This article is part of a series of posts that may be better understood starting from the beginning.
The Crux of the Matter
In reviewing what the Scriptures have to say about sinners, it is interesting to note that there is continuously a line being drawn in the sand. God distinguishes between those who are called His and those who are called sinners.
One is either righteous, upright, good, pleasing God, fearing God, wise, God's child, forgiven, found, alive, justified, hallowed, delighting in God, redeemed, made whole, obedient, doing the work of God, converted, a saint...or one is a sinner.
This indicates that, to God, a sinner is more than just someone who commits sin. A sinner is someone who is in agreement with sin. When we repent, we are turning a complete 180 degrees away from the direction we were headed before. The Christian walk then is one of walking away from sin.
Yet, we all know that even Christians can sin. This is why God says:
"If we say that 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 that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." I John 1:8-10
Yet still, the admonition for Christians is as follows:
"Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." John 5:14
"She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." John 8:11
"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth nomore sacrifice for sins" Hebrews 10:26
Jesus' commands His Body to cease from sin. Notice also that only those who are bound by sin cannot cease from sin.
"Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children" II Peter 2:14
Isn't that interesting? God says that these "cursed children" cannot cease from sin. If God has not given Christians the power to overcome sin via the Holy Spirit, then what makes us any different from these cursed children? Indeed, as we have seen above, Jesus commands us to sin no more.
So what does this mean? Sinners engage and revel in sin. Christians are to be crucifying the old man along with the lusts of his flesh so as to avoid sin.
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." I John 3:8-9
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" Hebrews 12:1
"Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame." I Corinthians 15:34
"Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. " Romans 6:18-20
And when sin is present, we are to be quick in confessing and turning away from it so that we can be restored in communion with Jesus Christ.
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." I John 2:1-3
The primary objective - the higher standard - is that we sin not. Yet, God makes provision for if/when we do.
"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." Hebrews 12:6-8
Those who do not submit to the chastisement of God are bastards. Why is God chastising us? Because He is forming us into the persons He created us to be. He is the potter molding the clay. He is completing the good work He has started in us.
"Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Hebrews 12:9-10
We cannot separate the love of God from the chastisement of God. God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, is raising His children, teaching us right from wrong, and we are to submit to that. We are to yield to His correction and turn from that which is wrong.
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" Hebrews 12:11-14
This is not an easy work and God admits that this process is grievous for us. BUT, it produces the spiritual fruit in us; it matures us in the faith.
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Hebrews 12:15-17
Don't be deceived into believing this Once Saved Always Saved nonsense. There are just so many Scriptures which refute this lie, this being one. We are to look diligently unless we fail of the grace of God.
Well Lord, how do we fail of the grace of God? I thought your grace was sufficient to me? His grace IS sufficient, yet in a covenant there are contractual promises made by each party. God is faithful to keep His part, but are we? Will we grow to resent God's chastisement (a root of bitterness) and thereby become defiled?
We are not to be like Esau, arriving at the time where we should have received the inheritance and finding ourselves rejected. And remember, Esau was not unawares. He had willingly given up his inheritance for worldly comfort and pleasure.
The chastisement of God may not be comfortable or pleasurable, but it is the love and honor God bestows upon us as His children to be subject to it. He does not leave us in the filth of sin, but allows us to be partakers of his holiness through His chastisement.
Understand that God also knows our hearts. While most people use that expression as a means of excusing sin, it actually works in the opposite way. He knows when we sin in ignorance and when we sin willfully. He knows when we have truly repented and turned away from that which we know to be wrong. We cannot keep clinging to our sinful ways and cast a casual eye over that which God hates.
The purpose of this article is to help us to think of sin - and sinners - the way that God does.
"For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity." Psalms 5:4-5