"What does your reputation speak of your relationship with God?"
This is how many of us have approached God’s gift of salvation. Yes, we want it. Wash me clean, we say! Give me your blessings! I want your favor, we cry! Yes, we want it, but we don’t want to give up anything to get it. What do I mean?
In our example, we drove up to a luxurious home in a hooptie, with poor credit and little money. The master builder offered to give us all that we desired and more in exchange for our unreliable and unattractive vehicle. In the same way, we have our Lord Jesus Christ offering the gift (something bestowed voluntarily or without compensation) of salvation; we've been offered redemption – eternal life with God.
Problem is, just as the person in the example didn't want to give up the hooptie, many of us don’t want to give up sin. We eagerly accept Christ’s salvation – the promises and the blessings, and then go forward to continue in sin. Yes, continue!
Oh, no, not me, we think! I don’t lie, steal, or fornicate. But let’s take a look at this thing…
What is sin?
The Bible describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law. It is also described as disobedience or rebellion against God, as well as independence from God. The original Hebrew (chata') means "to miss the mark" of God's holy standard of righteousness.
Romans 3:23 reads, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” But in verse 22 it says, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.” And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
So yes, we all miss the mark, but everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ is made right. Places their faith in Jesus Christ…hmm, we’re gonna come back to that…
The bible says in Romans 5:21, “So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then Romans 6:1-2 says, “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”
But remember, we don’t sin...because we don’t lie, steal or fornicate anymore!
In order to understand what sin truly is, we must clear our minds of all preconceived and finite notions about what is good and what is bad. We must clear our minds of what “man” looks upon as sin, and look upon it with the seriousness that God does. From that position, what sins do we continue in?
- Words carelessly uttered is sin. (Remember that the tongue is a “world of evil” – James 3:6, and Matthew 12:36 says, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”) Words which condemn, words with no regard for justice, or for people's feeling, words intended to hurt, or which are immoral – these types of words are the expression of evil thoughts from the heart)
- Slackness and laziness as opposed to diligence
- Bitterness, envying, jealousy (Proverbs 6:16-19)
- Unforgiveness and bigotry
- Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life (covetousness, gluttony, vanity)
- Cruelty and unkindness as opposed to love
- Rebelliousness and disobedience – choosing our will instead of God’s or, doing what we want, when we want
Unfortunately for us and others, our sins and the consequences of them have full manifestation in our interpersonal relationships. The way we interact with our spouses, our children, leadership in the church and on our jobs, coworkers, our brothers and sisters in Christ, cashiers, debt collectors, everybody becomes subject to the sin working inside us.
If I continue in the sin of unforgiveness, I am more likely to hold grudges and punish those who offend me. If I continue in the lust of the flesh, I may be a glutton or idolater. If I continue in the sin of laziness, I will probably have a poor work ethic. If I continue in the sin of rebelliousness, I forsake the ways of God and follow the way that seems right to me…or my family’s tradition…or my friend’s opinion…or the current popular trend. We profess to be new creatures in Christ, yet bring a reproach upon God’s name with our own ungodly behaviors.
1 John 3:4-10 says, “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”
The weight of sin
I remember a time in my life (after regeneration) that I felt so heavy, so hopeless, so ineffective. I could not understand it. I prayed, and it was during that time of talking and listening to God that the Holy Spirit revealed to me what I call the “sin load.”
Imagine a donkey weighted down with cargo, but one side is 50 lbs and the other is 200 lbs. Now imagine that donkey laboring under the weight of its burden. Can you imagine its tilted gait? For the donkey, it’s an issue of leaning to the left or the right – and possibly falling over to one side or the other. For us, it’s an issue of leaning to the Spirit or to the flesh.
It’s the weight of sin that keeps us unbalanced. The Lord showed me how I made excuses for my sin by minimizing its importance or rationalizing its existence in my life. This is no way to live. To live in such a way not only trivializes Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, but it also keeps us always one step away from falling completely out of the faith. And here we are…
Remember when I said we’d come back to the word in Romans?
Romans 3:22 tells us that everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ is made right.
The Holy Spirit revealed to me that lack of faith in the redeeming work of Christ is what kept me continuing in sin. I was shocked, grieved, and hurt! Lord, I thought, you think I don’t have faith in you? But He replied, “If you did, you couldn't continue in sin.”
How so? If we really believe that Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, if we really believe that He has since given us power over sin, then we know we aren't helpless in the face of temptation. There is no “I couldn't help myself” defense for the believer. We can always put the fork down, put the cup down, put the book down, turn the program off, change the channel, politely end the conversation, hold our tongue, practice abstinence, etc, etc.
Because faith as described in Hebrews 11:1 is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through faith in Christ I gain a confident hope that I can live a life that pleases God; that I can behave myself in such a way that I bring glory to God; that I can love the Lord my God with my entire being, and love my neighbor as myself. Faith in Christ is being assured of his Word even though I can’t yet see all the evidence of it in my own actions. But as we continue in faith, we begin to see our actions change; we see our behavior conform to Christ’s expectations!
The Bible goes on to tell us in Hebrews 11:2 that, “Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.”
What does your reputation speak of your relationship with God?
There is a term that troubled me when I was in the world and troubled me more so when I came to Christ. It pertains specifically to us, ladies. The “mean one.” LOL!
Almost everybody has a tale about a “mean” Sister So-and-So. But such a title defies the character of Christ. Our Lord is not mean. He is full of mercy and loving kindness. God is love! How can someone who has made Christ the head of their life accurately be characterized as the “mean” one?
How would your husband describe you? Your wife? Your children? Your spiritual leaders? Your parents? Your siblings? Your friends? Your boss? Your coworkers? Are you the mean one? The rude one? The contentious one? The ambivalent one? The phony one? The dishonest one? The malicious one? The spiteful one? The vengeful one? The boastful one? Just as the person in our earlier example believed there to be sentimental value in the old hooptie, so too do we often find sentimental value in our continued sin.
Some women like the power and authority that being a “B----” seems to bring. We believe our contentiousness makes us authentic and original. We think our ambivalence makes us exciting. Some “church” folk like what our three-piece suits, big bling watches, long skirts, long hair, or lack of make-up make others believe about our relationship with God. But for a God who is more concerned about the intent of the heart than he is about our outward appearance or the sacrifices we make, our pretense is vanity. And our willingness to cling to our sentimental sin is like the putrid perfume of rotting flesh – anesthetizing our spirit to the life that is Christ.
When we accepted Christ’s salvation, He wanted our past, present and future sins. He took our past sins and washed the slate clean. He took our present sins away at the point of contact. But He also wanted our future sins in that we also received of Him a new nature, and power to prevail over sin.
So let’s endeavor to show ourselves as children of God.
Can we live sinless lives while we are yet in the flesh? Perhaps not, but if we have the Holy Spirit at work within us, we CAN and should live life without presumptuous sin, convenient sin, and consistent sin.
Philippians 3:14 reads, “I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
The mark then is not ours, the standard is Christ’s.