Sin the central issue
There is truth in the statement, Sin is the central issue in our life with God, the obstacle of going to heaven but it is a matter which can be dealt with for each of us so far as it impacts on our relationship with God. Unfortunately our capacity to sin never ceases and sin is so prevalent amongst humans that it cannot be avoided while we continue to live with them. (See more here.)
While salvation is a gift given to us when we do not deserve it our response on receiving this gift includes repentance, seeking forgiveness, being granted not only forgiveness but also cleansing and then a life lived denying sin its place in our lives. Christ’s death on the cross was what it took to deal with the damage sin has done to our relationship with God.
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 Timothy 4:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
There is no point in pretending that we have not sinned or that we do not sin or that it does not matter if we sin. The very point of Christ’s death on the cross was a response to the fact of our sin, God’s way of dealing with it and offering us a way past it.
1 John 1:8-10 has wonderful news:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
There is no point in deceiving ourselves into thinking we have not sin – that would be avoiding the truth. Indeed to claim we have not sinned is confronted by God himself who says we have and at the same time we are saying God is a liar – surely and clearly blasphemous and a sin in itself!
But God’s graciousness comes when we are honest with ourselves and with God and we acknowledge our sin, repent of it and ask for forgiveness. Then, wonderfully, we are not simply granted forgiveness but are, in God’s view of us, cleansed from all unrighteousness.
The picture Isaiah 61:10 gives us is beautiful:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
From now on God’s view of us is that we are covered with the robe of righteousness that only Christ could rightly wear. God sees us as being as clean, sinless, acceptable and welcome as Christ himself. The word is, justified.
We find forgiveness not only hard to give but also hard to receive.
Sometimes that is because it offends our pride to receive such a gift that we clearly do not deserve; we cannot allow God to lavish his grace upon us because we want to earn it.
Sometimes we try to follow the dictum, “forgive and forget” which fails because we cannot forget and the reality and power of sin continues to haunt us. God does not “forgive and forget” – it’s nonsense to think God could forget anything. What he does is more powerful and is the example we should follow: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) God forgives then determines not to remember our offenses again – the forgiveness is complete and lasts. Can we not do the same?
As wonderful as it is that God accepts us so completely it is obvious to us that while God is prepared to forgive us, cleanse us and then not remember our sin again we are not perfect; sin still pervades our lives in so many ways. So how do we handle this?
Our response to this wonder is described in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
We certainly cannot claim perfection or sinlessness but what we do have is that we are forgiven and clean in God’s sight and the need to learn to live, with Holy Spirit help, as people for whom sin is incongruous in our lives.