Conversion

“I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.

Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an advocate, mediator, and friend. But what we need most is a substitute – someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves.

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get wore. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.

Again, think of it this way: sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or, as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.”

~ Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian.

This gem comes today from one of my favorite blogs, Of First Importance:

The person who knows that he is a beloved son does not do good to earn his father’s acceptance. He does good because he knows it pleases his father.
— Neil H. Williams
“The Theology of Sonship”
(Jenkintown, Pa.: World Harvest Mission, 15), 15

It makes an excellent point that I would like my Catholic friends to consider. If we are truly sons of God, adopted by the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, on the cross, why do we then have to work to acheive His acceptance? If He has chosen to save us, revealed by our repentance of our sinful lives and faith in the propitiation of the Christ on the cross, then why do we need to do any “good works”? If anything, I believe that “good works” are merely our natural response to the gift of salvation. By doing any “meritorious work” we are simply worshipping God through our actions and revealing to the world our changed hearts.

The reason that I quote meritorious and good works is that scripture tells us that we are, by nature wicked and wholly corrupt individuals (Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6). If our hearts, that being our souls, are wholly wicked it would then mean that which we desire to do, regardless of the perceived intention, is a wicked act. As Jesus said, “No good tree can bear bad fruit and no bad tree can bear good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20)”. While the Christian walk is just that, a progression toward sanctification, and it is clear that no man is able to walk in perfect unity with the will of God, the journey will present itself in an upward direction. Out of the pit of despondance that comes from a life trapped in sin, though pleasing to those who are immune to its effects by a seared conscience, toward a life free from sin and temptation. Everyone who has been born is trapped in this pit until they are saved by the act of a sovereign God on their lives. He does the work necessary to get your attention, to reveal to you the disastrous end of your sin-drenched lives, and upon the application of His path to salvation presented in the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, He fills you with the Holy Spirit so that your sin-driven wicked heart can be nullified and you may respond in repentance and faith. Since it is God alone who does this, it is He alone who is responsible for keeping you in your faith. We cannot lose our salvation that was purchased for us and applied to us. It is no longer something we possess but somethin that we are. We are the elect, adopted sons of God. Not equal to Jesus in power or position but in promise.

Now for those who are in continual rebellion against God, though they may call themselves “Christian”, they are simply not. John says, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6)”. This is not for the Christian who is struggling with a specific area of sin in their lives. Men, for instance, struggle with the sin of lust through the use of pornography. Jesus, expanding on the ten commandments in the beatitudes, explains:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

~ Matthew 5:27-28

He makes it very clear that even looking with lust (this includes pornography) condemns us of our sins and in James 2:10, the brother of Jesus reminds us that even if we only break one of God’s commandments, we are as guilty as someone who has sinned against all of them. But, for the Christian man who understands this issue and who is guilty over it and walking with God in prayer daily to be rid of that sin, He is not the one who is addressed in the 1 John 3:6 statement. It is the man or woman who longs for their sin despite the calls from God in scripture to separate themselves from it. The people who both have long rejected their “Christian” title and have embraced their sinful lusts and for those who maintain a veneer of “Christian” appearance, yet secretly love to gossip and ridicule others behind their backs. For the homosexual who longs for religious experiences and feigns a “Christian testimony”, and for the boasters who seek to proclaim their own good deeds before others in order to fill themselves with their pride. These are the goats among the sheep who live lives of hypocrisy and drag down the name of Christ and His Church by their actions and words.

The true Christian does not focus on these things – not for long anyway. God works on them individually, transforming their lives and separating them from their besetting sins, whatever they may be. They are wholly forgiven, eternaly secure sinners who are seeking the final transformation that comes upon either death or Jesus’ return, when they will be stripped of their old bodies and their old hearts and be clothed instead in glorious new bodies who have neither the desire nor the capacity to sin against God. That, for the Christian, is the end of our hope. That is the desire of every man, woman, and child who is wholly sold out to God. We are the beloved sons and daughters of the creator of the universe; purchased by our God through a bloody and horrible transaction that was also beautiful and awesome in its design and purpose. We understand that we bring nothing to the transaction, but are merely benefactors of a plan put into place long before time began, and as a result, we now use our transformed lives to bring the light of this glorious news to the world for all to see. Our “good works” are neither meritorious nor pure, but are acts of worship toward the God who has done so much for us.

“If, then, I believe on Jesus Christ’s name – that is, simply from my heart trust myself with the crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member of the family of the Most High. Whatever else I may not have, if I have this, I have the privilege to become a child of God.”

– Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, December 22

HT: Of First Importance

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