Law, sin and repentance are matters of the heart. These things are not part of a technical matrix with peaks and valleys – where the valleys represent adherence to the Law, diminished sin and closeness to Jesus; while the peaks represent flouting the Law, increased sin and distance from Jesus. There is no threshold value where we are either “in” or “out” of the club.
The Law serves one purpose: the Law tells us what we are. None is righteous, no, not one.[i] This doesn’t change, for if it were within our power to be our own savior then we would become arrogant monsters. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.[ii] If it was in our power we would become as Satan is, convinced of our own value, and disregard any need for God.[iii] In which case, if we choose to live without God, He will let us die without Him. He will force Himself on no one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.[iv]
“You’ve gotta kill your sin before your sin kills you!” and its brother “Stop sinning and follow Jesus!” are stupid sayings, spawned by illiterates, and they have no real meaning. Your sin already killed you. You are dead by your sin. You won’t get better. You don’t get better. You can’t get better.
Stupid statements like these create a false dichotomy: Follow Jesus OR be a sinner. When the fact is: You follow Jesus BECAUSE you are a sinner! If you weren’t a sinner, Jesus would have to compete with the “All-Mighty-You” for attention. And, unless you are brainless, you know that ain’t gonna happen.
In the very beginning, one of His creations declared himself to be the “Almighty-Me” and from there, there has been no return. The daily struggle for each of us is that we try to lift ourselves up. We try to create our own significance. We try to carry our own weight. Whenever we do this, we are putting God (Jesus) second and trying to make ourselves first. In short, we are trying to be our own god and actively worship ourselves.
You shall have no other gods before me.[v]
We do not break any other law without first destroying this one. We allow something to become more important to us than God (Jesus) and we then act on that desire’s behalf – regardless of the will and desire of God.
“[Y]ou were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.[vi]
So, we are broken and He imputes to us righteousness while taking responsibility for our sin. With these two gifts, and only by these two gifts, we can stand before a Holy and perfect God.
What is “sin management” but self-sacrifice? We are busy strutting in the face of our successes and wallowing in the despair of our failures. We are, in brief, worshiping ourselves because our mind is wrapped around nothing but our little status: “Oh, look at me not sinning!” and “Oh, poor, poor, pitiful me! I just sinned again!” We sit and cycle through this like a sine wave. Admit it, we all do it.
Foretold – For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.[vii]
Realized – But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”[viii]
Reprised – I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.[ix]
WHAT IS LIFE FOR A FOLLOWER OF JESUS?
Do you avoid hurting people because you don’t want to get caught?
Do you avoid hurting people because you were told not to hurt people?
Do you avoid hurting people because you fear God?
Do you avoid hurting people because they are already destroyed and you can’t bear to do more damage?
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.[x]
So, we can sit in our room pondering our sin and failure. We can sit in our room pursuing esoteric religious books:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.[xi]
Now don’t be an idiot. I’m not suggesting we stop reading the Bible. I mean, look at this message I have created, it is riddled with Truth from The One and only source. That being said, if you read the Bible to the exclusion of doing the what it says, you do not understand what you are reading. But I digress…
This doesn’t solve the problem of sin. You see? Only He solves the problem of sin. Let it go. Give it to Him. Allow Jesus to carry everything for you. He is not an unwilling helper. He wants you to depend upon Him. He delights in being depended upon! Only then, can we do His will by bringing Him to everyone we meet!
But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.[xii]
I wish I could tell you that becoming a follower of Jesus makes everything pretty and that your life gets easier and that you will get rich quicker. But, that isn’t true. Following Jesus makes everything tougher because you will no longer strive to willingly deceive others. You know what is right and what is wrong and you will struggle as you fail. Then, you will get puffed up when you succeed…only to feel demoralized when you fall down again. The difference is that your life will matter. You will always be loved. And, will always be forgiven.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?[xiii]
[ii] Ephesians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:29
[iii] 1 Timothy 3:6
[iv] Romans 3:23
[v] Exodus 20:3
[vi] Zechariah 3:2, Amos 4:11, Jude 1:23
[vii] Hosea 6:6
[viii] Matthew 9:12-13
[ix] Matthew 12:6-7
[x] John 13:12-17
[xi] John 5:39-40
[xii] Luke 22:32
[xiii] Mark 8:34-36