Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.
Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of[a] their power comes to nothing.
– Proverbs 11:4-7
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
– Romans 6:8-12
“I cannot save and sanctify myself; I cannot make atonement for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot right what is wrong, purify what is impure, or make holy what is unholy. That is all the sovereign work of God. Do I have faith in what Jesus Christ has done? He has made the perfect atonement for sin. Am I in the habit of constantly realizing it? The greatest need we have is not to do things, but to believe things. The redemption of Christ is not an experience, it is the great act of God which He has performed through Christ, and I have to build my faith on it. If I construct my faith on my own experience, I produce the most unscriptural kind of life— an isolated life, with my eyes focused solely on my own holiness. Beware of that human holiness that is not based on the atonement of the Lord. It has no value for anything except a life of isolation— it is useless to God and a nuisance to man. Measure every kind of experience you have by our Lord Himself. We cannot do anything pleasing to God unless we deliberately build on the foundation of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
“The atonement of Jesus must be exhibited in practical, unassuming ways in my life. Every time I obey, the absolute deity of God is on my side, so that the grace of God and my natural obedience are in perfect agreement. Obedience means that I have completely placed my trust in the atonement, and my obedience is immediately met by the delight of the supernatural grace of God.
“Beware of the human holiness that denies the reality of the natural life— it is a fraud. Continually bring yourself to the trial or test of the atonement and ask, ‘Where is the discernment of the atonement in this, and in that?’”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Whatever we do, we do within a sinful body with a sinful mind. All our experience is tainted with sin. Haha Lung wrote, “There’s no such thing as altruism. No such thing as a truly selfless act. We always get paid, one way or another.” Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that the unselfish act is impossible, because there is an underlying self-centered motivation that is at the root of the act.
That may sound cynical, and I admit that I go down that road at times, but we live in a sinful world. We are saved by Grace, but that does not mean that we live sinless lives. We still screw up. Take the Scripture above and continue reading into Romans 7 where the Apostle Paul laments that he does not do what he ought and does do what he does not want to do. We can debate the truly altruistic act until the cows come home, but my point is that we need spiritual eyeglasses to be able to see the Truth in the first place, and all we seem to do is get smudges on the glasses that we receive.
When you get to my age, you understand smudges on glasses. You can see, but is that a 5 or a 6? Rats! I dialed another wrong number.
So, how do we become more like Jesus? Jesus provided the glasses, we can trust Him to provide an endless supply of the eyeglass cleaner. We can do nothing without Him. When I get that through my thick head, I will make a lot less mistakes. Is there anyone else out there in that boat with me?
So, if we cannot see the forest of a sinless life for the sinful trees that are in our way, what are we to do? In all our experience, we can only find flawed examples of those who came close.
What we need is faith beyond experience. We are saved by faith, but faith isn’t simply a ticket inside the gates of Heaven, faith is our means of taking the next step toward Jesus, and the next, and the next.
If we were to walk down the path of righteousness, as Proverbs 11 suggests, we must turn away from sin, as Romans 6 suggests. But we should never blindly follow a human example, as Proverbs 11:7 states.
We can only follow Jesus. Yet, He walked around Galilee, Judea, and Samaria 2000 years ago. That leaves us with God’s Word. It also leaves us with following the prompting of the Holy Spirit. If we take God at His Word, we can take that next step.
The “trust fall” is where you fall backwards and trust that others will catch you.
Taking a step in faith requires us to do the same thing, but move forward, instead of backward. Trying to do it on our own, we could take a step backward and then step out in a different direction. Come on. Think about it. There cannot be that many options. But we only fool ourselves that we are making any progress at all.
Trust in God. Only through faith beyond anything that we can experience will we see true sanctification.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.