How do we guard our own hearts against ungodly desires?

Solomon’s fall and what it teaches us about our own walk with Christ… (excerpts are from Ron Frost’s post “Guarding Against Heart Attacks“.)

In reading 1 Kings I’m appalled by Solomon’s fall. In chapter 8 we find Solomon’s epic recital of God’s greatness at the dedication of the new temple. Again, in chapter 9, God appeared to him a second time and promised: “I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” But by chapter 11 we find a grim new report: “and the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” What happened?

There are times when failure comes. When we do not walk in the light. When we turn our backs on our Lord and our God. When we sin “through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault” (Book of Common Prayer).

Though deep down it repulses us, it is a fact that before our flesh has been perfectly restored so that we are like Christ, we will sin. But how do we guard our hearts against moral “heart attacks” — the ungodly desires and distractions encountered by Solomon?

The traditional answer offered by the stoic strain of Christianity relies on the mind and the will: first we learn which choices are proper, then we make those choices. And, at some level, it seems like a sound response. A child, for instance, is told to stop doing something they “want” to do—speaking of that behavior as an expressed desire—or else they will face some consequence. The question, of course, is whether the consequences are great enough to make them “want” to change.

We need to notice … that “desires” and “wants” are one and the same: the affective orientation of the heart. We always do what we “want” to do, and only when a competing desire overcomes a lesser desire does our “want” change. So a person may choose to take a painful course in college that seems like a stoic decision because they “know” it’s the right choice. But in reality they do it because they “want” the degree that the course will help bring about.

Our naïve failure to grasp that connection—that our desires shape everything we do—is what makes us vulnerable to moral heart attacks. The traditional troika of evil—the world, the flesh, and the devil—are only as effective as their affective powers are in drawing us away from God. Solomon certainly loved God at some level, but God was no match for the attractive women offered to him as “treaty brides” by the regional kings who wanted to shape what Solomon wanted. He might have asked God for advice about what would please him, as his father David normally did. But even David failed to ask God what would most please him in the case of Bathsheba. There David wanted another man’s wife more than he wanted God’s delight. Like father, like son.

How, then, do we guard our own hearts against ungodly desires—including the socially acceptable desires for self-advancing wisdom, power, wealth (in Jeremiah 9) and glory (John 5)? The only answer is for us to set the eyes of our hearts towards Christ as the one who is ultimately attractive once we truly see him. For us to remain secure we should desire more of Christ; to set our minds on him by responding to his Spirit’s captivating presence as he discloses Christ’s own heart to us.

Read Ron Frost’s full post here…

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2 thoughts on “How do we guard our own hearts against ungodly desires?

  1. Just a question, why did you choose not to include this portion of Ron’s post? (thanks for posting the link though)
    I was kind of left with the question of how to I can desire that, because honestly speaking – like he mentions below – I sometimes desire those things more than Christ!

    “That, of course, is easy to write but it often fails to work. Why the failures? Because we often want other things more than we want Christ’s pleasure. And because nothing can overcome a desire in us, given that the nature of a desire is to be self-protective: it’s the feature in us that doesn’t want to change!

    So we need to ask Christ to give us new desires. We need to expose our hearts to what delights him—a gift offered to us in Scriptures. We need to ask him to examine our hearts to see if there are any wayward desires active in us—desires we may still want to protect—and ask him to lead us in his own ways. If God answers prayers—and he does—we will be less and less vulnerable to the heart attacks we see all around us.”

    • Thanks bro. That’s a good point. It is helpful to include the section you quote which includes the importance of recognizing and taking advantage of the privilege of prayer. We are taught to pray throughout Scripture and so it follows that we must. The part about having desires we still want to protect definitely rings true.

      To be honest I didn’t make a conscious decision to leave that section out! It definitely could have gone in so I’m glad you added it to the mix!

      It’s an interesting question though — the extent to which there should always be an application in a sermon/conversation/post.

      I think in this case the application is fine because it sits in the context of Ron’s post, which is all about the centrality of Jesus. But I’m not sure we always benefit from an application or a call to do something.

      Usually I think I do tend to leave the “application” part unspoken because I wonder if it’s better for our own hearts to arrive there (recognition of the value of prayer, for example) out of simple affection for Christ rather than because I’ve been “instructed” to pray.

      The way I think about it (and I might be wrong) is that no one ever sat me down and told me Robyn was someone I should really consider spending time with, or that I should eventually marry her. That desire built in me as a matter of course the more I spoke to her, and heard her speak; the more I spent time with her and got to know her. There was never a “command” or “instruction” to marry her, but it did become a strong desire within me as I increasingly recognized her beauty as a person.

      I’m becoming convinced that the same applies to relationship with Christ. The more I see him as he is, the more I will be shaped into his likeness, which will include submitting my desires to God in prayer. Am I on dangerous ground with this?!

      I guess I would assume the rightness and necessity of prayer/Bible reading etc. (this could be dangerous to do?), and with that in mind I would want to focus on the “theory” that when Christ is presented in all his beauty and worthiness hearts will be warmed, and lives changed.

      I must say my life is certainly riddled with failure so I can’t point to myself as proof that this “theory” works. But I’m encouraged by the fact that I still have so much more to discover of Christ’s beauty and worthiness. I think as I look at him more and more and begin to “get” who he really is (as I did with Robyn) I will be changed.

      The whole thing comes full circle though doesn’t it? Because prayer and God’s word are the main ways I’ll know Christ and see him for who he really is. (It’s just that I’ll try to keep him as my goal each day rather than them.)

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