A Proper Reaction To Personal Sin
By Dave Butts
Christians around the world are longing for and praying for revival. Most of us understand, at some level, that our own sin indicates the need for revival, but that it may also be blocking the coming of revival. Looking to past revivals for guidance, it seems that without repentance, there may be no expectation of revival. Therefore, it becomes imperative that we learn how to deal with our own sin.
Dealing with personal sin is something that should be taught at a very early stage in our Christian life. It is a reality that we must learn to wrestle with. The Apostle John tells us that, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 John 1:8). How do Christians deal with personal sin in an intentional way so that we are not deceived? There appear to be two extremes that many believers struggle with. One that seems to be prevalent in the Church today is to ignore sin, or to distort its seriousness. We lose sight of the call to holiness and what it means to follow Jesus. The other extreme is to be afraid that every time you sin you’ve lost your salvation. There are those who live in such a state of fear that they can hardly function as Christians.
The biblical way to deal with personal sin is perhaps best found in Psalm 51. This Psalm is prayed and written right after David has been exposed as an adulterer and murderer. We can learn from David the proper reaction to personal sin.
First, there must be an acknowlegement of sin. Until we accept the fact that there is sin in our lives, there can be no confession, forgiveness, or restoration. Confession is basically agreeing with God that what we have done is sin. In Psalm 51:4, David makes the important step of realizing that sin is an affront to God Himself: "Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight." In understanding this fact, sorrow for sin becomes real and leads to further steps.
As David begins to understand the sinfulness of his sin, he expresses his desire for cleansing and forgiveness. In his eagerness to receive forgiveness he uses a variety of terms: "have mercy," "blot out," "wash away," "cleanse." It all comes down to asking God for forgiveness. The promise of Scripture is that God will forgive. It is important for Christians to memorize and believe with all their hearts the truth of 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
True repentance never stays merely at the stage of confessing sin and desiring forgiveness. It moves us beyond that to a desire for a pure heart. There comes a longing to stay out of sin…to walk in victory. It is crying out, "O God, don’t let me do this again!" David prayed it this way: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). In asking for a new heart, we realize the need for sanctification, the power not to sin.
In our Christian walk, we will sin. But our desires, because of Christ, have changed. In fact, we have come to hate sin, especially in us. Our desire is now for purity and holiness. If that desire is not in you, you’ve never fully dealt with sin in your life. All too many Christians short-circuit the process of repentance and stop before they get to this point. If you are actively engaged in sin, please ask the Lord for the strength to confess it, repent of it, and renounce it once and for all!
What happens in us after we have gone through this process of confession and repentance? David’s response to forgiveness was to experience a restoration of joy and praise. "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (Psalm 51:12). "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise" (Psalm 51:15). God’s people are a worshipping people. They are a forgiven people who have something to shout about, and who have a reason for joy. Peter writes, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). Praise is what forgiven people do!
David even goes beyond worship in his response to the forgiveness of God. He did not keep what God had done bottled up inside him. He had been forgiven and he wanted the world to know it. He declared: "Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will turn back to You" (Psalm 51:13). If we are going to be effective in sharing the Gospel, it’s going to be because we really believe that God has done something tremendous in our lives and we want that to happen in other lives too.
How do you deal with sin in your life? God has provided the answer to your sins in the person of Jesus. He doesn’t want a single one of us to walk around burdened by sin. Perhaps right now is the time to bring your sins to the only One who can deal with them. Church attendance won’t cleanse you from sin. Ministry and acts of service won’t take care of your sin. Only Jesus can do that. God is calling the Church to repentance! Turn from sin! Agree with God about the sinfulness of your sin. Ask for forgiveness. Trust in the cleansing blood of Jesus to provide not only forgiveness, but also the power to avoid sin in the future. Begin today to sing the praises of the One who has washed you and made you clean forever.
"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord" (Acts 3:19).