How Does the Gospel Fix Sin?

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on sin. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2. The prompt given was “write a reflection on your understanding of sin and how the Gospel provides freedom from the negative impact and consequences of sin”. Submitted June 2016.

Well, we all know that sin is bad news and that the Gospel is good news, and that somehow the latter cancels the former out, or at the very least ameliorates it. That’s the basic message, anyway, which we’re studying so hard to be able to broadcast around.

But how does that work, exactly? For a prompt which seems so simple, it’s actually very complicated, and it needed a lot of thought before anything even resembling an understanding of the whole process could be come to. So, then, I’ve started with the “basics”:

What is Sin?

Sin, to my no doubt limited understanding, is a wilful rebellion against God and against His intentions for humanity. It is not merely an action, nor a collection of various actions, as in the popular view, or is it even the mere contemplation of or will to carry out these actions, as is often described based on Matthew 5:28.

Sin is a basic condition which we have, an impulse perhaps: to reject God and everything He is and says He is, and to suspect everything He says He is and wants for us.

What are the Consequences of Sin?

If sin is a rebellion against God, who He is, and His intentions for humanity, then the consequences of sin must be related to these things against which we are rebelling. The loss, as I can see it, is twofold.

Firstly, we experience a loss of or a lack of understanding of who God is and of what He intends for us. Having rejected God and gained a suspicion of what or who He is and says He is, we no longer have the knowledge of these things, and what little knowledge we do have is tainted by our own rejection and suspicion of that very knowledge.

Secondly, we lack the experience of who God is and of what He intends for us. Having attempt to separate ourselves from God, we no longer have the close and intimate relationship with Him which Adam and Eve had in the Garden. Not only have we lost this relationship, God’s original intention for us, but we are not able by our own power to reattain it, either presently or for eternity.

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the good news of God’s attempts at the reparation of this broken relationship through Himself reaching out to us in the form of Jesus Christ. Christ, as the ultimate sacrifice, fulfilled and negated one of the more visible consequences of sin – the wages or punishment for it. Jesus, in living a blameless life, demonstrated to us how we might live in a close relationship with God.

The Gospel and our Understanding of God

Through Christ’s actions as the ultimate sacrifice, we learn in the Gospel that God still wants us. He hasn’t rejected us as we have rejected Him simply because we have done so! Instead, He is actively seeking to restore us to how we were, which is what He had intended for us in the first place.

Through the lifestyle which Jesus led, we can learn how to live a relationship with God. We might, as He did, pray, and thereby converse with God in some semblance of the way in which Adam and Eve did. We might, on the other hand, fast as He did, taking the time for a silence in a wilderness, be it literal or metaphorical, in order to listen for God’s responses. We might practice many other aspects of Jesus’ life, such as living a simply existence, or biding our time, holding our tongue, and listening; or many other things which might allow us, just for a moment, to know, understand, and embrace God.

At the same time, we may be secure in the knowledge that all of this isn’t merely one-sided and futile attempts at holiness on our part, but that God is still reaching out to us, and that He is using these small strivings of ours to change us, to fix us, and to rebuild us into something which might one day be able to enter into His presence and to worship Him for eternity.

The Gospel and our Understanding of the World

In understand God and what He is trying to do in us through the Gospel, we are able better to understand ourselves; to understand who we are, what we are, and what we’re meant to be. However, with this understanding, we may see our origins in the Garden and our relationship then with God and to each other; but then we may look around the world and see that it is actually nothing like that.

We know, of course, by now, what happened: we rebelled, and the Fall happened. Nevertheless, even as we might try to reattain – with God’s help – that relationship which we had with Him before the fall, is it possible that we might try to reattain that relationship which we had to each other?

As it turns out, this is also something which God has demonstrated to us through Christ Jesus. In fact, for all the we see Jesus praying, fasting, or anything else of that nature, He says and does a lot about how we might live with one another, and of what we might do with all that God has given us.

One thing which we have lost, in rejecting God, is a good understanding of His lordship – His authority – over everything, the creation, and us. In our self-centred sinful state, we see that everything that we have as a reflection of ourselves, and not a reflection, as we should, of God and of His generosity. Through an observation of Jesus’ lifestyle and words, we may not only better know and embrace God, but we may also understand Him, our position to Him, and the position of both to everything and everyone else.

The Gospel and our Understanding of Ourselves

With the good news of the Gospel, we are able to look at the bigger picture: our origins in the Garden, our rebellion and the Fall, and God’s intention for a close relationship with us, both now and in eternity. On the other hand, we might also look at the small picture of the individual.

We must not underestimate the effect which our childhood and upbringing, our family both immediately and extended, present and past, have had on us. After all, we are born into a family, and this context shapes our understanding even before we can talk, just as the context of our parents or those who raise us is formed by their families. The Bible tells us that iniquities continue on to the third and fourth generation, a seeming contradiction to the words which say that children don’t bear the punishments meant for their parents and vice-versa, but a simply look at one’s family will explain this apparent conceptual problem. Habits, situations, and mentalities of parents – and the effects thereof – become so deeply ingrained in the child that he passes them on to his own children. There are aspects of our personalities, although learnt rather than innate traits, which we have inherited from our parents, grand-parents, and even great-grand-parents.

On the other hand, these effects and close bonds may teach us something else, because what is there which is more reflective of God than a close and loving relationship with another person? If God’s will for us is that we might spend eternity with Him, and if the Gospel is a demonstration of His act to enable this future, then our families provide the perfect place to discover close and loving relationship with others and how we might be in them.

An effect of the Gospel, of course, is the formation of the Church, groups of believers worshipping together. Relationships with other believers and unity in worshipping groups form a major emphasis of many writings in the New Testament. God has given us not only our biological families with whom we might form close and loving relationships, but the much wider Church family also.

In Conclusion

Sin is a rebellion against God and against His intentions for us, an underlying condition in all of us which prevents us from both understanding and experiencing God, a relationship with Him, a relationship to the world and to each other, and our futures with God. Sin creates suspicion and separates us from everything which most matters.

The Gospel shows us both how God has acted to restore us to Him and how we might live in order to reattain something of the relationships for which He intended us.

Firstly, we have been shown how to live in a relationship with God, through prayer, fasting, and other disciplines which might help us to embrace Him and He to embrace us.

Secondly, we have been shown how God has lordship over us, over everyone else, and over all of creation. We must understand that the material wealth which we have is not a reflection of us, but of God’s great generosity for us, and we must use it in a way which reflects the true ownership of this material wealth – ownership by God.

Thirdly, having understood our origins and past, both personal and familial, and how this effects both our present life and our future eternity, we see that we have been placed in a position where we might both learn a little more of God’s nature but also prepare for eternity in relationship with God by practicing with close and loving relationships with family both biological and spiritual in the present.

Through the Gospel, we have been shown how we might remove ourselves just a little from the consequences of sin, and return in some fashion to a close relationship with God.

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Thought of the Day #12

[New Reception, upon arriving in Chapel and sitting down] “Is this where God lives, Mrs Rachel?”

[Me] “Well, it’s where we come to visit Him.”

——————–

[Another New Reception] “Wow, it’s a big building. And old! How old is it, Mrs Rachel?”

[Me] “I don’t know exactly. But it’s very old. You know, there’s a stone outside that says how old it is. Chaplain Paula might know. Chaplain Paula, do you know how old this building is?”

[Chaplain] “Very old. I would say at least more than a hundred years old.”

[New Reception #2] “Wow! How does it still standing up?”

[New Reception from previous quote] “Because this is where God is! He does it still standing up!”

[New Reception #2] “It must be really good built.”

Thought of the Day #8

A British parish-based sitcom wherein everyone followed the diocesan Professional Standards Handbook would be completely devoid of any and all drama other than the occasional technological malfunction during eucharist.

See Point 4.15 to see what the minister is doing wrong in this picture. I’ve only seen about ten minutes at the end of an episode of Call the Midwife, but in it, one of the sisters was in love with a dying aged man, and the minister got engaged to one of the nurses.

Our Professional Standards/ Safer Communities training included a clip from Heart and Soul.

The technological problems seem to be a weekly event at my church, though.

Christmas [Week]

The Mitcham-Hills Ecumenical Council (or whatever they call themselves) is determined that you shouldn’t have a spare moment left to fill this week.

Sunday the 20th
–> 6pm, Carol Singing & Finger Food, Blackwood Uniting Church

Wednesday the 23rd
–> 7pm, Blue Christmas Service, Holy Innocents’ Anglican Belair

Thursday the 24th
–> 6pm, Family Service and Play, Belair Uniting Church
–> 6pm, Nativity Play and Camel Rides, Blackwood Hills Baptist
–> 7pm, Family Christmas Presentation, Blackwood Uniting Church
–> 7:30pm, Carol Service, Upper Sturt Uniting Church
–> 8pm, Carols By Candlelight & Puppets, Blackwood Hills Baptist
–> 11:30pm, Midnight Candlelit Mass, Holy Innocents’ Anglican Belair

Friday the 25th
–> 9am, Celebrate the Day, Blackwood Uniting Church
–> 9:30am, Christmas Day Service, Holy Innocents’ Anglican Belair
–> 9:30am, Christmas Day Service, Blackwood Hills Baptist

Saturday the 26th
–> 10am, Music of King David, Beit Netzarim Messianic Church

Sunday the 27ty
–> 10am, Combined Final Service, Blackwood Uniting Church
–> 10am, First Sunday of Christmas, Holy Innocents’ Anglican Belair

Okay, the Saturday one isn’t in the Mitcham-Hills area, but I plan to go to it all the same. If your church is in the region and has an event or service happening, particularly an unusual one, let me know!

Ecumenical Christmas

Hot Weather

Just a few thoughts on this, the third day of the first really hot spell we’ve had this season.

Has it ever been for you so hot that you sweat enough to drip while sitting completely still… in the shade?

Has it ever been for you so hot that when you step outside, you can feel the hot air pressing in on you, making it hard to breathe?

Has it ever been for you so hot that at least a third of the congregation during Eucharist is shoeless?

Has it ever been for you so hot that the mirage-air over a grassed oval makes the people on the oval look blurry?

Has it ever been for you so hot that you turn the cold tap on in the shower and step under fully clothed?

Has it ever been for you so hot that you start plotting to move to New Zealand… or Denmark?

Has it ever been for you so hot that you’ve considered writing a blog post about how hot it is?

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Reflective Paragraphs Week 9 – Titus

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There are two possible scenarios that come to mind when reading Titus – one that Paul had given Titus all this information before they parted ways, but then didn’t trust Titus to remember it all and felt the need to write it down and send it, and the other that Paul had neglected to tell Titus these things and wrote it down after they parted ways. Either way, the letter is a set of very clear instructions about what Titus is to do (sort out a church), and how is he to do so (choosing leaders for the church), along with some final notes about how the church should behave, generally. It’s all very clear and to-the-point.