Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:11 ESV)
The New Year is here!! And with the New Year comes a plethora of New Year’s resolutions: spend time with family, get more fit, quit drinking….etc. I recently read a “top-ten” of New Year’s resolutions that was based upon the Ten Commandments for Christians. Comparing a believer’s New Year’s resolution with an unbeliever’s… got me thinking: what is the difference? What is the difference between a believer’s resolution to struggle visavis an unbeliever’s struggle? Jerry Bridges in an article in Modern Reformation says:
Unbelievers do not struggle with sin. They may seek to overcome some bad habit, but they do not see that habit as sin. They do not have a sense of sin against a holy God. Believers, on the other hand, struggle with sin as sin. We see our sinful words, thoughts, and deeds as sin against God; and we feel guilty because of it. This is where we must continue to go back to the gospel. To consider ourselves dead to sin is to believe the gospel.
Bridges couldn’t be more right!! Unbelievers are not aware of sin qua sin, that is, sin as sin against God. Unbelievers are aware that things do go-awry; all that is needed is a New Year’s rebooting to start afresh, to rid ourselves of all the bad habits and all the junk-mail that slow-down our lives. By contrast, believers are aware that sin is much deeper than bad habits. We know that a moral resolution of habituation every year or even every day will not suffice. We know that we need grace. Grace is not just for non-believers, but for believers as well. Year after year, month after month, week after week, day after day—we must be reminded, and we must believe that we are dead to sin: that is to say to both the guilt and the dominion of sin. If we really believed this we would struggle with a resolute confidence knowing that we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” D.A. Carson describes the Christian struggle this way:
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
Carson is right. Holiness is hard work and it takes great effort on our part. But we must never forget that we can be confident that our hard work will pay off if we remember that our efforts are held up by grace, that God preserves us in our perseverance. Joel Beeke nicely describes the Christian confidence this way:
As believers, Christ stands on the shores of our lives as we sail over the rough winds and waves. He will never let us go beyond the scope of His high-priestly …eye; He will always bear us up on His high-priestly shoulders; He will never remove us from His high-priestly heart; we are never beyond the reach of His high-priestly hands; and we are never omitted from His high-priestly intercessions. What a Savior! In Him, we can finish 2015 well, and enter 2016 with confidence and security.
Whatever your resolution this year, be resolved to go back to the great gospel of God in Christ! May we struggle to be better Christians, knowing that Christ has already won our battle for us.
Solus Christus (in Christ Alone!)
G. Carl Moore