Willful sin is a believer's worst nightmare. This is because willful sin violates God's law of love and separates us from Him. (1 John 3:4). In Isaiah 59:2, God states, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you". I'm not talking about sins we may commit in ignorance. I speak of sins we commit when we know better. In James 4:17, we are told, "To him that knows to do good, but do it not, to him it is sin." Whether your sin of choice is lying for a friend, fornication, greed, or pornography, or a heart sin, such as lust, covetousness, or jealously, it is important to know that all willful sin causes separation, and is painful to us, to others and God.
The greatest evidence of this excruciating pain is seen on Calvary, as we witness the separation between our heavenly Father and His only begotten Son. We also see it when marriages crumble, or when death snatches loved ones away. Let no one be deceived. Willful sin is the root cause of all our suffering. In layman's terms, it is nothing short of rebellion and keeps us from experiencing freedom from shame, guilt, and fear.
Thankfully, the death of Christ brought grace to the human family. This grace is a gift from God to help counteract our selfishness, the faulty equipment we inherited from birth. But I must be clear; grace is not only unmerited favor--it is power imparted to sincere followers of Jesus, enabling them to live a life of faith and benevolence. As it is written, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). And in 2 Corinthians 12:9, Christ clarifies exactly what this strength is when He says, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Let it be clear. Grace is simply the strength to obey.
When writing to the church of Ephesus, the apostle Paul informed the believers that they were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Of course, this is still true today. Weak sinners are saved when they accept the free gift of grace by faith. But saved from what you might ask?
First, they are saved from the penalty of their sins. According to the Bible, the penalty for sin is death, eternal death (Romans 6:23). But that's not all. They are also saved and rescued from the power of sin itself. Let me explain this a bit. An apple tree can only produce apples. Why? Because it's an apple tree. The same goes for any variety of fruit. The type of tree determines the type of fruit it produces. In Jesus' first sermon, He uses this same analogy to illustrate the difference between sin and sins. In Matthew 7:17, 18, He says, "Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Jesus is not simply teaching gardening skills here. He is making a comparison that illustrates our greatest need. We each need a heart transplant. Why? Because the corrupt heart we are born with can only produce corrupt fruit, a.k.a. sins. When we commit a wrong act, most people focus on the sin itself. But we are starting in the wrong place. In Matthew 15:19, Jesus explains where all these corrupt sins originate: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, etc...." The heart is the real problem.
This is the difference between sin and sins. Sins are wrong acts, which are forgivable (1 John 1:9). But sin is not. Sin is the sinful, selfish nature that God cannot excuse. It is the root cause of all our problems. And that sinful nature must die, and it must die daily. Praise God that Jesus came to forgive us. But praise Him more that He came to deliver us! The angel Gabriel gave Joseph this instruction when he found out she was pregnant: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthews 1:21). Friends, JESUS saves us from our sins by delivering us from the power of our sinful nature!
This is why Jesus is likened to the Great Physician. He is the only One that can perform the much-needed heart transplant! And He offers to do it in Ezekiel 36:26: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." What a promise! Jesus offers to take away the corrupt heart, the corrupt tree, and replace it with a new heart, a new tree that produces good fruit!
This is the only way we can ever stop committing willful sins. When we are willing to give up the reigns to our lives, the strength of God's imparted grace completely counteracts the power of the fallen sinful nature. Paul devoted much of the book of Romans to making this point clear. Here are three verses among many that stand out. In Romans 6:6, 7, we read, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." In Romans 6:11, we read, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." In Romans 6:14, we read, "For sin shall not have dominion (rule) of you: for ye are not under the law but under grace."
These verses make it clear that born-again Christians should cease to commit willful sins. Why? Because the new heart, given to them by Jesus through His imparted grace, empowers them to live a life of faith and benevolence. Weak sinners are made strong. Strength is given to resist temptations. And God is glorified as they become His living epistles, testifying to the life-transforming ability of Christ revealed in their own lives.
Today, this is your calling. God is searching the globe, the highways, and byways, looking for anyone who will believe the gospel. God wants someone to be His witness. Because when the gospel of the kingdom has been preached to all the world, for a witness, then the end will come.
Praying for you--Pastor DL