Last week we talked about the peace of God— that stability within our souls that comes after we repent and believe. But after we truly turn away from sin and place our trust in Jesus, do we automatically stop sinning. Do we become, overnight a new creature that is the very mirror of Jesus? Well, if you look around and in the mirror, obviously no. I’ve never meet a person that became a Christian one day, and was living a totally perfect life the next. It does not work that way. In fact, some folks go back to the same wasted way of living—-there’s no denying it.
Somewhere in the process of becoming a new creature, we have a part to play. It’s not a matter of being or acting good enough to get saved—that will never happen— but rather doing our part in being grateful enough for what He’s done for us, and disgusted enough with the former life, to “turn our back on sin”, and choose to sin no more.
But what happens if we don’t turn away from sin once we’ve been redeemed? What transpires if we are born from above but chose to live the same old way? God gets our attention and we suffer the consequence, in this life, on this earth, for not living the way we were redeemed to live. God spanks.
Consider this story in the New Testament:
“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” John 5:1-14, NIV
Now I want to draw your attention to three things: First, the man wanted to be healed. Any person that becomes a Christian recognizes their need to be healed from sin and calls upon the Great Physician, Jesus, to heal them—i.e. make them righteous before God. Secondly, Jesus did in fact heal the man, just like He can miraculously heal you from eternal death to eternal life by forgiving your sins and making you whole. But in the third place, after the man was healed, Jesus expected something from this man’s new life: He told Him to stop sinning. This is what Jesus demands from anyone He heals—-stop sinning!
Let me stop here for a moment. Does Jesus taunt us to do something we cannot possibly do? Does He deliberately lay down demands that are impossible to meet? Of course not! He meant what He said: Stop sinning. He did not demand that the man cease to be surrounded by sinners or never be tempted to sin again, but rather stop following through with your old habits and stop surrendering to temptations that are offensive to God.
And His demand that this fellow stop sinning had a threat attached. Stop willfully sinning or something that you don’t want to happen to you may happen to you. Your life will not be one of “better” things, and “abundant living” but of things perhaps getting worse than you were before you were healed. No you think about that as you exercise your free will to watch, speak, think and commit whatever it is that you’re doing right now that you know is against God’s plan for you and your life.
No, it does not mean you’ve lost your salvation if you sin, it means you’ve lost the “life-overflowing” that those that chose to turn from sin enjoy and relish.
Think about what Jesus said later to an adulterous woman:
“Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”“No one, Lord,” she answered. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Now go and sin no more.” ”Mark 8:10-11, NIV
He saved her from death—-i.e. being stoned to death—-but told her, boldly, now that I have saved your life from the penalty of death—a death you deserved because of your sins— stop sinning! Cease the life of being a prostitute! Find a husband and settle down or at the very least remain celibate!
We were not saved, redeemed, confirmed, or recipients of baptism and communion so that we can walk, talk, think, and behave the same way we did before! We were saved out of that life into a new life that should give a glimpse of how men and women in the Kingdom of God are supposed to live. And one thing is clear: becoming a true child of God does not remove the opportunity, temptation or ability to sin! It’s all still possible—-and quite a few Christian folks live in sin and see no contradiction. And if you attempt to point that out to them, they’ll tell you, “Who are you to judge?”, or “I live by faith not works”, or “God’s not through me yet, He’ll get around to dealing my sins later”… And do you know what? The last answer is quite right, God will get around to dealing with you and me if we have received the blood of Christ for our salvation and then turn right back to our sins.
How will our lives be if we become one of His and then act like one of devil’s own? Jesus said that God’s discipline will be make our lives worse, not better.
It occurs to me, fear has a proper place in the life of even the redeemed. Not fear of hell or fear that God might stop loving me one day—-praise God, He’s not like a lot of my friends and members of my family! No, but just like Moses said, being afraid and fearing God aren’t the same thing:
Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exodus 20:20. Did you hear that? The fear of God is a gift from God to keep us from sinning. There are many things my boys do that are wrong, and I am in many ways a failure as a father, but there are some things my boys do not do—because they fear what will happen if they do it. And despite the DSS and modern day child psychology might say, I am glad they have a fear of me that stops them from doing certain things.
The truth is, the Devil and sin have a common enemy: the fear of God. Without the fear of God, we are set up for serious sin problems. Cultures crumble without a moral fabric—it needs the fear of God. Families fall into severe dysfunction when the fear of God is not lived out or understood. Individual lives lose their meaning and purpose when the fear of God is placed on the shelf. God’s remedy for sin for the believer is a holy fear of Him.
The fear of God is a force to be reckoned with by all who come in contact with their Creator. We can dismiss it as an old-fashioned doctrine (though it has been around since Adam and Eve), or we can embrace it as necessary for successful living. When we fear God, we find God. When we fear God, we love God and He loves us. When we fear God, we understand that some things are off limits and we avoid them. When we fear God, we trust God. When we fear God, we run toward God in worship and away from sin in disgust. The fear of God is our friend, and it enhances our friendship with our heavenly Father.
Therefore, take the commands of God seriously. The Ten Commandments are rules for how to express our fear of God. An adulterer sins because somewhere along the way, the fear of God did not matter to him anymore. The idols of materialism can consume us when we forget to fear God and instead, worship at the altar of financial gain. The fear of God encourages children to honor their parents, and it positions parents to lovingly raise their children. The fear of God is our fortress against the devil’s onslaught. We are motivated to put on the full armor of God, knowing we are no match in our own strength to defeat the devil. The fear of God is not a mindless and cold obedience. On the contrary, it is thoughtful, prayerful, and full of joy. It sees the opportunity to obey God as an honor.
The trials and tribulations you may be facing are not meant to create an unhealthy fear that cringes before Christ, but rather a healthy fear that trusts Him in spite of this test of your faith. Do not allow the sorrow of loss or the success of gain to keep you from fearing God. When you focus on our heavenly Father in worship and prayer, you can’t help but fear Him. His character invites the fear of His followers. Fear Him, and you will be set free from sin and self. Ego exits when confronted by godly fear. Pride is not present with the fear of God. Listen to the Lord, and you will fear Him by faith. The secret to a life less sinful is to fear God. Invite Almighty God to inoculate you from sin with the vaccine of His fear. The fear of God is not a friend of sin.
“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13).
Do you? Do you hate sin in YOUR life? Do those you love hate sin their lives?Do those that are supposed to inspire and lead us hate sin in their lives? If you do, then blessings are going to follow us and our nation. Let me tell you: It is possible to put aside willful sinning and live, in terms of our choices, a sinless life. I can’t be free from the temptation to pride, or my unbridled anger, or ungodly thoughts that pop into my mind, but I can choose to cry out to God===“Help me!” And He will.