I’m just finishing up a really good little book written by Greg Gilbert called What is the Gospel? I’ll probably post a review on it later this week.
Toward the end of the book, in a chapter discussing the necessity of repenting as a response to the good news of Jesus, Gilbert addresses the issue of sin in the life of the believer. His thoughts on this are very sound and I like the pastoral approach he takes. Here is what he says:
Many Christians struggle hard with the idea of repentance because they somehow expect that if they genuinely repent, sin will go away and temptation will stop. When that doesn’t happen, they fall into despair, questioning whether their faith in Jesus is real. It’s true that when God regenerates us, he gives us power to fight against and overcome sin (1 Cor. 10:13). But because we will continue to struggle with sin until we are glorified, we have to remember that genuine repentance is more fundamentally a matter of the heart’s attitude toward sin than it is a mere change of behavior. Do we hate sin and war against it, or do we cherish it and defend it? One writer puts it beautifully:
“The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that the one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.”
So whose side do you take—your sin’s or your God’s?
How good is that? When he mentions how we will fight sin “until we are glorified” he is referring to the future destiny of every Christian, as noted in places like Romans 8:
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What Paul is speaking of here by using the term “glorified” is the future glorious inheritance that the believer can look forward to in Christ. This is the final result of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. The believer looks forward, in hope and assurance, to the glorious end that Christ will bring to their salvation (Philippians 3:20-21).
We can easily lose sight of this future glorification, particularly when we struggle against sin. But the struggle itself is proof of the work of Christ in our lives. It is not the struggle with sin that should discourage us, but an apathy or indifference toward our sin. If you struggle with sin, I wouldn’t advise you to stop struggling. I would say: continue to wage war against that sin—but do it in accountability, community, and with a support structure of believers who can encourage you. Sin often isolates us, and that only makes the struggle worse. As we embrace Christian community we find others who can speak the truth to us, remind us of our future with Christ, and bear our burdens along the way.