If holiness is so basic to the Christian life, why do we not experience it more in daily living? Why do so many Christians feel constantly defeated in their struggle with sin? Why does the Church of Jesus Christ so often seem to be more conformed to the world around it than to God?
At the risk of oversimplification, the answers to these questions can be grouped into three basic problem areas.
Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God centered. We are more concerned about our “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.
W. S. Plumer said, “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God. . . . All is sin against God in this sense: that it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught. . . . Pharaoh and Balaam, Saul and Judas each said, ‘I have sinned’; but the returning prodigal son said, ‘I have sinned against heaven and before thee’; and David said, ‘Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned.’
God wants us to act in obedience—not victory. Obedience it oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self. This may seem to be merely splitting hairs over semantics, but there is a subtle, self centered attitude at the root of many of our difficulties with sin. Until we face this attitude and deal with it we will not consistently walk in holiness.
This is not to say that God does not want us to experience victory, but rather to emphasize that victory is a byproduct of obedience. As we concentrate on living an obedient, holy life, we will certainly experience the joy of victory over sin.
—Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness (NavPress, 2003), 21–23.