I continue to be plagued with the idea of sin lately…what happens when a Christian sins and how is this viewed in our churches today? The common zeitgeist (or fad) of the day seems so loose to me…our current cultural trend is that sin is ok, not that we should do it, but since Christ’s death paid the penalty for it, and those who have put their trust in him, have nothing to fear. Sin and its result, death, have been removed through the cross, so when we sin now no big deal…I often reflect upon Paul’s words, saying (paraphrasing) “should we go on sinning that grace may abound, by no means!” Ok, so its not ok to sin, we get it, but what happens to a believer when they do?
I often have heard it said that we lose fellowship with God, I get that, it makes sense. So, we sin, we confess and then all is well…at least until we do it again. This brings me to my next struggle, have we truly repented from our sin if we go on sinning? Taking the common translated view of many of our churches, repentance means to turn away. If this is the case and greek translation of the word, then if we turn back and sin again, did we actually repent? Or did we just confess with words, but not with our heart? Again, this plagues my mind and confuses things. Again, if sin has been paid for, and we as believers are sinning, what might we be missing by broken fellowship?
First of all defining sin is necessary, typically in hebrew its the idea of missing the mark, like an arrow missing its target. Ok, so there are expectations of us, right? I would doubt many would disagree with that statement, so why the continual disobedience?….if we are missing the mark (sinning), then we are missing out on something, right? I often reflect back on the Old Testament and the oh so numerous stories of Israel failing (missing the mark), and every-time, though they are the children of God , they get carried away into exile, missing out on their promised land. Though there is a lot of eschatology involved in the promised land, for my current discussion, this will have to be left out at least for now.
The Promised Land is…well….a promise! It is what Israel’s God said he would bring them to, an awesome land with abundance, much like the abundant life we are to get from Christ (Now I am not referring to some prosperity doctrine). But time and time again, we see Israel missing the mark and therefore missing the promises…seems like though death was not their immediate consequence, something else was -exile. A broken fellowship with God, where he was no longer their God and they were no longer his people (just read Hosea). So what happens? Some repent, but exile is not immediately removed. In fact reading through the prophets, they move from exile time and time again. From Bablyon, Persia, Greece, to Rome (Jesus Day), its just one exile after the other. Read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others, and you see the context. God’s people in a setting that does not look like they are forgiven. Though in each of these books there is always a remnant (true believers and followers of Yahweh inside Israel itself), but they are there too. What is happening here? They repent or are continually told to repent so that God will once again restore Israel as it should be…but nothing seems to happen.
Even with the incarnation of Jesus, and ultimately his death, they are still in exile (there is a whole lot of discussion in that statement, but for another time), and all this time its due to their sin and lack of repentance, albeit again the remnant also remains in this dislocated existence. Now from here we enter the time of the Apostles…
What do we see and find in the days after Christs resurrection and asccension? Well, strangely, a new people of God, with both Jew and Gentile, trying to live pleasing lives, but yet again missing the mark. A whole new set of sins arise and again we have the people of God not living as the people of God should. They of course are not brought into exile (already there, under Rome), albeit something must take place. Before I move on, I do not suppose our current setting here (At least in America), is anything like the seconod temple history where Christians would eventually die for their beliefs , however I do see application in our context.
Continuing on this brings us to all types of Pauline epistles and gospels to try to unravel and define sin, which ultimately transcends into our current setting and the audacity of Christians to go on living any way they please. Has God changed? The scriptures would tell us no, God is the same. So does he hate sin? Yep. Does he have consequences for sin,? Yep, death (pneuma or spiritual, or at least that is what our churches say); of course unless your a believer. Then, well just broken fellowship with God, which ultimately is a lot more serious then our churches allude to. Broken relationship does not emphasize well enough what happens, we are going to miss out on God’s promises to give us life and life to the fullest. Sin entraps and destroys everything that is good, it ruins relationships, destroys families, and will and can enslave you. This is Pauline language, sin that so easily traps; so that you no longer have freedom to choose or not to choose to sin, but sin reigns over you. Returning to what was stated above though, sin has consequence. Though physically we might not see our consequence, we will however, find our consequence in the future. Should we be scared not to sin, well, yes and no. God’s grace is sufficient to cover your sin, but ultimately he knows our hearts…we might be confessing to him, but actually not repenting, for we keep returning to our sin, like a dog to its vomit. True confession is running the other way, not keeping it near by.
This brings us to a problem though, has God paid for all your sin on the cross? Well ,ephatically yes! Then how can he break fellowship with us if as scripture says he remembers our sin no more. Can we then truly break fellowship with him? In view of the Eschaton ( or end times, judgement seat, etc.) our sins have been paid for, but we are ultimately living in time from Christ’s ressurection to his return, or in other words, this age and the age to come. Though in part the age to come has already taken place (through Christ’s death and resurrrection), it ultimately has not arrived (Christ’s second coming), and therefore we are still seen by God as living in the age. And therefore obedience is still expected, for we are to be pure before God and in doing so a light unto the world, the example left for us through Christ (read John 1).
This returns my journey back to the beginning, are our churches and our understanding of sin too easily detatched from its real consequences? I believe so…the writing here is only a beginning, I have not had enough time to study this thouroughly and I know I am missing intricate parts to this disussion, but the quest for this truth -that is sin and its consequence to a new testament believer have begun.