My life prior to Christ was filled with grievous sins. That is why I find the doctrines of grace so astounding. A sovereign God, sending his own Son to die for me while I was yet his enemy, based on NOTHING that I put forth or did to earn it (thank goodness!), but his own sovereign choice and predetermined love.
Yet Satan sometimes likes to help us revisit these old, dreadful sins…..to try to create in us an acute sense of uncertainty and vileness as Christians. To make us ashamed and distraught, even to the point of pondering whether God really, actually covered that sin.
Has this happened to you? That unfathomable “One Sin” you did in the past…….. will the cross really cancel that debt?….am I really, truly a son of God? How could I have done that and call myself a Christian now?
This is the topic to which Martyn Lloyd-Jones turns to in Chapter 5, the chapter which we will look to this week and we continue to work through Spiritual Depression, chapter by chapter. (Go here for the full series).
What do we do when a particular past sin seems too wretched to get over mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually…?
Well….God has given his testimony filled with people who can associate with past failures and grievous sins.
One of the most remarkable cases is the Apostle Paul! God has given him to us as a very model of this condition.
How majestic is it that God converts a man absolutely opposed to Christianity and Jesus Christ for an example to us.
Here is his very liberating testimony (and read it carefully):
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
God has given this man and this testimony as a proof that sins cannot be graded, i.e. God does not only forgive the lighter ones. The root sin is always unbelief.
Here is what Lloyd-Jones added to this verse:
You notice what the Apostle says; what he claims here is that in a sense the Lord Jesus Christ saved him in order to set him up as a model. A model in what respect? A model for those people who feel that their particular sin somehow or another passes the limit of grace and the mercy of God. The Apostle’s argument is that his case alone is sufficient proof, once and for ever, that we must never reason along that line.
That is the great New Testament doctrine on this matter; it is the thing that these people have to grasp above everything else, that we must not think in terms of particular sins but always in terms of our relationship to God. We all tend to go astray at that point. That is why we tend to think that some conversions are more remarkable than others. But they are not. It takes the same grace of God to save the most respectable person in the world as the most lawless person in the world. Nothing but the grace of God can save anybody, and it takes the same grace to save all. But we do not think like that. We think some conversions are more remarkable than others.
Three Reasons For This Condition
Considering this overall condition of Spiritual Depression, and particularly those who have it because they cannot seem to get over that One Sin, that One Thing, that past atrocious act that continues to haunt them, LLoyd-Jones gives us three reasons for it.
“His great concern is to prevent anyone becoming a Christian, but when that fails, his one object then is to make them miserable Christians so that he can point men who are under a conviction of sin to them and say: ‘That is Christianity; look at him or her. There is a picture of Christianity! Look at that miserable creature. Do you want to be like that?’ No doubt the essential cause of most of these conditions is the devil himself.”
2. Failure To Understand The Doctrine of Salvation
“‘For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all’. So you see we are all on the same level; and if the Evil One tries to make you think that your sin is different, tell him in reply that it does not matter what particular point a man breaks with respect to the law, that if he breaks it in one point he is guilty of all. It is not the one point in particular that really matters; it is the law that matters. That is God’s way of looking at sin. So do not allow the devil to mislead you. It is the law, not any particular sin, but our relationship to the Law of God, our relationship to the Person of God Himself that matters.”
3. Ultimately, Not Believing the Scriptures
“You say; ‘My trouble is that terrible sin which I have committed’. Let me tell you in the Name of God that that is not your trouble. Your trouble is unbelief. You do not believe the Word of God. I am referring to the First Epistle of John and the first chapter where we read this; ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. That is a categorical statement made by God the Holy Spirit through His servant. There is no limit to it; there is no differentiation between sin and sin. I cannot see any qualification at all. Whatever your sin— it is as wide as that— it does not matter what it is, it does not matter what it was, ‘if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. So if you do not believe that word, and if you go on dwelling on your sin, I say that you are not accepting the Word of God, you are not taking God at His word, you do not believe what He tells you and that is your real sin.”
The treatment is ultimately a proper look at justification:
“Let me sum it up in this way, therefore. You and I— and to me this is one of the great discoveries of the Christian life; I shall never forget the release which realizing this for the first time brought to me— you and I must never look at our past lives; we must never look at any sin in our past life in any way except that which leads us to praise God and to magnify His grace in Christ Jesus. I challenge you to do that. If you look at your past and are depressed by it, if as a result you are feeling miserable as a Christian, you must do what Paul did. ‘I was a blasphemer,’ he said, but he did not stop at that. Does he then say: ‘I am unworthy to be a preacher of the gospel’? In fact he says the exact opposite: ‘I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful putting me into the ministry, etc.’. When Paul looks at the past and sees his sin he does not stay in a corner and say: ‘I am not fit to be a Christian, I have done such terrible things’. Not at all. What it does to him, its effect upon him, is to make him praise God. He glories in grace and says: ‘And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus’.”
Here are some verses for you to meditate over: 1 Pet. 2:24, 1 Cor. 5:21, Col. 3:3, Romans 6:11.
I have often ran into people from the past that are like…..”What??? You are a Christian…….You?!!”
It is easy to feel a bit condemned and hypocritical, as they know all about your past atrocities, especially that “big one,” that one sin you have always been ashamed of.
But there are only two responses here: One, that you feel ashamed since you are claiming to be “different” now…or Two, that you see it as a divine opportunity to explain the mighty, mighty, grace of God in your life and why it is you are so enamored that has credited and clothed you with righteousness.
So listen, as that One Sin continually nags you, instead of letting it beat you up, beat it by turning it into a boast about the Son who has freed you from it completely.
Thats liberating, right? What do you think?