Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HOW DOES A CHRISTIAN DEAL WITH PERSONAL SIN?”

  

This morning I want to bring a message from God’s Word to answer the question “How Does A Christian Deal With Personal Sin?” You understand that the message cannot be an in-depth answer to the question because of the importance of the topic and our limited amount of time. However, if we keep things simple and basic, we can minister to a great many people’s needs.

To begin with we need to acknowledge that the Christian life is a spiritual warfare, and there is great opposition to the simplicity of the Gospel by the Devil, by the world, and by our sinful flesh that seeks to deprive God of the glory that is due to Him for His grace and mercy to save and to keep undeserving sinners who have trusted Christ. We know from Galatians chapter one that Satan seeks to corrupt the Gospel message. We know from First John chapter two that the world seeks to distract from the Gospel message. And we know from Romans chapter seven that even the recipients of the Gospel message will have a lifelong struggle with personal sins. Allow me to acknowledge these three broad realities in every Christian’s life by way of introduction.

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ saves undeserving sinners by means of simple, childlike faith, faith that originates from the Spirit of faith (Second Corinthians 4.13), Who gives faith to sinners through the hearing of the Word of God (Romans 10.17), that sinner then being drawn to Jesus Christ by God the Father (John 6.44), with all of this taking place within the context of the preaching of the Gospel (First Corinthians 1.18 and 21), so that the sinner then comes to Jesus Christ by faith (Matthew 11.28). Keep in mind, however, that both before and after a sinner comes to faith in Christ, the enemies of the Gospel are arrayed against sinners trusting Christ and, if they fail in preventing that, then resorting to confusing sinners who have trusted Christ. Therefore, before I even begin to suggest to you what Christians should do who have committed sins there are some things I need to bring to your attention that are categorically undeniable according to the Bible. May I share them with you?

First, it is categorically undeniable that when a sinner trusts Jesus Christ, his sins are forgiven. Is that not true? Who would deny that? The question is which sins? The ones I have already committed, the ones I am presently committing, or the ones I have not yet committed? For the answers to those questions, turn to First John 1.7-9:

 

7      But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

8      If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9      If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Look at the last half of First John 1.7, where the Apostle John declares that the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin. Great word, all. Notice that the word cleanseth is a present active indicative verb, meaning the action of the verb is continual and ongoing. It never stops. Meaning believers in Jesus Christ are being cleansed in an ongoing fashion from every sin they commit by Christ’s blood.[1] “As Charnock so well put it, ‘The blood of Christ cleanseth, not hath cleansed or shall cleanse. This denotes a continuous act.”[2] Now look at First John 1.9:

 

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

This word confess does not refer to asking God for forgiveness for a specific sin, such as a Roman Catholic is taught to do in the confessional with a priest listening. The word simply means that you as a Christian agree with God’s pronouncement concerning the sinfulness of your sins, all of them. “Rather than focusing on confession for every single sin as necessary, John has especially in mind here a settled recognition and acknowledgment that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness.”[3] This is the proper state of mind and attitude toward personal sins of every believer in Jesus Christ. To boost our confidence that we have good understanding, look to Ephesians 4.32 to consider the Apostle Paul’s take on this matter:

 

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

 

Did you notice in that verse that the Apostle Paul declared to the Christians in Ephesus that God for Christ’s sake had already forgiven their sins? When are the Christian’s sins forgiven? When the Christian trusts Christ. Thus, for the rest of the Christian’s life here on earth, his sins are already forgiven him for Christ’s sake. Have we made a mistake? Do we misunderstand? To make sure of the truth turn, please, to Colossians 2.13 to verify our understanding regarding this matter:

 

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”

 

Another verse was written by the Apostle Paul declaring that the Christian’s sins are already forgiven. Thus, as an already accomplished fact, now that the Lord Jesus Christ is crucified, risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven, the forgiveness of all a Christian’s sins (past, present, and future) is settled. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone your sins are gone if you know Jesus Christ as your Savior. That is the first categorically undeniable thing I want to point out to you from the Bible. Do you still sin? Yes, but your sins are forgiven. Period.

Next, I want to point out the categorically undeniable Bible fact that God does not remember your sins and iniquities. Turn to Hebrews 8.12:

 

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”

 

Adam Clarke wonderfully and concisely explains what is meant by this verse:

 

“In order to be their God, as mentioned under the preceding verse [Hebrews 8.11], it is requisite that their iniquity should be pardoned; this is provided for by the immolation of Jesus Christ as the covenant sacrifice. By his blood, redemption has been purchased, and all who with penitent hearts believe on the Lord Jesus receive remission of sins, and God remembers their iniquities no more against them so as to punish them on that account.”[4]

 

“The blotting out of his people’s sins is essential to this new relationship into which God calls” 

people in the New Covenant writes F. F. Bruce.[5] Isn’t that great news? Now turn to Hebrews 10.17 where we see it again:

 

“And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

 

The first indisputable fact I have shown you in the Bible this morning is that when a sinner trusts Christ, his sins are forgiven. Would anyone here dispute that? Good, because it is indisputable. The second indisputable fact in the Bible is that when a sinner trusts Christ and his sins are forgiven God refuses to remember his sins and iniquities. We are twice told that wonderful news in the letter to the Hebrews. A bit of thinking is now called for. If your sins are forgiven when you trust Christ, and if God remembers your sins and iniquities no more after you’ve trusted Christ, what is the point of asking for forgiveness after you have sinned as a Christian? Do Christians sin? Yes, according to First John 1.8:

 

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

 

So, when a Christian sins should he ask for God’s forgiveness? You might say “Yes,” but I ask “Why should a Christian ask for God’s forgiveness when he sins?” Should a believer in Jesus Christ ask for what he already has, which is God’s forgiveness? Isn’t asking for forgiveness when you are already forgiven a denial of God’s forgiveness? The reason I put this issue before you is because you will not find a place in the New Testament instructing, encouraging, or directing any believer in Jesus Christ to seek God’s forgiveness after sinning. To be sure, I am supposed to ask another person’s forgiveness when I sin against that other person. But not so with God. Why not so with God? Because as a Christian, with the blood of Jesus Christ continually washing my sins away, with forgiveness already given to me as a believer in Jesus Christ, and with God remembering my sins and iniquities no more, there is no reason for me to ask God for what God has already given me.

There is only one place in the entire New Testament that even comes close to suggesting that a Christian seek God’s forgiveness and that passage is with respect to mistakenly thinking Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8.9-24 is a believer. However, as my sermon dealing with Simon the sorcerer clearly shows, he most certainly was not a real Christian, but another sad example of a man who entertained a false hope.[6] Recognizing then that Christians do sin, and acknowledging that believers in Jesus Christ are forgiven, that the believer’s sins and iniquities are not remembered by God, and that nowhere after Christ’s resurrection is a Christian ever instructed to ask God for forgiveness when he has committed a sin, what then should the believer in Jesus Christ do when he has committed a sin? Surely the Christian should do something. What the Christian should not do is ask God for the forgiveness the Bible clearly declares he already has.

Here is what should happen when the Christian has committed a sin:

 

First, THE BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST IS MADE AWARE OF HIS SIN AGAINST GOD

 

The means by which the child of God is brought to recognize that he has sinned can occur by several means, with these means being brought to bear either sequentially or simultaneously. Two considerations for you to be mindful of in this regard:

First, the reproving ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. The Savior’s words describing the Holy Spirit, identified as the Comforter and the Spirit of truth in John 16.7-14, are very instructive:

 

7      Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

8      And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

9      Of sin, because they believe not on me;

10    Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

11    Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

12    I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

13    Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

14    He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

 

From verses 8-11 the Savior declared that the Spirit of God would work in the lives of unsaved individuals. However, do not think the Savior denied the Spirit of God does not also have an ongoing ministry in the lives of believers. He most certainly does. In verse 13 our Lord Jesus explains that He is the Spirit of truth, bringing understanding to the apostles (and subsequent generations of believers) so that we will come to grasp more clearly using His instruction both truth and error, both right and wrong. Therefore, whenever a believer comes to recognize that his conduct is sinful it is the result of the Spirit’s ongoing ministry in every Christian’s life. Sometimes the Spirit of God speaks directly to the Christian’s conscience to produce a sense of guilt for wrongdoing, and sometimes He works to illuminate the understanding, so the believer recognizes wrongdoing without feeling particularly guilty for such conduct. By what means does the Spirit of God work to alert the Christian of his wrongdoing in both conscience and understanding? In addition to alarming the conscience with guilt and alerting the mind with understanding, the Spirit of God also teaches through reading and studying the Bible, as well as the friendly rebukes and corrections that come from concerned and more mature Christians. This is not a thorough explanation of the Spirit’s work in a believer’s life, but you get a general idea.

At this point, you need to understand that caution must also be exercised against the condemning work of spiritual adversaries. It is not only the Holy Spirit and the means He uses that can produce guilt in a Christian. The devil and his own also work to produce guilt, but to different ends. How can you tell the difference? By the result, that is produced. The Spirit of God will work guilt for wrongdoing with a Christian, but only until the wrongdoing is recognized and attended to. The Spirit’s primary concern for a Christian is peace and joy and love, and such things as that. Not guilt. The Devil and the demons, on the other hand, the accusers of the brethren, seek to work condemnation rather than correction and seek to destroy rather than alert the Christian to his wrongdoing.[7] Whereas the Spirit of God will seek to point out sinful behavior (“That is wrong, you need to stop doing that.”), the Devil and the demons, along with those people you know who do the Devil’s dirty work for him will seek to work condemnation (“Look at what you did. How can you call yourself a Christian? You’re no good at all.”). You might recognize that the Spirit of God points out sinful behavior as sinful, while the Devil and his minions point the finger of accusation at the believer rather than his behavior, to condemn and discourage. The cherished truths for the child of God to cling to are found in Romans 8.1 and 31:

 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”

 

“If God be for us, who can be against us?”

 

 

Next, THE BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST EXPRESSES HIS SORROW FOR HIS SIN AGAINST GOD

 

Just because the child of God need not ask forgiveness of God, because you already have God’s forgiveness, does not mean you should not express regret, sorrow, and remorse for the sins you commit against Him. Perhaps the best example of what I am referring to found in the New Testament is recorded in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian congregation. You will remember the wide assortment of sins they had committed that Paul addressed in his first Corinthian letter, from pride to carnality to ignorance to toleration of sin in their midst. As found in no other New Testament letter, Paul strongly rebuked the Corinthians as the Spirit of God used him to be the means of dealing with them about their many sins.

It is in Second Corinthians that we learn of their response to Paul’s strong rebuke and correction. Before we read of their response, allow me to tell you ahead of time what we do not see in their response. As we read, you will see no indication or intimation that Paul suggested to them or that they engaged in any request to God for forgiveness for their many sins. What do we see in Second Corinthians 7.8-11? As you read with me, please take note of two things: First, how short is the duration of their sorrow and what kind of sorrow they displayed. Second, their determination to address the sins they were made aware of. Let us now read the passage together:

 

8      For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

9      Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

10    For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

11    For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

 

Though we haven’t the time to delve deeply into this passage, you will notice that Paul makes reference to two kinds of sorrow. The sorrow of the world, verse 10, works death and is the kind of sorrow that results from being very upset you got caught, being very upset things didn’t work out the way you wanted, and the crying for effect type of sorrow. Godly sorrow, on the other hand, is of short duration (verse 8), is a godly reaction (obviously, it is referred to as godly sorrow), results in no harm to anyone (verse 9), is a sorrow that you are not later sorry about (verse 10, meaning you don’t take it back), and produces genuine repentance leading to deliverance (verse 10).

However, it is in verse 11 that we see the second and most spectacular response to genuine and spiritual sorrow for wrongdoing, which is the earnest and heartfelt commitment to not only address the sin that was committed, but to repair the damage that was produced by the sin. Verse 11 again:

 

“For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”

 

I sincerely wish we had more time to examine this verse. Ever talk to someone about something he did wrong and he responds by telling you he is sorry and that it won’t happen again, but it happens again, and then again, and then again, and again? Enough with the lame apologies already. Thankfully, that is not what we find here. If your sorrow for sin is godly sorrow, which is to say that it is genuine and spiritual, it produces a reaction in the life of the real Christian who is dealing with sin as sin ought to be dealt with. Notice the words Paul uses: Carefulness, clearing of yourselves, indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, and finally revenge. Do you see any indication here of Christians asking God to forgive them? None at all. What you do see is indication that Christians made aware of their wrongdoing properly react with a sense of their wrongdoing and such an appreciation of sin’s harm to them and their testimony that they zero in on the problem and address it with vigor and zeal. In other words, rather than offer up a pathetic apology and request for forgiveness, we see here a determined effort to deal with the sins that are committed. Thus, it is very clear from the reaction of the Corinthians, a reaction that pleases the Apostle Paul very much, that rather than asking God for something they already had (forgiveness) their approach was to decide actually to do something to remedy their conduct so as not to repeat the sin! What a notion.

 

Finally, AFTER THE AWARENESS OF SIN AND THE EXPRESSION TO GOD OF SORROW COMES THE CLEANSING OF YOUR WAY

 

Consider that God wants you to fix the problem that is evidenced by the sin the Holy Spirit brought to your attention and produced godly sorrow for. Second Corinthians 7.8-11 reveals that addressing the matter requires determination and real passion, but that passage does not tell us what it specifically was the Corinthians did to address their various sin problems. Why not? Because the approach they took was already described in the Old Testament. There was no need for Paul to rewrite what was already found in God’s Word. I have no doubt that Titus told the Corinthians what to do when he arrived with Paul’s first Corinthian letter and read it to them.

Do you want to address the sin problem brought to your attention, Christian? Do you want to roll up your sleeves and tackle the problem, or will you settle for alligator tears and asking God for something you should already have? If you want to employ the Scripture remedy for dealing with a believer’s sins turn to Psalm 119.9:

 

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”

 

Very simply, this verse directs someone, anyone, who wants to clean up the mess he made with his sin to employ the Biblical remedy. Just do what the Bible tells you to do. And what the Bible does not tell you to do is ask for what you already have, which is forgiveness. After all, how does that help, really? Asking God for forgiveness that you already have does not help you or anyone else, but only distracts you from actually addressing the sin problem you have been made aware of.

Here are some examples for you to consider:

 

“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”

 

 

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

 

 

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

 

 

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

 

Have you begun to detect the pattern that is called for in the New Testament when a Christian becomes aware of his sins, and when he is sorrowful, to deal with the problem? Two observations: First, you will notice that nowhere is the Christian encouraged or directed to ask for God’s forgiveness. Why not? Because the Christian is already forgiven. Second, we see that the pattern for dealing with personal sin is to replace sinful conduct with godly conduct. It is the put off and put on principle that we see here in Ephesians chapter 4 and Colossians chapter 3.

 

I know that some Churches urge people who are conscious of personal sins to go forward during the invitation, where they are encouraged to pray at an old fashioned altar (whatever that is) and ask God’s forgiveness. Then they go back to their seat in the auditorium, feeling relieved and thinking they have done God’s will. However, those who do that have not done God’s will. When a Christian feels guilty about personal sins or becomes aware of personal wrongdoing, he should not ask for God’s forgiveness because he already has God’s forgiveness. What is called for in God’s Word is altogether different than what most well-intentioned pastors and Churches encourage people to do.

When the Spirit of God makes you aware of personal sins you should express your sorrow to God, to be sure. But there is no need to ask God for forgiveness you already have. And if your sorrow is godly you will be strongly motivated actually to do what God’s Word instructs you to do to deal with the sinful conduct. You need to stop doing the wrong by replacing the wrong conduct with the right conduct.

When you deal with a sinful deed, you are made aware of in this way you can do the right thing enough times that you will create a good habit to replace a sinful habit. Then, over time, that good habit eventually becomes godly character. That, my friend, is how a Christian is supposed to deal with personal sin. Isn’t that a much more God-honoring way to deal with personal sins than asking God to do something He has already done? Doesn’t taking God at His Word please Him more than ignoring what He has written? And is it not wonderful that Jesus paid it all, and that all to Him I owe? And I mean all.

__________

[1] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, General Editors, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), page 885.

[2] R. S. Candlish, Exposition Of I John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Associated Publishers And Authors, Inc., 1971), page 49.

[3] See footnote for 1 John 1.9 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1965.

[4] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol VI, (New York: Abingdon Press), pages 741-742.

[5] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle To The Hebrews - NICNT (Revised), (Grand Rapids, MI: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), page 191.

[6] See the sermon The Case Of The Lost Believer at http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.church/sermon.php?sermonDate=19800518a

[7] Revelation 12.10

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org