On Monday, Kristy and I had our monthly “marriage maintenance” phone appointment with our World Harvest mentor/gospel discipler, Stu Batstone. As I was expressing my frustration with how often I seemed to run into a wall in sanctification (2 steps forward and 3, 4, 5 or more steps back… and feeling totally unsaved), he shared an illustration that he had heard from Skip Ryan a while back about how our hearts are like continents that are comprised of various regions, all which are in need of God’s transforming grace. Upon conversion, the gospel establishes a beach head on the continent and much celebration ensues among those first converted.
However, there are many hostile regions that remain unreached. In other words, there is much rebellion to the gospel throughout the continent of my heart, which is the resistance of the flesh (ie, my sin nature) to follow the Savior-King. That is why I hit the wall. It’s not that I’m unsaved (after all, the entire continent now belongs to the King). Rather, the gospel is advancing into new territory, to sanctify what already has been justified. And it is because the gospel is advancing that fresh battles ensue. Realizing that was a point of real encouragement for me in our session on Monday.
Nevertheless, those people groups/areas of my heart that have been converted sometimes will experience a new uprising, and I will have to reclaim that land with the gospel again. Maybe that is where my greatest frustration lies—having to fight the same sins over and over again. But this point of frustration reminds me that my only hope of salvation really is through the cross, which tells me that I am not saved by my progress in sanctification, but by the propitiation* of my sins through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. I have been justified by grace and adopted in love. And believing THAT is the power that subdues the enemy within and brings more and more regions of my heart together to worship Jesus gladly and follow him wholeheartedly.
* To propitiate is to fully satisfy the requirements of justice/the law