“Once let us see that sin is far viler, and far nearer to us, and sticks more closely to us than we supposed, and we shall be led, I trust and believe, to get nearer to Christ.” – JC. Ryle
The Dichotomy In All Believers
“All christians are hypocrites, that’s why I don’t go to church.” Ever hear someone say this? Perhaps you’ve said it yourself? It seems to me in my interactions with the unchurched, this is the overarching logic behind many people’s distaste with church-and “Christians” for that matter. I for one don’t find that statement offensive, in a lot of ways I find it to be enlightening. If you’re a Christian, have you ever felt like a hypocrite? Don’t answer that. Because the answer is a clear and resounding… YES! Of course you’ve felt like a hypocrite, we all have, perhaps you feel like one now. It is not unfamiliar to the believer to feel anything but shame and hypocrisy in light of the holy standard we’re called to uphold. The individual may well feel justified who labels all Christians hypocrites, but they’d do well to avoid the perfect church where hypocrites are absent for then there would be at least 1 hypocrite present. Now, what I’m not saying is that all Christians are hypocrites intentionally. I mean to portray the dichotomy present in every born-again believer of indwelling sin and the alien righteousness of Christ. There is a real tension in which believers are fully pure and righteous through the imputed righteousness of Christ. Whereby we are no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ and become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17); while also remaining actual sinners and captive in a temporary sense to sin in our flesh. Martin Luther referred to this reality as “Simul Justus et Peccator” meaning at the same time righteous and sinner. The Apostle Paul well into his ministry expressed this tension which he saw present in his own life like this:
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:19–25 (ESV)
Reading those words should bring the believer peace knowing that we are not alone when we fall short of the standard we’re called to keep. Christians are called to a far higher standard then we’re even able to actually attain to; we’re called to perfection! We’re called to a standard of perfection that is Holy as God himself is Holy. This is a huge dilemma for the human race at large, because how can we who can’t even keep our own crooked and corrupted standards, uphold and meet the standards of the Flawless, Perfect, Holy God? Short answer: WE CAN’T! We sin as christians, and we sin often. We think lustful thoughts, we feel hatred and covetousness, we’re unloving to our spouse, we lie and make selfish excuses, we curse and lash out in anger. We all like Paul find ourselves saying “wretched man that I am”. Yet, though we sin we now hate the sin we commit. We wage war against sin, and we confess that sin is present all the while yearning for the day when we will be freed from it forever. This Dichotomy is present in all Christians: indwelling sin and the new creation.
Exposed From My Hiding Place
It seems that in the process of progressive sanctification in my own life, I find myself at times regressing where I ought to be growing exponentially. Last week was one of those weeks for me. Last Sunday I had just released my first blog post for TIP, and was feeling accomplished and encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive feedback. Not to mention, earlier that morning we were thoroughly encouraged by our Pastor’s sermon and were looking for ways to apply God’s word during the week. It happened as we were sitting at home that evening , that my wife noticed a post on Facebook by someone who I didn’t follow. The post seemingly attempted to take a shot at my efforts through this blog to build up the Body of Christ (whether that was the person’s actual intent or not we may never know). My wife became angered about this post and wanted to private message this individual to perhaps “address their motives”. I asked to see the post so she showed it to me, I urged her to leave it alone since it was of no harm. However after pressing me for a bit, I consented to allow her to privately message said individual. That was my first mistake since I acted passively with my wife, instead of reinforcing my original desire that we both forget it and move on. One thing led to another through these private messages, and before you know it I felt that this individual had crossed the line toward my wife. I naturally took it upon myself to call them, and it wasn’t long before I allowed my sinful anger to get the best of me. We went back and forth with choice words, saying less then helpful or constructive things to one another. By the time I hung up the phone I felt like an absolute hypocrite! Sure, I called the individual’s pastor and confessed that I sinned as well as they, and I went also to the LORD and repented for my actions and words. Yet, this didn’t change the fact that I chose to allow my sin to control me. I came out from my hiding place, which is Christ, and responded as a heathen! Did I lose my salvation? Of course not! Did I lose a brother? Perhaps, and maybe a sister. Here the law of sin present in my members was clearly seen, and in the place where I thought I had matured, God showed me through exposing this that I still have unbridled anger to deal with. Sanctification does not occur instantly, rather it occurs progressively. God’s Justification whereby he declares us righteous is instant and complete. Yet The Holy Spirit’s Sanctification in our lives is progressive and over time. This is God’s mercy to us, for if he revealed to us all our sin at once we would be despairing beyond any hope. It is this very reason that we have moments when it seems we’ve grown in a particular area, and yet find that we easily revert back to immaturity as it were. It is not that we haven’t grown in that area, it’s that we are being progressively grown to greater depths. I can be tempted to fall into condemnation when this occurs, and maybe you can too. I’d only encourage you to remember this:
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
Hidden With Christ: A Righteousness Not Our Own
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1–4 (ESV)
The blessed hope of every believer is that we will never be condemned for all our sinning. We will never come under the wrath of God for our egregious blasphemies. However, lest we think that God has excused our sinning or is indifferent toward our unrighteousness. Lest we believe that He will judge everyone on a curve or hand out some “get out of jail free” cards to otherwise well meaning individuals. Let us look intently at the sufferings of Christ! Let us see the Spotless Lamb of God without blemish or wrinkle, bear in His own body on the Cross, the Wrath of Almighty God for our sinning. What I mean by a righteousness not our own, is what theologians call “The Great Exchange”. Where God placed our sin and unrighteousness on Christ who is Very God of Very God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, the chosen Messiah of Yahweh, and placed on us His Perfect Righteousness. There are only two ways to pay for sin, either in hell for all eternity, or by Christ’s Atoning work at Calvary. In our daily living we wage war with our own sin, all awhile reminded by The Holy Spirit that we have died with Christ. If indeed we have died then we have also been raised with Him. It is they who have been raised with Christ who seek the things that are above, it is they also who set their minds on things that are above. They also, who have been raised with Christ testify with the psalmist:
Whom have I in heaven but you?And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25–26 (ESV)
So although this dichotomy is in us, let us press on to remember that we have died and our life is now hidden with Christ. Our identity is found in the Son of God, through whom we have been given newness of life. We wear robes of righteousness but they’re not our own robes, it’s a borrowed righteousness from Christ himself. When the accuser would judge you and hypocrisy befit you, don’t come running out from your hiding place, rather press in further to the Son of God who is your life. Sin no doubt will be seen in you until you’re off to glory, but repentance and grace will always follow as necessary consequences of being hidden with Christ. If repentance from sin is found lacking in your own life, look intently through scripture at your own heart and examine yourself to see if you are truly of the FAITH. Press on brothers and sisters, and strive toward the holiness without which no one shall see the LORD. Do this all by faith knowing all your righteousness is not your own, but belongs to the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you. So yes, all Christians are hypocrites. Yet they’re redeemed and rescued hypocrites, who place no confidence in themselves. You’re welcome to join this assembly of Saint’s with all your hypocrisy also. Confessing your need for the Savior and renouncing all your wickedness, you too will receive Robes of Righteousness not your own. Then you too will be summoned to be Hidden with Christ forevermore!
Steps for Application
So this can all seem effective in theory and perhaps even encouraging as spiritual rhetoric. Yet I intend to make this palpable and practical to daily living. If you find that your war on indwelling sin personally is more like a surrender then a fight, take courage for there is hope in Christ! I recommend taking these 5 Steps to help you in your progressive sanctification, they’ll help you prove that you are indeed hidden with Christ!
- Confess your sins regularly to your spouse and/or a mature brother/sister or elder. (Don’t hide your sins, we all have them, you’ll do well to expose them to mature believers and ultimately repent of them)
- Pray privately to God for at least 5 to 10 min a day (or more, but start with attainable goals)
- Read the scriptures daily (at least 10 to 15 min. or more, the psalms and epistles are always helpful starting points)
- Listen to biblically saturated, gospel centered podcasts. (Fill your mind and heart with Truth)
- Take inventory of your entertainment streams, (i.e. social media, movies, music, tv, etc.) Cut out the things that tempt you toward disengagement from God’s Word and God’s people, the Church.
Though these 5 things are by no means a guarantee that sin will be easily defeated. They will aid you in developing new habits that lead you to Christ who is the one who conquers and liberates you from all sin. Press on toward the upward call of God!