Over the past few weeks, we have seen the deceitfulness of sin, the importance of killing or mortifying sin through the power of the Holy Spirit, and how the Keswick view of sanctification is somewhat inadequate to answer this struggle.
But Killing Sin is only half the battle. We must be ruthless in killing sin or it will be killing us, but there is another aspect of gospel repentance.
Many of you have probably read the “Odyssey” where the main character Odysseus sets sail for the city of Troy to help bring dignity back to Greece because Paris had kidnapped Helen—the wife of the king. There’s the whole story of the Trojan Horse and other adventures, but the journey home after the war would be just as dangerous.
On his way back he faces the Sirens—these beautiful singing mesmerizing goddesses who would lure sailors from the ocean to the shore. On the outside these sirens are beautiful and sing so great but really they are demonic cannibals who want to eat the flesh of the sailors once they get them to shore. It doesn’t make sense to stand there as ugly demonic cannibals and advertise that you want to eat sailors. Nobody in his right mind would go to shore, so they disguise themselves as these beautiful singers who lure the sailors with enchanting songs.
Odysseus knows about their plot and he tells his sailors to put wax in their ears so that they won’t be tempted and lured away. They are to not look at them, keep their eyes straight, and row for their lives to get out of there. But Odysseus wants to hear their beautiful songs so he has his men strap him to the mast of the ship with his ears unplugged and he charges them under no circumstances are they to untie him.
This illustrates how we often deal with sin. We try legalistic things like just saying “no” and tie our hands, but in our hearts, we really want to hear the allure of the world and its pleasures. In our heart of hearts we still desire sin.
Now, there’s another character in Greek mythology named Jason and he dealt with the sirens in a different way. He faced the temptation by bringing along his own singer Orpheus who was the most talented musician in the land. When it came time for Jason and his crew to pass by the Sirens, they didn’t plug their ears or strap themselves to the mast of the ship. Instead, the let Orpheus just play his songs and he was so much more beautiful than the Sirens, that they didn’t stand a chance. They didn’t pay attention to the Sirens, because they found a greater pleasure in the music of Orpheus.
What does this tell us about gospel repentance?
It’s not enough to just say no to sin. We must replace it with a greater desire to say yes to Jesus and find Him more alluring and wonderful than the allurements and temptations of this world.
But killing sin alone will not work all by itself. Because we have desires and pleasures, when one sin is killed, we will still have desires and a need for satisfaction. Our hearts are not vacuums but need to be captivated and entranced by something wonderful.
The deceitfulness of sin creeps in and tells us that sin is way more satisfactory and pleasurable than Christ. And so just by killing sin we’ve only dealt with half of the issue of gospel repentance. The other half is to have our eyes and hearts and minds set on a greater affection. We are to have greater desires for Christ.
Instead of just saying “no” to sin, we need to see Christ in all of His glory and find that He is more captivating and beautiful and glorious and worthwhile than the sin before us or the sin we have just brutally killed through mortification.
Thomas Chalmers in his famous sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” argues that the human heart must have something to cling to in order to find pleasure. Never is the human heart just neutral but it is always desiring satisfaction. It will either find satisfaction in sin or it will find satisfaction in a greater desire through Christ.
His basic argument and I agree with him is that the love of this world cannot be overtaken or conquered by just showing how worthless this world truly is. It has to be expelled or replaced with a greater vision of beauty and desire. You don’t show a sinner how worthless the world is, instead you show him how glorious Jesus is.
This is pretty hard for us as Christians. We are really good at showing the evils of the big bad world out there and we can easily identify sin, but it is much harder to have our eyes fixed on the glories and beauties of Christ. This takes time. This takes saturating ourselves in the Scriptures. This takes beholding Him in all of His glory as we read the pages of the Bible and we spend time in prayer.
In other words his argument is that the best way to expel or get rid of sin or a worldly desire is to focus our attention and desire on a greater one—Christ Jesus.
In our next post we will explore what it means to TREASURE Christ…