Sundays are typically recaps of Wednesday night’s lessons or a spin-off subject that seemed to resonate with the students. This morning, I started off by boldly say, “Hey, guys! Today I’m going to teach you theology!” For the record, none of them ran out of the room or instantly fell asleep, so I’m calling that a win.
If you read last Wednesday’s message, you know that half of our lesson was about Ezekiel and the fact that God wants us to be saved; He’s not just floating around in space looking for the next person He can zap with a lightning bolt.
But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. (Ezekiel 18:21-22 NTL, Source: Bible Gateway)
The moral of the story: it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done; God wants a relationship with each and every one of us.
Now, we all know how the story goes. God sent Jesus as the living sacrifice to reconcile the relationship between the creator and the created. All we have to do is accept God’s gift of grace. Now, while all we have to do to receive grace is accept Christ’s gift, there is a change of behavior that is expected to go along with our new-found salvation. It’s not that our behavior “saves” us, but rather that our behavior acts like a thermometer for the change God has started inside our hearts. Does the thermometer actually reflect the fire that God ignited inside of us?
If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:4-6 NLT, Source: Bible Gateway)
The theological lesson for our students today was about something I learned about growing up in the Lutheran church. To help us “divide and conquer” the sin in our lives, some people have categorized certain types of sin as “habitual sin“. Habitual sin is sin that we engage in day-in and day-out, knowing what we are doing and accepting the consequences even if it is not life as God intended it. [Just look at the name… HABITual. It’s sin that becomes a habit.] This could be something as simple as having a habit of talking about others behind their backs or things more socially controversial like homosexuality. Where “sin” becomes a destructive force capable of dividing and destroying our lives is where we accept it as “just part of who we are” or treat is as something uninteresting and not worth our time.
In Matthew 12:30, Jesus says “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” Now, a lot of people take this verse a tad too far and suggest that whenever we sin, we are actively working against Jesus. That just isn’t the case and stands in contrast to the all-encompassing nature of Christ’s grace. Where this verse does ring home is when we start overlooking or accepting that ‘habitual sin’ either (a) isn’t that big of a deal or (b) is just a little flaw that makes us unique. That may sound empowering and be a socially acceptable slogan, but it flies in the face of God’s true design: God did not create us to sin; He created us to love. He created us to be wonderful and to choose something better than what the world has to offer. When we give in to habitual sin and accept it as a part of our lives, we are standing in the way of what God wants to accomplish in our lives.
God has a plan and His plan is perfect. So it makes sense that if God’s plan is perfect that it doesn’t involve us hanging onto sin just because it “makes us who we are”. God made us beautiful. It is the world and all of the “wonderful” things it has to offer that makes us ugly. Sin deforms us into being the type of person that can never reach our true potential. I have struggled greatly with any number of temptations and sins over the course of my life and each time I have tried to shake my ‘habitual shortcomings’ on my own, I’ve failed. It can only be done through Christ’s love and grace. It may not be fun shaking a habit or addiction, but the reward on the other end of the tunnel is far greater than anything anyone else on earth can offer.