The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection

I’m on a journey of emotional eating and have been for years. There are times I’ve walked over to join someone else walking the path, or motioned over for them to join me.

But most the time, I’ve chosen to journey alone. Often, tired from lugging huge suitcases around. I keep hoping to “arrive” (whatever that looks like) sans all baggage and throw a huge party with banners and confetti and then! invite friends and announce, “Look where I am! Ta-da!”

That seems so very silly–even ludicrous to actually say out loud–but that’s what my flesh thinks would be good.

I’m so thankful that Jesus is stronger than my flesh. As the song “Thy Mercy my God” remembers, “Dissolved by the mercy, I fall to the ground and weep to the praise of the Mercy I’ve found.” (More on that in another post.)

It’s God’s incredible mercy that dissolves me in the most wondrous way, at times. Like recently. He is stirring in me a desire to stop living solo and ask friends to sojourn with me.

I’ve had seasons of wanting to read the latest book or try the latest “fix” but something’s shifted in my soul in the last handful of years. I have a keen awareness that if I could’ve changed things on my own by now, I would have.

(Oh, that Mercy doesn’t allow self-sufficiency to fix ourselves! I think I finally see this as a gift!)

Rather, what I’m hungry for is a bigger view of Him (thanks for putting that to words in my kitchen, Meredith).

My gut (no pun intended) says that’s the core of real, lasting change and freedom. As I consider His character, His attributes and what He’s done for me…oh! How that affects my heart. He becomes more the Greater Affection.

And herein lies a huge piece of the puzzle for me: The Expulsive Power of a New (I’d say Greater) Affection.

Thank you, Thomas Chalmers, for your sermon with that name. You were born 200 years ago, but I think we’d be contemporary sojourners if you lived today.

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Tim Keller writes:

Thomas Chalmers, the well-known Scottish preacher, in his famous sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” says it all: Seldom do any of our habits or flaws disappear by a process of extinction through reasoning or “by the mere force of mental determination.” Reason and willpower are not enough.

“But what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed…The only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”

A young man, for example, may “cease to idolize pleasure, but it is only because the idol of wealth has become the stronger and gotten the ascendancy” and is enabling him to discipline himself for prosperous business. “Even the love of money ceases to have the mastery over the heart” if it’s drawn into another world of ideology and politics, “and he is now lorded over by the love of power.”

But “there is not one of these [identity] transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered, but… its desire for having some one object” of absolute love “is unconquerable.”

It is only when admitted “into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Jesus Christ [that] the spirit of adoption is poured out upon us. It is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominate affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way that deliverance is possible.”

So it isn’t enough to hold out a “mirror of its imperfections” to your soul. It’s not enough to lecture your conscience. Rather, you must “try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of him who is greater than the world.”

Until you’re melted by the amazing sight, knowledge, and sense of Jesus taking the fire for you, you can’t have that transformation of identity. You can’t just decide, “I think I’m going to change my identity.” It can’t be done. It has to be an experience of love.

What do you think?