Alarm Clocks & Coffee

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“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) 

Thomas Chalmers, in his book The Expulsive Power of a New Affection says, there are two ways a person can try to stop loving the world. Either by demonstrating the world’s futility in hopes that the heart will withdraw its affection from the unworthy object; or by presenting to the heart another object, even God, as more worthy of its affection — to exchange an old love for a new one.[1]

So, let’s talk about alarm clocks and coffee. 

Nearly every day at 5:30a, my unconscious mind is jerked into reality by the sound of my “21st-century rooster,” which I have trained to play any song I desire. However, as you might imagine, there are many days when I roll over and command him to sleep for ten more minutes. Then five. Then fifteen. Then eight. Then ten again. There are days when the sweet song of laziness, “A little sleep. A little slumber,” sounds far more enticing than the song my “rooster” is playing from the nightstand. Simply put, sometimes it is hard to get out of bed. My affection for sleep is often too strong. But, the interesting thing is that no matter how many times I tell myself, “This is not how you want to start your day,” or, “You are actually going to feel more drowsy if you keep hitting snooze,” the Siren’s call of the snooze button is effectual — “just 3 more minutes,” I say. 

So, a few weeks ago, things got real. I purchased coffee — really good coffee. I bought 12oz of Colombia La Regina (Single Origins) coffee beans.  That’s about 340.19g of coffee, which will make roughly 22 cups of exceptional coffee. I decided I would only make a cup of coffee — weekends excluded — if I wake up before 5:30a. I would not guilt myself into waking up that early. I wouldn’t try to convince myself it was better or more spiritual to wake up at 5:30a. I wouldn’t even be upset with myself if I didn’t wake up at 5:30a. I would simply pass on coffee for that day. 

The next morning, as the Siren’s call (my snooze button) played its song, another sound could be heard. It was my wife. She merely said, “If you want coffee today, you should wake up.” It wasn’t a guilt trip or a threat. She was simply presenting another affection to my mind — Colombia La Regina. I was out of bed faster than you can say, “Pour over,” making myself coffee and enjoying a great start to the day. The introduction of a second, more alluring, affection did something that could not be done by simply exposing the foolishness of the first — no matter how worthless that first affection might have been. I can show with great clarity the silliness of an affection, but a second affection that is greater will always be more effective at replacing the first. This is what Thomas Chalmers meant when he said, “The ascendant power of a second affection will do, what no exposition, however forcible, of the folly and worthlessness of the first, ever could effectuate.” This is the nature of our affections. 

Too often, we try to remove our affection for the things of this world by reminding ourselves of their vanity. We believe that by more discipline, increased willpower, and insistent phone reminders, we can withdraw our heart’s affection from an object or activity.  But our hearts don’t work like that — they must have something cling to. Chalmers says, “Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart.” If you were to simply rid yourself of an affection without substituting something in its place, you would be left with a maddening vacancy — a black hole, “as painful to the mind, as hunger is to the natural system.”[2]

If this is true, how should we respond? 

We must present to our minds another object, captivating enough to dislodge and supersede the first object. We must replace the old affection with a new one sufficient to expel the old. This is true whether we are talking about alarm clocks or pornography, fear of man, or anger. The only way to drive out an unworthy affection from our hearts is to replace it with a greater and more attractive affection. That is why, when John says, “Do not love the world or the things of the world,” it is not a call to asceticism or self-deprecation. He is calling us to fulness of joy — a Joy that will expel even the greatest of desires that this world has to offer. The only place you will find an affection like that is through a relationship with Jesus. In his presence, there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand are pleasures forever. Augustine famously said, “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.”[3] We were designed to be in relationship with our Creator. When our affection is set fully on him, we will find that all other affections are banished. 

The Christian life, then, is not merely about having more discipline or determination to avoid sin. Instead, our aim is to find ultimate satisfaction in God — it is a battle for joy. How then do we fight for joy in God when the barrage of lesser joys and inferior affections seems unending? John writes, “In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.…We love because he first loved us.” When we understand the love that our Father has for us as primarily displayed through Christ’s death on the cross, we can’t help but respond with love in return. As recipients of unmerited grace, our hearts should overflow with unending joy towards him. Therefore, we must never “grow” past the gospel. It is in the gospel that we see God’s love most clearly demonstrated. How do you know God loves you? He pursued you. God the Father loves you and loves me enough that he sent the most precious thing he could — his very son. The reality that Jesus — who calls galaxies into existence and sustains them by the word of his power — stepped into our story and pursued us is the most significant evidence of God’s love that you and I will ever see. There is nothing more extraordinary for God to give. There is no greater action he could take. Jesus is “Exhibit A” of God’s love for you and his love for me. Jesus is both the message and the messenger of God’s love for you. 

When you feel tempted to love the things of the world, don’t run to yourself — run to the cross. Rather than listening to the lies of lesser affections, preach to yourself the surpassing value of knowing Christ. By faith, as you see God’s glory in the face of Jesus, the things of this world will grow dim and be replaced by deep and abiding joy. 


AUTHOR’S NOTE: I welcome any questions, sarcastic comments, or additional thoughts you may have. Please feel free to reach out HERE — seriously! If you were helped by something you read, please share it with your sphere of influence. Thanks! 

[1] Thomas Chalmers, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Loc. 13 

[2] Thomas Chalmers, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Loc. 77

[3] Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1