God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ

This is from Thomas Chalmers’ sermon entitled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection“. Chalmers says we all must love something. It is in our nature that something always occupies the throne of our hearts. If this were not true our hearts would be reduced to barren wilderness. No heart will ever voluntarily do that to itself and so it keeps grasping, wanting, yearning.

How can we avoid being ruled by such desires and affections? How do we get rid of them?

We can achieve temporary change through resolve or as a result of strong feeling stirred up in us. Perhaps you leave church sometimes having been “challenged” or you’ve had a good prayer time, or Bible study and feel a new sense inner strength. You may go on well for some time. But the reality is that whenever we succeed in beating a wrong affection or an idol, it either rises again, or, another idol (often different in nature, perhaps even unseen) rises and takes its place.

What is the real solution to this cycle of defeat then? How can we be freed from this slavery?

Chalmers argues that Christ alone is the solution. He says the heart is only ever truly changed as the believer sees and knows God in Christ. Then, and only then, is a love kindled in our hearts that ousts our various desires for all that the world can offer. Christ himself becomes our true treasure and the trinkets the world promises us (wealth/financial security, comfort, power, sex, status), shiny as they are, pale in comparison to the riches we have in Christ. Enjoy:

We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it; and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one. Nothing can exceed the magnitude of the required change in a man’s character – when bidden as he is in the New Testament, to love not the world; no, nor any of the things that are in the world for this so comprehends all that is dear to him in existence, as to be equivalent to a command of self-annihilation.

But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which once seated upon its throne, will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it away. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind Him who made the world and with this peculiarity, which is all its own – that in the Gospel do we so behold God, as that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners and where our desire after Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him through the appointed Mediator. It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw nigh unto God – and to live without hope, is to live without God; and if the heart be without God, then world will then have all the ascendancy. It is God apprehended by the believer as God in Christ, who alone can dispost it from this ascendancy. It is when He stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended lawgiver and when we are enabled by faith, which is His own gift, to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and to hear His beseeching voice, as it protests good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance. It is then, that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom. It is when released from the spirit of bondage with which love cannot dwell, and when admitted into the number of God’s children through the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the spirit of adoption is poured upon us – it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, in the only way in which deliverance is possible. And that faith which is revealed to us from heaven, as indispensable to a sinner’s justification in the sight of God, is also the instrument of the greatest of all moral and spiritual achievements on a nature dead to the influence, and beyond the reach of every other application.

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