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Forgiveness: Past, Present, and Future
If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would admit it is sin that keeps us from experiencing the Higher Christian Life. And it’s not our horrible, gross, never-talk-about, sin that grieves His Spirit the most. It’s the sin we commit over and over again, the sin we have long since given up hope for ever gaining victory over. It is the sin, no matter how small it may seem to others, that has now become part of our lives and defines our inability to claim what is rightfully ours, the Higher Christian Life. “I know things would be different spiritually if I could just quit (you fill in the blank). But since I can’t… and oh, how I’ve tried… I guess this lukewarm spiritual existence is my destined lot in life. Ahem.”
But nothing could be further from the truth.
In Hebrews 11, we have a list of Old and New Testament saints that overcame incredible hardships and suffering by simple faith in God and His Word. As such, this chapter has been affectionately called the roll-call of faith. And it ends with the epithet of these men and women, “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38). It is a truly amazing tribute to what faith can accomplish in the life of a believer.
But then we ask ourselves, “Why can’t we seem to live the same types of lives as they did? What is holding us back from experiencing overcoming faith? How can we be more like them?”
And as usual, the Lord was anticipating our questions and provided His answer in the very next sentence, found in Hebrews 12:1:2. Consider these words from our Lord.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (we are not alone, drifting in uncharted waters), let us (our action) lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares (euperístatos) us, and let us (our action) run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12:1-2.
But the most important phrase in this statement is “easily ensnares” or euperístatos in Greek. This word means “to surround or encompass, easily besetting.” Ah, it’s a besetting sin. And a besetting sin is defined as one we “continually struggle with and have a weakness towards, one we commit over and over again seemingly without relief or victory.”
Sound familiar? I thought so. You may have a few besetting sins in your own life. Most believers do.
Sanctification: Past, Present, and Future
After a time of trying only to fail, and fail again… only harder, most believers grow frustrated and prone to give up ever thinking victory is possible over their besetting sins. And at some point, usually after utter despondency, they come to the conclusion either Christ is not sufficient, or their flesh is too powerful, or they are just too much of a loser to amount to anything more than a nominal Christian plagued by besetting sins no one else seems to be struggling with. And this, after a time, leads to believing the Higher Christian Life is for others, but not for losers… like us.
But God has provided victory over besetting sins, and His victory is found in our commitment to trust Him at His Word. He has provided for us a great promise of forgiveness and sanctification if we trust His Word to be true. It is an if/then promise from the Lord. We do our part (if) and He will do His part (then). It is really that simple. All we have to do is believe He will do what He promises to do and the victory is ours. Consider this if/then promise:
If (our part) we confess our sins, (then – His part) He is faithful and just to (1) forgive us our sins (salvation) and to (2) cleanse us from all (pás) unrighteousness (sanctification, victory over besetting sins) – 1 John 1:9.
The forgiveness part we freely accept, no problem. But the cleansing from all unrighteousness (our victory over our besetting sins) is a bit more difficult to swallow and stretches our faith. So let’s look at this promise in a little more detail.
If we confess (to admit, concede, to openly acknowledge) our sins (plural), (then) He is faithful and just to (1) forgive us our sins (what we just confessed) and to (2) cleanse (to purify from the power and guilt of sin, to be free from filth and defilement), us from all (pás) unrighteousness (what is wrong, wicked, impure, an offense to God) – 1 John 1:9.
Simply stated, what you just read is true, from the Lord Himself, who is faithful and true. What is left is the hard part. Now you must choose to incorporate this path of victory into your own life, regardless of past failures, by faith. And when you do, God will follow through and “cleanse you from all unrighteousness” and give you victory over your nagging, besetting sins.
If you are unconvinced, why don’t you test God in this? After all, He has told us to test Him in other matters of faith (Mal. 3:10). So commit to believing His Word, no matter how little faith you have in yourself, and see if He won’t bless you in such a way that the Higher Christian Life will become a reality, and not just a lofty dream.
But don’t delay. Do it now.