Monday, November 23, 2009

Three truths recently learned

1. We are saints. So says the Bible (Eph 1:2, et passim). This does not mean that my life is particularly noteworthy for my good deeds, or even that my good deeds outweigh my bad. It means that I am united to Christ by faith. I am united to him in such a vital way that his obedience is counted as my obedience. His death is counted as paying for my sins. I am seated with him in the heavenly places, so that when God looks at me, who does he see? He sees Jesus. This is why I am accepted by God, and why that acceptance is secure. We are saints (i.e. holy) because Jesus is holy.

2. Nevertheless, I often feel more like a sinner. And its true, I do still sin. A lot. As they say, simul justus et peccator. The problem is that when my heart feels like I am a sinner, then I find myself trying to earn God's favor. That can't be done.

3. The only way to strike a healthful balance in my life between my identity as a saint, and the reality of my sinfulness is to apply the gospel to myself everyday. If I focus too much on my sinfulness it turns me into a legalist. If I focus too much on my sainthood, I will tend towards license and probably pride. But if I preach the gospel to myself daily, and actively apply it to specific areas of my life, then I can keep both truths in their proper place. This leads to humility. Not to mention love, and joy, and peace, and patience, etc.


joel pearce said...

Thanks for this, Jeff. While I can go both ways when out of balance, my default setting is mostly the license/pride. A great reminder that like so many things in the Christian life, the right path is in the middle of two extremes, and that the "solution" is the gospel.

Any practical suggestions for how to best preach the gospel to oneself daily?

Jeff said...

That is an excellent question, Joel. I'm hoping to write another post in the next day or two sharing some of the suggestions that I have found helpful.

I tend to default towards legalism, so I find it interesting that you have the opposite tendency. I wonder if their is a majority tendency among reformed believers, and if it would be any different among more broadly evangelical believers?

Of course the goal for all of us is to live in the freedom and truth of the gospel and avoid both errors.