We’ve invited several of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “Why LIFEgroups?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.
It had been quite the day. I don’t remember the details of it all but my sinful heart collided with the sin of my children and the colossal mess that resulted left me wishing for a restart. We were taking a short drive to meet family for dinner and as my husband drove, I sat in the passenger’s seat contemplating. “Do you ever wish you could just press a button and restart?” I asked the question aloud but my mind was not yet done. I began to play out that scenario in my mind and if the feeling about my current reality was discouragement and failure and hopelessness, the result of letting my mind wander left me just as discouraged and just as hopeless, if not more so. You see, I knew that if I were able, at that very moment, to press a restart button on my life, or even on my day, I would still mess it up. I would still fall far short of perfect or right, far short of even good.
“That’s why He came!”
There was no sound to this voice, no volume behind the words. But they were the true words that landed so clearly in my head and in my heart, immediately following up the realization of my inevitable failure.
Utterly sweet are the truths of God’s grace to the heart made aware of the depths of sin contained within it.
God, in His great compassion, did not see fit to save people by giving them a restart. And Jesus, in His great kindness, not only died the death that we deserved, taking our sin and its subsequent punishment upon himself as 1 Peter 2:24 tells us, He also gave us his righteousness. For those in Christ, we are not seen by the Father as merely forgiven, an identity much greater than we could ever obtain or deserve on our own, but we are seen as righteous. No, God did not see fit to save people by giving them a restart. He saves people and gives them a new heart. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (1 Cor 5:17)
I knew in the car that afternoon that given a restart, I would quickly be in the same position I was at that time. I needed something different. I needed a fresh reminder of the good news of Jesus.
The paradox of a sinful believer…
Particularly, and maybe even strangely, it was after believing and accepting the gospel message as truth that I felt most ashamed of my sin. I had read what Jesus had done on my behalf. I understood that he lived in perfect obedience and yet died a gruesome death, and even more, took the punishment and the wrath for my sin from the Father upon himself. I knew it. And I believed it. Yet knowing that, I knew I still sinned. How could I? How could I know even a part of the depth of that sacrifice and still sin? How could I admit that? To God? To others?
How? Because I am still a sinner. And, so are you! But the truth that statement forgets to account for is I am now a sinner, saved by grace. A sinner redeemed.
Romans 8:1 says “therefore there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It continues on like this:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
From this passage in Romans it is clear that sin still dwells among us, and within us, but those in Christ have also been given the Spirit of God to dwell within them. By that Spirit, through the work of God in Jesus, we are equipped to put to death the deeds of the body, or sin. Those who are led by the Spirit, defined by the passage as those putting to death deeds of the flesh, are recognized as sons of God. Notice how it doesn’t define those in the Spirit as those who no longer sin but those who, instead, are being led by the Spirit of God and by the Spirit are ‘putting to death the deeds of the flesh’. As believers it is appropriate and necessary to admit to and identify sin in our lives, and allow others to do the same, that sin might be put to death. And we can do that without fear because we are no longer slaves to sin, but beloved sons of God. Our recognition of a continual battle against our sinful flesh maintains our reliance upon Christ and serves to remind us of His work on our behalf. And what a painfully sweet reminder it can be!
Week after week, we meet with a group of people who have committed to coming together, to reading God’s word, to praying for one another, and to reminding each other of the good news of Jesus. As LIFEgroups start back up, I would suggest that this, in part, is why they exist: we need each other! LIFEgroups give us a place to practice the work of knowing and being known. They are a place to praise God for his faithfulness in his victory in our obedience and praise God for his faithfulness despite our sin. They are a place to admit sin, to confess struggle, and to reveal doubts and be met with the truths of the gospel that lead not to condemnation for believers, but awe. Believers in Jesus can boldly approach the throne of grace, can confess their sins in repentance, can know their position is secure, can be confident their hope is firm and in so doing, can draw attention to the good news of Jesus and lead others to worship. Let us then be a people who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable (who aren’t afraid to confess our sin, even to our own humiliation) if it might result in the gospel being highlighted and Jesus being worshiped as supreme.
When we forget the depth of our sin, we forget the depth of beauty in the work of Jesus. We ought not celebrate our sin, but we also ought not deceive ourselves by believing the lie that those in Christ are to deny our sin or cover up in guilt and shame. Sinners saved by grace, through faith, ought not to boast in their salvation as though saved by their own works. But we ought to boast, without shame and with great CONFIDENCE and JOY that we are saved by the person and work of Jesus. Boast in our God who sought us when still sinners, who began a good work, and who is faithful to bring it to completion.
Boast in Christ. In your life, and in your LIFEgroups.
Because we need no restart, for we have been given a new heart!
– Libby Lehman