Author: Ron Graham

Sin and Legalism

Sin and Grace
—Understanding how grace deals with sin

Before Jesus died on the cross, there was "a reminder of sins year by year" (Hebrews 10:1-4). Now, in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is "no condemnation" (Romans 8:1). If we are in Christ, God has forgiven us our iniquities, and our sins he "will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:34).

The forgiveness of sins means our condemnation for sins has been taken away. Our sins have been "blotted out" and times of refreshing have come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:18-19).

We must, however, take care lest our lives reflect a misunderstanding of God’s grace. Rather than seeing sin as an awful problem, and appreciating God’s grace against that background, it is possible to misunderstand, and see God’s grace as an easy solution against which we view sin as nothing to worry about. To illustrate, a man might continually mistreat his wife, and when his friend reproves him for it, the man might say, "It doesn't seem to worry my wife as much as it worries you. She always forgives me. If she hated what I do to her all that much, then she wouldn't keep on forgiving me, would she?" We can easily see that such a man does not understand mercy, forgiveness, nor the depth of love and grace behind the forgiveness.

After God’s grace...

1 Sin Remains Serious

God is willing to forgive sin, but this does not mean he thinks lightly of it. God viewed sin so seriously that he gave his only begotten Son to make forgiveness possible (John 3:16, 1John 1:7, 2:2). If ever we start taking sin lightly, all we have to do is look back to the suffering Saviour on the cross. That will remind us of how seriously God views sin. The fact that sins are all forgiven, and by the grace of God one is no longer under condemnation, does not mean that sin is a problem we can forget about.

2 The Damage Needs Repair

Paul said that some of the Christians at Corinth had been forgiven of such sins as adultery, homosexuality, and drunkeness (1Corinthians 6:9-11). These and other sins cause disease and ruin of the physical body. They break up homes and families. They lose people their jobs. Even after God’s grace is applied and the sins are forgiven, this sort of damage remains to burden the victims of the sin.

3 Obligations Remain

So we find that forgiven sinners must still offer relief, as far as possible, for hurt they have caused others. Zacchaeus for example saw the necessity for this (Luke 19:1-9). Forgiven sinners must still bear the pain and responsibility of the temporal consequences of their sins. Of course, God’s grace is available to help them do this, The point is that God’s grace does not exempt people from responsibility for the temporal consequences of their sins.

4 Temptations Persist

Furthermore, the Bible warns even the forgiven, that sin "so easily entangles us" (Hebrews 12:1). Although forgiven sinners have God’s grace to help in time of temptation (1Corinthians 10:12-13, Hebrews 4:16), they still have temptations and the force of habit to contend with. Forgiveness does not take the old habits and temptations away. It does, however provide the means and power to win victory when we struggle to overcome them (Romans 7:22-25, 8:1-2). We must "flee youthful lusts" (2Timothy 2:22). Notice, we will flee them, not fool around with them. Youthful lusts, by the way, are acquired and cultivated in our youth, and ingrained now as habits. They are not lusts that leave us miraculously on our 30th birthday!

5 The Devil's Still Dangerous

The Bible says, "Do not give the devil an opportunity" (Ephesians 4:27). This warns us that the devil is opportunistic. When our sins are forgiven by God, the devil does not stop lying in wait for us. Indeed, the "roaring lion seeking someone to devour" may focus his attention on us all the more. (1Peter 5:8)

6 Time is Still Short

God has allowed us "space to repent" (Revelation 2:20-21), and time to conquer our habibual sins. That space, granted by grace, is entirely sufficient, but it is nevertheless finite. We must therefore be found "redeeming the time because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

7 God’s Gate Stays Open

The psalmist pictured God’s grace as "the gate of the Lord" (Psalms 118:19-21). Through this gate of righteousness we can enter into fellowship with God. The promise of such absolute forgiveness is truly wonderful. It is marvelous in our eyes. We should rejoice in it and be glad. We should fully appreciate God’s grace, and let our lives reflect our realisation of its glory.

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