In this sermon, Pastor Babij preaches on battling sin with a gospel-oriented strategy. Pastor Babij explains that Christians can battle sin because God’s Ten Commandments are written on their hearts and because the gospel has changed believers’ relationship to the Law. Pastor Babij outlines two ungodly strategies for battling sin, antinomianism and legalism, and contrasts them with a godly strategy based on Christ’s work on the cross.
We just came out of looking at the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments have not changed since they have been written in stone, but they are now actually written on our hearts. This passage of Scripture here, the Word of God really tells us that in the last days, which we are in will be characterized by lawlessness. Lawlessness has always been a designation given to people who disregard the creator God and His Laws, and decide to live as they please, according to their own passions and desires.
It has been a tragic fact that down through history, both individuals and nations have dashed themselves against the Law in their attempts to break it. However, the Law of God cannot be broken. It is really a fact that people have thought that they could transgress the moral law of God and get away with it. They cannot. Everyone sins and breaks the Law of God, and God will judge all sin.
So this Scripture says everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness. That means people live without a law, without a standard. They live the way they want to, and they think that that’s all right. And that is not all right. Because of God’s character, because He’s a holy God, that is not all right. God is the one who sets the standard on how to live. So the Scripture reveals that we live in an age of lawlessness, where people have kicked off the traces of the Law of God and as a result thrown off the restraints almost everywhere we look. We see the moral law of God abandoned, while people have plunged themselves into all manner of debauchery and unrighteousness and ungodliness and wickedness, which all expresses lawlessness.
But there’s been a change. There’s been a change in our relationship to the Law because of Christ. This passage of Scripture says this:
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now…
Now that you’re in Christ – that’s where he’s going with this:
present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
So we have a different relationship to the Law of God as believers. Believers in Christ now have the Holy Spirit of God and the Word of God which He uses to transform my mind in order to offer our members, our bodies, our minds, our wills, for righteous living. We are to live the gospel, in other words. We are equipped to have a gospel oriented strategy for battling sin, because we still have remaining sin, don’t we? All our sin has been forgiven in Christ, but we have remaining sin. We just don’t keep living in sin, that grace may abound, but we are to take care of our sin. That’s part of the process of sanctification.
Believing the gospel of Christ has changed everything. We are no longer slaves to sin or lawlessness. We have now exchanged one slavery for a better slavery. We are slaves to righteousness and spiritual maturity, or sanctification. That’s what the Lord is doing with us once we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior.
So what is the gospel? The gospel is the message that God, through the Lord Jesus, has brought about His promised salvation. This has always been the plan of God to bring about salvation for men. Now, this gospel is objective. That means that it is something God has done. It is something God has done, that Jesus died on the cross and was taken down and buried. Three days later, He was alive. God had raised Him from the dead, never to die again. This was God’s proof that the guilt which Jesus bore for others had been fully taken away. It was God’s way of showing that Jesus really had delivered people from the penalty of sin. So God raised him from the dead and gave Him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God alone. So Jesus died for those who were in God’s love and plan, united to Him from eternity past, as it tells us in Ephesians chapter 1.
If I backtrack a little bit, so then how are we accepted by God? How can I be saved? Will I be accepted by God if I try to live a good life? No. Why? Because it tells us in Scripture:
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
So are we accepted by God by living a good life? No. Will I be saved if I promise God I will do better? No. It is only when a sinner trusts Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, that union with Christ becomes a fact in that person’s experience. The Christian gospel is that God treats believing sinners as though they personally obeyed and suffered all that Jesus obeyed and suffered, because they are united to Him. God dealt with Jesus on account of what we deserve, and deals with us on account of what Christ deserves. So the sins of Christ’s people have been paid for and forgiving. The perfect obedience of Christ positively guarantees acceptance with God. Period. This is how it is, that people are put right with God. So it is objective.
But it is also subjective. We participate now, not in the process of saving ourselves, but in the process of being sanctified. So the gospel is also subjective. It is something we participate in. It is something applied to individuals by the Holy Spirit through faith, the faith of the believer. The application by the spirit or union with Christ – that is what the Spirit does with the people of God. And the appropriation by the believer, and that appropriation is through faith and repentance that is given to a believer as a gift from God. This is how we enter into union with Christ.
So how then can anyone be saved? The only way to be saved, it says in Scripture:
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
This is by turning from your sins and receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior. For it says also in Acts:
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Somebody who appropriates the gospel, there’s a past activity that took place. For it says in Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Of course, we appropriate it also with a present activity, and that’s really what I want to talk about this morning – the present activity of a believer. The Bible does say this in Ephesians 5:2:
and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
That is assuming that the believer now can walk in love, and walking in love is the manner of life we have. Putting one foot in front of the other, breathing in and out, doing the next thing. That’s what a Christian does, right? But how do I do that, especially in relationship to my sin, the sin that we will commit everyday? It has an effect on the Christian life. The gospel has an effect on our daily Christian life. Living the Christian life, we participate in it and secondarily we imitate it. Both of those things go on at the same time. So we participate in what Christ has done through our union with Him.
Now at this point, I would like you to take your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 6. I want to read a section here because in this section, it is talking about participating in this new relationship we have, not only with Christ, but also we’ll see at the end, the relationship that we have with the Law. It says in Romans chapter 6:1-10:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
So they’re telling us that we are participating in something that Christ took care of. We are in union with Christ, and that is Biblical theological language. But also, it tells us that we are to imitate Christ, with whom we do have union. In other words, when Christ died, we died with Him. When Christ was buried, we were buried with Him. When Christ rose, we rose with Him. So we are involved. The Lord brought us into the process of Him saving us. That brings into our life a completely different way to live.
Now. Let’s go on in Romans chapter 6:11-14. Notice what it says there:
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
In verse 11, he’s telling us to think about it. Consider it. It’s a thought word. Consider your new standing with Christ. And what is that? That I am dead to sin. If you are a believer, you are dead to sin. Sin has no authority over to you anymore. Sin cannot make you do what you don’t want to do anymore. Sin is there in your life, but I can say no to it. I can command it. I can run from it. I can put it to death. Before, I was not able to do that. Now I’m able to. So it’s a whole different relationship.
Look at verse 12, it says:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
See, all that section is communicating to us that we are to imitate now what the Lord has actually accomplished in our life as Christians, and given us the Spirit of God to actually do what it says, to put it into practice. Ephesians says it like this in Ephesians 5:1-2:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loves you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
The first part of that passage in verse one is to be imitators of God, and as beloved children and walk in it. Walk in what Christ has already called you to. This means that a Christian does have a radically gospel oriented strategy for battle with sin.
Now there’s a couple things we need to avoid as we think about that. Just as Jesus was crucified between two thieves, so the gospel is crucified between also two things. What are those two things? When we became Christians, we see in this illustration here, we have God’s holiness. And then of course, we have our sinfulness or my sinfulness. In between that, you have the cross. Now, the cross makes all the difference in our life, because now God has saved us. But now as we go on and walk in our life, there’s a way not to do things.
There is an ungodly strategy of taking care of your sin. That first ungodly strategy is of course a big word: antinomianism. What that is is two words that means anti is against and nominos is the word law. Put that together and it means: against law. That means I’m going to live free of the law. The law has no more authority over me at all whatsoever. It doesn’t even tell me that I sin or not. I just live the way I want. Luther used this word to describe the rejection of the moral law as a relevant part of the Christian experience. Even in the New Testament, Paul really refutes the suggestion that the doctrine of justification by faith alone leaves room for persistence in sin. It leaves no room, for he says:
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?
The answer to that is: no! When we consider this word “against law”, there are actually two things we usually do when we may not even think we have the mindset that we are antinomian or against law, and actually in our practice we are doing exactly what this word says. This is not a good strategy, in other words, to live the Christian life.
What’s the first thing that happens? We rationalize our sin. That means that a person usually thinks it’s no big deal that I’ve sinned. I’m forgiven already. Now, you may have even thought that when you first became a Christian. You may have thought: you know what, I don’t have to worry about it. It’s all covered. Right? Now, there’s truth to that, but it’s got to be balanced out according to what God’s called you to do. He did not called you to live in lawlessness anymore. He called you to live in righteousness. That means I have to get everything adjusted by the Word of God.
A next thing that we do when we actually fall into this type of thinking is we presume things. A person who presumes things, they usually think: when I sin, I’ll just confess it. That’s all there is to it. Well, I just want to say right at the get-go, avoid this type of thinking and practice because it is against what Scripture teaches. For an example, I want you to go back to the Old Testament and I want to look at 1 Samuel 15:12-23. This example is an example of Saul’s disobedience to God, which he presumed he did good before God until Nathan the prophet come and tell him otherwise. I want you to notice the narrative in 1 Samuel. Let’s start at verse 12:
Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of oxen which I hear?” Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’
In other words, God said: Go, kill everybody. Kill everything. Notice in verse 19:
“Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord send me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroy the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination…
And that word insubordination is also the word presumption. The New American Standard uses insubordination, but other translations use the word presumption.
and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”
So you see it’s played out here in this narrative, that Saul presumed he was doing the Word of the Lord, according to what he thinks he should do. He was tempted and the people were tempted to take some of the spoil. And soul. The sin here was presumption. He presumed that he was doing the right thing, when in fact he was doing the wrong thing.
Now, when you became a Christian, you may never have thought that presumption was a sin it all. But you know what? It’s one of the greatest of sins. It says in this passage here:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
And this passage of Scripture:
Or do you presume…
Of course the ESV says presume. The NAS says another way of translating presume:
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
You think you’re going to go on, that you can do what you want to do, opposed to what God said you were to do, and think you’re going to get away with it? You’re not. Because God has been kind to you. He has been good to you. The result of that should be repentance. You should turn from your sin and trust God. And then David said this in Psalm 19:13.
Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
So he’s praying: Lord, don’t let me get in the mindset where I’m thinking in a way that is dishonouring to You, that I am presuming and thinking when I sin, I’ll just confess it. Or when I do something wrong, I’ll just reinterprete it my way, thinking that it’s God’s way, when it’s not God’s way. The Lord is very serious about this. Christians have to be careful that they are not falling into presuming on God’s will and God’s word, and making it what it’s not. Because it’s something that we ask like David: Lord, please keep me back from this thing. Keep me back from presumption.
That means that the next human strategy to avoid, which would be wrong, would be that of legalism. What is legalism? Legalism pretty much thinks this: yes Christ died for sins, but I earn favor with God through what I do. This is a Christian who has been redeemed, trusted in Christ. They fall into the mindset that they think somehow to keep saved, it’s about what they do. They kind of lean back on that in their life. But you know what? It’s not really about what you do. Yes, we are to be sanctified. Yes, we are to grow in Christ, in righteousness. We are to grow to please God, but those are things that are the fruit of conversion. They’re going to grow out of you because you are a believer. I can’t lean upon what I do, as somehow helping God to sanctify me. Or you.
Some of the things in the past that people have used: monasticism. That was just a word that meant to stay celibate or single. It came to mean to be alone, and also further came to mean to withdraw oneself, to drop out of the world in order to escape the burden to society. And then later, it meant to retreat in pursuit of perfection, and to isolate yourself from society in order to get closer to God. We call them hermits or monks. But that mindset is still alive and well. If I separate myself as much as possible from all this, somehow I’m going to be sanctified more. Or somehow I’m going to be cleaner. You can be a Christian in the midst of a perverse and wicked generation right smack in the middle. I can’t separate myself, remove myself, to be able to be sanctified. That is something God is doing. That has been practiced in the past.
Another thing has been practiced in the past is a thing called asceticism. That’s another big word. It really means to train. It’s a word used for the training of athletic exercises for athletes, but it was also moral training through education or mastery of your passions and the renunciation of any kind of desire you would have. So you would practice self-denial and celibacy and fasting and self-restraint and inward detachments and purification from passions. All those things are still being done today. A lot of eastern religions, this is what they have in here. This is how you make yourself closer to God, or make yourself ready for God. No, it’s not. It’s not to save anyone. It’s not to sanctify anyone. All those things are futile. Those are just wearing out yourself to try to produce something you cannot produce on your own.
George Whitefield was a great evangelist during the Great Awakening. He was preaching while Jonathan Edwards was preaching and others were preaching throughout the east coast and the revival came there. But George Whitefield, prior to his conversion, he thought he was a Christian. And this is what he thought. He belonged to what was called the holy club. The holy club practiced early-rising, lengthy devotions, strove for a self-disciplined life, which left no moment wasted throughout the day. At night, they wrote in a diary that enabled them to scrutinize their actions and condemned themselves for any fault. They partook of the Lord’s table every Sunday, fasted every Wednesday and Friday, and hollowed Saturday as the Sabbath preparation for the day of the Lord. They sought to persuade others to restrain from evil and attend church. They regularly visited Oxford’s prisons and poor houses, and each member contributed to a fund with which they relieved the needs of the inmates and maintained a school for the prisoner’s children. Now all those things are good, and all those things we should be involved with in some way. But this program, this endeavor aided by these works of charity, he believed somehow ministered towards the salvation of souls. Which he found out was incorrect.
Matter of fact, Whitfield writes in his journal: “I now began, like them, to live by rule and to pick up the very fragments of my time, that not a moment of it might be lost. Whether I ate or drank or whatever I did, I endeavored to do all to the glory of God. Like them, having no weekly sacrament at our own college, through the rubric required of it, I received in every sunday at Christ church. I joined with them in keeping the stations by fasting Wednesdays and Fridays and left no means unused, which I thought would lead me nearer to Christ, and it did not. It did not.” He says: “I fasted myself to death, all the forty days of lent.” Back then when they called it that, and they called like that today. But he followed those. “And during which I made it a point of duty never to go less than three times a day to public worship, and besides seven times a day to my private prayers.”
You see, that what was happening here, it was all about what he did that somehow keep them saved. But that’s not it at all. That’s not how it happens. And he said that: “by degrees I began to leave off eating fruits as such, and then gave money that I usually spent in that way to the poor afterward. I always chose the worst sort of food. I wore woolen gloves and patched gowns and dirty shoes.” Somehow people think that by doing those things that they are going to either help God save them or help God sanctify them. Those things just don’t cut it, especially in dealing with your sin.
So there has to be a a Godly strategy that takes place. And what is that Godly strategy? If you turn the 1 John 1:9, we have a strategy right in that passage about dealing with your sins. What are we to do as Christians when we deal with our sins? It says in Proverbs 28:13, at conversion, God’s holiness and our sinfulness was taken care of on the cross and then we began to understand Christ’s work on the cross. So at that point, the cross was smaller to us. As we kept growing in the Lord, the cross becomes bigger to us. This passage of Scripture says this:
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
Then the passage in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
That passage of Scripture is very telling, because what we do, how we handle our sin, is we take our sin directly to the One who took care of our sin, right? That’s what we do. We confess our sin to Him. There’s no procedures or processes or the killing of the body in the sense of the things I’ve mentioned. There’s no getting as far away from society as possible to somehow get holier or closer to God. No, how you do it is that you don’t conceal your sin. You don’t hide your sin like you used to. You do not manipulate, before God, what your sin really was. You just come to God honestly and say: Lord, this is what I’ve done. You already know what I have done. I am confessing, agreeing with you, with what’s going on in my life. Please, Lord, as I confess the sin, I already know You’re faithful and righteous to forgive me of this sin, and then to cleanse me from all unrighteousness going on in my heart and life. Even the things I don’t see, even the things I cannot identify. See that’s the relationship I have with Christ who took care of the law for me. That is the relationship I have with the person of Christ.
As I develop that relationship, and that means a Christian becomes very sensitive to their sin in their life. They become very aware of when they do sin. The law still points out sin, but the law doesn’t condemn us in that sin because Christ already took that condemnation. The law just point that out. So the law is still there. We have a different relationship to the law now, but our relationship is not with cold stone law. Our relationship is with a person, and that person is Jesus Christ.
So when we begin to practice that, we begin to practice righteousness. That means that what happens is that we will not fall into antinomianism. In other words, we won’t blow off sin and say it’s no big deal, because it’s already covered. And we also will not try to work off sin, because you can’t work off your sin. What do you do if I can’t work off my sin? I confess my sin, because Christ has already taken care of my sin. This is a radically different way of living your life, of walking, putting one foot in front of the other, and growing in Christlikeness. As you do that, then the cross becomes bigger and bigger. Your theology becomes very important because it transforms your mind to know what God’s will is. The work of Christ on the cross becomes clearer and bigger, like this illustration here. You noticed that as you look down from the initial conversion, the work of the cross becomes something that takes over everything.
This is a quote by Richard Lovelace. And he said this: believers who are truly established in Christ have experienced the shattering of their spheres of ignorance and darkness by a growing understanding of the nature of God, their sin, and God’s provision of grace in Christ Jesus.” This is what happens as we get sanctified. As we get sanctified, we realize that I cannot do anything but run again back to Christ who took care of my sin. I do that more and more as my understanding of God’s nature becomes much clearer through Scripture. My understanding of my own sin becomes very evident to me.
I don’t have to go to somebody else and say: did I sin? Sin becomes very very very definite and clear, and you know what to do with it. You run to Christ. I also know when I run to Christ, I have God’s provision of grace in Christ Jesus.I always have that available to me. Where sin abounds, the grace of God does much more abound. In other words. You can’t out-sin grace, and you don’t want to do that. In other words, a Christian doesn’t become perfect. Some people strive for perfection. A Christian doesn’t become sinless, but they do sin less. They do sin less as they understand the holiness and the righteousness of God.
One of my favorite preachers that I have read over the years is Martyn Lloyd Jones. In his big, gigantic biography, 1600 pages – took me a couple years to read through it, but I did. Sunday nights I used to enjoy doing that. I used to read it because it was so interesting, how he shared what was going on in his heart and his pages. He writes about this struggle with his own calling to be a preacher, because he was a top medical doctor in England. He was supposed to be actually assigned to the top dog doctor, and he got a call to be a pastor. He says: I can’t be a doctor; I’m a pastor. So he gave up being a doctor. His wife writes: we went from not having to worry about money to counting our pennies. People would tell him: you’re crazy. You’re the top dog and you’re going to give it all up to be a preacher? So he would struggle with that. This is what he writes: “I find myself at times reviewing the whole of my faith and belief, delving at times into matters which I profoundly believe. It is the very essence of faith not to examine, finding myself in many ways unworthy of my calling. Indeed at times, finding nothing whatsoever to recommend myself as a preacher of the gospel. And going on and on and on with this kind of thinking and again, I reach bedrock in the grace of God, which amazes me more and more. I realize it’s only God’s calling and God’s grace that I’m doing what I’m doing, and there’s no greater calling than that.”
So he was just dealing with this. Do we have this going on inside of us? Do we have a sense of feeling unworthy as a believer? Is that a good thing for us to even have going on in our heart? Let me just say this: there are two things always present in Christians. First one is a sense of personal unworthiness. You are not worthy of salvation. You are not worthy to have spiritual gifts. You are not worthy to have the Spirit of God indwell you. You are not worthy of heaven. You are unworthy. But you don’t stop there. The second thing that goes on at the same time that’s going on is that I have a sense of the worthiness of Christ. That’s the grace of God. Both are essential. In fact, some have said that the absence of either may mean we are not even Christians, if that is not going on.
One said that in practice, it is the relative position of the two in conscious experience that determines what we do. In other words, once we have this unworthiness is going on inside of us and that unworthiness is actually balanced out by looking to Christ and saying: Yes, i’m never going to be worthy, but He is worthy. And because He is worthy, He makes me worthy. It’s all focused on the Lord.
And so this is the struggle that we all go through. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian. It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter what experience you have in your life. You are going to go through this, and the Spirit of God produces in our heart these two things at the same time.
I am unworthy, but Christ is worthy. I am unworthy, but Christ is worthy. Believe me, when you fall into sin, do you feel unworthy? Yes you do. You do. That’s why you run to Christ, because Christ again will forgive you and you get the sense that He is present with you, and you’re one of His children, and He’s your God, and He is faithful. He will always be faithful. He’ll never take a left turn on you and leave you stranded. He will always be there, because He’s the same, yesterday, today, and forever. That’s who God is.
When we grow like that, we’ll deal with our sin in the right way. Because you know what, God hates sin. Why? Because God’s holy. God can’t even let sin to His presence because He’s so holy. But He took care of those things in Christ. If you have come to Christ, then He has made you one who is cleansed and able to come into His presence, not based on what you’ve done but based on His righteousness on your account. And so that makes you saved.
So now that we’re walking in faith, and now that we’re learning and being transformed by the Word of God, there are some things that we can ask ourselves to answer the question: how do I know, how do you know that we are living by God’s grace? Here’s the first thing: that I’m appropriating my acceptance with God based on the truth of the gospel, nothing else. As we learn more and more about what God requires of us, we tend to remember less and less about what God has done for us. Too few Christians appropriate the truth of the gospel on a daily basis, and I’m talking about on a daily basis.
One has said that only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so light the apprehension of God’s holiness and the extent and guilt of their sins that consciously they see little need of justification. Although below the surface of their lives, they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecur, usually because they’re not confessing their sin like they ought to and running to Christ. Many others have a theoretical commitment to the doctrine of justification by faith, but in their day-to-day existence, they rely on their sanctification for justification, drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity or from their past experience of conversion or from their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious willful disobedience. So few know enough to start each day with a thorough going stand upon what Martin Luther said that you are accepted by, looking outward in faith and claiming the holy alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance before God, even in our sanctification. If you sin, does God love you less? No. But the Father, being who He is, will not let you go on in sin without the conviction of the Spirit of God, and sometimes by spanking you, disciplining you, because he’s a Father. He says: if you are in my family, I’m not going to let my kids live that way.
That’s why 1 John tells us: if you go on practicing sin, the seed of God’s not even in your heart. You’re not even saved. Don’t deceive yourself that you’re saved if you go on sinning and without conviction, without repentance. That would lead me to say a passage of Scripture like this. It says:
through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand;
That’s where we stand. We stand in the grace of God. And we exalt in hope of the glory of God. Of course the passage I’ve been using all along in Romans 8:1:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
When I sin, does the condemnation come upon me again? No, it doesn’t come upon me again. Why? There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. So that’s theology that will help me live the Christian life and deal with my sin.
So how do I know that i’m living daily by God’s grace? Well a second question we could ask is this: am I broken and humbled by my sin in light of the cross daily? When you sin, are you humbled by it? Do you really get the sense of how much God hated it and hates it and how you’re growing to hate it to the point you don’t want it in your life anymore? Are you humbled by it? It was David after he sinned, this is how he felt in Psalm 51:17:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
That’s what God is looking for. He’s looking for that brokenness over sin, that humbleness when you do sin. That’s a daily thing. It’s a daily thing that’s going on in our life.
And then a third thing that we could ask would be this: am I repenting daily? Sin does grieve God still. Always will. So we must not downplay the seriousness of sin in our lives ever. To think that there’s a white sin and a pink sin and a green sin and all that kind of stuff is completely worldly. Yes, there are greater sins and lesser sins in the sense of a lie is different than murdering someone. But nonetheless we should be just as convicted for lying or doing something like that as we would even the most grievous sin. Why? Because all sin is grievous and grieves God.
So we must come to terms with the fact that God’s grace is greater than all our sin, that repentance is one of the Christian’s highest privileges. A repentant Christian focuses on God’s mercy and God’s grace. Any moment in our lives when we bask in the mercy and the grace of God, we’re at the highest moment we can be. Because we’re looking at everything Christ took care for us. Even in Romans 12:1, we’re to give ourselves over to God as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable before God. Why do we do that? because of His mercy, because God didn’t give you what you deserve. I have to know that everyday. So Lord, because you didn’t give me what I deserve, which is hell, and You gave me Your mercy and Your grace, I’m giving myself back to you as a sacrifice to live for you. How does that happen? I don’t want to be conformed to the world, but I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, that I would know the good and the acceptable will of God every day.
Then he goes on further to say: and that I would not think of myself higher than I ought to in pride, or lower. Thinking of yourself lower is also pride. You’re telling God that you can’t do something He wants you to do, or use your gifts that you’re not using. Or I’m not somebody else, so therefore I can’t be used. No, that’s pride too. But thinking on how God made you and gifted you, and then go and serve Him. Go and serve Him. Be that sacrifice for Him and go serve Him with zeal and with love. That’s what we all should be doing, and it’s all because of God’s mercy and grace. When we are there, we’re at the highest moment, higher than when we feel snug in our decent performance and cannot think of anything we need to confess.
And whenever we fail – will we fail? Yes, we will. The Spirit of God will work on us and bring us to the foot of the cross where Jesus carries our failures. That is potentially another glorious moment. For we could at that moment accept God’s abundant mercy and grace and go forth with nothing to boast of except Christ Himself and Him crucified. And if not, we struggle in our shame, focusing on that which really brings us to a place where we need to again confess our sin. So we fail, because we have shifted our attention from God’s grace and mercy to something else.
One who draws on God’s mercy and grace is quick to repent. And also slow to sin. Jerry Bridges said that in his book on the discipline of grace. This passage says:
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
In other words, we’re enabled to do this. We’re enabled to participate in this sanctification process, and God has given us the power to do that.
And then there is another question that we could ask: am I rejoicing because all my sins are forgiven? Am I rejoicing because all my sins are forgiven? Romans tells us:
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.
There has to be rejoicing when I know that the sin I’m confessing now has already been cleansed from my account and Jesus Christ washed it away. That has to bring rejoicing to you.
And then another question could be this: am I compelled by sins forgiven and Christ’s love to desire to lead a disciplined, Godly life? This is where my thinking gets changed. I want to live for Christ. That’s what I want to do. And that’s where the Spirit of God brings us. This passage of Scripture in 2 Corinthians says:
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
We don’t want to live for our own selfish passions and desires anymore. We want to live for Christ.
And then one last question: am I pursuing holiness because Christ’s love is constant? Am I pursuing holiness because Christ’s love is not going to change? It’s constant. If I’m not doing good one day, His love’s the same. If I’m doing good the next day, His love’s the same. I don’t necessarily add to anything because I have done good the next day. Our father is pleased with us when we live in a manner that’s pleasing to Him. It’s a family relationship that we have.
So yes, we do have a different relationship with the Law. The law still shows us where we sin, but the grace of God shows what God has done through Jesus Christ. And that’s always the dynamic that should be going on in our hearts and minds as we consider the Christian life.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You this morning for again the truths of Scripture. We thank you Lord that in the Word of God, we can find the answers to the questions that we have. The question would be: Lord, what do we do with our sin now? So Lord, there’s ample information and teaching in Scripture that helps us to deal with that. Thank You Lord, as we come before you each day daily Lord, I pray that You would make us very sensitive in our heart to our own sin, that we would definitely want to live by grace, by repenting. By being broken of our sins. By running to the cross in confession of our sin. And Lord, just by rejoicing in the fact that You have taken care of everything for us, that we’re one of Your children.
Lord, I thank You Lord that You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever. I thank You Lord that You’re going to love us with an everlasting love. We thank you Lord that Your love is going to take us from where we’re at now right into heaven, because we are basking in being one of Your children in Your family. As we live each day Lord, teach us more and more of the things in Scripture, so we can free our mind and heart not to fall into false ways of thinking or practice, but into holy patterns of living. And I thank You Lord for our salvation as well as the Spirit of God given to us in our sanctification. Help us to cooperate with Him with all our heart. And I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.