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.”
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.
Whether it is pornography alcohol, drugs, or anything that enslaves you; the only way you will truly be set free is to acquire a new affection. The new affection must be greater than the one that enslaves you. To help understand this, I am riding the shoulders of the Scottish preacher Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) and his sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” Taken from the text 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Chalmers first point is “A moralist will be unsuccessful in trying to displace his love of the world by reviewing the ills of the world. Misplaced affections need to be replaced by the far greater power of the affection of the gospel.” He points out that love has two conditions that we are to regard. The first is when the object of love is not in our possession and so it is a desire that we have. The second is when the object of love is on our possession and so it becomes indulgence. When we are under the impulse of the first condition, we are urged on a path or are pursuing an activity for our gratification. It can become consuming and crowds our mind with ambition to acquire it. Often in this pursuit, we can become weary and even acquire a distaste for what we are doing, yet the desire is so strong that if not substituted, the chase continues.
The common way we attempt to deal with a strong desire and the pursuit is to cut it out or simply put – just stop it. Chalmers points out that our heart will rise in resistance. To simply try and stop a pursuit or habit leaves a negative and cheerless vacancy behind it and it will fail.
I will continue this defense that to be set free from the world affections of things such as pornography, new affections must replace it and they must be stronger and greater than the powerful pull of pornography. Point two from Chalmers tomorrow.