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August 15, 2012

Examining Sin and Grace

By Anthony Wade

A look at the eternal and temporal considerations of sin and grace.


So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate. -- Romans 7: 14-15 (NLT)

I thank God for His grace. I thank God that His grace is sufficient for me. That His grace covers my sin and grants me eternal life. That His grace assures me that my name is written in the Lambs Book of Life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ however is always a balance. For everyone who focuses solely on His great love overlooks His terrible wrath at their own peril. Likewise, when we focus solely on the awesome grace of God we tend to minimize sin to our great peril. Let me first state that I am not speaking about sin as it relates eternally -- to salvation. The Bible is very clear on that subject:

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. -- Ephesians 1: 6-7 (NLT)

For those of us who are born again, we are sinners saved by grace. Our eternal question has been resolved. The grace of God has forgiven our sins and reunited us with the Father. That grace is sufficient for every sin we have committed and will commit in the future. If we were sincere when we gave our hearts to Christ then there was a regeneration of our heart. We started to desire the things of God over the things of this world. When we stand before God for eternal judgment He will only see the blood of His precious Son Jesus Christ. Now that is some powerful grace.

So I understand the desire to preach grace. It should be preached as it is an integral part of the Gospel. It is even more desirable when you consider how much of modern churchianity is spent on hammering people for their sins. There are far too many people who walk around in the bondage of guilt for sins the Savior has already died for! Despite there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, there remain too many people shackled to condemnation. Too many people who do not understand the price Jesus paid to set them free. That past that haunts you is exactly what Jesus died for! That sin or moment of great shame in your past is exactly what Jesus died for! Here is one step further -- that sin you committed yesterday is exactly what Jesus died for! His grace is sufficient and His blood covers it all.

The balanced Gospel however does not just discuss grace but also deals with sin. I do not preach about sin because I enjoy it. I do not preach about sin so people can feel bound but rather so people can learn how to truly be free. Here is the truth today that we need to wrap our heads around. The awesome grace of God did not erase the existence of sin. It forgave the offense of it. Even when dealing with grace Paul explained:

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? -- Romans 6: 1-2 (NLT)

One of the problems in modern Christianity is the propensity to preach the extremes. On one side you have preaching that beats people down with what horrible wretches they all are. On the other hand you have preaching that tells everyone to just stare at the cross and don't worry about sin. The first style removes the power of Christ from the lives of the listeners and the second style sets them up for failure in this life. Sets them up for failure? Absolutely! Because while they are staring at the cross the devil is running roughshod over their lives. I know that there is some new theology out there that downplays the enemy. That downplays the spiritual war we are in and that is very very dangerous for us. The devil is very real and the Bible says he is out to steal, kill and destroy you. You go ahead and ignore sin and see what the devil does. Here is some teaching from the Apostle Peter:

So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God's obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy." And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as "foreigners in the land." For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. -- 1Peter 1: 13-20 (NLT)

The way Peter is writing it sure seems as if sin is still something we need to be concerned with. Of course we should look forward to the gracious salvation Christ appropriated for us but in the same breath -- we must live as obedient children! Peter differentiates between the two. We need to be careful to not slip back into our old sinful ways. Once we are saved we are to consider ourselves as foreigners in the world living in reverent fear of God. The sad reality today is that the American church is losing any reverence for God and operates without any fear of who He is. Not of what He might do. Again, I am not preaching sin as a restraint upon our lives but a key to overcoming bondage to it. Within these verses we see the truth of these matters play out. First Peter deals with the eternal issue -- salvation. He says to look forward to what grace has purchased for us! I agree wholeheartedly! We should never stop thanking God for redeeming our sin-sick souls and granting us eternal life -- while we were still in rebellion to Him! Amazing grace -- how sweet the sound!

Then Peter turns his attention to the temporal propensity we all have to sin. He reminds us that we know better now. The bottom line beloved is that the grace of God will cover our sins but that is no reason to stop being conscious of sin in our lives. Yes, we are saved when we stand before Christ but we still have to wake up tomorrow and navigate this life. The world is still going to offer us opportunities to sin. Our flesh is still going to desire to sin. The enemy will still be whispering in our ears to go ahead and sin. Not because it will damage us in eternity but rather in the temporal. The principle of sowing and reaping still applies to us!

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -- Galatians 6: 7-9 (NIV)

Regardless of whether or not we are saved, we still will pay the price that is attached to sin. God did not give the law as punishment but as guidelines for living. Let us play out a real life example. Suppose we have a married man who is saved but he falls into the sin of adultery. Is this sin covered in relation to his salvation? Absolutely. He can repent, and God will forgive. He does not have an eternal problem from the adultery. That is the sin for which Christ went to the cross. He does however have a temporal problem doesn't he? Perhaps his wife will leave him. Perhaps his kids will lose all respect for him. Perhaps he will have to move out and lose a lot of what he owned in a messy divorce. Perhaps he will have to step down from ministries. There are plenty of temporal considerations and consequences from his sin, which have nothing to do with salvation.

King David was described as a man after the very heart of God yet he had to battle his sin nature within him when he saw Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop. David lost that battle badly. He went from coveting to lust to adultery and then to murder. Was the grace of God sufficient to cover and forgive these sins? Absolutely! But David still saw two of his children die and his kingdom lost as a direct result of this sin. What about Moses? He had gone to Pharaoh on behalf of the Lord and demanded the people be freed. He led the Israelites through the wilderness and to the edge of the Promised Land only to watch their repeated disobedience and hear their repeated whining. Yet when God instructed him to speak to the rock in order to receive water, Moses instead smote the rock with his staff. Here was the Word of the Lord:

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." -- Numbers 20: 12 (NIV)

Moses was the prophet of God and his sin was in adding to the instructions of God. In his anger and frustration he made a public display instead of simply following the instructions of God. In relation to his eternal salvation this sin is covered. But he still paid a heavy temporal price according to this Scripture. He would never see the Promised Land he had worked so hard to reach. Sin always has a price attached to it, regardless of our eternal salvation.

So my preaching on sin is not an exercise in scaring people. It is not designed to beat people down but to prevent them from being beaten down. The enemy does not take a second off and neither should we. Does this mean that we can control our sinful nature? No, but we can be aware of it. We can be aware of it and reflect to the Holy Spirit within us. We can walk in the Spirit:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. -- Galatians 5: 16-17 (NLT)

Paul consistently recognizes the struggle we all face inside of ourselves. We have the Spirit of God inside the flesh which desires sin. Look at the key verses and embrace the struggle Paul is detailing. He does what he hates! We can all relate I am sure because the Spirit of God bristles at the sin we fall into. Thank God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to lead us away from what we know is wrong and into what we know is right. As the key verses state, the problem is not with the law. Sometimes grace-preaching seems to make the law out to be the bad guy, so to speak. But Paul clearly states here that the law is spiritual and good. The problem beloved is not with the law but with the sin nature within us that is always in rebellion to the law. Eternally, the grace of Almighty God has saved us and assured us that our sins are forgiven but temporally we still have a walk we are in the middle of. We still need to be prepared:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. -- 1Peter 5: 8 (NLT)

I thank God for His grace but I need to stay alert! Our great enemy the devil has already lost the eternal battle for our soul if we are saved. But that does not stop his attacks. It does not halt his schemes. He still seeks temporal victories in our lives because the more we have to deal with our own sin issues and the consequences of what we sow the less effective we are for the kingdom of God and the works God has set aside for us. The less effective we are -- the less people come to the foot of the cross for the eternal victory in Christ.

Sometimes the modern church just fails to see the damage it does. We have become very adept at helping people resolve the eternal issues and don't get me wrong -- they are the most crucial. Salvation is always the first goal. Yet after salvation we sometimes are not so good at making disciples -- which is what Jesus instructed us to do. The result is a lot of baby Christians who never get off the spiritual milk. They walk without the power Christ appropriated for them on Calvary. They chase after every wind of doctrine because they are not firmly rooted in the truth. They can hear things like "just look to the cross" and lose the sin battles they have to face every day. That is how you end up with carnally minded Christians. That is how we end up with an impotent church that is over-secularized. Grace and sin. Be thankful to God for one and ever vigilant against the other.

Reverend Anthony Wade -- August 15, 2012

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.