified. I threw up for 24 consecutive hours. And with each vomiting episode, I lost more and more of my appetite for super-sized meal deals. I was surprised that when I returned home and would drive past a McDonald’s, I had no desire at all for a burger or fries. In fact, I was actually repulsed by what I formerly craved.

The second life-altering experience was that someone took me to a super-nice restaurant and introduced me to Prime meat. You may not know this, but you should—there are three grades of meat. Select is the lowest. Choice is the next level–  what is typical sold at Publix and other supermarkets.

Then there is Prime.

Less than 3 percent of all meat is Prime. When I first tasted a Prime-grade filet mignon cut of meat, I knew that it would be difficult to eat meat from McDonald’s or Golden Corral again. My taste buds had just radically changed. I now have much less desire for what I thought was the apex of culinary delights. I hate what I once loved. And I love what I once did not know.

For those of us who are truly Christians, the same has happened to us on a spiritual level. Formerly, we craved the things of this world. We built our lives around the desires of this world. Then Christ changed us. We tasted the goodness of God and our taste buds changed. We can still eat the things of this world. We still sin. We just don’t want to as we once did. We prefer Him and His goodness.

In the years following the Great Awakening, some people questioned the sincerity of many of those who were reportedly converted. It was clear that some of the people who claimed to have become Christian were not authentic in their faith. They were living the same types of lives they were before they met Christ. There was no change. So in response, Jonathan Edwards wrote his famous work, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. In it he coined the phrase “holy affections” as the distinguishing mark for whether or not someone is truly born of God.

He wrote:

“The supreme proof of a true conversion is holy affections, zeal for holy things, longings after God, longings after holiness, desires for purity.”

How do we know that our hearts have been and are being transformed? God changes and continually sanctifies our desires. He transforms our affections. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).