We are by nature sinners. That’s why the apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus that we are “by nature children of wrath.” Our hearts are bent towards the desires of the flesh, not the will of God. Without any correction, our hearts will always default to sin – doing the opposite of what God has commanded.
When we put our trust in Jesus, God sends His Spirit to dwell in our hearts and begin the process of renewal. This process does not happen instantaneously but is like a potter who patiently shapes and molds us. There are bulges and defects that need to be straightened out – there is sin that needs to be eradicated. So, as Christians, sin remains a part of our lives, even while not defining our lives. To use another metaphor, the divine power of God’s Spirit enables us to walk on the path of obedience and faith, even while sin causes us to limp or stumble.
Because sin is natural to us, walking in step with the Spirit can feel unnatural. God’s path is one of self-denial and sacrifice. It is much easier to walk wherever our sinful, defective hearts lead us – which is usually wherever we can gratify our own desires. It takes concerted effort to keep on the path God has set for us. We need constant reminders of God’s promises and of the new identity which God has given us and into which we are growing. This is why the Apostle Peter was keen to remind his readers of the basic truths of the gospel and its implications for our lives. After a short, but incredibly profound review of the gospel, Peter writes the following:
Therefore I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this bodily tent, to wake you up with a reminder, since I know that I will soon lay aside my tent, as our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed made clear to me. And I will also make every effort so that you are able to recall these things at any time after my departure.2 Peter 1:12-15
You may know the gospel story inside and out, or you may be a mature Christian who is firmly established in the truths of the gospel. But you still need constant reminders about these truths. You are forgetful and by nature a sinner. You need to soak in the gospel each day, so it slowly becomes the default setting of your heart. An athlete trains day in and day out so that on the day of the competition all the movements and rhythms of his sport will feel natural and he will be able to focus on winning the prize. Likewise, the Christian trains so the movements and rhythms of the gospel life will feel increasingly natural and the default patterns of sin will feel increasingly foreign.
The gospel reminders that we so desperately need come in various forms, but the most basic way is through time with God’s Word. When we begin our day with reading and meditating on God’s Word, we are recalibrating our hearts to seek after the things above – the things of God. Likewise, when we begin our week in worship, together with the assembly of God’s people, we remind ourselves of who we are and where we are going. In these ways we tune our hearts to sing the song of God’s grace and walk in the way of faith. We need these reminders lest we revert to our old nature and wander off into the familiar tracks of sin.
We are by nature sinners, but thanks be to God for his grace which gives us the power to put on the new nature of Christ. May we “recall these things” day after day until God brings us into glory where our sinful hearts will be completely restored in true righteousness and holiness.