One definition of “sin” is that it is an attitude in which we see ourselves as the ultimate authority, replacing God. The real God and His law become secondary in our lives. Probably we are not consistently sinful all the time, but we know that from time to time we place first our pride and well-being, even if others may sacrifice because of us. Are any of us not sinners some times?
My church is a place full of sinners. Indeed, in order to be a Christian a person must admit that he or she is a sinner. It is not really a surprise that Christians sin, that there is an inconsistency between what they say and what they do. The Bible explains again and again that people’s hearts are initially drawn toward selfishness and pride. The Bible says “…. this is how you should live if you believe what Jesus taught us.” But, it also says, “You can’t and you won’t,” and it provides a solution to that problem ——– in God’s GRACE. Christianity, unlike other religions or self-help programs acknowledges that it cannot be followed perfectly.
Religion scholar R. C. Sproul writes: “The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgement of sinfulness as a condition for membership. In one sense, this church has fewer hypocrites than any other institution because by definition the church looks for sinners and is a haven for them. If the church claimed to be an organization of perfect people, then her claim would be hypocritical. But no such claim is made by the church. There is no slander in the charge that the church is full of sinners. Such a statement actually gives a compliment to the church for fulfilling her divinely appointed task of seeking sinners.”
Christianity is often equated with “obeying the rules,” thereby making us think we just need to appear to be a morally superior person. Actually, most religions operate on the principle: “If I live as I ought, I will be accepted by God.” But Christianity has a completely different operating principle ——- I am ALREADY accepted by God as a gift, demonstrated through what Jesus did for us on the Cross. Therefore, out of gratitude, I will try to live as I ought.” Christians are people who understand that they will always fail to live entirely as they should. Therefore, that they need forgiveness, and God’s freely given GRACE.
The prerequisite to becoming a Christian is admitting that we have this problem, and that we need God’s help. So, continual repentance should be the mark of a Christian life.
Jesus criticized people who do “religious” things just to feel or appear superior to others. Jesus understood the danger lurking in a kind of religious moralism in which a person or a community feels they have earned God’s favor. This can lead them to feeling that they deserve special deference and respect from all other folks ——— it produces an unfortunate and unwarranted ego trip. Jesus told us the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, praying side by side in the Temple, to make his point. It was not that the Pharisee and the tax collector were not trying to obey God ——– they actually were. However, the Pharisee was doing it only self-righteously, so as to feel superior to other people. The tax collector won Jesus’ praise because his approach to God was one of repentance. Humility had been totally absent from the Pharisee’s prayers.
Jesus himself sacrificed his life so that his followers could be reconciled to God, making their pride and self-interest secondary. Christians follow someone (Jesus) who sacrificed everything (all of his pride and self-interest) to redeem and renew the world. So, at the heart of the Christian faith is a man who died a victim of injustice, but who called for the forgiveness of his enemies. Jesus is the model we sinners should be trying to follow.
These thoughts are brought to you by CPC’s Adult Spiritual Development Team, hoping to
encourage you to pursue some spiritual growth this Winter at CPC.