Pressing On: Sin Boldly.

The following is a guest post by Tyler Recker.

“Be a sinner and sin boldly,  but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.” -Martin Luther

Shocking… What did he mean?

I was supposed to lead a little devotion in one of my Bible college classes where I had intended to plead with the other men and women in my class to see the Cross as the means of all of our salvation: our justification (the initial conversion), our sanctification (the lifelong process of growing closer to Jesus), and our glorification (the triumphant ending where we get to go be with Jesus). Unfortunately, the professor changed our usual way of doing things.

For far too long in the South, Protestants have defended the doctrine of Salvation by Faith vehemently, while minimizing “salvation” to refer to justification alone. A more holistic view of salvation includes justification, sanctification, and glorification all as being accomplished by the Cross.

In other words (setting theological jargon aside), for too long, we have viewed the work of Christ on the Cross as the object of our faith for entering the Christian life, and not for living out the Christian life. So, we pray the prayer and believe the Gospel to start the life, and then, like the “foolish Galatians”, fall into works-based way of thinking soon after. Salvation is all accomplished for us by the Cross, and not by works.

Wayne Grudem offers a helpful visual for understanding salvation that I have quite roughly recreated.

Biblically, we are born in sin (Eph. 2, Rom. 1), so the often repeated “I’ve been a Christian all my life” is really quite heretical (see the heresy called Pelagianism). As non-believers, everything that we do is clouded in sin (Romans 14:31). However, at the moment of faith, when we are regenerated by the Spirit of God, we become “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and our “heart of stone” becomes “a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26), and we are “no longer slaves to sin” (Romans 6:17-18), hence the jump depicted on the visual.

Thus begins the lifelong process of sanctification (growing more and more like Jesus). In the short-term, we have ups and downs, but the long term view of the person who is genuinely saved shows progress. Biblically, there is no such thing as a saving faith that doesn’t affect the way you live (1 John, James 2). However, unlike the teaching that I grew up with, and unlike the implied position of many self-righteous we’ve all come in contact with, we never reach perfection in this life.

It is not until the moment we die (or the moment Jesus comes back) that we are entirely free from the fleshly influence of sin, and are perfected.

To close with, I would like to share another helpful visual specifically dealing with the Sancatification process. (This visual I am stealing from Darrin Patrick of The Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Again, this is roughly recreated and mildly adapted.)

The Christian life of growing is constantly one of realizing new layers of your own depravity (like peeling back layers of an onion). As we grow closer to Jesus, we realize that, for example, it’s not just that I behave badly towards others, but my heart motivations are evil. In other words, we are always worse off than we know.

Patrick says that this process is similar to a trampoline in that the more force you jump down with the more force you must bounce up with.

Because of the Cross.

True, our depravity goes deeper than we realize, but because of the Cross, we must recognize that His grace and power to save is always sufficient. Because of the Cross.  We must recognize that his Cross is more mighty than we know.

So, yes, we must recognize our own depravity (lest we become self-righteous), but we also must recognize the grace accomplished for us at the Cross (lest we wallow in sin in despair and depression).

Because of the Cross.

Not because you earned it, but because of the Cross.

That’s what Luther means:

“Be a sinner and sin boldly,  but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.” -Martin Luther

He’s not prescribing that you sin. He is saying “when you recognize the reality that you are a sinner, recognize the reality that Christ is your savior even more.”

Because of the Cross.

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2 thoughts on “Pressing On: Sin Boldly.

  1. I think that sometimes the working out of our salvation feels like it should go faster because we are comparing ourselves to the outward appearance of other believers. We fail to rest in what God is calling us to live and the conviction that the Holy Spirit is bringing because we feel like we are failing if we do not meet some random standard, usually set by the general society we frequent.

    I have experienced the most amazing lesson from the Father in the last 4 years. I am a warty, messed up person. I must first own that in its ugly entirety before I can ever relinquish my failings to God for His Spirit to come and take its place. I have to learn to love the failing, broken me as Christ does; with eyes to the glory of God never the indulgence of sin.

  2. Pingback: Pressing On: Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Ineffective Christian « Roots Run Deep

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