I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative, and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations.
–Ezekiel 36:27 NET
Christian hedonism, according to John Piper, believes that the best way to kill sin is by the power of a greater pleasure. In other words, Christians do not sin because they have to, they sin because it is more enjoyable or less painful than the way of the cross. So, bondage to any sin is broken by a more intense attraction or captivating joy. It’s an interesting take on our battle with sin.
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) wrote a compelling defense of this idea called, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. It’s a good read. His idea is easily illustrated. Some years ago, I was discussing this with a pastor friend who was certain the idea would not “work” because (in his mind) the only way to defeat sin was to try harder to please God. For most of my friend’s adult life he had struggled with porn, and all attempts to free himself from this persistent struggle failed. Still, he kept at it, convinced he just didn’t try hard enough. The more we talked, the more my friend became visibly agitated…until, at one point he said, “Wait, I think I get it!”
He began telling me a story of a recent incident online while looking for a valentine gift to give his wife, which led to a point of temptation. “The strangest thing happened,” he told me. “Something inside me said, ‘are you sure you want to mess up all the marital work you’ve been doing with your wife these past few weeks?’” Without another thought, he got off the website. For the first time in his life, walking away from something illicit was easy. What stood out to him the most in that incident was the fact that he didn’t have to try hard to avoid looking or wanting to look. Instead, he felt energized in walking away…because he wanted something else more. In Christian hedonism terms, my friend “indulged his new nature.”
We’ve been made pure—forgiven, sprinkled clean, and made righteous. We’ve been given a new identity—no longer defined by our sin but rather, the righteousness of God. We’ve been given new desires, which means we actually delight in God’s law and want to obey. However, wanting to obey and being able to obey are very different. We’ve also been given a new power, which enables us to live in our new desires, identity, and enjoy our purity.
The Spirit of God is in us “taking the initiative” (Ezekiel 36:27) causing us to both want and to act upon God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Wow!
ACTION: Ponder the implications of your new power. How does that make you feel? Knowing that in your inmost being you delight in God’s law and the Spirit is working to cause you to live out God’s pleasure, what could that look like in your everyday life?