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July 30, 2011

The Two-Sided Christianity Coin

by Rev. A. J. Iovine
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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There are two-sides to Christianity coin. One side expresses the importance of faith — without it, we’re not Christians. For to be a Christian is to have faith and hope in one Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World. To believe in Him is faith talking. To say He is your savior is letting your faith express what is in your heart. To speak of Jesus as Lord, it’s the loving nature of God coming through Your very words.

On the other side of the coin is the expression of the faith. Everyone of our words and actions expresses what our faith in our Lord Jesus means to us. The sanctifying of our hearts comes through the work of the Holy Spirit who turns what could lead us astray into what leads us and guides us on that one true path of faith in Christ alone.

To speak of Christianity as being only a faith-thing is correct understanding of the theology since our faith is not that which lies dormant in our hearts and only shows itself when one comes to church, but is that which guides our every moment of our lives.

Being a Christian is not just something we say on Sunday mornings in church, it is what we say and do throughout the week as we express in very real terms what our God means to us.

Does that mean a Christian can leave church after worship, turn on his or her cell phone and call or text someone using disgusting language?

Is a Christian one who, after leaving church, can speed on the Garden State Parkway, zigzagging in and out of traffic?

And does being a Christian mean that a person, after receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, can lie and cheat those he or she loves?

Sadly, the answer to all those questions is “Yes.”

For the last six years (as of July 17th, that is) of being pastor here at Saint Matthew’s, me, being fresh out of seminary, I’ve learned plenty about the human condition. In seminary we talk of sin and its impacts on our lives, yet in very real terms, it is not easy to grasp the extent of the sin problem in the hearts of everyday Christians.

Because when we pastors look at sin, we first look at ourselves, delving in our hearts, to see the corruption of the fallen world. This daily exercise is as enlightening as anything on what we called and ordained men of God speak strongly about sin in Lutheran pulpits. This broken condition is as real as anything in this world. Sin drives us to sleep in weekends and not to seek our Lord. It is sin that causes us to hate people around us and to never give them a break. And it is sin that pushes our hearts and minds to find the worst in others.

Sin itself is the reason God came from heaven to earth to die on the cross. The Son handed over his godliness for a short time to take on the clothing of human flesh to do what we cannot do: Keep God’s word pure in our hearts and lives always. Our Lord Jesus Christ conquered our enemy of sin for us, yet we still are sinful.

And that is why faith in our Lord Jesus is ever so important. How we live our lives in this broken down star hurling through this universe is ever so important. It is our daily challenge to keep sin at bay as best we can, and when we cannot, we seek the love of God, pleading with Him to forgive us our trespasses.

Looking at Christianity as being a two-sided coin is good, but knowing that both sides of the coin are grounded in faith and the work of our Lord at the cross, our Christians hearts are different.

We live as those whose sins have been forgiven by the work and love and grace and mercy of our God in heaven. Our response is to praise and thank Him who saves and keeps us always, but also to show the world what it means to be one who has been—and always will be– loved by our God and Creator.

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