Wednesday, March 31, 2010

By the Grace of God - I Am what I Am!

It's been a bit of a week of considering this age-old issue of "indwelling sin". For me it's one that tends to come and go depending on what I am reading. Yesterday I was considering John Piper and his decision to take a break to;

"... not making peace, but war, with my own sins".

I am so full of admiration for Piper's candour and honesty. My amazing friend Jon Cressey commented SO rightly; "I need 3 life times to have this much character". And I hope and pray that Piper returns from his leave refreshed and revived in his ministry and his marriage. But I hope that he is not disappointed if he returns and finds that his war on sin in his life maybe not over in the way he sees it.

I was amazed and thrilled to read Terry Virgo's latest "Firstline" in the latest Newfrontiers magazine where he deals with exactly this issue. The context to Terry writing the issue was strangely familiar;

"I was expounding Ephesians 2 and celebrating the fact that we are new creations, created in Christ Jesus. We are called ‘saints’, holy ones, and are certainly no longer regarded as ‘sinners’ ... After one of my previously mentioned sermons, a handsome young man approached me with, ‘Surely we are essentially still sinners aren’t we?’ He then began literally shedding tears and confessed to serious problems in the realm of sexual temptation".

Some may applaud the young man for his honesty and ask him to continue weeping over such sin. Terry did not.

"I opened Romans 6 with him for fifteen minutes, asking him Paul’s robust question, ‘Are we to continue in sin …?’ and showing him Paul’s even more forthright answer, ‘By no means!’ (King James, ‘God forbid!’). followed by his clear argument, ‘How shall we who died to sin still live in it?’. The young man seemed surprised, maybe expecting the answer, ‘Well of course we do still struggle with sin because essentially we are still sinners.’ Paul did not take that line!".

The result to Terry's wonderful personal teaching (I admit to feeling very jealous) was this;

"(Terry told him) As a new creation he has the power to rule his members. He was called to live free from slavery to sin because he was not a sinner but a saint. After our chat his countenance changed, his eyes looked brighter and I think a flicker of hope had replaced the inevitability he had felt that as a sinner he was still bound to sin".

Here is the MAIN point that perfectly (as Terry does so wonderfully and frequently for me) sums up the situation here;

"The Cross amazes me and fills me with wonder and worship, praise and thanksgiving! To insist on still calling myself a sinner could not add value to the Cross for me. Indeed, to call myself essentially a sinner actually dishonours the wonder of the gospel".

Surely that is the MAIN thing about the glorious Gospel! Terry goes on;

"If I insist on teaching that Christians are still essentially sinners, what is the Good News? Has anybody got some better news?".

I admit to a degree of frustration with my friends from Sovereign Grace Ministries. I dearly love a number of them and appreciate and value the emphasis on the Cross that they bring through some of their good teaching. However the emphasis and debates I have on indwelling sin (while loving the debates and discussion!) saddens me - that the door is wide open to condemnation and guilt and fear (emotions and feelings I am so familiar with) through being told; "You must do ... do ... do" rather than the Gospel emphasis; "It's done .... it's done .... it's done!".

A final word from Terry:

"Terry, are you saying that you never sin?’ Sadly in this age of conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil I do, but I sin as a saint with all the sadness and inappropriateness of it – not as a sinner with all the inevitability that that suggests".


jul said...

Dan, great post. Terry's thoughts on the cross are mine exactly. I believe we actually dishonor Christ and spit on his sacrifice when we insist on claiming we are as much sinners as we ever were, still slaves to sin. Is Jesus not able to set us free? Is sin greater than grace? NO! We belong to Jesus and Jesus alone! We have NO other Lord and Master, and how wonderful he is to us!

I think Terry's article is very bold considering his American friends, thank God he has taken opportunity to speak the truth in love, may his words not fall on deaf ears.

janelle said...

Thought provoking. Thanks Dan.

Charles J Lake said...