Three pastors went to the pastor convention and were all sharing one room. The first pastor said, “Let’s confess our secret sins one to another. I’ll start – my secret sin is I just love to gamble. When I go out of town, it’s cha-ching cha-ching, let the machines ring.”
The second pastor said, “My secret sin is that I just hate working and studying. I copy all my sermons from those given by other pastors.”
The third pastor said, “My secret sin is gossiping and, oh boy, I just can’t wait to get out of this room!”
Sin is one of the easiest and hardest topics to preach on. Why? It’s easy because it’s so obviously a huge problem in our world today, even within the church. It’s so hard because sin touches nearly every area of our personal lives and reveals the true heart of the human spirit. The hypocrisy toward sin is so prevalent within the Body of Christ because the idea of being holy and set apart may be preached, but it is hardly ever practiced. Just one look at our world and the effect of sin is obvious, but those churches that preach about it are considered hateful, intolerant, self-righteous, hypocritical, and ultra-conservative.
In the past here, we have talked about how Jesus said in John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.” He said that immediately following one of the most well-known passages of scripture ever written, John 3:16, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
I have said in the past that those within the Body of Christ have no business expecting a broken and fallen world to live according to the standards God has laid out for his people. Even throughout the Old Testament, starting with Adam, on to Noah, then to Abraham and through Moses and the law; God’s rules, God’s Commandments all were based first upon those people having a relationship with him. The law and those other rules were first put in place to make the way God’s people lived stand out from all their neighbors, and through the way they were set apart; they were to attract others to their way of life.
Paul and the other New Testament writers also wrote about how the Christian lifestyle was supposed to set God’s people apart from the rest of the world. Jesus himself gave the first defining characteristic for his disciples to be set apart by, the third great commandment, John 13:34-35,
“I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”
However, Paul and the other New Testament writers never excused, approved of, or affirmed any other sin, shortcoming, wrongdoing, imperfection, or rebellious behaviors and attitudes. They never denied that sin existed in the lives of believers, but they did offer hope upon hope of a life free from the bondage of sin. They gave guidance for leadership in helping believers address it in their lives. They also reiterated that God’s people should be holy, set apart, living Godly lives through the power of the Indwelling Holy Spirit.
Paul makes it clear in Ephesians, there are only two camps that everyone in the world can belong to: The Children of disobedience, the children of wrath, who John calls the Children of Satan; or we can be saved. John calls all those who believe in Jesus, the Children of God. Paul says in Romans we have been adopted into the family of God and made co-heirs with Christ. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-10…
And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…
But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
The key, the linchpin, the cornerstone, the tipping point, the difference between being condemned for eternity and being adopted into the family of God is found in the beginning of verse for, listen again… Ephesians 2:4-5
But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved!
Our hope is found in BUT GOD! But God acted for us, but God sent his Son to die for us, but God wanted many sons and daughters, but God wants to dwell with us and inside us, but God wants to spend eternity with us, but God wanted to raise those who were spiritually dead in their transgressions, their sins, their disobedience, their false pride and rebellion, but God wanted to raise them to new life.
Based on that hope, based on that new life, based on the power of the Indwelling Holy Spirit, based on the relationship God has already established with us as those whom he has already saved, God then has expectations for his people to live by. We have the hope of our salvation in Jesus Christ, but with that hope, we lose the excuse that we’re only human, because now we have the Spirit of God himself living within us. From that point, we either work to live in obedience to the Spirit, or we quench the Spirit and continue to live according to the flesh.
Paul fought this fight, he knew the struggle, he talks about it in Romans Chapter 7. Joyce Meyer wrote an excellent book called, The Battlefield of the Mind based on what Paul is talking about there as well. Paul talks about the sin nature and the Spirit nature warring against each other in his mind and flesh. He knows what he wants to do and what he should do, then does the very thing that he doesn’t want to do. This isn’t copping out and saying the devil made me do it. Paul admits it is his own sinful desires in the flesh that make him want to do it. If we remember that these are letters and that chapters and verses are not a part of the originally inspired text, listen… Romans 7:24-8:4
Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Paul never excuses his sin, but instead, through the power of the Spirit walks according to the Spirit instead of the flesh. We find more on this in Galatians 5:16-25
But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery (which in that culture was actually getting high on drugs for the sake of spiritual enlightenment, pharmakia), hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.
Paul says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.” Over and over again throughout the New Testament, especially Paul writes about the hope we have in Jesus. And, how our hope in Jesus through the Power of the Spirit can help us overcome our sin nature, how we can overcome death, how we can live as sons and daughters of God.
Paul had to write so extensively on these issues because he was the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Greeks and Romans, the “enlightened” ones who lived according to their desires. We think “wokeness” and relativism are newer concepts. They aren’t. Greek and Roman society were filled with it. Paul’s answer was not to affirm and license the ungodly behaviors and attitudes, it was to preach a Gospel of love, acceptance, forgiveness, confession, and repentance, based on the sacrifice of Jesus and within the bounds of that relationship and the power of Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering the new believers to live holy and righteous lives, being conformed to the image of Jesus. We have a hope in Jesus Christ to overcome our sin and we have a promise delivered to us in 1 John 1:8-9
If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 1:7b