On The Importance of Purging Sin
Recently I was speaking with a friend concerning a difficult conversation someone had with him a few months back. They had pointed out some areas of sin in his life and although he eventually calmed down, at first he got quite defensive. In our conversation, one of the statements he made was, “We all have areas of sin. I don’t need to run into your home and point out all the things you do wrong either.”
In some ways he is right, and in other ways he is wrong. So, what’s the truth?
I am an unrepentant sinner, and so are you.
Jesus summarized the whole law by saying that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Although I have been forgiven, cleansed by Jesus, purified, redeemed, and all manner of biblical words, I don’t do what Jesus described - and I’d be willing to guess you don’t either.
I am still selfish. I lose my patience. I throw someone under the bus (verbally, of course) when I get defensive or in a bad mood. I don’t love my neighbor as I love myself. I have sin in my life, and I entertain it all too readily.
The truth seems to be that there is a sense in which we are all unrepentant sinners. Were God to convict me of all my sin at once, I am fairly confident that I would melt like wax right on the spot. In his mercy and kindness, he slowly chips away at the calloused demeanor of my character. Like a master sculptor, he removes pieces of marble and granite in order to reveal the Christlikeness that is hidden beneath.
I am an unrepentant sinner until the Holy Spirit convicts my heart of that area of sin in my life. This happens, often, either through the Word of God (the Bible) or through another person who has the boldness to call me out. Once that happens, the concept of ‘unrepentant’ hits a crossroads. See, previously I may have been unaware or blind to how severe the sin was in my life. I was unrepentant towards it because I was partially oblivious. Once I am aware, however, any choice from here on out to ignore the conviction of that sin is blatant rebellion against God’s convicting Holy Spirit.
So, my friend is correct - we all have sin. That’s not the issue. The question is actually, “What do you do with your sin once God convicts you of it?”
Recently I read a book, Spirit Walk by Steve Smith, which challenged my own pursuit of holiness. Over the last two months, God has been revealing to my heart things I needed to ask forgiveness for which were five, ten, even fifteen years old! Once he shows that to me, I need to confess it, repent of it, and move on, but he revealed it to me for a reason.
All this is to say, yes, we all have areas of sin, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to lovingly point them out so that I can grow and you can grow.
TRUE CONFESSION: For me, I have been radically convicted lately concerning loose lips. As I look out over the course of my life, my extemporaneous speaking ability comes with a cost: I don’t know when to bite my tongue. I have slandered, gossiped, spoken ill of, and on and on. When I add the sum of it all up in my head, it is overwhelming, crushing, humiliating, and shameful! What can I do about the comments I made about someone ten years ago or ten days ago? I can apologize, I can make amends, but beyond that the damage has been done! All I can do now is repent, thank God for his conviction, and move forward in forgiveness.
The issue is not being perfect; the issue is resting in the finished work of the cross (justification), pursuing perfection in Jesus (sanctification), and then enjoying his finished work in glory (glorification). When confronted with my sin, will I hide and pretend like it didn’t happen or will I humble myself and ask for forgiveness? We all have sin, but what do we do with it once the Holy Spirit shines that floodlight upon it?
Kill sin or it will kill you.
All that being said, we cannot toy with our sin. In this way, my friend is incorrect. Although we may stink at communicating their need to repent to our friends and loved ones, we are right to point it out (and hopefully we grow in our communication over time and through failed efforts!). We should rejoice, even though painful, when someone calls us out on our sin. Why? Because we are all working and walking towards the same goal: Christlikeness.
“[Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I, [Paul], toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)
Maturity - Christlikeness - is the goal, and that comes through toil and a lot of hard conversations, but the cost of ignoring those warnings is catastrophic! Just look at a few reasons why you need to kill sin and purge it from your life.
- Sin will hinder your prayers
- Psalm 66:18, If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened
- 1 Peter 3:7, showing honor to [your wife] as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered
- Sin will choke out your fruitfulness.
- Mark 4:18–19, And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
- Ephesians 5:15–18, Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…
- E.g. Don’t keep self-medicating with spirits, instead be filled with the Spirit!
- Sin incurs discipline (or wrath among the unrepentant!)
- Hebrews 12:5–8, And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
- Colossians 3:6, On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
- Sin desires to, and will, kill you!
- Genesis 4:7b, ...Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.
- 1 Peter 5:8, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
- James 1:14–15, But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
What do you do with your sin? Confess it and move on.
All of us are going to sin, but we cannot use that reality as either an excuse to keep on sinning, or as scapegoat to not call out someone else or be called out. We need one another to be sharpened and challenged and it is in those interpersonal relationships that our sin often becomes clearly seen.
When God convicts us of our sin, what do we do? 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That’s it. We don’t wallow (there is now no condemnation, Romans 8:1). We don’t run and hide. We don’t get angry or defensive. We embrace it, confess it, and are forgiven.
Don’t run from your sin - deal with it head on by bringing it to the cross, where Jesus already hung with it, crucified.