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.

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.

What can your faith accomplish?

lame man

And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.  And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.  Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.  And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”  Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”  And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

– Mark 2.2-12

This is a familiar story, it is told in three of the four Gospels, and it teaches many great truths.  The main focal point is Jesus asserting His authority over sin and His nature as God.  The scribes rightly understood that God alone can forgive sins, and their conclusion was correct:  If Jesus was not God, He was blaspheming.  But Jesus proved Himself to be God by healing the lame man.  The result was that everyone present was amazed and glorifying God, even the scribes!  But notice with me one little phrase in this passage, which is present in all three passages, which stopped me dead in my tracks:

And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

– Mark 2.5

And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”

– Matt 9.2

Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

– Luke 5.20

Do you see it?  Jesus, upon seeing their faith forgave the lame man of His sins.  We would expect it to say, “Jesus, seeing his faith…” but that is not what it says!  The faith of this man’s friends to go to his house, pick him up on his pallet, carry him to the house where Jesus was teaching, take him up to the roof and dig a hole through the roof to lower him down before Jesus with an expectation of healing led to this man’s forgiveness and physical healing!

What does this teach us?  

There are a few things screaming forth from this passage that we cannot ignore.  First of all, the lame man himself did not have faith or healing until Jesus spoke it to him.  Yesterday I was reflecting on the wickedness of humanity and observing the simple fact that there is none who seeks after God on his own.  Faith itself is a gift of God (Eph 2.9).  And Jesus gave salvation and healing to this man.  Jesus took the initiative in this man’s heart and body.

Secondly, the faith of the friends and the action of the friends bringing this man to Jesus was the catalyst of Jesus’ acting upon him!  Jesus responded to the faith (which God had already given to the friends) to forgive and heal the lame man.  Many times when Jesus preformed a miracle, He did so in response to the person requesting.  Remember the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus responded that He would go see the boy, but the centurion responded, “Just say the word”?  Jesus was amazed at this man’s faith and healed him from afar.  Also the Samaritan woman, who pleaded with Jesus comparing herself to a dog eating the crumbs off the table.  But in this circumstance, Jesus responded with eternal salvation for the lame man because of the faith of his friends.

What does that mean for us today?  We must intercede for the lost.  We must purposefully bring them to Jesus and bring Jesus to them.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

– 2 Cor 4.2-4

We must cultivate a heart of compassion and love for those around us who are perishing, and we must pray for them to Spiritually bring them before God, but we must also share the Gospel with them so that they are personally brought before God too.  We must believe that God can and does save people!  And we must not get discouraged when it does not happen immediately.  The men brought their lame friend to Jesus for healing, and Jesus’ response was to forgive his sins.  This was, indeed, his greater need, but Jesus did not answer the request of the friends exactly as they had asked.  Granted, within minutes of forgiving his sins, Jesus did heal him physically too, but my point is that sometimes God answers prayers in a different – yet better and more profound – way.

Who are the people in your life who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior?  Are you making every effort to bring them to Jesus?  Are you carrying them to the house and digging a hole through the ceiling in order to drop them down in Jesus’ lap?  Or are you just whispering their name amongst a list of other needs and requests?  Are you interceding and stepping in the path for them?

We cannot force the hand of God.  There will be people for whom we pray who will not be saved.  There will be situations about which we pray that will not be resolved in the manner we desire.  But make no mistake, God intends to use us to accomplish His purposes of reaching the world for Christ, and it is our role to pray for, to share with, and to intercede for the lost.  Jesus will use our faith to save some!

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies.  And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay.  If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

– Charles Spurgeon.