Adventures in Missing the Mark.
^That’s the subtitle of this post, which is a long time coming, and the reason for jotting this down is the accumulation of all that I have read in the past year or so. Since my latter years of undergrad, I began looking deeper into my faith and talking to my dad about a lot that’s been going through my head and heart in relation to our faith…going “back to the basics” you could say. However, this back to the basics did not include simply examining the basic tenets of my Christian faith, but at the underlying theology that is innate and present in everything that I do in life, at home and away from home.
I began seeking to understand why I am the kind of Christian I am, and why I go to the church I go to (and whether or not I needed to change my ways to become a “new kind of Christian” that has been soo much written and talked about in today’s emergent conversation). Thus, I started researching about the “Protestant Reformation” and studying reformation theology–the doctrines of grace, “tulip” and all things related to John Calvin and Martin Luther (and also in retrospect, the heretical, Arminian-istic and Emergent/McLaren-istic theologies). I wanted to know myself better, and to know God better. Thus, I tried tackling the easiest things first: grace, faith, salvation, etc.
Too my surprise–these easy things aren’t so easy or simple, and at its very core, they are so Divine that throughout all that I’ve read, studied, researched and sought to understand…there seems to be so much I cannot understand. —Why the God of all creation would save me, let alone anybody, at all?!? Why is God so gracious to us?!? We are such depraved sinners, all of us, that we deserve eternal punishment from God–and yet He has given us His Son Jesus Christ, who lived & fulfilled righteousness when He was alive and died on the Cross for our sins, and rose to life on the 3rd day so that we may live. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).
That’s how it all got started. Which now brings us to today’s post:
If you were allowed to chose one, just 1, doctrine within Christian systematic theology to study–what would it be? For most, it would probably be soteriology–the study of salvation. But for me, as one who has seeked to live all of life for God’s name and renown, to worship and bring glory to God in all things… I’m interested in understanding that ONE thing that hinders, trips and holds us back from bringing glory and honour and praise to God: sin.
What is it? Why do we do it? What are the consequences of it? Are there significant distinctions or differences between sins?
Hence, harmartiology: the doctrine/study of sin.
I’ve only just begun thinking about this…all kind of stemming from my Sunday School class on what “godliness” means (1 Timothy 6).
In Psalm 14, David writes about fools, sinners:
they are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good… They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;there is none who does good,not even one.
At reading all of this, I find it ironic that in a book of praise there is an entire song talking about sin, harmartiology. And it’s so soo hard to swallow too–we don’t like to hear it, that we are SINNERS. S-I-N-N-E-Rs. In our nature, to every part of our being, we are depraved, without good. Because of original sin from Adam, sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). Sin and death.
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.“ (Romans 7:14-20)
All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Apart from Christ, we are “weak” and “ungodly” (5:6), “sinners” (5:8), under the coming “wrath of God” (5:9), “enemies” of God in need of “reconciliation” and salvation (5:10), under the “judgment” and reigning “death” that followed Adam’s “one tresspass” (5:16-17), “enslaved to sin” (6:6, 16-17, 20), presenting our “members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness” (6:19), “of the flesh, sold under sin” (7:14), having “nothing good” dwelling in our flesh (7:18), having bodies “of death” in need of deliverance (7:24), “hostile to God” (8:7), the fruit and wages of which are death and condemnation (6:21,23; 8:1).
As it has been understood by Augustine and our reformation fathers, we are totally depraved, and totally unable to save ourselves from sin & its consequences. This depravity is in the extensive sense, and rather than intensive sense. The effect of original sin on all of us is that sin has extended to every part of our personality–our thinking, our intellect, our emotions, our conscience, and our will. Not necessarily that we are intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to our entire being.
Even the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest “Christians” that has ever lived–the forefather of all the fathers of our faith–was a sinner. He was not perfect, but so very far from it. That’s the truth. Use whatever words you want to describe him, put whatever label you want on it–feel free to even call him one, and I doubht he or any of His friends would feel offended. Christ by His own grace through faith made this truth known to Paul for sure–something we cannot deny. We were spiritually dead in our sins and tresspasses, gratifying the desires of our sinful nature, following its desires and its thoughts, and by nature we were children of divine wrath. And when we were in our sinfulness–Christ died for us–and by grace we are saved. Have a look and see what I mean:
“For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
-1 Timothy 1:15-17
But the 2nd half of harmartiology is that we are not JUST sinners saved by the grace of God. We are so much more worse than that! We are rebels, enemies of God, aliented from God, hostile towards God, revilers of the LORD God Almighty, whom God has found in our sinfulness to be saints–a holy, redeemed, faithful child of God. “Grace is seen in this–while we were wretches; while we were sinners, shaking our fists at God, hating God, defying God in thought, word and deed–every single one of us; God did something ridiculous–paying an outlandish and scandalous price to redeem us (the blood of His beloved Son).” (Pastor J. Samson)
To the Ephesians God set the standard pretty high; He said that here must not even be a hint of immorality or impurity in us. Not even a hint. God’s standard is perfection, but we are not and we simply cannot achieve. But Christ can, Jesus fufilled the requirements of righteousness while alive…and still does. He lives in us–it is He who gives us the hope of glory by living inside of us and giving us the grace we need to endure (Colossians 1:27). By His Spirit, we have the grace not just to save us–but to sustain us.
For most of us, we might have thought that Jesus Christ’s life, persecution, death and resurrection was enough to save us from our sins, to forgive us, and justify us before a Holy Holy Holy LORD God. But I think what most of us has forgotten is that this same grace sustains us–day in and day out. Sanctification, the process of something sinful being made holy, has its source in this same grace–any good that we can ever do, or any obedience that we could ever muster only happens because of God’s grace. Grace is the source of (good) work. Our works is the fruit of saving grace–it was exactly what we were saved to do (Ephesians 2:8-10)…and in our working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2) we look forward to the “Future Grace” of God.
It was indeed for our sake & to the Father’s glory that God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin , so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Therefore, we are not just a sinner saved by grace. We are sinners who have been cleanesed, forgiven, transformed, and made righteous and holy in Christ–we are saints! And as grace is through faith and not by works, so also our identity is not defined by what we do or do not do–namely, sin. Even though our nature and our sinning would define us by as sinners who are completely depraved in our entire beings, Christ by His covenantal blood declares us as HIS, holy and faithful ones.
In conclusion and in response to the merciful grace of God, I am compelled to make a public apology. Due to the unedifying and un-God-glorifying remarks I made here about “damaged goods”, and comments made about my remarks found here and here, I must apologize to my readers and seek the forgiveness of God and all persons involved—especially Kitty Lee, Chris Luk, and Johnny Cheung. My language and attitude was corrupt and hurtful, and though it was neither intended to be that, nor “slander”. The aim/focus of that post on ‘Internal Transformation’ was indeed to spur each other on in metanoeo–hence, I am moreover sorry that such words were written, and should thus set the example and be a real witness here to the testimony that was written. What’s done is done, and I cannot take back what I wrote, or undo the hurt that I have caused; I am sincerely sorry and hope that you would let me be sorry for this. Words were thrown back and forth which was not Christ-like nor kind or tenderhearted…and for that I am sorry also, and ask for God’s and your forgiveness. In due time, I hope and pray that you would be able to forgive me, as Christ has first forgiven you and me.
Despite the fact that I am still uncertain if you truly see who you were meant to be yet, or if you even truly know that you are forgiven and free, that you are called to love God and made to worship Him…the LORD’s grace has revealed to me that one day, when you and I do actually embrace surrender–we will indeed see and know all these things.
To all who frequents my little blog here, I hope you can pray for me: that I may grow in speech / written prose that is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.