On Guilt of Sin & The Conscience

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     For me, I find the sins that I commit to be a literal scar upon my conscience, and the more I study God’s Word, the more I feel the damnation in sin itself, but yet I continue to do what I hate. And at times, it depresses me; at others, it infuriates me; but at the end of the day, I feel the weight of condemnation on my conscience by my sinful acts. For me there is no greater comfort than God’s Word so let us turn there together, my brothers and sisters in the faith.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:15

     This perfectly describes my feelings about my sin. I do not understand why I do what I do, I hate these things I do with a righteous hatred (not that I am righteous in and of myself, but that my hatred is not a malicious hatred but a hatred of sin, a just hate, a righteous hatred), but yet I still do them, as if I desire to do them. But yet that desire is only momentary, lasting as long as the act, and after the act all I feel is shame and damnation, and yet another slash across my conscience; just as the Psalmist declares: “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:4) and again: “For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:17-18). And that feeling of condemnation only increases when the cross is brought to the forefront of my mind’s eye. I don’t believe that anything can be more convicting than when one sins to have the cross immediately put before their eyes after their deed of wickedness is done.

     Let us see more of what Paul has to say:

So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:17-20

     Here Paul exemplifies the struggle that I, and many, if not all, of my brothers and sisters in the faith are continually going through, this warring of two natures within us: the flesh, in which “nothing good dwells” and the reborn nature in which we have “the desire to do what is right”, but yet our flesh removes our “ability to carry it out” (“it” being the desire of the reborn nature). For what we wish is not what we do but the evil that we do not want to do. But here the comfort comes in verse twenty: “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me”. Here the comfort is in a few things: firstly, that Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus, fought this same battle before us; secondly, that it is not us who do these things but our flesh, in which sin dwells. Not that we are not responsible for our sin – I assure you that we are accountable for every deed and word – but rather that the work that God has done in us [(making us alive in Christ Jesus and giving us a new heart and a new desire (Ephesians 2:1-10)] is not defective or somehow not true. The issue, as it appears to me in my life, is that we do not “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” enough, because we often forget that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”.

     And as for the conscience of the believer whose sin is ever before him, Paul says to you:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. – Romans 8:33-34

     Who is to accuse us? If Christ has paid for our sin, then God “will be merciful toward [our] iniquities, and [He] will remember[our] sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). And who is to condemn? Did not Christ bear our griefs and carried out sorrows? Was He not pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities? And hasn’t the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all? (Isaiah 53:4-6). If Christ has not only died but risen that we might be made righteous in the eyes of God, then how shall our sin make us any less His children? Not that we ought to live however we please, on the contrary, we are to live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), but Christ Himself declares that “no one will snatch [us] out of [His] hand” (John 10:28). And John also declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Let not our weaknesses make the cleansing work of Christ any less effective, but rather strive to live “worthy of the calling” but yet, at the same time, do not think that God will cast you out for your sin, for Christ Himself says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37); the work of God will be done, and Christ will never cast out whoever that comes to Him.

And so, in closing I shall leave you all with this quote from the movie ‘Luther’, in which the actor that plays Martin Luther says these words which I find comfort in:

“So when the devil throws your sins in you face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
– Martin Luther

Blessings to you, and remember the words of Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).

Michael Hall

On Guilt of Sin & The Conscience

On Faith

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     Faith, a word that we use so often, but do we ever stop to consider what it means, what faith looks like – in our own life and in others. Do we ever stop to ask the question: is my faith merely intellectual knowledge/agreement or is it genuine faith that is firmly rooted in out hearts? Or what does it look like for us to actually live by faith? And are we doing that? Do we “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5)?
Sadly, we often do not ask ourselves these kind of hard questions; in fact, we often skirt over a sober analysis of ourselves and whether our faith is genuine. But not today; today, I will, Lord willing, do a very sober analysis of what faith is, what does it look like in ones life – essentially everything about faith I shall try to deal with in this post.

Paul writes, “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7), and again, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17). Here we are not only said to live by faith, but also commanded that we should live by faith. And in 2 Corinthians 13:5 (quoted earlier) we are instructed by the Apostle to examine ourselves to see whether we really are in the faith. Thus, it should naturally be understood that our understanding of what faith is, and what faith looks like, and everything else about faith, is of the up most importance. After all Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8a) which only further highlights the importance in faith, since it is through faith that we gain salvation.

First off, what is faith? What is our definition of faith? What does the scripture say faith is?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.                                                                                                                            – Hebrews 11:1

Faith is not a hope, but rather an “assurance of things hoped for”; faith is not some uncertain thing, but a firm conviction. Faith is not an abstract concept, but a tangible thing. However faith is not mere intellectual agreement, as James writes, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19), rather faith is deeper than that it is real, and not only real but faith is an “assurance” and a “conviction”, but of what? What “things hoped for” does our faith act as a assurance of? Or what “things not seen” does our faith act as a conviction of? Well very simply, of the promises of God. Now one may scoff and say, “What good is a promise of things that have not been seen? What good is that?” I answer: the promises that we have faith in is not promises of men, who so often break their word, but of God, who has never in all eternity past, present, and future broken His word. We trust in not the finite beings that are so easily deceived, tricked, or killed, but in the infinite Being, who through His power and mercy has saved us from our own natures. We hope not in the sinful, but in the holy and perfect. We hope in God. We hope in θεὸς (God) not in ἄνθρωπος (mankind,man). You see trust in a promise does not stem from the promise itself but from the one who makes the promise. How much more will you trust the promise of an eternal just, good, loving, caring God over that of wicked, sinful, fallen man?

So what is faith? Faith is hope in God, no faith is sure trust in God; faith is assurance in God, as the apostle writes: “who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21) and again: “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5). For of what value would our faith be were it to rest on the virtue and power of fallen man? What assurance would be in it? What trust or hope? Thus, faith – true faith – must rest on God, and on God alone. For if we put our faith and trust into man – fallen man – we will only have our trust and faith betrayed, but yet God will not betray our faith and trust, for Paul says, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Romans 9:14).

So we’ve established what faith is, and who our faith rests upon, but what does it mean to “live by faith” (Romans 1:17)?

Well, if our faith is in God, then living by faith is living in God and in what God desires for our lives. If we live in sin we are not living by faith but by fleshly desires; if we live in total conformity to the standards of the world, we are not living in faith but in the world. To live by faith is to follow the God whom you have put your trust; it is to act on your trust, to not just talk the talk but walk the walk. As the Apostle writes:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
– Hebrews 11:8

Here the faith of Abraham is not passive, but active. “By faith” he obeyed, not by intellectual understanding for the Apostle hastens to add: “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Not to say that our faith is blind or not useful but rather that faith – true, genuine faith – rests solely on God and not on our understanding; but yet, despite how Abraham did not know “where he was going” he still “went out” regardless of his “not knowing”. Faith isn’t knowledge or intellectual agreement, but trust and assurance. And not only that trust and assurance but action upon that trust and assurance. As James says, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14) and again, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17). Faith without action is dead and of no consequence, thus action upon faith must accompany faith. Not that we are saved by works, but rather that as James says, “I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18c). You see, our faith must be an active faith; it cannot be a “I go to church on Sundays and that’s good enough”, for James says, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17) because true faith will not be without works, for true faith is not dead, but alive!

In conclusion, faith is not merely an intellectual understanding or agreement, but a thing of the heart, something that is important – vastly important- and rests on God alone. It is also not a passive thing, but an active thing that must be acted upon daily, so that we may “show…[our] faith by [our] works”.

Blessings,
Michael Hall

On Faith