Quick Down, Quick Up
I do not always leap upwards in faith under my pressures. I sometimes jump down. That is when I sin. My human reactions, though negative, are not sin. They become sin when I follow them through negatively: my dislike for a person, instead of being replaced by God’s love, continues unchecked as hate: I fear, and, instead of exchanging fear for faith, I take flight and run away from God’s will: a feeling of impatience or resentment is expressed in the angry word or lost temper, instead of being swallowed up by God’s patience or quiet acceptance of His way. Anger is right when expressing genuine concern for others: it is wrong when, as so often, it is to compensate my own hurt feelings. Pride is expressed in magnifying Christ (“making my boast in the Lord,” as the Bible calls it) or it can be in making much of myself.
Though even at this spot we have to beware of the bondage of false condemnation. We are real selves as well as it being Christ in us: therefore, we do have pleasure as well as giving Him pleasure: we do have motives as well as being motivated by Him. If a person thanks me because something I have said has made Christ more real to him, I have no necessity every time to stop him short and say, “Give the thanks to God.” In thanking me, he really means as a channel, and I as a channel am rightly also pleased that I have been a channel for Him. I must not accuse myself of pride because I do feel pleased.
Equally, when my main motive in some action has been believing it to be God’s will, yet I discern also that I had a personal motive of the gain or enjoyment I also get from it, I must not therefore condemn myself. As a real self, I have my pleasure, my motives, my sense of personal gain in a thing. The point is that that is not my main motive. God’s will, God’s work, and God’s glory is my main objective; as it is He by me, I too anticipate pleasure, satisfaction and gain from it.
This is how it is with God Himself. Years ago I began to justify my conscious egoism by discovering that the Bible said of God that “for thy pleasure they are and were created,” and of Jesus Christ that “for the joy set before Him He endured the cross.” “Then God does things for selfish reasons,” I said, “the same as I do.” Of course, I had missed the point which I saw later, when my own self-centredness had been exchanged for God-centredness. I saw that true living is when the purpose is for others, and the secondary effect is the pleasure or gain I have from it. False living is when my pleasure or gain is primary and the purposes of my living incidental. This is true in all life’s activities, such as the simple difference between eating to live (and incidentally getting pleasure out of it), and living to eat!
God’s pleasure, Christ’s joy are an outcome of His giving Himself, not pleasing Himself. True pleasure is when my self-pleasing is fulfilled in self-giving, and my self-love finds full satisfaction in other-love. There is total self-fulfilment. Self exists to be fulfilled, whether God’s self or ours.
There is self-sufficiency and a consciousness that we can be what we should be and do what we should do. But, as Jesus said, we find ourselves by losing ourselves in God’s love activities, and the reflex effect of such living is the pleasure, gain and satisfaction it brings us. Paul said it: “As dying and behold we live”: “As poor yet making many rich”: and yet finally returning its rich treasures on us who, though having nothing, yet find we possess all things.
God’s everlasting joy “and the good pleasure” He finds in His will, and all the outpoured adoration seen by John around the throne in the Book of the Revelation is the response to Him, Father, Son and Spirit, of a creation which has its being in His self-giving love, and a redemption which was Himself in His precious blood going to final limits in redeeming His enemies by dying for them.
We, the redeemed, though we do not live a life of continued sinning, do commit sins, usually sudden and unpremeditated. What then do we do? We have not broken relationship with God, but have interrupted fellowship from our side of the relationship. We have asserted our freedom by acting as if we were not one with Him; but were once again our independent selves and going our own way. Just because we are one with Him, we are guilty and know it.
The way back is as simple and plain as on our first coming to God. If there is quick sinning, there is quick cleansing. It has to start at the point of my personal freedom, where I went wrong, and I must express that freedom in honest confession. That is all I can do about it, but that I must do, and that means my brokenness. It may involve confession to man or restitution, but it certainly means admission to God of my sin. When I do that, it is as if God says to me, “Yes, you sinned, and honest confession and repentance were necessary. But as for the sin, I settled the whole sin question 2,000 years ago in the atoning death of my Son. Through him sins are no more. I have forgotten them. You can forget them.”
At this point we have to be careful not to add a second sin to the first. The first was the sin itself, the second and greater is if I don’t believe at once that what God has cleansed, He has cleansed. Not to believe in the efficacy of the blood of Christ is a worse sin than the first, for unbelief, Jesus said, is the only real sin (John 16:9).
Some are also troubled by the repetition of sins in their lives. How can they be delivered from doing it again and again? The answer is that Christian living is not in the past or the future, but only in the present. The Bible word is “walk,” continually used in the New Testament. Walk is present tense and can only be a step at a time; and the walk is with a Person, with Jesus. Therefore we do not find deliverance by looking to the past or future for some fool-proof formula; but forgetting our search for deliverance, we become occupied by the simple walk with the Deliverer. Put it this way, as some African Christians said: “Leave the past under the blood, leave the future with God, and get walking!” Live in the present. Again—if we sin, take the way of repentance and get cleansed. Don’t sin what the Africans call the second sin, which is not believing the immediate efficacy of the precious blood, for unbelief is the worst sin of all. Praise and thank, whatever one may feel, for praise is the verbal demonstration of faith.
Don’t then be concerned about constant repetitions of the same sin. Deliverance from repeated acts of sin is not to be had by looking at the sin or at myself, and wondering how repetition can be avoided; it is by the daring look to Jesus, and the leaving of the problem of repetition to Him. The past is no longer there through Christ, the future is not my business; so if at this moment you are walking with Jesus, be thankful. If and when the sudden fall comes, get in the clear again with God, and walk on—looking neither to past nor future. Walking with Him is the way (“I am the way”), and we are much less likely to be tripped up in such a simple single-eyed walk than if we are tense about the past or future and holding on to some supposed formula of deliverance.
Even if we are bound by a habit, or even if we are not willing to be delivered from a habit, the deliverance or the change of will to make us willing can never come by our attention being centered on the habit; but only again by a daring leap of faith which affirms that God is our deliverer and that He is the one who makes us “will and do after His good pleasure,” therefore we take it by faith that this has happened here and now, though we feel no difference, and we boldly walk out on the settled fact.
Sin, indeed, is not the real problem, but the guilt that follows, which condemns and binds us. This, again we say, is Satan’s secret weapon. He will trip us up by some subtle temptation. Having got us down, his real purpose is to keep us down by the pouring on of condemnation. We must, therefore, know how, when tripped, to get up quickly, to get standing again in the armour of God and keep walking. Faith is the means. Faith which is action, and by which we boldly thank God that the sin is no more. We may go on feeling guilty or stained, but we turn our attention away from the feelings and we replace them by faith. We replace guilt by praise, and walk on with Him as before.