Whatever maybe our modern Christian understanding or attitude to the holiness of God, one wonders whether it still provokes the humility and self loathing for our ongoing sinfulness such as it did in the great Saints of the past?
To what extent a ”professing Christian” can engage in sin and yet still regard themselves as a true Christian is a difficult question.
The prevailing belief is that the Christian does not willfully persist in a sinful practice if understood and known to be such, without hating, striving against and seeking Divine assistance to conquer it.
Paul’s testimony in Romans Seven has been the experience of many of the soundest Christians of the past yet one wonders whether it is the experience of many professors of the faith today.
“21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:21-24
True, we know little or nothing of each Christian’s individual experience in their dealings with God alone and in private.
(In times past many kept a daily journal or diary where they recorded their spiritual experiences and feelings and left them for future generations but it is not a common thing now.)
Yet surely those who fully and sincerely, examine themselves and find so much remaining sin within them, cannot but cry out in earnest “God be merciful to me a sinner”!
Indeed this prayer for mercy and yearning for holiness must show forth in our behavior and Christian living as seen by our humility and overall hatred of sin.
Sadly, The need for self examination as to our spiritual state , remaining bondage to sin and worldliness is in many denominations discouraged because they say it is sinful to have lingering doubts about our salvation by Christ and exalted spiritual position in Him.
We are constantly told that because He” paid it all” there is no remaining need for our being concerned about our remaining sin and sinfulness, God will deal with it or overlooks it for Christ’s sake.
We are told that our only need is to sit back and enjoy all the benefits Christ has procured for us by His death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit.
The worst lie is a half truth
Our sense of the sinfulness of sin and its deserved consequences can be blunted by the fullness and free-ness of Christ’s salvation when it is not the accompanied by the preaching of the holiness of God and His perfect law and the constant need on our part for watchfulness and striving against the sin that so easily besets us and a life of whole hearted obedience to Christ’s commands.
I fear we regard sin too lightly and superficially and see it only in the past participle.
Yes Jesus did indeed paid it all, but should we lightly forget that it was for loathsome, sinful and defiled wretches such as we, that the perfect and sinless Son of God suffered and died.
It was our sin that put Him there.
We can see the chaos and suffering sin continues to cause in the world , but can we imagine what it would have been like had not Christ humbled Himself and came in the likeness of sinful man (yet remaining without sin) and redeem mankind, to save You and Me?
Mankind would have been without any hope at all and the world a far worse place than it is!
Over and above the consequences of sin on creation and mankind, is the affront it gives to the holiness of God, who dwells in the unapproachable light of holiness without any darkness at all and to whom sin is completely abhorrent.
Sin is base ingratitude to the grace and loving-kindness that God has shown in placing man-kind in such an exalted position in His creation and yet it’s choosing the path of disobedience, self will and self exaltation.
The price paid by Christ on the cross is the greatest indication of the sinfulness of sin.
Nothing less than this wondrous and perfect sacrifice was sufficient to deal with sin and its horrific and eternal consequences.
Can we therefore lightly regard and treat the sin that engendered the need for such an infinite sacrifice for its atonement?
There is a free and easiness that seems to characterize most of our Christianity today that seems to ignore the greatness and costliness of our Salvation and minimize the spiritual debt and obedience which is our grateful response to our lovely Saviour.
In the joy of Christian worship and fellowship we must not forget the awe and reverence which are due to our Wondrous God who though He has become our loving heavenly Father, is still worthy of our reverence, praise and worship.
We come to God, not only as Christians and saints but also as saved sinners seeking deliverance from the remaining remnants of sin in our lives and whoever else may lay claim to sinless perfection, the majority of us will continue to take our place before God in dust and ashes until He lifts us up in mercy and forgiveness by our Saviour’s loving and mighty hand.
We very often hear of Christians desiring to enter the ministry or Christian work and go to Theological seminaries for training.
However as a result of the “”liberal” or “modernist” teaching and irreverent attitude taken towards Scripture shown by their instructors, they become disillusioned with Christianity and fall away from “the faith” and some may fall under the spell of false teachers.
Some people today seem to have the attitude that it does not pay to examine the Bible too closely for fear they will find it flawed and delusory?
It could be they are just not theologically minded and will take it all upon trust.
They may be attending a lively, “happening” church, with warm fellowship and an exciting program and entertainment. Their religion is all about the experience and how it makes them feel.
Possibly there is in their church very little exposition of Scripture and an easy going attitude to faith and practice.
Then, for some reason, they decide to do some training in theology and Bible study and during its course they run into doctrines and teachings they have not heard before and which they find difficult, uncomfortable and straitening on their lifestyle: as a result they become disillusioned or offended and drift away from profession of Christianity.
Sadly their last state is often worse than their first.
False and deficient teaching always has been the bane of Christianity and the Church.
As the saying goes “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, drink deep or touch not the Pierian Spring”.
While it is true that we cannot learn the whole of Christian doctrine while a person is “standing on one foot”( as someone asked to learn philosophy) yet it is necessary to learn and drink deep as fully as possible Scriptural truth to gain a sound and balance knowledge of what and why we believe.
We understand as Peter says of Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16) that there are some things in scripture that many find hard to understand and who, by their own lack of learning and instability may wrest or turn and twist them to their own destruction, yet there remains so much that is plain and unmistakable to anyone, except the willfully blind spiritually.
The way of Salvation and the path of obedience and Holiness are clearly set forth in the Word of God so that even a child may understand and come to belief and faith under the work of the Holy Spirit.
The “Doubter” and the infidel will point to the multitude of translations and paraphrases or to the various renderings and disputed verses and portions in the Bible and ask how we can be certain of its truth and Divine authority.
They will also point to the many denominations and streams of theology and exclaim that even Christians cannot agree among themselves so why should anyone wish to join such a state of affairs and believe something which no one really understands.
Truly there is nothing new under the sun.
From the very beginning the “enemy” has thrown “soot into the eyes” of men and women and encourage their apathy, ignorance and disinclination to Christianity and obedience to God’s Word as revealed in Scripture.
His constant ploy is to make the Bible a “closed book”, so obscure and dark that it can only be truly opened and interpreted by a carefully picked elite, and by his influence, they will only read it to suit the “adversaries” own ends and interests, twisting Scripture beyond recognition and smudging its original meaning .
Failing this, he will reduce the Word down to a merely fallible human book to be taken or left and interpreted according to our whim and predilection or to what is bothering us at the time.
Even true believers are not immune from the prevailing influence of unbelief, they can find themselves with doubts about the veracity of the Bible and questions they find difficulty answering.
Fortunately if we truly belong to Christ and part of his flock, we are not left to our own devices.
The believer who is sincerely seeking to hear what God has to say, can seek the assistance of the Holy Spirit and by His guidance be led into all truth.
The Scriptures are the result the Holy Spirit of God, working through faithful writers and His Divine task is to open the eyes of our understanding and writing upon our hearts and minds God’s truth and perfect will.
He also acts as our guardian so that we can discern divine truth and differ it from satanic lies.
We must continue to hold to the veracity of the Scripture and with the Spirit’s aid seek to understand and be obedient to those things God teaches us in His Word.
I confess that it is getting harder to find things to write about, added to this I feel a real spiritual dearth at the moment.
It is a common experience among Christians, in times of spiritual decline and leanness that they seek for something that will act as the Christian equivalent of Popeye’s “spinach”.
They are unwilling to put the time and effort into restoring their spiritual well being and seek for a “short cut” instead.
It could be that many look to the weekly “Worship” service they attend as something like a coach’s pep talk at halftime instead of finding it a source of spiritual nourishment and strength.
Often and for various reasons, our experience of “church” ceases to provide the necessary impetus and “food” to fuel our Christian life and witness.
This could be because most of us do not lay the spiritual groundwork in our personal lives and are instead seeking a quick fix to our problems, emotional lows and spiritual lethargy.
Is this why Charismatic churches are all the rage at the moment?
They seem to offer an easy way to “turbo-charge” our Christianity by the receiving of “gifts” of the Holy Spirit and higher states of excitement and ecstasy.
This can be only a short term solution because the fundamental problem remains untouched.
Yet even when our local church is sound and alive it will not make up for our laziness and lack of spiritual application.
When we are lackadaisical in our Bible study, practice of prayer and Christian obedience and duty it is no wonder we sink to low ebb spiritually.
These may be commonplace things but it is by neglecting these things and half hearted in doing them that we shrivel spiritually and lose our blessing and fruitfulness.
I believe that very little good comes from the passive “let go and let God” attitude in the Christian life.
The New Testament writers constantly exhort us to strive and work even going as far as to say that we are “fellow workers with God” therefore our efforts is not in vain.
We are not depending on “mere” human effort but rather vigorously applying the spiritual strength that God by His Spirit readily supplies to those fervently and prayerfully seeking it.
It comes down to the fact that the “pump” of our Christianity needs constant priming and for “all hands” to apply to it, in the knowledge that the Water is of God’s providing and for His glory alone.
It may be a conundrum to say but we need the Holy Spirit in order to pray acceptably and in a manner pleasing to God, yet this does not excuse us from the effort and diligence required to persevere in prayer and in crying for the Spirit’s assistance for our daily life and service.
We are not “automatons” that are acted upon” willy- nilly”.
We are willing servants and workers in the great work that God has called us to in the Church and in the World.
It is often our lack of spiritual discipline and obedience which has the most telling effect on our spiritual pulse and vigor.
The blind man whom Jesus healed at Bethesda told the interrogating Pharisees that Jesus must have been sent from God because God does not hear sinners.
For the professing Christian it could be that the harbouring of sin and leaving it undealt with and un-repented, acts an obstacle to our prayers and retards our growth in grace.
Disobedience and our indulging in sin is the sure way to spiritual decline and failure.
Our attitude towards sin must be one of loathing, opposition and the constant seeking of forgiveness and deliverance and by our not falling into complacency.
Another reason for spiritual weakness is, as D. Martin Lloyd- Jones points out in his book on “Spiritual Depression” that it can be can be a symptom of physical sickness and emotional stress and strain.
Our physical health can tell on our spiritual feelings of joy and well being.
It must be realized that often there are no easy outs of many of our problems and pitfalls and despite what some would have us to believe the Christian has a difficult path to tread.
This is because everything in our physical body and sin tainted soul is crying out for ease and rest and that we are living in a Satan inspired world system calculated to divert us from the “upward way” to earthly pleasure, material possessions and carnal indulgence.
We must cope with these things by relying on Christ through faith, constant vigilance and self control.