Monday, September 08, 2008

“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”

Last week’s sermon—“Christ, Our Life – Part II”—focused on answering the question, “In light of the gospel, how do we pursue radical and lasting change?” Colossians 3:1-2 gives the following instructions, “. . . seek [NIV – ‘set your hearts on’] the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Gospel change occurs from the inside-out. We begin, not by changing our behavior, but by (1) despising our idols and (2) treasuring Christ. We take our eyes off of earthly things and set them on the “things that are above.” Often, we only pursue the first step. That is, we begin to despise our sin and go about the work of change with an attitude of “No! Bad Christian. Don’t sin. Bad Christian.” What we don’t do is cultivate a positive love for Christ as revealed in the gospel.

Thomas Chalmers, a Scottish minister from the 19th century, wrote about this need powerfully in his sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In the sermon, Chalmers writes about how most people’s desires change over time. Normally, a person moves from childish appetites to physical pleasure, from pleasure to the love of money, from the love of money to a lust for power.

There is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered; but as to its desire for having some one object or other, this is unconquerable. . . . Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart, that it must have a something to lay hold of . . . [This means] the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another . . . it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.

You can read the rest of Chalmers’ sermon here.

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