I was raised in a Baptist church in a small, West Tennessee town. Many times, I have heard the testimony of a person who has been radically and completely delivered from the awful, evil sins they once committed.
I have often questioned the miraculous deliverances purported in these testimonies, especially when the speaker implies that my life must assuredly be changed in the same dramatic way if I truly repent of my sins and come to Christ.
I do not intend to discuss a long, rambling account of my personal sins and the way I have tried to set them aside. I have found in my own experience that my besetting sins have persisted after I became a Christian, even though I am better than I once was.
The difference in my life I want to discuss is not a dramatic reversal of my behavior. The Holy Spirit has helped me to get better over time, but I have not been made perfect, and I have not been radically and instantly delivered from sin.
The change in my life that I want to focus on is the freedom I have found in God’s forgiveness. I have found freedom and power to change in the knowledge that my sins are forgiven because of Christ. I have the encouragement I need to get up when I fall down.
Jerry Bridges describes this well:
Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6," All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all," and then say, "Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.
[Christians] stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don't have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.
To use an expression of the late Jack Miller, we must "preach the gospel to ourselves every day." For me that means I keep going back to Scriptures such as Isaiah 53:6, Galatians 2:20, and Romans 8:1.
It means I frequently repeat the words from an old hymn, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." The success of our struggle with sin begins with our believing deep down in our hearts that regardless of our failures and our struggle, we have died to sin's guilt. We must believe that however often we fail; there is no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1).
I find freedom from my sin in Christ’s power. I do not find a perfect freedom. These are always sins that I am prone to commit. If I fail, those are the ways I am going to fail at most of the time.
Am I worried about losing my salvation or making it null and void because of a “habit” or “continuing in sin?” Sometimes I do doubt, but in the end I know that I am forgiven in Christ. I repent of my sin and enjoy Christ’s forgiveness.
Will I earn rewards for the good things I have done on earth? Yes, God will graciously reward the results of His power because He sees my ‘good works’ through the lens of Christ’s righteousness credited to me.
He will reward the works He has brought about. But the rewards I earn will not be for me. They will be cast at the feet of Jesus in His honor.
Our next post will conclude our little series about why you should become a Christian.