It has been my experience that for many who are struggling with a strong worldly desire, the idea that freedom will be found by embracing the affections of the gospel seems too simple for such a complex issue. Chalmers would say, “they do not see the love of God in sending His Son into the world. They do not see the expression of His tenderness to men, in sparing Him not, but giving Him up unto the death for us all. They do not see the sufficiency of the atonement, or of the sufferings that were endured by Him who bore the burden that sinners should have borne. They do not see the blended holiness and compassion of the Godhead, in that He passed by the transgressions of His creatures, yet could not pass them by without an expiation. It is a mystery to them how a man should pass to a state of godliness from a state of nature – but had they only a believing view of God manifest in the flesh, this would resolve for them the whole mystery of godliness. As it is, they can not get quit of their old affections, because they are out of sight from all those truths, which have influence to raise a new one.”
It is the application of the gospel that is the surest means of casting out the old affection. Chalmers also writes, “We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart than to keep in our hearts the love of God – and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than by building on our most holy faith. The denial of the world which is not possible to him that dissents from the gospel testimony, is possible, even as all things are possible, to him that believeth.”
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”
1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Currently in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska is a proposal before the city government to add an ordinance that adds to the definition of discrimination any decision based upon “sexual orientation” which includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Also included is “gender identity” which is defined as the actual or perceived appearance, expression, identity or behavior of a person as being male or female, whether or not that appearance, expression, identity or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.
This article is not to dissect the ordinance but the ramifications of the ordinance does have an impact on the church, para-church organizations, and we as Christians living in this culture. The question I want to address is should the church of Jesus Christ respond to issues of civil government such as what is happening in Lincoln? Some would say no; I say yes and here is why.
As the church of Jesus Christ, we live being members of two kingdoms, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world. The Scriptures teach us that one kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, will be preserved and everlasting and the other kingdom, the kingdom of this world, will not last. Our culture, activities, and institutions will not be redeemed by God but for now, they are being preserved through the covenant that God made with Noah (See Genesis 8:20-9:17). Through this covenant, God himself established the responsibilities of our culture and in doing so, he did not distinguish a separate set of rules to identify one people group from another. It is however only the church, the Bride of Christ, that will be welcomed into the new heaven and new earth at the end of the age. So in the meantime, what is our role as citizens of heaven living in “Babylon?”
Because we are part of the culture, we are to strive for justice and excellence in our cultural labors out of a love for Jesus Christ. As Jesus prayed for us in John 17, we are not to be taken at this time out of the world but are to be entrusted with the message of the gospel and the responsibility to engage the culture with that message as those not of this world.
In this culture, the members of Christ’s church participate in the same politics, commerce, and many of the same cultural activities as those outside the church. We have not been summoned to withdraw from these but as residents in “Babylon,” we pursue these activities with righteousness and may even suffer persecution for doing so. But, we will return to our “Jerusalem” as we wait for the day when human culture will be destroyed. (See the connection of Jeremiah 29:4-14 and Revelation 21:2-8, 21-26)
So why get involved in political and social issues such as currently happening in Lincoln? Because according to the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 8:20-9:17), God is the one who has ordained what brings stability to culture until the day the world ends. He has also ordained us to engage in all these activities and to be voices of justice to those who would disrupt the social order established by Him. But, the cultural activities of the kingdom of this world have no part or authority on the eternal kingdom of Christ’s church. When we look at this proposal, we find that the civil government crosses kingdom borders. As Satan is not just a tempter, but is also an intruder of kingdoms, the government is not to intrude upon the church. Even our country’s founding fathers understood this.
Those in Lincoln and part of the church of Jesus Christ need to be informed of this issue and other issues that move out of the area of good social order and justice as established by God’s Word. Laws giving special rights and protection in sexual orientation and identity will not ultimately help these people. Each one of them needs to be treated with the dignity of being created in the image of God but they are enslaved to a sin that civil government laws will not free them from. If the church is silent, then so is the gospel message that is their ultimate hope. For everyone, this is not an issue just about the church and state, but it is an issue of love for those who need to hear and embrace the riches and the treasures of redemption in Jesus Christ.
For those of us in the Lincoln area, we need to be informed, get involved, and pray.
The love of a worldly desire cannot be expunged from the heart just by speaking about how worthless it is. We all know that things like pornography, drugs, and drunkenness are dark places yet those attached to them, continue it. A heart will not depart from a strong desire by a single act of resignation. What reigns in the heart will not easily give up occupancy to another … that is unless Christ the Sovereign appears with his charm and great power to subdue our moral nature and take control.
It is through the preaching of the gospel, corporately or privately to ourselves, that we behold God as in a way that we may love God more than our sin. Chalmers writes, “It is there (through the gospel) and only there, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence for sinners – and where our desire after him is not chilled into apathy by the barrier of human guilt…It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw near nigh unto God.”
In contemplating the gospel, the sin that grips us is brought into true light and when enabled by faith, which is God’s gift, we can see the face of the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is through the gospel that we can understand that we have a full pardon from our sin, gracious acceptance by God, a love that is above all loves, a release from the spirit of bondage and tyranny of our sin, our adoption as children of God, deliverance from sin’s power, a faith that is revealed from heaven, and a new nature that is dead to the influence and reach of worldly desires.
Tomorrow will be the final article in this series and will explain how the truth of the gospel makes the demands of the gospel our heart’s desire.
When we try to bring a new affection in to replace an old affection, it is more successful than simply trying to stop what you are doing. When you just stop something that has been a strong desire, you still have to encounter the charm of what it offered and the pleasures it gave. The end result is that this will eventually fail because it does not address the heart and exposes our moral failure. A new affection must be offered that does address the heart and brings with it a charm and pleasure that is enough to overcome the first influence.
Our sinful hearts will not consent to the misery of being without the charm and pleasure of an affection gained nor will it turn to frivolous replacements. The reason is that to give up the first affection is torturous, requires extreme discomfort and misery to fight. Also very seldom does one overcome a desire by reason or by being pampered. It is only by replacing a subordinate desire with a greater one. It is the application of something else to which becomes the stronger and more powerful influence in a person’s heart.
Chalmers writes, “But what can not be thus destroyed, may be disposset (deprived or disposed) – and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind.”
Tomorrow I will address that it is not enough to understand the worthlessness of what enslaves you but one must value the worth of the things of God far more.
My thanks to Pastor Dustin Rogers of Heritage Bible Church in Lincoln for the invitation to join the men of his church to hear Dr. Bob Bevington speak. Bob is the author of the book Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace (Shepherd Press, 2011), and co-author with Jerry Bridges of two books, The Great Exchange: My Sin for His Righteousness (Crossway, 2007) and The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2009).
Bob’s topic for the men was Pornography: Five Applications for Freedom. Here is a summary of his challenge and encouragement to us.
Men are in a battle and the stakes are high.
1 Peter 2:11 states that we are to abstain from passions of the flesh which wage war against our soul. There are many strategies out there given to fight this battle but nearly all of them put us in the middle of the struggle without proper preparation. We need something much bigger and stronger than therapeutic strategies. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us it is divine power which is needed to destroy strongholds.
The path to true freedom requires a sequence of five applications:
1. Apply the true names and call pornography what it is.
First of all Jesus calls it adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). It is looking with lustful intent upon an image of a woman. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus says that from within us and from the heart come such things as evil thoughts, sexual immorality, adultery, sensuality which defile a person.
Besides being adultery of the heart, pornography is idol worship which demands a sacrifice (betrayal of your marriage and diminishing your parenting) and breaks fellowship with God (try to think of glorifying God while engaged in a sexual fantasy!)
Lastly pornography must be called sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 tells us that it is the will of God that we be sanctified and that we abstain from sexual immorality.
2. Apply the true gospel: The good news that changes everything.
False gospels abound and will not free us from the grip of sin like pornography. The real gospel is a costly gospel for we know the true gospel by the price that was paid (Philippians 2: 6-8).
The true gospel includes “the great exchange” where our sin is transferred to Christ through forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness is transferred to us by justification (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The true gospel preaches union with Christ where genuine faith connects us with Christ and by faith we put our reliance and dependency in Christ as the object of our faith.
The way we can apply the gospel is to have gratitude for the grace that was purchased (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15). We are to also exercise the “expulsive power of a new affection” where we battle the desires of the flesh with the desires of the Spirit and the desire that is strongest will win. When we see the treasures of the gospel and deepen our relationship with God, we can fan the flames of our desire for God (Galatians 5:17)
3. Apply God’s power to enable and deliver.
There are two kinds of power; both are outside of ourselves and both are accessed by faith.
The first one is synergistic power which is when we combine our effort with the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:29 and Philippians 2:12-13).
The second kind of power is monergistic power which is when the Spirit works completely alone in us and completely independent. The Holy Spirit does it all and we are totally passive recipients (Ezekiel 36:24-29).
4. Apply God-given battle strategies.
It is here that many ministry strategies fail. Dr. Bevington gave us 30 different strategies based upon Scripture and memorization of things to do as strategies in the battle. The difference here compared with what I have seen from other ministries is that this step is undertaken only after you have done steps 1, 2 and 3. Most others want to skip them and jump right into the battle without the proper preparation. The 30 strategies are statements of truth about the battle of the flesh and commitments that need to be made. They represent the synergistic power mentioned above. If you would like these strategies, you can contact Bob via his blog RedLikeBlood.com.
5. Apply all of the above daily and diligently
Bob spoke of his mentor Jerry Bridges who may not have invented the saying but certainly popularized it, “preach the gospel to yourself everyday.” The battle of sin is one we fight every day and as long as we are sinners, we need the gospel.
Bob also recommends the technology accountability ministry of Covenant Eyes which if you go to his website, you can get the first month free by clicking on the banner.
I deeply appreciated Bob’s gospel-centered view on the battle of temptation for his counsel applies to many areas and not just pornography. Two great resources to help in understanding a gospel-centered view of dealing with temptation are to read his book; Bookends of the Christian Life and Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway, 2011).