(Old Facebook Post – Revised)
Do you long for victory over sin–for yourself, or for those you love? Here is some great reading from an old Scotsman. Read it slowly, enjoying every drop. Enjoy the presentation of the gospel of Christ–for what you love, you will serve.
“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” by Thomas Chalmers. (Thanks to Tim Keller for alerting me to this old essay.)
My reflections after reading the essay:
How do we try to motivate people to live holy lives? Often the motivations we use, while they are true and even useful, fall short of the gospel. Sometimes the motivations we use actually reinforce sinful patterns in our hearts.
For example, how might we motivate a person to live honestly? We might warn him that lying to his wife may cost him his marriage, that shady business practices can lead to lost profits, that lying under oath can lead to prison time, and that little white lies will cost you your reputation in the community. All these warnings are true, and all of them are useful and valid when used wisely. But when cut loose from the gospel, they only reinforce the idolatry of our hearts, strengthening sinful motivations of fear and pride—the very motivations that cause us to deceive in the first place! These warnings may help some people choose good behavior (though see Chalmer’s essay), but when they become our primary motivations for good behavior, they will not form a Christ-like character in us or in those we love.
A grace and gospel-based motivation might look more like this: We will remind ourselves that it is impossible to hide anything from God, but that God has extended his love toward us even while knowing the worst about us—while knowing the fear and pride that cause us to deceive. We might ponder the absolute honesty of Christ, both in his own relationships with the Father and with others, and in his manner of dealing justly and lovingly with our sin. We would meditate on the wonderful assurance provided by the certainty that it is impossible for God to lie. Our hearts would become so captivated by the integrity of God that fear and pride would drain out of our hearts, removing all motivation for dishonesty and reshaping us in the image of Christ.