A long-lost friend e-mailed me the other day. After 12 years of no contact, his message was simple: “Saw your picture on the Internet. How did your hair move from the top of your head to your face?” I answered, “The same way my former barrel chest has fallen down to my belly.”
I’m not a thin man. There’s a simple-enough reason for that—I have a tendency to take in more calories than I burn. And there’s a simple-enough reason for that—when confronted with a bowl of ice cream or a mound of french fries, I can’t seem to say no. I am drawn to fatty foods, in a manner of speaking, irresistibly.
Wherein lies the compulsion? Nothing in the foods themselves forces me to consume. There’s no evil twin of Richard Simmons who forces me at gunpoint to eat. I have to eat this stuff because I want to eat it. I can’t not eat it because I want to eat it. There is no arm-twisting, and until the next time I step on a scale (which has, from time to time, though not for long, caused me to want not to eat the fatty stuff), I’m delighted that I have eaten it.
To suggest that I am robbed of my freedom because I eat what I want to eat is to stretch the meaning of freedom beyond recognition. To suggest that I am utterly free to take it or leave it is to underestimate my love for these foods. I am free. I can eat what I want. I am not free. I cannot not eat what I want to eat. And so I eat, both freely and necessarily, and now can be graciously described only as portly.
But as much as I love a good milk shake, I love the gospel more. I love the gospel more not because of anything innate in me, but because of the grace of God. Were I left in my natural state, I would love the gospel less than I love green beans. But I have not been left in my natural state. God changed me, not because I asked Him to, not because I hoped He would, not because I deserved it, but because He set His electing love upon me. My heart was changed from one that hated God to one that loved Him, from one that loved my sin to one that was repulsed by it.
We delight to live coram Deo, before the face of God, because He first caused His face to shine upon us. We therefore love both the gospel and its source, and so, irresistibly, receive and enjoy His peace.