Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remedial lessons

There are some days when I can relate to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. I've learned a lesson on the sanctification road, one that had to be repeated several times, mind you. But rather than mastering it and moving on, I quickly forget, so it's time to go around the mountain again. And again. And again.

"Will I ever get it? Surely I should know better after being a Christian for x number of years. I even prayed this time..."

But instead of repenting, picking myself up, and getting back in the race, I get disappointed, discouraged, and frustrated because I thought I could do better. 

Hmmm. "Because I thought I could do better?" Sounds a bit like performance-based Christianity rearing its ugly head again. 

There's no question that we should express godly sorrow, quickly repent, and seek God's forgiveness. We should have a healthy sense of the indwelling sin we will be battling for the rest of our lives. We should have a holy discontent and a desire to love God as we ought and to grow in godliness. But is it 3 strikes and you're out? Is there a certain amount of wallowing necessary to regain favor with God? 

No! God accepts us based upon Christ's merits alone. Even as we mature in the Lord, the balance never shifts to where we begin to earn our way with God. From beginning to end, our standing is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Period. 

Also, the hope to cross the finish line doesn't depend on finally "getting it" but on the promises of God. Paul doesn't tell us "he who began a good work in you got you off to a great start but you're on your own the rest of the way." Instead he writes, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)  Likewise grace has been given "to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives." (Titus 2:12) Even the ability to "walk worthy of our calling" springs from "the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe" and "the immeasurable riches of his grace." (Eph. 119:; 2:7; 4:1) "What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) 

So I may be taking remedial lessons for the rest of my life, but I have hope and so do you. We will be presented holy, blameless, and without reproach. (Col. 1:22). It's a done deal. God has said so in His word and He is faithful to fulfill it.
I am not what I ought to be. Ah! How imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good. I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon, I shall put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was—a slave to sin and Satan. And I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, ‘By the grace of God, I am what I am.’1  ~ John Newton
And his grace toward me was not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:10

1. Quoted in John Whitecross, The Shorter Catechism Illustrated (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1968), question 35. ht: Tolle Legge


  1. Amen. He alone is our Hope. And what a Hope... loved this, "I shall put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection." It is wonderful to remember as we live in the here and now our true hope lies elsewhere, always.
    Grace, Peace and Joy,

    1. Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you were encouraged, Jojo.

  2. Persis, I'm also one who is continually stuck on remedial sanctification lessons. I love how you referred to our ridiculous wallowing for awhile. When I go into sinful thinking/doing with eyes wide open, the natural inclination is to punish myself with a determined amount of "wallowing time" - as if! God is so patient with us!
    Great reminder today.

    1. Thanks, Diane, from wallower to another. :) I'm glad God is patient too.

  3. This is very timely - and something I definitely needed to read.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I"m glad you were encouraged in the Lord.