In the past several months, there has been a lot written regarding grace. My goal in this article is to make clear the difference between grace, which is God’s undeserved gracious actions and gifts towards us related to our salvation in Christ, and the consequences of sin that come from numerous sources and places.
It has been said that once we as believers in Christ Jesus confess our sins, God remembers them no more (Heb. 8:12; Ps. 103:12). Some have taken this to mean we can just go on with our lives, as if the sin never happened. But the reality is, based on the severity of the sin committed (yes, some sins are worse than others, according to Scripture; read John 19:11, Luke 12:47-48 and 1 John 5:16-17), there are various ramifications that arise related to God’s discipline, opening a door to Satan, destroying relationships and our own heart condition.
To me, a worse thing that happens when I sin against the Lord is that I grieve the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit that lives inside of me is grieved, then I am grieved as well, and it causes great sorrow in my soul.
Regarding repentance: There is a difference between godly sorrow that leads to repentance and condemnation that leads me away from the Lord (2 Cor. 7:9-11). Godly sorrow does not just involve mere confession of sin with words but also a heartfelt searching of one’s own soul so the Holy Spirit can “put the axe to the root of the tree” and transform the heart.
There are even times when our close fellowship or intimacy with God is affected. Even though we are still saved and our sins forgiven, we can at times lack that sense of closeness and nearness to the presence of God. (I believe this is also a way God disciplines us so we will not be so quick to sin in the same manner again; He momentarily takes away our sweet fellowship and sense of His presence, while at the same time we still have an assurance that we are His children.)
Of course, sometimes not sensing God’s strong presence can be another way God is dealing with our process of maturing in Christ. Some have called this “the dark night of the soul,” which many saints have claimed to experience, at times not related to a conscious act of committing a sin.
After his sins of murder and adultery (2 Sam. 11), David prayed that God would not take away His Spirit from him (I believe, in this case, he was referring to fellowship with God; read Psalm 51:11). Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”
In addition, Ephesians 4:30 says not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. In John 14:21, Jesus says those who love Him will keep His commandments and those who keep His commandments the Father and Jesus will love and will manifest themselves to.
Finally, 1 Peter 3:12 says the eyes and ears of the Lord are open toward the prayers of the righteous but His face is against those who do evil. (Those who do evil in this context are not unbelievers but Christians because this epistle was written to the elect, not to the gnostics or to another heretical group.) When God turns His face away from someone, it has to do with lack of intimacy, not necessarily salvation.
Fellowship is when we subjectively experience God’s fellowship, hear God’s voice and enjoy His companionship. On the other hand, salvation is our objective, legal-positional standing of righteousness with God based on a person’s trust in the vicarious death, burial and resurrection of Christ, in which His righteousness has been imputed to us through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:21-27). Our feelings and sense of God’s presence at times varies, but our salvation in Christ depends upon His righteousness and remains firm and secure!
Sin can wreak havoc in our lives because of unrepentant sin, which opens a door to Satan. Ephesians 4:27 admonishes us not to give Satan an opportunity. The context of this passage has to do with speaking corrupt words from our mouths, holding on to bitterness, unforgiveness, acting like a thief and stealing from others.
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