The great Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones, in his devotional work, Growing Spiritually, bluntly criticized the view that, as Christians we can expect to gain only partial victory over sin. According to this bias, life remains a cyclical struggle of temptation, sin, confession, and forgiveness. Forgiveness, yes, but always little more than sin and guilt. We should not expect much more.
To this pessimism, Brother Stanley retorts, "Only a forgiven sinner? The whole thing leaves you with your eyes in the wrong direction--on your sinful self, instead of upon the saving work of Christ." He speaks to what scholars of John Wesley, in whose legacy Jones operated, call the "optimism of grace." Not because of any strength inherent to our own natures do we have hope of full salvation (the going on to full-grown, victorious, Christian adulthood), but because God has freely given us grace to respond faithfully--moment by moment--in loving obedience.
To be sure, life is...
Isaiah 53:4-5 portrays two aspects of what the Suffering Servant - our Lord, Jesus Christ - has done to our great benefit. He has "borne our infirmities" and "was wounded for our transgressions."
Sins and infirmities. These two categories of human experience pose questions that call for wisdom and discernment. What counts, in God's eyes, as sin? (This question has dimensions that resist easy answers.) What does he regard as infirmities? What does God forgive and what does he heal?
A first-step answer is pretty straightforward. "Infirmities" obviously refers to diseases. This Isaiah passage says, "He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases." Yes. True. Is this the end of the story for understanding infirmities? No.
The Bible also describes sickness of soul, which overlaps with physical illness but also goes beyond it into thoughts, feelings, and resulting behaviors. Infirmities...