Love not the world neither the things that are in the world.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
With these two Scriptural commands any honest human is faced with his own impotence to obey. For we naturally love the world and its things and resist God’s interference in our loves.
I’ve come upon two authors this week who wrestled with the implications of these commands. The first, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), wrote a lengthy and eloquent treatise titled: The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. In it he argues for the necessity of a new and greater affection if we hope to ever dislodge the heart from its misplaced love of the world. He bases his argument on the tenacious nature of the human heart:
The heart must have something to cling to – and never, by its own voluntary consent, will it so denude itself of its attachments, that there shall not be one remaining object that can draw or solicit it.
But, Chalmers reasons, what if there were something offered in exchange, an irresistible new affection…
I’ll leave you to consider some excerpts from Chalmer’s address (lightly modernized). We’ve lost this eloquence of writing but his words are worth wading into if only to be reminded of the treasure we have in the Gospel rightly preached.
The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections that are not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity. And that enmity is so irreconcilable, that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it would be for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it and thus reduce itself to a wilderness — the heart is not so constituted. The only way to dispossess it of an old affection, is by the expulsive power of a new one. Nothing can exceed the magnitude of the required change in a man’s character, when he is bid (as he is in the New Testament) not to love the world — no, nor any of the things that are in the world. For this so comprehends all that is dear to him in existence, that it is equivalent to a command to self-annihilate….
But the same revelation which dictates so mighty an obedience, places within our reach as mighty an instrument of obedience. It brings for admittance to the very door of our heart, an affection which — once it is seated upon its throne — will either subordinate every previous inmate, or bid it to depart. Beside the world, it places before the eye of the mind, Him who made the world, and with this peculiarity (which is all its own): that in the Gospel we so behold God, that we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners; and it is where our desire for Him is not chilled into apathy, by that barrier of human guilt which intercepts every approach that is not made to Him, through the appointed Mediator. It is bringing in this better hope, by which we draw near to God….
It is when God stands dismantled of the terrors which belong to Him as an offended Lawgiver; and when we are enabled by faith (which is His own gift) to see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ; and to hear His beseeching voice as it professes good will to men, and entreats the return of all who will, to a full pardon and a gracious acceptance — it is then that a love paramount to the love of the world, and at length expulsive of it, first arises in the regenerated bosom….
Tell a man to be holy, and how can he compass such a performance, when his sole fellowship with holiness is a fellowship of despair? It is the atonement of the cross reconciling the holiness of the lawgiver with the safety of the offender, that has opened the way for a sanctifying influence into the sinner’s heart.
A second author, John Donne, grappled centuries earlier (1572-1631) with how to love God wholly. He did so in a short and striking poem written as an appeal to God to do the impossible in his heart. I am grateful for his having put in words my own desire.
Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
–John Donne (1633)
Thanks be to God that He loves to reach and rescue the helpless. Because of His Love we are drawn to love rightly.
May it be so.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. (Col.1:11-13)
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…. We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:9-10, 19 ESV)
*The complete text of The Expulsive Power of a New Affection is available freely online here: