Sunday, October 11, 2015

How Can I Change the Fact that I Desire the Wrong Things?

The Church is founded on the Gospel of God's love for us, displayed through Jesus Christ giving Himself to remove our guilt and shame. The Christian community is together because we were all forgiven and rescued from guilt and judgment. This unites us into one people, and our lifelong goal is to help each other continue in the freedom and joy of this new life. The power to change your old habits and desires for the wrong things is embodied in the Gospel. One of the most important truths about Christianity is that the Gospel is not just the information that we can believe in the work of Jesus Christ, God's Son, and have forgiveness and salvation by accepting Him as our Lord. The Gospel is also the means by which we live every day as a Christian and overcome everything that wars against our souls. We begin with the Gospel, but we continue every day as individuals and as a community by living in the Gospel.

This is crucial, because it is not uncommon for Christians to find real discouragement and weariness as the years of life go on and they fight some of the same struggles with sin, doubt, fear, and temptation year after year. Many Christians have not been taught that the Gospel is the power that is meant to sustain them and refresh them day after day. They try to change themselves by force of will, or through guilting themselves and punishing themselves with shame when they make mistakes. God has a much better plan and solution for us than this. Milton Vincent gives a very illuminating but simple and accessible overview of this in his short book A Gospel Primer for Christians.

He wrote his book "as a correction to a costly mistake made by Christians who view the gospel as something that has fully served out its purpose the moment they believed in Jesus for salvation. Not knowing what to do with the gospel once they are saved, they lay it aside soon after conversion so they can move on to 'bigger and better' things (even Scriptural things). Of course, they don't think this is what they are doing at the time, yet after many years of floundering in defeat they can look back and see that this is exactly what they have done."

Instead, Christians need to see that "God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness." (A Gospel Primer, Milton Vincent, p. 5).

That sounds appealing, but the question most people have is "How?" How do we get daily benefits and refreshment out of the Gospel? How does it give us strength to live the Christian life as a liberating path of hope instead of an overwhelming list of rules to follow?

Vincent's book is precious because he spends the whole book answering this, and he ties everything he says to the Scriptures so we know this isn't just his creative idea, but God's genuine wisdom. He details how to keep your mind fixed on the joys of all that Christ has done for us and the unlimited blessings He has made our own through the Gospel, and how to keep your heart full of hope and encouragement instead of looking always at the size of your problems. Here is his description of how living in the Gospel changes our desires so that we truly want and enjoy what is good instead of being drawn to sin:
"On the most basic of levels, I desire fullness[.]"
Though saved, I am daily beset by a sinful flesh that always craves those things that are contrary to the Spirit. These fleshly lusts are vicious enemies, constantly waging war against the good of my soul. Yet they promise me fullness, and their promises are so deliciously sweet that I often find myself giving into them as if they were friends that have my best interests at heart.

On the most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist.

Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts [killing them] is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel. Indeed, it is in the gospel that I experience a God who glorifies Himself by filling me with His fullness. He is the One, Paul says, "who fills all in all." He is the One who "fill[s] all things" with the gifts He gives. And He lavishes gospel blessings upon me with the goal that I "be filled up to all the fullness of God." This is the God of the gospel, a God who is satisfied with nothing less than my experience of fullness in Him! The first command God spoke in the Garden was, "eat freely." And with similar insistence He says to me now, "be filled."

What happens to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ? Jesus provides this answer: "He who continually comes to Me will never hunger or thirst again." Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free.

...Preaching the gospel to myself each day keeps before me the startling advocacy of God for my fullness, and it also serves as a means by which I feast anew on the fullness of provision that God has given to me in Christ. "Eat[ing] freely" of such provision keeps me occupied with God's blessings and also leaves me with a profoundly enjoyable sense of satisfaction in Jesus. And nothing so mortifies fleshly lusts like satisfaction in Him. (Gospel, pp. 45-47).

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