The last several episodes of FatherBound were a sharing of George MacDonald’s Salvation from Sin. I find myself indebted to MacDonald for his insight into God’s character, a witness to the soaring of his unfathomable love that billows to the heights of our imaginations through this wonderful sermon. Of special note are the following:
- The first place we must begin in an effort to rid the human race of evil is ourselves.
- Our sinful deeds are but the dead husks of the live sins in our heart.
- Jesus came, not to save us from the punishment of our sin, but from sin itself, its presence in us.
- We must agree with God as to our sin and begin to send it away through a choice of our will.
- Hell itself is an extension of God’s love and has a redemptive purpose.
- When our sin has departed, so shall the punishment.
- Salvation lies in faith in the living Christ.
As we touch on each of the above points in turn we will find ample opportunity to think boldly as we encounter ideas that may run counter to those we have held. Mining for precious stones is hard work, the earth clings tightly to her treasures. Let us not shirk the challenge involved in diligent thinking when the ideas presented are unfamiliar. It will be worth the effort!
1. The first place we must begin in an effort to rid the human race of evil is ourselves.
In the recent ebola outbreak in Africa the work to eradicate the virus involved identifying, isolating, and treating each individual who had contracted the deadly disease. Only an approach that dealt with each infected person in turn could hope to rid the world of the scourge.
So it is with sin. The beginning of the cure of sin in the whole of the human race begins with each of us, for each person possesses the critical key: the alignment of his or her will with that of our Father in heaven, that his will may be done on earth… beginning with me.
When responding to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton responded with telling insight, “I am.”
2. Our sinful deeds are but the dead husks of the live sins in our heart.
There is nothing intrinsic to being a quadriplegic that could stop the person from being among the most sexually immoral individuals in the world. For the home of sin, the place where sin is birthed and nurtured, is in the human heart. The action of sin is simply the outward expression of the inward condition, more visible true, but, like a pool of water at the base of a spring-fed stream, not its source. Thank God he knows us! Better even than we know ourselves. His word is a mirror into which we may intently peer that we might see, with the help of the Spirit, a true reflection of the person we are.
3. Jesus came, not to save us from the punishment of our sin, but from sin itself, its presence in us.
I appreciate how MacDonald points out that punishment—a consequence of our sin—has, like all things that arise out of God’s heart of boundless love, a redemptive purpose: to lead us away from evil that we might choose good and become the sons and daughters we were meant to be. Jesus died for us, not for our sins. If we let him he can, and will, save us from sin itself.
As with the ebola mentioned earlier, it would be no good to be cured of ebola’s symptoms while the virus still lived inside. The virus dead, the symptoms depart with it.
4. We must agree with God as to our sin and begin to send it away through a choice of our will.
It is important to realize that our will is the essence of who we are, the pinnacle of our being. Everything else that is “us” is subordinate to our will. True, our will can collapse and “give in” but it does so always by choice.
For example, in an extreme case a soldier taken captive may not want to divulge what he knows but, under torture, gives up what information he has. We might well do the same in his shoes. But it doesn’t change the fact that his speaking out is still by his choice. He has chosen relief over torture.
We may love our sin (and I suspect all sin is at first loved before it is ever hated) yet reach the blessed place where we choose to turn from it, to resist it, even its presumed pleasures. This alignment of our will with our Father’s is a critical step in gaining our Lord’s help to free us from sin’s deadly grasp. He will not slay the dragon of sin without our consent. We may in all other ways be helpless, but our will is ever free.
5. Hell itself is an extension of God’s love and has a redemptive purpose.
I realize that this claim will come as a mighty jolt to many. But I believe it’s true: hell belongs to God and not the devil. It is Father’s redemptive gift to those of his children who stubbornly prefer darkness over light that they might yet, in eternity, cry out to the Father of Lights for the grace of Christ to be theirs.
The idea of hell as serving solely a punitive purpose, a place where the torment of wayward, unrepentant souls takes place for all eternity without hope of redemption to satisfy a supposed “justice” of God is to strip the Almighty of the very love personified in his Son, Jesus Christ.
I will have much more to say on this topic in the future and ask only that, for now, my listeners will keep an open mind to the possibility of such a grand notion as a potentially redemptive hell.
6. When our sin has departed, so shall the punishment.
Wise parents punish their children to achieve a desired result then abandon the punishment once the end is gained. So it is with God: when sin is gone the role of punishment is over. Punishment is a servant in disguise.
7. Salvation lies in faith in the living Christ.
If Jesus were not alive we would be without hope. MacDonald encourages us—and rightly so—to rest our faith, not in what Jesus has done but who he is. For it is the living Christ that saves us, and no one else.