Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Faith and Sin, continued

In a previous post, I explained how faith and sin are opposites. Faith is trusting God, and sin is driven by distrusting God. I said that this explains why so many people don't have faith in God -- they don't trust God because they want to be in control of their own lives. It also explains why so many people don't realize that they are sinners -- they think living up to their own standards is good enough, and ignoring God is OK, but that's trusting themselves, not God, and that's really what sin is all about.

But I think that this understanding of faith and sin as opposites also explains the relationship between faith and works. 'Works' means doing good things, especially the sorts of things that most people would consider the opposite of sin.

I won't be quoting the Bible to support everything I say here, but if you doubt anything, just read the Bible and see for yourself. The epistle to the Romans and the epistle of James will be especially relevant.

The Bible makes it clear that works -- doing good things -- doesn't square our accounts with God, because it doesn't cancel or make up for our sins. Would you like it if I kicked you and then made up for it by giving you a car? Perhaps, but not if you already owned a fleet of thousands of cars. In any case, God, who created everything and owns everything and makes the rules, says good works can't pay for sins.

So how can we pay, and clear our debt? Well, we can't -- we're bankrupt -- it's as simple as that. But God figured out how to rescue us without cheating on his own rules. In his mercy, he sent Jesus -- Himself in human form -- the only man who was not in such debt, to pay the debt for all of us. He died in our place on the cross. But the debt is paid only to those that acknowledge and accept this free gift, not to those that ignore it and try to play by their own rules.

Accepting God's provision as sufficient is the first true step in trusting God, and it immediately makes you a Christian, an adopted son or daughter of God. This is what is called salvation, being saved, being born again. There's no turning back now.

But the next steps are often confusing for the new Christian, because of old habits. The new Christian knows he ought to please God, and generally wants to, being grateful that God forgave his sins, but being a creature of habit, finds himself sinning again. He may even doubt his salvation. He just needs to be reminded that Jesus paid for ALL his sins, even those after the event of salvation. He just needs to confess (admit) the recent sin, reconfirm that it's been paid for, and move on. It is faith (trust) continued.

But doesn't he have a 'free ticket' to sin, since it is all pre-paid? (I told you it get's confusing.) Well, if somebody said "I believe Jesus died for me" like they were magic words for getting into heaven, without really believing those words, he might think he's got a free ticket to sin, but he's just a phoney, and he's fooling himself. But if he knew he was a sinner, bankrupt on God's record-books, and accepted Jesus' death as the only sufficient and complete payment for his sins, he has true faith -- and true faith grows, expecially if nourished.

True faitb -- trusting God, not just believing he exists -- naturally causes one to not want to sin. So even if there were a 'free ticket' to sin, he doesn't want it, so it doesn't matter if he has a 'free ticket' to sin, or not. Faith causes one to not want to sin, because faith is the opposite of sin. If we trust God, we are willing to do things his way.

Love for God is a catalyst that works with faith to keep us from sin. Because God loved us so much to pay for our sins, we naturally feel like loving him back -- and that love compels us to please him. It takes a while to establish a new lifestyle, but gradually, faith and love work together, and grow together, and the believer grows closer to God.


JC said...

I found a post on another blog, Are You Bad Enough to Be a Christian? that parallels many of the thoughts expressed here.

Rey said...

Romans 6 seems to be playing in my mind while I read this post.