Bible teacher and acclaimed spoken-word artist David Bowden reveals the secret to winning the battle with sin.
Many Christians believe the only way to fight sin is to grit our teeth, strengthen our resolve, and rise above the onslaught of temptation. But in reality, we have a far better weapon in our struggle with sin than the will-power mantras associated with diet and exercise. This weapon is not saying "no" to sin but saying "yes" to God. In Rewire Your Heart, David Bowden helps us discover God's plan to overcoming sin by rewiring our desires with the Gospel. When we invite the Holy Spirit to transform our underlying affections with the good news of Jesus, we begin to break free from the patterns of sin, guilt, and determination, and discover the richer fulfillment found in joyfully obeying God's commands.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.45(w) x 8.35(h) x 0.72(d)|
About the Author
David Bowden is an international speaker and performer known best for his craft of spoken word poetry. He has performed his poems all around the world for hundreds of thousands of people, and his videos have attracted millions of views online. David and his wife, Meagan, live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Read an Excerpt
YOU ONLY EVER DO WHAT YOU WANT
God has endued the soul with two faculties: one is that by which it is capable of perception and speculation ... which is called the understanding. The other faculty is that by which the soul does not merely perceive and view things, but is some way inclined with respect to the things it views or considers. ... They are these more vigorous and sensible exercises of this faculty that are called the affections. 1
— Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
— Luke 6:43–45
Why do you do the things you do? What causes your actions?
Christianity offers the world a surprising answer: you only ever do what you most want to do. The offer is surprising for a couple of reasons. Most people do not see Christianity as a faith filled with a bunch of people joyfully screaming, "Yes!" The world doesn't see deeply satisfied churchgoers passionately running after their deepest desires. Instead, they see it as a religion littered with a bunch of curmudgeons bellowing, "No!" Christians are people who say no to fun, no to pleasure, and no to their own selves. But God built you to say yes to your desires.
Second, this answer is surprising because most people believe that we are controlled by our minds. Public opinion is that we are rational creatures who weigh the options, consider the alternatives, think through our reactions, and choose which course we will take. But we are not primarily thinking things. We are primarily feeling things. Our thought processes are not independent but are tied up in and the result of our heart processes. We don't do something because we choose to. We do something because we want to.
I realize this may go against the way you've pretty much always perceived things. You may be thinking, I don't always do what I want. I stay at work even when I want to go home. I do the dishes even when I want to watch television. I eat a salad even when I really want a double cheeseburger. Fair enough. I'm not saying you only ever do what you like, wish, or prefer. I'm saying you only ever do what you most want. You only ever follow your greatest desire in every moment.
PASSION OVER PREFERENCE
Think about it like this. You may not wish to give your wallet to a stranger, but your deeper desire to stay alive will cause you to fork it over to the mugger who has you at knifepoint. You may prefer to keep your wallet, but you have a greater desire to live. It is your passion, not your preference, that you ultimately obey.
The same thing happens when we sin "against our will." Go back with me to the Target parking lot from the introduction. It was overwhelmingly clear to me that I very much wished to be rid of my struggles with comparison, envy, and rivalry. It felt as though I wanted nothing more. There was a desire deep in my heart, however, that craved the satisfaction of feeling superior to others. There was a passion buried within me that loved comparing myself to others, no matter how painful it was. Until I unearthed that desire and replaced it with a new one, it wouldn't matter how hard I wished to be rid of it — because wants run deeper than wishes. Passion wins out over preference.
You know those times when you try not to do a certain sin, but you end up doing it anyway? It wasn't your wish to commit that sin. Nevertheless, you still sinned. Why? Because you wanted sin more. Your heart wanted the joy promised by that sin more than it wanted the joy promised by the holy way of God. Your heart treasured sin more than it treasured God. Sin held you at knifepoint and told you to fork over what you really wanted. Though it was against your wish, you followed your greatest want and sinned. Passion will beat preference every time.
You only ever do what you want. This is why your wishes for holiness and your preferences to stop committing certain sins keep failing. There is something underneath it all that you can't help but follow — your deepest wants. It is your deep wants that God is after, because only your deep wants will truly change you.
THE BIBLE AND OUR WANTS
We are hardwired to follow our hearts. The Bible regularly talks about this truth. The Bible takes a high view of the human heart. Who we are in our heart is who we truly are. What we feel in our hearts is what we truly want. God built us this way.
This is why truly following God requires our heart's full obedience (Deut. 6:5; 2 Chron. 25:2; Prov. 3:5). It is also why we need an entirely new heart in order to follow God at all (Deut. 30:6; Ps. 51:10; Jer. 24:7; 31:33; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26; Rom. 2:29). Finally, it is why obedience that is only on the outside but doesn't involve the heart is not true obedience (Ps. 51:17; Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8; 23:27). Throughout this book we will see this theme over and over. We are not ultimately affected from without, but from within.
The question we must address right now is this: What is the heart? What is this deep, true, controlling part of us that needs to be changed? When people talk about the heart, they usually think about emotions, desires, and passion. Such identifiers are a helpful place to start. However, what will be most helpful is to use a more precise word to talk about these deep wants in our hearts. This word is affections.
Affections are the hardwired responses to what your mind perceives. When I say, you only ever do what you want, I mean, you only ever follow your affections. Your affections are what you love and hate. They are your rejoicing and your reveling, your despising and your detesting. They are what your truest self most truly treasures.
Every time your mind encounters something, whether perceived in the physical world or thought of in the immaterial space of your mind, you have a reaction to it. This reaction can be so small and passionless that you hardly notice it. The reaction can be so gargantuan and hot that it raises your pulse, gives you goose bumps, or causes you to scream out loud. Most often, the reaction lies somewhere between these two poles. Affections are the manifestation of your heart's inclination toward any given situation.
Affections are emotions, but they are more than emotions. They make up the hardwired way your heart functions. In fact, affections may, at times, even conflict with your more flippant and fleeting emotions. Just because you smash your thumb with a hammer and get filled with anger doesn't mean you hate hammers and will never touch one again. You may get frustrated with your spouse during a disagreement, but that does not mean your affections of love and commitment toward your spouse have altered in the slightest.
Pastor and theologian Sam Storms defined the difference between emotions and affections like this:
Certainly there is what may rightly be called an emotional dimension to affections. Affections, after all, are sensible and intense longings or aversions of the will. Perhaps it would be best to say that whereas affections are not less than emotions, they are surely more. Emotions can often be no more than physiologically heightened states of either euphoria or fear that are unrelated to what the mind perceives as true. Affections, on the other hand, are always the fruit or effect of what the mind understands and knows.
This chart is also very helpful in seeing the difference between emotions and affections:
One of the most important points from the chart is that affections always produce actions. You may be so angry with someone that you want to punch him in the face. However, you restrain yourself. Why? Perhaps because you have a deep affection that loves peace; or it may be that you have a deep affection that hates violence. Whatever it is, your affections will create your ultimate action, even to the exclusion of your fleeting emotions.
So, what are the affections? Affections are the hardwired responses to what your mind perceives. The affections are the manifestation of your heart's inclination toward any given situation. What moves the body? Affections. What makes us do what we do? Affections. This is why God exhorts you in his Word to "keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:23). If we ever hope to kill sin, we must go deep to the heart.
THE WILL: THE FRUIT ON THE TREE OF THE HEART
If you go to a tree and it has apples on it, you know it is an apple tree. The kind of fruit on the tree tells us what kind of tree it is. Furthermore, by looking at the quality of the apple you can tell the health of the tree. The fruit tells us about the root. If the fruit is unhealthy, the tree is unhealthy. Jesus regularly taught this idea.
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–45; cf. Matt. 7:18; 12:33–37)
Christians constantly get this equation backward. We believe that if we clean up the outside, the inside will get fixed along with it. If we do the right things through the will, we will ultimately become the right thing in the heart. If we can gather enough good fruit, we will become a good tree. But this is impossible. Impaling fresh apples on a diseased orchard tree will not revivify it. The tree must be healthy first. We need to address our hearts before we address our hands.
If sin is on the tree, sin is in the heart. Sin cannot produce fruit in your life unless it has a root in your heart. And we all have deep roots running throughout our bodies as widespread as our veins. When you see the fruit of sin on the branches of your life, plucking it off will not be a sufficient solution. You must address the wants and affections inside you that brought it about. This is God's solution in Jesus. He gives us the most captivating picture of his glory in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 1:19; Heb. 1:3) and changes our hearts to be captivated by this image through the power of his Spirit (Ezek. 36:26; John 15:26; 1 Cor. 2:10; 2 Cor. 3:17).
In order for God to get to the root of your life, God must get to the root of your heart — your affections. In order for sin to be properly blamed and dealt with, we must trace it back to its source — our hearts. You sin because you want to sin. You sin because you love sin. You sin because you believe that you can satisfy yourself better than God can satisfy you. Sin has wired our hearts to love evil and hate good. They need to be rewired. Yet the reason why our fight against sin is often ineffective is because we haven't been fighting sin; we've been fighting its fruit.
"Just stop sinning."
Have you ever received this cherry of a piece of advice? Or maybe you've doled it out yourself. A friend of mine went to his mentor, a longtime pastor and Christian professor, and explained his ongoing struggle with pornography. The pastor looked at him from across his office desk and said in the most frank and naked way possible, "Just stop looking at it."
This may even be the advice you give yourself. You inflict mental slaps on your wrists when you reach for that favorite forbidden fruit. You grit your teeth and whisper mantras of self-discipline when that pet sin nuzzles up against your leg. You close your eyes tight and wring your hands behind your back when that selected seduction springs out of nowhere in a full-frontal attack. "Just don't do it," you say to yourself. "Just say no!"
We try to fight sin like we might try to fight a piece of chocolate cake while on a diet. "Just don't eat the cake." Willpower is the key. Discipline is our greatest need. If you say no to the chocolate cake enough times and say yes to the fruits and veggies, you will lose weight.
The problem is, sin isn't a piece of cake and your want for it is not a sweet tooth. Sin is not external to you, like the piece of cake. It is hardwired within you, operating on your affections. While a sweet tooth for cake may be satiated with an apple or small piece of dark chocolate, the heart's appetite for sin is cursed with insatiability. Your affections can't be unplugged. They can only be rewired.
The real problem in trying to yell, "No!" at sin is that sin can win even if you don't ingest it. You actually have to eat the cake for your calorie count to go through the roof and your diet goals to be ruined for the day. With sin, however, you can say no to the "cake" and still end up metabolizing the same amount of caloric sin.
That is because your real problem with sin is not only in the sins you are committing. We all get so focused on eating the chocolate cake that we miss the real problem: our want for the cake itself. Your real sin problem is not one specific sin, but your desire for sin itself.
Think of my friend who told his confidant and counselor about his struggle with pornography. When my friend recounted this story to me, he understood why this advice was worthless. He said, "Even if I manage to never look at any naked woman again other than my wife, my heart won't change just by saying no."
He didn't just want the sin to stop; he wanted his heart to change. He didn't just want to stop doing something wrong; he wanted to stop wanting something wrong. He didn't just want to stop committing a certain sin; he wanted to stop being sinful.
The problem isn't just the act of sin. The problem is the desire for sin.
WHY YOU DO WHAT YOU DO
If you want to change your will to sin, you must change your want for sin. No change ever takes place in an individual beyond how their heart is affected. We will never do anything sustainably, authentically, or in a satisfying manner if our hearts are not also fully involved.
Our strongest affections operate upon us when we act. We become envious of a neighbor's new car because our hearts want wealth, status, power, and respect more than they want modesty, meekness, humility, and submission. It is not as if the evil envy demon sneaks across the lawn and up the driveway, carrying a sackful of envious thoughts to shove down our throats like a sinister Santa, skulking down a chimney. Actions come from inside. Envy, like all actions, grows out of the affections in the heart, resulting in the will to act and think enviously. The heart is the root of every decision, no matter how innocuous or intense.
Why does someone choose rocky road ice cream over cookies and cream? He does so because that is either the flavor he likes best, the flavor most recently advertised to him that exalted an affection for marshmallows, the flavor tied to a deep childhood nostalgia, or the flavor his date (whom he most wants to please) wants to share with him.
Does someone wake up early to go to the gym? This is because her deepest desire is to either stay in shape, lose weight, shame a griping spouse, or silence a guilty conscience.
Does someone read a book instead of watch television? He does this because he either enjoys reading over watching, desires the knowledge or escape the book promises to provide, wishes to be intellectual, or aches to feel cultured and well read.
Does someone commit murder? This is because she most desires to either exercise her hatred through violence, create her idea of justice through retribution, receive a twisted satisfaction, or preserve her own life at the cost of another's.
There is a simple fact about every action you, or anyone else, has ever done: people only ever do what they want. Your body is a piano, and your affections plunk the keys.
THE SCIENCE OF SIN
In April 2017, Christianity Today published an article entitled "The Science of Sinning Less," which served as the cover story. On the bright cover of the magazine, laid over a multicolored, many-sprinkled doughnut representing temptation, was a quote from Romans 7:19: "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing" (NIV). Surely this topic and this famous verse struck a chord with many believers (and we will take an in-depth look at this famous passage from Romans 7 in chapter 7).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Rewire Your Heart"
Copyright © 2018 David Bowden.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: The Battle for Your Heart, ix,
Chapter 1 You Only Ever Do What You Want, 1,
Chapter 2 Properly Ordered Affections, 15,
Chapter 3 The Sin of Eve, 30,
Chapter 4 How Sin Works, 48,
Chapter 5 What Changes When We Are Saved?, 63,
Chapter 6 You Are Not Two, but Truly One, 82,
Chapter 7 What Are Your Desires Bringing About?, 95,
Chapter 8 Why Fight Sin?, 116,
Chapter 9 Case Study: Losing the Fight We Think We Are Winning, 129,
Chapter 10 Stop Saying No to Sin, 146,
Chapter 11 Repurposing Your Wants, 157,
Chapter 12 Wanting to Be Perfect, 175,
Chapter 13 Delighted Love, 193,
Chapter 14 Delighted Living, 214,
About the Author, 241,