THE WORD IS
Many people are troubled because they cannot lead the type of life they would like to lead. They would like to be better people than they are. The Apostle Paul was such a person. He had to confess: "I am doing the very thing I hate" (Rom. 7:15). Paul did not feel holy. On the contrary, he was very much aware of his sins. Although Paul made this confession, he was not living in mortal, grave sin. He was troubled by original sin, that evil old Adam.
Man's corruption can be compared to an iceberg of which only a small portion can be seen above the surface of the ocean. Similarily only a small part of a person's corruption becomes apparent in his evil words and deeds. A person does not become holy by giving up certain outward sins such as murder, fraud, adultery and drunkenness. That huge iceberg of sin remains in the heart and reveals itself every now and then in committed sins, sometimes even in gross sins. We must fight against sin. It is not possible to be a Christian and at the same time continue to live in mortal sin. Nor is he a Christian who is outwardly respectable but continues to harbor evil thoughts in his heart. But where can we find strength to lead a holy life?
Consciences have often been burdened when people have been told that they must first improve their lives and only then may they believe. A sincere conscience has not been able to find peace in this way. The plan of the Bible is different: Faith first, then works. Paul hated the evil that lived in him, but he did not despair. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). He found his refuge in Christ. He believed the promise that God justifies the ungodly. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). This is how we too can find peace. In Christ God has atoned for our sins. They have been forgiven. We can believe this just as we are, as sinners, as ungodly people without prior improvement, just as the repentant thief on the cross.
Amazing results will then follow. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11,12). Grace gives strength for a better life. For the more firmly we cling to grace and believe our sins forgiven, the better grace is able to instruct us. If we believe that our sins have been forgiven, we can no longer live in mortal sin. If we do, then we don't believe, even though we might claim that we do. At the same time grace enables us to grow in humility. We recognize the power of original sin in us. With the Apostle Paul we lament the fact that it has a hold on us. We understand those who have fallen, and with God's help want to help them rise again. To ourselves and to others we say: "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom. 5:20).