By Femi Aribisala
Sin is no longer what we do. Sin is now who we believe.
Who we are is more important to God than what we do. It is better to be an imperfect believer than to be a perfect unbeliever who does good works. It is more important to be a Nigerian than to talk like a Nigerian. The fact that you speak Hausa does not make you a Nigerian. Many Hausa speakers are not Nigerians. Many Nigerians speak English but they are not English.
Being is more important than doing. It is who we are that determines what we do and not what we do that determines who we are. God is loving because he is love. If we are not children of Love, we cannot be loving. Love is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Even if I do all the dos and avoid all the don’ts; if the love of God has not been shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit, all my dos and don’ts are worthless.
Today’s Christian is still seen mistakenly as someone who avoids doing bad things. He is ideally that person who does not tell lies, steal, fight or fornicate. In short, he remains someone circumscribed by a lot of dos and don’ts; ensuring that he is back again under the Old Testament laws of “Thou shall not.”
“Those laws are good when used as God intended. But they were not made for us, whom God has saved; they are for sinners who hate God, have rebellious hearts, curse and swear, attack their fathers and mothers, and murder. Yes, these laws are made to identify as sinners all who are immoral and impure: homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, and all others who do things that contradict the glorious Good News of our blessed God.” (1 Timothy 1:8-10).
Because goodness is not in man, but in God; because it is fundamentally a fruit of God’s Spirit, it pleased God in his mercy to account our faith for righteousness. God knows we cannot be good; but he acknowledges that we can believe in him. Therefore, he says being good is not his requirement for salvation. If we believe in him, we would be saved.
Accordingly, this is the testimony of Jesus: “They said to him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent.” (John 6:28-29).
Man is limited by nature. However, faith in God is the greatest instrument or weapon that God has given to man. It enables us to access the power of God, with whom nothing shall be impossible. Therefore, although the Israelites could not bring down the walls of Jericho, they could believe in God to bring them down. So, according to their faith, the walls of Jericho fell down flat.
That is why Jesus gives us this kingdom dynamic: “According to your faith let it be to you.” (Matthew 9:29). This recognises that although I cannot be good, I can be righteous by believing in God. In effect, my faith is accounted for goodness. Therefore, we need to bless God that man is considered to be good not as a result of what he does, but as a result of what he believes. For this reason, we tell others: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31).
Accordingly, the job of the Holy Spirit is not to reprove men of the sins of our evil acts. Instead, it is to reprove the world of the sin of not believing in Jesus. (John 16:7-11). If he reproves the world of sinful deeds, no one can be saved because: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:10-11). But since he reproves the world of the sin of unbelief, believers can be saved.
So, I repeat: sin is no longer what you do. Sin is now who you believe. If you believe in Jesus, you are not a sinner. But if you don’t believe in Jesus, you are a sinner, no matter how “good” you are.
One of the mistakes we make is seeing evil as merely what is bad or wicked. This is incorrect and misleading. Evil is what is worthless to God. Evil is what is irrelevant in God’s scheme of things. Evil is anything that does not have God in it or behind it. That means you can do good, but your good is evil. Your good is worthless.
On the other hand, faith in Christ is the only divinely acceptable reason for human action: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23). However, if you truly believe in Jesus, you will not do sinful/evil things.
The works of a man are his beliefs. The works of a man are his thoughts. The hidden man of the heart is what God is going to judge.
As a man thinks in his heart so he is. Therefore, God is a God of the heart. God is going to judge us not merely by what we do, but also by what we keep in our heart. Therefore, being evil is not believing God. Unbelief is the greatest evil of all. It speaks eloquently that God is a liar. When a mere mortal considers God to be a liar, then you can imagine how evil he must be. Therefore, Jesus says: “You shall die in your sins, for if you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24).
Gift of righteousness
How can man be good? He can be good if he receives the gift of righteousness from God through Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17). How can a man stop telling lies? How can we get rid of our sins and bad habits? We can only do this by believing in Jesus: “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). Without faith, it is impossible to please Jesus. (Hebrews 11:6). We must believe that our faith in Jesus will make us well. (Matthew 9:22).
“We are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” (Romans 3:28). This means Jesus is the end of trying to be good by our own efforts. The mistake of Jews in the early church was in thinking they could go it alone. But “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4).
God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. To be “under law” means we must do something for God; but to be “under grace” means God does something for us.
“Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” (Romans 12:3).