Christians are those holy people who live perfect lives and never do anything wrong. Right? Either that or they are a bunch of hypocrites who live just like the world and yet claim to have God “on their side”, or in support of whatever whacked-out thing they choose to do. We tend to not really make room for a middle ground, recognizing the simple fact that Christians are people who should be interacting with God on a regular basis and dying to sin, yet still bound to their flesh and making mistakes and giving in to temptation from time to time.
Because of this fact – even within the Christian community – we tend to put up walls and be minimally vulnerable with one another. Christ has given us the most beautiful community in which we should depend on one another for accountability and Spiritual sharpening, but yet we think that those around us are not falling into sin and we are too afraid of damaging our reputation to confess our struggles to one another.
But there is hope!
As long as we are in our earthly bodies, we will wrestle with our own personal sin, temptation and failure. There are times that we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
– Gal 5.17
Notice here that the flesh and the Spirit are directly opposed to one another, and by giving in to one you are suffocating the things that the other desires. When we submit to and follow the Spirit, we are not doing the things that we would please in our flesh. When we submit to the flesh, we are not doing the things that we would please in our Spirit.
We might be tempted to blame the enemy or Satan when we sin, but the simple reality is that our flesh wants things that are sinful, and sometimes we give in. Yes, there may be times that we are lured by an outside force, but by-in-large we lead ourselves into those situations.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
– James 1.13-15
The simple reality is that sin looks attractive. It feels good, at least for the moment. And often times it starts small and snowballs or grows over time as we become immune to the conviction of the Spirit. And sometimes we have been so inoculated by the world and our culture that we neglect to evaluate an action, word or deed against Scripture to even determine if it is sinful, and we sin unintentionally.
But it is all sin, it must all be confessed and we must repent from it as the Spirit leads and convicts.
So where is the hope?
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
– 1 John 2.1-2
The book of 1 John is a gut wrencher and convictor. It makes statements that sound extremely black and white, cut and dry, such as:
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
– 1 John 2.3-6
John even goes so far as to say that if you hate someone you are not saved (v 2.9). Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? Do you have any grudges in your life? Or are you living perfectly at peace with everyone in your world? The risk of that is our very salvation.
But yet John gives us this beautiful hope that when we do sin we have an advocate. There is a heavenly court room in which the enemy approaches God to accuse us of our sin. When we have confessed our sins and repented of them, however, Jesus stands as the defense lawyer to simply say, “Punishment paid”. Jesus intercedes for us continually before the Father, taking the penalty of our sin upon Himself and presenting us as washed clean in His blood.
“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”
– Rom 8.33-34
– Heb 7.25
Jesus has already paid the punishment and appeased the wrath of God for our sins. When we confess them and lay them at His feet, he covers them in His blood and deems us clean before God. We will continue to sin, as long as we are in our bodies, and He will continue to wash us clean and empower us to die to that sin throughout the Christian life.
He has also given us community to help and push us on to holiness. We are commanded to confess our sins to one another, to pray over one another, and to push one another on to holiness:
– James 5.16
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
– Heb 10.23-25
Repenting is two fold: turning away from sin and turning to God. When you are convicted or when you give in to sin, confess it to God and turn away from it in His strength. He continues to forgive us and sanctify us. He forgave David for rape and murder. Salvation was offered to those who murdered Jesus Himself. There is nothing too great for Him. Turn to Him, find your peace and comfort in Him, confess your sins to those who will push you on to righteousness, and rely on His mercy and grace. You will sin, let’s be prepared for how to respond.