7.18.2010

I Just Saw 1 John 1:8 Happen

I am more and more baffled, astounded, confused, and amazed by Jesus Christ and all who he is as I catch glimpses into the depths of the sin of myself and others. The first thing I am amazed by is the sheer seeming impossibility that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would love sinners. When you even begin to truly experience and understand what sin truly is, you will always be blown away. I cannot emphasize this point enough (and trust me, I am writing with a heavy heart and baffled mind right now...if you were with me and I were conversing with you I would either be yelling or weeping as I told you of these things). And yet, a most strange thought has happened to arrive at my mind's door, and it is this:
"There is no pit so deep but Christ is deeper still."
I only recall that quote from Ray Ortlund's blog. He is quoting Corrie Ten Boom.

The deeps of my sin is eclipsed and swallowed by the deeps of Christ' righteousness and love. The well of your sin and mine combined, yea, if the whole world's sins were added into one great well, this would be but a drop in the ocean of Jesus' cleansing blood.
"[5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. [8] If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
(1 John 1:5-8)
"I don't consider myself a sinner."
 - Someone I know very closely
This person, who will remain anonymous, is blinded by the devil. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) I confronted this person with the truth of the gospel, that "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:6)

I am simply shocked, drained, saddened, and yet not surprised by this reaction. I am in great pain because is seems to me that in my multiple conversations with this person, I always end in a confrontation of similar sorts. I am accused of calling names "according to my book" and decrying others for not knowing the Gospel.If a person cannot explain the Gospel, no, if a person cannot understand the Gospel, how can they be a partaker in it? It is my firm conviction that God enlightens the eyes of the sinner to see Jesus and what he did, how he accomplished salvation. Of course I do not believe that being able to articulate substitutionary penal atonement, expiation, propitiation and the other bedrock theological doctrines in a clear manner are requirements for salvation. The early church fathers failed to present a clear picture often of these doctrines! Yet, I am befuddled to how a person who claims to be a Christian will not know the definition of grace.

This person to whom I was talking to asked me what "grace" meant after this person heard a song that stated "we come not by works, but by grace alone." I challenged the person to think this through and try to give me their thoughts before I replied. A response was slowly stalling and silence crept in so I asked, "What does grace mean?"

"Prayer?"

"No."

"Blessing?" I hesitated, because I thought that the grace of God was indeed the greatest blessing that has ever been given to men, but I knew this was not in the other person's thoughts. They thought that grace was something that happened before meals. I imagine I will only have a greater disdain for the improper use of vocabulary when I inevitably encounter someone "saying grace" before a meal.

"Grace is unmerited favor," I replied. More silence. The hymn which began this conversation kept playing, but the confused hush drowned out the voices of praise.

I further broke down "merit" and "favor" to the point which I could not go any further. I think I concluded with "grace is when God gives us something we don't deserve."

What baffles me most is that this person has been attending a biblical church for the past 1.5 years on Sundays alone, and yet a definition of grace cannot be given. Pastors, I have one question that comes from my desperation: What are you actually teaching? I ask this not out of anger, but rather from a maddening desperation for the biblical truth of the Bible to be preached! I could enter into a rant on the church in America right now, and I think it would be well fitting, but that is not my topic for this post.

From this point of thinking and determining what is really going on here, I conclude it mus be one of the three following scenarios or a variation thereof:
  1. I am wrong, this person is a Christian, but they are intellectually dull and very immature in their Christian life.
  2. This person is deceived by the devil, is still in "the darkness" as 1 John 1 describes, and they do not have the truth in them.
  3. I cannot draw a firm conclusion here for the spiritual realities of salvation are too mysterious and we cannot truly tell who has been born again and become a true Christian and who has not.
I am convinced that the second is true even though (because) the person in question has indeed shown anger and cruelty to me for explaining this possibility to them. It must either be this or I must have my thinking completely wrong and I must then never, ever take a judgment as to who is a Christian and who is not.

What shall I conclude? Sinners will hate the realities of salvation and the gospel. I have always been fond of saying, "Nobody like to be called a sinner."

Please pray for me that I might always be able to speak the truth in love amidst my crooked intellectual bent and at times obstinate insistence on proper communication...in other words, pray the gospel to be poured out from me even though I am a snobbish, prideful, unkind communicator.

Pray for the hardness of sinners hearts and that it may be shattered by the regenerating, life-giving love of the one true God.

A final, penultimate thought: I will be utterly and fiercely opposed to any teaching that resembles Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism for the rest of my life. I cannot accept the thought that a person can choose God after I have experienced the realities of sin and moreover seen them presented clearly in the holy scriptures.

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