by Pastor Tim Burt
When my son Pete was a toddler, watching him eat spaghetti was an event. He had as much fun finger painting his face and sculpting his hair with the spaghetti sauce as he did eating it. When he was finished eating, we would peel off his clothes and put him in the bath tub. Kids getting dirty is something kids do.
I’ve worked jobs that required physical labor where I have gotten filthy dirty. If you’ve ever cut down a tree, or dug ditches, you know what I’m talking about. There are times when getting filthy is just a part of the job description. But when getting filthy is in reference to sinful behavior, it is inappropriate and God requests that the behaviors must change. He does because He knows they will hurt us and others and hinder the blessings promised to us in the promises of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit…” It says that one reason we should cleanse ourselves is so we won’t hinder the promise of blessing—“Having therefore these promises…”
“Cleansing ourselves from filthiness of the flesh” is getting rid of sinful behaviors. Galatians 5:19-21 NLT helps us understand what filthiness of the flesh is saying, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
I know that all these verses and especially the last verse are quite sobering. “…anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” The question arises from many Christians, Pastor Tim, I thought if I accepted Jesus as my Savior, my sins are all forgiven? Is that true? The answer is: They are! The very moment someone sincerely receives Jesus Christ into their heart, their sins are washed away. At that moment, God places His Holy Spirit within them and from that moment, a change begins. It as though the heavenly street cleaning machines begin to drive up and down the streets of your heart and mind. The Holy Spirit begins to show a believer what is sinful and what is good and creates spiritual strength so appropriate changes in thinking and behavior can be made.
All of a Christian’s sins are forgiven, but now God wants to help us change the thoughts and attitudes that led to sinful behavior. That will be a process—a life-long process. Why? Because of how we develop and grow, and because there is always more to change. How do we develop and grow? We learn knowledge—the knowledge of God’s word. But then it takes time to gain understanding of that knowledge. And even more time to learn how to apply it successfully in our life. No one gets it right without being prayerful, keeping God’s instruction and promises before their eyes and heart, and praying for His grace to help! That is the process of how real and consistent change happens. And it takes time! Consequently, God gives us space and time to change. It’s called mercy and grace.
God’s mercy and grace are not a license to sin. It is God’s understanding and patience for you to want to make those changes out of your love for Him, just as Jesus died for you out of His love for you. My young son Peter eventually learned to eat spaghetti appropriately. And we learn how to live upright before God. When we do blow it and sin, God makes provision called sincere heart repentance. 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”
Again, this benefit is not a permission slip to sin. It is the mercy of God and His grace to help us while we go through the process of “cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh…” Every time we sin, we should stop and sincerely repent and talk to God about how to change the behavior of that sin and examine the Word of God to see what He has to say about it. Then we should pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us make changes. When someone is sincerely sorry, they will find the strength and in time make changes.
When someone doesn’t repent from sin or work to make changes, they begin to override the voice of the Holy Spirit and become hardened. When that happens, you hinder yourself from the changes that bring maturity and Christ-like life transformation. And if that continues, the heart becomes hardened, they no longer feel guilty over committing sin and become deceived and blinded and dull to God’s voice concerning that sin. At this point, some walk away from God and deny Him.
God is not watching over you with a stick. He is not watching over you with the intent of catching you at every mistake. But He is always there to speak truth and help you from a position of love. God is not an accuser or condemner. He is your encourager to lead you into the kind of changes that ushers great blessing in your life.
The process of change will produce some pain, some guilt, and the need for repentance—maybe every day or even multiple times in a day. Sin should produce that. But, by sincerely pursuing God and embracing change and repentance, you’ll in time, keep yourself free from sin and instead produce more and more of God’s desired behavior leading to holiness. And you will experience more and more of God’s blessing and the transformation God desires to work in you.
Blessing is God’s will for you life. Holiness is God’s desire for your life. You just need to let Him help you get out of your own way! Cleanse yourself of filthiness. And be careful when eating spaghetti!
Romans 4:7-8 (NLT) “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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