Friday, July 17, 2009

My List of Sins

I determined that I would not write again about Spiritual-Mindedness until I have finished that fantastic read, but it is completely affecting what is on my mind (no pun intended) and therefore you can expect my articles on spiritual subjects to be heavily influenced because of what John Owen has to say =) …

One of the recent realizations the Lord has made new to me is that I cannot stop sinning unless I have the aid of the Holy Spirit. When I first became a Calvinist, one of the new questions I asked was: “So if God saves apart from the cooperation of man, does he also sanctify without our cooperation? Or is my personal holiness dependent upon me?” Quite an interesting question, eh?

Eventually, I came to understand that even our sanctification is completely the work of God, but I’m not quite sure I have consistently experienced the truthfulness of that. While considering the myriad of Christian truths discussed by Owen in Spiritual-Mindedness, I began to understand a bit more of just how sinful I am. The truth is that for a long time I haven’t considered myself all that bad. After all, I could compare myself to someone else – an unbeliever, or a “weaker” Christian – and I’d feel better about my spiritual state. But once I began to examine my life with God’s awesome holiness, or with the standard recorded in His Word, I recognized my disgusting and wretched state before Him. The Lord requires perfection, and I daily fail at attaining that mark.

Considering how much light God has given to me, I have even less of an excuse than the average Joe who has not been raised in a Christian home, raised in the Church, and in a land where I have easy access to the Scriptures. I have far less of an excuse! I thought about Romans 7, where the Apostle says of himself, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24, NASB). I began to think this about myself.

If all that I’m saying is true of me, and may be true of you, how might we answer the Apostle Paul’s question? How can we be free of this body of death? If we claim to be Christians but continue on sinning, shouldn’t our primary concern be to increase God’s reputation by living a life according to His precepts? I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I might stop from sinning, and I found that I am totally, completely, utterly, 100% unable to stop sinning by my own ability.

The only solution to our sins is God. This is true of all aspects of salvation: being foreknown by God before the foundation of the world, being predestined by Him, being called by Him, being justified by Him, being sanctified by Him, and finally, being glorified in the likeness of Christ’s glorification. Is that not the teaching of Romans 8:28-30?

Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (NASB). If Jesus meant what he said here, how can we hope to keep from sinning unless it is by his power?

I did something that I was reluctant to do: I made a list of sins that I do. Looking at that list is difficult because it is a reminder of my sinfulness, and frankly, it would be much easier to pretend that everything in my life is A-okay. But everything in my life is not okay. It dawned on me that while I have periodically prayed for God’s help to overcome these sins, I had not really believed that God would do anything. Deep down I was still dependent upon myself and my own power and ability. I was like the man in James 4, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (NASB).

God’s Holy Spirit will not answer prayers according to our will. The Holy Spirit answers prayers that are in accordance with God’s will. Personally, I can tell you that the only times I do anything good, or don’t do anything bad, is because of God’s grace alone. The road is long, the pathway narrow, but I know that the Lord desires for me to live a certain way and is continuing to work in my life. When I trust in His ability to rule in my heart it is amazing what He does.

One of the members at my church has prayed a prayer for years that I would like to pray for myself: that God would make me a trophy of His grace … for His own name’s sake.

Sola Gratia, and, Soli Deo Gloria,

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