Every Day, in Fact!

The New Testament letters are filled with imperatives — that is, exhortations and challenges to pursue holiness, put on Christlike character, and present our bodies as living sacrifices. But these imperatives are always based on the objective truth of what Jesus did for us in His sinless life and sin-bearing death. As a young Christian, I did not understand this. I went directly to the imperatives to learn what I was to do. And in my early years of Bible teaching, I taught from the same dutiful perspective. I would contrast the “ought tos” of Scripture with the sinful desires of the flesh. I taught that we should fill our minds with the “ought tos” of Scripture in order to fortify ourselves against the desires of the flesh. But the reality is that in the internal conflict between ought and desire, desire too often wins out. And even when ought wins, it is often a dutiful response rather than one of love and gratitude. But then in the midst of what I thought would be a fruitful and rewarding ministry, the Holy Spirit began to peel back the layers of my heart to reveal something of the corruption and depravity still there. There were no “big” sins, just an ugly nest of what I call “respectable” sins. I was driven to the gospel. Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” became my lifeline. I began to sing some of the old gospel hymns I had learned as a child. Such words as “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me” and “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling” took on new meaning. I learned experientially that as a believer engaged in ministry, I still needed the gospel — every day in fact!

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