Many today seem more afraid of right living than they do sin. They get frustrated with any talk that promotes victory over sin. When men advocate victorious Christian living, they passionately defend sin. When men insist that Christians can be known by their fruits, they accuse them of legalism. When men regard repentance as a part of the gospel, it makes their blood boil. Why this reaction? In their minds they are defending faith from the encroachment of works. They think that insisting on repentance or looking for fruit or expecting victory is advocating works in contrast to faith.
But this is a misunderstanding of faith. Faith is just as opposed to sin as it is to works. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). The shield of faith is able to quench every fiery dart of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16). Faith chooses suffering with the people of God over the pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). Faith is the prodigal son coming to his senses and leaving the hog pen and the hog trough behind (Luke 15:17-20).
But, some might reply, faith is contrasted to works! Amen! Distinguishing faith and works is part of the bedrock of the gospel. Failure to distinguish them is fatal to the good news. However, things like “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5) and “faith working by love” (Gal. 5:6) belong in the category of faith, not the category of works. What faith does must not be confused with what unbelief does. Repentance, conversion, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, and all such like things are expressions of faith. The path of legalism (one variety of religious unbelief) will happily adhere to religious forms and scattered good works, but it will never produce biblical repentance, biblical conversion, or biblical holiness. Only those who are born again can do right and live right (1 John 2:29).
Hopefully, no one will misunderstand me. I am not arguing for perfection. We will never be perfect until the resurrection. We will always make mistakes. We may find ourselves manifesting momentary relapses of the old man. I am merely pointing out that we are not destined to wallow in the hog pen. We can leave the hog pen. We can walk in victory over our besetting sins. We can walk in obvious devotion and holiness.
Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire,
Lee W. Brainard
If you would like more on this subject, please check out my message “Victory Over Sin.” It is currently available in the following formats.