A Christian Paradox


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“If this work of grace had taken place then, they said, one great overriding result would follow, that is, the man would have a deep and continually deepening sense of sin.”[1]

The Christian life is one that includes a number is deep and powerful paradoxes. One which I encounter often in counselling others, has to do with the quote above by G. A. Hemming.

Somewhere, somehow in Church Culture, there has grown up among us, inherent to our Christian ethos – the idea that the more one grows in Christ – the LESS they feel and consciously need to grapple with their remaining sinfulness. That if we are really mature in Him, we’ll have less and less need to think about, wrestle with and confront the remnants of indwelling sin.

The Puritans knew better.

In their dealing with the souls of those under their charge, especially those troubled about the assurance of their salvation – they counted it as a foregone conclusion, that one “great overriding result” of genuine saving faith, is that the true Believer has a “deep and CONTINUALLY DEEPENING sense of sin.” (Emphases mine).

Did you get that?

The mature Believer doesn’t get LESS sin conscious, they get MORE sin conscious.

It is a plague among us that some who have professed faith in Christ, and claim to have walked with Him for many years, grow less sin-conscious. As though they have somehow actually killed some aspect of sin and no longer feel its pull or accede to its wishes.

This is nothing less than pharisaical self-delusion.

The closer one comes to light, the MORE their blemishes and spots appear, not less.

The more we walk with Christ, and the Word by the Spirit continues to re-train our consciences, the more aware we are that our sin is deeper, more covert and more deadly than we thought when we began.

Like peeling back the layers of an onion, the superficial sins which once troubled us so, may be shed, but the systemic remnant of sin is found to be far more acrid the deeper we go. Less observable from the outside perhaps, more subtle to the naked eye, but now seen as rooted in the sinful motivations, thoughts, opinions and frameworks that no one else can see – but the Holy Spirit alone.

It is why The Psalmist pleads that the Spirit search his heart. For his “hands” may be clean, when all the while, his soul is rife with bitterness, resentment, doubt, self-love, self-righteousness, self-reliance, malice, prejudice, blindness, and incorrigible lust, greed, envy and the such like.

Believer, if you are growing duller and duller toward your own sin – RUN! Run back to the unsparing eye of the Righteous Judge and plead that He may reveal your sinfulness to you, that you might acknowledge it, own it and be granted repentance from it.

Nothing is so insidious as the sin we are unaware of.

Believer, if your sin is becoming more and more evident to you – you are in a good place. Run in your naked foulness to the One alone who can clothe you with His righteousness.

Know that fresh realities of sin are fresh visitations of the Spirit as He labors to free you from the bondage of them.

The True Believer isn’t the one who has achieved some self-deluded level of Christian perfection.

But the one who is humbly bowed before the Cross continually – trusting in Jesus the Christ, who justifies the ungodly.

 

[1] G. A. Hemming, “The Puritans’ Dealings with Troubled Souls,” in Puritan Papers: 1956–1959 (ed. J. I. Packer; vol. 1; Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2000), 132.

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