Monday, 9 February 2009

Procrastination and Imputation

Procrastination is the blight of many a Christian life. So many of us are just waiting for it to start in earnest. We harbour aspirations of a future glory in our lives that we are not yet experiencing. Here are some examples of Christian procrastination:

"When I get out of this crappy job and head off to seminary things will take off. Then I'll have real time for prayer and study and my ministry will change lives."

"When I get married, then I'll conquer lust. Then I can fulfill my life's work for Christ."

"When I get baptized in the Holy Spirit, then I'll experience power for evangelism and personal victory. Then I'll know true joy in God."

Well, what happens when you go to seminary and your prayer life is still rubbish and you pastor a church that no one attends? What happens if you never get married? What happens if you do get married and lusting after different women takes on a more dangerous turn? What happens if you spend your whole life waiting for a spiritual experience that is nowhere promised in Scripture? What happens if this is it?

I believe that many of us suffer from this procrastination (i.e. waiting for the Christian life to truly start) because we have a defective view of the gospel. It comes from a works-righteousness ethic fed by remarkable testimonies like those of saints who prayed long and hard and "brought revival" down. Is there such a thing as a life that counts for God?

If the history of the human race has taught us anything, it's that we're a miserable bunch. Look at the great saints of the OT. Abraham was so scared of being killed that he was happy to pimp out his wife. Moses, as great as he was, failed to make the promised land because of his temper. David, a man after God's own heart, committed adultery and murder and went on to raise a family so dysfunctional it made the Jackson 5 look like the Waltons. Samuel's family life wasn't great either as his sons were a waste of space, profaning God's sacrifices and sleeping with the temple cleaners. And that is the OT good guys!

"Ah," retorts the pietist Arminian, "that was the pre-Pentecost dispensation of the law. Now in the NT, Christians are called to a victorious life through the power of the Spirit."

Ok, then, in the NT, we have Peter, post-Pentecost Spirit-filled Peter, retreating in fear because of the circumcision party and abandoning the gospel.

What marked the Biblical saints was not that they had lives that counted for God, but the fact that they were sinners, righteous-ed through faith. Read through the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Even Samson is a hero of faith; hooker-loving, Gentile compromising Samson. What made these saints heroes is that they believed the gospel (with faith given them by God, see Eph 2:8-10).

If the doctrine of Christ as the last Adam has taught us anything, it is that there is only one victorious Christian, only one person whose life really counted. His "one act of righteousness", i.e. his perfect life culminating in the cross, is all that God is interested in. I heard Carl Trueman say, God is only interested in two people, Adam and Christ. Either God sees you in Adam or in Christ. Are you hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:1)? Then God doesn't see your pathetic little life with all of it's false starts, broken promises and mucky little secrets. You are already a conqueror "through him who loved us". Your life already counts, already is victorious because you are united to the Victor through the Holy Spirit by faith.

So stop waiting for life to happen. Stop waiting to experience the victorious Christian life. Grab hold of the Victor, through faith and start basking in His victorious life now. Only by "getting" the imputation of Christ's righteousness will we rid ourselves of this perfectionist, works-righteousness slavery.

We're constantly being told (by Christian pastors who should know better) to reach for the life we've always wanted. Christians only need receive and rest in Christ and his righteousness through faith and God sees us ALREADY with the Life He's always wanted for us.

(PS - The atrocious spelling mistakes and typos have hopefully now been rectified!)


Joy said...

Wait, where does repentance for sin fit into this?

Nick Mackison said...

Hi Joy. I'm writing from the perspective of one who struggles with sin, who hates it and yearns for release (see Romans 7).

The beginning of the article describes the misguided aspirations of fellow strugglers who seek to almost atone for present failures with the pursuit of glory in this life. I know this pursuit full well and you could say that the descriptions offered are autobiographical to an extent.

What I'm trying to argue for is a faith which, disgusted with one's own moral failures, looks to Christ alone for righteousness.


Nick Mackison said...

PS I suppose your question is like that of Paul's opponents who asked:

"Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?"

I'm not saying you're an opponent to the gospel! All I'm saying is that the gospel rightly preached will always invite the accusation of antinomianism.

Joy said...

Oh, I understand now. Sometimes things fly over my head the first time around. Thanks, Nick. :)

Steven Carr said...

Beautifully written post Nick. You're blog is fast becoming my new favorite.

Anonymous said...

What a breath of Gospel-fired truth!

Christ is our life, the one hope of glory we can cling to, always.

May His glory be revealed more and more in His people.

When it gets dark enough, you can begin to see the Stars.

Nick Mackison said...

Preach it anonymous.

David said...

Thanks for the Good News!