There’s a scene in The Lion King I really like when the old wise monkey hits Simba in the head with his cane. Simba demands, “Hey, why’d you do that?” The monkey replies, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that!
Moments ago, I was spending some time in prayer and I was confessing known sin in my life. As I prayed, I said, “God, I’m sorry for this sin, I ought to hate this sin.” Almost instantly God spoke to my heart and I blurted out what I heard Him say, “Brandon, you’ll either learn to hate your sin, or you’ll wind up hating yourself.”
As we confess sin and seek the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome it, we ought to remember that we have a new identity in Christ. We are not to be subject to a very popular but perhaps erroneous “miserable sinnerism” (coined by J. Sidlow Baxter) but rather we are to see ourselves as forgiven and freed. Sin no longer defines us, Christ does, if we’ve been washed once for all in His blood.
In order to preserve a close intimacy with God and forward spiritual progress, I desperately need to see myself as “in Christ,” to see sin as something to be loathed, and to see cleansing as a continuous need. If we loathe ourselves, we’ll give up. If we exalt ourselves, we’ll blow it because of pride. But if we hate sin and exalt the indwelling Christ in us, we’ll see the victory!
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.” -1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Paul’s prayer for the people of Thessalonica was a heartfelt prayer for their permanent cleansing. “May God completely cleanse you and set you apart for His purposes… May He preserve you until Jesus comes again.” Then Paul notes that the God who called them to the Christian life would be faithful to keep His promise. They would be cleansed. They would be set apart. They would be found blameless when Jesus comes becuase of His miraculous intervention in their lives.
The fulfillment of God’s promises toward His children does not hinge on our faithfulness but on God’s faithfulness. Our being found blameless at the throne is not contingent upon our ability to wash ourselves with religion, but on His ability to preserve those that He saves. We didn’t save ourselves, yet so often we begin to believe that we must somehow keep ourselves in the favor of God. Each time we make a mistake, we come to the conclusion that surely this time God will be finished with us.
While we should never treat sin lightly, we must realize that God’s patience with His children is inexhaustible. This is no license to sin, it is rather motivation to serve our loving Father faithfully. To know in advance the victorious outcome of our life of faith frees us to run the race with patient endurance for “our God is faithful, who will do it!”
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” -1 John 1:7
God rescues us from the slime and slop and mire of our sin and washes us with the blood of His very own Son, Jesus. But that’s not all. Our continued fellowship with the Father means for us that Jesus’ blood keeps on cleansing us over a lifetime. “If we walk in the light… the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us…” It’s a word that indicates an action repeated again and again.
We don’t have to worry that an unnoticed sin will strike our names from the Lamb’s Book of Life, we simply give ourselves to Him in daily fellowship and He handles the filth of our fallenness. He cleanses, washes, and purifies us through His continued fellowship in our lives. The grit and grime of the world is removed in the flow of His precious blood.
This wonderful truth is no excuse for continuing disobedience, but rather is the greatest motivation for a pure and holy life. If He has made us clean, and if He continually makes us clean through His blood, then we are free from filth. We can be clean forevermore! There’s no reason to return to the pig stye after finding ourselves wrapped in the Father’s forgiving arms. Now we can dwell in the ultimate cleanliness of our Father’s house for all eternity!
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” –Psalm 51:1-2
King David had committed adultery, murder, and had concocted a cover-up that lasted for a year. In God’s timing, Nathan the prophet came to the King with those stinging words. He told the King a parable of a rich man who oppressed a poor man and the King was wroth. After passing sentence on the rich man (death and four-fold repayment), Nathan then brought the indictment – “Thou art the man.” A year had passed since David’s crimes and no doubt the guilt and shame had taken their toll. Psalm 51 is the record of David’s confession, cleansing, and renewed consecration.
Notice how David begins, not with his past record of goodness nor any other merit in himself, but rather calling upon the merciful nature of God. “According to thy loving-kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies…” David knew well that God was a merciful God. Mercy is a part of God’s nature just as love, holiness, and power are part of His nature. So David begged forgiveness because God is forgiving.
The specific ways in which David asks forgiveness provide a wonderful basis for prayer today. First, blot out my transgressions, which means to erase the record of my breaking of God’s law. Second, wash me from the ways in which I have fallen short as a launderer would vigorously beat a stain out of a garment. Third, cleanse me from the disease that makes me so different (and separate) from God, just as the priest would pronounce a leper cleansed from leprosy.
How can we trust God to forgive? Because of what God has said about Himself… “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exod. 34:6-7)