I guess this will be the last part of my little trilogy (previous two posts here and here) on the wages of sin, which Paul tells us is death. I made the claim that over the years my conviction of how we are saved has had a powerful impact on keeping our kids Christian. I previously explained the traditional Reformed tradition on soteriology (how we are saved), that we are actually spiritually dead in our sins, and that we unable to believe on the Lord Jesus until God does a supernatural work in our soul to raise us spiritually from the dead. This means that our salvation is not up to us, but to God. It is the unilateral work of our sovereign, Almighty God in Christ for us. He does not ask our permission. And thank God for that! Can you imagine if our salvation was ultimately up to us? As I argued in my last post, our sinful human nature compels us to run and hide from God, like Adam and Eve did, and the Scripture is clear that nobody seeks God.
Why is what I’ll call a God-centered perspective so powerfully persuasive to me, and to our kids? My impression of Christianity for the first six years of my faith journey was that the quality of my relationship with God was primarily dependent on what I did or didn’t do. In a positive thinking phase of my life I learned that, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!” While certainly true in many areas of life, I’ve learned it most definitely is not true in my relationship to a holy God. Please note, though, the word “primarily.” The God-focused faith I was introduced into at 24 did not imply that what I did or didn’t do wasn’t important, or that my choices weren’t real. God’s sovereign work with human beings doesn’t destroy their nature, make of their freedom an illusion, or turn them into robots. What it does do, though, is put our confidence in the right place: him!
If I were to ask you how you would define Christianity, what would you say? My answer would be that Christianity is the work of God in the soul of man (remember that God created man in his own image, “male and female he created them”). Related to this is that the favor of God is the life of the soul. The latter is directly related to the wages of sin.
How we define sin, and its affects on the relationship between man and God, is crucial to getting my point. If sin really is death, and not just moral sickness, then only a supernatural work of God at his own initiative can solve it. The reason Jesus Christ, the God-man was required for our salvation is because God’s wrath against sin could be satisfied in no other way. It took one who was fully God and fully man to appease God’s wrath, and to provide ultimate justice, that God the Father might be “just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” We read of what this means in Isaiah 53 some 700 years before Christ:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
This peace Isaiah speaks of means God is no longer our judge, jury, and executioner. Now that we are justified by faith in Jesus, we have a righteousness given to us by God apart from the law. The implications of this vis-a-vis our relationship to God cannot be overstated. Regardless of our performance, of what we have done or haven’t done, this is the fact of the matter:
It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
This is why I have continually told my children that Christianity isn’t about us, but about what God has done for us in Christ. It’s all about him, not us! That is truly good news, which is why it’s called the gospel. The indicative (what he has done for us) always comes before the imperative (what we are commanded to do or not do). The Christian life is about our guilt, his grace (unmerited favor), and our gratitude. Our desire to obey God comes not from obligation to him, but from gratitude for what he has done for us in Christ. We fall in love with God our Father, and yearn to please him. We don’t do or not to, to try to get him to love us more. He cannot love us more than he already loves us in Christ! That is a faith our kids will never want to leave.