Daily Devotion | Day 352
“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you’” (John 5:14, NKJV).
Yesterday we listed some of the common responses people offer to explain why Christians continue to sin. From today we will look at what the Scriptures say about those responses. Because some of the issues overlap, they will be handled accordingly.
We will start by addressing one of the major reasons offered, which is: No one can stop sinning. When people say this, they do not imply that no one can stop any form of sin at all. Nor are they saying it is acceptable for Christians to sin. Rather, they mean it is not possible to cease from all sin in a definitive sense without committing sin again in one’s life. This is the position held by the vast majority of Christians. Hence, the logic is as follows: If it is not possible to cease from all sin in a definitive sense, then that explains why Christians continue to sin from time to time.
Before we go into the Bible, we need to point out some weaknesses in this line of reasoning. This position suggests that it is possible to stop some sins, but it is not possible to stop every other sin; or, it is possible to stop sinning for a time, but it is not possible to stop sinning for all time. But here is the problem. If I can stop fornication, what prevents me from stopping stealing? The power by which I am able to stop fornication, can that same power not help me stop stealing also? Or, if I can stop fornicating for one week, what prevents me from stopping it for one month, one year and possibly forever? What makes it possible to stop some sins but not others?
Another weakness in the logic is this: If it is impossible to stop all sins definitively, then why, for example, do people act surprised and get mad when their spouses have an affair? After all, complete stop to all sin is supposed to be impossible. Or, are we saying that some sins are ‘acceptable,’ but others are not? Why are people judged over something everyone knows is impossible to accomplish? And why does God judge people when He knows they cannot cease from sin? Some would reply, “That is where grace comes in.” Although it sounds pious, this response does not hold water. As the series continues, we will find out why.
Now let us look at our opening Scripture. Jesus had healed a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, stuck at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2-8). A short time later, Jesus found him in the temple. And He had this message for him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). “Sin no more” means to cease from sin altogether. Moreover, “Sin no more” is equivalent to: Do not sin again. Jesus did not tell the man to try his best. He did not tell him to put a stop to certain sins but not others. Nor did He expect him to stop sinning for only a season. Jesus left no room for ambiguity. His command was as precise as it could get.
In fact, Jesus even gave a timeline the man was to stop sinning. When He said, “Sin no more,” Jesus meant His command took effect that very moment. He meant, “From this moment forward, sin no more.” Whatever the man had done in the past, that was it; that chapter of sin was closed. From the moment Jesus gave the command, the man was not to sin again. Instead, he was to begin a new chapter, the “I sin no more” chapter.
The question is, did Jesus believe it was possible for the man to sin no more, to not sin again? Did He believe the man could do it? If our answer is, “No,” then we are admitting that Jesus was evil and unjust to issue a command which He knew was impossible to accomplish. If, however, our response is, “Yes, Jesus knew it was possible for the man to sin no more,” then where did we get the idea that it is not possible to cease from all sin definitively? Either Jesus is correct and we are wrong, or He is wrong and we are right. But we know Jesus is right. What He told this man, He said the same thing to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11).
Throughout the Scriptures, one will find that “sin no more” (even when those exact words are not used) is God’s standard for His people, and there are examples of people who lived up to the “sin no more” standard. Could it be that we have changed God’s standard and replaced it with, “Try your best to avoid sin. But in this world, no one can completely stop sinning . . .?
To be continued tomorrow, if the Lord wills. Until then, dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Amen.
For further study: Isaiah 1:1-20