A Sinner Such As I

What to do when your conscience condemns you. A look a pre and post-conversion sin, and how to deal with this problem.

A Sinner Such As I

Does your conscience ever bother you? There is a righteous bother and an unrighteous bother. The righteous bother is when you have sinned and your conscience starts screaming you need to do something about the problem. The unrighteous bother is having your conscience scream condemnation in you.

We know a sinning Christian is inconsistent with discipleship. When we fall short our conscience gets busy informing us of our guilt. We can make things right or we can allow the guilt to triggered negative self-talk, words of defeat, of being a failure.   That negative self-talk brings with it condemnation and condemns the guilty to punishment, not rehabilitation. Today let’s examine what to do with a bothering conscience.

We will consider first the great gift of forgiveness that occurs with we first believe. Then we will move on to what to do if we sin after the new birth. What I want you to walk away with today is the Holy Spirit doesn’t condemn you but empowers you to change.

The gospel tells:
Romans 5:8 (NIV)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sinning involves more than just wrong deeds done, it involves a state of being. That state of being is one of estrangement. Estrangement describes what happens when we distance ourselves from others. When we consider the creation story in the first four chapters of Genesis we discover that the Garden in Eden is the place of healthy interdependent relationships. We see that the Adam had a right relationship with God, with the Eve, with the Earth and with Himself. A right relationship is one that functions as designed, meeting its intended purpose. Maybe the best way to describe this right relationship is to say it was a relationship of pure love. For love to thrive is must be freely given and reciprocated. Love for God is demonstrated by our obedience to His commands. One command was given to the Adam and he chooses to break it. The Adam’s choice to do what he wanted, what he saw fit, resulted in estrangement from God, what we can call spiritual death. It is into this same spiritual death that everyone is born into (Rom 3:13). Our desire is to do what we want when we want to whom or with whom we want regardless of the consequences. When acted upon these self-centered, selfish desires lead to deeds that isolate us from God, others and even ourselves, the earth becomes just something to exploit. Wrong being and wrongdoing is sin.

Again the gospel speaks to us:
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 The wages of sin is death. This is my personal opinion on the wages of sin. The wages of sin are paid in and ever-growing isolation resulting in eternal solitary confinement.

If I yell at my wife (by the way I think yelling is a form of domestic violence, it is emotional abuse, an outburst meant to cower in order to reestablish control) such action is not in keeping with righteousness and it causes her to move away from me.  Make this a reoccurring behavior and eventually, there will be a separation and a divorce, certainly emotionally if not physically and legally. Sin results in estrangement, the loss of a righteous relationship, of sad goodbyes, until you are finally all by yourself.  The Apostle John likened this to be cast alive into a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Again the gospel in a verse:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.

The Holy Spirit awakens you to your sin problem and gives you the opportunity to hear the good news of the gospel in which you are compelled to acknowledge that yes indeed you are a sinner both in deed and in being, now realizing that Jesus made an atonement for you and every sin you committed you believe that on His account God the Father can forgive you, so you made a new commitment, repenting of you sins you ask to become a disciple of Jesus. God recognizes the sincerity of your request and declares you reconciled (2 Cor 5:18), estrangement ended (Col 1:21-23), adopted as His own child (Gal 4:6), and endows you with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14).

Every sin in being and in deed is forgiven. This is huge. God separates us spiritually from the just punishment our crimes warrant (Ps 103:12). You may have broken every command in Scripture both Old and New Testament, but because of your faith in Jesus, you're receiving the gift, God no longer holds those transgressions against you.

Hebrews 10:17 (MSG)
I'll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins.

Hear the word of the Lord—“Once sins are taken care of for good, there's no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them” (Heb 10:18 (MSG).

When conscience brings up the things you regret before you bent the knee to Jesus, you are free to make things right if you can, but in the courts of heaven, those deeds have resulted in acquittal and no longer are held against you. The scripture declares 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
 “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

If your conscience reminds you of things done in the past and triggers negative self-talk that condemns you, remember that God does not condemn you, God forgives and empowers you; that empowerment is to go and make things right with or for the one you sinned against and to sin no more (John 8:11). This is how you deal with a bothering conscience trying to lay a heavy guilt trip on your for the sins you committed before you received God’s gift of new life in Jesus.

If you have never experienced this glorious freedom and want to right now would you pray with me? Repeat after me--

“Father I need a new lease on life. I have sinned, the ruined relationships in my life testify to it. I believe that Jesus' sacrifice was for me and by his atonement, I can find forgiveness. I commit myself to be your servant, his disciple. I ask now that you would make me new so that I might live the way you intended.”

If you prayed that prayer, be absolved of all the sins of your past. I want to encourage you in your brand new faith, so please tell me. If you happen to be watching this online message, text, email me. I want to rejoice with you and strengthen you.

Now we must turn our attention to post-conversion sins. Thoughts about post-conversion sins have been a hot topic off and on through the centuries of Christianity. In the very early days based on scripture, it was understood that a Christian no longer sins.

Romans 6:1-2 & 11 (NIV) & 1 John 3:6 (NKJV)
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” “…count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”

By the time of the Reformation the teaching that was popular was the Christian sins every day, multiple times a day, in thought, word, and deed.” Again this idea is based in scripture:
1 John 1:8 (RSV)
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

John Wesley shook up the theological world teaching that Christian perfection was concerning the intent of one’s heart, one’s affections and one’s will, not necessarily how one performed.  When what motivates you is love then you are fulfilling your purpose. You do not need to sin, becomes love compels you to do what is right, this teaching is also based on scripture—

Matthew 5:48 (NIV) & 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (MSG)
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” “May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.

One day we will once again address Wesley’s teaching on Christian perfection, for now, please recall Wesley is not teaching a sinless perfection, but rather a perfection of desire.

It is with sins committed after conversion that the conscience can have a heyday in guilt-ing you, resulting in self-condemnation. With self-condemnation, there is a tendency to pull an Adam and hide from God. The result is loss of intimacy and it could end up in the loss of a relationship. We can choose to run because of our shame.

We could console ourselves by saying: well “no one’s perfect,” “to err is to be human,” “I guess I am just human after all.” We can placate ourselves thinking, “Jesus forgives every sin, past, present, future, so it’s all good.” Thereby excusing our refusal to love, to justify our disobedience to God’s commands, gloss over opportunities passed by to lend helping hands to others, pardoning our failure to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. If we don’t own our sin, repent of our sin, and seek to overcome our sin, but instead hide it from ourselves we will never vanquish post-conversion sin. Running from God, or shrugging our shoulders at sin neither option is the right one.

James 1:14-15 (MSG)
The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer.

Disregard sin in your life and it will kill you spiritually. Ignoring sin is not the answer, allowing your conscience to condemn you is not the answer to this problem of post-conversion sin. The Apostle John points to the answer.

1 John 2:1 (RSV)
I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…

Jesus still pleads our case, even after we have bent the knee to Him, made a sacred vow of fidelity to Him, making of ourselves a living sacrifice and committing ourselves forever to be His disciples. So you bring your sin to Jesus with contrition—contrition is with remorse and wanting to make the wrong right, which results in our repentance. A behavior is wrong and I will not do it again.

Hebrews 7:25 (RSV)
Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Habits, Attachments, and addictions are strongholds of sin in your life. You pray for their destruction but they seem no matter how much you practice the 7 habits of a disciple still raise their hellish head and cause you to fall back on your vows against them. Strongholds require more than prayers for forgiveness and transformation to overcome. They require a support system. Celebrate Recovery is a hot ticket right now for helping you tear down your strongholds. If this is something you need, please speak with Dr. Mike Pratt who can help you get the support you need.  When someone comes to me with a condemning conscience because of a stronghold I ask them “Are you fighting against it.?” “When you give in do you feel remorse?” If so you are in the fight, now go get the help you need.  If not you are just continuing to sin and you will eventually spiritually wither and become ineffective in the Kingdom.

If the Holy Spirit uses your conscience to show your sin it, repent of it. Make restitution if necessary. Do not allow guilt to tempt you to pull and Adam running and hiding from God. Don’t just excuse yourself with a “well that’s the way I am.” For the Scripture proclaims:

1 John 1:9 (RSV)
 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


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