Is Victory Possible?
The Bible represents each Christian life as the scene of a sore struggle that goes on within, between the old nature and the new. Sometimes Christian people are discouraged when they find how hard it is to live right, to be holy and loving, gentle and Christlike. Grace coming into their hearts, instead of making quiet and peace, wakes up a hundred demons with whom a struggle begins that is often terrific. It is a struggle between the old nature and the new.
The Christian is represented by Paul as a sort of dual man. There is the old man, who does not want to leave the house in which he has ruled so long—and there is the new man bearing the divine image who has come in to take possession. We all understand this by personal experience. To be a Christian at all, is to have this struggle perpetually going on in one's bosom.
Conversion is not perfection. Very long and very painful, is the struggle for holiness. Like Paul, we very soon discover that when we would do good, that evil is present with us. What we would do—we do not; and what we hate—that we do. To will the right thing is in our heart, but when we set about doing it, we fail. We are sincere in our desire to obey God and walk close to him and be imitators of him, but at once we find another force in our nature which rises up, like an ambushing foe, and stands before us in malign opposition to every right and holy path. And too often we confess with shame, it defeats us and carries us away captive.
We are all conscious, even after the most thorough conversion and after years of Christian living, of things still in our hearts which are very unlovely. The remains of the old nature yet linger, and often they prove themselves much too strong for us. What Christian is there who does not understand by painful personal experience, what Paul meant when he cried, "Oh, what wretched man I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?" Who has not, at some time or other, almost despaired of victory over his own old self.
But it ought not to be so—and need not be so. It is a sad thing, indeed, if there is not at least a little gain each day—if the new man is not growing a little stronger so as to hold the old man a little more firmly under his feet. It is a sad thing if the unlovely tempers and dispositions in us are getting more lawless and more bold and riotous, and are more frequently and more persistently breaking into anarchy. It is a sad thing if the weeds are growing up all the while more rank, and choking out the lovely plants and sweet flowers in the heart's garden.
But is this necessary in any case? Is there any life which cannot be fashioned in a measure, into divine beauty? Is there any old Adam which the new creature in Christ cannot put under his feet? Is the grace of God ever defeated in making a saint out of even the most earthly materials? Is there no possible deliverance from the body of death which every believer must carry with him in this life?
Yes, Paul found an answer to his own almost despairing question "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." In our own strength we never can conquer the evil that is in us—but through Christ we can have victory and deliverance. We can be more than conquerors through him who loved us. The most riotous and unruly nature, can be brought under perfect subjection. The most unlovely thing in us, may be made to yield to the sway of the things that are lovely. The ugly tempers and dispositions, may be changed into holy inclinations—just as men put flumes into wild mountain torrents and make them drive factories; or grasp the terrible lightning bolts and make them light a city's streets with calm, clear blaze. There really is no old nature, however powerful in its evil, however persistent and confirmed in its habits—which the blood of Jesus Christ cannot cleanse, and cleanse until not a trace of sinfulness remains, until divine beauty shines in every feature.
Someone has void "The gospel should leave no sorrow uncomforted, no trouble incurable, no sins beyond forgiveness. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, all its kinds and all its degrees—the cold, hard sins of avarice and hypocrisy; the hot, impulsive sins of passion and immorality."
When it is said that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, it is not the guilt alone that is meant, nor the stain of pollution produced by acts of sin—but sin itself. Every forgiven sinner has yet to be made perfect in holiness, transfigured into the image of Christ.
In the most imperfect and faulty heart of the believer in Christ, we may see the reflection of the beauty of God's face. The beauty is not yet in the heart, but the holy vision is a prophecy of what will be there when the cleansing work is completed. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. It is only when we have learned to know Christ as a Savior—not only from guilt, through His sacrifice nineteen hundred years ago; but as the Savior from sin itself by the power of his perpetual presence and by the continuous influence of his grace upon us—that we had discovered the full richness and blessedness of the gospel.