I’ve made mistakes. For instance, right now I’m sitting at the rec center working a 4:00-6:00 shift which I will have to leave early in order to get to the pool in time to lifeguard from 6:00-9:00. This leaves no time to eat. This is a mistake. Of course, I’ve made many more mistakes in my short lifetime, and this Christmas break was no exception. But the fact that I made these mistakes lead me to think. And what I thought about is why I would sin instead of strive for a better relationship with God. And it made me think about what it really takes to move away from this sin into the greater life we can have through obedience.
Everyone sins. This is a basic doctrine of the Christian faith that even the wackiest of televangelists cannot get wrong. But what does it mean that we sin? What does it say about us when we choose to do something that God has deliberately, and for our own good, told us to avoid? I don’t think many Christians necessarily think about this; we realize we sin, ask for forgiveness, and then try harder next time. But within this line of thinking lies the trap that so many fall into. The reason we sin has nothing to do with how hard we are trying, but instead has everything to do with how much we love God. In John 14, Jesus makes it clear that those who love God will follow His commands. I mean, for crying out loud, He says it like three times in a row. Most professors won’t even repeat notes that are going to be on tests that many times! So when the ultimate teacher repeats it, there is obviously some serious meaning there.
So if we know that our sinning stems from a lack of love for God, then the solution seems more obvious than the fact that I will one day marry Zooey Deschanel – we need to love God more. The only trouble with that solution is that it is impossible; we are incapable of loving God more on our own. As Francis Chan says in Crazy Love, “I need God’s help to love God.” So if you haven’t tracked with me through this whole deal, the answer basically boils down to this: God is the solution. Sorry for the Sunday school answer, but you can’t avoid good ol’ Gospel truth. When we sin, we don’t necessarily show a lack of spiritual effort, but deep down a lack of love for God. And to solve this lack of love, we need the grace of God to move in our hearts and lives.
The realization of this truth is a huge step in faith. Because it means that when we sin, we realize that greater effort is not the key, it is going to the Cross for the grace needed to love our Savior more. Sure, I’m going to do my best as a human being to control my sinful impulses and desires as much as I can, but I am also going to realize that where I throw my lot is not with my own ability to control myself – that has proven to be a worse idea than vegetable pizza – but rather with God and the ability his grace and power have to allow me to further my love for Him and, consequently, my obedience to his loving commands.
Alex Updike, Columnist