Friday, March 14, 2008

The Measure of Sin & Perfection

Allow me to elaborate a bit on a couple of things in the previous post “Sin No More” that came up in a discussion. We were discussing the following commentary on Philippians 3:8-12:

“Paul says our righteousness depends on faith & then tells us that a greater knowing of Him & the power of His resurrection comes in the process of striving to be like Him. Our comprehension of our justification in Christ leads us towards the goal of being sanctified like Christ. We work towards that goal but, like Paul, we never attain it, therein receiving greater understanding of the measure of perfect righteousness & further proving the need for His justification."

I was reminded of a time I spent at a lakeside camp. A friend of mine wanted to explore the lake by canoe & we decided to paddle to the other side. The lake did not seem all that large in our judgment, & we thought we could make the other side in about a half hour. An hour later, judging by the comparative distances of the shorelines, we thought we were halfway. We finally got to the other side almost three hours after we set out- then we had to paddle back! Very tired & awestruck at the actual size of the lake, we got back six hours after we left.

We don’t understand the scope of our sin- & therefore our justification. Think of the lake as the measure of our sin, & the attempt to traverse it as the attempt to follow Jesus’ teachings towards sanctification for a single day. Standing on the shore, it doesn’t really seem too awesome a task. It gives the impression of an attainable goal as long as we remain on the shore. We may or may not realize that the mere fact that the lake exists means we need Christ’s justification, for even if the future sanctification is attainable, the sins of the past & present must be paid for. Navigating the breadth of it does not do away with it; the lake must be conquered, drained, & a garden of righteousness planted in its place. No matter, for as we get in the boat & work our way towards the goal of simply seeing the other side of the lake, we come to see that the task at hand is far greater than we could have perceived from shore. Yes, we can see that we are gaining ground by the fact that our departure point is fading behind us, but amazingly, the goal seems none the closer.

To those who believe in justification by works, I say Jesus Himself has commanded you to live it out in the Sermon. He commands that you must be perfect & spends three chapters spelling out a degree of that perfection. Jesus says in the Sermon to become perfect requires you to go beyond the letter of the Law, but a fuller reading of His teachings reveals that perfection goes beyond even the letter of the Sermon. If it is possible to attain, it could only come through knowing, meaning walking in relationship with, the one Man in the history of the world who succeeded in doing it. Nevertheless, I challenge you to put feet to your beliefs & pursue a righteousness of your own. John 16:7-8 tells us that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to you & “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The elect who incline their ear to the conviction of God’s Spirit will know their sin & will discover the vanity of a self-justification.

To those who believe in justification by faith in Christ & His works, I also point to Christ’s mandate. Yes, you are already justified before ever stepping in the boat if you have your trust in Him, but there are other reasons for heeding the call. First of all, it is your Lord’s command, & Paul tells us in Romans 12:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

The term “brothers” confirms Paul is addressing those who already know Christ, & these should be yearning to worship Him in this way- by becoming like Him through obedience to His teachings. In striving to become like Him, we both succeed & fail- the successes bless His Name through the power of a changed life, & the failures help us grasp the size of the lake, so to speak, as well as our innate inability to conquer it. It is in this process of real world victories & defeats that we discover the magnitude of what He accomplished by His 33 years of continuous victory over sin consummated by His victory over death; in this way we come to know Him better.

We come to know Him & the power of His resurrection, the source of power behind our resurrection, better- by sharing in His sufferings and the pressing on to be like Him.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Philippians 3:8-15


MrsEvenSo... said...

Praise God my debt for sin is paid by Jesus Christ my Lord. It is an impossible debt for me to pay and I thank God that I don't have to try.

MrsEvenSo... said...

Even so, I will press on and do what I know is right to do. Continually allowing Him to change my heart daily.

Marli said...

Thanks for writing this.

Zoarean said...

Thanks for the thanks.