“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” (James 1:14–16)
Our young people are growing up in a world hearing a persuasive yet deadly sermon from every corner of society: just follow your heart. From pop stars, to pro athletes, to rappers, and even from well-known Christian leaders the message is believe in yourself, trust your heart, and follow your heart. Though it’s great rhetoric and makes for a touching Disney movie, there’s just one problem:
YOUR HEART IS A LIAR
Following my heart has led me into more sin and pain than the world and Satan combined. Jeremiah warns us that the heart is more deceitful than anything else in the world, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). Proverbs tells us that whoever trusts in their heart is a fool (Prov. 28:26). Like a double-agent working against us from the inside, a shady con-man selling us a product that is broken and dangerous, or a master angler who baits his hook with that which most appeals to our appetites, so does our heart seduce us and deceive us.
Our appetites are strong.
Our hearts are tricky.
Our minds are forgetful.
Our enemy is deceptive.
The bait is compelling.
So how do we resist temptation?
DON’T JUST RESIST TEMPTATION – REPLACE IT
The desires and appetites of our heart cannot simply be eliminated, they must be exchanged for something greater—something more satisfying and more delightful, something that not only extends the promise of true and lasting joy, but actually delivers on the promise every single time.
In his most famous sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” the Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers argued that we can never overcome a love for a particular sin by just demonstrating how worthless it is. Christianity is not a lifeless, joyless moralism that strives to avoid sin by our own willpower. The answer Chalmers gives, is as encouraging as it is brilliant.
“The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”
– Thomas Chalmers
Instead of following my heart, now I follow Jesus with my heart. When I remember the gospel—that Jesus loved me and died for me on the worst day of my life—it is like a volcano eruption of power that enables me to turn my back on temptation, to repent of sin and put it to death by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to live for my deepest and truest joy!
We fight temptation to sin by bringing it into the presence of the gospel. You won’t crave a bowl of cold Spam when you put it next to a sizzling T-bone steak. Next to the power of Jesus, idols shatter and fall on their faces. Next to the truth of Jesus, lies are exposed for the counterfeits that they are. Next to Jesus, our desire for sin weakens and our appetite for him grows as we behold again and again and again the glorious, all-satisfying, sin-conquering, life-giving victory that he accomplished for us on the cross!
Christian, your fight against sin is not a fight for your salvation. Jesus already won that. Your fight is a Spirit-empowered fight for your joy in light of his victory.