In repentance, we define sin as a failure. This is a change of mind and heart (a ‘metanoia’ as repentance is in Greek) because before our repentance we would not have acknowledged our sins as failures before God. The same thoughts and activities would have been a normal part of our day and would not have bothered us.
Let us now take an instance of such failure, such as getting annoyed and saying a filthy word, because something bad has happened and before we could control ourselves out came the word. An unrepentant person will regard that as perfectly justifiable although in order to show breeding if they are in company they may show some embarrassment at it, or try not to do it, but if they were alone an unrepentant person wouldn’t give it a second thought.
A penitent person, a believer, even if he was alone and nobody heard his cuss word, will know that in that moment he failed.
There are now two opposite and equally wrong things the believer can then do with this failure.
The first is to bagatellize it and not earnestly strive to do better the next time, to make out that it was no sin and nothing to be upset about. This is a wrong approach and to use grace to justify poor discipleship is decried in scripture. However, there are those who think they have no sin any more as Christians precisely because they have unfortunately taught themselves to ignore these slip-ups, and forget that a mere cuss-word like that would be enough to damn someone for eternity even if they had no other sin, even if they only thought it and managed not even to say it, but it was there in their heads, tarnishing their holiness.
The second error is to get into such despair over the failure to be perfect when God has said “be ye perfect, as I am perfect” that they begin to doubt their salvation over it. They need to remember that Jesus warned the believers that the flesh is weak and that Paul warned us that we could not do as well as we wanted to. The flesh, or the world, or the devil may have provoked the sin of the cuss word, but it is mainly the whisperings of the devil in our ears that because we did that sin, and are not as good as we should be, that we are not God’s own and might as well give up.
Between these opposites is the correct attitude of acknowledging the sin and admitting it was a sin to God, asking for His forgiveness, knowing that it is given that very instant as promised, expressing gratitude to God for the forgiveness Jesus earned and granted for us, and getting back on the programme with more care to avoid that sin in the future, as we know that God wants better for us and from us than that.
- Christ Became Sin? Uh, what? – The power of pastoral comments (hackingchristianity.net)
- The Office of the Law (priscillanoble.wordpress.com)
- Indian River Baptist Church Mid-week Study, July 13, 2011: 1 Corinthians 5 (thelightheartedcalvinist.com)
- What Happens If I Sin? (truthbehindreality.wordpress.com)
- Hebrews 9 (biblestudy123.wordpress.com)