By Caleb Bobrycki
(Photo Taken at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Ever since the fall, God has been in the business of bringing his people back into his land to enjoy fellowship with him. But there is one very important fight in every individual that has slowed down the pace of this kingdom tremendously: our lack of prayerfulness and watchfulness against sin. Especially saddening is that much of our laziness is done in the name of gospel-centeredness. I have written about this recently, but one of my main questions lately is whether or not it is “gospel talk” to only speak in terms of our justification by faith. Saying that Christ has given us access to God does wonders for the guilty conscience, but is that all that we say in terms of our sin and fellowship with God? When we sin, in other words, is our fellowship with God hindered in anyway? Must we only speak in terms of “access to God” when we speak in terms of our sanctification? Should there a balanced view between our substitution and our sanctification? The following is my small attempt to practically bring together the wonderful doctrines of justification by faith and sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
Access to God in Christ
Interpreting Romans five and eight with one another has recently helped me understand the relationship that we have with our Father in this fight against sin. We are in good company when we struggle with doubts after specific and intentional crimes against God. Wrongfully, believers often believe they are denied access to God when they sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Romans chapter five, verse one, reminds us that we have been justified by faith and we have peace with God through the blood of our Lord Jesus. Name your sin, your hostility toward God! Now go to the cross and see it nailed there, and see the blood pouring out your dear Savior’s side. It has been paid. It is finished! Verse two of Romans five further clarifies the point when it says that we have obtained access by that faith “into that grace”. And what a place that is, "his grace." When we sin against our gracious Father and grieve the Spirit, our flesh condemns us and prohibits us access to God; but this verse will not have it! This verse encourages our guilty conscience is, and reminds us that our access is not denied. Our sins may grieve the Spirit, and they may call for disciplinary action from the Father, but they do not deny us access to God. The blood of Christ nullifies all prohibitions from access to God. Do not undercut the gospel of the expiating blood of Christ, but go to God in Christ and know that the gospel of substitution warrants 24 hour access to God in Christ. We need no other mediator and no other high priest than the great Lord Jesus Christ. The grievances that we cause the Holy Spirit when we sin against our father spur us onto the blood of Christ rather than from it. Have you ashamed yourself? Do you feel as though you cannot come to God because of your sin? Be washed in the blood and remember your it has been paid and your access granted.
The Spirit, Our Guide
Furthermore, "access to God", namely the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus, is not the end of the road. It is the road. And we would do well to remember that we have a guide along this path, namely the Spirit of God via the truth of God in his Word. To see this we must turn to Romans chapter eight, where, in the first four verses, Paul teaches that the Spirit has a law of life by which we must walk. I declare this to those who say that Christians are not under a law. These four verses in the beginning of Romans chapter 8 state that we are no longer under the law of the flesh but under the law of the Spirit of life. The first greek word for law is the same as the word for the Spirit’s law. We have a law in the New Covenant, namely live! Walk according to life! Do not walk according to the passions of the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ is our guide along the path of Christ, who is our access to God. I am reminded of John 14:16-17, where Jesus clearly states that we have another Helper, even the Spirit of truth. This is right on the heels of Jesus’ previous statement in the discourse, in which he says that he is the truth. Jesus Christ is the truth and he is our access to God. But, dear brothers and sisters, when we bring enmity and hostility between the Father and ourselves, we have a guide along our access to God, which is the Spirit.
What does this look like practically? Is there a balanced view of substitutionary atonement and the sanctifying work of the Spirit? Profoundly, yes! When we sin, let us go to the Father in prayer immediately. When we feel our consciences calling us to distance ourselves from our benevolent Father, we must approach God in Christ. Period. When sin shows its fangs at our conscience, telling us to run away from the courts of God, don't listen, but run to your Father through the blood of Christ. While in the courts of God, stand, as Romans five says, on your substitution and justification by faith in Christ. You have nowhere else to stand in the presence of God but on that finished work. As you are standing up on that finished, conscience clearing, sin, and death-defeating work, speak with God about your sin. Wrestle, as it were, with God, like your patriarchal forefather Jacob. Speak with your Father about your sin; it is there. God has forgiven you in Christ and you have access to God despite that sin, but, in his omniscience, he knows very well about your vice. Bring that vice by the power of the Spirit to death in prayer, while standing on the finished work of Christ.
It is a sad thing that so many Christians are lax in their faith and fight with sin because of simple laziness. All because we do not pray. We must deal with our sins in prayer by the power of the Spirit, and put to death the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit and his Word. There is an emphatic declaration over the guilty conscience that our sins have been absolutely forgiven in Christ, and said sins do not prohibit access to God in Christ. That does not, however, mean we must not put those deeds to death practically. Go to God along such access in Christ and murder sin by the Spirit’s Word. Wait no longer, dear ones, and remember the hymn’s words, "What needless burdens do we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."