What do United Methodist Christians believe? Sin & Free Will

2 Corinthians 5:12-21

Every once in a while, I do some thinking. I have heard the statement, “You have to forgive yourself.” As I pondered that statement, I considered what I know about God and the Bible. Forgiving yourself doesn’t seem possible. We can choose to think our sins away. But they are still there. We can forget about our sin. But they are still there.

Forgiveness of our sins comes from God and those whom we have sinned against. I cannot forgive myself because I am not capable of forgiving myself. When we repent, decide that our ways are causing too much pain and choose to accept God’s ways for our living, then we receive forgiveness. We even accept the decision of other people when we confess to them our actions and words against them, we can be forgiven. By its very nature, forgiveness is received from another, whether from God or another person.

What does forgiveness have to do with sin and free will? God has chosen to forgive our sin. We can choose freely to follow God’s ways or our own ways.

But who sins? We all sin. From the beginning of the Methodist movement, we have realized all humans are infected with original sin. The truth is that like Adam and Eve, we all have the propensity to sin. It is not that because of Adam and Eve’s sin that we are punished. It is by our choosing to go against God that we are punished for sin. That is to say each generation of humanity sins. We make sin, just like Adam and Eve before us.

Our pride, our lusts, our seeking after our own glory have the result of us being separated from God. Left to our own devices, we are evil. We can get dressed up for church, but that doesn’t mean we are righteous before God! On our own, we cannot escape sin or its results. Even Christians have thought we could do good on our own.

There was a heresy that which sprang up in the early church. This heresy even infects the thinking of Christians today. Pelagianism is the heresy that says we are not infected by original sin and that God’s grace is not needed for us to make a choice between good and evil. The idea is that we are not like the generations before us, but that we are capable on our own to do good. The flesh drives us to this idea, whether we are Christian or not!

I am quite confident that I am prone to sin. Left to my own devices, I cannot consistently and thoroughly choose good over evil. I imagine that I am like everyone else in this regard. How then can we choose good over evil? How then are we to overcome this nature of sin in each of us? How are we to stop sinning?

We must be born again. We must start to believe in Jesus Christ. It is by realizing God’s goodness helps us overcome our nature to sin that we can have new life. God has a way for us to be free from sin. Will we choose God’s way to be free from sin?

When we are born again from above, we are a new creation. God has given his Son, Jesus the Christ, so that we may have our relationship with God restored. God didn’t wait until we were good enough. God didn’t wait until we made ourselves whole again. God decided from the beginning that as humanity chose to go away from him, God would make a way for us to get back to him.

Jesus died for all of humanity. For all of humanity has decided to go away from God, each generation repeats this decision. Hearing that God has sent Jesus to die, we can make the choice to live for Jesus. That is we can agree that our sin nature has to die in order for us to live. Once we are in Christ, we are new creatures. We get to spend the rest of our days being reconciled to God.

We once spent our days becoming fully soaked in the ways of sin. But now that God’s grace has revealed to us his Son Jesus, we get to spend the rest of our days becoming fully soaked in the ways of righteousness. We had the idea of good and righteousness while we were sinners. We just couldn’t get there on our own.

But now that we believe in Jesus Christ, are in Christ, we are new creations. We are now ambassadors for Christ. Because of our faith in Jesus, we get to make the choices which lead to more good being done on this planet. Or we can make the choice to revert back to the way we used to be.

That is right. Along the way of following Jesus we are free to choose to step away. We could go back to a life governed by sin. But every moment, every day, we can choose in Jesus to discover all the righteousness that God has. Once we are new creations in Jesus, it sounds so much better for us to continue to freely choose God’s way of living. We would then be living for God and not for ourselves.

The grace of God has gotten us this far. His grace will lead us through faith in Christ to be entirely righteous. We need not be marred by sin any more. We can have a good relationship with God because of Jesus. Won’t we keep on seeking the righteousness of God?

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