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Sin, sex and salvation

September 13, 2011 2 Comments

by Ian Adnams

We are all born spiritually broken and deserving death. Our soul’s natural state is one that is cut off from God. We neither have the desire to seek Him nor follow Him. In this state of sin, with a broken relationship with our creator, He seeks us, taking the initiative to heal the broken connection yet at the same time understanding that our natural, inborn inclination is to tug at that connection.

In baptism He draws us back into His family as our sinful state is drowned, washed away, and our souls are once more connected to our heavenly Father. Our works have nothing to do with this. It is a gift, fashioned by God through the actions of His son, Jesus who lived the sinless life that is impossible for us, took our ultimate punishment—death—upon himself paying for our sins, yet conquering the finality of the grave in His glorious resurrection. We are therefore saved from the punishment of sin and live with the promise of eternal life with God when we die.

But life still goes on. As Luther so perceptively noted, we are at the same time saint, a redeemed member of God’s family, and sinner, one still struggling to overcome our natural rebellious nature. Paul wrote about the ongoing battle between doing what he knew was wrong and at the same time wanting to do what was right. He writes about the sin that is still part of him and that he hates. The fact we still sin does not change the relationship with God; it means we must however flee to Him constantly for forgiveness and mercy.

 

The Ten Commandments set down the ideal

 

Each person sins, engaging in actions, attitudes and behaviour that fail to meet God’s standards. To understand sin is to appreciate God’s grace. He doesn’t kick us out of the family because we sin. He gently and persistently calls us back to Himself, offering forgiveness. He knows how we are; He made us! The apostle John puts it so well…and here I paraphrase: if we say we don’t sin, we are crazy or blinded or both because the truth is that we do and always will! But Paul also cautions us about ongoing sin and refusing to turn away from it. He tells us that God’s grace is so amazing He will always forgive us. Then he says we shouldn’t continue in sin just because we know God forgives. We should allow God’s Spirit to work repentance in our hearts.

But who defines sin? Our society doesn’t like or really understand the word. As a Sunday school child I learned sin is doing what we know to be wrong and not doing what we know to be right. How do we know? The benchmark is God’s words found in the Bible. The Ten Commandments set down the ideal. And Jesus reminds about the law of love—that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. There is no way we can keep the Ten Commandments therefore we are always falling short of God’s ideal.

 

We currently live the aluminum foil standard

 

We live in a self-centred culture—another hallmark of our broken relationship with God. The mantra “if it feels good, do it” extends to every part of life, including sex. God’s ideal is that sexual expression is reserved for the holy estate of marriage between one man and one woman for life. That is the gold standard. Unfortunately, we currently live the aluminum foil standard—flexible, shiny on one side and once used, disposable.

If something doesn’t reach God’s standard, the ideal, it is sin. Neither sex before marriage, sex in a common-law relationship or same gender sexual activity are God’s ideal. (There was a time when unmarried couples living together was called “living in sin!”)

Do these things happen, even among Christians? Yes.

So how does God feel about this failure to meet His standard? First, He knows it happens. His Word says that everyone sins and falls short of His standard.

Does He like it? No.

Does He hate you because of it? No.

Is He willing to forgive you? Yes.

Does He expect you to keep doing the same thing? No.

Some Christians are uncomfortable about sin, repentance and forgiveness when it comes to sex. They often cite the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, recalling how He “accepted” her and stood up to those who condemned her. But they don’t recall the part where He told her to “go and leave your sin behind.” In other words, stop messing around with men who aren’t your husband. It’s a two-part equation. God forgives; now stop what you’re doing. And those are very hard words for some to hear.

 

Following Jesus means giving up anything that comes between us and God.

 

Natural appetites, including our sexual drive, can be relentless, even controlling, whether it is a heterosexual or homosexual attraction. But God asks that we strive to live His ideal, not give in to temptation and sinful actions. He also knows it’s something we can’t do ourselves. So He gives us His Sacraments: confession and absolution; His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper to strengthen our faith and help us understand just how much He loves us. Then, through His Word, the Holy Spirit builds our understanding of God’s standards, our natural failure to keep them, and then tells of His wondrous love and forgiveness—His gifts to us despite our sinfulness.

Sexuality is entwined with who we are. But the truth is that our natural self remains at odds with God. Our natural inclinations are not His ideal. This truth gives a deeper meaning to Jesus’ injunction to deny ourselves (with all our natural anti-God attitudes and actions); take up our cross (sacrifice them to God’s mercy and love); and follow Him. Following Jesus means giving up anything that comes between us and God.

Is it easy? No.

Are we left to our own resources to make it happen? No!

Does God still accept me as His child when I goof up? Yes…you are His child because He says so. He called you into His family through baptism.

Does Jesus condemn you? No…He came into the world to save the world, not condemn it.

Now…go and leave your sin behind.

2 Comments »

  • Hali Monseler said:

    Hi Ian, the first time I met you you were asking everyone in the room what the Canadian Lutheran needed, my reply was more solid doctrine, the real meat and potatoes type stuff.  Well, now that you are closer to the end of your journey with the magazine I feel I must tell you how much I appreciate everything you have put into making this truly Lutheran work.  From Lutheran 101 to todays’ article about relating to family and friends God’s way when dealing with the really hard topics.  Congrats, and thanks for all the meat and potatoes !! 
    Hali Monseler (nee Dietrich)  

  • Luther Heintz said:

    Dear Editor.A recent article on same sex attraction appeared in the Canadian Lutheran which really got me thinking. I know that everyone is born with weaknesses toward sin. But if we give in to these weaknesses, are we not denying faith in God’s forgiveness and His power through His forgiveness to over come these weaknesses. The Bible clearly states that People who continues to live sinful lives will not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-11 NIV) “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders {10} nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. {11} And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” According to these passages God changes people who once were following their weakness to no longer following them. They no longer live to get what they believe they need, but what God provides. This may sound like work righteousness to some, but it is not. It is rather living under the power of God to bring us into closer fellowship with him.The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he (God )is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV). Sin is unrighteousness. God is able to purify us. But if we reject His power to purify us from all unrighteousness, we will continue around the same mountain over and over and possibly miss inheriting the kingdom of God. The Bible also says, (Eph 2:8-10 NIV) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– {9} not by works, so that no one can boast. {10} For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I do not think God would prepare us to live in sin but live a life of goodness and righteousness. Rejecting his work in us is resisting his power to change us into his likeness as the Bible Teaches. John writes ,”How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. {2} Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. {3} Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. {4} Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. {5} But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. {6} No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:1-6 NIV) John repeats this in a few verses later. “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”(1 John 3:9 NIV)St. Paul writes, (Phil 3:18-21 NIV) “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. {19} Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. {20} But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, {21} who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Faith in Jesus Christ, moves us away from sinful activity. Paul also writes, (Rom 6:1-2 NIV) “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? {2} By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom 6:13-15 NIV) Also “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. {14} For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. {15} What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” God’s grace and forgiveness should move us to love Jesus and follow his leading. Finally John writes, (1 John 1:6-7 NIV) “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. {7} But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Sinning is living in darkness. Forgiveness and a life of righteousness motivated by our faith in God, is walking in the light. If we feel guilty about something we are doing, it will motivate us to do it again. Why? 7For as he think in his heart, so is he: (Proverbs 23:7a KJV). So if we think about our guilt, it will always lead us to do the very things we feel guilty about. This is living under works righteousness. Our focus is on the law rather than the Gospel. Trusting God’s forgiveness will remove the guilt and its control over us. Than we will no longer do the things the Devil has tempted us to feel guilty about. So we keep telling the Devil I am not guilty, I have been forgiven by God. You see it is more important to believe what God says than what the accuser tells us. So we trust God’s word in to guide us. This is not work righteousness as some believe. It is rather freedom we receive by trusting God.Trusting God’s word gives us power to care about others like he cares for us. If we focus on our sins we either feel guilty or try to justify them. This really does not set us free but leads into darkness and eternal hell. If we focus on Jesus and his forgiveness, we will be lead into righteousness and heaven. So dear friends keep your eyes on Jesus, and he will lead you from the sinful activity mentioned earlier to righteousness produced by faith and finally into the kingdom of heaven. Pastor Luther Heintz

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