“Mr. blogger guy, hi, my name’s John Doe, I believe in Jesus but I don’t feel very transformed. I understand that we’re simultaneously saint and sinner but my sinner side shows itself a lot more often. I understand that we are holy, right now through Jesus, and yet called to be progressively holy. I, however, am not progressing; or not very much. I feel defeated. I don’t feel like saying, ‘I am transformed.’ I feel like saying ‘I am an addict.’ So, if I am transformed can you help me be transformed? Can you help me in my everyday practice?”
John Doe, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that sometimes it feels like there is a gulf between the fact that we are transformed through Christ and yet called to be transformed. However, it is a biblical truth and thus a practical truth. Let’s try and see how practical it is.
Health Lambert has wrote a helpful book called Finally Free. It is written to help those struggling with pornography but the book is helpful for any enslaving sin.
“We typically respond to moral failures with mental punishments… I’m terrible. I’m awful. What was I thinking?… What if my spouse finds out? What if my parents find out? What if my pastor finds out? What if people at church find out? I don’t deserve to be a Christian. Maybe I’m not a Christian” (Finally Free 25).
“Mental punishments are not helpful because they deal with sin in a self-centered way instead of a Christ-centered way. Meditating on how miserable and pathetic you are only perpetuates the sinful self-centeredness that led you to… [sin] in the first place. Condemning self-talk still has you standing center stage as you reflect on what you think about what you have done, and as you describe what you think you deserve because of what you did. It’s all about you. The problem is there is too much you in all of this. You need Christ. And the only way to break the vicious cycle is to get outside of yourself to Jesus. You need to stop talking to yourself in categories of condemnation and begin talking to God in categories of confession” (Ibid., 26)
“Self-talk and self-condemnation do nothing to lay hold of God’s forgiving and transforming grace. Repentance does…
The tide will begin to turn in your struggle against… [your enslaving sin] when you being to grasp forgiving and transforming grace” (Ibid., 26).
In future posts we will look at some “action steps” to be transformed in our practice. I want to look at how we can be transformed through gospel motivation, radical measures, honest confession, tight church fellowship, a dynamic relationship with Christ, God’s Word, wise accountability, godly sorrow, thankfulness, and active humility. But, first, it is crucial that we see the importance of the fact that we are transformed in Christ. This realization helps us focus on Christ and not be self-condemning.* It helps us have the necessary endurance to put the “action steps” into action even after we feel. Remember, we are God’s “handiwork” (Eph. 2:10) and we are created for good works yet we are clearly not saved by them (Eph. 2:8-9).
Here are a few books that might be helpful on the topic of enslaving sin:
- Jerry Bridges’ book The Pursuit of Holiness
- Edward Welch’s book Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
- Mark Shaw’s book The Heart of Addiction
- Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free
- Randy Alcorn’s book The Purity Principle
*I believe it is helpful to speak and think like Paul did. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a church that celebrated the fact that one of it members was having relations with their father’s wife (1 Cor. 5:1-2), and said that they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2). Paul was essentially saying, “Corinthians, you are holy, now act like it!” Later on in the same letter Paul says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (6:19b-20).