The Burden of Past Sins can Haunt our Memory
In my work with Global Media Outreach I get many letters from Christians who are deeply troubled by their memories of past sins. They can feel so troubled they question whether God could even love them or forgive them because of what they have done.
They even question their salvation; how could someone who is really saved have sinned so badly? This is further complicated by the fact that although they regret those sins they continue to fail and sin again; how could God love such a sinner, they wonder?
All of us can be burdened with this problem if we let our feelings take control of our minds. As Christians we are cautioned to proceed on the basis of our knowledge of Bible doctrine, not our feelings!
Much of this can come from a misconception of the sin problem; we have a painful awareness of our own personal failings and our inability to consciously and consistently live a holy life. We seem to think that God’s approval is reserved for those who live exemplary lives essentially free of the pathetic sins that seem to plague us.
Some may even try to measure their “goodness” with the perceived “goodness” of others and might, as in the case of the Pharisees, find themselves to be worthy of God’s approval.
The basic problem with all of this is a serious misunderstanding of the sin barrier between God and man. Is our personal sin the culprit in our alienation from God or is our personal sin only a symptom of a deeper problem?
The Bible goes to some lengths to explain the true nature of our problem; the problem started before the law was even given. Without the law, without a moral standard, can there even be a sinful transgression?
The Source of the Problem
The Bible makes it clear that the penalty of sin is death but if that’s the case why did people die before the law was given? How can something be wrong if there is no standard against which to measure an action?
The Apostle Paul explains this in Romans 5:12-14 when he writes:
“12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.”
Is Paul saying that all people were charged with sin because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden? Yes, that is exactly what Paul is saying; the underlying sin problem between God and man is Adam’s sin, not personal sin!
Just as a fever does not cause the flu, but is only a symptom of the presence of the flu virus; personal sin does not cause our alienation from God but is only a symptom of the real cause, our spiritual death in Adam.
The Cross Changes That Too!
When Christ uttered the words, “It is finished!” things changed forever. Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for all of the sins of the entire world past, present, and future! The impact of 1 John 2:1-2 is far reaching:
“2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
That is an enormous revelation, this means the penalty for all personal sin was paid at the cross. Personal sin is no longer the issue; the only issue remaining is receiving the forgiveness offered by Christ’s death on the cross.
All of this worrying over more or less personal sin is nothing more than a waste of time as far as the Christian’s place in God’s family is concerned; they were all washed away by the shed blood of Christ.
For reasons known only to God, it pleased God to save the soul and the spirit but not the body. The born again Christian still inhabits a mortal body with a sin nature; a body which can have no part in heaven and must be either discarded or transformed at the rapture.
Quenching the Power of the Holy Spirit
When Christians receive Christ as personal Savior they are spiritually baptised into the church, the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Additionally the Holy Spirit indwells each Christian and will never, ever, leave them. We are told in Romans 8:9-11:
“9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
While the Holy Spirit will never leave the Christian the power of the Holy Spirit can be quenched by unconfessed sin in the believer’s life leaving the sin nature in control. In 1 John 1:9 we are told of confession of sin; confession of sin restores the power of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life and permits a Spirit led life.
The Challenges of Battle
I have written extensively on the spiritual war in which all Christians are engaged (To the Soldiers in the Spiritual War) so I will only mention it briefly here. In this context I only want to point out how the Christian’s success as a soldier of the Lord, as well as their general quality of life, will depend on keeping the Holy Spirit empowered in their lives.
Overcoming the evil forces of this world and our own sin nature requires a fully functioning and fully operational Spirit of God at work in the Christian’s life.
25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:25 NLT
About one year ago I published the above essay. For the same reasons I published it the first time I felt compelled to publish it again.