I picked up the fall 2012 issue of Harvest News, the publication of Harvest USA, a ministry engaged in “Proclaiming Christ as Lord to a sexually broken world and equipping the church to minister to sexually broken people.” In one of the articles the ministry’s president, John Freeman, talks about that Lordship of Christ as it applies to people who are tempted sexually. He quotes one of my favorite teachers:
“There is a teaching today which says that sanctification is quite simple, that the mistake we’ve been making is that you’ve been trying to fight the sin in you. It says that what you have to do is to give up struggling, to give up fighting; just hand yourself and your whole problem to Jesus. He’ll do it all for you. But any teaching which tells us that sanctification and holiness are really quite simple, and don’t involve struggle and fighting, is clearly not in accord with Scripture” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man)
Supporting that view, Freeman cites Pastor Tim Keller’s comment that repentance is “killing that which is killing me—without killing myself.”
I am happy to hear such clear endorsements of the biblical teaching that progress in holy living is not to be considered a passive operation of the Holy Spirit that entitles us to live complacently until such time as the Spirit sees fit to change us. It is evident to anyone who reads the Bible inquiringly that both threads are there—the sovereign grace of God to change us and the command to the believer to fight the good fight.
If a person by the name of Christian has never felt the brutal feeling of the death of a temptation for the sake of Christ—the “killing” that Keller speaks of—then he has not known the normal Christian walk that God has called us to, the process by which we become conformed to Christ’s character. The mission statement of Freeman’s ministry speaks of Christ as Lord. He is not only Savior but Lord. A lord is a master, someone who gives commands. And commands often ask of us hard things that we are not inclined to.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship,“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”