Here's what ails us...
- This, however, did not bring him assurance, but only doubts. For his assurance depended, not so much on God's promise to the ungodly as ungodly (Rom.4:5), but on his ability to see growth and improvement in his Christian walk."
A few years ago Will Herberg and other commentators noted that a predominant aspect of North American religion was that we have faith in faith. One American evangelist, in fact, wrote a booklet, "How To Have Faith In Your Faith."
Some of the preaching in evangelicalism--certainly some of the Sunday school material, some of the primary addresses by retreat speakers and Christian leaders--all taken together as the basic spiritual diet, tend to reinforce that old intuition that good people are the ones who are saved and that those who are not so good are the ones who are lost.
Here's the cure...
- The motif in the New Testament, and in the Reformation is that Christ's death was outside of me and for me. It is not primarily something that changes us. After one has been declared righteous by grace through faith, this grace will begin to change us (sanctification); nevertheless its changing us is certainly not what justifies us. In Roman Catholicism, and in John Wesley's work, what makes us acceptable to God is his internal work of renovation within our hearts and lives.
[T]he Reformation tradition acknowledges that there are biblical texts that speak of sanctification as complete already. This is not a perfection which is empirical or observable, but a definitive declaration that because we are "in Christ," we are set apart and holy by his sacrifice (1 Cor.1:30; Heb.10, etc.). Anybody who is in Christ is sanctified because his holiness is imputed to the Christian believer, just as Jesus says in John chapter seventeen, "For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." God sees the believer as holy. That means that Wesley should not have terrified Christian brethren with texts such as, "Without holiness, no one will see the Lord." The Christian is holy--it's all imputed. And then there are texts that say, "Be holy as I am holy." What would the reformers do with that? They would say we are called to be holy. But why should we be holy if we are already perfect in Christ? Because we are saved unto good works, not unto licentiousness, according to Romans chapter six; the question has been asked before.
In other words, even a Christian can be saved.