When You Can’t Give Up the Sins You Love

Pornography and illicit sex. Drug addiction. Life-consuming video games. The world is a smorgasbord of tantalizing pursuits. And when it comes to forbidden pleasures (or good pleasures gone awry), our solution is usually something along the lines of, “Just say no.” Abstinence—from whatever we’ve become addicted to—is the key to victory.
This “solution” is filled with good intentions, but is it the right solution? Put another way, is the seduction of sin destroyed by mere avoidance of sin? I believe the answer to that question is no. Abstinence only works when a superior solution is established.
What is that superior solution? For the answer, I want to look at one of the most paradigm-shattering sermons I have ever been exposed to. You may have heard of it: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, by Thomas Chalmers.
Yes, Thomas Chalmers has been dead for over 150 years. Yes, his sermon’s old-fashioned language is hard to slog through. But it contains a foundational truth that will rock your world.

Over a period of several months, I went through the painstaking—but highly rewarding—process of “translating” Chalmers’ sermon for easier accessibility. With Shannon’s help, I made the following adjustments:

  • Paraphrased it using modern-day English
  • Shortened it by taking out some redundancies
  • Rearranged it to help with flow
  • Eliminated some archaic illustrations, updated some others, and added a few transitions

It is my hope that the powerful truths of this sermon might be more readily available to a modern audience. Toward that end, this and the next four blog posts will show how Chalmers’ sermon can revolutionize how we deal with the tempting pleasures of sin. So, without further ado, here is the first installment in our series.

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection
A Sermon by Thomas Chalmers
Paraphrased, Revised, and Abridged by Cap Stewart

Central thought: I can’t learn to hate the sin that I love until I learn to love something else even more.

There is no greater warning against worldly, carnal desires than what 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If any one loves the world, there is no love in his heart for the Father” (1912 Weymouth New Testament).

Not loving the world is indispensable to those who would follow Christ. “And do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2a). “[Y]ou once walked according to the course of this world [i.e., you don’t—and shouldn’t—now]” (Ephesians 2:2). “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is…to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

You can use one of two methods to keep your heart from loving the world:
  1. Try to convince yourself how empty worldly pleasures are. This, perhaps, will cause your heart to consider worldliness as being unworthy of your affections.

  2. Set your sights on another object that is more worthy of your delight—namely, God Himself. This will persuade you to replace an inferior affection with a new one.
My goal is to show that the first method is useless, and that the second method is the only way to rescue the heart from the worldly desires that control it. Before we get to the solution, though, we need to better understand the problem of worldliness.

photo credit: fakelvis via photopin cc