“. . .because of the sin he knew about.” (I Samuel 3:13)
It is no light matter to not confront and correct known sin.
To participate in the sacred and holy, in fellowship with and service for God, yet not deal with the revealed personal sin that clearly violates His righteous decrees.
To continue operating as though such things do not matter to our Holy Father, as they really do.
This is not just Old Testament truth.
Jesus, the Father’s Son, never made light of sin. Never once did He turn a blind or indifferent eye to sin. Never once, because of personal benefit or cowardice, did He dismiss the seriousness of sin, even though—actually, because—His unabashedly genuine love for sinners was unprecedented and unrivaled. No, Jesus, fully man yet perfectly sinless, addressed it in the religious leadership, in His disciples, and the Gospels bear witness to His confrontation of sin in His encounters with humanity. As physical needs were presented Christ everywhere He traveled, He miraculously touched and healed bodies; yet, all the while, He lovingly and unapologetically addressed the sin in the sinners He came to save.
Yes, when individual lives intersected with Christ, physical needs were satisfied.
However, most importantly, lives were spiritually transformed.
This is why Jesus came.
To deal with sin.
Consider John the Baptist’s role. John the Baptist—the wilderness-living, locust-eating, prophet-preacher, born “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17)—was literally created to be Jesus’ forerunner. To prepare the way for Jesus. To get hearts spiritually ready to receive the Messiah, not just to receive all the physical blessings He would provide. Physical blessings—miraculous benefits—are easy to receive. No, John the Baptist's mission was to condition hearts to receive the unappealing, unapologetically serious message that Jesus would bring: Repent or perish (Luke 13:3,5). Repent or be denounced by him (Matthew 11:20).
I know, I know. Hard words to hear.
Hard words to communicate.
So often, we want only the loving Jesus, the compassionate Jesus, and the healing Jesus. And all these things He was. So gloriously and extravagantly was. The Gospels are brimming with such proof. And yet, when the angel of the Lord had appeared decades earlier to Joseph in a dream, he declared the baby would be named Jesus because "he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Later, Jesus Himself spoke of His ultimate mission: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
Furthermore, considering the big picture, it was because of His love and compassion and desire to heal humanity's heart that He willingly became the sacrificial-servant Jesus who would bear the sin of the world. Because sin creates a great chasm between the Holy Creator and those He created. So serious to our Creator that it took the ultimate, sacrificial death—excruciating beyond our brain’s comprehension—of His sinless Son, in order to satisfy the never-ending depth of debt no one could ever pay.
And satisfy He did.
In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul declares that those who disobey God’s righteous decrees are deserving of death (1:32) and that there is no one who is righteous, not one (2:10). However, through faith—humble, childlike trust—in Christ and the sacrifice He willingly gave, righteousness is imparted (3:22), sin is justified (3:23-24), and redemption and reconciliation are realized (3;24, 5:10).
Christ’s sacrifice, once and for all, dealt with mankind’s sin condition. Humanity’s sin dilemma. Through personally trusting in Christ's atoning death, we are made right (2 Corinthians 5:21) as we stand before a Righteous God.
What a glorious, most undeserving reality is ours when we repent and believe!
Nevertheless, though Christ completely crushed sin when He died on the cross, the intentional conquering of sin in our mortal, non-resurrected bodies (this side of Heaven) is an undeniable reality of our daily lives because we live in a fractured, sinful world. The personal defeating of sin—bringing our hidden thoughts, our speech, our actions and reactions under the control of the Word that teaches us how to live, and the Spirit that helps us effectuate it. Daily crucifying the body that is now in Christ, declaring and living Paul’s anthem: “I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Taking seriously our Savior’s words when He said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. . .if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 6:29-30). Understanding that through Christ’s use of this strongly worded hyperbole (not meant to be taken literally), what He was unreservedly communicating is that those who follow Him should deal thoroughly and radically with personal sin—the sin that weakens our fellowship with Him and our effectiveness for His kingdom, and looks too much like a life that has never encountered the grace and forgiveness of the Savior.
Looks too much like a life that's never been set free.
I know, I know. Hard words to hear.
Hard words to communicate.
However, as authentic disciples of Jesus, we cannot merely embrace just the truths of the Word we want to to embrace—the life-giving, hopeful promises that make us feel better and more secure; that make us feel less fearful and more hopeful; that bring us consolation, peace and assurance; that speak of the miraculous in the midst of the impossible—without embracing the confrontational truths as well. We cannot simply consume the easy words and merely take cursory glances at the hard. Or, even worse, genuinely read the hard yet still feebly and rebelliously spurn them, giving permission to our weakened flesh and the enemy of our souls to excuse and condone our inclinations and behaviors. To accept the lie that this is just who we are and how we've always been and that anything different is unrealizable. To accept the lie that our sin is really minimal compared to others'.
Because when we do this, we make a mockery of the incalculable price Jesus paid for all of humanity’s sin. Paid for our sin.
Fellow sojourner, we will never conquer sin this side of Heaven. We just won't. But because our Savior did on Calvary's Cross—truly, the quintessential miracle of miracles—we can live lives of increasing victory.
Lives that look more and more like Jesus.
That think more and more like Him.
That speak more and more as He did.
And that act and react in ways that increasingly mirror His person.
This is a reality our world so desperately needs to see in Christians, the ones who've been buried with Christ so they might live a new life that bears his image (Romans 6:4).
This begins with our salvation, our initial confession and repentance, but then continues throughout our earthly journey as we read, hear, and embrace the whole counsel of God's Word; and this includes the hard and the confrontational. Then, by God’s grace and empowering Spirit within, as we daily—yes, often moment by moment—submit to the authority of the Word and allow the crucified life of Christ to live through us. Because, after all, "the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing" (John 6:63).
When I’m reading Scripture and the Holy Spirit is illuminating truth to me, it’s natural and easy to compartmentalize that truth to the historical situation of the event, which, as a student of the Word, I should do. As with I Samuel 3:13 (the verse that began this writing), to really consider it in its context. For example, Eli, God’s chosen priest was soft on sin in his very own household; and because he permitted such and such and did so and so, this is what the Most High God had to say about it all. And this is how it invaded his life and spiritual legacy.
However, if I, a serious follower of Christ, desire to mature in my own spiritual walk and imitation of my Lord and Savior, then I must be willing to allow the indwelling Spirit of Christ, my Companion and Counselor, to help me see how such and such and so and so impacts my own personal life as well. I must allow the Spirit to show me whether there’s a hard truth I need to see for myself. And if revealed, I must acknowledge, repent, and readjust where needed, Then, worship and praise my God for His merciful, loving intervention in my life. For His loving me enough to be jealous for my well-being. And for rebuking and realigning me, just like a good Father does.
So. . . here’s the bottom line—the hard to read, hard to write, hard to receive bottom line—I believe the Lord wants me to personally embrace and also share with you:
Eli, a spiritual leader, the Most High's servant, was soft on sin. And this had destructively invasive consequences in his life and family.
But, praise God! Christ, my sinless Savior, was never soft on sin. Because He fully understood its devastating, deadly impact, He annihilated sin with His sinless body on a wooden cross, making it possible for me to be plundered no more. Making it possible for me to be declared righteous. Making it possible for me to become a passionately treasured, deeply loved child of God. Making it possible for me to live freely and live victoriously, for the expansion of his Kingdom Eternal.
It was the greatest act of selflessness that’s ever been made for ones so undeserving, of which I'm included.
Therefore, as His child—His ransomed, redeemed, reconciled and righteous child—I shouldn't be soft on sin in my own life.
And, dear sojourner, neither should you.