The American “we can do it” attitude mixed with some bad theology has left many Christians in despair because of their sins and other Christians proud of their “victories” over sin. When Christians are told they can live the “victorious life” over sin, and they begin to believe it, it usually leads either to despair or to pride. I appreciate the way Barbara Duguid applies John Newton’s emphasis on sin, grace, and humility to this topic.
“God could have saved us and made us instantly perfect. Instead, he chose to save us and leave indwelling sin in our hearts and bodies to wage war against the new and blossoming desires to please God that accompany salvation. This is a raging battle that we often lose, and that often leaves us feeling defeated and joyless in our walk with God. Yet Newton also points out that since we know God does all things for his own glory and the good of his people, his decision to leave Christians with many struggles with sin must also somehow serve to glorify him and benefit his people. This is shocking news, isn’t it?”
“Think of what this means. God thinks that you will actually come to know and love him better as a desperate and weak sinner in continual need of grace than you would as a triumphant Christian warrior who wins each and every battle against sin. This makes sense out of our experience as Christians. If the job of the Holy Spirit is to make you more humble and dependent on Christ, more grateful for his sacrifice, and more adoring of him as a wonderful Savior, then he might be doing a very, very good job even though you still sin every day.”
“John Newton shows us from Scripture that true sanctification is all about growing in humility, dependence, and gratitude. Joy blossoms in our hearts not as we try harder and harder to grow, but as we see more clearly the depths of our sin and understand more fully our utter helplessness. Only then will we take our eyes off ourselves and look to Christ for all we need in life and in death. Only then will we truly cherish our Savior and believe that we need him every minute of every day, and that without him we can do nothing (p. 30-32).”
rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)