Unrepented sin is sin which the believer, as opposed to the unbeliever, commits. What is does, and what must be done about it, and how God treats it will be the subject of this peace. Learning to walk with God is one of the new Christian’s first duties. The brand new believer finds that the Bible implicates him in sin, and he is soon shown the way of repentance, and receives forgiveness for all of his sins at the cross. It is important to understand the completeness of forgiveness—there remains nothing to be done, and in every sense of the word, it is finished forever. If there remained any element depending on the merit of mankind, forgiveness could never be given, but would be earned, a doctrine that the Bible does not teach.
Stepping into the new calling and the new life becomes a central focus of the newly saved. They tend to be overwhelmed with the sense of forgiveness, and to want to express gratitude to the God who has given them this. I know that my own new life, now a great many years ago, was filled with love for God that I did not know how to express, but which overflowed my life more or less continuously. I certainly did not understand many doctrines, as I had come from a non-Christian background, and did not remember much from my occasional (few and far between, I am afraid) Sunday School class. One of my first mistakes is one that I see repeated often in new-believers—I thought that I would be able to live a life pleasing to my new Master, provided I just put in the proper amount of effort. I put in lots of enthusiastic effort in my new endeavor, but it was not too long before I realized I was falling short. Redoubling my efforts availed nothing; fortunately by then I was beginning to understand doctrine.
Living in the flesh, even with dedication, remains no more than that. There are a few men that we can all look up to, for their deeds are truly wonderful and magnificent. But the Bible teaches that whatever is not of faith is sin. James, it is true, tells us that one should show his faith by his works, but the works are always supposed to start from the foundation of faith. I look at the example of saints like John Wesley, whose zeal and abandonment for God were almost without parallel. I look at D. L. Moody, who determined to be the one man, fully and wholly dedicated to God. As a new Christian, I had to learn to walk anew, in faith, and I can tell you that for a while I was walking in very small baby steps. I was not at all like Wesley or Moody. I had to learn the truth of Paul’s statement over and over again. “For what I do is not the good that I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing (Romans 7:19).
It is to that struggle that I want to write about now. What can be done for sin that the believer commits? First of all, we need to know that Christ, when he came, he died for the sins of the whole world. Every sin is covered, as I stated above, but sins which are committed by the believer will break fellowship with God. Grieve not the Spirit, says the scripture, by whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. What a fantastic—and morbid—thought that is—that I might grieve God himself by my behavior.
My eyes need to be on the cost of my salvation. God gave his son that I might live. It hurt! In the Bible, it is not an accident that God asked the three Patriarchs for their sons. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his own son, Isaac. Isaac, in turn, lost Jacob, who feared for his life, running away from his brother Esau, and the Bible does not record his ever seeing his father, Isaac, again. Jacob spent years parted from his son, Joseph, being tricked by his own sons into believing a wild animal had taken his life. In all three generations, we have the father being pictured as being parted from his son. It cost God a lot to give his son. Though I believe the plan of God from eternity past was to give his only begotten son, yet it came at the greatest of costs. God the Father endured the separation of his son, and not only that, even took his wrath and poured it out upon his own son. There is more power exerted in the cross of Christ than was exerted in all of the heavenly creation. It took that much, that I might be saved.
In light of what he did in my behalf, should not I be constant in giving myself to him? How willing we ought to be, who have been redeemed from sure condemnation. But we are in mortal bodies after all, and though we await our redemption from sin, we still find ourselves totally unable to live a life pleasing to God. Except. For. One. Thing.
He has given to us that same Spirit that we are not to grieve. That spirit, given to us, that we who are so frail and sinful, might give ourselves to him, and be filled with the very power and holiness of God himself. If it were not true, it would be blasphemy to say such a thing—that God pours himself into each one of us, gifting us with his very nature. Yet it is the very thing that God has done, and what a wonder it is!
In my early years of walking with Christ, I came to dub the process of dealing with sin, “spiritual breathing”. It is, I think, my own term, and is not from the Bible, though I hope to show the principles are indeed from the Bible. When we sin, and we will and do each day, we have seen that we are already forgiven. When Paul reveals this great truth in Romans, that we should be free from the penalty of sin, he also teaches that we are not to take advantage of it, that we are not proving the glory of God by excelling in sin. Rather the opposite. We turn from sin, that we might show the world that Christ is in us.
But when we do sin, the scripture says, we have an advocate with God, even Jesus Christ, and we know we are his if we keep his commandments. When we fail, we already have the forgiveness of God, but John (1 John 1:9) says that when we fail, we must confess, or agree, with God. Always God is there with his forgiveness through Jesus Christ, but we need to agree with God that sin is sin, and we need to turn from it.
Thus, when I sin, I inhale—or take sin into my body, and when I confess—I exhale, or I confess with God my sins. It is something that needs practice and discipline—for spiritual breathing is not what our true nature wants to do. Scripture says, “In him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” But the next verse, again, if it were not in the Bible, would probably again be thought blasphemy. “And you have been given fullness in Christ.” God himself has been placed within us. We live not in the weak vessels that we have not yet shed. No! Instead, we are to show the very God placed within us—his fullness dwells in us.
And we are called, not to live a sinless life, but rather to live a life dedicated to letting the Spirit mold and make us into the very image of Jesus Christ himself. Among other things we are to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And that is the victorious Christian life! To think that God himself would be in us, and to think that is what all Christians are called to! That confession should mark our way, every day. The spiritual Christian will seek to keep the lowest ledger possible, keeping his sin regularly confessed, just as though he were breathing. That is how unrepented sin is to be treated.