Theme: Positive Christianity
by Steve Cawthorn
“Wretched man that I am!”
This exclamation of the admitted ”chief of sinners” expresses a misery felt by all who have honestly faced their spiritual plight. Not only are we plagued by the burning guilt of our past sins, but we find ourselves frustratingly helpless in trying to resist present temptations. In our minds, we intend to do good and avoid bad. But in practice, we often do the opposite. With Paul, ”that which I do I know not; for not what I would,that do I practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15).
Does this description of the slave to sin sound all too familiar to you? Have you ever determined to quit some sin only to find yourself again entangled in it? And even when you try not to think about it, doesn’t that haunting guilt feeling eventually work its way into your conscience? What misery! What utter agony! What wretchedness!
In this predicament, the Bible declares that Christ is the answer. First of all, Christ is the answer to the problem of guilt. The law of Moses was only an illumination and a reminder of sin. That law was holy and righteous and good. but it could not take away sin. It merely defined sin. Its animal sacrifices simply reminded people of their need for an offering which could do what the blood of bulls and goats could not do—take away sin once and for all. Of Christ, the Scripture declares, “But now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26), So now there is good news. Repentance and remission of sins is proclaimed in the name of Jesus Christ, Everyone who believes and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16). Sins are blotted out. The guilty are acquitted.
But that’s only part of our problem. Even when we have “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and . . . our body washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22), what is to prevent our hearts from being defiled again? What is to keep our cleansed bodies from returning to the filth of sin? After all, does not the same selfish spirit which brought me to such wretchedness still live in my body? If, after I have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am again entangled therein and overcome, will not the last state be worse than the first”! (2 Peter 2:20)
Again, Christ is the answer. ln His death, burial and resurrection, He not only provided for the remission of my sins, He showed me how to quit living in sin. “All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.” “Our old man was crucified with him that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin” (Romans 6:3-4,6).
In order to become a Christian, one must die. He must put the old self to death — crucify him. Christianity demands self-denial. Thus with the old mind of the flesh out of the way, the Spirit of God dwells in you. The Christian has put his own will to death. Instead of being prompted by his own lusts and desires, he is now motivated by the will of Christ. And the pitiful cry, “Wretched man that I am!” is replaced with the joyful declaration, ”I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me; and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
When a Christian commits a sin, it is because he has temporarily denied Christ’s rule in his life. When he penitently confesses this, he is forgiven (1 John 1:9). Christ remains his Advocate with the Father. He is still the propitiation for our sins. He is still the answer. If you feel that you are righteous, that your life has been in keeping with the perfect will of God, and that you are worthy of eternal life, Christ cannot help you. He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He is the physician, not for the healthy, but for the sick. But if you are honest enough to acknowledge your own spiritual wretchedness, and humble enough to seek deliverance from your bondage to sin, then for you, Christ is the answer.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE JANUARY, 1984