Monday, November 7, 2011

It's not me, it's You

The story goes like this. She went to college, and free from authority, curiosity led her to have sex with her boyfriend. That ended and she did it again with a few other guys until finally her conscience ate her up to the point where she cried out for help from one of her friends from church. Her friend told her pastor about it, and the pastor told her to say the sinner's prayer again. He told her that she needed to be re-saved.

This is a story among many that I have heard of people who fell into sin, and believed that in the process they lost their salvation. This way of thinking is contrary to the gospel. To think that when we sin, we lose our salvation, is to think that we are saved by our own works. This is also to doubt the faithfulness of God, to think his love is as fickle as our own.

I cannot say that I know the heart of that girl to tell you whether or not she was saved before she began sleeping around, and before she repented, but I can say this: Christians are not saved by our works, but by our faith, and even that faith is a gift from God. When we are saved, God will not leave us, because he is faithful to his promise even when we are faithless in our obedience to him. God never chose to save us because we were good people, and he does not continue loving us because of our goodness. It was never about our goodness.

This is on my mind because in my Old Testament class, taught by Dr. Scott Swanson, we recently studied the book of Judges which seems like one of the most depressing books of the Bible. The Israelites, God's chosen people, are stuck in a cycle of apostasy, servitude, supplication, and salvation. They would forget God and start living sinful lives, and God would hand them over to be conquered by other nations. Then they would cry out to God for deliverance and God would raise up a judge to lead them into victory over the oppressing nation. However, as soon as the judge died, the Israelites would fall into the same cycle all over again. 

We look at the Israelites and think, "How stupid they are for not learning from their mistakes!" They stumble again and again into the same sins, and the same consequences. Yet we are the same. Christians are now God's people in the new covenant, and Old Testament Israel is an example to us today (I Cor. 10:11).

What a weird cycle. Why would God keep saving the Israelites when he knew they would eventually forget him again? Because God does not break his promises. In the beginning of the book (Judges 2:1), God reminds Israel of his covenant with Abraham and his descendants and says, "I will never break my covenant with you." There was no reason God had to choose Abraham, but he did because he wanted to for his own glory. And because God made a promise, he was faithful to it, even when his people were not (2 Tim. 2:13). 

Now the fact that God is faithful should not give the idea that God is grudgingly obligated to keep his promise; rather he is compassionate. When we genuinely cry out to God for help, knowing that we cannot help ourselves and we need his deliverance, God will save us. He has compassion, like he did with Israel when they were being oppressed by other nation in Judges.

As Dr. Swason said, "The book of Judges is about recognizing our inability to serve God in ourselves." When we think that our justification or sanctification depend on our own ability to follow God, we are pridefully deceived.

In Judges, God would raise up a leader to defeat oppressing nations, and the odds were always against the Israelite army. This was to show that the Lord of Hosts, who was fighting for them, enabled Israel to defeat the enemy. The people recognized that and trusted in God for victory.

 It is that faith that God desires from us. Faith that he will deliver us, and that we are nothing and can do nothing without him.  In Hebrews 11, these Judges are named in the hall of faith. Did they live moral lives? Were they good people? No. But they trusted not in their own abilities but in God, and recognized that God saves. 

And that faith, even that little faith, comes from God too. I quote the famous verse from Ephesians, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (2:8-9). That faith God gave us when we were saved, he continues to give us every day as we walk with him. 

Even when we are born again, we will still sin, like Israel. Our sinful bodies and minds conflict with our new nature in Christ. As Paul says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:18-19). We are messed up people who cannot help ourselves.

But Paul doesn't end there, he says, " Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25). As believers, Christ's righteousness has been imputed onto us so that we are no longer seen as guilty before God. During this life we will fall into sin, but if we cry out to God recognizing we are helpless, he will deliver us. For "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite spirit, O Lord, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). God is our only hope, our only salvation.

So we say to God, "It's not me, it's You." To the Lord of Hosts be the glory forever. 

1 comment:

  1. For anyone who may be confused, let me define a few terms.
    (These are definitions in my own words.)

    Justification= having Christ's righteousness imputed onto oneself. Being made guiltless before God.

    Sanctification= the process of being transformed into imitators of Christ to have the mind of Christ, the process of growing closer to God.

    We are dependent on God for both of these things.