Good News for “Poor Performers” and “Splendid Sinners”

post date: December 15, 2007
This afternoon I read a bit from Faithfulness and Holiness by J. I. Packer. The book consists of Packer’s short biography of J. C. Ryle, the noted British Anglican leader of the 19th century, and a reprint of Ryle’s justly-famous book called, simply, "Holiness." I happened across this quote from Ryle’s chapter on "Sanctification" where he means to show that God is pleased with our least efforts to please him. He demonstrates this by speaking the plain truth about the best efforts of the best saints:
The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more or less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance, and in themselves are nothing more than "splendid sins," deserving God’s wrath and condemnation (p. 126).

This is a much-needed word for a generation of Christians with an inflated sense of self-importance. Apart from God’s grace, even our best efforts are nothing more than "splendid sins."
So do you feel somewhat dismayed by your "poor performance" this week? Would you feel better if you had been better? Probably you would. But we are not saved by our feelings but by Christ who died for us while we were yet sinners and who justified us while we were ungodly and who continues to save us despite our "poor performance" and our "splendid sins."
No wonder the angel called it "good news of great joy" when Christ was born. Let all poor performers and splendid sinners rejoice at Christmastime. He came for us, too.


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Ray Pritchard
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