• November 2004

    • My Dear Friends,

      The Bible is a remarkable book. Supremely, of course, because it is the revelation of the one true God and makes us wise for salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. There is, however, another remarkable feature about the Bible that I would like to reflect on with you.

      When the Holy Spirit set about the work of infallibly inspiring men to pen God’s written revelation, he ensured that what they wrote was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That meant that God’s “pen-men” did not leave out the follies and sins of God’s people. Nowhere does the Scripture attempt to airbrush the failures and disobedience of believers out of the picture. Indeed, it almost seems at times, that their sins and failures are unnecessarily placarded before our eyes. Who of us would have included the Book of Judges in God’s word, especially in its latter chapters? Who of us would not have wanted to hide from view the sins of men like Samson, a man the Bible calls a hero of faith? The Holy Spirit, thankfully, was not so squeamish. In often technicolour intensity, He plots the sinful follies of even the choicest of God’s saints. Why is this?

      There are a number of reasons, but one stands out: through the manifest weaknesses and sins of believers, God impresses on us the true character of the life of faith. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ does not lift you out of the struggles, trials and temptations that are native to life this side of glory. Faith at its best and purest is punctuated with folly and sin. The most favoured and privileged of Christians fall and fail. This may seem to some an excuse to go on sinning - but, to quote Paul, anyone who thinks like this, “Their condemnation is deserved” (Romans 3:8). Perfection awaits us in heaven’s glory. This fact not only breathes realism into the believer, it armours their heart against the heady varieties of perfectionism that are always (sadly) afflicting Christ’s church.

      The life of faith is lived out in yet sinful bodies. It has not pleased the Lord to eradicate sin from our lives while we yet live in these mortal bodies. There are remnants of corruption in us, that are a landing ground for Satan’s deceitful temptations. We all know the truth of the hymn, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” The trouble often is, however, that when we sin and fail, we too easily listen to the lies of the enemy of our souls and perhaps begin to question whether it is possible for such a privileged Christian to sin and fail as we have done. But it is - look at Abraham, Jacob, Samson, Peter (the list is endless). God has mercifully allowed his choicest people’s sins to be written in “large letters” for our encouragement! Yes, for our humbling, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”; but also for our encouraging - God did not give up on his people, he continued in grace to persevere with them.

      The life of faith is not even, untroubled, effortless. On the contrary, it is punctuated with many a fall. But the last word never lies with our falls, but with the One who is “rich in mercy.” I am conscious that what I have written could be used as an excuse to live at a “low level”, never aspiring to grow up into Christ who is the Head, tolerating sins that need to be put to death by the help of the Spirit - may it never be! Rather, may we see God’s great kindness in allowing us to glimpse the struggles and falls of his most eminent saints and the astonishing grace that picked them up, forgave them freely and set them on their way again.

      Yours in the bonds of amazing grace,

      Ian Hamilton