Saturday, April 21, 2018

How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life

Jesus in the Wilderness
Mark 7:20-23 (ESV) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Repentance is a beautiful thing. Repentance is a breaking free from the ties and bonds of this world, and the sins that so easily corrupt us, and a process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. 

In the west, especially in the United States many Christians have been deceived by a dangerous doctrine called "eternal security."  Essentially this view indicates that "once you're saved, you're always saved."  This doctrine has led many people astray in their Christian faith. Many have assumed that given their salvation experience is legitimate, they don't need to worry about sin in their lives and repenting from it.

But the more I study the scriptures, the more concerned I am about sin in the life of a Christian.  We don't take sin near seriously enough in western Christianity.  And that's a big reason why the church looks a lot like the world.  We don't recognize the need for true repentance.  We're filled up on grace, but what we need is true repentance. 

1 John 1:8-10 ESV "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."

Our God is a gracious God, and He forgives the sins of those who put their faith and allegiance in Jesus Christ.  I used to believe that our sins, past, present, and future were all forgiven in the moment of salvation, in the moment of saving faith in Jesus Christ.  I no longer believe that, because there isn't much basis for it in the scriptures.  

I had considered a scripture in Hebrews a basis for this belief, that "Jesus died for sin, once for all time" (Hebrews 10:10).  But I realize now that on a firmer basis of good exegesis, this scripture is much more likely referring to the fact that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross transcends time in it's accessibility, meaning the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross redeemed people in the past, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and so on.  And Jesus' sacrifice is also available infinitely forward to our present age, as a timeless option to receive forgiveness of sins.  

But I now realize that if we are in active sin in our lives, those sins are not forgiven, unless we repent of them and turn away from them.  That is why it's important for us to conclude each day in prayer, and make an inventory of our day, and confess and repent of any sins in our lives.  

It's important to understand that there is a distinction between active sin and being tempted.  To be tempted is not a sin, Jesus was tempted, but He did not yield to the temptations.  So to be tempted is not a sin.  But if we are tempted, and we give in and indulge in the sin, in thought or action, then we have sinned. But don't worry, God provides a way of escape for every sin that dares to beset us. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Galatians 5:16 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

We're given a clue as to how to overcome sin in our lives: To overcome, we must walk in the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit was given to us, by Jesus, as a deposit in our souls, to help lead us into all truth and purity.  

We are already dead in Christ.  We were buried with Him in His death on the cross. We are therefore dead to the sin He died to destroy, and we are now alive to Jesus. We are reborn, as alive to Jesus, and dead to sin. So we must fight to walk in that Spirit life.  

But to live free of sin, I must emphasize is not a checklist of "to do" and "don't do."  To live free of sin is to live so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit, so utterly subjected to Christ, so completely adherent to the will of the heavenly Father that sin is rendered powerless. Temptations will come, but our yielding to the Father will win the day over those temptations. 

So the question must come up: What exactly is sin?  Well, we do get some lists in the scriptures.  Here is one such list, of 15 categories: 

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Sex always comes first.  God knows us so well. Sex is the hardest sin to overcome, because it's temptations are so strong.  The big three sexual sins are: masturbation (using lustful images in the mind or pornographic videos to sin), fornication (to engage in pre-marital/non-marital sex acts), and adultery (to have sex with a married man or woman, or lust after them in your heart).  Those are the big three, especially in our day and age.  I've done all three, sadly.  But I've also confessed my sins in tears before God, and asked for forgiveness, and repented, and I was forgiven and washed clean, completely.  The same repentance and forgiveness is available to you, today.  

But if we're playing a game with God, where we sin, then repent, then the next day we sin again, and repent, that is no good.  In that situation we need to ask God to help us fear Him.  Ask Him that again and again, to put the fear of the Lord in us.  Then we'll tremble before His throne, we'll tremble about the fires of hell, and we'll be zealous and repent quickly of that sin.  And that's true repentance, which is enabled by the Holy Spirit.  It starts with grief, then fear, then a sincere turning, and a practicing daily of a new lifestyle.  Once again, I speak from experience.  I played that game with God.  And I asked God for fear.  And He gave me fear.  Now I've repented and it's a real repentance, which is a gift.  

There is no distinction between sins in God's eyes.  God doesn't say "Well you were a Christian in active sin, but your sins weren't that bad, you were just doing smaller sins, so it's no big deal."  No, that's not how it works.  Say, that you repent of all the "big sins" but you continue to say, download pirated music online, or you continue to steal things from your work occasionally, or you skip tithing, because "no big deal."  God will come to you, in the Spirit, again and again to tell you to repent of those sins.  But if you keep resisting, and telling yourself in your mind that it's no big deal, well, you won't be in heaven, plain and simple.  You'll be in the other place.

This is not my favorite teaching.  I prefer to focus on God's grace, on the love of Christ, and on the forgiveness, mercy, and eternal life given to us.  That's what I love and like to think about.  All of those things are indeed true about God.  But I would not be a faithful minister of the gospel if I didn't warn those I teach and care for about the dangers of living in active sin as a Christian.

Yes, we can lose our salvation.  But it's not like you turn around and say, "Oops where did it go!?" God preserves us in the palm of his hand and he comes to us and rebukes and disciplines us when we get off track. But we know when we're straying from God's path, and we know when sins are active in our lives. And there does come a point when we step outside His will and plan.  We have those choices to make.  

Don't be deceived by elaborate theologies.  Put the scriptures before theological allegiance.  And the scriptures talk again and again about "falling away" and encouragements to "abide(remain) in Christ."  I'd commend John 15 to you, as well as 1 Timothy 4:1 ESV which states: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons."

I'd also recommend the following scriptures for your consideration in regarding to falling away/departing the faith: Hebrews 6:4-6 ,Hebrews 3:12-19 ,Revelation 2:4-5 , 2 Corinthians 11:3 , 2 Peter 2:20-22 , Romans 11:19-22 , Matthew 24:10-13 , and Revelation 3:11.

Please don't just take my word for this one, examine the scriptures yourself. But I would give you this one encouragement: Put the scriptures above a theological allegiance.  Don't try to force the scriptures into the theology you prefer.  Instead let the scriptures speak for themselves.  

I know many of you reading these words are Calvinists.  I want you to know I love you as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We aren't enemies.  We're friends.  And I know your going to teach your people to thoroughly repent of all sin.  But I'd encourage you to examine the scriptures and discern them in all wisdom.  

Just as Jesus Christ taught the seven churches in the book of Revelation, we must be focused, determined, and hard working in the Spirit to repent of sin, and ensure that we are in the will of God.  God will make His will for our lives clear and we must follow it.  The scriptures say that many will come to Jesus and say, "Lord, Lord, remember all we did for you in our lives, and the miracles we performed."  And Jesus will say to them: Depart from me, I never knew you (Matthew 25:31-46). We need to be obeying God's will, if we expect to share in eternal life.

Additionally, we must not harbor unforgiveness or hatred for those who have harmed us in the past or present.  Take some time in prayer, on your knees, to search through your heart for unforgiveness and anger/hatred.  Ask the Holy Spirit to search you and reveal these things.  Then declare forgiveness in your heart, and love in your heart.  Remember that the Lord said hatred is murder (1st John 4:20).  And also recall that Jesus said that if we don't forgive others their debts, then our debts won't be forgiven.  Jesus forgave us all our sins, and our response is to forgive those who have done unspeakable evil to us.  Or even just small things.  We've been forgiven, so we must forgive (Matthew 6:15). 

Finally, we must not be lukewarm.  We must work to be on fire for Christ.  We must truly follow and obey Him.  The church that Jesus addressed in the book of Revelation, the church in Laodicea had become lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-21).  They were so wealthy and affluent that they couldn't recognize that they were poor, blind, and naked.  They needed to cloth themselves in Jesus, instead of relying on their wealth and power.  I think we have the same problem in the United States today.  We need to truly submit to Jesus and rely on Him, not worldly wealth.

In conclusion, I want to tell you that this a very difficult message for me to write.  I don't like having to share this kind of message.  In fact I've tried to avoid this reality in the theological framework in my mind for years.  I've resisted it and fought against it, and desperately wanted to believe that sin wasn't such a big deal.  I wanted to believe eternal security.  I wanted to believe that active sin wasn't such a deadly foe to eternal life.  I wanted to believe that extra grace would cover over the sins I was practicing each day.  But I realize now, that for those in active sins, their lot is in the lake of fire.  It doesn't matter how well we've served Jesus or how many converts we've won, or how faithfully we've taught the scriptures.  God shows no favoritism.  So we must be careful not to disqualify ourselves while running this race of serving Jesus (1st Corinthians 9:27).  

Hell is a real place. If you go there after you die, you'll be conscious. You'll be able to feel and you'll have your senses. You'll have a body, you'll be able to think and reason, and you'll constantly recall all the chances you had to repent, and didn't.  I don't say that to scare you, but because I don't want you to go there.  And our God is a righteous judge, He will return in power and glory to rule His people. He will bring into judgment all things we've done. 

But don't be afraid. God will help you overcome all sin in your life.  And to he who overcomes, they will be given a crown by Jesus (2 Timothy 4:7-8). And once we're in heaven, with Jesus, there is no longer a danger of sin.  We'll be free to be holy and pure and clean.  And it will be wonderful.  Heaven is real! So choose heaven, instead of hell. 

This is such a hard message for me to share, but I believe with all of my soul that this message is true and of Christ.  We must take sin seriously, and we can and we will.  And if we do, and we cooperate with the Spirit in putting to death the sins of the flesh, we will make it to eternal life with Christ in heaven.  We will be pure and spotless in His sight if we are zealous and determined to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  Thank you for reading and keep on praying and seeking God! 

1 John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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