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Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

Posted by Pat Cooper on

We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
— Romans 6:6 NET

When I read through the devotional prompt for this week, my mind took a quick trip back to the shelves of Joshua’s Christian Bookstore near Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas. It was somewhere in the mid ’80s and I was a spiritual mess. Raised by a deacon, I was always in church. At 8-years-old, I was a backyard preacher with a cardboard pulpit and a one-dog audience. Reading theological journals at 15, and a pastor at 28, you’d think I had it all together, but I was still a mess. By comparison, living out my faith was as if it were a spiritual marketplace, an ever-changing walk on Wall Street, some days opening in positive territory, but always a few points down at the closing bell. Like the book title that grabbed my attention that moment in the bookstore, spiritual progress for me was Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back (Charles R. Swindoll, Bantam Books, 1980).

Although a believer, I remained shackled to past sin never fully embracing that the last blow of the hammer that fastened Jesus’ body to the cross nailed my sin to it as well – all my sin. As Amy Grant once sang, I continued living in an old man’s rubble, still listening to the father of lies unable to resist his accusing voice and own the good news of the gospel.

I would like to tell you how I overcame all that and no longer entertain the devil’s indictments, but that would not be the truth. I still bow my head in shame and sorrow at times. But the same thoughts that have brought about moments of shame over the years are the very thoughts that today cause me to bow the knee and look up in thanksgiving, shouting glory to God for this I know:

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, Amazing grace

— Chris Tomlin

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