Why Managing Your Sin Never Really Works
“O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above.”
—Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Someone who believes they are a "sinner saved by grace" tends to focus on sin management more than pursuing intimacy with God. They're too busy trying not to sin to really embrace life as a saint. It's almost as if they are just waiting to sin again, feeling doomed by its inevitability. Managing sin keeps us looking down in the dumps. We're never quite able to see beyond the next mistake. Believe yourself to be a failure and you will behave like one.
What a tiring way to live! Now, no one is saying that the saint in Christ is going to live a sinless life. (Actually, some people do say that, but that goes contrary to Scripture too). What this means is that our identity is not that of a sinner.
Paul had an interesting take on the believer's relationship with sin:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst—1 Timothy 1:15.
That might seem like a contradiction to everything we've been talking about, but if you dig deeper, you'll see that Paul is affirming the sinfulness of his actions, never denying that it’s God’s grace and not his behavior that saved him. In passages like Philippians 3, Paul tells people to imitate him. (He wouldn't tell them that if he was still the worst of sinners!) He's acknowledging the reality of sin, but wants his readers to understand that it's rooted in their old self, residue from their past life and the flesh.
We are indeed prone to wander, like the old hymn says. We will always struggle against our flesh, the world, and Satan. Instead of seeing the Christian life as merely a struggle to manage sin, we can embrace the thrill of being a believer in spite of our sin. Sin becomes more of a road bump overcome by the power of the Spirit as we speed along toward Christ!
Lord, by the power of Your spirit in me, focus my heart and my thoughts on Your perfection, rather than on my imperfections. You say that I have been crucified with You, and it is no longer I who live but You who lives in me. Would You make that mystery a known reality today? So consume my heart with Your purity and righteousness and Your presence within that the embarrassing reality of my sin would be drowned out by Your blazing light. Amen.
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