I made a critical mistake in this past Sunday’s message.
As you know, we are in a sermon series that is examining foundational, essential doctrines of the Christian faith–an introduction to systematic theology of sorts.
While doctrine is like a foundation (which is necessary and good), the danger of teaching doctrine is that it can become a merely intellectual exercise. As I expressed in the opening of the message Sunday, my desire for us is that we think theologically in order to live more devotionally.
Therefore, my heart is that the material I’m sharing from the Scriptures will affect us at the heart level. The level of desire.
This is where I made a critical mistake.
In explaining the doctrine of the human condition, I discussed the origin of our problem, the symptoms of the problem and the cure for the problem. All that was true, accurate, and based explicitly on the Bible’s clear teaching on the subject.
What I failed to adequately explain is how sin has not only corrupted us at the level of the intellectual and behavioral, but that it also has severely damaged and distorted us at the level of desire.
I used to think that behavior was determined primarily by thinking, saying that how we think will determine how we act. Of course, there is truth to that (Romans 12:1-2). But like Paul explained in Romans 7:14-25, knowing the right things and agreeing with them does not always translate into doing what is right and what is good.
Here is what I’ve learned.
What we do (action/behavior) ultimately is driven by what we desire (the heart). Sin hasn’t just affected our behavior. As Jesus said in Luke 7:21-23, our behavior comes from something going on under the hood–the heart–the realm of desire.
I do what I do because at the deepest level, that is what I want to do. Or at least it is what I want to do in the moment, as I yield to the influence of my sin nature (Gal. 5:16ff).
The reason why this is so important is because when we pursue the cure of grace in the gospel, the impact in our lives is not merely judicial (we are forgiven) or intellectual (we begin to think biblically), but we begin to have our very desires realigned, which leads to the transformed life. The life where I desire to follow Jesus.
- I desire to worship him.
- I desire to listen to my wife.
- I desire to serve my wife.
- I desire to repent to my kids.
- I desire to give to the mission of the church.
- I desire to serve in ministry.
- I desire to invite my neighbor to worship to hear the gospel.
- I desire to forgive my neighbor.
- I desire to read Scripture and pray.
- I desire…
Can you see how radically different this is from “having” to do these things, or feeling guilty because your “prayer life” is non-existent? Desiring to is altogether different than having to.
- Desiring to is the result of being gripped by the wonder of grace. The transformed life.
- Having to is the result of living under the law. The non-transformed life (even though it may be a very religious life).
The question is, “What is it that I am desiring right now?”
The answer to that question reveals whether we are being more influence by the flesh or the Spirit. And for the one who has had his sins erased and is now dressed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, we can admit when our desires are being warped and twisted by the flesh.
Then we are able to re-examine our heart and allow the Spirit to reshape those desires in view of the amazing grace and love of God for us in Jesus.
My prayer for us in the prayer of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:17-19,
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
When we are filled with this love, his desire for us, our desires are realigned and our lives are genuinely transformed–for his glory and our joy.
Your friend, by grace alone,