Sanctification is the progressive increase of holiness a Christian experiences in their life. It is not instant when a heart is born again, and it is never fully complete while we still live in this world. That is why this message about the expulsive power of a new affection is so necessary- the Christian will continue to battle sin everyday of his life. But by grace, it is a battle in which we are called to engage, and in which we can have the sure hope of progressive victory.
And the beautifully unexpected way the grace of God works in our lives is this- the freer the gospel, the more sanctifying the gospel.
The more the gospel is received as a doctrine of pure grace, the more it will be felt as a doctrine of real life change.
This is one of the greatest secrets of the Christian life- the more a man clings to God completely, seeing himself as one who has nothing to offer and in absolute need of grace, the more he is able to achieve in growth and service. If your hope is a legalistic command of “do this and you will live,” then a spirit of fearfulness will flood your heart. Your relationship to God will be one of hopeless bargaining that will destroy your confidence and crush your hope. You know your own heart too well to hope in your own abilities to keep these bargains. You know you will really be perusing your own selfish desires rather than His glory. Such a foolish system cannot and will not save.
It is only when the gospel is received as a true gift, without money and without price, that our hope can be genuinely secure. It is only then that true rest in God can be experienced. It is only then that real Christian relationship to God can flourish. A radical truth must be grasped: that because of what Christ has accomplished God rejoices over us and desires to do us good. The truest earthly joy lies in the Christian heart that has grasped that truth well. The gospel wakes us up from something like a bad dream and shows us the real happiness of the redeemed life in Christ.
Salvation by grace- salvation by free grace, not of works, based solely on the mercy of God- is indispensible both to the deliverance of our souls from God’s just condemnation and the deliverance of our hearts from the chilling weight of worldliness. If even a whisper of legalism is allowed to remain in the gospel then all is lost. The Gospel is like a fire that melts our icy hearts- and so the freer it is the better.
Some fear that a gospel this free will lead to Christians who don’t care about worldliness and have a casual attitude toward their sin. Actually, the precise opposite is true. A truly free gospel makes the Christian hate his sin all the more. Along with the light of a free gospel there is love for that very same gospel. If we decrease the freeness of the gospel we dim the light. We will likewise decrease the love it produces in our hearts, chasing it away with our misplaced fears.
The redeemed sinner will never find a greater motivation to real life change and growth than the belief that he is saved by grace alone. That is the truth that will fuel his fight. That is the truth that will motivate him to offer his heart completely to the Lord and to deny sin a hold within. To do this work well, ought we to give the Christian the best weapons? There is no sharper sword than the truly free grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is not just theory or good ideas, this is the way we are called to live. If you are struggling to fall out of love with the world in faithfulness to 1 John 2:15, see in these things a ray of hope. There is no other way to keep the love of the world out of your heart than to keep your heart full of the love of God. And there is no other way to fill your heart with the love of God than by building yourself up in gospel faith. The denial of the world, which is impossible for those who deny the gospel, is possible to those who believe. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
Trying to fall out of love with the world without falling more in love with God is trying to do hard work with ridiculously wrong tools. It is like trying to dig a ditch with a noodle instead of a shovel; it will never work. And it is tragic, because the more effort poured in the further away from grace you will feel. Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6) and the only way to expel lawbreaking worldly love from your heart is to replace it with that love which delights to pursue God’s Law, because it loves God the Lawgiver Himself.
Two Worlds Imagined: A Closing Dream
Imagine yourself in a vast and empty expanse. Before you there is a world. As you look toward it you see that it is a world full of wealth and riches. The people have pleasant faces and live in pleasant places. The sun lightly plays upon them and you see that they are living together in peace and harmony. Imagine that happy world in your mind, and then imagine another along side it. It is dark and unknown to you. Whatever it holds is shrouded in mystery.
Which world would you choose? Would you leave the bright world of love for the darkness of the unknown? Would you leave the joys of family for lonely isolation? Would you leave your home to be a stranger? Would you not cling tightly to the bright lights you know over the fear of an unexplored darkness?
But imagine in your dream that a new and brighter light suddenly breaks out from the previously darkened world. It does not come slowly, but rather it nearly blinds you as it explodes in a brilliance you have never seen. Colors you did not know existed blend together with indescribable effect. And with this new and brighter light comes music, playing a melody you have never heard but will now never forget. Here you see a more pure beauty, a more heartfelt love, a sweeter peace, a real kindness, and a true joy. It is the joy of a world united and reveling in the shared experience of redeeming grace. Over this world is stretched like a banner the love of God. The God of the universe has fixed his attention, care, and mercy upon this world and He will never pull back from it. This is a world of no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears. And it is calling you to join them. It is calling you to come home.
Do you now imagine that what was once to you a wilderness has become the world to which your heart runs; and the world that was once so attractive to you is now the true wilderness by comparison?
What an unknown wilderness can never do, a world of true love can most certainly accomplish. So also, if we only fix the affections of our heart on the world we see around us, we will always remain a slave to it.
If this world is all we see, we will love this world and we will not relent, no matter how hard we try. We will never pry its grip from our heart by direct effort alone.
But if we through faith fix our sights upon a greater world, we will naturally fall out of love with the old one as we fall more in love with the new.
It is then that we will truly know the expulsive power of a new affection.
It is then we will learn this central and crucial truth:
When through the gospel Jesus shows us a greater love, Jesus drives all else away.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(1 John 2:15)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
(By: Thomas Chalmers and Nicolas Alford)