16 January, 2017

Not Perfect, But Forgiven

I was having a conversation with someone earlier today who has only been a Christian for a relatively short time. This person was speaking of some of their struggles in their Christian walk and how it seemed like no matter how hard they tried, they kept blowing it and they felt like giving up. The said they were trying so hard but just could not get it right. They told me that they were just going to have to try harder, but that they were getting so frustrated and wondered if they could ever make it to Heaven. I almost had to laugh, not because what this person was saying was in any way funny, but that this sounded exactly like me when I was just starting out in my Christian journey. What I related to this person is what I want to write about just briefly tonight. 

For those who don't know me, I am the son of a pastor and my grandfather was also a preacher. I was raised in church most of my life. I knew (or thought I did) what was expected of Christians. The reason I say "thought I did" is because what I understood was basically a list of do's and don'ts. To make this shorter and straight to the point, I had learned a lot about religion, but I did not understand anything about having a relationship wit Christ. I knew that as a Christian I was supposed to "live like one", which meant, we did not cuss, smoke, drink, steal... you get the idea. So when I gave my heart to Jesus, I tried to stop all that. I tried to make myself into a "good person" who lived a clean life. But I kept failing. I'd find myself lying and using language that was laced with profanity. I really tried... and I kept falling. I was at the place where I was starting to believe that I just could not live as a Christian. I thought maybe it was just my lot in life that I was going to die and go to Hell. Then one day as I was reading the Bible, I stumbled upon the words of Paul where he wrote about how he struggled with the same thing... and it changed my life. He wrote in Romans chapter 7, " I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate."  A few verses later he goes on, "I know that my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good.  Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. And so, if I don't do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me does them. The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. Then Paul says the words that unlocked the chains that had held me captive for so long. He says,  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

There is something in that last sentence that will transform your life, just as it did mine. Paul tells us that the secret is KNOWING (this takes faith!) that the blood of Jesus has set us free and saved us, even though out bodies may not know it yet! This is not meant to give us an excuse to continue in sin. Far from it. What it says is that when I give my life to Christ, I'm as saved as I will ever be from that moment on.  Our flesh is still subject to the natural... but our spirit is free! This is where the battle between the flesh and the spirit begins as we take authority and persevere and overcome those things... but we are saved already. Never doubt that!  The work of Christ is full and complete and saves us to the uttermost from the second we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives. You will never be "more saved" than you are right then. But you and I have to get that issue settled in our spirit-man because the Accuser will be right there every time we fall telling us we are lost, never were saved and telling us what scum we are. If we don't know what the Word of God says we may forfeit that salvation and walk away from it. That's his goal! We must at that moment KNOW we are safe and secure in Christ and tell him to take his lies down the road. If we don't, most likely we will return to our old ways and continue living in sin. 

There is a vast difference in committing a sin and living a lifestyle of sin. What Paul is describing in Romans 7 is crucial to us. Notice he says he does not want to do those things anymore. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of things that grieve the Spirit and this is where our job begins... that of sanctifying ourselves. Separating ourselves from the things the flesh desires. This battle is a life-long battle as we beat this body into subjection. Again, this does not make us "more saved" but it does deepen and enhance our walk with the Lord. Satan's aim is to so batter us with guilt and shame to the point that we doubt our salvation. The most difficult aspect of all of this is getting beyond the question of being worthy of salvation. We're not... not one of us. This is the beauty of this whole thing. Romans 5:8 says, "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." It has nothing to do with us being good, faithful or deserving at all. It only as to do with God's wonderful grace!

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