In my daily devotions this year I’ve been using a wonderful resource called The Valley of Vision. This thin volume is a collection of prayers from the Puritans. It is published by the Banner of Truth Trust. Each day I read aloud one of the prayers, and make it my own communication to God.
Several weeks ago I ran across one line in one of the prayers that stuck in my mind. The sentiment was, “Lord, forgive me for putting my confidence in my own promises to avoid future sins.”
When I pondered this, I realized how often I do this. I sin and my conscience bothers me. I confess my sin and ask God’s forgiveness, and then I pledge that “I’ll never do that again…” Now in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with “endeavoring after new obedience,” as our Westminster Confession puts it. Promising to fight against sin in the future is not a bad thing.
But here is the rub: promising to avoid future transgressions is no ground of confidence or hope for eternity. I cannot rest upon my resolve alone, as if that were enough. It’s not enough for me, and it’s not enough for God either.
How many times don’t we make such pledges, and then violate our promise within weeks, days or even hours. “I’ll never do that again” becomes, “Well, I’ve done it again…” Aren’t we like the “weak believer” who keeps sinning, and keeps repenting, and keeps asking forgiveness, and then sins the same sin again – seventy times seven times!
Furthermore, how will my promise to be good in the future do anything to alleviate my guilt from past actions? Doing better tomorrow does not erase what I did yesterday!
So if my hope for eternity rests upon my own promise to not sin in the future, I skate on very thin ice! My resolutions for the future are a shaky foundation that can bear little weight at all. I need something surer –I need bedrock.
The solid foundation we seek is found in such Scripture promises as these:
Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Hebrews 7:25Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
The plain truth is this: our hope for eternal happiness is always, only, completely and exhaustively in Christ alone. His finished work is the sure foundation. His promise can bear the weight of my future joy. Don’t trust yourself – you will fail you. Trust Jesus instead, who will never leave us nor forsake us, and cannot fail us or disappoint our hopes!