Monday, March 26, 2007

Powlison on Lusts of the Flesh: Introduction

P&R has graciously granted me permission to post some excerpts from David Powlison's chapter, "I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire," from his book, Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture.

I'd strongly encourage you to read these carefully. I think this is excellent, edifying, biblical material that has the potential to transform paradigms and life.

Here's an introduction to Powlison's material on a biblical understanding of desire and motivation:
What do you crave, want, pursue, wish, long for, hope to get, feel you need, or passionately desire? God has an interpretation of this that cuts to the marrow of who you are and what you live for. He sees our hearts as an embattled kingdom ruled either by one kind of desire or by another kind. On the one hand, what lusts of the flesh hijack your heart from God's rule? On the other hand, what holy passions express your love for God? Our desires are not a given, but a fundamental choice. Desires are most often unruly, disorderly, inordinate affections for XYZ, a good thing that I insanely need. Sometimes they are natural affections for xyz, made sane and orderly by subordination to passionate love for God that claims my heart, soul, mind, and might. Our desires are often idolatrous cravings to get good gifts (overthrowing or ignoring the Giver). Sometimes they are intense desires for the Giver himself as supremely more important than whatever good gifts we might gain or lose from his hand.

That's the first unique thing God shows us about human psychology. This cosmic battleground is something none of the secular psychologists have seen or can see, because they can't see that deeply into why we do what we do. Their own motives give them reasons not to want to see that deeply and honestly. It would mean admitting sin.

To examine desires is one of the most fruitful ways to come at the topic of motivation biblically. New Testament authors repeatedly allude to life-controlling cravings when they summarize the innermost dynamics of the human soul. Which will triumph, the natural deviancy of the lusts of the flesh or the restored sanity of the desires of the Spirit? Christ's apostles have the greatest confidence that only the resources of the Gospel of grace and truth possess sufficient depth and power to change us in the ways we most need changing. The mercies of God work to forgive and then to change what is deeply evil, but even more deeply curable by God's hand and voice. The in-working power of grace qualitatively transforms the very desires that psychologists assume are hardwired, unchangeable, morally neutral givens. Christ's glance slays and replaces (in a lifelong battle) the very lusts the theories variously explain as "needs" or "drives" or "instincts" or "goals."

That's the second unique thing God shows us about human psychology. We can be fundamentally rewired by the merciful presence of the Messiah. None of the secular psychologists say this or can say this. They have no power to address us so deeply, and they don't want to address us at the level of what we (and they) live for. It would mean confessing Christ.

We will use a series of fifteen questions to probe the world of our desires.