I realize this blog is late. I know; I know. There’s no excuse, except that on Monday I was at Mt. Wesley for RIM. I was occupied the entire time I was there, seriously.
Anywho . . .
At my pastors’ breakfast group this morning, I was asked what I learned from my series on the 7 deadly sins. Here are my take-aways.
1) It will be a long time until I write a sermon using an acrostic.
2) I can see myself in every sin – I am prideful, envious, greedy, gluttonous, lustful, slothful, and even wrathful at times. I think most of us can say this about ourselves, or we should be able to admit it about ourselves.
3) We have to want salvation. The primary book I read to prepare for this series was written by a Roman Catholic theologian, and the RC doctrine of salvation differs from the UMC doctrine. In RC soteriology, there is an element of works – penance, keeping of the 10 commandments, etc. Whereas in the UMC, we profess that we are saved by grace though faith. Good works are the fruit of the work God does in us. Regardless, the difference, as I saw it, was that DeYoung emphasized the forming of virtuous habits. In response to lust, we should practice chastity, for instance. This morning as I ate and discussed with my group, it occurred to me that regardless of your church doctrine, you have to want salvation.
If I truly wish to live without sin, I have to want to do it – not just say that I do, but really want it. You have to want to live differently, to be a different person. When we UMs talk about sanctification, we tend to use passive language – we talk about what God is doing in us. But there is something we are doing as well.
In VELVET ELVIS, Rob Bell spends some time talking about living like we are forgiven. He tells a story about having his bill paid at restaurant by an anonymous diner. He said, I could sit there, trying to pay the bill, or I could get up and leave, living my life as if what I had been told was true – my bill was already paid. To make the point more scholarly, I remember in his book, WALKING BETWEEN THE TIMES, J Paul Sampley says that the Apostle Paul tells us (or his original audience) that they are Christians, so they should act like it. They (read: we) are no longer slaves to the lordship of Sin, and so we should live like it. We are under the lordship of Christ, and so we should live like it.
Said another way, I am no longer under the power of pride (or insert whatever sin you’d like), so I should live like it. I believe DeYoung would say that means forming virtuous habits. If I am no longer prideful because of Christ, then I practice living with humility. And in so practicing, I become humble. This is all a discussion of imputed and imparted righteousnessm, to which I say boo.
This blog really comes from an email I received this week and conversation I had today. A dear, beloved friend sent me an email telling me her husband (an alcoholic) asked to go to rehab. He’s there now. Another dear beloved friend presided at a funeral of a friend’s son whose alcoholism finally killed him. One man is in rehab, and the other with our Lord. And I believe that God’s grace was there for both of them – equally (as if grace could be quantified). God’s grace was always enough for them to be redeemed from the lordship of alcohol, but one of them is trying to live as if this is true and the other could not. Paul says that the wages of sin are death. It’s not judgment – at least not in the way we might think. It’s not that God will kill us for sinning; it’s that sin kills us. We have to want salvation. We have to be willing to live as if it’s true, as if God’s grace is real, as if because of the life death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ we are forgiven and freed from sin, and that takes faith.
Next week begins a new series – the 7 I am statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. In case you were wondering, I don’t have any particular affinity for the number 7, but the early church did, and the gospel writers did because they came out of the Jewish tradition, which did have an affinity for the number 7. That I have chosen 2 series of 7 has more to do with the number of Sundays in ordinary time and wanting to help my congregations move through the Christian year together.