Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 6)

Daily Devotion | Day 356

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NKJV).

Today’s opening Scripture is a crucial passage in the current discussion. It tells us that we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. The “weaknesses” in this passage is not referring to sins. Rather, it refers to the limitations of the human flesh by which we all are subject to temptations and trials. The Bible is saying that Jesus can sympathize with these limitations (weaknesses). He knows how it feels to live in this world and deal with all manner of temptations: temptations at home, at the work place, at school, in your own mind, and so forth. That is why the Bible says Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are.” He can sympathize with us because He lived like us and faced the same struggles we face.

Next, the Bible adds an important phrase. It says, Jesus was tempted like us, yet without sin. Jesus faced the same struggles and lived within the same limitations of our earthly life, but He did not succumb to temptation; He overcame every temptation and did not sin. At this juncture, we must ask: Did Jesus do what He did just prove that He alone can overcome all temptation and be without sin? Or, Jesus did what He did to show us that following His footsteps, we too can overcome all temptation and be without sin just as He was? Which of these two lessons is the Letter to the Hebrews trying to convey to us? Most Christians were brought up to believe the lesson in the passage is that Jesus alone did (and can) overcome all temptation and be without sin, but not us. For Roman Catholics, the only exception is Mary; no one else can live without sin.

But as will soon become clear, the reason the Letter to the Hebrews brought up Jesus’ victory over temptation was to inspire us that we too can be tempted and yet not give in to sin. We can be as victorious over temptation as Jesus was. That this victory is possible is supported by the following statement by Paul, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The way of escape exists for every temptation. This means victory over every temptation is possible, which further shows that it is possible to live without sin.

This grace (the grace to prevail over every temptation and be without sin) is available to all of us, not just Jesus or Mary. Jesus showed us how it is done. It is up to us to follow His footsteps through obedience, taking advantage of the spiritual weapons of grace at our disposal. This is what the Bible means when it says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Many interpret this as follows: “Jesus knows we will fall into sin from time to time. Therefore, if you sin, just go to Him boldly to find mercy and grace.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The passage is stating the opposite, which is: Jesus was like us; He faced every possible temptation, yet did not sin. We can, and must, be like Him. Therefore, in a time of need (when we are tempted), we must not succumb. Instead, we must come boldly to the throne of grace. There we will find grace and mercy to prevail over the temptation, just as Jesus prevailed.

The author of Hebrews is telling us what we need to do to stand firm and not fall into sin. He is not talking about what we need to do after we have sinned. He has but a single goal: to teach Christians how to persevere in righteousness without giving in to temptation. His goal is not to teach us how to recover each time we fall into sin. He wants Christians to learn how to be like their sinless Lord. This would show to the world that in the Cross of Jesus there is victory over every temptation and over every sin. If Christians continue to sin, the world will find Christianity unattractive and unconvincing. 

To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, know that the grace for decisive victory over all sin is available to you. Let no one tell you otherwise. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 10:1-39

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 5)

Daily Devotion | Day 355

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NKJV).

At the beginning of this series (in Part 1) we listed some of the common factors (reasons) which explain why Christians continue to sin. So far, we have discussed two of those reasons. Today will talk about a third factor, which is: a majority of Christians believes that only Jesus could live a sinless life; no other person can live that way. One of the main Bible passages quoted in support of this belief is what we have in our opening Scripture (Hebrews 4:15-16). People who hold to this belief feel it preserves Jesus’ uniqueness. Being sinless is the exclusive attribute of God and of Jesus. To suggest that someone else is (or can be) sinless would, in their view, amount to blasphemy and heresy. I must admit, for years I used to believe this until the Lord led me to examine the Scriptures more attentively.

In this discussion, we are not interested in whether people have ever sinned or not. What we are discussing is: Is Jesus the only person who can live a sinless life or we, His followers, can (and must) live the way He did? And if it is impossible for us to live the way Jesus did, then what is the alternative life God wants us to live? Finally, if it is true that only Jesus can live a sinless life, then no one can blame us if we continue to sin. What does the Bible say about these things?

Before we examine Hebrews 4:15-16, let us briefly consider what is wrong with the picture which portrays Jesus as the only person who can live sinless. Holiness is the attribute of God. Yet God said to the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). Peter applied this passage to Christians when he said, “But as He who called you is holyyou also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15; 16). All would agree that when God says, “Be holy, for I am holy,” it means He wants His people to be just as He is. It further means God has given His people the ability to be holy as He is. In the Old Testament, the word “holy” is a broad concept which can be applied to people, ceremonies, rituals, places and even objects used in worship. That said, the command to be holy primarily deals with how God’s people must conduct themselves, just as Peter indicates in the letter he addressed to Christians.

The command to be holy deals with issues of obeying God, i.e. issues related to not sinning against Him. The point is, God is without blemish and He wants His children to be just like their Father. Sin is the one thing which can put a blemish on us. Therefore, when God said, “Be holy,” He could also have said: “Be blameless;” “Be spotless;” or “Be sinless.” When Jesus said, “Sin no more,” (John 5:14; 8:11), He meant “Be sinless.” The two statements are equivalent. If we tell our bank that we want no more paper-based bank statements, we mean we are going paperless. “No more paper” and “Paperless” mean the same thing.  Similarly, “Sin no more” and “Be sinless” imply the same thing. Jesus, as far as we know, has not adjusted the standards. He expects nothing less from us.

Throughout the Bible, God says the same thing in different ways. For example, He told Abraham, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). The way to be blameless in God’s sight is to obey Him and be without sin. That is how Jesus lived, and that is exactly how He wants us to live. The alternative is to continue sinning from time to time and hope (in vain) that somehow God will look the other way because of the Cross. The reality is, the Cross does not excuse us from living a sinless life. On the contrary, it is the Cross which gives us a reason to live without sin.

If the Lord permits, we will continue tomorrow by looking at Hebrews 4:15-16. Until then, enjoy the blessings of holiness. Amen.

For further studyEphesians 5:1-27 and Psalm 1:1-5

Why Do Christians Continue to Sin? (Pt 4)

Daily Devotion | Day 354

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’” (1 Peter 2:21-22, NKJV).

Today’s presentation will pick up the point we were making yesterday, that two things happen at the Cross: the reception of forgiveness and the cessation of sin. We noted that when Christians speak of grace or the Cross, they tend to focus almost exclusively on the forgiveness of sins and neglect the part about cessation of sin in the believer’s conduct. We had much to say but we did not talk about the opening Bible passage. Thankfully, another day is here, so let us go into the text and find out what the Lord is saying to us.

Peter was addressing the conduct of slaves with respect to their masters. He encouraged them to persevere in doing good even when they suffer, looking to Christ as their example. We know that Jesus is an example for all Christians, so what Peter said to slaves applies to all believers. This is part of what Peter said, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Peter is talking about the Christ who suffered and died for us. Christ endured all manner of suffering and temptation even till His last breath on the Cross. According to Peter, Jesus did this to leave us an example, that we should follow His steps. Which steps?

In the next two verses (22-23), Peter names the specific steps Jesus left for us to follow. The first step Peter talks about is this: “Who [Jesus] committed no sin” (v. 22). Note carefully what Peter is saying. Jesus took the steps of not committing sin. And He wants believers to do likewise. Jesus, therefore, expects Christians to follow His steps and no other steps. The steps He wants us to follow are the steps of not committing sin. It means enduring temptation and suffering to the very end (without sinning) just like Jesus did. Jesus came in the flesh, among other things, to show us that it is possible to live in this world as a normal human being, face diverse trials and still not commit sin. If we could dramatize this, Jesus’ conversation with a believer might sound like this:

 “Dear [NAME]. The devil is a liar. He wants you to believe you can’t live sin free. I know what it means to be tempted. From My infancy I faced every possible trial, but I didn’t sin. I wanted to show you that you can do what I did. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t. Just listen to Me and you’ll be fine. Do you see My footprints? Good. From this point on you’re not going to sin again. Do you believe Me? Good. Here’s what I want you to do. Put your foot wherever you see My footprint. Nice. You’re doing well.”

“Keep going. I’m with you all the way, so even when you don’t see Me, don’t think I’ve left you. No, not here; there. There you go. Do you see the trail that is coming up? Good. I want you to follow that path; it is the path of righteousness. You’ll hear voices telling you to turn left. Don’t listen. Just step where you see My footprint. Now this part is going to hurt, but don’t worry; My grace is sufficient for you. You’re doing great so far. We’re close to the finish line. Keep your eyes on Me. Everyone in heaven is cheering for you. A few more steps to go. One step . . . and the last step. Awesome! See, I told you, you could do it. Welcome home, faithful servant. The Father can’t wait to greet you.”

To be continued tomorrow, God willing. Until then, keep running the race of faith. Don’t quit. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 4:1-16; 12:1-13

Love Drove Jesus to the Cross

Daily Devotional: Day 98

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8, NKJV).

Take a careful look at today’s Scripture reading. What you see is a succinct description of God’s love for you. The Bible says that even in normal life, it is rare for one to die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man, someone might consider dying for him.

The Bible is clear that Jesus died for a class of people called ‘sinners.’ Bear in mind that Jesus was sinless and spotless. He overcame every temptation and fulfilled God’s Law to the fullest. But, why would a sinless, innocent Man die for a sinner? After all, it is only fair that sinners should pay for their own sins. Well, the answer to that question is found in the famous four-letter word: love.

 The Bible says, God shows His love for us, in that while we were still sinners – not while we were good people – Christ died for us. If Christ had died for good people, you might say that His death makes sense. But what is the sense in the Innocent Son of God dying for sinners, most of whom are wicked and ungrateful? Why? Why would this Man die for people who didn’t deserve His love? Again, the answer is: God so loved us that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (cf. John 3:16).

Jesus’ love for you drove Him to death. Jesus went to the Cross and shed His blood, because He believed, and still believes, that you are worth saving. See how He loves you. My question for you today is: Is this Man worth your love, your time, your devotion and your worship? I hope you said a big “Yes!!!”

Prayer:

My Father in heaven, your love for me is beyond my imagination. I know that it was this love that drove you to send your Innocent Son to die for me. Lord, I can’t thank you enough. Accept the humble sacrifice of my lifelong devotion to you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. 

For further study: John 10:1-30