I'm finding this entry difficult to write. For one thing, I'm having trouble making sense of rather sketchy notes written several weeks ago. For another, my original intent now feels somewhat anticlimactic or something. Perhaps I simply hesitate.Originally this was to be the flipside of the Schism, how we deal with sin as Christians, how we handle abuses within the church and without.
And I suppose I'll come back around to it. The church is a messy thing. My concern is, more or less, discouraging anyone. For it is just as incorrect to say 'we have no sin' as it is to say 'we are free to sin.'
I would submit, however, that we are but reflections, imperfect reflections born in a dark mirror. And, God help us, his grace is far more than sufficient.
During the interim, however, I decided to answer a few questions. One, is holiness attainable without God? Two, where does grace fit in?
Someone asked me if I believed men capable of attaining such holiness and righteousness, such obedience. And I'll confess, my answer, true to form, was rather lengthy (though not enough complete). But this is, in my mind, akin to asking me if it is possible to breathe or to eat or for my heart to beat, of its own accord. Natural law simply doesn't allow such spontaneous generation of life.
To answer quickly:
1. Sinlessness is impossible without God. We simply were not made to survive without him, just as we don't survive without food and water and breath in our lungs and blood in our veins.
2. We are no longer enslaved to sin and dead to righteousness post-salvation.
More coming...That's another entry entirely. First I want to swiftly define sin. Remember: I am talking about wrongdoing in a post-salvation context.
I've always defined sin as "anything that goes against the nature and character of God." But Scripture seems to take it further than that. Romans 1 writes that godlessness and wickedness are "knowing God, but neither glorifying him as God nor giving thanks to him" (Romans 1 paraphrase).
But rather, "their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1).
I don't think I'm going to say much on our pre-salvation position here, other than that we are indeed perishing before we are brought into the fold, for two reasons: One, this series is primarily directed toward believers. Two, I'm dealing with human depravity on the Awake My Glory site soon enough with an entry titled "Uncreative." A few of you are giggling now. The rest of you are left to wonder. 0=)
The long story short: Something broke, and God reconciled us to himself through his Son Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith (heaven help me, I love the book of Hebrews). So now, despite mankind having failed, Jesus has fulfilled the Law, and "just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert" that men might be saved, so Jesus was lifted up, in the belly of the earth for three days as Jonah was in the belly of a fish.
He was then resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit (the same which now dwells within us) and seated at the right hand of God until everything is placed under his feet, where he forever stands as high priest and king before God and covers us in robes dipped in blood.
He who believes in the Son has life. He who does not believe in the Son stands condemned already.
"Religious" was my ultimate response to those who adhere to a form of spiritual anarchy, those who confuse righteousness with rebellion. Test everything, my friends, and work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
"Dirty" is my response to him who abuses the Law, using that which was intended for to toward evil. In other words, as I asked the one, I now say:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (I Corinthians 13. 1-3).
I actually hesitate to use the above Corinthians passage because it is so overused and taken out of context. Just to appease myself, I ask also:
"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance" (Romans 2.1&2)?
Paul cannot, in this text, be meaning that we are never to pass judgment - indeed, he at one point praises another church for putting every word that comes out of his mouth to the test, and Jesus himself warns us to watch out for false teachers.
But if righteousness and holiness are matters of the heart, then, by design, so must sin and lawlessness be. For, as Paul points out, "where there is no law there is no trangression," and death reigned from Adam until Moses even though the official Law had not been granted. Again, this falls to matters of the heart.
Simply put, there's a right and wrong way to do everything. But there is also within the boundaries of the Law a measure of grace. And Scripture does teach that our heavenly Father does not discipline all his children the exact same way, just as an earthly father wouldn't. One, he does grant us a measure of personal conviction (that lovely "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial" section everyone loves to use and uses to hate). And, two, "to his own master a servant stands or falls."
Wheat and tares
I'll be honest: I worry about the ones who look to see how far they can go before finding the line, those who stand on the line, and those who make a point to cross it just to prove God won't zap them. (Truly, he should.)
I also worry about the ones who blanket condemn anyone who doesn't look the way they think Christians should. Christianity, by nature, has an element of sponteneity to it, an element born from grace, I think.
In other words:
do not raid his dwelling place;
for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again,
but the wicked are brought down by calamity" (Proverbs 24.15&16).
And, "For it is by grace you are saved through faith, and not by works, lest any man should both." Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes through the Word of God. Furthermore, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen, for by it the elders obtained a good report (Hebrews 11.1-3, my paraphrase).
I know: "Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James). The problem is, God uses the following to provide tests for one who may or may not have the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5).
So yes, we can tell over time whether or not someone is a believer. But what do you do when you see tares among the wheat?
So is the purpose of "Dirty."
So, I'm asserting that sin is anything against the nature and character of God, any failure to acknowledge God, give him praise, or worship him, per Romans 1. If the James 2 definition of religion stands true, than unrighteousness is also failure to relieve oppression (and/or to oppression), to shirk justice and even love injustice (Micah 6.8), to hate mercy (or to love ruthlessness), to invent ways of doing evil (Romans 2), and to hate Truth and Light, but to love darkness and deception (John, I think, is the prime example on this one).
In other words: "Be excellent in what is good; be innocent of evil. And the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet."
Now, remember, Proverbs says:
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers (6.16-19).
In other words, sin is hating God and your neighbor (which is largely the result of hating God).
Grace, then, is part of the redeeming work of God in which he takes that which is hateful, godless, and lawless - that which is unjust, unrighteous, and unmerciful - and makes it so. For, "It is God's kindness which leads to repentance.
I said before, even a non-Christian knows the difference between a guy who wears a priest's robes and a guy who genuinely engages in the office of priest. So to those who say they've been 'burned by church' or who claim that Christians have stained the name of Christ...
I have to ask a few questions.
1. Do you consider experience equal with Truth?
2. Do you consider everyone who says they are Christian, Christian?
3. Do you truly believe a man who says he is religious will behave irreligiously?
4. If you yourself are a Christian, why do you reject your entire family because of one part of it?
5. If you truly believe that even believers sin, why do you expect sinlessness from them?
Jesus himself said many would come in his name, and to watch out for false teachers - many of whom sprang up before the completion of the New Testament. Remember: A man of God is known by the fruit he produces.
It works both ways, in other words. The completely unorthodox guy who drives the other up the way may very well know Jesus just as well as the guy in the suit who thinks tattoos are of the devil.
So be it.
Alright, I think now my train of thought is back. Next time, "Dirty." Also called "So you look like a son of God and smell like a son of the devil."
Kidding on the subtitle...
Next: Dirty, A