Recently I have had the kindle lit in my mind, and sparks have been flying. It is an ongoing discussion and developing thought that builds. It has become the thing that I return to the shed at night to work on, that my mind turns and inspects like a rare treasure. It is as if I am holding the wooden figure in my hand, studying the carvings and trying to figure out the process by which it was made.
It’s about the will.
I am taking a course this fall that is over the writings of John Owen. Many men whom I respect say that Owen is their favorite – I think it is in part because you have to work so hard to keep up with him, that when you have finished a piece – you really feel like he made you work to do so.
But how, with each finished piece, the reader sets down his shovel to contemplate the edge of the buried foundation that he has uncovered, and what the next workday will reveal. With tired breaths, he tries to take it in before snuffing out the lantern for the night.
So as I am learning, I am sure I am presenting the whole in part. Mind you, Luther and Edwards have much to say upon the matter, and I will be listening to them over the break (and years) to come.
The mind is the keeper of experience, knowledge, and self.
The heart is where one’s affections (desire, affinity, taste) for things lie.
The will is what makes a decision to act, but based only upon the options presented to it.
The options presented to the will govern the choices the will can make.
When we are lost and outside of Christ:
Our will cannot choose beauty, because only dark options are put before it.
We were born with those dark options put before it, unable to overcome our ‘proud preference for self.’
Therefore we chose darkness every time. Our minds held memory of the years that our dark hearts spurred us towards those things that were available to us, those dark things that only continued to blind us as our affections for them grew. While these affections for darkness were strengthened, it was not as if we were born neutral towards these things. We are bound to choose them, for we have no power to chose otherwise, and know of no other option.
Now, if Grace has come through Jesus Christ:
We have an innate preference and affection for darkness, reinforced by years of choosing it, but now we have a new option before us: light.
We know this light to be the beautiful salvation purchased in Christ, that we might know God and overcome our preference for self. We are given the option to delight in God.
With a heart darkened by years of habitual choosing darkness, there is a new birth of affection for light and beauty.
There is a change within the heart, and it is made anew.
Slowly, but surely.
The options before the will are now not singular. It is not darkness that we have to choose, for we can choose light. We are no longer slaves to darkness.
The miracle here is the work in the heart. The radical breaking in by the Spirit of God into the dark heart that was in each of us if we are in Christ, and is in every man outside of Christ. It is the dark heart that held us captive by lust and desire for darkness.
This dark heart has been affected by the Grace of God.
It will never be the same.
It can never be the same.
So the work in the heart is in the affections.
We are given desire for light.
If our will chooses the option of light, we reinforce our affection for the light.
God does a great work here by His spirit, and through his Son.
Now, in Christ, we stir our affections.
We think upon the Son, and we think of the crucifixion and the resurrection.
We think upon the Father, and we think of his might, his goodness, his love and his character.
We think upon the Spirit, and we think of his work within our hearts, how we can love the source of light, our Father God, because of his work in our hearts.
We stir our affections, and we reinforce our will.
That’s the thing. This is why I have been caught here –
because the heart has the ability to override the mind and direct the will – positively and negatively.
Our affections for things can override what we know with our minds, what experience has taught us, and what we hold true to with every fiber of our beings.
These inordinate affections for things will overtake our mind’s counsel to the will, and set before the will the option desired.
Thus our affections, and the care thereof, is an extremely important issue for the believer in Christ.
We talk about parts of these things in class, and then speak of how this is so important to know – because then you know how to preach to your people. You preach to their affections. You are not preaching to emotion. We are all intrinsically wired for joy. We preach for a redeemed function of the wiring, and ultimate joy.
If you have sat in Church for more than a year, you may know the basic truths of the Gospel. You know the story of creation, of redemption, and of our great salvation.
But it may not move you, this truth that once moved you so.
But if beauty is held before us, if the glorious grace of God is made so attractive and so real to us, you and I have no other perceivable option but to run with all our might into joy.
This is the grace of God. That he would free us from our slavery to sin, and set beauty before us that we might forever glory, rejoice, and make much of Him, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray we run towards Him, and that we take watch over our hearts from the world that would try to stir us towards darkness.