This week's 'thought' comes to you from Tim Challies.
It has to do with the joy of gaining victory over sin. It resonated with what I've found to be true both in Scripture and in my life, and thus I thought you might benefit from it as well. After all, a significant part of our Christian walk deals with the pursuit of godliness and the growth of the fruit of holiness.
Salvation (at least as defined in the Bible) has to do with being "saved," or delivered, from the power and penalty of sin -- its penalty when we trust in Christ and are justified (or declared not guilty) through the application of the atonement to our actual guilt and the crediting of Christ's righteousness to our account, and its power as we continue to trust in Christ, come to know His will more fully through His revealed Word, and learn to stake our lives upon His promises to us in the Gospel. In regard to this Challies offers some helpful insights. Enjoy.
The Joy of Not Sinning
"I think it is a question every Christian would like to ask God, given the opportunity. It is an honest question. A humble one, I hope -- "If you have the ability to immediately destroy and remove all of a Christian’s sin the very moment he puts his faith in Jesus Christ, why don’t you? Why didn't you?"
There is always a good bit of debate in the Christian world about exactly how God sanctifies us and how human effort relates to divine work. Whatever we believe about sanctification, we know it is a lifelong battle and we know it is a difficult one. The difficulty is related to the extent of our depravity, the fact that the effects of sin extend to our every part, to our minds, our hearts, our wills, even our bodies. We could give every moment of every day to the battle against sin and still die as deeply sinful people. Every Christian will die much more holy than he was when he first put his faith in Jesus Christ, but a lot less holy than he would like and probably a lot less holy than he would have imagined.
The Bible is indispensable in sanctification. Literally. You cannot and will not grow in holiness without reading God’s Word without submitting yourself to God’s Word without applying its truths to your life.
And yet the Bible does not zap away sin any more than my salvation does. I have discovered in my own life that there are not a lot of texts in the Bible that instantly obliterate a particular sin. Rarely do I hear a text preached and see an instant, substantial advance against a sin. Never do I read a text and see my sin immediately and irreversibly melt away. Rather, the Bible provides the categories for my sin, it displays my sin in all its ugliness, it displays holiness in all its beauty, it exposes me as a sinner, it convicts me of my need to do battle against this sin, it gives me the desire to destroy it, it arms me to do so, and gives me hope through the gospel that this sin—even this sin with such a grip on me—is powerless before the indwelling Holy Spirit. And then begins the long and difficult task, the moment-by-moment battle, of killing it, of going back to the Bible again and again and preaching its truths to myself, of relying on the Spirit, of calling out for his help, of waging war against my own flesh, my own desires, my deep-rooted habits, my mind, eyes, ears, heart, hands, feet, and everything else I am.
Putting sin to death is never easy—life does not bring much that is the rare combination of easy and worth doing. Sanctification is no exception. Yet few things are more rewarding, more encouraging, than seeing victory over sin, seeing a pet sin begin to look ugly, seeing its power erode, seeing its prevalence diminish. Few things bring so great a sense of God’s pleasure and so great an opportunity for worship than not sinning in the face of what was once a near-irresistible temptation.
I don’t know why God did not sovereignly remove all my indwelling sin the moment I became a Christian. I don’t know why he does not zap it away through a simple encounter with Scripture. What I do know is that sanctification is a battle, but a battle always worth fighting."
The fight with our adversary, sin, is an ongoing mystery. It is always a struggle. Sometimes we make progress. Other times we think we have only to discover it was not us who changed but our circumstances. And as much as we might wish it were not so, we can easily deceive and numb our conscience with excuses when there happens to be a sin we want to participate in. Not only that, when something becomes universally acceptable in society, it invariably seems to become acceptable in the church -- even if God's word condemns it.
That's why we need to be ever in the Word. That's why we need the Bible to inform our consciences and not the latest public opinion polls or the media. God calls us to resist sin, not compromise with it. And that battle never ends so long as we are in this flesh. Yet as Challies notes, it is "a battle always worth fighting."
We may succumb. We may slip and fall. We may willingly fall. But when we do God's habitual call to His people is to rise to our feet again as forgiven children, readjust or put our armor back on, and get back into the fray of the battle once again -- continuing to do so as long as we have breath.
And, yes, it is a battle worth fighting. Because the honor of our worthy and gracious God, and the validity of our testimony to the life-transforming power of the Gospel, and our joy in Jesus hangs in the wings. We will not always win. That much we know. There may even be times we lose more than we win. But with so much at stake -- we must never lose the will to fight.
In His Service, Pastor Jeff