In part 2 of this series, Bound in the Land of Blessing, I want to focus on our problem with sin. This series was came about after I read this passage from Nehemiah, “Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.” (Neh. 9:36 ESV) As I read this passage in Nehemiah I began asking myself, is it possible for believers to be bound in the land of blessings we have received through being in Christ. Today we focus on our problem with sin.
I bought a watermelon this weekend. I picked it out and was looking forward to eating it because I thought this is going to be a very good watermelon. My wife cut it open last night and it was bright red in its core, I could hear that it was crisp as the knife slid through the green core. Have you ever eaten those watermelons that when you cut it, the aroma of the watermelon lets you know it is going to taste good? This was last night.
As I got up to get me a piece I put it on the cutting, little did I know that this cutting board was used to cut up some very strong onions and every piece of watermelon that sat on the cutting board had a light onion flavor. What a way to ruin my heavenly watermelon experience?
The Permeating Nature of Sin
The nature of sin is corruption, it corrupts all it touches, just like the strong onion that was used on the cutting board infecting my watermelon with its flavor, sin has the same powerful effect on our lives.
Here in lies the problem, before the watermelon touched the cutting board it was good, ready to be eaten, with no issues. In our case we our rotten to the core, Jesus said,
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matt. 15:18-20 ESV)
Jesus pointed out that our problem with sin is not just an outward problem, it is in inward problem, a problem of the heart, it is who we are. The reason we sin is because we are sinners, ever since the Adam and Eve ate that fruit (Gen. 3) sin has permeated this world we live in, and it has permeated our hearts.
The problem is we like to view ourselves like the watermelon, good to the core, but in actuality we are rotten to the core, we are the onion infecting the flavor of sin in every thing we do and touch. This is why Jesus came, to destroy the power of sin in our lives.
Destroying The Power Of Sin
The apostle John express some very powerful truths here,
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8–9)
The first truth John shares with us is those who practice sinning are under the realm of Satan, Paul describes sinners as being part of the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13). We have all been here before, before Christ rescued us, we were willing participants in the realm of Satan whether we knew it or not.
Which leads us to the reason Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, who John tells us has been sinning from the beginning. I find it interesting that John says from the beginning, because I believe he may be trying to get us think of the fall in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve decided they did not need God and ate the fruit. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and the power of sin which permeated our world in the beginning.
Finally, John says those who have been born of God, those whom God has called, rescued, sanctified, those who trust in Jesus and repent of sin, those “born of God” do not make a practice of sinning. John explains why those born of God do not practice sinning, “for God’s seed abides in them”. God’s seed could be the Spirit of God who indwells the Christian (Eph. 1), it could be the Word of God (1 Pet. 1) it could be the divine nature (2 Pet. 1) or it could be all three working in tandem. What we do know is the person who has been born of God does not make a practice of sinning.
So is John saying we should be sinless?
No, he would not say believers should be sinless, when earlier he says this,
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 ESV)
What I believe John is saying is the believer does not make a practice of sinning because the Spirit, the Word and the new nature, which has been given to the those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ, will continually put the spotlight on the sin through conviction until repentance comes. When their is no conviction and godly sorrow for sin, we who claim to be followers of Christ have a cause to be concerned because that is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit, God’s word and the new nature have in our lives, to continually point the spot light on sin in our lives and bring us to repentance, to conform us into the image of Christ.
Bound in the Land of Blessing
This leads us to our question, can there be a time when the Christian is bound in the land of blessings of our salvation, where his struggles with sin prevent him from enjoying the new life in Christ?
Yes, whenever we have unrepentant sin in our lives we grieve the Spirit of God and thus hinder the work of God in our lives. Our sin diminishes the relational aspect we have with God. This is true even in our human relationships, think of the last conflict you had with your spouse or a very good friend, if there was wrongdoing involved one person is hurt, there is a something causing friction, lack of communication or a rift in the friendship or the marriage. The full joy of the relationship will not return or grow without repentance and a turning away of the wrongdoing.
Before we were followers of Christ we had no option but to sin. But now that Christ has given us his Spirit, and the Word has come alive in our hearts and he has blessed us with a new nature, we have the ability to put sin to death. Paul says,
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16 ESV)
Paul is saying when we willing sin, we are enslaving ourselves to sin. We are willing disrupting the blessings of the freedom we have in Christ for the temporal and permeating nature of sin, which leaves its stench on our lives.
So if we find ourselves in this condition what do we do?
We must continually turn to Christ. Too often I think we as believers see turning to Christ as a one time event, but turning and fixing our eyes on Christ is a habit we must develop and continually do. Take a look at John’s words,
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2 ESV)
John tells us when you sin, turn to Christ, he is your advocate, he will fight your battle trust in him, he will plead your case. He also tells us why, the cross. His death on the cross gives you the victory over sin. This victory over sin is not just in position but also a practice. Those born of God are infused with Spirit of God who gives us the power over sin (Rom 8)
We must continually repent and confess our sins through prayer. John tells us us,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)
We must turn away from our sin and agree with God that what we are doing is sin. We must do this to restore the relationship with God. Our sin caused a rift in the relationship, therefore we must repent and confess to restore the full joy of the relationship and continued growth.
We must walk in the Spirit. Many people may try to make this a mystical experience but walking in the Spirit is living life according to the Word of God by the power of the Spirit of God. So what does this require? We must read the Bible to know how we should live. As we read the Scriptures, the Spirit of God convicts us, encourages us, grows us into the image of Christ. The Spirit uses the word to change our desires from sin toward God.
We must be involved in an accountable church community. Did you notice that all of the Scriptures I have quoted today are to believers, involved in a community of believers, who are holding each other accountable? Being involved in a safe accountable community where you can share your struggles, be encouraged, be challenged is crucial to growing in Christ and remaining free from sin.
There are many more things which can said, but this is a start, a springboard for continued growth.
Until Next Time
Soli Deo Gloria