I have been chewing on the numbers, reasons, and the blame for a long time. The other day I came across a statement from a celebrated German poet, Heinrich Heine, near the top in his time as to why he as a former Jew was in regrets concerning his supposed conversion to Jesus Christ. Of course he was ostracized by the Jews of his time for the conversion, and I’m certain this played a part in his “regrets.” To get to the meat of his remorse, reading his own statement in a letter to his friend of many years, Moses Mazer, sheds enormous light on the subject, for his time and ours. Here is the statement:
January 9, 1826, Heinrich Heine writes, “I very much regret my conversion. I do not see that my situation has improved in any way-Just the opposite-since then I meet with nothing but misfortune.”
It is observable that today many people use the same reason for drawing back. There are a number of reasons for this misconception of just what salvation is really all about. The bill of goods foisted upon an unsuspecting audience or person that if I convert, I will be blessed financially, I will have better children, my spouse will love me deeper, I will no longer want to sin. You already know the list could continue ad infinitum. Many things on the list may happen, but the Bible and history is replete with men and women who trusted Christ and the change was on the inside in magnificent ways. Many are not familiar with the agony John Wesley endured concerning his brutal wife who often beat him into unconsciousness. Yet he preached Christ with such power that much of the fruit of his ministry continues to this day.
Deliverance is a possibility upon true conversion, but this does not mean that the desire is annihilated. When Christ came into my heart, I immediately quit smoking, with no regrets and no desire. However, I also quit several other, more serious acts that are still there, lurking waiting for a chance to pounce and bring destruction. I worried about this for years until I grasped what Paul is teaching in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Paul knew that there are some things in the life of the best Christians that must be controlled by daily, moment by moment trusting Christ. Along this line of thinking by Paul, Albert Barnes wrote:
“Verse 24. O wretched man that I am! The feeling implied by this lamentation is the result of this painful conflict; and this frequent subjection to sinful propensities. The effect of this conflict is
(1.) to produce pain and distress, it is often an agonizing struggle between good and evil; a struggle which annoys the peace, and renders life wretched.
(2.) It tends to produce humility. It is humbling to man to be thus under the influence of evil passions. It is degrading to his nature; a stain on his glory; and it tends to bring him into the dust, that he is under the control of such propensities, and so often gives indulgence to them. In such circumstances, the mind is overwhelmed with wretchedness, and instinctively sighs for relief. Can the law aid? Can man aid? Can any native strength of conscience or of reason aid? In vain all these are tried, and the Christian then calmly and thankfully acquiesces in the consolations of the apostle, that aid can be obtained only through Jesus Christ.
Who shall deliver me. Who shall rescue me; the condition of a mind in deep distress, and conscious of its own weakness, and looking for aid.
The body of this death. Marg. This body of death. The word body here is probably used as equivalent to flesh, denoting the corrupt and evil propensities on the soul. Cmt. on Ro 7:18. It is thus used to denote the law of sin in the members, as being that with which the apostle was struggling, and from which he desired to be delivered. The expression "body of this death" is a Hebraism, denoting a body deadly in its tendency; and the whole expression may mean the corrupt principles of man; the carnal, evil affections that lead to death or to condemnation. The expression is one of vast strength, and strongly characteristic of the apostle Paul. It indicates,
(1.) that it was near him, attending him, and was distressing in its nature.
(2.) An earnest wish to be delivered from it. Some have supposed that he refers to a custom practiced by ancient tyrants, of binding a dead body to a captive as a punishment, and compelling him to drag the cumbersome and offensive burden with him wherever he went. I do not see any evidence that the apostle had this in view. But such a fact may be used as a striking and perhaps not improper illustration of the meaning of the apostle here. No strength of words could express deeper feeling; none more feelingly indicate the necessity of the grace of God to accomplish that to which the unaided human powers are incompetent.” A.B.
I don’t know what you may have expected when you made a profession, but Jesus Christ and the writers of scripture make it plain that the true Christian experience is not a bed of roses absent the thorns. Paul himself wrote concerning the “success” syndrome in Philippians 3:8 “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,”.
Learning to genuinely live victoriously in Christ, means developing trust in Him to sing of Christ while smiling through tears, (Wiegle) amidst life’s most trying circumstances.
Copyright © 2014 Larry Lilly
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