|Robe of Righteousness, by Lars Justinen
This is a story of how Jesus and God and the Spirit worked in my life this week. I attend a Wednesday night prayer meeting/bible study. We read through a book of the bible a verse at a time. There is no curriculum except for the bible. We have a good teacher. Our teacher allows discussion and comment after he introduces us to the verses and explains.
Last week we looked at Romans 12:9-
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good
This week we looked at Romans 12:14-
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
I find both of those verses very difficult to adhere to the way I should.
About three years ago I started praying for the Spirit to ramp up my sanctification and for Him to grow me in spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22-23), especially love. I had no clue how hard it would be. This is because of my own flesh.
My prayer was more like,
“I think I got this, but just in case I don’t, and I’m only hedging my bets here because really, I’m OK, would you just drip a little note in my heart to help me inch along? Thanks so much.”
And if I was an Old Testament prophet and could hear God reply, it would be like this:
“I will do what you ask. You are not OK. As a matter of fact, you’re a lot worse than you think. Come, I’ll show you. Repeatedly. For three years. You’re welcome.”
And so every morning I’d pray to the Holy Spirit to give me strength to love the way the verse says we should love our enemies. And every day I’d fail. Some days I’d compound my sinful failure with grumbling and hatred in my heart.
And every day I’d come home in tears and sit at my table and repent.
Rinse. Repeat. I felt like my own nation of Israel with all the rebellion, repentance disobedience, and repentance cycles. I learned a lot though.
–I really AM worse than I think. Depravity goes so deep I can’t see the bottom of it,
–I disobey God all the time.
–Every time I repented sincerely, and I did, I felt terrible over my sin, He forgave 70 X 70 times,
–He grew me in all the ways I needed it,
–His grace is one of the most magnificent gifts humankind ever received, therefore my gratitude grew.
So now I have a new opportunity to learn to love the way the bible says to love our enemies. With this new opportunity, maybe I’m a little wiser this time than the last time. Maybe I can love more genuinely and better than I loved before. Since sanctification is ever in-process and won’t be complete until I die, there’s no coasting. This new opportunity began one month after the other situation resolved itself. And so it goes.
Yes I’m a lot worse than I think. But now I know God is a lot better than I think, too.
I wrote the above to my teacher after the class. I usually keep thinking about what was taught all night and all the next day and all week. I do try to take the lessons to heart and to participate with the Spirit in sanctification, meditating on His word as Psalm 1:2 says to do. Sometimes I share these follow-up thoughts with my teacher so he can guide me.
As I went on from composing and sending it, I got a bit despondent over my failures. It’s heartbreaking to sin and I abhor it and earnestly strive to please my Savior. Sighing and flipping to the next open tab on my browser, I saw this on Twitter.
“A Christian’s life may be attended with many and exceedingly great imperfections, and yet be a holy life.” ~Jonathan Edwards
“Hey!” I thought, “that is a exactly what I’ve been worrying about! Let me follow up on that to find what book or sermon it’s taken from.”
The things tweeted online and attributed to a particular person are often wrongly attributed. Validation is the first order. Context is the second.
I found that it was indeed a quote from Edwards and it was taken from a series of 16 sermons preached to his Northhampton congregation titled “Christian Love, As Manifested in the Heart and Life“
Wow. Very applicable to our discussion in bible study night and my continuing thoughts today. I downloaded the book. LOL his 16 sermons wound up being 505 pages.
The larger context surrounding the tweeted quote is this from Edwards’ sermon:
Christian, the meaning is not, that the life is a perfect and sinless life. On the contrary, a Christian’s life may be attended with many and exceeding great imperfections, and yet be a holy life, or a truly Christian life. It may be such a life as to clearly, and even necessarily show, that the grace which the individual has, is of the kind which has a tendency to holy practice. His fruits may be such as to be good evidence of the good nature of the tree, and his works such as to show his faith.
And if you ask for still further light, then I would say, whatever your imperfections and failings may be, examine yourself whether you find the following evidences of your grace being of that kind which tends to holy practice.
First: Has your supposed grace such influence, as to render those things in which you have failed of holy practice loathsome grievous and humbling to you? Has it such influence in your mind as to render your past sinful practices hateful in your eyes, and has it led you to mourn before God for them? And does it render those things in your conduct that since your supposed conversion have been contrary to Christian practice, odious in your eyes? And is it the great burden of your life, that your practice is no better? Is it really grievous to you, that you have fallen, or do fall into sin; and are you ready, after the example of holy Job, to abhor yourself for it, and repent in dust and ashes, and like Paul to lament your wretchedness, and pray to be delivered from sin, as you would from a body of death?
Second: Do you carry about with you habitually a dread of sin? Do you not only mourn, and humble yourself for sins that are past, but have you a dread of sin for the future? And do you dread it because in itself it is evil, and so hurtful to your own soul, and offensive to God? Do you dread it as a terrible enemy that you have often suffered by, and feel that it has been a grievous thing to you heretofore? And do you dread it as something that has hurt, and wounded, and stung you, so that you would see it no more? Do you stand on your watch against it, as a man would keep watch against something that he dreads, with such a dread as led Joseph to cry “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis xxxix. 9.
Third: Are you sensible of the beauty and pleasantness of the ways of holy practice? Do you see the beauty of holiness, and the loveliness of the ways of God and Christ?
His comfort and His manifold grace is beyond what words can express. I will never be sinless in practice. Yet by His grace I will have a tendency toward higher holy living, and will have an ever growing hatred of sin. What just happened this morning was a moment of real comfort- a manifestation of this verse
2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Is there any doubt Jesus is an ever-present friend in our lives? That the Spirit is daily growing us and comforting us because He knows us better than we do ourselves? And that the Word is living and active?
Why do people seek superficial miracles when the miracle of how VERY PRESENT He is in our lives is so lastingly precious? How can I not love this Jesus with all my strength and soul and mind, and not seek to follow His ways?
Brother or sister, take comfort in knowing beyond knowing that Jesus is with you every step of the way. His grace IS sufficient.
Above: Depiction of the Holy Spirit dove (ceiling fresco in St. Charles’s Church, Vienna, 1700’s). Public Domain