Posts Tagged With: sanctification

Abiding in the Vine: III. Pruning and Cleansing

The previous article in this series mentioned that it is important for Christians to remain connected to other branches of the vine—other Christians, particularly the Church—to strengthen our connection with the Vine, Jesus. Some might say that they do not need church. They say they have been hurt by other Christians, and they think they fare better if they keep to themselves.

It is true that the Church is an imperfect reflection of Christ. Christians fail to live up to the full measure of Jesus Christ sometimes. Some of us can look more like nonbelievers or children of the devil than like children of God. We have to grow. We have to mature. Branches require regular maintenance.

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit {God the Father} takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

A farmer tending to his vine. From pixnio.com (public domain).

We can imagine a vinedresser examining his plant. It has some lifeless branches; they have not produced any fruit for a while. These branches are simply taking up space. They need to be cut off. Perhaps fresh, living, fruitful branches will grow in their place.

There are some other branches, though, that are bearing some fruit. To increase the amount of fruit, the vinedresser might clip away the ends of some branches, beyond where buds, leaves, and fruit are growing. This way, the plant’s sap is not wasted nourishing empty space. Nourishment is maximized. Growth is enhanced. Life springs forth.

There are some people in the church who do not have the life of Christ in them. They may attend worship on Sunday. Some of them might even look really spiritual. But, the life of Christ—the fruit of the Spirit—is not present. The Holy Spirit does not dwell within them. At some point, they will be cut off. Matthew 13:24–30 indicates that this final cutting off will occur at the end of the age. In the meantime, God does not waste His time sanctifying the unsaved. He may still offer them repentance, but they should not mistake themselves for being Christian merely because they are surrounded by disciples of Jesus. In the words of Christian contemporary-music pioneer Keith Green, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

Meanwhile, the follower of Jesus undergoes the pruning process of sanctification. Perhaps the dead wood is sin that remains in the believer’s life. God wants to cut it off and set you free so that you can bear fruit. Sometimes, the dead wood is not really sin; it is just excess baggage that holds us back from fully serving Him. Monks throughout church history have made many sacrifices in Jesus’ name. At times, they gave up things that most of us would consider good: relationships with family and friends; careers; a few luxuries; opportunity to enjoy entertainment or engage in casual conversation (some monks take vows to say nothing unless it is in prayer and praise to God).

They gave up good morally-acceptable things to devote themselves to the will of God. What about us? Are there good things holding us back from doing the better things God has planned for us? Are we watching TV, playing sports, reading books, or surfing the Internet, but cannot find time for prayer or fellowship? God may need to do some pruning in your life. It is part of your growth as a Christian and your fruitfulness as a branch on His Vine.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1).

Sometimes, commitment to Christ will mean more than giving up sin. It may involve giving up every weight that limits are faithfulness and fruitfulness. It will require us allowing God to cut off the fruitless ends of healthy branches along with the dead wood.

Let us remember that the believer in Jesus Christ is saved because he already believes. We do not become Christians, or become “more Christian” or “better Christians,” because we let God prune us. If you are a believer in Christ, you are already cleaned, forgiven, and saved. Shortly before He was arrested, Jesus said:

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Earlier that evening, He had already introduced this concept. While washing the disciples’ feet, He came to Peter:

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…’” (John 13:6–10).

The child of God is already clean through the Word of God. We are already saved and forgiven. However, as we live our lives, we collect junk. We face temptation. We give in to temptation and sin. We may be wounded by the attacks of Satan, the mistreatment of others, or the misfortune of daily living. We need to be wiped clean every now and then through confession and renewed repentance. This process does not make us Christians. It merely preserves us so that we can continue to grow in Christlikeness and fruitfulness.

We do not get to decide how God will prune us. Since God is doing the work and we are merely the branches, He is in control. If you sense that the Holy Spirit is convicting you to give something up, do what He says. Do not bargain or offer alternatives. To obey God is better than offering your own self-selected sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22).

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that we need to be in fellowship with the church, even if we feel that we have been hurt by other Christians. Dealing with their imperfections is one of the ways we grow and are pruned and cleansed. People will hurt us. They will give us reasons to forgive them. They will irritate us, thereby revealing our weaknesses. It is all part of the spiritual growth process. If we avoid church because we have been hurt, we are only hurting ourselves.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Photo by Len Rizzi, National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Why do I still struggle with this sin?” “Maybe you are not hungry enough to be set free.”

“Why can’t I find time to read the Bible and pray?” “Maybe you are not hungry enough to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’”

“Why do I always find time for TV or the internet or music, but never find time to worship God?” “Perhaps those are the things you really crave.”

One factor which will determine how you grow in your relationship with God is your desire. Are you hungry for God? Do you want to know Him better and live in such a way that you bring glory to Him? Perhaps many of us live defeated lives because we are not hungry enough to serve Him. God desires it: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants you to have a close relationship with Him. Do you want it?

Hunger and thirst are two very strong natural desires, which explains why Jesus used these words to describe a believer’s spiritual desire for righteousness. They are necessary for survival. As I am writing this article, the temperature outside is over 90 degrees. The “real-feel” temperature was over 100 degrees most of the day. I have spent most of the day with water or Pepsi close by. My body keeps telling me, “We need more water!”

I do not eat only because I like food (although taste all too frequently affects my dietary decisions). I eat because, without proper nutrition, I will die. The human body can survive only a few weeks without food. It survives only about three days without water. Under normal circumstances, your body will keep sending you signals if it does not receive the nutrients it needed.

Likewise, Christians should expect the Holy Spirit to produce a craving for the things of God in our lives. He draws us. He produces a desire within us, and then He equips us to seek satisfaction. Without filling that craving for God’s presence in our lives, we will starve spiritually.

While we may hunger and thirst for righteousness, we may not be filled immediately. As with many things in life, satisfaction often takes time. A few years ago, my pastor laid out the following four steps on a men’s retreat:

  1. Desire—We recognize a goal that we want to achieve.
  2. Decision—Some people never get beyond the desire stage. They may say, “I should pray more,” but it does not happen. We must make a decision that we will do what we need to do to achieve that goal. This usually includes figuring out a plan for pursuing that goal.
  3. Discipline—This is the hard part. After making a decision and forging a plan, we have to take the time and make the effort to pursue that goal. It might take years of doing your part. This is where most people fail in anything they try to achieve.
  4. Delight—If you are faithful in your discipline, you get to delight in achieving your goals.
Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

Here is a natural example. You go to the doctor for an annual checkup. He tells you, “You are 40 pounds overweight. You have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. You are at high risk for a heart attack.” You desire to be healthy. Some people stop there. “I want to be healthy, but I do not want to exercise and Big Macs are delicious.” Perhaps your desire leads you to make a decision to make a few lifestyle changes; you will cut a few unhealthy foods from your diet, replace most junk food with raw vegetables and fruit, and work out at a gym three times per week. This will require discipline; it will only work if you stick with it. Most people fall back into old habits within a few weeks of the decision, because they lack the discipline necessary to achieve their goals; perhaps the desire was not strong enough. However, if you stick with your lifestyle changes for one year, you will most likely enjoy the delight: At your next physical, the doctor reports that you lost 25 pounds, you cholesterol levels are going down, and your blood pressure is normal. The desire alone did not do the trick. Making a decision and remaining disciplined brought the delight.

Now, let’s apply this to the growing Christian. Maybe you say, “I desire to know the Bible better.” That is a great first step. Is it a real hunger, though? If it is a hunger, make a decision to read and study it. Find a good Bible-reading plan and stick with it. Join a Bible study group. You will not turn into a Bible scholar overnight. In fact, you may find some discouragement early on as you come across passages that make no sense to you. Do not lose hope; keep going; remain disciplined. After a few months, you will begin to notice that Scripture verses pop into your mind when you face a certain problem, or you might start noticing how the passage you read today reminds you of something you read a few months ago. Delight will come.

So, if you are not growing spiritually, what do you really desire? What are you willing to discipline yourself to do? Does your desire to know Jesus better exceed your desire to play video games, surf the internet, or watch television? Are you really hungry and thirsty for the things of God, or would you rather munch on some emotional junk food?

The choice is yours. God is hungry and thirsty to draw close to you. Do you hunger and thirst for Him and His righteousness?

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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New Heart, New Spirit, New Life

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:25–27; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

A fresco from St. Mary’s Church, Bergen auf Rügen, Germany, with the words of Ezekiel 36:26. Image from Wikimedia, under a Creative Commons 4.0 license.

When Jesus raised the cup at the Last Supper and called it “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20), the disciples should have recognized the words. God’s covenant with Israel was sealed in the blood of sacrifices. The prophets, especially Ezekiel and Jeremiah, had proclaimed God’s intention to make a new covenant with Israel. Jesus was saying that the new covenant was about to come, and His blood would be the sacrificial offering.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31–34).

Some believers have been taught that Jeremiah spoke these words to Israel and, therefore, they do not apply to the church. However, Hebrews 10:16–17 quotes this passage directly and states that this is speaking of the New Covenant brought about by Jesus’ blood and death. While the Jewish people before Christ may have experienced part of the blessing foretold by Ezekiel, the fulfillment was found in Christ.

The Old and New Covenants have several similarities and a few differences. In this post, we will look strictly at the new heart and new spirit that are part of the New Covenant. An in-depth comparison and contrast of the two covenants would be too extensive for a single post.

The passage from Ezekiel 36 is a key part of a prophecy regarding the restoration of the Jewish people. They were exiled in Babylon as God’s judgment for idolatry and other sins. The New Covenant prophecies of the Old Testament usually come in this context: Israel has sinned but will be restored. Related to that glorious restoration, God would write His laws in their hearts, giving them new hearts and new spirits. Whereas the Old Covenant was primarily external and physical (people of a particular nationality required to follow specific rules, regulations, and rituals), the New Covenant would be primarily internal and spiritual.

In this New Covenant, God cleanses His people from our sins and idolatries. Then, He gives us a new heart and new spirit, inspiring us to live by His will.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

“Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31).

The two greatest differences between the Old and New Covenants are the role of Jesus as the One who fulfills the Law and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, who gives the new heart and new spirit to the follower of Jesus. He will reveal our sins and idolatries to us, giving us a spirit of repentance and a desire to do God’s will. He will pour out the love of God in our hearts, so that we can obey the two greatest commandments, to love God and love our neighbors (Matthew 19:37–40).

Only by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can we really understand God’s word, will, and ways. One of the most common errors Christians commit is trying to obey God on our terms, in our strength. We try to figure out His will by using our own logic or listening to current public opinion. We may try to do His will based on the same motives as someone who does not have a relationship with Christ—fear of being rejected by God if we sin, trying to impress others, seeking approval from others. Even when we figure out God’s will, we try to do it in our own strength and timing.

We need the Holy Spirit within us. We need His power to strengthen us. We need God’s word and His own life-force within us to live the life that pleases Him. If you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, pray that He may give you the strength you need. Ask Him to let you know when you have wandered from His leadership and started trusting in your own wisdom and strength. Let Him be your guide and strength.

Almighty and most merciful God, grant that by the indwelling of your Holy Spirit we may be enlightened and strengthened for your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Set Apart

The story of Joseph and his brothers is a rich source of spiritual lessons. Believers throughout the ages have learned great truths about faith, perseverance in hard times, overcoming injustice, forgiveness and reconciliation, and other issues. However, one lesson is often overlooked, even though it introduces a theme that has preserved the Jewish people’s ethnic and religious identity throughout the ages. That lesson is the importance of being set apart, and it is a lesson that Christians today need to relearn.

The story of Joseph and his brothers takes up a significant part of the book of Genesis, but I will focus primarily on Genesis 46 and 47. To avoid extending this post unnecessarily, I will urge readers who are not familiar with this story to read Genesis 37-45 (yes, it is a lengthy story!)

After Joseph identified himself to his brothers and forgave them for selling him into slavery, he urged them to bring their father and the rest of the family to Egypt, since they faced a famine that would last several more years. God appeared to their father, Jacob, in a dream, reassuring him that he should go to Egypt. Even though it involved leaving the land that God had promised to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, this was God’s will. He would use the sojourn in Egypt to preserve the people of Israel.

Upon their arrival, Joseph (who probably had adopted many of the cultural mannerisms and clothing of an Egyptian by now) met his father in the Egyptian region of Goshen:

“Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, ‘I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, “My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.” When Pharaoh calls you and says, “What is your occupation?” you shall say, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,” in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians'” (Genesis 46:31-34, ESV).

It is worthwhile to note that Goshen was in the northeastern corner of Egypt. By staying in Goshen, the Israelites would be on the outer fringes of Egyptian territory and, as a result, on the outer fringes of that nation’s culture. I do not know if Joseph knew the significance of his decision at that time or not. Joseph knew the famine would last Land of Goshen, (also Goshen, Gosen) (Genesis ...five more years; perhaps he figured he would escape with his family (or they would return without him) to the land of Canaan after the famine. However, it turns out that the people of Israel would be in Egypt for about 400 years. They arrived as a small contingent of about 70 persons; the Bible tells us they grew to become an entire nation while in Egypt.

It would have been easy for that small group of sojourners to be absorbed by the Egyptian culture and disappear into the shadows of history. Yet, God had planned to bless the entire world through the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6). His desire was to use Egypt as an incubator where the fledgling nation of Israel could grow, not as a place where they would become part of another culture.

This principle of being “set apart” continued throughout the Old Testament. Leviticus 20:24-26 gives an example where one of the Old Testament’s purity laws is a reminder of the Israelites’ need to separate themselves from the pagan nations around them:

“But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples.  You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean.  You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:24-26).

Just in case anybody thinks that this is an Old Testament concept, irrelevant to New Testament believers, I also cite 2 Corinthians 6:17: “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you.”

God did not intend for this separation to be a source of national bigotry or arrogance, but a means of preserving their identity as the covenant people of God. One thing is certain: this separation has preserved the Jews throughout the ages. Even though they spent almost 1900 years without a land of their own, they have survived as an ethnic and religious group. Where are the Hittites of the Bible? What about the Idumeans and Edomites? I have not met any. Yet, even during nearly two centuries of dispersion throughout Europe, they preserved their cultural identity, even when the Gentiles around them tried to destroy their culture.

Now, this seems to pose a challenge for Christians in modern culture. Sadly, we have lost our sense of separation. We assume that we live in a “Christian nation” with a Christian culture, but for the most part, this is an illusion. We have adopted many of the values of a post-modern, humanistic and/or existentialist society.

In the 1950s, many evangelical Christians would not attend movies, because they viewed the entire film industry as opposed to Christian values. In the 1980s, the mindset was more like, “Well, we can go to movies if they do not have sex, nudity, or too much foul language.” Now, it seems like many Christians will say, “This movie had some tastefully-done sex and nudity, and a bit of foul language, but it also had a redeeming social message.” We have adopted so much of the culture’s values, that we will no longer set a serious moral standard for our entertainment choices.

Throughout the Old Testament law, the Jews were taught to abstain from eating certain foods, or to avoid wearing certain kinds of clothing, and so on. Perhaps we do not want to slip into the trap of legalism. Yet, maybe it would be wise if each Christian would consider in his or her own heart: “In what ways does the non-Christian world try to absorb me into its value system and culture? What radical steps can I take to separate myself from the world?” It might be a different set of choices for each of us. “I do not go to movies, because I am trying to follow Christ.” “I do not watch sitcoms, because I am trying to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.”

I am not sure that there is a hard-and-fast, one-size-fits-all, solution to the church’s worldliness. Maybe there is one, but I am leery to propose it. One thing is certain: Christians need to recognize that we have been set apart by Christ and bought with a price. We must make a choice to resist the forces that seek to absorb us into the value system of a world in rebellion against God.

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Repentance: The Flip Side of Faith

With the rapid technological changes of recent decades, including the development of music downloads like MP3s and ITunes replacing records and CDs, I am sure many of today’s youths have never seen an “ancient artifact” which played a major role in my youth: 45-RPM records that had one song on each side. One side was always the “single,” the song that the band and record company hoped would become a hit. That was the song that would be played on the radio. To fill space, another song would appear on the “flip side.” The flip side rarely became a hit, although occasionally it might be a very good song, perhaps a crowd favorite among die-hard fans of the group. The flip side might occasionally be artistically excellent, but not “commercially viable.” I would buy a record because I enjoyed the single, but at times I would find myself enjoying the flip side even more. The single would be incomplete without the flip side.

Many things in the world have two sides, and usually both are necessary. A coin without its “tail” would not be considered legal tender.

Spiritually, many Christians try to walk with a faith that lacks its flip side. When I became a Christian, I heard how I could be born again if I simply believe in Jesus Christ and accept his free gift of salvation. I could simply say a quick prayer and be guaranteed eternal life. Yet, how does this line up with biblical preaching about salvation? As we will see, it is a half-truth with something substantial missing.

Fortunately for me, the person who led me to Christ spoke both of my need to be “born again” and to become a “new creature in Christ.” These concepts have led me to recognize the need for repentance. However, the early Christians did not force their listeners to make that leap of logic. Let us look at the very first “altar call” in church history, reported in Acts 2:37–38:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Note that Peter did not promise that the people would get saved by repeating
a quick prayer or merely listening and agreeing while somebody else prayed. The first step to salvation was simple and clear: “Repent.” Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostles often called their listeners to repentance (see Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:8, and Acts 3:19). Hebrews 6:1 places repentance from dead works at the beginning of a list of foundational principles of the Christian faith.

One observation that clearly underscores this point is that, although Paul’s letters and John’s Gospel emphasize faith’s role in salvation, other New Testament writers do not mention faith as often. In fact, if you removed the writings of Paul and John from the New Testament, you would most probably reach the conclusion that repentance is the key to salvation! These books all suggest that a holy life, grounded in a spirit of repentance, is central to the Christian faith. This fact leaves us with two options:

  1. We can assume that the Bible contradicts itself. Some liberal theologians would even claim that Paul and John taught a completely different theology than the other New Testament authors did.
  2. We can conclude that repentance and faith go together. This is really the only biblical option.

So, what is repentance? It is much more than feeling sorry about our sins or ashamed that we were caught. It is also not a state of moral perfection. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “repentance” is “metanoia,” which literally means “change of mind.” When a person repents of his sins, he changes his attitude about sin. He agrees with God about the wickedness of sin and acknowledges that God must judge it. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, true repentance includes the following elements: a true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness; apprehension of God’s mercy (Psalm 109:21–22) in Christ; hatred of sin, leading one to turn from it and to follow God (Psalm 119:128; 2 Corinthians 7:10); and a persistent endeavor to live a holy life and walk with God, obeying his commandments.

True repentance, then, is a spiritual transformation that leads to changed attitudes and changed actions. The Bible shows that repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18) as the Holy Spirit convicts a person about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). From there, our attitudes change as we develop a disdain for sin, which leads us to live holier lives. Although repentance is in one sense often an immediate decision (around the time of salvation), it is one a believer must repeat throughout his life. The believer may be convicted of sins that he was not previously aware of. For certain habitual sins, one may need to repent repeatedly until a stronghold is finally broken.

Repentance must be distinguished from remorse or guilt. In 2 Corinthians 7:9–10, Paul writes:

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

True repentance brings us into a closer walk with God and personal holiness, producing lasting change. Worldly sorrow brings guilt, shame, and despair. It might lead a person to make temporary changes until the guilt wears off. However, it ultimately ends in spiritual death and can lead a person to self-destructive despair. In Judas Iscariot’s case, it led to suicide (Matthew 27:3–5).

Finally, even though we may repent of our sins generally around the time of salvation, repentance from particular sins is an ongoing process throughout the Christian life. James told already-saved people to cleanse their hands and purify their minds (James 4:8), referring to the need to repent both in action
and attitude. First John 1:8–10 points out that Christians need to confess their sins throughout their lives:

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.

John was speaking to Christians. They were saved, but there was still sin in their lives. We have no reason to live in denial about our sin. We merely need to confess our sins so that Jesus (who is faithful and justice) will forgive our sins AND purify us from all righteousness. It is important to break this down so we can see all that is promised in this statement. First, we need to confess our sins: We begin by confessing our sins, which is itself one aspect of repentance. When we confess our sins, we agree with God that we have engaged in an act, word, or thought, and that this activity was wrong. Second, Jesus responds by doing two things for us. He forgives us (removing the guilt and punishment of sin). He also purifies us, cleansing us of our tendency to continue sinning. Confession is essential because we must acknowledge the particular sins in our lives so that we know what we need to repent of.

When we become aware of sin in our lives, we should repent immediately. Since Jesus commanded us to be perfect, even as his Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), we know that we will always have room for repentance and growth. Occasionally, we may need to fast and pray as we seek victory in a particular area. At times, we may need to seek the prayers and guidance of spiritual leaders (pastors, for example) to help us receive deliverance.

It is encouraging to note, though, that God is the one who draws us to repentance and who gives us the victory as we submit to him. Let us joyfully lay our souls bare before him, that he may reveal our hidden sins to us and bring us to repentance and personal revival.

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