09 April 2010

Kill or Be Killed Week 2: The Battle for the High Ground of Affection

Here is a summary of the supplementary message to our study of Puritan pastor John Owen's work "The Mortification of Sin":

David's "Chronicled" Sin

Several months ago my curiosity was aroused at the record of David's life in 1 Chronicles. The author records one sin in David's life. Obviously David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba right? Actually it isn't. Chronicles only records David's census. Why?

Being written at the end of Israel's exile, Chronicles has a nationalistic bent and the rule of David is emphasized as the high-water mark in Israel's history. Some would say the omission of David's adultery was an effort to polish David's reputation, but then why mention the census at all? It could be that the author felt that the whole David and Bathsheba thing was so well known that it didn't bear repeating but, certainly, the census was well known as well. Seventy thousand men died under God's judgment. Generations of families would have been touched by that tragedy. No, the most likely scenario is that the author of Chronicles only lists the census because the census was sufficient to highlight the decay of David's life during this time.

From "God's own heart" to "his own exultation": a decay of affections
A clear theme from the book of Chronicles is the contrast between seeking God and forsaking Him. In 1 Chronicles 20 and 21 we see David's heart lose it's God-centered focus and turn to increasing his sense of self-importance.

First Chronicles 20:1 records a classic line of Old Testament literature is:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 1 Chronicles 20.1 (also recorded in 2 Samuel 11:1)
David, a warrior who always fought with his men, stayed home even when other kings went to war. In his mind, he was too important to risk on the battlefield. So he rested on the couch and watched ESPN while his mighty men defeated the Ammonites. Worse yet, after defeating the Ammonites, David does something makes the blood run cold. He puts on the Ammonite king's 75-pound gold crown. The image is a harbinger of the change in David's heart. Who could imagine this man, who refused to drink the water that 3 soldiers retrieved for him from behind enemy lines (their sacrifice for him being such an honor), would place a gaudy, plundered crown on his head - plundered from a battle he didn't fight! It is clear that something had gone astray in David's heart. This is why the census was so serious - it flowed from a self-exalting heart.

Notice the ever-gaping hole of sin before David. Staying home from battle wasn't sufficient to secure a sense of importance nor was a 75-pound crown. David needed an accurate accounting of the size of Israel's fighting force because, in his mind, the kingdom was a reflection of his importance. The kingdom was his.

Fight the right battle
Joab, knowing the heart of his friend and king, pleads with David to reconsider his decision but Joab's pleas are too late. David's heart is fully engaged in his decision because his sin took hold before the census.

This is a great picture of sin in our own lives. Our consciences can be trained to engage at the point of action when, in reality, we are well into our sin at that point. All efforts to stop us at that point are as futile as Joab's pleas. Our affections for something else have full strength now and changing our course is impossible (James 1:12-15). We might deter our actions for a time, but our affections always prevail in the end. To kill sin, we have to fight the right battle and it is a battle for our affections.
It [unmortified sin] untunes and unframes the heart itself by entangling its affections."

Fear, desire, hope, which are the choice affections of the soul, that should be full of God, will be one way or other entangled with [sin]"

Were any of us asked seriously what it is that troubles us, we must refer it to one of these heads [strength, comfort, power, peace]”

-all John Owen in Mortification of Sin
We must recognize that, when we feel a need for strength, comfort, power or peace we are at the crossroads of sin and worship. What will we pursue to find these things? Our choices here reflect our heart and reveal our sin and it is here we must fight.

But how?

We will answer that in the weeks to come but for now consider this hint found in David's song of repentance in Psalm 51. Here he begs God to restore what he had lost and what had led to his adultery with Bathsheba.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalms 51.10–12)
The battle is for joy... in the right things.

Additional Resources

An Audio Introduction to "Kill or Be Killed"
The Lord Looks at the Heart (And the Battle Within) - the message from week 1
The Fight for the High Ground of Affection - the message from week 2

A "Kill or Be Killed" summary page (Including messages, blog posts and a twitter feed with hastag #killorbekilledFC or #kobkfc)

A Summary of Mortification of Sin from theResurgence
Purchase Mortification of Sin from MongerismBooks.com

The first two chapters of the book in .pdf
Chapters 3 and 4 in .pdf
Chapters 5 and 6 in .pdf

Reading Schedule*
March 31st - Chapters 1 and 2 (Discussion Questions)
April 7th - Chapters 3 and 4 (Discussion Questions)
April 14th - Chapters 5 and 6
April 21st - Chapters 7 and 8
April 28th - Chapters 9 and 10
May 5th - Chapters 11 and 12
May 12th - Chapters 13 and 14
*please read the listed chapters prior to each meeting.


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