Posts Tagged sin

Two Trees

Ask most non-Christians whether they will go to heaven when they die, and they usually will reply with something like, “I think so, I’m a pretty good guy.”  Those of us who follow Jesus know that the only way to heaven is by trusting Him for our salvation, and that being a “good guy” won’t cut it.

Or do we?

If we really understand that truth, then why do so many in the church seem so caught up in works?  We feel guilty because we don’t do what we should.  We feel guilty because we keep doing what we shouldn’t.  Sound familiar?  It sounds to me like the conflict Paul found himself fighting in Romans 7.  While we accept the grace of God in theory, it seems in practice it’s another story.  We judge ourselves and others by such strict standards.

It all started in the garden.

If you recall, there were two trees in the Garden of Eden.  There was the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Mankind was meant to eat only of the tree of life, living in perfect communion with God forever.  But we made a choice to instead eat of the other tree, and when we did, our eyes were opened.  And notice it was not just evil, but GOOD and EVIL.  They are two sides of the same coin.  It was a knowledge we were never supposed to have.  A knowledge of good, a knowledge of evil, and a knowledge of our own nakedness before God.

Mankind has lived in the bondage of that decision ever since.  For most, life is a constant battle between their own capacity for both good and evil.  And when the good outweighs the evil, we feel pretty good about ourselves, like somehow our nakedness before God is covered up.  But that is a battle we are not capable of winning.

The truth is, if we are still living lives of pursuing good and avoiding bad actions, we are still living a life of bondage to that decision so long ago to eat of the wrong tree.  Paul calls it “the law of sin and death” in Romans 8.  And as long as we are obsessed with what we are doing and not doing, we are living under the law of sin and death, and sin still rules over us.

Jesus came to give us life, not just forgiveness.  He came to restore us to the garden, where we may freely eat of the tree of life and live in communion once again with our Father.  He came to restore us back to the place we lived before the knowledge of good and evil corrupted our hearts.  No longer must we live as slaves to our actions.  No longer must we constantly worry about what we have done or what we have left undone.  No longer must we hide our nakedness from God, afraid of what He’ll do to us if He sees us as we really are.

It’s a free gift.

No action required on our part other than to repent and accept the gift.  But when we repent before God, we are not really repenting of our sins.  We are repenting of our thought that we could ever do anything but sin.  We are repenting of thinking we could cover our nakedness by our own goodness.  We are repenting of choosing to live under the law of sin and death, trying desperately to win a battle He has already won.

So we have a choice:  We can continue to live in bondage to the law of sin and death, constantly afraid of what we have done, hiding in our shame before God. We can continue thinking life is about doing good and avoiding evil, burdened by guilt over our failures.

Or we can accept the sacrifice of Jesus, living in the “law of liberty in Christ”, freely eating of the tree of life.  That’s it, it’s over.  Sin can no longer rule over us because we are free from it’s power.  The power of sin is wrapped up in it’s consequences.  Take away the punishment and you take away it’s power.  And that’s what Jesus did.  We no longer have to fear, strive, work, or hide.

Breathe deep and feel the release.  Your salvation no longer depends on you living up to a standard.  Let it go and live in the freedom you were meant to have all along.

Maybe that’s why it’s called the “good news.”

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Planks and splinters

I got a question from someone who read one of my recent posts called “I’m going AWOL.” I thought his question was a good one, it made me think a little and pray a lot about my answer. And I think it’s an important enough issue to answer his question publicly and give all the readers of this blog a chance to be in on the conversation. (By the way, he actually agrees with me, so I’m not “calling him out” publicly or anything.)

Here’s his question:

In the epistle to the Ephesians is written: “and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of the darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11 KJV) That “reprove them” could mean that we as God’s children are entitled and exhorted to confront the ungodly in his/her unrighteousness? 

I gave him my short answer on the blog post, but here is the more complete answer. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone on your thoughts as well.

It’s the sin, not the sinner

The first thing that strikes me about this scripture in Ephesians is that it refers to the “unfruitful works of darkness,” not the “unfruitful workers of darkness.” The focus is on the sinful acts, not those who commit them. It seems to me, our focus these days is more on the sinners around us than the grace of God that has freed us from the bondage to sin.  This idea of “taking a stand for God” has consumed us, and has only served to erect a wall between God and those who need Him most.

It’s me that has to change

The next thing about this scripture is that word “fellowship.” My study shows it would probably be better translated as “participate in.”  This is an encouragement to believers not to participate in the works of darkness that are practiced by those in the world around them. “Don’t live like them, don’t behave like them. You have been redeemed by Christ, everything should have changed. Desires, focus, passions should be directed toward Christ and not pleasing yourself.”

This is not a fight

Then there’s that word “reprove.” Again, I think a better translation would be “expose.” I don’t think this is an invitation to do what we’ve done many times. It’s not permission for us to fight and picket and protest those with whom we disagree. It’s not an encouragement for us to point our bony fingers of judgment at others. Rather, I think it is a challenge for us to live our lives in such a way that, by contrast, the works of darkness around us will be exposed for the evil they are.  By doing so, we earn the right to speak into the lives of others.  When we live lives ruled by love, not judgment, those around us become much more receptive to what we have to say.

The bottom line

Look, I know we are called to “come out from among them and do not touch the unclean thing.”  But that command has nothing to do with “them”, it has everything to do with me.  I do not have to shake my fist at the world.  I just stop acting like them.  I don’t have to point out the sin in those around me, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

The weapons of our warfare are not of this earth.  Our enemy is not of this earth.  Our battle is not with the sinners, the gays, the atheists or anyone else.  We belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.  That’s a Kingdom that has no end.  And it’s a Kingdom that aims to change me first.  It’s a Kingdom that requires me to lay down my life, my dreams, and my hopes before its King.  It requires me to start with my own planks, not their splinters.

The path of love is a slower, more deliberate pace.  It’s a journey, not a sprint.  It’s a lifestyle, not a marketing ploy.  It takes commitment, patience, and…well…love.

If it is a battle, and we’re going to fight against the sin around us, I think love and mercy are much more effective weapons anyway.

Maybe that’s why Jesus used them.

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