Don’t be afraid to preach to the affections
Don’t be afraid to preach the beauty of God
I am reading Tim Chester’s outstandingly helpful and important book on porn (Captured by a Better Vision). I am going to encourage every Cornhill student to buy and read it. Even if it is not a problem for them, it will most certainly be for people they are seeking to encourage and help.
I was struck yesterday by the following quotation, from a Christian who has struggled with porn:
Modern conservative evangelicalism fuels sex addiction because it has come to focus on the externals of religion, not the affections. By externals I mean such things as confessions, dogmas, personal priorities, church growth strategies, church attendance, training courses, evangelism, Bible study groups and son on: things that are visible in a believer’s life. By affections, I mean those things that cannot be heard or seen directly – fears, loves, joys, delights, hates, anxieties: the currents that swirl in the waters of a believer’s heart; the hidden desires that lie deep beneath our decisions… If we are going to help people struggling with sex addiction, we need to recognise that the manger in which their sin is cradled is not the intellect, but the heart, the seat of their desires. They therefore need something more than mere information: they need to be wooed by the true and pure lover that their heart secretly seeks. (pp74-6)
I suspect this speaker’s portrayal of conservative evangelicalism may be a bit jaded and one-sided, but I also suspect there is something important in what he says, and that it applies much more widely than just to sex addiction. One of the traditional markers of real evangelicalism is a concern with the heart rather than externals (as John Stott expounded in his magisterial older work Christ the Controversialist chapters 5 & 6). If we have drifted into emphasising externals (perhaps as an over-reaction to charismatic excess and error?), let us return to a healthy focus on the heart in our preaching.
One related problem I have noticed at Cornhill is that we tend to think of “application” rather narrowly, in terms of what I ought to do in response to the word of God. We must not forget that to be moved to wonder and adoration at the sheer beauty of God and of the gospel of the Lord Jesus is a deeply valid “application”.
Tim Chester is speaking on issues of the heart, with particular reference to pornography at the Spring Younger Ministers Conference. There are one or two places remaining. Also, look out for a future EMA on this important subject.