Sin is the only thing we’re supposed to hate as Christians, and I’m finding that I hate it more and more, especially within myself. I mean sin is the whole reason Jesus had to come and die; it’s definitely worth hating. It’s only by God’s wonderful grace that we can (and have been) saved from sin. But even though we’ve been saved, we still have to deal with it in our lives, and it’s a yucky process.
What especially irks me are those really repetitive ones, you know, the sins that you just can’t seem to shake off no matter how hard you try? Everyone’s got them, and if you say you don’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to call you a liar. But whatever yours may be, are they not the most irritating things? Yeah, everyone knows the key to ridding yourself of sin is confessing and repenting, that’s the preacher’s version. But how do you DO that? Confessing is fairly easy, but how do you turn 180 degrees around from doing something that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem get yourself to stop doing? I mean I’ve tried everything to kick these things, and no matter what or how hard I try, they still come back to bite me.
I was feeling rather down in the dumps about my own clinging sins recently, and it really had me down. They just make you feel like a failure as a Christian if you’re honest with yourself, and no one likes feeling like a failure. You feel like you let God down. Well, I was talking to someone about how I felt, and while engaged in the conversation an incredible thought occurred to me.
What about grace?
It’s interesting. We only really talk about grace a lot when we talk about salvation. But there are three parts to the life of a Christian: salvation, sanctification, and glorification. Salvation is being saved from sin’s penalty and is a one time thing (at conversion); sanctification is being saved from sin’s power (or becoming more like Christ) and is a life-long thing; glorification is being saved from sin’s presence and will happen when we get our new bodies in heaven. (And yes, I just gave you a whole semester’s worth of Bible College for free.) Grace obviously plays an enormous part in steps one and three. After all, grace is the only reason those steps are possible. As a matter of fact, the only reason any of the steps is possible is because of grace.
Why then do we not talk about grace when we talk about becoming more Christ-like?
I believe that it is to our detriment that we don’t emphasize grace when we talk about sanctification. It’s like we say that we get saved and get to go to heaven because of what God did, but the becoming Christ-like part is our part of the job. We don’t believe in salvation by works; should sanctification be any different? I say not.
Let me explain it this way. Let’s say (hypothetically) that you have an anger problem. You’re saved and you’ve been a Christian for years, but you just can’t shake it. You’ve tried everything you know, from counting to ten to taking deep breaths, but you still lose it when that idiot cuts you off in traffic. You’ve prayed and confessed and done your very best to repent, but when that jerk down the hall in the dorm won’t stop playing “Sweet Home Alabama” as loud as his stereo can go (at 2 A.M. mind you), you charge down there and take a bat to the stereo till that infernal machine is silenced forever. You just can’t seem to control these bursts of anger. This if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again all over again business is only leaving you feeling defeated in your Christian walk. What are you to do? (And this sin doesn’t necessarily have to be anger; you fill in the blank.)
Here’s my point: what if there’s nothing you can do? Maybe the only real way to be rid of this leeching sin is to admit that you can’t. Maybe it’s like salvation. We say that no matter how hard you work, you could never save yourself. Well maybe no matter how hard you try, you won’t ever sanctify yourself. What if the only real way to ditch these clinging sins is to simply admit that we cannot do it ourselves? Maybe it’s only in surrendering our volition to the Holy Spirit by admitting that we can’t that He is finally allowed to take over and rake this muck out from inside of us.
Now don’t get me wrong. This does NOT give us license to sin as much as we please, any more than the fact that we can’t save ourselves gives us license to sin. It just means that we have to man up and say we can’t do it. God alone can save; God alone can sanctify. I think it’s part of human nature for us to try and do things for ourselves. Even the unsaved will try to earn their salvation in some manner or another. We condemn this as wrong when it comes to salvation, but then we turn around and do a different form of the same thing when it comes to sanctification; we try to earn it. But we can’t earn it.
Giving into grace is the only solution.
When that realization hit me, I was psyched! It was the first time I ever looked at the sin in my life that way. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I can’t beat these sins, and I felt like screaming it out to the whole world. I can’t do it; there is absolutely nothing I can do. But God through the working of the Holy Spirit can. Now I’m just plain flabbergasted. How could I have been so stupid as to somehow think that sole responsibility fell on my shoulders to do this? And why would God want to sanctify anyone so dumb?
Well, that’s grace for you.
“Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that can pardon and cleanse within. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all [my] sin.”