A man was walking up a hill when he saw a boy on a bicycle. He was pedalling up the hill against the wind, strenuously and painfully when he saw a trolley car going up the hill. The boy rode to the back of the trolley car and laid hold of the bar at the back. And he went up the hill like a bird!
Like the boy, we so often struggle against problems and temptations, trying to sin less to please God. We lost the important message that Christ had already died for our sins. We can only succeed in sinning less when we put on the robe of righteousness of Christ and remember that we are sinless in God’s eyes. We can only live as new creations in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Sin is our separation from God. As long as we are not in communion with God, we will sin as we are living in a fallen world. We will sin as long as we feed ourselves with a spiritually unhealthy diet of bad news in the world and do not take time to feed on the Word of God and keep our thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honourable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.” (Philippians 4:8)
Martin Luther struggled to overcome his guilt and terror of death by his spiritual performance of the medieval rites and practices of his Catholic faith. He shared his struggles:
“Although I lived a blameless life as a monk, I felt that I was a sinner with an uneasy conscience before God. I could also not believe that I had pleased him with my works……. I was a good monk, and kept my order so strictly that if ever a monk could get to heaven by monastic discipline, I was that monk. All my companions in the monastery would confirm this….
And yet my conscience did not give me certainty, but I always doubted and said, “You didn’t do that right. You weren’t contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.”
As he studied Paul’s letter to the Romans, he found a profound and liberating revelation in the truth of Romans 1:17: “The just man lives by faith.” He was set free from the obsession with his spiritual practices. He came to the realisation that the performance of good deeds and religious rituals cannot restore our relationship with God. It is only though our faith that Christ will clothe us with his own righteousness. This was also John Wesley’s “heart strangely warmed” experience on Aldersgate day that filled him with the fire of love to share the gospel of God's love with much power in the United Kingdom and beyond.
Jesus died to set us free from our performance anxiety by showing us the Love of God. Understanding the meaning of the resurrection of Christ gives us the power to transform our lives and our struggles. This was the testimony of a man who was stricken with cancer and had to endure months of treatments and major surgeries as well as the death of his father. His wife thought that that must have been the worst year of his life. However, he realised that he had been comforted with a profound sense of Christ’s presence throughout those difficult days. So he told his wife, “You know, it may have been the best.”
To be a Christian is not trying to sin less but to live the sinless life of Christ who is in us. We do so by faith as we commit our lives to Christ and enthrone Him as King in our lives. Only then can we be free from guilt when we fail to be more loving in the eyes of others and from self-righteousness when we think we have been more loving than others. Only then will our good deeds be the fruit of the Holy Spirit rather than our selfish and self-centred attempts to win God’s favour.
Let us live our lives rooted in the good news that God loves and accepts us as we are. We are called to live as ambassadors for Christ and children of God for we are sinless when we put on the robe of righteousness of Christ. So let us proclaim the good news:
“I am precious in God’s eyes and so are you!”