“How true it is that the holiest saint is in himself a miserable sinner, and a debtor to mercy and grace to the last moment.”
The past couple of days I have been very melancholy. I think everyone has times like these. I am not 100% sure of why I am like this, but my mind has not stopped running through one real and evident truth in my life: No matter how much I seek to follow the Lord Jesus and do His will, I constantly fail. For sure I fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) in my actions. But, what has been become so evident to me lately is the way my thought life so often does not honor Christ. This has bothered me lately to the point of affecting my attitude and demeanor.
While for some this kind of thinking is not productive or healthy, I thank the Lord for this two-day mental dump. You might be thinking, why? For sure this sort of thinking and reflecting does not fit today’s popular psychology of “stay positive”. But, I find pop culture’s idea of “be positive” a bit of an illusion. Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes it is our circumstances. Sometimes it is just simply us. And I find that these times help me reflect, ponder, and consider truth, particularly, God’s truth. And this I why I can thank God for my “mini depression”.
I am reading a book by J.C. Ryle called “Holiness”. It is really a collection of papers he did on a variety of subjects that was compiled into a book, but all relate to holiness. The first chapter of the book discusses the topic of sin. It may sound bizarre to some to begin a book about holiness by talking about sin, but I found it really good, and exactly the topic that helped me arrive to an non-illusionary positive mind-set.
“We need not be afraid to look at sin, and study its nature, origin, power, extent, and vileness, if we only look at the same time at the almighty medicine provided for us in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.”
Though I have been in the pit of mental poop, my time there has helped me remember one great truth that has pulled me up and revitalized the joy in my heart: grace. It is a simple word. It is often misunderstood. Yet, it is a powerful word when correctly interpreted and applied.
When we are willingly to take a real look at sin, our sin, its ugly head appears in all our lives, in every area of our lives. It is in our nature. It is powerful. Its domain extends into our actions, our thoughts, and our attitudes. We are deceitful above all things, and desperately sick with sin (Jeremiah 17:9). There is no escape from it, and its wages are death (Romans 6:23)
In my pit of sorrow, I remembered this great truth. I have read it, heard it preached and taught, and even preached and taught it myself hundreds of times. But we often forget the simple truths. In our forgetfulness, we become prisoners to bad and fuzzy thinking. But it is often in the pit where God reminds us of the truths that can free us.
As I pondered upon grace, God reminded me that regardless of my sinful ugliness, defiant rebellion, and hard heart, I have been bought by the blood of His Son, and I am His. I am saved from my sin, not because I am so righteous, but because He has awakened my spirit to my sin and my condition, and then led me to Christ where I trusted in His righteousness (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:1-4)
Thinking upon grace also reminded me that no matter how many good deeds or religious acts I do (even in the name of Jesus), they cannot not, nor will they ever be able to pay for my sin against the holy and almighty God. This reality lifted my soul and encouraged my heart. Not only does my sin not remove my standing with God, but I do not have to rely on my efforts to get me back to God when I turn my back on Him. As I humbly turn back to Him in recognizing my sin, His grace picks me up, cleanses me, and restores me. There is no debt to pay. It was paid once and for all at the cross.
This truth resurrected joy back in my heart and mind. I am very sorry for my sin, yet I know I am forgiven. Not because I have said certain prayers so many times, or went and talked to collared religious man in a closet. But because of grace. This grace is unearned (I do not work for it), nor is it deserved (the truth of my sin proves this). Yet, I am saved by it. What a great gift from the Lord (Romans 6:23).
It is so healthy to think upon, examine, and honestly look upon the reality and truth of our sin. If we will, we will see it, and its presence in us will be evident. As we dig deeper into our heart, we will see it all more clearly. This is a good thing. No. It is a necessary and great thing. You might ask, how is that? In the words of apostle Paul, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20). The more we see the darkness of our sin, the brighter and more glorious the grace of God looks. This calls us to cry out to Him to be saved and helps us lean on His grace as our hope. Not our righteousness. Not our good works. Not ourselves. Just His pure grace He offers us through the cross of Jesus. That truth helps lighten the sorrowful heart and propels us to worship the Savoir. He is the door out of the dump and the path out of the pit.
Because I am a debtor to grace, I am no longer a debtor to sin. I can rest in that!
 Ryle, J.C. Holiness. 2001. p.10
 Ibid, p.11