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Our Position and Pursuit as Saints



“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19).


To be called a saint makes me bristle. 


I’m all too aware of the ways I’m stuck in my pride and selfishness. 


I came across a note in my journaling Bible, a lament after I turned 30, wondering how I could be walking with the Lord for 20-ish years of my life yet continue struggling with the same sin. I felt discouragement at the seemingly insurmountable task, shame over not having lived better to make it gone, and frustration that, yet again, I must bend my knee in confession and repentance.


Here’s where perfectionism wreaks havoc on my soul. Knowing with my head I’m not—and cannot—become perfect, yet my heart longs, even expects, to be. 


The Surgeon’s Knife

Peeling those layers back a little, I can see an element of pride in the discomfort of naming and confessing my sin. In contrast, there’s also a layer of godly intent in wanting to live a transformed life for Christ. 


As Dane Ortlund warns us, “we consign ourselves to plateaued growth in Christ if we yield to pride and fear and hide our sins.”[1] When we keep ourselves from harmonizing our sin with his grace, our maturity lags with the incongruence of a dissonant chord. 


This invitation to accept the surgeon’s knife, to pray in earnest, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Ps 139:23-24). Words which unravel the pride and self-righteousness bound tightly around our hearts, seeking instead to open up those dark, secret places of our hearts, willing light to shine and the Spirit sweep the cobwebs.


It’s like the surgeon, performing a laparoscopic procedure. He usually has a good idea of what he’s going to find, but sometimes, once he’s got the camera in real close, he can see evidence of other problems or a reason for the symptoms. When we understand the problem, we can move to treatment.


  

When the wave of shame easily washes over us, crushing us under the weight of all our imperfections, this prayer seems fearsome. The threat to our identity hangs in the balance if we gaze too deeply at our own sins. 


However, I remember this plea, “lead me in the way everlasting.”


Here’s where I want to be. Led closer to Christ. Invited nearer to the gospel of grace.


Gospel Grace For A Worthy Life

Nearing my forties now, these last years have been significantly shaped by a greater understanding of grace as I’ve wrestled with failings, walked through hardships and seen astounding answers to prayer. 


In writing about how to live a worthy life, Sinclair Ferguson says, “live in a way that is in keeping with the gospel, that matches the gospel. This is what the balanced Christian life looks like.” [2] Along our pilgrimage, this journey toward Christlikeness, the gospel meets us daily, inviting us to the cross with our sins to bear and receive the grace bestowed on us each day and in every confession. 


There is no condemnation because we are in Christ; we’re met instead with restoration, peace and hope. His grace extends to our every day as the Spirit empowers and equips us to grow into maturity. A seed pressed into the soil requires warmth, water and nourishment not only to germinate, but also to sprout, to bear healthy fruit and pollinate. The gospel is our sustenance in our salvation and sanctification.


Chasing His Glory

Jerry Bridges writes, “In the biblical sense of the term, sainthood is not a status of achievement and character but a state of being—an entirely new condition of life brought about by the Spirit of God”[3] We’ve let go of our old selves and donned the new one, and our position in Christ is safe and secure, even as we persevere through the temptations of this life.


Bridges again reminds us, “Every new believer has been set apart by God, separated unto God to be transformed into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. In this sense, every believer is a saint—a person separated from his old sinful way of life and set apart by God to increasingly glorify God as his life is transformed.” [4]


The Westminster Confession reminds us the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Even though it’s uncomfortable, bringing sin to light is freeing at the cross of Christ for the purpose of our lives bringing all glory to God.


Perhaps you’ve taken a look back on the last year, your own unique edition of a pilgrim’s progress. You’ve seen the Vanity Fair surround you, maybe moments you’ve landed in the Doubting Castle or wrestled with faith crossing the Dark River. In reflection, you wonder how all of it is making a difference, in your own life or for the kingdom.


God is faithfully bringing his good work to completion, even when we don’t see it, especially when we view the obstacles of our sin and struggle as a mile high. We pursue then, by the grace of God, a life of faithful obedience as we abide in him—for the strength to persevere is found in him alone. 


“It is my duty, said he, to distrust mine own ability, that I may have reliance on him that is stronger than all.”  ― John Bunyan [5]

The journey toward sainthood isn’t an easy one, he never promised it would be. Yet it is the blessed way. 


So I pray, “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:9-12).


 

[1] Dane Ortlund, Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners, ch.6.

[2] Sinclair Ferguson, Worthy: Living in Light of the Gospel, ch.1.

[3] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, ch.1.

[4] Ibid, ch.1.

[5] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, sec.6

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