Are you living the way you ought to be? Or are you ignoring the fact that there is something in your life that doesn’t quite line up with how God wants you to live? There are many people–both inside and outside the church–who aren’t right with God and know it, but tell themselves it’s not a big deal and it’ll be okay. Yet the truth is that it is a big deal and it won’t be okay unless they do something about it.
“I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” (Deuteronomy 29:19)
In the very next verse, Deuteronomy 29:20a, Moses warns that the LORD’s “wrath and zeal will burn against” such a person who persists in sin and deludes himself about the consequences.
Even though these verses are from the Mosaic Covenant in the Old Testament, there are plenty of people these days who have exactly the same attitude. They stubbornly refuse to abandon their pet sins, and lie to themselves–“I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” The only twist is that many today use Christ as an excuse. Not recognizing that being a Christian involves repentance–a turning away from their sins–they feel safe because they’ve walked an aisle, said a special prayer or done some other religious formality.
Yet God takes unrepentance–a stubborn unwillingness to recognize the wickedness of sin and turn away from it–seriously. So much so, in fact, that He calls those who refuse to do so His enemies. Psalm 68:21 says, “But God will wound the head of His enemies, the hairy scalp of the one who still goes on in his trespasses.” But these verses are from the Old Testament. Aren’t things different in the New Testament?
Salvation has always been by faith–faith in the coming Savior in the Old Testament and faith in the Savior who has already come in the New–but there is no salvation without repentance. Why is this? It is because of what we are being saved from–the penalty, power and eventually even the presence of sin. God does not save people from the punishment for their sins without saving them from the power of the actual sin in their lives now!
Thus, God will not forgive and save those who stubbornly oppose Him; they must repent–agree with Him that their sin is wrong and turn away from it. The New Testament letter to the Hebrews explains:
“If we deliberately keep on sinning [in a habitual or ongoing manner] after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Ironically, one of the most beloved and freeing verses in the New Testament, Romans 8:1, also confirms the importance of a life of repentance–of walking according to the Spirit, not our fleshly sinful desires: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Notice that there is no condemnation for those who walk according to the Spirit–not for those who follow the sinful desires of their flesh. Romans 8:5-9 continues, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded [to live according to the sinful desires of our flesh] is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
According to this passage, those who belong to God have the Spirit in them and those who have the Spirit are in the Spirit not in the flesh. Those who are in the flesh do not have the Spirit in them and do not belong to God. This is serious business!
But what happens when we do repent? Does God forgive? Psalm 103:8-17 tells us:
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children.”
The New Testament concurs:
“If we claim to have fellowship with him [be a Christian; be saved] and yet walk in the darkness,we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light,as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:6-9, NIV)
God is not unwilling to forgive someone who turns away from his sins–to the contrary, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
Help us genuinely repent of our sins, and forgive and accept us through Christ. Amen.