Questions #08 – This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, December 6, 2009.
One of the struggles of the Christian life is dealing with those things that seem to be in conflict. As a Christian I desire one thing but I do another. You remember the apostle Paul’s struggle with that in Romans chapter 7: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Finally in desperation he cries out, Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
That’s not pre-conversion Paul that is Paul the apostle of Christ talking about his present struggle. Can you relate to what he is saying? Now I stopped with verse 24. Who will deliver me? Verse 25 begins, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is no accident that the next chapter begins, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So you have Paul on the one hand crying out due to his on-going struggle with sin and on the other his affirmation that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
We are told on the one hand if we live in sin we do not belong to Him and yet, on the other, if we say we are without sin we are liars. For the last several weeks we’ve been talking about the life we are called to live. I’ve been saying that God is at work in His people. We are assured that He who began the work in us will complete it. Our security is in God’s hand. He will not lose us. He will not give up on us. He will not fail to deliver us pure and spotless before His throne. Thus all Christians are characteristically or habitually righteous yet we sin daily. How can both be true?
This is where the confusion comes in and this is where so many get discouraged and depressed about their faith. Every Christian who is growing in holiness is increasingly aware of their sinfulness. That seems contradictory. You would think that as you grow in holiness you would be less and less corrupt. Now hear me. I’m not saying the more you grow in holiness the more corrupt you become. I said the more you grow in holiness the more aware you are of your sinfulness. You knew you were a sinner when you started but the further along you go you begin to understand just how sinful you were to begin with!
As a means of encouragement I want to again remind you of what God has to say about the Christian and sin.
An Important First Principle
Let me say from the outset that too often we fail to recognize a fundamental truth. We sometimes fail to see any difference between the believer and the nonbeliever. We preachers tend to bemoan the fact that there is no difference between those who belong to Christ and those who are in the world. Of course we are talking about perception rather than reality but we don’t often make the distinction.
So let me do that right now: CHRISTIANS AND NON-CHRISTIANS ARE COMPLETELY, UTTERLY DIFFERENT.
To look at them you may or may not see a difference.
At times you may not even notice a difference in their behavior.
At times you may think the non-believer is a better person than the believer.
You may like the non-believer more than you like the believer!
But mark it down they are fundamentally and radically different.
A Christian often pleases God.
A non-Christian never pleases God.
Everything the non-believer does is sin – everything, without exception!
Hebrews say, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Paul is even more explicit in Romans 14:23, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
Paul said in Romans 3:12, “There in no one who does good, not even one.” But it appears otherwise to us. You know unsaved people who do “good” things. But for an act to be good it must arise from good motives. In fact it must be motivated by a desire to bring glory to God. We are told in 1 Corinthians that, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Anything less is sin.
It is unpleasing to God.
So you see there is a great gulf between the saved and the unsaved man. One often pleases God the other never pleases Him.
The Christian and His Sin
Our sins are many. We must not deny that. At times we are overwhelmed by the number and the depth of our sin. Here is the difference – we are grieved by our sin.
Not so for the unsaved man. Oh, he may be grieved over the consequences of his sin but not the sin itself. He may despise what it does to his family. He may be upset because he failed to live up to a standard he had set. But he would be content to live in his sin if it didn’t bear such bitter fruit.
The Christian, on the other hand, hates his sin. Thus he is involved in life-long repentance. He longs to not grieve the heart of God. So when he fails his grief is greater each day.
The Sinning Christian’s Prayer
Because our sins are many, God has provided great forgiveness.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
But wait, aren’t we supposed to name our sins?
Yes, provided we know what they are.
Here is the problem – I don’t know all my sins.
The psalmist asked, “Who can discern his errors…forgive my hidden faults.”
Yet I can pray, in confidence, “Lord forgive all my sins” and trust His grace.
God is at work in you and has been since the moment you were awaken to the truth of the Gospel. He has been remaking you. He is reforming you. He is perfecting you and He will not stop until the work is done and you are presented to the Heavenly Father without spot or blemish. Christian take heart!