James (Steve) Clay, MABC, LPC
Author: James (Steve) Clay, MABC, LPC

As this is a continuation of two former blogs in which I discussed the essence and nature of sin and faith, a brief summary might be helpful at this point. We’ve learned that sin is more than acts or even thoughts. It’s a condition of the heart in which we are enslaved to foolish thinking, desiring, and responding. Sin is a power within us that corrupts everything about us—mind, emotions, and will. Sinful thoughts and actions flow out of corrupted desires. Sin causes us to wrongly evaluate what is truly worthy and thus affects us in what we trust. Because God created us to glorify Him by enjoying Him supremely, our sinful condition demands His judgment on us. God’s wrath is kindled against sin, because it belittles His worth and robs Him of glory. Such is our state in sin apart from Christ.

We’ve also discovered that faith and sin are inversely connected.  In the same manner that sin misdirects our affections, thoughts, and behavior, faith redirects them. Whereas sin displeases God because it belittles His glory, faith pleases God because it recognizes and celebrates His glory. Faith is more than just believing something, or acting in a particular way. Faith is the result of opened eyes that rightly see and evaluate what is truly worthy. The response is thanksgiving, delight, and worship. Faith is divinely enabled, in order that we might rightly see Jesus as worthy of all worship, being the Possessor of all excellence and delight. In other words, faith enlivens the heart in order that it might see and enjoy all that God is for us in Christ.

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

 

The gospel is the means by which God pays the judicial penalty of sin, but also empowers faith that enables a proper evaluation of the worth of His Son, Jesus. In other words, faith in the gospel, God’s greatest demonstration of His character in the person and work of Christ, eliminates condemnation and regenerates the soul to see Christ as desirable above all created things, worthy of our complete trust, affections, and obedience.

Now, how do these facts, and the application of these truths, help us—believers in Jesus Christ—battle against remaining sin? And why do we still desire other things rather than God, or more than God, if at some point in our lives God gave eyes of faith through which to see His infinite worth? I am amazed at how much of our contemporary thinking about faith is either very abstract, or is focused on cognitive truths that are “decided” upon. I am regularly in the presence of counselees who have “believed” the gospel, as they claim, having made a decision to follow Christ at some point in their lives. Their approach to Christianity is that having now “believed”, it is their duty to live in a particular way, in order to grow in Christ. They are left exhausted trying to be sanctified by their efforts to live well. How does this idea of sanctification square with what our Lord said, when speaking of Himself, “. . . whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) The Christian life is indeed one of effort, but equally one springing from delight. Faith that battles sin is energized by the power of the Spirit of the Lord in which desires and pleasures of the renewed mind and heart provide impetus to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Sanctification is by faith in God’s grace, not merely shear human effort following a decision to believe a set of facts. Faith that includes changed desires produces a willingness to do what the flesh would never desire. The desires of the Spirit, enabled by faith in God’s gracious promises, become the desires of the redeemed heart. And those desires endure even in the midst of struggle.

Consider the following passages:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:32-34)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The Author and Completer of our faith is Jesus, who through joy endured the greatest of suffering. Enabled by this same joy, believers “endured a hard struggle with sufferings”, and “accepted the plundering of [their] property” because of the faith they had in their better and enduring possession, that is, Christ Himself.  Their joy was rooted in Him. They had affections for Jesus that sprung out of an accurate evaluation of His worth. They loved Him, and thus loved others, such as “those in prison”. This type of love is inexplicable except that it is springs forth from a prior and far greater love for Christ.

Faith that battles and overcomes sin is faith that fittingly sees and enjoys the beauty of Christ, in all His beauty and trusts that God’s grace in salvation extends into the present life as well as the one to come. It believes and feels the worth of Christ as supremely better than the present pleasures of sin.  Consider Moses faith in this regard:

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)

The reproaches of Christ as “greater wealth”! What powerfully vivid words! How are we enabled to see reproach better than pleasurable sin? For Moses, he was “looking to the reward.” But what reward? Heaven? What about heaven makes it heaven? What about heaven makes it desirable more than temporary pleasure? It must be Jesus Himself! Only to the degree that Moses knew, believed, and treasured Christ would he be obedient to abstain from sin and endure reproach instead.

These scriptural examples give us many indications that faith is more than believing facts, or that sin is more than doing the wrong things. Faith and sin are contrary cousins, both sharing the common blood of delight. Both delight, just in two totally opposite directions. Believing God and His promise flow from worship and delight in His worth. Only in that condition is the power of sin defeated. Let us press forward to see, taste, and enjoy the Lord, believing all that He is and has done for us in Christ.