I wonder whether sometimes we give up on holiness before we even get started. We know that we are sinful. We know that this side of glory we will not be sinlessly perfect. We believe in the doctrine of Total Depravity. All stacked together, we can give up before we even get going.
We thank the Father that he sent Jesus to die for us. We are grateful that Jesus lived the perfect sinless life that we couldn’t. We trust in his atoning work on our behalf. We know that we are given the righteousness of Christ and rely upon that to see us made right with God. We believe all of this and know our salvation is secure because of it.
But we just don’t think we can obey. We are sinful, we think. Our old sinful nature remains with us. We thank Jesus that he came, died for us and transferred his perfect life to our account. And then we can think that we won’t be perfect until glory so we kind of give up trying. Sinners gonna sin, innit.
But the fact is, we can obey. Yes, when we were outside of Christ our hearts could only incline towards sin. But being made alive by the Spirit means that we are capable of obedience. God does not ask us to do what we cannot do. He calls us to obey and has given us the means to do so. He has given us his Word – which guides us in what we ought to do so that we know God’s will – and he has placed his Spirit in our hearts, who empowers us to do it.
Will we obey Jesus perfectly? In glory, yes. But this side of Heaven? No. Our sinful nature is not zapped away when we trust in Christ. But does that mean we cannot obey? No. We have God’s Word and God’s Spirit to guide and empower us to obey. Which means any time we sin as believers it is not because we are unable to do what is right but because we did not yield to the Spirit who dwells within us.
Let’s put it this way. How can Almighty God dwell in your heart and not make you holy? How can the Holy Spirit – whose most favourite job in all the world is to make people holy – live inside you and not make you holy? How can Almighty God dwell in your heart, and make you his temple, and you not be empowered to some sort of obedience of God? Of course that doesn’t mean you won’t sin anymore, but you can be equally sure it definitely means you can obey.
We can be tempted to lose heart before we begin. We’re sinners who cannot perfectly obey Jesus. Well, that much is true. But we’re also holy people empowered to works of service by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That much is true too. Jesus doesn’t ask us to do what we can’t do. Rather, he asks us to do things for him and then – by the power of his Spirit – empowers us to do them himself.
All of that is to say, you can obey. Jesus has made sure of it.