Abiding: “In Christ” Or “In Sin”
Scripture for Meditation: I John 1:9
The epistle of I John is full of the subject of abiding: abiding in the light, abiding in the truth, and abiding in Christ. In this chapter we want to see the relationship between abiding in Christ and our spiritual growth in the Lord. In the Old Testament when sin broke the fellowship between a believer and his God, a sacrifice had to be offered. We do not live under that system. Animal sacrifices are not part of our relationship to God. I John 1:9 is to us what all the Old Testament sacrifices and sprinkling of blood were to the Old Testament Jew. I do not think we appreciate nearly as we ought the wonderful relationship to God that we can have through faith in this age of grace!
Two Alternatives and Two Results
There are only two alternatives when a believer sins. In the beginning of the Bible, God reveals how man fell and what human nature is like. In Genesis chapter three, what was the first thing that Adam did after he sinned? Did he come running to the Lord and say Father forgive me? No! He went running, but it was in the opposite direction. He ran and hid, and tried to cover himself up. God reveals this to us right in the beginning of the Bible to give us a glimpse of what human nature is like. When a believer sins today, he also runs and hides from God. We stay away from the Lord. We have been looking at the illustration of the branch and the Vine. The branch may stay away from that Vine perhaps for days, perhaps for months, sometimes for even years. Do you know what happens to the branch while it stays away from the Vine? It withers up. It dries up. It becomes absolutely barren and unfruitful–worthless. The withering process may take time. Any time we spend away from abiding in Christ is time lost, and it produces no fruit. Over time a believer will wither spiritually. That believer will degenerate, perhaps, to the place of spiritual infancy as we see in the book of Hebrews in chapter five. That believer may even forget he was purged from his old sins as Peter tells us in his second epistle (II Pet. 1:9). What we are describing here is a branch that has been broken away from the Vine for sometime. It is not a good condition to be in. It is called backsliding.
We can run away and hide from God when we sin, but what should we do with our sin? Sin is going to take us away from the Vine. It is going to take us away from the place of fruitfulness, and restoration, and growth and strength. The writer of Hebrews tells us an immense blessing that we have as Christians, one which is often neglected. In Hebrews 10:22, the writer says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” It is possible for a believer to sin and stay away from the Lord. Because of guilt and a defiled conscience, we might feel unworthy to come back to fellowship. We might feel the shame and guilt of our sin. That defiled conscience will keep us away from where we really belong as a branch. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when we understand the value of the cross of Calvary to God the Father, then we understand that what Jesus did there really provided for forgiveness of sins (Heb. 10:17-22). That believer has his conscience completely purged. When you believe that, you will believe your sins are really gone because God said so. When you believe that there is absolutely nothing between you and your Savior (because you have confessed your sin), then that you have a perfectly purged conscience. If so (and it IS so!) then there will be nothing to prevent us from coming right back to abiding in Christ. It is the cleansed conscience that enables the believer to come back to the place of fellowship and restoration immediately. It is the believer that knows and believes these things, who understands that when he sins, fellowship need only be broken momentarily. He sees the horror of his sin. He confesses it. He believes that God has cleansed him from all unrighteousness and he comes right back to Christ, where he belongs. In fact, he is right back to that place where spiritual restoration and growth and progress are going to take place.
Thus, there are two different responses to sin as a believer. We can practice unbelief and refuse to believe that God really does forgive our sin when we confess it sincerely. (I John 1:9 is a promise to be believed!) If we remain in that kind of unbelief, we will continue with a guilty, defiled conscience, feeling the guilt and shame of our sin, and will continue to stay away from the Lord. Or, we could confess our sin, and believe God and then come right back to where we ought to be, abiding in Christ!
Two Views of the Savior
These two responses to sin stem from two different views of the Savior. To one Christian who has fallen into sin, God is a Judge. This believer may sin and confess his sin but he does not really believe that God is gracious enough to forgive him. He reasons that it cannot be that easy, not after all he has done! He says, God is not going to restore me back to fellowship and close communion with Him, not after my sin! In this believer, even though his sin was confessed, his conscience is not pure. It is still guilty and defiled. His unbelief will keep him from coming back to Christ. He really does not believe I John 1:9. If he did, he would realize that Jesus paid it all on Calvary and there is no reason not to come back. It stems from a faulty concept of Who God is, and the infinite, marvelous grace of God that is able to forgive us and cleanse us from all sin.
Now, it is not entirely wrong to view God as our Judge. In one sense, He is a Judge. He is the Judge of all the Earth and He does right. But read God’s judgment: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). We all know that verse. That is the judgment (judicial decree) of a holy and righteous God. That is what God the Judge has said.
Next, we have a second concept of Christ. In I John 2:1, John says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” He is not talking about a lax view toward sin. He is writing about God’s method for the believer dealing with sin. What should we do as a Christian when we fall into sin? The first thing He tells us is that “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins” (I Jn. 2:1-2). In other words when we sin, God is on our side. God is our defender. Hebrews 9:24 says, that He appears “in the presence of God for us.” If God be for us, who can be against us? The Bible tells us that even when we sin, we are still God’s sons. The Bible tells us that He will never, ever leave us or forsake us. The Bible tells us that Christ has already paid the full penalty of our sin. The Bible tells us, that if we confess our sin, God is faithful, He will forgive all of our sins. That is a right concept of God and His grace.
The risen, glorified Savior is at the right hand of the Father appearing in Heaven for us. He is on our side. As a Christian, even when we sin and fall away, we ought to view God as someone Who is on our side. He is our Father. Jesus Christ is our Advocate. He is in Heaven as our great High Priest. That has nothing to do with paying the penalty of our sin. That took place 2,000 years ago on the cross. That is finished. It is over. The penalty has already been paid. But, as our Advocate, Jesus Christ appears in Heaven to restore us to the place of fellowship with the Father. When we confess our sin and trust that what He said is true, our Advocate brings us right back into the place of abiding.
Two Methods of Dealing with Sin
Men have developed different concepts of our Savior. We can see Him as our Judge or our Advocate. Men have devised different methods of dealing with sin. This is the dispensation of the grace of God. We do not live under the Law. We do not live under any legalistic system. The grace/faith way is God’s way for the believer to walk and to live. In I John 1:9, God says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The believer, who lives under the system of grace and walks by faith, is going to believe what God said. That believer is going to believe that when he confesses his sin, God actually does cleanse him from all unrighteousness. There is nothing to prevent him from coming right back to that place of abiding with Christ. He believes what God said and therefore his conscience is thoroughly purged.
It is kind of hard to believe, but it is what the Bible says after all. It says in Hebrews 10:2, “For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.” Oh, what infinite benefit and blessing we have in this age! The writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter ten that under the old covenant there was a yearly Day of Atonement, a sprinkling of blood. There was no end of the sacrifices for sins of the people. They had to keep offering them year after year, and the fact that they were unending meant that their consciences were never fully purged from the guilt of sin. They knew the blood of bulls and goats could never really settle the sin question. Their consciences were never fully purged. There was always the nagging thought in the back of their minds that sin has not yet been “put away.” The writer of Hebrews tells us that once sins are purged by the cross of Calvary–once we know that and believe that, there is “no more conscience of sins.” There is no reason for a believer to walk around with a guilty, defiled conscience if he believes that the promise of I John 1:9 is real. This believer is not going to dwell in his sin. He is not going to dwell on the changing condition of his life. Rather, he is going to dwell on the position he has in Christ. As a son of God, he is eternally accepted in the Beloved. After he confesses his sin, he is not going to lie around licking his wounds. He is going to come right back to where he belongs – abiding in Christ–the place of restoration and strength!
When we sin as believers, we are painfully aware of our sin nature. That is good! We cannot ignore the fact (read in I John 1:8-10) that we are sinners. We commit sins (vs. 10) and we have a sin nature (vs. 8). If we do not think that is the case, then John says that we are lying to ourselves. The believer who sins and confesses his sin, is not treating sin lightly when he comes right back to abiding in Christ. He is aware that sin (the nature) dwells in us. It is our nature–and in our fallen human nature there dwells no good thing. The believer who sins is like a branch broken off from fellowship with the Vine. There it will wither and dry up. Awareness of this truth makes the believer THIRST for nourishment that only the Vine can provide! It makes him aware of his need of Christ. As a drying, withering branch, the believer recognizes there is no other place for him, but right there, dwelling, abiding in the Lord. So this thirst that we experience, this guilt, this hunger, is the right response from a believer who sins–that is, to come back to the Savior. Only He can meet that need. Only He can give us the strength and vitality we need in our spiritual walk. But, in addition to the hunger, there is something else equally important, namely a purged conscience. The believer who has sinned and is away from the Lord recognizes that sin dwells in him and he hates it. It makes him hungry for righteousness. It makes him hungry for that fellowship with the Lord. Also, he is aware that when he confesses his sin, it is gone! His conscience is purged. Once he knows this and his heart believes it, then he has the confidence to come back. He has the boldness to come unto the throne of grace because he knows God has righteously dealt with his sin on the cross. He is hungry and he believes God, and has the boldness and confidence to come back to the place where growth and restoration and fellowship will take place. Do you know what then happens? Soon the guilt and the shame of our sin will be replaced by the joy of the Lord. Where else can we go when we sin, but to the Savior? That is God’s grace way.
There is another way of dealing with our sin. That is the Law/works way, the way of the flesh. As believers we can fall from the grace way of living into legalism. One believer might sin and fall away from the Lord. He does not fully believe I John 1:9–that if he simply (but sincerely) confess his sin, then God will forgive. Ah! That is too easy. God cannot be that gracious, he reasons. Because he does not believe God, his conscience is not fully purged. He feels guilty. There is shame. He feels dirty. He does not feel eternally accepted in the Beloved, so he stays away. He is not believing God. He is not resting in Jesus Christ. He cannot get himself to believe that God’s grace is so wide, so deep that it covers even his sin. The flesh is very uncomfortable with the grace way of life. Instead of believing what God has said, we start living by our feelings. When we have fallen away from the Lord, we experience guilt. We say, I am a failure. I have sinned against God. Instead of returning to our glorious position in Christ, we dwell on our miserable earthly condition. Now the legalism begins to surface. Because we do not believe that all we have to do is confess our sin, the flesh reasons that we must DO something. We reason that there must be a penance to pay before God will receive us back into His favor. The flesh loves “to do.” It does not like to believe and to rest in what is already done. It likes to do.
In Hebrews 10:17 God says, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” This too is hard to believe. Hebrews 10:18 says, “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” We should believe what God said–that 2,000 years ago on the cross, Jesus paid for my sins, and they are remitted. They have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). And “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). If I see myself in Christ Jesus, my unchangeable position, then I am going to stop trying to pay for my sins or earning His favor. Instead of working and doing and striving, I am going to rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is hard to believe that God is so good, but He is!
The other sinning believer also is aware of his need for Christ. But, he does not believe I John 1:9. His guilty conscience keeps him away from coming back to the place of full restoration. He is torn. In his heart he knows that he is a sinner. He needs to be abiding in the Savior– He belongs there and knows it is the right place to be. However, because he does not trust in what Christ did, (because he is not looking to the cross, he is looking to his own miserable condition) he does not feel cleansed. He feelsunworthy. Instead of walking by faith in what God has said, he is walking by his feelings and he cannot come back. He is reluctant to draw nigh unto God. He is not experiencing the BOLDNESS of faith that causes us to draw near.
Consider the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. We should not read the story of the prodigal son as a story of how to become saved. The Lord is talking about a sinner, any kind of sinner coming back to the Father. Begin reading at verse 17. Here is the story of the prodigal son after he had sinned, squandered his goods, and wasted precious time in loose living:
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry (Lk. 15:17-24).
There is something we want to note about the prodigal son here– He wanted to come back to the father but he was afraid. He was torn. He came to his senses and he wanted to come back to his father but he wrongly assumed that because of the miserable condition of his life, that somehow his father would not receive him back as a son. He wrongly assumed the condition of his life changed his position. He thought that perhaps his father would at least accept him back as a servant. He was hungering to come back. He remembered his father. He remembered his father’s house and he hungered to be filled. And there is nothing healthier for the Christian than to hunger after righteousness and fellowship. A branch that is broken away from the Vine, wilts and thirsts for what the Vine has to offer. We should never be reluctant to return Christ, no matter what we have done. When the branch is away from the Vine, its condition does not and cannot improve. A wilting process begins to take place almost immediately. You know how the flesh thinks! When I am away from the Savior, I am on my own to deal with my sin. Now I have to do it in the flesh. Now it is self-discipline, self-effort, self-help, self-this, self-that, and all that the flesh tries to do. This is futile. Jesus said without Me you can do nothing. The branch on its own is doomed to perpetual failure. That branch is going to feel the full weight, burden, guilt, and shame of sin on his shoulders. He is going to feel shackled by his sin, defeated and discouraged. He will feel just like the old man. He may even begin to wonder if he was ever saved. Faith and confidence in God and His Word begin to erode even more. It is a vicious spiral downward. Instead of abiding in Christ in His glorious position he is dwelling in his miserable condition. The Devil has us right where he wants us, focused on self, focused on the condition of my life rather than on Christ. Somehow the devil convinces us that we must live under the weight, burden, guilt, and shame of sin instead of believing I John 1:9. God says our sins are GONE when we confess them. Trust Him!
Two Means of Receiving Forgiveness
What is the means of receiving this forgiveness? What does the Bible say in I John 1:9? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you know what the legalistic way (law/works way) of looking at this says? Many times we as believers (with good intentions), face I John 1:9 this way. We think that we have to pray and plead with God for forgiveness. Wrong! That is not what the verse says. Should we pray and ask God to forgive us for our sins? Perhaps if we are earnest enough, maybe if we include a few tears in our prayers, maybe then God will have some sympathy and will answer us. This too can be a form penance. It stems from a wrong concept of God–as if God were not already inclined to forgive us. He is! Christ’s blood is already the propitiation for our sins. Christ has already satisfied God’s wrath toward our sin, once and for all. God does not have to be propitiated, or satisfied, or appeased any more. Jesus did it 2,000 years ago. It is finished!
The Bible does not tell us in I John 1:9 to pray for forgiveness. Besides, if we prayed for forgiveness, how would we ever know when our prayers had been answered? Should we wait until we feel forgiven? Then the Devil has won another battle, for instead of relying on God’s Word, we are relying on our feelings! Should we wait until we feel right with God? Should we wait until we feel like God has forgiven us before we come back? What if we do not feel forgiven? Do we stay away forever? Then we begin to resort to the works of the flesh. We begin to feel pressured to do something to satisfy God so that He might receive us back into His favor. All this is based on works, a Law-relationship to God. It is dead wrong. How could we ever do enough to satisfy God? How could we ever pray enough? How could we ever do enough good works to provide forgiveness for even one sin? God does not want us to do something to get right in His sight. He wants us to believe something. He wants us to believe that what Jesus Christ did on the cross really worked–it satisfied the Father forever! If we are relying upon our works or our feelings to get the conscience cleansed to the point where we feel comfortable enough to come back to Christ, we will never get there, because works will never do it. How many works are enough to cleanse our conscience? That guilty, defiled conscience will hinder us from returning to Christ and keep us in the place of spiritual withering.
However, there is another way of receiving this forgiveness: the grace/faith way! Do what the Bible says! John says, if we confess our sin, God will forgive. He does not say to beg and plead with God to forgive us. He says confess. That word simply means to speak the same thing. It means to agree with God. Acknowledge our sin before Him. Admit we have sinned. Admit that the convicting work of the Holy Spirit is true and right. I am guilty. I have done wrong. How do we speak the same thing as God with respect to our sin? We recognize and hate it. That is God’s view of sin. God hates sin, and so should we. It is impossible to confess our sin unless we agree with God that this sin is so vile it is worthy of condemnation. Thank God for His grace.
When we sinned, we really disagreed with God, did we not? We said, I can do this and it will not bother me. When we sinned, we are disagreeing with God by saying this sin is not so bad. Yes, it is! God wants us to agree with Him. When we confess our sin, we agree with God. That implies repentance. We have changed our mind about our sin. A genuine repentance will ultimately result in the fruit of repentance, namely, a change of action. Interestingly in I John 1:9, John uses the present tense, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” if we confess. This confession is to be an ongoing attitude. We are not going to say, OK I have sinned, and I have confessed it. Now I can go right back to my old worldly ways! That is not agreeing with God! Instead, we will agree with God and hate sin. We are to remain in this attitude of agreeing with God–that this sin is vile.
Also, confession must be very specific. Don’t pray this way: Oh, God, if I did anything wrong today forgive me because I probably did. That is not confession of sin. Confession takes place when we point our finger at a particular word or deed or an attitude that we had and say Lord it is sin, and I did it. I was wrong. Confession of sin offers no excuses and no rationalizations. You cannot say the Devil made me do it. Rather, we should say, It was my fault.
The first words out of the mouth of the prodigal son were, “Father, I have sinned.” He didn’t say, I couldn’t help it, or You do not understand all the pressure I was under, or Somebody else influenced me. He said, Father, I have sinned. It was sin and I did it. Confession is acknowledging what God already knows. It is agreeing with God that we are wrong. God is right about human nature. Paul says, in my flesh dwells no good thing and we need to agree with God. Believe that and reckon self to be dead. Faith takes God at His word. Faith not only believes that sin is evil, but faith also believes I John 1:9–that God has done something about it–that I am forgiven, that I am cleansed, that all my sins have been washed away as far as the east is from the west. That kind of faith enables me to have an absolutely pure conscience before God. Now I can draw near with confidence and boldness because I know that my sins are gone and that God remembers them no more. There is nothing between my Savior and me. There is no need for browbeating. There is no need for penance. There is no need to carry around the weight, and guilt and the shame of sin. It is gone. There is no reason we cannot come right back to the place of fellowship with the Savior, abiding in Christ, experiencing all that the Vine has to offer–right where we belong. You see, believing what God has said will take away the sense of guilt over our sin. By faith we can experience a purged conscience–and it feels great to be clean!
The penalty was paid 2,000 years ago, but faith in God, (believing what He says) will take away the feelings of guilt today. It will purify our conscience, enable us to draw near with boldness “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Why stay away from the Vine?
There are different ways of understanding God’s forgiveness. We can approach it the legalistic way wherein we think we must do something because we refuse to believe that God would accept us back simply by confessing sin. How much better is it to take God at His word by faith, accept and marvel over His grace, and come right back to the Savior.
Two Concepts of God’s Grace in Forgiving Sin Freely
The flesh also raises another issue for us. Men have devised different concepts of God’s grace in forgiving sin freely. Some believe that if all we have to do is confess our sinand God will receive us back into the fellowship, then God is not righteous. They reason that it is too easy. This man argues, You mean, if I go out and make a mess of my life (like the prodigal son), I can then come back to my Father, confess my sins and expect Him to receive me? Yes–that is exactly what the Bible says! Some men say that that is not fair. If God allows that, He is too lenient with sin. Evidently in their concept there must be some probationary period before we can go back, or maybe a kind of purgatory. Perhaps, they argue, the sinner has to pay something for his sin. They assume that he cannot get off scot-free, or God is not fair. That is man’s view of God’s grace. Men refuse to believe that His grace is as deep and as wide as it really is. For that reason, the thief on the cross is an enigma to may folks. They say, You mean he lived his whole life as a wicked scoundrel and in the last moment of his life he believed on Jesus and he went to Paradise? Yes! That is exactly what the Bible says, because getting into Heaven or possessing the privilege of communing with God has nothing to do with how good we are. It is entirely based on God’s grace. To suggest that God is not righteous when He forgives sins on the basis of mere confession is a high insult to Almighty God. It represents an exceedingly low concept of the value of the precious blood of Christ to the Father.
Was God really lenient with sin? Did God treat sin lightly? Read the gospels where Jesus was smitten, beaten, whipped, had thorns driven into His head, was pierced with nails. He was pierced with the sword. He shed His blood and died for the sins of the world. No, God was not lenient with sin. The full weight, guilt, shame, and burden of sin fell in full force on Jesus Christ. Do not ever say God was lenient with sin! He is gracious with us, but He is not lenient with sin. He condemned sin on the cross. He spared not His own Son, but He delivered Him up for us all. Salvation, (being brought into a right relation to God) and the privilege of abiding in that glorious position are free to us–but it certainly is not cheap. Look to the cross!
Sure there are consequences to our sin. David sinned and the prophet said the sword would never leave his house, but he was restored back to fellowship with God. Remember the illustration of the branches and the Vine? The Husbandman has to prune and cut the branches back sometimes. That certainly is going to hurt, but they are still branches. Do not ever forget this: sin breaks our fellowship; confession restores it. Do not complicate God’s plan. It really is that simple. He really is that gracious. When God says that He cleanses us from all unrighteousness, it is most unwise to question His justice!
What is the grace way? We are simply to believe what God says. God wants believers to believe. That should be obvious. God wants believers to believe what He said with respect to our sins– they have been washed away. Do you know what Peter said when God’s plan did not make much sense to him? Jesus said that He was going in to be crucified, and Peter said, “Not so, Lord!” How dare we as believers say not so to the Lord? In I John 1:9, John suggests that it is because God is faithful that He forgives us. It is because God is righteous (just) that He forgives us on the basis of grace. I John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins He is faithful–to His own character. It is His nature and His character to be forgiving. He is faithful to His Word. He said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). He that has begun a good work in you “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). He “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). God is faithful to His Word. Not only is He faithful, but He is also righteous. When God forgives the believing sinner simply on the basis of confession of sin, it is an expression of God’s righteousness and justice as the Judge of all the Earth. How is this an expression of His righteousness? It is so because the penalty has already been paid in full, and Divine justice has been eternally satisfied with the work of Jesus on the cross. God is perfectly fair. He is perfectly faithful. He is also perfectly righteous when He forgives our sin on the basis of the finished work of Christ.
Does God treat sin too lightly? Does the grace way of walking by faith create a license to sin? Does it produce a sense of lawlessness? Does it make us lax in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ? These are legitimate issues. You see, when a believer sins, he is like a branch broken away from communion with the Vine. That branch needs to repent, confess his sin, and return to the place of abiding in the Vine. He is then abiding in the place where full restoration takes place. He is abiding in the place of holy communion with God. He is abiding with the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer that is close to Christ is never going to have a lax view toward sin. There is never going to be a sense of license to sin. Away with the thought! The believer who sins and confesses his sin REPENTS… changes his mind about sin, and chooses to return to the Lord and abide in Him. The one communing with God will never take sin lightly.
In I John 3:5 we read, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” When we are abiding in Christ, where are we abiding? In Him! This is where God sees us, in Christ, His Son. In Him is no sin. In I John 3:6, John says, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not.” It does not help to lean on a false sense of humility (Oh, I am too unworthy to come back to Christ!). Why stay in the place of withering? Why stay in the place where the flesh is doomed to utter failure? Come back to the place where there is no sin. Abide in Christ and you will not sin. It is a holy place of close communion and fellowship with the Lord. Sin and failure will cause us to loathe self. It will cause us to hate self, to have no confidence or trust in self. It will cause us to get to the place where Paul found himself when he said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18) and “who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). After learning to loathe the flesh, Paul is then ready to reach out to Christ. The guilt and misery of sin should lead us to hunger and thirst for what the Vine offers to the branch. Instead of licking our wounds and feeling guilty when we sin, we should confess the sin and come back to Christ, where life-transforming power is available to us. We return to the place where Christ is everything, meets every need, satisfies the heart, and restores the soul.
No, God does not treat sin lightly when we confess it. I know some are going to say that it is too easy. You mean all I have to do is confess my sin no matter what I have done, and God will receive me right back into fellowship? What does I John 1:9 say? No matter how many sins were committed, the promise of I John 1:9 does not change. He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. As believers, we sometimes have a hard time believing that God is as gracious as the Scriptures declare. We assume, I am too unworthy to come back… He will never receive me back, not after what I have done. We feel sorry for ourselves because we do not allow our guilty conscience to be cleansed by faith. We fail to believe that what Christ has done was sufficient. We fail to believe what God’s Word says about forgiveness. Therefore, we stay away from Christ and wither up spiritually.
It is a wrong attitude – the thinking of the flesh. Not only do believers stay away from returning to fellowship, but how many countless unsaved men who have heard the gospel message and refuse to come to Christ for salvation for the same twisted reasoning? They say, Ah, that is too easy! All I have to do is trust in Christ? I cannot. I have to DO something to be saved. Surely there is something the flesh can do. I have to offer something as a payment. You see the flesh always thinks the same way. It always wants to do, rather than rest in what has already been finished. The Devil does not want anyone to come to Christ. If they are lost, he does not want them to come to Christ and be saved. When believers have fallen away from fellowship, he does not want them to come to Christ and be restored. Yet, Jesus says “Come unto Me all ye are heavy laden and I will give you rest!” (Mt. 11:28). The Devil is busy convincing us that God could not possibly be that gracious. Not after what you have done. He is not going to forgive all your sins. It is too easy. You have to do something to earn your way back. Maybe pray a lot. Maybe crawl on your knees back to God. When we think that way, the Devil has won. Our concept of God’s grace is diminished, and our concept of the flesh is exalted.
All God wants us to do is to believe Him and come to Christ. There are only two alternatives. We can run away from God and hide or we can believe what God did on the cross 2,000 years ago and by faith make it ours. Appropriate it and come to God. Not only can we come to Him–but we can come with boldness and confidence knowing and believing that our sins really are gone.
If you are not saved, God wants you to come to Christ. Jesus died for your sins and He rose again. The Father accepted His payment. The work of paying the debt of your sin is finished. There is no reason for you not to come to Christ–other than your own self-righteous pride, or a false sense of humility that says, Oh, I am not worthy. Who is worthy? No one is worthy. That is what grace is all about. God saves undeserving sinners IF they will come to Christ in faith. All God wants us to do is come. He will save us on the basis of simple childlike faith in what Jesus Christ has done. Once we come to Christ, He desires us to remain there, abiding in Him, and partaking of all that He is.That is the way of salvation and sanctification–all by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Praise God! Christ is all we need!