The apostle does not think in terms of the transformation of the fallen human being–at least not in the way we usually conceive of “transformation”–but of our being created anew by the saving power of God in Christ… All growth and progress are a growth in faith, which in the changing circumstances of life grasps Christ and what God has done in him…
Christian faith, by virtue of its confession of Christ, remains sober and realistic about the limits of progress. We are called to reject all idealistic fantasies and to accept the painful and humbling truth that we–both individually and corporately–remain sinners so long as we remain in this body and life. Indeed, we must delight in being sinners: not sinning, nor in being sinners per se, but in the painful yet joyful confession of being sinners who live under the saving lordship of Christ. Our weakness is more than matched by Christ’s strength.
Progress in Christian living is thus paradoxical. We go forward by ever going back to Christ crucified and risen for us. Christian growth often is construed as a gradual, upward path to sanctification. This picture is false and unbiblical. It implicitly carries us away from Christ and the liberation from ourselves that only his cross and resurrection can give. We are not called to progress in ourselves away from Christ but to progress in Christ away from ourselves–away from the fallen reality that determines us as children of Adam. All progress is a return to the beginning of the Christian life, where it enters more deeply into the wonder of God’s love in Christ in the face of our sin and misery. The “flesh” can neither be reformed nor rehabilitated. It must be crucified.”
P.S. This version truly smokes: