William Combs On The Spirtual Downside Of Being Good

How do people who perceive themselves to be religious or spiritual decide who is more worthy? We sometimes use spiritual exercises, religious posts, knowledge, or deeds to navigate this slippery terrain. Some criteria are better than others, but William Comb, says in his book, Who Told You That You Were Naked?, that using good deeds as to judge a person's righteousness is dangerous. The danger lies in the false sense of security we generate when we assume we behave better than other people. More dangerous is the complete oversight of the human nature that this attitude generates.

According to William Combs,
“By reducing sin to a mere list of offences, we can convince oursevlves that we are becoming better persons because we are commiting fewer “sins” than we once did. This attitude shifts our focus away from the devastating consequences of sin—the inner conviction we do not measure up.”

The implication of this attitude is that a Christian who sees himsel or herself in the light of how “good” he or she is has no spiritual leverage against non-Christians who feels the same. William Combs expands on this point:
“The Christian Gospel has little relevance in our society because the vast majority do not see themselves as 'sinners'. As long as sin is viewed as a list of misdeeds, and repentance as the need to confess and feel remorse for those sins, many will reply that they, and most folks they know, are 'good people'. They simply do not see any need for salvation. If we don’t wrestle with the full ramifications of sin, then we diminish our perception of salvation as well. We may believe all we inherited from Adam was the ability to choose between good and evil and that God’s redemption in Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our bad choices. If such were the case, it would be like a judge who chooses to improve the way people drive by paying for speeding and parking tickets. But more is required: in order to modify a person’s driving habits or overall lifestyle, it is necessary to reform behaviour.”

William Combs then uses this opportunity to focus on the solution to the problem of sin by using Paul the Apostle's struggles. He writes:
“Why is the body of sin brought to nothing? Because through faith, our old self—our spirit dwelling within our physical body—has been crucified with Christ. Sin cannot control a deceased person. In Romans chapter 7, Paul struggled mightily to overcome sin dwelling in his members—but could not. Those very actions indicate he was focusing on sin in his members—meaning he was alive to sin, not dead to sin as Romans 6:11 indicates. As long as he, or we, wrestle with the sinful habits we no longer wish to perform, our adversary will win because we are conforming to a way of life sin can control. To sin means we should not attempt in any way to resist sin any more than we would if we were lying (dead) in a pine box.”

This issue also brings to light the aim of Christianity - is it to modify our behaviours and make us morally good? Or is there a much deeper meaning to look at. Such and similar questions are what Who Told You That You Were Naked? dealt with in his book.

Many thanks to Carpenter's Son Publishing for review copy.

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