100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Monday, January 24, 2011

#24: If God made me a sinner, how am I held accountable for my sins?

I was watching a TV program once in which they were speaking to a gay man. He said, “When I was young I used to go to Church, and they would talk about how homosexuality is wrong. It made me feel terrible and guilty for the feelings I was having towards other men. But you know what I realised... God made me this way, and He loves me as I am!” Well, the whole audience applauded and cheered at what he'd said. And of course, this realisation of his allowed him to justify his thoughts and behaviours, and to continue in them. And whilst God most certainly loves this man, God does not love his behaviour, according to the Word of God. Can we say "I sin because God made me a sinner"?

The Bible says:
Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:13-14)

The Bible is explicit that we do each have our own desire. But when we find ourselves in a certain circumstance, and then we sin in that circumstance, then that sin is purely our own reaction to that circumstance. The same goes even for our God-given talents; we can use them to glorify God, or we can use them to do evil. The “right thing” is often to deny our own inclinations and desires, wherever they may come from, for the sake of doing what God desires. Do my own sexual desires for a woman excuse me if I commit adultery or rape? There is no difference between any of us and that gay man I referred to above. Sexual sin is a problem for us all, heterosexual and homosexual alike. Think of how David was on his rooftop, and he looked down and saw Bathsheba bathing. This enticed him to call for her and commit adultery with her. Did God cause David to sin by making him a man with sexual interests? No. Imagine, instead, that Jesus was standing on a rooftop and saw a naked woman bathing. Jesus, who was without sin, would have exercised self control and lust would not have entered His heart. We cannot blame our circumstances for our sins, or our upbringing, or God. The thing that we all must realise is that the way we are is not as God intended. We have a sinful nature as a result of the fall, corrupt and not at all God's intention for mankind. Jesus came to save us from that, to restore in us the nature that God intended.

All people are born with a sin nature, and this causes us to sin. God created us, but this is our nature, not His, which God has given us over to as a consequence of the fall. This is the punishment for sin; God gives us over to our sinful desires. When we first sinned it would have been just for God to send us straight to hell. To be given over to a life of sin with the possibility of God saving us from it is not something we can really complain about. We are all destined to perish, but Christ came that we might not perish (John 3:16). God's desire is for us to hate our present state of sinfulness and come to Him; and He will give us a new nature which is willing to obey Him. This is God's purpose; that through experiencing the destructiveness of sin we might desire Him, and salvation from sin through Him.

The Bible says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44). Our sin nature prevents us from seeking God. That is, from desiring to have a relationship with Him. Jesus later says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32). There seems to be this idea that Christ overcomes our inability to seek Him. God works in every person's life, revealing Himself to them; beckoning, or drawing them to Himself. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Those who have a sin nature only; (that is, they haven't been born again and given a new nature), can most certainly be obedient to God. Consider, for example, how the diviner Balaam prophesied according to the words of God in Numbers 23-24. And we have the words of Romans 2:14 “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” I see this as God's working in people’s lives to reveal Himself to them. Even with our sin nature we are able to be influenced by the Spirit of God. In Romans 8:7 we read “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” It cannot because it is set on the “flesh”, or sin nature, which by definition opposes God. But we can hate our sin and desire a new nature. God seeks to redeem us all from that sin nature and He intervenes in all of our lives, each day, to turn us toward Himself so that He might give us a new nature which will enable us to be obedient to Him by that very nature.

Are we to blame God for not intervening “enough”? Let me ask you, how much intervention would one consider to be “enough”? I believe in Christ and His gospel; so what Christ did in my life was obviously “enough”. But did He do more in my life than in anyone else's? Jesus holds us all accountable for accepting or rejecting Him...

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:25)

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