September 6, 2012

Does God Still Like Me When I Sin?

We tell people (believers) that when they sin, they lose fellowship with God. We explain that He hates sin and so when we sin, He can’t talk to us until we straighten things out. We say He disapproves of our sin and this disapproval feels like a lack of acceptance…rejection. Wait a minute…how is that any different than works based Salvation? Is that what God did to us when we were dead in our trespasses and sins? Did He say, “Well, we won’t be talking until you figure out the fact that you are dead in sin and want to change. And the only way that I will know you want to change is when you start to do the right things. Good luck until then!” No way! Romans 5:8 says that God passionately loved us and extended this love to us while “we were yet sinners.” When we were in the midst of our deepest, darkest sins, God came after us. While we were still very far away, “[our] Father saw [us] and felt compassion, and ran and embraced [us] and kissed [us]” (Luke 15:20). So how should we use 1 John 1:9? Doesn’t it say we need to ask forgiveness when we sin otherwise we are living in darkness and God can’t fellowship with darkness?

Let me ask you this question…When Jesus Christ (if you want to know Who God is, He speaks in the language of “Son” - Hebrews 1) died on the cross, how many of your sins were covered? If you gave the Sunday School answer, “All of them!”, you are correct. He died for your past sins, your present sins, and your future sins. I mean, let’s be real here…all of your sins were future 2000 years ago. So all of them were covered. He forgave all of your sins. He cried “It is finished!” and the veil was torn. No more separation from God. But we teach people that when they sin, a veil goes back up and it isn’t finished. Ironic. We do what the Hebrews were doing…we explain that people need to basically re-crucify Jesus on the cross and get “new” forgiveness. How blasphemous! "God didn't deposit forgiveness into an account with my name on it so that I can make forgiveness withdrawals when I need it. When I was born again, He emptied the entire forgiveness account on me! My debt was paid in full!" (McVey). We have to realize we are forgiven. I keep saying that because we don’t live that way. 1 John 1:9 translated correctly is not speaking of forgiveness. It is speaking of confession. Confession means that you "acknowledge the foolishness of disobedience to the Father and then praise Him that you are already forgiven and accepted by Him” (McVey). When we sin, we need to confess that we were not living the new identity we have because of Salvation. And what is that identity? Jesus Himself. We weren’t allowing His life to be expressed through ours and we need to agree with God that we walked away and not Him. We walked away from our true identity…we walked away and thought we could find happiness and fulfillment elsewhere. But the entire time, God stayed right with us. He cannot disown or be unhappy with His Son, and since His Son lives in us, He cannot be disapproving or disappointed in us. “The Father poured out all His wrath on His Son. There is no more left for you or me. He won’t condemn you now because condemning the innocent is an abomination to Him, and that’s what He says you are: innocent. He won’t punish you for your sin because to do so would be unjust; someone’s already paid for those sins and it would be unfair to punish you for them again” (Fitzpatrick 70). “Will God ever push us away or keep us at arm’s length? Would He push His Son away? Will God ever fail to hear our prayer? Does He hear His Son’s? Is He disgusted with us and disappointed that He every adopted us? Does Jesus disgust and disappoint Him?” (Fitzpatrick 74).

For years I believed that when I sinned, I had to ask forgiveness from God, otherwise a breach would remain in our relationship because He was not happy with me and wouldn't be happy until I realized my sin and cleansed myself of my sin. Do you see how opposed to grace this belief system is? "If Satan can cause you to feel that God doesn't accept you because of bad behavior, he can keep you [far away from God] for a longer time" (McVey). And this happened to me. I got Galatians 5:16 reversed. I thought I had to clean myself up before I could walk in the Spirit. So, I would stay focused on my sin...doing deep personal analyzation, trying to cleanse myself of my sin by staring it in the face. Only years later did I realize that I was "setting my mind on the flesh, which is death" (Romans 8:6). Freedom from sin does not happen by obsessively thinking and willing myself comes from choosing to believe I am accepted, forgiven, and righteous before God. He loves me, wants me, and pursues me. I can enjoy Him. I can walk in the Spirit and as I do, He will do His work in me. I do nothing. How awesome!

With God, my behavior does not determine my identity. He has already declared my identity is Jesus Christ. I will choose to believe that and as a result, live in victory. Or, I will choose to continue to believe I am just a sinner saved by grace and destined to struggle with sin the rest of my life. The only problem is, "God never intended for the Christian life to be a struggle" and yet we live most of our lives that way (McVey). It's no wonder most of us fizzle out or choose to run from God the moment we graduate from high school. We are exhausted from trying to please a God we feel like has us walking on pins and needles.

So what is the distance we feel? It is the natural reaction to living contrary to who we are supposed to be. We “think that [our] relationship with God is predicated on the fact that [we’re] not really all that bad, and then [we] wonder if [we] were ever really His. [We] don’t see the depth of the sin that Christ bore in [our] place and so [we] can’t comprehend the righteous fury He withstood for [us] nor the riches of the grace [we’ve] been given…Fully embrace your sinfulness for one simple reason: so that you can fully embrace this great exchange” (Fitzpatrick 71).

And that is the key. We have to embrace the fact that we are “incalculably sinful men and women who are loved immeasurably by an infinitely holy God” (Fitzpatrick 44). And this my friends, not the manipulative "lose fellowship with God" argument we so like to use, will propel people deeper and deeper in love with Jesus Christ and consequently cause life-change.