Run from Sin
You will never understand your struggle with sin unless you grasp that, at its very bottom, sin is a heart problem. It’s not first a problem of bad behavior, although it always goes there. It’s not first an external temptation problem, although it causes us to give in to temptation’s draw. It’s not first a location or situation problem, although it expresses itself there. Sin is a matter of the heart. Let me explain what this means.
The Bible uses many terms for the inner, spiritual, thoughtful, desiring, motivational you, but all those terms are gathered together and summarized by one big collective term: heart. It is one of the most often used terms in the Bible. In fact, I am persuaded that you cannot understand the transforming message of the Bible unless you understand this term. Here’s a definition to carry with you as you read your Bible: the heart is the causal core of your personhood. It’s the seat of your thoughts, emotions, desires, and motivations. It is the worship center of your self. The heart is the reason you do the things you do and say the things you say. You and I literally live out of our hearts.
Sin lives in our hearts, and because it does, it corrupts our thoughts, desires, choices, and motivations. We were created to be servants of God, but sin makes us lovers of self. We were made to worship the Creator, but sin causes us to worship the creation. We were designed to live for God’s glory, but sin causes us to make life all about our own glory. And unless these things change in our hearts, our behavior won’t change at all, or if it does change, it won’t change for very long.
No amount of commitment to self-reformation will change your heart. No amount of work to alter bad habits will change your heart. No amount of beating yourself up with guilt and shame will change your heart. No running from certain situations, locations, and relationships has the power to change your heart. You can’t run from sin because you cannot run from you. The most outrageous acts of penance in the world are powerless to do what needs to be done—radically transform your heart.
So you and I are left with only one final option. It is the only choice that makes sense; everything else is insanity. And we need to do this again and again until we don’t need to do it anymore. We need to run to the grace of Jesus. Run for forgiveness. Run for power. Run for transformation. Run for deliverance. Run! Run! Run! Don’t ever stop running to grace until Jesus has taken you home to a place where you need to run no more.
How Faith Propels Us
God hasn’t just forgiven you—praise him that he has—but he has also called you to a brand-new way of living. He has called you to live by faith. Now, here’s the rub. Faith is not normal for us. Faith is frankly a counterintuitive way for us to live. Doubt is quite natural for us. Wondering what God is doing is natural. It’s normal to think your life is harder than that of others. Envying the life of someone else is natural. Wishing life were easier and that you had more control is natural. It’s typical for you and me to try to figure out the future. Worry is natural. Fear is natural. Wanting to give up is natural. It’s natural to wonder if all of your good habits make a difference in the end. It’s normal to be occasionally haunted by the question of whether what you have staked your life on is really true. But faith isn’t natural.
Not only is your salvation a gift of God, but the faith to embrace it is his gift as well.
This means that faith isn’t something you can work up inside yourself. Faith comes to you as God’s gift of grace: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Not only is your salvation a gift of God, but the faith to embrace it is his gift as well. But here is what you need to understand: God not only gives you the grace to believe for your salvation, but he also works to enable you to live by faith. If you are living by faith, you know that you have been visited by powerful transforming grace, because that way of living just isn’t normal for you and me. If your way of living is no longer based on what your eyes can see and your mind can understand, but on God’s presence, promises, principles, and provisions, it is because God has crafted faith in you.
Could it be that all of those things that come your way that confuse you and that you never would’ve chosen for yourself are God’s tools to build your faith? By progressive transforming grace, he is enabling you to live the brand-new life he calls all of his children to live—the Godward life for which you were created. You don’t have to hide in guilt when weak faith gets you off the path, because your hope in life isn’t your faithfulness, but his. You can run in weakness and once again seek his strength. And you can know that in zealous grace he will not leave his craftwork until faith fully rules your heart unchallenged. He always gives freely what we need in order to do what he has called us to do.
This article is adapted from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp.
Mourning acknowledges that the world is not the way God meant it to be. Mourning cries out for God’s redeeming, restoring hand.
As sinners in need of grace, we can find comfort and rest knowing that God’s mercy toward us is new at the break of each day.
The more you understand the magnitude of God’s grace, the more accurate will be your view of the depth of your unrighteousness; and the more you understand the depth of your unrighteousness, the more you will appreciate the magnitude of God’s gift of grace.
Christians live in the painful paradox of salvation begun but not completed.