Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?
This is a rhetorical question, but Paul answered it clearly: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) For that matter, David was clear on the subject in Psalm 14:1-3 (repeated essentially in Psalm 53:1-3) and Solomon picked up the theme in Ecclesiastes 7:20. For anyone who would dispute this, we have Jesus’ clear words: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) For any woman who might be feeling superior at this point, just ahead of that Jesus said, “Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:22) The point is, we are all sinners, disqualified from fellowship with God and eternal life. The devil wants us to accept that, say “Hang it all,” and not even try to follow God, but he’s a liar as usual. God says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Paul famously explained that “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) As Paul said, human beings have no room for pride before God. However, God’s grace and love are even greater than our sin, just as the hymn says. The better we grasp that, the freer we will be from the traps and lies of the devil and the lusts of our own flesh. (1 John 2:16) We cannot purify and save ourselves, but God has provided purification and salvation for us in Christ Jesus. We need to respond in full, grateful obedience.
I am certainly in the middle of living this out. I am very aware of what has been called “the three tenses of sin.” That is, we have been saved from the penalty for sin, we are being saved from the power of sin, and we will be saved from the presence of sin. I do look forward to that future tense, with sin completely out of the picture! At this point, I am deeply grateful for the Holy Spirit to point out when I have sinned, or am sinning. I am also grateful to have learned the difference between His very pointed admonitions and the devil’s blanket condemnations. It is no accident that the devil’s name is Satan – the accuser. As a pastor I frequently tell people that if they feel they are hopeless, they can be sure it’s not God speaking to them. The devil hates hope! The Holy Spirit, in contrast, hates sin, but He is very specific in telling us what to deal with, and if we will allow Him to, He gives us wisdom and strength to do it. I am very grateful to have learned that by experience.
Father, help me proclaim Your message of grace without glossing over the reality of sin. May we be a repentant people, doing Your will with great joy that You have lifted us out of the power of sin, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!