Alright, here's the thing. I come from the reformed tradition, that means I am a Theological descendant of Martin Luther, John Calvin and specifically to me as a Presbyterian, John Knox. We like the Bible, we like God, we like people.
Now on to the harder part.
I believe that people suck. A lot. At almost everything.
Nobody is capable of saving themselves. Period. Post-Fall humanity is not able to approach God in any way shape or form.
But wait, there's more...
So there's this guy Jesus, a regular guy with a few exceptions: He's the son of God, He's sinless, and he's here to re-establish that communication. He tells people to be nice to one another, pay their taxes, not to resist oppression, and to devote their lives to God.
So naturally we, as people who suck, killed him for it.
Which worked out OK in the end, because through his death AND RESURRECTION humanity was saved.
Read that last part again.
OK, now once more.
That's good. I believe that I was saved almost 2000 years ago when Jesus died and rose again from the dead. I also believe that that statement is either true or not true for everyone else on the planet. If you are among the elect, it's because of God's work, not because you said "Ok, this Jesus sounds like a cool guy, I think I'll follow him now." The action of accepting Jesus implies some ability on the part of the human to affect their own salvation. Which is not the case. We are saved by the Grace of God, once we decide that Jesus had it going on we start to live lives more according to the will of God.
Which makes life here much better. It makes our lives better as Children of God. It makes the world a better place. But does it affect our salvation?
Say it with me now...
Good. Glad we got that straight.
Does that mean I'm sinless? By no means. I sin every day. Paul said "Whenever I try to do good, evil is right there with me." He's absolutely right. All of us want to do good, all of us want to be good. All of us want to be loved.
Let's address those one at a time shall we?
Do I do good?
Sometimes, but usually not. Just by realizing I did something good for another person and patting yourself on the back you have done something not good. Way to be prideful. Next time I do something intentionally good, it will be for that rush of happiness from helping someone. Way to be selfish. Good is still done, and the other person may not realize that I'm helping them only in the process of helping yourself, it's still worth doing, but it's still not righteous.
Am I good?
No. I suck. I deserve to spend an eternity suffering in hell.
Am I loved?
ABSOLUTELY. If I'm not loved, why am I not being destroyed/already been destroyed? God loves us all more than we can possibly imagine. That's why Jesus came, because God loved me, and you, and everybody else. Quit trying to earn it, it's irritating. Be yourself with all your suckiness and try to let God have a little more control in your life.
Ok, a lot more control would be nice, but we need to start somewhere.
Everybody sins. Constantly. Anyone who says they are without sin is full of lies. The good news is you're forgiven before you've even said you're sorry. At least by God, people might hold a grudge for a while.
So I can't save myself, and I can't stop sinning, and I'm already saved, so why not just go on sinning and reaping the benefits of it?
Ah, that's the big question isn't it...
Answer: Beats the hell out of me. Go ahead, I can't stop you, God probably won't stop you. But God loves you, and I'm pretty sure you like him too and want to make him proud of you. That's why you follow Christ, that's why you do good things. It makes Father proud of you and glad he created you. Because post-resurrection, we are part of a new creation, and God can see the image of God in us, therefore we can approach God and say "sorry, I really screwed that one up," and "thanks God, I appreciate that," and even "God, was that really necessary, I didn't appreciate that very much."
So go, show God you're grateful. Give it a shot. Screw up, but do it boldly and trying to make headway for the Kingdom of God. Who knows, God might even use your hands to do God's work.
What do you think? Do you disagree with what I said here back in 2007? Is college Joseph a crazy heretic? Let me know in the comments!