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Words of Life

The “No” of Sin

By Mike Glenn August 4, 2013 Words of Life

Whenever I talk to people about hearing God’s “yes,” they start to see the hope that lies in finally leaving behind their regrets and the pain caused by their mistakes, but… there is always a but.

Linguists have noted that this conjunction possesses an interesting power. Whenever the word but is used, people tend not to remember anything that was set before it. Your boss asks you to join him in his office late on Friday afternoon. The conversation begins like this: “We have really appreciated your work for our company these last several years, but…” Later you don’t remember anything from the conversation except that you were laid off. A young man receives a Dear John letter (or text) from his girlfriend that reads, “I have really enjoyed dating you for the last three months, but…” The young man remembers only one thing from the message: he was dumped. Hearing the word but removes everything before it from our memory.

For most of us, sin possesses the same kind of power. Sin is the great negation, the “no” that attempts to blot out the “yes” of Christ. Sure, Jesus loves you, but you’re a sinner. After the but we forget everything else. How could Jesus love me when I’m a sinner? The memory of past sin and the realization of current sin loom large, blocking our view of the work Christ is doing in our lives today. Sin has a way of making us forget the goodness of God. Sin denies the presence and power of God in us and our world.

Sin tricks us into believing it has more power than it really does. At the same time, however, we often fail to follow the steps laid out by God to deal with the effects of sin in our lives. When we don’t take advantage of confession and repentance, sin continues to hold us in its grip.

Christians are familiar with forgiveness. How many times have we heard preachers (and I am one) tell us, “Just confess your sin”? We emphasize that God’s forgiveness is a free gift, there for the asking. But in emphasizing forgiveness, we inadvertently cheapen it. We skip over the necessity of repentance, which includes confession but goes beyond to a definite change in how a person approaches life. God forgives us when we confess, but if we don’t change at that point, leaving behind the sin that brought us to confession, we enter a revolving door.

People sin, then confess their sins, and go back and sin some more. This is not the gospel. When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, he ended the conversation by telling her, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus’ approach was not intolerant or judgmental; it was his way of helping the women find healing and a new life. Repentance literally means “to change one’s mind.” It means that after confessing sin, the person turns from her previous lifestyle and commits to follow Christ. Without an emphasis on repentance, people keep sinning and casually assume Jesus will always be there to forgive them. Holding such a cavalier attitude toward sin does untold damage in our lives.

What God has made, sin unmakes. What God has created, sin destroys. Where God left beauty, sin leaves scars.

Excerpted from The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn. Copyright ©2012 by Brentwood Baptist Church. Excerpted by permission of Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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