Four Comforts from Christopher Love
Imagine a young man who has come to know Christ. He reads through Romans. Coming upon Romans 6:7 he learns, “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” This sounds good; yet, he is not certain that he is actually all that free. While he thinks Romans 7 has something to do with, he stumbles badly at Romans 8:13:
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
That begins to worry him. Even the promises at the end of the chapter seem beyond him, because he still finds sin dwelling with him. The promises, he reasons, are for those who have put to death the deeds of the body.
He then reads Colossians. In Colossians 3:5 he finds a command to “put to death …what is earthly in you.” As reads through the list of sins to be done away, he realizes that not only has not put these to death, he actually engages in these sins.
Peter first epistle does not help either. In fact, 1 Peter 1:15-17 positively terrify him:
15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile ….
I am not speaking of the one who cares little for sin or holiness. There are too many who think the word “Grace” means “get out of jail free.” This sort thinks that Jesus died to free them to sin with a clear conscience. Rather than freeing them from the power of sin, they think themselves free to plunge into a torrent of sin. Sure, perhaps some-one act or another troubles their conscience – but that is the same for any unbeliever. Only the most debased have no remnant of conscience.
I am speaking to the tender hearted Christian who sincerely desires holiness, but cannot seem to find it. He is troubled by a pained conscience and verges on despair over the continued presence of sin.
There are two things needed for such a one: First, he must be taught the correct means of sanctification. Such a one has read Romans 8:13 and has missed the key provision If by the Spirit ….It is as if he read, If by your own willpower you put to death …. God never laid such a burden on his children. No, the Spirit doe the work of killing sin – but more on that elsewhere.
The second thing needed by this young man is encouragement. For this point, Christopher Love supplies four comforts:
The stirring and rising of corruptions in the heart may yet be consistent with true mortification. The very lust that is mortified may make a great deal of stir and rising in the soul….It is the same with many birds: after their heads are pulled off they flutter more strongly than ever before [ever hear about a “Chicken with its head cut off.”].
The hypocrite, the rebellious, the sinful could all point to this and say, Yes – that is me! Therefore, Love offers two tests.
Is it true that
When corruptions stir in you, so [also] your resolutions and strivings against these sins and humiliations for them stir in you too?
Is it true that
After such turbulent stirrings and struggling of sin in your heart, these corruptions grow weaker and weaker?
This indeed is a good means to encourage the one lacks assurance: When you look back over the course of your entire Christian life, do you see a progress in sanctification? Do not consider a moment by moment course, rather look at the overarching movement.
An illustration by Jack Hughes may help here: Imagine someone walking a small, poorly trained dog on a long lease. At any given moment, the dog may be running forward, backwards or sideways. It would not be surprising to find the dog wrapped about a lamp post and unable to move. Yet, when you look at the dog at 10:00 a.m. and then again at 10:30, the owner and dog have traversed an entire block. In the same way, the believer may be moving backwards and forwards at any moment. So rather than consider sanctification over the past half-hour, consider sanctification over the past year or ten years. If there is no movement over the course of a year, then there is reason to question.
Consider that mortification of sin does not reach so far in any regenerate man as to the utter abolition and extirpation of sin out of the soul….Do what you can, sin will vex you and disturb you as long as you live in this world.
There are no promises that in the NT that we will never sin – only promises that we no longer are bound to sin, under the dominion of sin, slaves to sin.
Though God never intended that mortification should reach so far as to the utter extirpation of sin, God does intend that it should reach so far as to the taking away of the dominion of sin.
An explusive faculty or a sincere endeavor by the soul to expel sin and mortify sin is accepted by God as real mortification….God looks upon the principle of resistance as if it were a perfect resistance.
God is a father to his children. When a father looks upon the work of the child, he cares more for the effort than the result – he cares more for the fact that it is his child, than he cares for the work. Imagine a man who watches his daughter take her first steps and then watches a sporting event on television. The televised athlete moves with more grace than the awkward toddler. Yet, we would think him a poor father if he preferred the athlete to the daughter.
In the same way, the elect angels are free from sin in a way we are not. And yet, our Father looks with more favor on our limping efforts than upon their perfection. We have been adopted. We are promised a kingdom. We will judge angels. We are joint heirs with Christ.