Monday, April 30, 2012

False Tension

"Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ..."  Colossians 2

There's a tension and a mystery that I've accepted that really isn't supposed to be a tension or a mystery.  It's the fact of ongoing sin in a believer's life.

Let me explain.  This Christian life gets me down.  I'm always expecting to turn a corner and become a real Christian.  I wait for a magical touch from God, a moment in time when I completely let go of my sinful habits and addictions and live fully for Christ.  The victorious Christian life is what I want.  And when I have it, I think I won't have to wrestle with the issue of assurance anymore.  The gospels gone all topsy-turvy on me.

Our neighbors were over the other day, and one mentioned that the problem for every Christian is ongoing sin.  He'd been "saved" into a victorious Christian community, one which accepted God's forgiveness on the cross as a starting point and then sought victory.

My guess is it was hardly a Christian community.  When Christians find they can't live without sin, they put up rules, and when they break the rules, they either make more or go into hiding.  Christians, since they're human, are absolute experts at hiding, and not only that but we'll use the Christian religious language to spiritualize certain sins.  And don't even get me started on Americanized Christianity again, that praises over-work, self-righteousness, numbers and charts, charisma, shovenism, wealth, status and everything external.

But the sort of community my neighbor was involved in left no room to really deal with ongoing sin.  And as I've been thinking about it, I don't either.  I say stuff like, "One day I will be free from this sin struggle, but for now I have to live in the tension of the 'now but not yet.'  It's a mystery that I continue to sin.  I must just not be grateful enough for my salvation to stop sinning."

There's truth in the statement above, but the core thing I'm beginning to realize is that apart from Christ, sin is all we know.  Oh I do see goodness, but it's from afar in most cases.

Another thing I'm realizing is that sin stems from not believing in God's love.  So this whole "now but not yet"  can be used as a dismissive way of getting rid of the problem of continued sin and not really dealing with the issue.

The issue is God's unbelievable love and mercy.  I believe that God loves me, barely.  I've had very personal and empirical experiences of God's love, not to mention knowing the story of the cross my entire life.  But the root of sin, my lack of belief that I am indeed loved, which includes being love-able, has eluded me for the longest time.

This is where the gospel gets really radical.  Ongoing sin is not a problem for the Christian.  Ongoing sin is to be expected.  Sin is all the Christian used to know.  Ongoing sin is the norm.

Belief in forgiveness, radical love and acceptance, perfect righteousness, is the exception.  But it's what I press on to understand.  It is what drives me to write.  It is what I hope is the really real.  It's what I've tasted.  And it is why the gospel just gets better and better and better the deeper I go.

My hope needs to shift towards God and away from "sin-management."  I want to grow deeper into his grace, deeper into his love, and if this means that I have to sin like a wild man outwardly, let it be.  To know God is the Christian's goal.

If this truth strikes home, ongoing sin is not the main problem, rather lack of true knowledge and the love that cuts away at our self-sufficiency, self-pride, self-hate and self-fear is the problem.  In the gospel we are freed from the greatest sin - our self-love problem.

Can we begin loving ourselves like God loves us and move away from loving ourselves like he doesn't?


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