Saturday, June 4, 2011

Trading your affections

A Gospel Primer is staple reading at our church and in our home. It is a book packed with Scripture and Gospel truths. I cannot recommend it enough. Here is a sample:

“On the most basic levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fulness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist.

Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness. . . . This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him! . . .

Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes do not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus!”

- Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians (2008), 45-46.

Hidden away in this Gospel Primer selection is the biblical principle called "trading your affections". Thomas Chalmers describes it here:

“The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. . . ."

Do you see the trade that occurs? Casting out something and then admitting something else.

He goes on:

"Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life . . . .

Salvation by grace – salvation by free grace – salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God – salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness. Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of distrust between man and God. We take away from the power of the Gospel to melt and to conciliate. For this purpose, the freer it is, the better it is. That very peculiarity which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism is, in fact, the germ of a new spirit and a new inclination against it. Along with the light of a free Gospel does there enter the love of the Gospel, which, in proportion as we impair the freeness, we are sure to chase away. And never does the sinner find within himself so mighty a moral transformation as when under the belief that he is saved by grace, he feels constrained thereby to offer his heart a devoted thing, and to deny ungodliness.”

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

You may want to take time to read that carefully and thoughtfully.

In the simplest terms here is the truth that has helped me to overcome and continue to overcome (because I'm still not there yet in several areas) besetting sins in my life - the more I grow in my affections for Jesus, the less I will grow in my affections for sin and the things of this world. As I learn to love my Savior, feasting on the pure delight that He is, as I read my Bible and get to know Him in all of His perfections, oh! I just want more and more of Him! And the more I want Him the less I find satisfaction in the things of my flesh. They just don't stack up to Christ. There's no comparison! It's like comparing a Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe to a Yugo (no, I'm not saying that Jesus is a Mercedes :) ). He is a great treasure and endless fountain of delight and joy and LIFE. What are the fleeting pleasures of sin (which lead to death) to that?

Trading your affections is something you have to do every day and every hour of the day. Whenever we are engaged in sin, sinful actions, thoughts, emotions, we are, in that moment, placing our affections on sin and not on Christ. When we see Christ, with the eyes of faith, in all of His splendor and majesty, our King... well, you won't want to click that mouse, men, and you won't run to find refuge in your favorite fantasy about how your marriage should be, women... pick your poison... really, you can't even think about sinning when you are treasuring Christ.

And you know what? I'm still growing in this, people. Join me!

Here is a good place to start; Colossians 3:1-4. Can you see the trading of affections in this passage? Memorize this passage and feast on it. This is real red meat for the soul. Get our your fork and your steak knife and start eating:

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek 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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."


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