Thoughts on the words of J. Gresham Machen – Sin and the Christian


Oak Mountain State Park – February, 2017

J. Gresham Machen lived from 1881-1937. He was a Presbyterian churchman, a New Testament scholar, a Princeton Theological Seminary professor, founder of the Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen is considered to be the last of the great Princeton theologians. The quotes in this series come from his book, “Christianity and Liberalism”.

“… since we know that God does all things for His own glory and the good of His people, His decision to leave Christians with many struggles with sin must also somehow serve to glorify Him and benefit His people.
Sinless perfection and complete peace and joy must wait for heaven, but abundant joy here and now in Christ is your birthright and your inheritance, even when you sin and fail miserably to be a good Christian.”

These are two thoughts that I think tie together. As a Christian, I still struggle with sin. The only One who can help me overcome and the only One who can forgive that sin is God. Knowing I am weak makes me turn to Him, and His working through me glorifies Him.
Though I fail and sin, yet I can have peace and joy knowing I am His. I do not sin just because I have forgiveness – that would not work. But, when I do fall short, I know I can go to Him. This is the same way a child should be able to go to their parents. There may be natural consequences, but there is also sweet forgiveness.



Dear Father… You are patient and gracious far beyond our deserving. Let us hope for your forgiveness when we can find no way to forgive ourselves. You bless our lives even when we have shown ourselves to be utterly ungrateful and unworthy. May we be strengthened and renewed, to make us less unworthy of blessing, through these your gifts of sustenance, of friendship and family.” – prayed by Jack in Home by Marilynne Robinson

You would have to read the book to understand how beautiful and sad this prayer is.  Jack, the “black sheep” of the family prays here and it nearly broke my heart. This is the prayer I need to pray. Every. Single. Day. I identify with the ‘no way to forgive ourselves’ sentiment. And the being blessed even while ungrateful and unworthy.

Prayer doesn’t change things, but prayer lays hold of God who changes things and Who, in prayer, changes you. And sometimes in the midst of it all He gives you the assurance that your plea has been granted. – from The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis

I like that part about how God changes us in prayer. And gives us assurance.

Thoughts on Grace – The Example of David

Extravagant Grace is a book written by Barbara Duguid. She uses John Newton’s teaching on sanctification to explain God’s sovereignty over sin. Duguid is the wife of a Presbyterian pastor in Pennsylvania and the mother of six. The quotes in this series come from her book.

“David’s sin did not come out of nowhere. It began with him failing to pursue his duty to lead his people into battle.”

Many people know the story of David and Goliath and see David as a brave kid who grew up to be a brave man. And so he did. Others, though probably not as many, know the story of David and Bathsheba. Here he’s acting pretty rotten, and we wonder what happened.

Well, David is no different than us. We are all prone to sin, we all sin every day. The reason I like the quote from her book is it’s a good reminder of how one bad thing leads to another.

Here is the short version of David’s fall:

  1. He stays home instead of going to battle like he was supposed to, sending his right hand man, Joab, instead.
  2. He “just happened” to go up on the roof where he could see Bathsheba bathing.
  3. He sends for her and they have a little afternoon delight.
  4. Her devout husband is sent for from the battle, because David hopes he will have marital relations with Bathsheba and cover up any pregnancy that might have occurred.
  5. Her husband, Uriah, does what a good soldier is supposed to and does not go to bed with her.
  6. So, then David has him sent to the front lines, hoping he will be killed, which he is.
  7. David and Bathsheba end up having a son who dies.
  8. David finally comes to his senses, though at a great loss for many people, most especially himself.

Whew! Can you say “Soap Opera”? And yet, God forgave David and used him greatly, as Jesus was born of the genealogical line of David.

If you want to read about David in more detail, read I and II Samuel in the Old Testament of the Bible.


Seventy Times Seven


“We are quick to find fault and slow to forgive…To our amazement, when we turn toward Jesus as light and truth, we find, not condemnation, but grace and forgiveness.” – Woodrow Kroll

How many times do I think I have learned this lesson, only to have to be taught it over again? Too many to count.

I, we, need to be slow to find fault and quick to forgive. And we need to forgive over and over, as Christ told Peter, and us, in Matthew 18:21-22.

Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.