The last commenter to this blog, Postmodern Redneck, stated simply what I intended for this post. Postmodern said, "... religious activity can help a person mask their sinful nature and keep from facing it."
...and we Christians tend to call it "grace" from God. There is no getting around it, Jesus did say, "Forgive seventy times seven." So, yes, when we have sinned but seek forgiveness, receiving forgiveness is grace. To receive forgiveness multiple times is also a function of the deep and wondrous grace of our Lord Jesus.
Which brings us back to Jerry Sandusky and his example: a person who appears dedicated to good works, attends church regularly and maintains an abhorrent secret life of molesting children. Some people harbor a particular sin. That's it. They make friends with it, living "for Christ" outwardly while practicing the sin in hiding. This duality weighs on some, but for others, it is just the way life must be lived. The conscience becomes silenced purposely or "hardens" through the individual's lack of response. Such a condition is both evidence and process of a growing spiritual darkness. The jargon employed explaining this behavior to one's self may include phrases such as, "life-dominating sin", "the area of my struggle", or the inane euphemism "my cross to bear". Ultimately, however practicing the sin is accepted, the perpetrator accepts a rationalized truth that humans are a mixture of good and bad. Thus, the "bad" has to be accepted as inescapable reality, but the good one works is of value. Hey, one must take the good with the bad, eh?!
Seems to work okay when the "bad" is a bit of laziness, over-indulgence in food or alcohol, or maybe a bit of lying--the little white ones, of course. But we must be honest with ourselves and with the Lord. Does degree or type of sin actually dictate who receives "grace" and who does not? Is the person who tells lies occasionally, who admits these are wrong to the self, but who nonetheless accepts that behavior as both inevitable and as forgiven under the covering of God's grace any better than a man who sets up a charity that helps hundreds of kids but molests only 10-15 boys? If we allow that "grace" accepts our continuing in the sin of lying, since after all, we do much more good than that little bit of lying we won't let go of; then "grace" must have accepted Sandusky in his continuing acts of child molestation in view of the real good he accomplished otherwise.
Either God justifies individuals on the basis of the good done, or He does not. Either God must allow us to be ruled by sin under the flag of grace or our logic about grace is faulty. Why do we Christians not notice a non sequitur. I suggest many of us simply do not accept grace for its true power. If we are claiming Christ but living with a secret sin, the evidence of this lack of understanding is clear.
Grace as undeserved forgiveness certainly is part of the gospel message. That grace does function in the face of seventy times seven. However, once we accept our sin nature as the inevitable way we must live, we have denied the spiritual reality of a grace which also equips us for walking a victorious life over our sinful natures.
Grace, the full measure of the grace in the gospel truth, leads in righteous choices. Such choice is exercised over our inclination to sin and into the light of submission before the in-dwelling Presence of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
Does my natural man rule me? Yes, unless by the grace of God, I choose a different way. Except for this grace, I travel the same road of self-delusion as Sandusky and... well...every other human.