In our last post, we discussed the fact that we are all addicted to the same addiction—living by “the knowledge of good and evil,” i.e., living by the law. The law of God has been written on our hearts since we were first created in the image of God, but it was not engraved there for us to live by. It was God’s promise to us of what He would do as He conforms us, His children, to His image (defined by His law!) in experience.
However, at the Fall in the Garden of Eden, that law within us ceased to be a promise of what He would do in our lives and instead became the modus operandi in our independent, misguided attempts to achieve that promise of looking, acting, and thinking like God ourselves by our own efforts. There, at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve moved from a life of faith (they knew nothing of living by laws or rules—they just did what Daddy told them to do) to living by deciding independently, for themselves, what was “good” and what was “evil.” We have faithfully followed in their paths ever since.
We may be atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Christains, or unbelievers, but we all have the same addiction. We are all following some law code, even if it is our own personal system of obedience, never even realizing we are doing so, any more than a fish is aware it is living in water. We know no other way to live, irrespective of what we believe in our heads.
Martin Luther, as a Catholic priest, was literally consumed by this addiction to try to be good in his own life, until he eventually realized that his quest was impossible: “For there is not a single righteous man on earth who practices good and does not sin, ” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), “No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent. No one has ever really followed God’s paths or even truly wanted to. Everyone has turned away; all have gone wrong. No one anywhere has kept on doing what is right; not one” (Romans 3:10-12).
When Luther finally realized God’s solution to his incessant, perpetual sin, he expressed that realization as follows:
“At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of Paul’s words, namely, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”’ There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.”
Luther threw off his addiction by finally realizing that he could do absolutely nothing to be righteous himself in his experience and must cease trying—the only righteousness available to him was “passive righteousness”—and he could only trust God for it. That is the definition of living by faith; as Luther said, “the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith.”
This is a daily walk, an experience, and after entering in to it as Luther did, a journey, a process, lies ahead of us as we learn a new way to walk. Here are three foundation stones on which we can build as our minds are “renewed” (Romans 12:2) to allow us to think and then walk in this new way—by faith rather than as captives to our addiction to trying to be obedient to the law. All three have been monumental to me as I have begun the “mind renewal” process in my personal journey
1. A personal revelation of the real-life, pervasive sin in my life. In my 60’s God began to show me life-long sin of which I was completely unaware, and He has graciously continued to do so, lovingly, slowly but consistently, showing me more sin as I am able to receive and recognize it.
The prayer I am learning to pray as I build on this first “walking by faith foundation stone” is Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:18: “That the eyes of my understanding might be enlightened that I may see …” my ever present sin.
I am unconsciously but willfully blind to my sin because of my addiction; desperately wanting to be successful in my futile attempts to be good. Seeing my sin shows me again that I am a failure at that task, so I do not want to see it. I am busy convincing myself that, yes, I can successfully be obedient. God patiently opens my eyes as to each sin, and when the time is right I am ready to see them
2. Repenting for the sin that I have seen. No blaming others, no making excuses, no looking for backdoors to escape responsibility. The prayer for this foundation stone is the prayer of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:13: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
3. Believing that I was totally forgiven at the cross as Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” My sin was paid for fully there. His justice has been satisfied and He is now only a God of love. My prayer is now the prayer of the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:24: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Yes, I am learning, as my mind is renewed, to walk more consistently by faith, but Lord, I have periods of unbelief, I fall off the wagon and relapse back into my addiction. When that happens, I need You to help my unbelief and put me back on the wagon of faith.
Those are the three foundation stones upon which I am building as I am learning to walk a whole new way down the path of faith as an octogenarian: revelation, repentance and faith. Ironically, it is the recognition, the embrace, and even the proclamation (boasting) of my sin (2 Corinthians 12:9) and its total forgiveness by God that releases the power of God in my life! What love and mercy to forgive so much sin so completely that He remembers it against me no more (Hebrews 10:17)!
What does God promise to do as we walk this way? That’s the next blog