God Does Not “Overlook” Our Sin

Growing up in the Church of Christ, I thought that after baptism, every time I sinned, I had to pray to God for forgiveness. In response, the ever-patient and forgiving God would wipe my slate clean (the slate on which He kept track of my demerits) because of His inexplicable love for me. So every time I prayed for forgiveness, I was starting over – getting a second chance. One of the most difficult things to understand was why God would be willing to pass out “second” chances when we all knew I was on chance number five million. It was my job to stop sinning. Sanctification was understood in terms of the most basic definition of the word – a setting apart. So when God sanctified me, He excluded me from the class of people who are the “world” and included me instead in the class of people who make up his church. So I lost my sanctification every time I sinned and was re-sanctified every time I was forgiven.

When I became a Calvinist, I believed something a bit different. I believed that God had chosen me specifically (and many other people) out of the entire human family to be saved from my sin. I believed that because I was one of the chosen ones, it was impossible for me to die without having repented of all sin. The repentance and forgiveness still worked basically the same way in my new belief system. The reason God kept giving me chances was that He had chosen to save me, and His will would prevail even over my sinfulness. My sanctification was something that God was working out in my life so that I will sin less and less as my life goes on. However, I could not expect to reach complete sanctification in this life.

Now that I’m Catholic, I understand this entire process differently. I do not believe that God ever “overlooks” my sin. He forgives it, yes. But He doesn’t ever pretend it doesn’t exist or that it didn’t happen. He looks unflinchingly on what I am and sees both what I was designed to be and the horror that I have become. God works my sanctification, declaring me righteous only after I become truly holy. My holiness may be achieved in this life or after it (in Purgatory), but it will be achieved. (This, incidentally, is why I find Purgatory comforting, rather than scary.) The good news of Christianity is that it’s not my job to make myself perfect, but God’s. And the great promise is that God will not give up on my sanctification.

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8 Responses to “God Does Not “Overlook” Our Sin”

  1. Sounds like an interesting journey. God bless and see you there.

  2. I think you have a twisted view of Calvinism.

    If you are going to try to be biblical, where do you get Purgatory?

    No doubt you are searching, please do so.
    You are close, but yet, far from figuring it out.

  3. Lurker, I’m not surprised to see this response. I’m fully aware of the probability that my understanding of Calvinism would be vastly different than the view held by many other people, and the possibility that it actually might not match anyone else’s. Although I didn’t say so explicitly, notice that I did only talk about how my view has changed, and did not directly attribute any of my views to anyone else. Also, while I am Catholic and my husband is Reformed (Calvinist) our views of how-the-whole-thing-works are, while not identical, VERY similar.

    I may do a post on Purgatory in the future. No specific plans right now, but you never know.

  4. I so feel you! I love the Catholic view of our sanctification as a journey, and it just makes so much sense. And I also find purgatory comforting, coming from a place where you basically had to be “perfect” when you died or else!

  5. Prairieprincess,

    How does your newest view of sanctification cause you to view the reformed concept of imputation? To be more specific, and in reference to your comments on holiness, when God looks at you and declares you to be justified, is He seeing your own personal holiness and granting you justification on the grounds of that, or is He rather seeing Christ’s holiness and granting you justification on those grounds instead?

  6. Charlie,

    The short answer is neither. The long answer is that your question doesn’t make sense in my paradigm. Let me see if I can explain.

    When God declares a person justified at baptism, He’s not declaring him to be ultimately sinless, He’s acknowledging that he is His child and that He has undertaken the process of making him sinless. This is a great grace and it is granted based on Christ’s holiness and our participation (baptism) in Christ. Obviously, the very idea of sanctification (causing to become sinless) presupposes sinfulness. As God sanctifies us we become sinless because Christ lives in us more and more. (Not because Christ covers us.) So at the end, when we enter Heaven, we will be declared holy because we will truly be holy, being so full of Christ that there is no more room for sin. There is a sense in which this could be seen as “my” righteousness, because it certainly doesn’t belong to anyone else. But it just as certainly did not in any way originate from me, and in that sense, it is not “my” righteousness.

  7. Prairie,

    You say “neither,” but what you go on to describe is the reformed doctrine of imputation. You rightly describe the declaration of justification as a forensic one, which is based on, as you pointed out, Christ’s holiness. We are justified then before we are sinless.

    But this is the opposite of what you said in the original post above, under the “what I believe now” part: “God works my sanctification, declaring me righteous only after I become truly holy.” In this quote you’re saying that the declaration of rightesousness is NOT a forensic one, but rather only comes after you have become in fact sinless. So, in the comments you seem to affirm the “Calvinist” (let’s just put a handle on it for conversation’s sake) doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ, but in the original post you describe something very different.

    When Abraham believed, it was imputed to him as righteousness. The word there describes a forensic declaration — it is elsewhere translated into words like reckoning, accounting as, etc. The idea here is not that Abraham became in fact sinless upon belief; rather, it is that God at that time forensically declared him to be righteous, *based upon the righteousness and holiness of Christ*. The holiness was Christ’s, but it was reckoned as though it were Abraham’s for the sake of justification, so that the sanctification that belongs to children of God could begin, so to speak.

    It seems that the example of Abraham is basically identical to your comment, but not your post.

  8. Charlie,

    I don’t believe in imputation. Period. At no time does God look to me and see Jesus instead. At baptism, he sees me, cleaned up but still with bad inclinations, joined to Christ and therefore a part of His own family. The more I grow in my Christian walk, the more He sees Jesus in me, but not in front of me. Jesus’ holiness isn’t “counted as” mine, it becomes mine, because He gives it to me.

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