The Good News of Jesus is a beautiful thing. We may never fully understand why a perfect, Holy, Righteous God chooses to clothe us in the righteousness of Jesus and give us the promise of salvation and eternal life. This is a beautiful hope and I look forward to that day when sin and death will be vanquished for all eternity.
Until that day though, we as believers must battle with our dual nature: The flesh fighting against the Spirit. As we are being transformed into the image of Christ, I believe there is often a failure to teach young believers (both youth and new adult believers) how to respond in light of their own sin compared to the greatness and holiness of God. Until that great day when Jesus returns in glory, we are going to fight the battle against the flesh. John Piper says,
“What makes a person a Christian is not that he doesn’t get discouraged, and it’s not that he doesn’t sin and feel miserable about it. What makes a person a Christian is the connection that he has with Jesus Christ that shapes how he thinks and feels about his discouragement and his sin and guilt.”
Perhaps we—as parents, disciple-makers, and church growers—are not teaching people what it means to be this type of Christian. We feel the weight of the rules and expectations placed on us, only to be crushed when we fail. Any Christian you talk to will say, “I know I’m not perfect.” But are we teaching people how to respond to their failure? And I’m not talking about their “Before Christ” failures. And I’m not just talking about the huge, “what were you thinking” acts that come after someone has chosen to follow Jesus (Sexual immorality, drug use, addictions, abuse, etc.). This also applies to those hidden sins that we often like to overlook: Deceit, Gossip, Lust, Profanity/Unwholesome Talk, Abuse, Hatred…
Let’s be real and admit it. These acts (and more) are happening in our congregation, Connect Groups, Student Ministry, and Children’s Church. We certainly condemn these acts (as we should), but are we rescuing? Are we modeling restoration? Are we teaching people the proper response to sin in light of God’s Holiness?
In my experience, the standard operating procedure of most churches is to hide sin. The “best” Christians are the people who hide their sins most effectively. Fortunately for our sanctification, the proper response to sin and separation from a Holy God is found in Psalm 51.
Turn and read Psalm 51:1-12
David’s psalm was written as he confronts his lust and rape of Bathsheba followed by the deception and murder of her husband. Those are heinous crimes! How could a “man after God’s own heart” do such things? Well, this man after God’s own heart is just that: “a man”. Sinful from the moment he was conceived (vs. 5).
Despite that, David responds to his sin in the way we must train others and ourselves to respond. Not by hiding it. Not by blasting people and their emotions to smithereens. John Piper summarizes this response well. We should:
Turn to God (v. 1)
Pray for cleansing (v. 2)
Confess the seriousness of the sin (vs. 3-6)
Plead for renewal (vs. 7-12)
God has promised that He will respond. When we plead for renewal with a right heart, renewal comes. What is even more amazing is the aftershock that comes when our Holy God responds to a broken and contrite heart (vs. 13-15):
I will teach transgressors your ways
Sinners will return to you
My tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness
My mouth will declare your praise
From the ashes of our broken state comes praise, honor, and glory to God, and evangelism of those who have gone astray. Oh! If we would respond to our sin the way David responded…