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When a Believer Commits Gross Sin
Some Believers find it easier to accept God’s forgiveness for their pre-conversion sins, than to believe God would fully cleanse and forgive them of ‘gross’ or repeated sin after becoming a Believer.
It is true that for the person to whom much has been given, much is required. It is also true, however, that God’s offer and conditions for forgiveness do not change after we are saved. Cleansing is available through and only through the shed blood of our Savior, and our request for forgiveness must be accompanied by repentance, which involves regret that the sin was committed and a genuine desire never to do such a thing again.
You know how strongly Yeshua attacked hypocrisy. He sees right through sham repentance – asking forgiveness when you have every intention of continuing to sin, should the opportunity arise, or being so stupid as to be pleased that you had sinned. A death-bed repentance, for example, though possible, is probably less common than is often thought, because a person who realizes he is dying knows his life of sin is over anyhow. He could be quite pleased he sinned and now imagine he can have the best of both worlds - a life of sin on earth and an eternity of pleasure in heaven. God is not mocked.
Nevertheless, if you genuinely wish your whole life (past, present and future) were sin-free, forgiveness is fully available to the Believer and non-Believer alike, regardless of the gravity of the sin. If God so loved you as to forgive you while you were his enemy, how much does he long to forgive you now that you are his blood-bought child.
John wrote to Believers, ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Yeshua the Messiah, the Righteous One. (2) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:1-2).
If anyone repeatedly sins against us and keeps repenting, Yeshua insisted that we must forgive that person over and over and over and over. (Scriptures) Dare we accuse Almighty God of hypocrisy? He asks us to be that forgiving of those who repeatedly repent because that’s the way he forgives us.
Scripture provides us with many examples of God forgiving his people of ‘gross’ sin. Let’s examine a few.
From crushing defeat to eternal fameWe find him lurking in the shadows of Scripture. He was a breath of fresh air in a whirlwind. John Mark was bad news. In the human race he led the field from go to woe. He has often been identified with the Faith's first streaker – the man who blurred through Gethsemane’s garden with the raw grace of a plucked chicken, leaving behind his clothes and his Savior (Mark 14:51-52). More humiliations were to follow.
His unflattering nickname, stub-fingered, suggests he was physically impaired. To this he added a handicap of his own making: he was branded a deserter – a second time.
When the pressure mounts, the last thing you need is for a trusted companion to abandon you. That’s what Mark did to Paul and Barnabas.
His desertion seems to have deeply hurt Paul. The apostle was adamant that hanging out with this dodo was a no-no. Barnabas, who always stood up for the under-dog , defended his cousin Mark. The result was a rift between old friends; the shattering of a great missionary team (Acts 15:37-39). We never hear of Barnabas again.
One look at ‘stump-finger’s’ yellow face and you knew this jinx had had mistake and eggs for breakfast again. Whenever this egg-head cracked, everyone got egg on their face. Just what the church needs! He must have felt as blue as a browned off white man seeing red because he’s accused of being yellow.
Mark could have drowned in self-pity. He could have resented Paul. He could have turned back to non-Messianic Judaism. Instead, he redoubled his efforts, eventually being recognized even by Paul as having an outstanding ministry (2 Timothy 4:11; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24). Peter also spoke affectionately of him (1 Peter 5:13). As writer of possibly the earliest gospel and a primary source of Mattityahu (Matthhew) and Luke, Mark’s contribution even to today’s church is beyond measure. This planet is a better place today because nineteen centuries ago a ‘no-hoper’ called stub-fingered decided to tough it out.
Knowing our weaknesses, our loving Father has preserved many such stories for us to gain strength.
‘Then will I teach transgressors your ways,’ crooned David. When? After a calamitous moral fall (Psalm 51: title, 3-5, 12-13).
‘Simon ... feed my sheep’ (John 21:17). When? After denying his Savior.
‘He slew at his death more than he slew in his life’ (Judges 16:30, paraphrase). When? After Samson’s greatest humiliation.
Samson and David each knew the horror of spiritual failure. On the crest of their vocation, they plunged to abominable depths. Their lapses were inexcusable. Their ministries were desecrated. Yet they refused to dwell in defeat. They were failures for a moment, but they were overcomers forever. Grasping God’s hand of forgiveness, they clambered to new heights for the exaltation of the One who washed them clean.
Oppression crushed Simon the rock into sand. On the brink of ministry, after years of grooming, he blew it. He lied. He invoked a curse on himself. He disowned his Lord (Matthew 26:74). Yet though it rocked him, this one-time rock didn’t peter. Empowered by his Savior, he again turned to stone.
Though the righteous – that’s you and me in Messiah Yeshua – fall seven times, they rise again. That’s a promise (Proverbs 24:16, see also Psalm 37:23-24).
It was just a hair-cut
For the plaything of Delilah;
And just a prayer-cut
For Peter the denier.
Strong they dozed
But weak arose,
And knew it not.
Men destroyed by fatal cuts;
A seed so small and barely sown
If sin can grow,
His repentance real,
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Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © Copyright, 1978 by New York International Bible Society