Paul anticipated what critics might say and then answered the charges. In perhaps similar fashion, when speaking of the glory of the great doctrines, you might hear someone say something like this. “Well this all just too abstract for me, what does doctrine do for me right now, how can I get a grip on what it means for today?” Okay, lets “go there”.
Let me start by saying that doctrine is the tool that helps you grow. It is a process, and it becomes applied as we live out life, not as we take them like a pill, but as we plant them like a seed. We see the doctrine, and what it says about Christ and about us, and we meet that with our faith, and it blooms as fruit in our lives. We don’t just look at it and then write it down or fill out some form, we believe it and become conformed into His image, from glory to glory as we see and believe it more and more (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It happens best within the context of a local church community but it is not an impersonal thing, but a very personal thing where the great doctrines make a great difference in our everyday living. And these particular doctrines are all-important, not only for our justification, but for our sanctification, our growth in grace, and we must understand that Jesus is the source of your life, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). Now let me just bring these doctrines right into your personal life right now, okay? So how does this filter out into giving God glory in my life? I’ll just apply this to one area that many have trouble with, perhaps all of us at times.
Many people measure their spirituality based solely on their self-control in one area or another. If they are “being good” in that one area that they are struggling with, then they feel spiritual, if not, then they feel like a failure spiritually. It is all or none, in a sense. It can be hard to help people find balance when they gauge the health of their relationship with Christ on a single issue – such as their sexual purity, anger issues, their thought life, or something else. Now we don’t want to give license to licentiousness or to excuse or encourage a lack of effort to control the self life, but instead of thinking solely about one issue as a measure, consider the whole life, are you advancing anywhere at all, in many areas, perhaps even in most areas?
If you are a “single issue voter” this may be why you fail to see your relationship with Christ as it is, a growing and complex dynamic of repentance and faith, based on His works, His love, His steadfastness. When a single issue carries so much weight the guilt and shame of failure can overwhelm a person. It also may be the reason why you neglect other areas, and as a result the whole life, spiritual and otherwise, suffers. Pay attention to your failings, sure, but don’t give them any more weight than they ought to have, and keep thanking God for the victories He has given you, and pray for more, all the while counting on this fact: it is not what we did, it is what He did that counts. The single issue has been forever settled in your favor.
Yes the sin is a problem, but it can lead to a greater problem because it can lead to more failure. The greater tragedy is not the failure of the individual sin, but when it leads to the failure to get back up, to be so swept away with guilt and shame that we let it bring us back down, away from any chance of victory. We settle for settling into a rut of routine spirituality, thinking that this is all there is, and we let the devil win, keeping us from becoming more solid in other areas as we lose the fight with this one issue. However, we must realize that the mark of faith is not that I don’t fail but that I do fight.
God makes a way where there is no way. There was no way for a man to be perfect and the Law pointed that out. By the deeds of the Law no man will be justified, but by faith in the person and works of Christ any man may be justified. This is the one necessary thing to salvation; you see it is God who is a single-issue voter, and He always wins the election. Have faith.