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by Jacob Ninan
"Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God" (1Jn.3:21). On the one hand, it is clear that if we feel condemned in our hearts, we do not have confidence or boldness to go before God's presence. It is one of the usual tactics of the enemy of our souls to accuse us day and night (Re.12:10), and to take away our confidence before God. And, if we lack this boldness, we cannot enter His presence and seek grace to overcome. This in turn leads to long periods of discouragement and further sins too. Unfortunately, Satan's tactics succeed with many believers, and they are kept in bondage. This affects every part of their lives, and it not only hinders their own growth but also limits their usefulness in God's army. Therefore it is of utmost importance that we learn quickly how to overcome condemnation and to go on further in the battle.
We can feel condemned if, (1) we have sinned or (2) if we think we have sinned even though we have not. Let us look at the second case first.
This happens when we are not able to distinguish clearly between temptation and sinning. Many sincere people are kept in perpetual bondage because they feel that they have already been defiled, just because they have been tempted with evil. (Incidentally, this is one reason why many people draw back from looking squarely at the way Jesus was tempted in all points as we are. They think that the implication is that He would have become sinful if He was tempted. But note the conclusion of He.4:15 - "yet without sinning" -Amplified Bible). But we can read in Jas.1:14-16, "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren" (RSV).
It is through the lusts and desires in our flesh that we are tempted to sin. But it is only when we give in to those lusts in our mind that sin is conceived. Jesus did not yield to temptation even once. The good news is that by the grace of God we too can overcome the temptations and not give in to the lusts. God has not promised that there will not be any more temptations. But He has promised that sin shall not have power over us, when we are under His grace (Ro.6:14). So we can see clearly that just because we have been tempted (even with the most horrible temptation), there is no need to feel condemned.
Suppose we have sinned. What then? We have an advocate with the Father, who has already paid the penalty for our sins (1Jn.2:1,2). Therefore if we confess our sins, He will forgive our sins (1Jn.1:9). God promises us that He will be merciful to us (and forgive us) and will not hold our sins against us any more (He.8:12). God can be relied upon to be always faithful to His word, and therefore we can be sure that the moment we have repented of our sin and confessed it to God and to men (where necessary), we are forgiven completely. It is also written in God's word, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Ps.32:1). Of course, it would have been more blessed not to have sinned at all. But if we have sinned and been forgiven, let us not allow the devil to rob us of the blessedness of forgiveness and thus to lead us into condemnation.
God's mercy is of the kind which endures forever (in the presence of all kinds of unfaithfulness on man's part). One has only to read through the history of Israel in the Old Testament to see how God kept on extending His mercy to them, in spite of their repeated failures and infidelities. He was willing to forgive all their backsliding (Ho.14:1-7), if only they would repent and turn back to Him. He knows how frail we are, and is willing to help us all the more if only we would fear Him and turn away from sin (Ps.103:13,14). If God loved us and chose us to be His children when we were His enemies, does He now love us less, now that we are His children? (Ro.5:8-10).
But of course, God's mercy is only guaranteed to those who fear Him (Ps.103:11,13). If we fear Him, we repent and turn away from sin (Job 28:28). It is only those who mourn who will be comforted (Mt.5:4). Far be it from us to take the blood of Jesus lightly, to go on sinning and take His forgiveness for granted. This is a real possibility, and a large number of believers are deceived on this point. For such, the warnings are very serious (Read carefully He.10: 26-31;12:16,17;6:4-8;Pr.29:1). But if we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us (because He sees that our hearts desire not to sin, even though we may have been overcome by sin). With a God like this, we can have confidence.
When we try to walk in the overcoming way, we find that even though we intend not to sin but to do good, what comes forth involuntarily from our body is many times sinful. Here again it is possible for us to feel condemned. God can reveal to us, as He did for Paul, the law of sin in our members (Ro.7:23). But as long as we do not agree in our mind with these 'deeds of the body' we know that we are not, in fact, held responsible for them (v.20). Therefore as long as we are always choosing the law of God with our mind, we have no condemnation, even though our flesh is serving the law of sin (7.25-8:1). But we can bring these deeds of the body to death, by the help of the Spirit and live (8:13).
Even though we can be free from condemnation, it is yet vital for us to remember that we do suffer tremendous loss every time we sin (that is every time we give in to the lusts of our flesh). This is in spite of the fact that God's forgiveness is complete. "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption" (Ga.6:7,8). This is an unchangeable law of God. In this way, it is not 'just-as-if-I'd' never sinned.
The more we have sinned in the past, the more difficult we find it to overcome sin. The more we sin now, the harder our hearts become, and the more difficult it becomes to hear God, so that we would need more grace in future to overcome (He.3:8,12,13). We also lose for eternity that degree of glory that we could have obtained, if we had overcome the temptation (Jas.1:12). We also come into the chastening of God, and no chastening is enjoyable (He.12: 6,11). But let us sow to the Spirit, and in due time we shall reap eternal glory (Ga.6:8,9).
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