Once again, a Sunday morning message on sin. And this the first of an extensive series on the topic. I learned from my archery-enthusiast husband that the word “sin” means literally to “miss the mark.” Unfortunately, the church today is missing the mark in the gospel we’re preaching. We’re supposed to bring hope…joy…peace. We could really be doing a much better job.
Obviously, sin in a Christian’s life matters. A vast majority of the country and probably the world have heard that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. Yet most have no clue how that relates to our actual daily life in this world, and see it as the ticket to heaven upon death. Which, given the vision of heaven currently projected by the church, isn’t terribly enticing either.
No wonder there’s a crisis of hope in our world.
Good news though! The gospel that Jesus preached was not the forgiveness of sins. That’s a by-product for sure, or perhaps the entry point, and certainly should not be diminished. But there’s SO MUCH MORE! So can we talk about that for a bit?
Let’s start with this: what was the good news that Jesus himself actually preached? Read through the gospels, Mark in particular. Jesus is constantly talking about the kingdom of God being “at hand.” In other words, here, near, accessible to all...now.
“The kingdom of God is now available, and if you want to, you can come right on into it and live in it.” – Jesus, via Dallas Willard
Well now, that’s interesting! So what does that mean – and what does that produce?
The kingdom of God is not a matter of rules about food and drink, but is in the realm of the Holy Spirit, filled with righteousness, peace and joy. (Romans 14:17)
Life in the kingdom of God is about living well, now. Paul defines it – and he experienced it, too. Jesus himself said he came to bring us abundant life, (John 10:10) and he didn’t caveat that it wasn’t available until we die. It’s a life where we can be completely satisfied and sustained, regardless of the circumstance. I can tell you from experience, it’s available.
That’s pretty appealing, right? An abundant, freedom-filled life, filled with goodness, peace and joy? Not to mention love, and all the fruit manifested by the Holy Spirit. No fear, no worry, no striving. THIS is good news!
The invitation is to live daily in the kingdom of God, walking with Jesus, learning from him as our teacher in every aspect of life.
And what does that produce?
What happens when you intently study, watch, spend time with, and devote yourself to, another person?
You become more like him.
And that is the hope and freedom that we have.
The hope of Christianity is that we get to live life like Jesus. His beautiful goodness can be ours. ~ John Eldredge
Throughout the New Testament we are called to live a life of holiness. And freedom. It really can be ours. We are not destined to sin until we die or Jesus returns! We are not all just one poor choice away from royally screwing up.
True transformation IS possible.
For you have acquired new creation life which is continually being renewed into the likeness of the One who created you; giving you the full revelation of God... Colossians 3:10
Beloved ones, God has called you to live a life of freedom in the Holy Spirit…as you yield freely and fully to the dynamic life and power of the Holy Spirit, you will abandon the cravings of the self-life...Galatians 5:13 & 16
…And live in holiness, experience all that delights his heart, for this becomes your genuine expression of worship. Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes….Romans 12:1-2
“The notion that the salvation of Jesus is a salvation from the consequences of our sins is a false, mean, low notion. The salvation of Christ is salvation from the smallest tendency or leaning to sin. It is a deliverance into the pure air of God’s ways and thinking and feeling…” – George MacDonald
It all comes down to the heart. Actual transformation at the source. And it really can and should be significant.
So what does it look like?
It is NOT about behavior modification! It is about changing the sources of behavior, so the behavior takes care of itself….(then) the whole person simply steps into the way of Christ and lives there with joy and strength. It is not a struggle. – Dallas Willard, emphasis added
Willard sums it up well:
True Christ-likeness comes at the point when it’s hard not to respond as he would. To become a person who easily and routinely does what Jesus said.
And that can be ours! You can start by making Jesus your teacher in every aspect of your life. And be sure to check out the Golden Triangle of Transformation for some very tangible aspects.
For further study, read: Free to LIVE (John Eldredge), The Divine Conspiracy and/or Living in Christ’s Presence (both by Dallas Willard)
Here are many verses on the topic as well. This by no means is an inclusive list.
Jesus, in John 5:14 and 8:11 – go and from now on be free from a life of sin. Stop sinning!
John 8:36…So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free!
John 17:17-20.. “Your Word is truth! So make them holy by the truth. I have commissioned them to represent me just as you commissioned me to represent you. And now I dedicate myself to them as a holy sacrifice so that they will live as fully dedicated to God and be made holy by your truth.”
Romans 5:1…Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes…
Romans 6:22…But now, as God’s loving servants, you live in joyous freedom from the power of sin. So consider the benefits you now enjoy – you are brought deeper into the experience of true holiness that ends with eternal life!
Colossians 1:22…He released his supernatural peace to you through the sacrifice of his own body as the sin-payment on your behalf SO THAT you would dwell in his presence. And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless and restored.
Ephesians 4:23-24…now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as our new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness.
Hebrews 6:1….Now is the time for us to progress beyond the basic message of Christ and advance into perfection.
Hebrews 10:10…By God’s will we have been purified and made holy once and for all through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus, the Messiah.
2 Peter 1: 3-4…Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power…through the power of these tremendous promises you can experience partnership with the divine nature, by which you have escaped the corrupt desires that are of the world.
1 John 3:5…and you know without a doubt that Jesus was revealed to eradicate sins, and there is no sin him. Anyone who continues to live in union with him will not sin.