Hearing author Barbara Duguid unpack powerful gospel implications for struggling sinners with such forthrightness and humility at the Extravagant Grace conference was a true blessing. I felt the same way reading her book of the same name last spring, which is the reason I am recommending it as a MUST READ to everyone. In fact the book ministered so deeply to my pastor/husband that the application of the gospel truths contained in it ‘hemmed’ him in at a time when he felt ‘wilderness’ all around.
Great clarity was actually given to this ‘wilderness’ type period as Barbara guided us through these mind-boggling questions:
- If God is sovereign why does He allow us to experience such times of deep darkness and wilderness?
- If God hates sin why does He allow it and other bad things to happen?
- If God is loving, why doesn’t He stop us from struggling with sin and giving in to temptation?
Tough stuff. How freeing though to grasp God’s goodness and grace even in the midst of sin and suffering. To see God hates sin and is not the cause of it, but He does allow it for a good purpose.
What Can Possibly Be The Advantages of Remaining in Our Sin? (Let’s look at some of these answers and deal with the wilderness another day.)
1. The more I sin and do the things I do not want, the more I see how powerless I am to combat it. My only hope is the intervening work of the Holy Spirit to make me strong where I am weak. In my weakness then, Christ is strong for me.
Practically speaking – whatever your recurring sin or struggle is, Jesus was perfect in that area for you! If you struggle with food, Jesus ate perfectly for you. If you struggle with anger, Jesus was perfect by not getting angry for you. If you struggle with patience, Jesus was patient perfectly for you. If you have a hard time loving difficult people, Jesus loved all people perfectly for you.
Jesus was EVERYTHING you are not and EVERYTHING you need. May this cause me to boast in the cross of Jesus and not my own performance.
2. The more I struggle with sin and see I cannot conquer it, the more I am dependent on Jesus. The more I will go to Him in prayer. The more I will ask for self-control, strength, help and protection. The more I will see my need and His deliverance. Apart from my ongoing sin, I may not see my great need of Him.
Practically speaking – now when you experience a moment of not giving in to temptation or responding the way you normally would by blowing up in anger or demanding perfection from someone else, you will see God at work and go to Him in thanksgiving. You will praise His name more because you will see how He granted you grace – even if it was just for that moment. If the next time you go back to your normal sinful ways, it doesn’t mean He’s left you. He is still there, transforming you – not by making your perfect, but making you dependent!
You can’t out-sin His grace!
3. The more I struggle with sin, the more compassion I have on others in their sin. While their sin may not be my sin, I know what it’s like to try hard and still fail. Maybe now I will have more grace to give.
Practically speaking – How often are you shocked by someone’s sin and wonder how they could do that? Perhaps you even think they must not be a Christian or they wouldn’t being doing whatever it is. But why should sin surprise you? You know your own heart – your own on-going struggles – right? When I get that, I will better identify with others, showing more compassion in my love and response to sinners.
Interesting side note- throughout the Bible we see how Jesus reached out in love to the sinners and held His rebuke for the Pharisees.
This just barely skims the surface of the treasure trove of His love and grace for us in our sinful state. There is no way I can fully expound on the topic or even share all I heard at the conference in just a short blog post. But I want you to know what Barbara also told us – that it is okay to be conflicted over this. It’s our tendency to think we must be “getting better” so to realize getting better actually means depending more on Him and less on yourself may be new to you. But it’s the grace we need to hear preached and be overwhelmed by. So, I hope you will wrestle with God’s goodness even in our sin and see this truth as freeing.
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