Is Jesus Dying for Your Sins Unjust & Immoral? (Part 2)
One of the most significant moments of my life was when I understood that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for all my sins – past, present & future. After all, I was told, when Jesus died, all my sins were in the future! If he didn’t pay for my future sins then he will have to come back and die again for those! What fantastic news that was to me that even my future sins were forgiven already! It radically changed my life by altering the way I related to God from guilt to gratitude.Ok, now that you’re forgiven, this means you can act as immoral as you choose, right? This worry that this will motivate people to be immoral knowing that they are forgiven anyway is not really as big a concern as one first might think. God is no fool! God knows whether someone is genuinely sorry for their sins or not.
We can’t pretend to be sorry and still be forgiven by God! We can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes! If someone is really trying to do that, say Hitler or some serial killer on an alleged death bed ‘conversion’, God knows if it is genuine or not.
Or, on the other hand, if someone claims to be a Christian yet deliberately commits evil acts believing that they are forgiven by God, but there is no acknowledgement that these acts are evil and no true repentance for them, they should have no expectation of being forgiven. In fact, they are most likely not true believers, even if they think they are.
The writer of most of the New Testament, the apostle Paul, thought about this issue of sinning more and continuing to sin because of the forgiveness we have through God’s grace, but he strongly rejected it. He explains why in Romans Chapter 6 of the Bible.
It is only a refusal to acknowledge one’s sins and the need for their removal, as well as the refusal to accept God’s solution to this problem, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, that keeps us from God in this life and the afterlife.
This does not mean that Christians are perfect in their daily practice. Heaven knows that I am far from perfect in my daily life. My self-centredness rears its ugly head every day. Rather it means that those who acknowledge their sin and need for forgiveness and humbly accept what Jesus has done for them on the cross are considered forgiven and justified. They are considered legally perfect before God. It means that God is not counting their sins against them anymore. In fact God goes a step further and gives them the righteousness of Christ and treats them as such. (Romans 4:22-25)
In daily practice, God works in the life of genuine believers who trust him moment by moment, to mold them into the image of Christ, but it is a lifelong process. For the believer, consistent moral behavior results from responding to God with gratitude and trust instead of fear. I want to do what is right out of heartfelt appreciation for what God has done for me. Because I know he loves me, I trust him and obey his commands. Because I know he loves me, I believe his moral commands are truly for my own good as well as those around me.
In fact, when I finally fully understood that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for all my sins past, present and future, I became a better, not a worse person morally – not all at once, but a process of change was begun in me which was built on trust & thankfulness towards God rather than guilt & fear.
The process of change then builds on these repeated responses of trust in God which then produce habits of behavior that constitutes character.
The idea that God has, through his love, paid the penalty for our sins himself is a magnificent idea! Any good idea can be abused, but we need to be careful not to judge the idea based on the potential for abuse but rather on the actual idea itself.
But if one is going to use the potential for abuse to judge an idea, then my atheist friends are in much worse shape. For those who are moral relativists the potential for abuse is far more real, since moral relativism is the view that what is immoral isn’t objectively true anyway, but only ‘true’ relative to personal or cultural opinion. Moral judgments cannot be made by someone outside of that circle of opinion. Just because it is your opinion or your culture’s opinion that torturing toddlers for sport is morally wrong, you would have no basis for claiming that someone else who thought it was great sport was morally wrong about that! The potential for abuse in moral relativism dwarfs anything in Christianity.
For atheists who are moral realists, that is, those who acknowledge the existence of objective moral standards, there still is the problem of the absence of a final standard of accountability, an accountability that is present in a theistic foundation for moral realism. In atheistic moral realism there is no one to hold people ultimately accountable for violating objective moral values and obligations; and therefore there is more potential for abuse in this situation than the Christian theistic situation where God will hold all accountable.
As the late Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand wrote about his experience with communist torturers, “The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The communist torturers often said, ‘There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil that is in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.” (Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, p. 34)
If you are truly concerned about people acting immorally after they have been forgiven, understand that the teaching of the Christian scriptures speaks out strongly against such potential abuse of forgiveness. Moreover, moral relativism or atheistic moral realism, have far more potential for abuse than someone believing they are forgiven by God.So would you rather have God judge you justly according to your behavior or would you rather humbly accept what his love for you impelled him to do — pay the just penalty for your sins? You can choose the first option if you like, but it seems quite foolish when God himself has solved this problem of the tension between his justice and his love, and there is no need for us to suffer separation from God now or for eternity. This is the splendour, the beauty, the glory and the magnificence of the Good News of Jesus Christ. I pray that my atheist friends will not stumble over it.
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You know Sara, as I look at different religions the laws governing morality are remarkably similar: respect of life, protection of property, value in honesty, honour in relationships. Where the differences come is in who God is and how we relate to Him. Everybody knows that while those morals exist all of us break those to one degree or another and religions try to figure out how those broken morals impact our relationship with God and how that relationship is repaired.
I realize that not all religions or world views include God so my description here is an oversimplification but at their basic level, isn’t that what all religions/worldviews do? Even an atheist recognizes the responsibility the individual has to society as a whole and a big part of their worldview addresses how to repair the impact of broken morals on society. So in essence, society is the ‘higher power’ for an atheist and the purpose for each life is to live for happiness and self-fulfillment without impinging on the happiness and self-fulfillment of the rest of society. Society is the entity that establishes morality based on how we can live together in freedom to pursue happiness and self-fulfillment.
Now I don’t want to be putting words in your mouth (so to speak) but is that a fair observation? Would society be the “what” or “whom” from which has come the development of morality?
Does there have to be a whom? That’s the whole point. There’s absolutely no necessity for there to be that higher power. The question that should be asked is with the baring different sets of morality in the various religions around the world, whose is right? They all claim they are and they are the only way yet none of them can actually proof that claim. So, religious morality thus is subjective. An omnipresent, omnipotent God wouldn’t have all those differing sets of rules and moralities within the world’s religions. The common response is all the others are false and pick a religion and insert it here will say they are the truth and expect everyone to agree with them or become offended. Do you really think God is that immature about it? Do you really? That’s insulting God. Do you honestly think that God cares what religion or lack of religion someone holds as long as they keep his commandments in heart and action? Do you really see God as so concerned with his own ego? Do you really see God as that jealous and petty? That makes God appear too closely to man when we suppose to be made in HIS image. That leads to the inevitable thought and question of did God create man or did man create God. Your question and assumption just gives much more weight to the side of man created God.
So Sara, to what (or perhaps “to whom”) do you attribute the existence of that morality that has been passed down through the development of human civilizations?
There are morals that have been developed since the beginning of the human species which the Bible only restates. The Ten Commandments was around BEFORE Christianity was established and extraordinarily similar versions of it have been found that predates the histories in the Bible via archaeology. It seems that a certain standard of morality developed throughout the entirety of human civilization. That basic foundation of morality has passed down to the point that now we instinctively know certain things are wrong. For each individual and society itself. What’s built upon that foundation is formed first by parents THAN by society at large. All of us are subject to those and, yes, it’s subjective which, for each individual, becomes objective as they grow up and become adults. What makes the atheist position more interesting is that fact of no divine responsibility and no real reason to be moral and when they are. They don’t fear that divine punishment but yet they a good people anyway. They CAN say it doesn’t matter but yet it still does. What does that truly say about them? It says they are doing it just because they do it. That’s what they are. They have no desire to do evil things and when they do, it’s solely on them. “The buck stops here.” pointing at themselves. That’s the true, fascinating enigma. It’s also what scares us Christians because we are use to the concept of divine accountability. They don’t see a valid reason to think that divine accountability even exists. We can say the words and quote the Bible all we want but they haven’t been able to hear God yet. Some may have a harden heart and never accept it. Some just haven’t had that “moment” yet. Some may also never embrace it consciously but still do God’s work. Maybe their conscious disbelief is what God needs of them to carry out his will. (Don’t quote passages. We truly don’t know God’s plan and will for them. Anyone who says they do is lying and quoting those particular passages that someone will try won’t change that.) Some will have harden their hearts because they are rebellious and fools. We mere humans don’t really know. But, atheists do have an interesting way to look at things. I say stop trying to prove we’re right and their wrong and let God handle it. Let’s not try to convert them or tell them to accept the gift God gave us. Let God do that. The mistrust of them and the trying to prove them wrong only pushes them further away from God and his love. They need God himself not us to do the talking. We are only getting in God’s way. As long as their behavior is good and just, that should be enough for us. For us and their good standing on this earth, just let their actions and good works be the measure of judgement for them.