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DayBreaks for 2/13/15: Just Not Very Much From the DayBreaks archive, February 2005:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (1 John 2:1)
John was a man of strong passions. He is known by the nick-name of “Old Camel Knees” because he loved prayer so much that his knees were calloused and cracked from time spent on his knees. He is also known as the apostle of love because of his tender letters and his focus on our need to love one another. But John had another passion, and it was part of what prompted him to write his letter: that the recipients of his letter would STOP sinning. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that the apostle of love was so insistent about our not sinning. Sin is sin because it is rebellion directed at a heart of Love, God’s heart.
But while all that may be true, we’d miss the point of John’s writing if we don’t meditate on the verse quoted above. We can argue all we want about whether or not it is possible for a Christian to not sin, but after all, we’re told that with every temptation there’s a way of escape, right? Doesn’t that logically mean that we should be able to be without sin? So, is the result of our sin our failure to appropriate the power of the Spirit to keep us from sinning? Probably so. But that’s not really what I want to focus on right now.
Think about this: what is your goal for your own personal holiness? Is it the same as John had for those who would read his letter: “…that you will not sin”? In his wonderful book, the classic, The Practice of Holiness, Jerry Bridges asked himself that question and came up with this response: “…I realize that my personal life’s objective regarding holiness was less than that of John’s. He was saying, in effect, ‘Make it your aim not to sin.’ As I thought about this, I realized that deep within my heart my real aim was not to sin very much.”
Ouch, ouch, ouch! I don’t know about you, but I’ve got those sins that I know I need to get rid of, but they continue to plague me. Could it be because I really don’t want to stop them? That I cherish them just a bit too much, so they are the exceptions to personal holiness that I allow in my life? Perhaps I, like Jerry Bridges, haven’t had the right goal: to NOT sin, rather than to not sin very much, and certainly not in a public way!
Does the goal matter? You bet. Bridges goes on to use an illustration of a soldier going into battle, a life or death setting. What’s his/her goal? To not get hit? Or, to not get hit very much? You see the point. We are in a battle. It is a life or death situation. Jonathan Edwards, one of the great preachers of early American history, made lots of resolutions, but perhaps this one was the best: “Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” Bridges concludes: “There is no point in praying for victory over temptation if we are not willing to make a commitment to say ‘no’ to it.”
What’s your personal holiness goal?
PRAYER: God, we need to take our sin more seriously…and to also rest in Your mercy and grace for the times we do yield to our temptation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
© 2015, Galen C. Dalrymple.
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