Thursday, September 8, 2011

Salvation 101 - Part IV - Sin nature vs. sin action

7-9 Really! There's no such thing as self-rescue, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. The cost of rescue is beyond our means, and even then it doesn't guarantee life forever, or insurance against the Black Hole.
(Psalm 49:7-9)

We have been exploring the scriptures that address our salvation experience and the fact that it is nothing we can earn or "work our way up to".  The keeping of commandments as outlined in scripture is not a system of works - do this and you will be like by God; don't do this and God will have no use for you.  The obedience of our heart, mind, and spirit is evidence that we love God and trust him - plain and simple.  When a parent tells a child not to touch the hot stove because it will hurt them - that is similar to a commandment.  It is shared with the child because the parent doesn't want to see the child hurt.  The same is true of the commandments (boundaries) established in scripture - they are God's plan to keep us from getting hurt!

Even with all the boundaries established for us, we still cross them from time to time!  It is kind of like telling a child that candy is not good for them and then finding out they emptied the candy dish the next time we look!  When we cross the boundaries established for us by God, we call this "sin".  Sin is different from having a sin nature.  The sin nature is what keeps us apart from God - we cannot fellowship with him with our unholy sin nature - we need that exchange of nature that happens in relationship with Christ.  Sin is entirely an action - it is totally based on the choices we make.  

One is the way we were born - born with a sin nature that has no potential of being "improved upon" by anything we "do".  It is only by the provision of grace and the blood of Jesus that God no longer sees our nature - he sees the nature of Christ in us.  That is why Paul tells us that it is "Christ in us" that is the hope of glory.  Sin is the outcome of making wrong choices.  Many of us think that the "action" of sin is not supposed to occur after salvation.  There is a misconceived idea that salvation will "deliver" us magically from all desire to sin.  Guess again!  The battle against wanting our own way, desiring what God tells us we should not have, is still there!

When we have this misconception of sin - that once we are "saved" we should no longer struggle with the desire to sin - we often feel very self-critical about the internal desires we experience that "pull us" toward crossing those boundaries.  We live with guilt, shame, and frustration, as a result.  Here this:  God loves us in spite of our sin!  He loved us before we were ever aware of our sin.  Now that we are aware of his love for us in Christ, why do we think he loves us any less when we compromise and fall into sin?  That is a lie we tell ourselves that Satan finds great joy in hearing over and over again!

We lose a lot when we compromise and enter into sinful behavior - but we don't lose relationship with God!  We are part of his family and we will be restored lovingly when we realize our sin and return for his grace!  The parable of the Prodigal Son is all about this concept of "recognition of sin" and "grace upon returning".  There is a principle taught in scripture of being "adopted" into the family of God at the point of our salvation experience.  We are given a "seal" of adoption (much like the official seal of the state in which an adoption is ratified that makes it legal and binding).  That seal is the Holy Spirit's work of creating within us evidence that we belong to God - we are part of his family and bear the mark of his family in our lives.

In the days the scriptures were written, a seal carried much weight.  It was the primary way of identifying that something was authentic - the real deal!  The mark of "family" that we bear in our lives as Christians means that when God looks at us he sees that we are the "real deal".  The struggles we have with sin do not change that!  So, can we "fall out of grace with God"?  Yep, I think we can anytime we add to the principles taught in scripture, creating our own religious system of works that hold people in bondage and don't allow them to experience the grace of God in its purest form - we call that a system of works or false religion.

Scripture is very plain - either you live by a system of works and apart from God, or you live by faith in the grace God provides and are embraced by him as his own.  One or the other, not both.  The system of works focuses on what we should NOT do.  The freedom of grace points us toward what we can do in Christ.  One limits us, the other gives us freedom.  One lifts us to God's bosom, the other pushes us further away.  One sees us as new creatures in Christ, the other sees only the evidence of our sin nature.

Yes, we will "sin" after we are brought into the family of God - but when we recognize our sin, confess it to God, turn away from it and allow him to do the work of restoration that grace affords, we draw closer to him and are not pushed away.  Sin is compromise - we cross the boundaries we probably should have observed in the first place.  Our God is a God of restoration - no other "penalty" for sin must be paid - the entire "penalty" for sin was paid on the Cross when Jesus hung there for our sin.  That includes the sin of yesterday and the sin of today - yep, even the sin of tomorrow.  Don't be willful in your sin, but when you do sin, confess it, bring it to God for forgiveness, and walk away a free person!  His grace is enough!