Don’t try to reason with your sin-infected appetites. An aroused appetite is almost always unreasonable. When a desire is awakened in you to indulge in some sin, your best defense is often escape.
Who Rules the Kingdom of the Heart?
We might like to think that reason rules the human heart, but it doesn’t. Delight rules.
In the kingdom of the heart, the commanding hierarchy is this: King Delight rules and he tells General Desire what to want. General Desire then issues commands to Lieutenant Will to act on the want. No one does anything by “sheer will-power.” The will is not an independent agent. It is a soldier under authority that receives and obeys commands. The will might be strong or it might be weak and, like a soldier, it can be trained. But the will does what desire commands. And desire commands whatever delight believes will bring it the most pleasure or the least pain.
So what role does Reason play in the hierarchy of the human heart? Reason is Royal Counsel to King Delight and advises the king on what he should believe and value. When King Delight agrees with Counsel Reason, General Desire and Lieutenant Will act reasonably. But if King Delight doesn’t agree with Counsel Reason, the king is going to have his way.
The Will Always Obeys Desire, Even to Do Undesirable Things
But don’t we sometimes will to do what we don’t desire? Yes and no. Yes, our will can move us to do something that, on one level, we don’t desire, but only if, on another level, we desire something else more.
A man who desires to view a pornographic image can resist this desire, but only if he considers a competing desire, such as inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). Likewise, a Christian denies himself, picks up his cross, and follows Jesus because he wants the same eternal life of joy more than earthly pleasures (Matthew 16.24–25″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Matthew 16:24–25).
Cool Reason vs. Hot Desires
It’s important to understand how the hierarchy of the heart functions, especially when it comes to battling sin-infected appetites, which are sinful desires issuing orders to the will. When we experience those desires, what’s happening is that King Delight is being persuaded by a temptation that a sin will yield pleasure. And in that moment, the king may not be open to Counsel Reason.
That’s why reasoning with an awakened sinful appetite is like reasoning with a devil. It isn’t interested in or compelled by the truth; it is interested in a pleasure being offered. In fact, that appetite will seek to manipulate our reason in order to get the pleasure it seeks. It will twist every reasonable objection and minimize and muddle it in our minds. This is why we have often succumbed to an appetite’s demand even when our reason tells us it is wrong and even destructive. Cool reason usually melts in the presence of a hot desire.