Podcast: New Affections and Desiring God with Terry Feix
“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” is a sermon preached by Thomas Chalmers. Chalmers was a Scottish preacher who lived in the 1800’s. He was a contemporary of John Newton and Wilberforce. In his early life, he pursued ministry, was very interested in moral philosophy and wrote several key works on this subject. Despite his brilliance and pastoral position, his faith was dead.
Once he experienced a changing affection towards Christ (brought about by the Holy Spirit), he made it his goal to tell everyone in his town about the gospel. As a result of this ministry, many were saved, and Chalmer’s church grew.
Replacing Old Desires
When Puritans talk about affections, it is what we often refer to as emotions or desires – the things we long for or care about, deep-seated desires.
Chalmers addresses the question, “How do you orient your desires toward God and away from the world?” Those old desires must be replaced with new ones because it is impossible not to desire one thing or another. Our desires for the world must be replaced with desires for God. In the opening of his sermon, Chalmers says, “There are two ways to deal with your love of the world. The first is to convince yourself its not worthy. Or, the other way is to exchange an old affection for a new affection.”
Simply trying to persuade others about the worthlessness of the world and of their old desires will not produce change. Those old desires must be replaced or else those sinful desires will remain because of our inherited sinfulness.
Scripture gives us greater things to be desired, with the foundation of that desire being Christ.
In the preface of this Crossway edition of “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, John Piper explains why Chalmers’ work was one of the major contributors to Piper’s understanding of Christian Hedonism – the idea of finding joy in God.
The stoic idea of denying one’s self to pursue God is partially true and partially false. Piper came to understand that, as Christians, our deepest desires and God’s glory find themselves in each other.
The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Piper makes a subtle change to the answer to read, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
When we desire God above all things, God is glorified. Our deepest longings will find fulfillment in God alone.
Specifically to those who teach and preach, it is easy to tell someone not to pursue sin or to stop a certain pattern of behavior – by merely demonstrating the worthlessness of that idol or sin. It is much better (and worthwhile) to show others the surpassing greatness of Christ and to point listener’s desires towards Christ. This will show their desire is worthless because desiring God is so much better than their carnal desires.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas and is a writer and content manager for So We Speak.