We recently celebrated Easter and have been talking about God’s mercy and grace and the fact that Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead. God allowed Jesus to take our punishment and have God’s righteousness. We are promised that if we have a real relationship with Jesus and ask if to forgive us of our sins, He will forgive all of them. This is good news for us. But sometimes, after this realization has ceased to be amazing, we tend to forget the amazing God that came and paid the penalty for each of our sins. We celebrate Easter and the resurrection, but the new life we are offered in Christ fades as we head back to the same things that we faced the week before Easter. In the midst of relationships, personal crises, stressors, and everything that fills our minds, it’s easy to forget.
When we are tempted to sin, we feel bad and try to resist. Then one day, we give in. We feel horrible and wish we hadn’t given in to the temptation. Sometimes we avoid God because we feel so guilty, but God is right there with open arms to welcome us back. While we are surprised at our ability to sin and at what we did, God already knew all of it ahead of time. Jesus already took the punishment for that sin and God is omniscient (all-knowing) and is not surprised or ready to give up on us. Amazingly, He knew all of that and still chose to save us. We are able to rejoice and praise God for saving us and loving us.
And then temptation strikes again. For some it’s right away and for others this comes much later. We give in. At first we feel guilty because we know it’s wrong, but then we eventually grow tired of feeling guilty and decide that it’s not as bad as we thought. We make excuses although we know that it’s wrong. Then we decide to turn back to God and ask for forgiveness. We find that He is still there ready to forgive us of our sins and that He still loves us.
But then we are tempted again and the thought comes to mind: “What if I just do this thing I want to do and then ask God to forgive me?”. Paul addressed this in the years after Jesus died on the cross, rose from the dead, and then ascended to Heaven. Those who had begun following Christ became to sin because they knew that God would forgive them. It seemed like the ultimate “Get out of jail free card”. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, which we call Romans (6:1-23), he says:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his,”
(Note: The Bible refers to us being “crucified with Christ”. The old person that we were is dead and the new person that we become after we have a relationship with Jesus is alive and living.)
“we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
By living for God, putting off the person we once were and following Him, we are receiving the promise of Heaven as well as hope for the current time.
While it is true that God forgives without limits, He forgives someone who is truly repentant. Repentant is the idea of a 180. Going in one direction and making a conscious decision to turn completely around and head in the other direction. In 1 John 2:1-6 it says:
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
If we truly have a relationship with God, we will decide to truly follow God because that is the decision that we’ve made. If we are choosing to continue in our sins, it shows us and everyone else that we have not truly followed God and that even if we try to do good things or go to church, we are no better because we do not truly have our sins forgiven and a relationship with God which gives us peace and hope. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-17, we are encouraged about our new life in Christ. The writer has just discussed the desire to be in Heaven where the temptations of earth are gone and everything has been righted. At that time we will no longer have to hope in God because we will be there with Him. The writer says:
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we care beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, owe are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
You see, the life of a Christian (a real follower of Christ, not just someone who goes to church), is focused on representing Christ in such a way that others are able to see the change He’s made in us and are able to have that same hope. Our goal is not to be good people and try to just not sin, but to use our new life in Christ to spread that to others as well. So that they can have that same hope, meaning, and peace that we are able to have. Remember that Christ has freed us from being a slave to our sins and made us free. Enjoy your freedom in Christ. Not to do things that you will have to come ask forgiveness for, but in order to go on and share with others the amazing power of God and His great love for you and me.