Sam Storms – How to wage war with sins like sexual temptation, pride, envy ….(on Jonathan Edwards)

The Sin-Killing power of Christian Hedonism

To read the  Jonathan Edwards sermon quoted by Sam Storms, go to – Youth and the Pleasures of Piety.

(paraphrased from the video below from lecture given by Sam Storms) wwwdesiringGod.org

How does christian hedonism help you wage war with sin like sexual temptation, pride, envy, and so on?

Christians usually employ 1 of these 3 tactics to face the battle with sin:

  1. By portraying sin in the most unappealing way in order to frighten people away from sin. They will describe in graphic detail the consequences of that particular sin, like the sexual diseases that can result from sex outside of marriage; or, the horrors of prison if you embezzle, or, the horrors of destroying your family over the sin of adultery. While truth is spoken in this kind of information; mostly, it does not prevent people from sinning.
  2. By reverting to legalism by making a list of regulations and prohibitions, many times without any biblical support in order to control impulses and adding predictions (again) of what will happen if you don’t obey the regulations imposed. This also does not work because for a person who is sinning, they are only looking at the immediate gratifications and pleasures of sin, which can be more powerful than the fear of the long term consequences.
  3. By claiming that yearning or actual desire in man’s heart to have happiness and excitement is bad in itself.

Although there are elements of truth in all these methods, SOMETHING MORE is needed.

What Jonathan Edwards preached in May of 1734, a sermon entitled ‘Youth and the Pleasures of Piety’ gives an insight as to what does work in keeping us from sinning. Even though Edwards himself was fully capable of describing the horrible consequences of sin; he was far more adept and far more given to appealing ‘Superior Joys of Pleasure to be found” in what he called true religion- which really meant devotion to God, purity of life, biblical spirituality. Edwards believed that the greatest objection voiced by the young people in his own day was that they were living in fear that religion would undermine their pursuit of pleasure. As far as they were concerned, it was either Jesus or joy, but certainly not both. He said, „This is what they aim at- to spend their youth pleasantly, and they think that if they should forsake sin and youthful vanity and give themselves to a religious course of life, this will hinder them in the pursuit. So they think if they embrace it (religion) they must have done with their pleasures.

Jonathan Edwards says that the problem isn’t the pursuit of pleasure, but, the uninformed minds that settle for comparatively inferior joy when God offers us unsurpassed and far more durable delights. And he preaches that religion is not the hindrance to pleasure but in fact is the most effective and direct way to attain it (pleasure). He bases the sermon on Proverbs 24:13-14.

In his book When I Don’t Desire God, John Piper tells us to put ourselves in the way of God’s allurements by meditating on the Bible, memorizing it, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, praying, worshiping, reading books on God, experiencing community with others who have a life passion, eliminating distractions in our life, etc.

Here are five ways to work for your own joy and the joy of your people:

  1. Weave into the spiritual and intellectual fabric of your people the awareness that God’s designs in the moral commandments of Scripture are to expand their capacity to enjoy him and not to inhibit it. (See Jonathan Edwards’ sermon „Christian Happiness.”)
  2. Preach often on the bigness and the beauty of God.
  3. Labor to turn their eyes from the pathetic, little, transient pleasures of what can be seen and felt and tasted to the grand and eternal pleasures of the glory that is to come.
  4. Build into the mental, emotional, and theological framework of your people an understanding of how suffering serves joy. (For a good resource, direct your people to Matt Chandler’s videos about the brain cancer he is facing.)
  5. Be an example to them of joy in your own life and relationship with God.

My greatest desire for you is that you and I would be utterly captivated and consumed by the same spiritual energy that led the apostle Paul to cry out, „Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33–36).

What your people need most is for you to immerse yourself in the fountain of this joy-generating revelation of God and to be saturated to the bone with what caused Paul to explode with this declaration. People are in bondage to sin today because they are bored stiff with God, and that’s our fault. If your people don’t hear you speak the same truths that Paul did and if they don’t sense the enthusiasm in you that was in him, they will just go home and turn on whatever anesthetizes their pain.

May God help us to serve and to love and to teach and to pray and to shepherd and to lead, by the grace of God, all the people of God into the enjoyment of God for the glory of God.

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