When you do sin…

shame

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.

“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

– 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

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

– 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:

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

– 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.

What is a relationship with Jesus?

relationships

If you have been to pretty much any church, Christian concert, Spiritual rally, Bible study or para-church meeting in the last fifteen years, then you have probably heard that Jesus Christ wants to have a relationship with you.  The twenty first century Church has thrown away religion with the mantra of relationship.

I am no longer a Christian, I follow Jesus.

Don’t label me.

 What exactly does this mean, however?  What does a relationship with Jesus look like?  How do I start a relationship with Jesus?

First of all, we must understand that while Jesus does desire to have a relationship with us, there is a barrier in between us.  Every human being who has ever lived is by nature a sinner.  The Bible teaches us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3.23).  And every single sin, no matter the scope, deserves the present punishment of death and the eternal punishment of damnation (Rom 6.23).  So we, as sinners, have an impending judgment (Heb 9.27), and the verdict has been warned in advance.  But not only that, we are incapable of having a relationship with Jesus now because that sin is an offense against Him and has put a barrier between us (James 4.4).  As long as we love the world, continue to sin, and are guilty, we cannot enter into God’s presence, we cannot have a relationship with Him, and we are bound for an eternity of suffering in Hell.

But since God loves us, He sent His only son – Jesus – to live a perfect life on Earth without sin, and then died on the cross taking the punishment that you and I deserve.  Since Jesus never sinned, He did not deserve to die.  But He died in my place, and He died in your place (John 3.16, John 15.13).  The good news is that God loves us so much that even though we are wicked, guilty, and deserving of death and damnation, Jesus paid our penalty so that we would not have to.  In essence, if we receive the free gift of salvation, our verdict from the Heavenly court will read “Time Served” or “Paid in Full”.

But the most beautiful part of the exchange is that when Jesus assumed our guilt, He covered us in His blood and we became righteous.  Holy.  Acceptable before God.  We cannot rid ourselves of sin on our own and be acceptable before God, but by confessing our sin and asking Jesus to forgive us, and turning away from that sin, Jesus’ blood covers us and we are now not only forgiven, but righteous.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

– 2 Cor 5.21

When we come to this moment, we have now been forgiven we have now been made acceptable before God, and we can now begin that relationship.  We cannot start a relationship with God until we have gone through that experience.

So, I ask again, what is that relationship?

Consider any relationship.  How do you get to know someone?  You talk to them!  There are a variety of ways that we talk in today’s age:  face-to-face, over the phone, emails, letters, etc.  We tell them about ourselves and we listen and learn about them.  We as Christians are really good at telling God about ourselves in prayer, but we do quite poorly listening to Him.  God created the world and has been at work in His people throughout all of history.  He Himself had scribes write down everything that He felt it necessary for us to know about Himself and His plan for redemption, salvation and the future.  It is all contained in a single book:  the Bible.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

– 2 Peter 1.2-3

Imagine if your new boyfriend or girlfriend wrote you a letter and you only skimmed a bit of it.  Imagine if you kept writing letters to him or her, and never read what your significant other had said to you.  Imagine your embarrassment if you were asking questions that had already been answered in the letters you had!  This would be a one-way relationship that would not last long, because you would be going to get your needs met and not caring about the other person.  Both people need to hear and be heard.  Both people need to love and be loved.  Both people need to be engaged in the relationship, giving and taking.

God is only different in the fact that He does not need us.  But He wants us.  He will not, however, entertain one-sided relationships.  We cannot ask Him to forgive you and then just keep living as though He does not exist.  We must abide in Him, get to know Him, enjoy Him, read His book to us, trust His promises, apply those promises.  We must also talk to Him, confide in Him, tell Him what we are thinking and feeling.  Imagine our embarrassment if we get to Heaven and do not know the things He revealed about himself to us in His word!  Imagine trying to walk through a difficult situation with Him, when He has told us how to handle it in His word, and yet we have not read it yet!  What must God think when we enter into a trial and we pray out, “God I don’t know what to do!” and He has given us clear instructions in the Bible?

And as we get to know Him, through His revealed Word and enjoying His presence, we will learn the majestic reality that Jesus Christ, while He calls us friend, is also King, and Priest and prophet (Heb 7).  Yes, He grants to us to become part of His family, part of His body, and we can approach God in great confidence and crawl up in His lap and call Him “Daddy” (Rom 8.15).  But He is still holy, He is still God, He is still King, and He is still our Lord.  Lord, while an outdated term, is still easily understandable as the one who has final say.  He is in charge and He expects us to do what He says.  If God has defined pride as sin, He expects us to die to our pride and quit sinning.  If God has defined getting drunk and living with someone who is not our spouse as sin, He expects us to stop getting drunk and move out or get married.  If God has defined worldliness as sin, then we need to quit looking and acting like the world and acting like people who love and know God!  He is our Lord, and He expects us to act like it.  That is a facet of the relationship that we hold with Him.

He is also our priest.  This is one of the most difficult realities to grasp, but it is ultimately one of the most comforting.  When we understand the punishment for sin and when we grasp the price Jesus paid to ensure our eternity, the Spirit will convict us greatly when we do sin.  The role of the priest is to stand before God and make a sacrifice to pay for our sins.  He is the one who appeases God’s wrath.  He is the one who intercedes for us.  The doctrine of justification teaches us that Jesus’ death on the cross covered all of our sins in completion, but the ongoing relationship we hold necessitates that Jesus stands before God and acts as our advocate as Satan stands before God as our accuser.  Every time we sin, the accuser says to God, “Did you see that?” and Jesus holds up his hands and says, “It has already been punished”.

“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

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

– Heb 7.25

And lastly, He is our prophet.  He has promised us salvation in the end, and He has even given us a foreshadowing of the coming events.

There are many ways that we need to relate to God: through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot enter into a relationship with God until we take care of our sin problem by confession and repentance.  We cannot get to know God unless we spend time with Him both speaking to Him and listening to Him.  He has given us everything that He desires us to know about Himself in the Bible – and He has even promised that He will not give any new revelation of Himself until He returns to take us home (Rev 22.19).  We must read His Word and we must spend time in prayer.  We also see that God has created us to serve, love and worship Him.  So we will, as believers, spend time praising Him.  Singing of the wonderful things that He has done in history, in salvation, and in our lives today.

Get to know Him.  Read His letter.  Let Him change you.  Spend time with Him.  And Praise Him.  Let Him know what you are thinking and feeling.  And when you need direction, turn to Scripture.  This is a relationship with Jesus.

Why does Jesus have to intercede for us?

justice

God is love.  Love is the greatest thing.  All we need is love, right?  We could solve all of the world’s problems if we just had love.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

– 1 John 4.8

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

– 1 John 4.16

“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

– 1 Cor 13.13

Love is indeed great.  But what is love, exactly?  We, as Christians, often invite people to know God, because God is love, and we tell them that He can save us, but we rarely answer the question, “from what do we need to be saved?”.  We preach so freely that we need to be in relationship with God, that if we know Him and love Him that we can go to Heaven when we die.  This, unfortunately, is only half of the story.  And not only that, it leaves out the most important part of the story:  we need an intercessor.

We have a problem, and the problem is guilt.  We are sinners, and because of our sin we deserve to spend eternity in Hell.

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

– Rom 3.23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Rom 6.23

God has always, however, offered us forgiveness for our sins, if we repent, confess and make amends for our sin.  In the Old Covenant (the time before Jesus), people would have to kill an animal and make a blood sacrifice because the punishment for sin is death.  Something must die.

“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

– Heb 9.22

But why?  Are we trying to appease some equal and opposite force of God?  Because if God is love, all warm and fuzzy, surely He wouldn’t require blood.

On the contrary.  God’s love is perfect and holy and will never overlook sin.  He will never pardon the guilty.

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
In whirlwind and storm is His way,
And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.

– Nahum 1.3

And He is, in fact, the punisher.  Jesus warns us to fear God because He is the only one who has authority to cast people into Hell!

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

– Luke 12.4-5

So before Jesus, there were priests who would make sacrifices for people.  They were appointed as the ones who served God in the temple, who appeased the wrath of God against the sins of all of the people.  But then Jesus came, as fully man and fully God, and He became the perfect priest by never sinning and offering Himself as the final and perfect sacrifice.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by shedding His own blood.

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.  Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

– Heb 7.23-25

So what does it mean that Jesus is making intercession for us?  Jesus stands before God as our advocate and intercessor when we sin, after coming to faith (1 John 2.1).  God hates sin and He judges it and condemns it.  Without faith, without being hidden in Jesus, we are left on our own before the judge.  We have no representation before God.  But when we believe and repent, we gain representation:  Jesus.  Every time we sin, Jesus stands before God and intercedes saying, “that sin is paid for” – “time served”, if you will.

Sin is the problem.  It is what separates us from God.  You cannot come to know God and to have a relationship with Him – you cannot “be saved” – until you deal with the sin problem.  And the glory, as well as the terror, is the fact that we cannot deal with the sin problem on our own.  Only Jesus can.  So we turn to Him and confess and repent.  Then Jesus, as our High Priest and intercessor, steps in and takes care of it.

Have you dealt with your debt of sin to God?  Do you have representation in the Heavenly court?  Have you confessed and repented of your sins and turned to God for forgiveness?  If not, do so today.  Jesus lives to make intercession for His followers.  And He will forgive you.