Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
The Bible teaching about sin and the Christian is clear yet comforting. In explaining the problem and solution around this somber subject, I don’t want to minimize the issue, nor come across with an obnoxious self-righteousness attitude. Sometimes the line between the two is very thin. Bear with me.
The Problem of Christian John
Let’s start with Christian John – a made up name. John struggles with greed, has a temper problem, and likes to look with lust at the ladies. He even surrenders to the temptations, acts out the impulses, and starts drinking to numb the pain. He may be looking at divorce and financial ruin.
John doesn’t want to sin. He knows it’s wrong. When he goes to church, reads his Bible, or prays, he feels guilty – like a hypocrite. He becomes discouraged, bitter, cynical, and defeated.
John finally quits reading the Bible, drops out of church, and decides that he is not even a Christian – that God has abandoned him. What should we conclude?
Sometimes Christians would mistakenly conclude that John is not even a Christian. They falsely think that once they become a Christian, then their struggle with temptation is over. They naively believe that “real” Christians wouldn’t commit such dastardly things as John. They are wrong.
The Bible is lucid: Christians sin. Yes. It's clear. Great people in the Bible failed greatly: Moses (Numbers 20:12), David (Psalm 32:3), Peter (Luke 22:31, 32, 54-62), and even Paul considered himself an imperfect sinner (1 Timothy 1:15; Philippians 3:12; Romans 7:15-21). We stumble out of ignorance, weakness, and/or willful rebellion
Do you recall David? He committed adultery with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, then had the husband murdered to cover up the affair (2 Samuel 11-12)! Those are “big” sins! Yet, he was a man after God’s heart. It is shocking, but true. John wrote to Christians, including himself, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians for their digressions. Some were even showing up drunk for communion service (1 Corinthians 11:21). Paul said he couldn’t tell the difference between them and unsaved people (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). He called them carnal, filled with jealousy and strife – yet they were Christians!
Paul confronted the Galatian Christians for their ungodly issues. He listed immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing (Galatians 5:13-26; cf. Ephesians 4:31).
There is a vicious war within Christians. The ebb and flow conflict is between our corrupted sin nature over against our new nature and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 17). Living a good life is harder for a Christian that a non-Christian. We are up against Satan with all his deception (Luke 22:31: 1 Corinthians 11:3). The allure of this world opposes us (1 John 2:15-17).
One of my mentors once told me, “The road of Christian service is littered with fallen preachers and evangelists.” Another wise pastor told me that judgmental church gossip has split more churches than fornicating preachers.
Normally, preachers just disappear from the scene, but the gossipers stay and do their thing. The tendency is that Christians underestimate the extent of our frail weaknesses, and our desperate need for the grace of God. However, there is hope! There are solutions!
The tendency is that Christians underestimate the extent of our frail weaknesses, and our desperate need for the grace of God. However, there is hope! There are solutions!
The Christian's Position
The Bible teaching about sin and the Christian discloses a sharp distinction between our eternal position as a child of God, and our present family fellowship with Him. Our position in this universe changes as a Christian. We become a child of God by spiritual birth and legal adoption (John 1:12, 13; Galatians 4:5-7).
A new unalterable and permanent relationship has been formed: Father and child. He has promised us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Paul reminds us there is no transgression greater than the grace and forgiveness of God (Romans 5:19-21). We have been declared righteous, are being made righteous over time, and are treated as righteous by God.
This provision is possible because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His one time sacrifice paid all the penalty of all the sins for all time for all those who by faith become Christians (Hebrews 10:10-14). The legal punishment was permanently canceled in Christ. This cements the Christian’s relationship to God (Romans 3:21-28; 8:1; 8:28-39).
I have two children still living: Willie and Teri. Nothing can ever break that biological relationship. It is impossible to scrape the genes and chromosomes out of their genetic makeup so they would not be my children. It is the same with Christians and God. It is impossible to break the relationship, or position, we have with God through faith in Christ (cf. John 10:28, 29).
The Christian's Position
However, sometimes families don’t get along. Parents and children don’t always see eye to eye. Hostile conflict and disappointment drives a bitter wedge between family members. Oh, they are still family members, but they just don’t speak to each other – or if they do, they just yell. Fond, trusting family fellowship becomes broken. Did you ever see that happen? I have.
The same experience happens between a Christian who falls to temptation, and God. Nothing can ever change the fact they are Father and child, but fellowship is broken. Sometimes God brings discipline to rebellious Christians (Hebrews 12:3-11). Sometimes He lets the bitter consequences run their course, liked the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). God’s goal is to bring us back to fellowship and friendship with Himself.
God knows our struggles. He loves and invites us to Himself to find strength, mercy, and grace (Hebrews 2:16-18; 4:15, 16; Psalm 103:13, 14). The issue is this: how can you and I find forgiveness and restore our family fellowship to God when we sin?
Confession of Sin
Consider the Apostle John, and King David. John said not to disobey, but if (and when) we do, then do this, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; cf. 1:5-2:2). When do you confess? Every time you blunder. How often are you forgiven? Every time you confess.
Confess means to agree with God about our act or condition. We swallow our pride, come clean with God, and ask for His forgiveness. We name our trespass, and turn back to God. This action relives our conscience, and restores our fellowship with God.
David described his experience this way, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long…I acknowledged my sin to Thee, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3, 5; cf. Psalm 51). Huh? This is David the adulterer and murderer. Did you notice that he was forgiven?!!
What about our friend, Christian John? Let’s advise him to turn back and get in step with God. Confess his sins to God. Let some time pass and ride out any consequences. Rest and trust in the grace of God and his position as His child. John needs to find a church and group of Christians who will accept, love,
comfort and forgive him – and let healing begin (2 Corinthians 2:7-11). If he wants to serve God, then find a group that will work with him. Finally, I would recommend he do a detailed study of 1 John 1:1-2:2 and Psalms 103, 32, 51. Maybe even commit them to memory.
BIBLE STUDY QUESTIONS
1. Do you think that “real” Christians can sin?
2. Are there big and little sins?
3. If so, how can you tell the difference from the Bible?
4. Is there forgiveness when a Christian sins? Explain.
5. List as many sins as you can that Christians commit.
6. What is the Christian’s eternal position, or status, in relationship to God?
7. What does “fellowship” with God mean? (1 John 1:1-2:2).
8. What must a Christian do to have God abandon them? Explain. (Romans 8:1, 28-39; Hebrews 13:5, 6).
9. In private, write down all the transgressions you have committed and can remember. Second, repeat and write 1 John 1:9 across the paper with your list. Destroy the paper.
10. Did God forgive you? How do you know?
11. What can you do to escape the love of God? (Romans 8:28-39; John 10:28, 29).
12. What stood out to you the most in this study? Explain.
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