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Description: How can God love me or forgive me? Where does guilt come from? Does living free of sin mean striving and living in a strait jacket?
Sin, Confession and Grace
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I’d like to talk a little this morning about the grace of God. I know I need it today and I think
some others here this morning may need it. It might be a blessing to you and I pray it would be a
blessing to me. Would you look at James 4:17.
“Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” I know this last week, I
did that and I’d like to apologize to the dear one that I offended by doing that. Now you may say,
“Well, big deal. Why is it such a big deal to fail to do what you know is right?”
Well, loved ones, failing to do what you know is right is sin. God’s plan for us men and women is to
live above sin. You get that in 1 John 3:8-9. However hard it is for us, it’s right. 1 John 3:8 –
“No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is
born of God.” So that’s the normal plan for you and me, that we would live lives free from known,
That is, if you or I do something to someone or with someone or just against God that we know is not
right, then it’s sin. And then what do we do? Well, you have to treat it as an emergency. It’s our
only hope that we treat that as an emergency so that we never get used to it. Now, how do you deal
with it as an emergency? Well, it’s there in 1 John 1:9.
1 John 1:8-10 – “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we
confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all
unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” So
If we say we haven’t sinned, then we walk towards that fantasyland of amorality where we just go to
hell — that’s putting it plainly. We’ll just go to hell. And so when you or I sin, if we hurt God
or hurt somebody else then God Himself has said, “If you’ll confess your sin to Me and confess it if
possible to the person that you offended and you hurt — the person whom you ignored and whom you
didn’t really love as the person was meant to be loved”, if you do that then, “He is faithful to
forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But it’s based on you and me being
honest about our sin.
You just have to admit that you have sinned and that it was wrong and that you did what you knew you
shouldn’t do. I would encourage you and encourage myself to see that that’s what sin is. It’s
failing to do what you know is right and if you ever do that, that’s sin and it’s a big deal. It’s
an emergency because our dear Father planned for us to live free from sin — without known,
conscious sin. There are a million things you and I do that we don’t know are wrong, I agree with
you. The dear Lord does not hold us responsible for all those things. But He does hold us
responsible for the things we know about and He expects us to live above those.
Now, why is it possible that He is able to forgive us? Because He is kind beyond anything you could
describe. I don’t know how many of you have ever cursed. Some of us were brought up to think that
cursing was very bad and so we haven’t cursed much. I would think I haven’t cursed much but it
doesn’t really matter how we were brought up. How many of us have used Jesus’ name in vain or God’s
name in vain? Then ask, who gives you the strength to speak that?
It’s amazing isn’t it? Who gave you the strength to say, (it’s hard for me to say it) “for Christ’s
sake…” Who gave you the strength to say that? Or, “my God…”, who gave you the strength? Who was
keeping the blood circulating while you were cursing Him? That’s how kind He is. That’s the grace of
God. That’s how gracious He is to us, beyond anything that you or I can imagine.
When you have cursed Him, He’s the one that kept your legs straight so that you could stand up to
curse Him. You can’t believe that kind of love, can you? There’s a verse in the Bible that says,
“God caused His rain to rain on the just and on the unjust.” That means that the Roman soldier that
lifted his sword or his spear and thrust it into Jesus’ side, did that with arteries that had blood
circulating in them by the continued energy and activity of God.
God gave the strength to the Roman soldier to thrust the sword or the spear into Jesus’ side. As
you’re actually sinning, as your tongue is cutting your friend apart or criticizing the other member
of the family, or you’re doing something to someone else that is not in God’s will, God Himself is
giving you the strength to do that. He’s even keeping you alive, (so dear to Him is free will) for
your eventual free will love for Him. So dear is that to Him that He is gracious and gives you the
strength that you use even against Him. That’s how gracious He is.
He is gracious beyond anything that you or I can ever imagine. You’re still alive. You know the
things you have done in your life. You know some of the things you’re still doing and yet God is the
one who keeps you alive. I have tried to think of it in some graphic terms that I would understand.
It seems like the Savior is walking down Calvary road and there you and I are with our whips beating
Him over the head. He has His hand up to ward off some of the blows. But at the same time He has His
other hand around our backs drawing us to Him.
It seems like that’s God’s grace. There’s every reason for us to be grateful to Him and be
overwhelmed by His kindness. How come He can really be so kind? Because when you are in the depths
of guilt over what you’ve done, when you can no longer see God or look at anybody else, when you
feel that God is not close to you or hearing you, the heavens are closed and all of life seems dark,
there’s only one thing that God is saying to you at that moment. There’s just one thing and I’ll
show you. It’s in Isaiah 1:18. I know you think, “Oh, He will never have anything more to do with
me. I am such a rotten sinner that He cannot even hear me.” There’s only one thing God is saying.
Isaiah 1:18 — “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If
you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you
shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
To each one of you, I would say the same thing as God has said to me, “Though your sins are as
scarlet, to Him, they shall be as white as snow.” Now, if you say, “Why, why, why? Is He a dumb God?
Can’t He see that it’s a sin? Can’t He see that it’s black? Why does He say it’ll be as white as
snow?” Just for one reason loved ones. It’s in Ephesians if you look at it.
Ephesians 2:3-8 “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even
when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been
saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in
Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith.”
Can you see what it says? Before you were even born, God foresaw the things that you would do. He
foresaw the things that you would say and the things you would think. Even then when you were dead
in your trespasses — before you had made any attempt at believing in him or any move towards him —
even when you were dead in your trespasses, he made you alive together with Christ.
He destroyed your old nature in Jesus, made you alive together with Christ and he raised you up to
his right hand. That’s why he is able to forgive you the moment you commit sin here in this world.
He has already destroyed you in Jesus. He has destroyed Jesus for your sin and God isn’t in the
business of wanting two deaths for one sin. God doesn’t want your death or my death.
He has already destroyed us in His Son Jesus and has changed us completely. He knows we’re changed
and has nothing against us. I don’t know if you see it. I feel for all of us who fall into guilt –
who keep thinking God must hate me. Do you see He doesn’t hate you? Do you see that His only desire
was to destroy the nature that produced the sin? He has done that in Jesus, so He has nothing but
love for you and me. He has nothing against us.
If you say, “Even if I am sinning?” I agree with you, it should be. You’d think He’d hate us. But He
doesn’t. Even when we’re actually sinning He knows that He has already destroyed that nature in His
Son. He loves us at that moment and is bent on only one thing — trying to show us the change that
He has wrought in Jesus for us and trying to get us to receive that change into our own life.
If you get to heaven and ask God, “Didn’t you hate me when I was sinning?” He’ll say, “No, no, no
why would I hate you? You’re my child. You’re the one that I destroyed my own Son for, so that I
could change you. Why would I hate you? No, I don’t hate you. I loved you all the time and you had
only to turn around one inch to see that my face was smiling at you. I was saying to you right then,
“though your sins be as scarlet, to me they’re as white as snow. And though they be like crimson
they’ll be as wool.” That’s it, loved ones. He does not hate us.
He only wants to destroy what has produced the sin and He has done that in Jesus. He doesn’t want to
destroy you or me all over again. Then you say, “He has nothing against me?” No, He hasn’t. He has
nothing against us. If you say, “Well, then why do I feel guilt? If He has condemned me in Jesus,
why do I feel guilt?” You feel guilt because the Holy Spirit is trying to get you to receive that
change into your own life. He’s trying to get you to receive the change of your nature that took
place in Jesus. The nature of children of wrath was destroyed in Jesus and the Holy Spirit is trying
to get you to receive that by faith into your own life. You’re resisting Him doing that and that’s
why you feel guilty.
You don’t feel guilt because God hates you. He doesn’t hate you. Guilt is not the human registration
of God’s wrath. Guilt is the human registration of our continuing to grieve the Holy Spirit who is
trying throughout this life to get us to receive the change that God wrought in us in Jesus. We’re
in a time of respite. These 70 years or 80 years are a time of respite.
God has held the sword of death from us and He has said, “Here is a window of opportunity that I
have given you. Here on this earth you have an opportunity to receive into your life, the mighty
change that I wrought in you in My Son Jesus. Now this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity you
have and My Holy Spirit is going to make that real in you, so listen to Him.” When we don’t listen
to Him, when we resist Him, we feel guilt. That’s why we feel guilt.
We don’t feel guilt because God hates us or has condemned us or is angry with us. All those things
were settled when He destroyed us in Jesus. We feel guilt because we’re resisting the Holy Spirit.
That’s the other part of grace. Grace means the unmerited love of God. It also means the ability of
God to enable us to do what He tells us. It’s the power and ability of God to do what He tells us to
do. And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
When you and I feel guilt, it’s because we’re resisting the Holy Spirit. If you say, “How are we
resisting Him?” Loved ones, I put down a few things that meant something to me. We resist Him
sometimes because we won’t admit we’ve sinned.
We rationalize the whole thing. “Oh it was a shortcoming. I was just showing affection. I just
thought it would help the other person. I was irritated or angry that day and I am justified.” We
rationalize sin and we grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t out to beat us for our sins.
He’s just trying to say to us, “You’re hurting Jesus. You’re hurting Jesus.” That’s what sin is.
We grieve the Holy Spirit when we rationalize our sin. You and I might think, “We shouldn’t admit
we’ve sinned otherwise we’ll go to hell.” The killer is that if you don’t admit your sin, you’ll go
to hell. The sin is wrong, the sin is bad and it hurts God but it’s the attitude behind the sin that
says, “I didn’t do it, it wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t sin, it was okay and I can justify it” — that’s
what will prevent us being at home with God in heaven.
You know the way you have a conversation with somebody, and you know they are miles away from you.
Their whole attitude to life is utterly different from yours and you realize we’ll never be friends.
We’ll never be close to each other. That’s what sin is. It’s an attitude in us that won’t agree with
God. That’s what confession means. Homologio in Greek is “homo” (like homogenous) and it means “the
same”. Logo, is “speak”. So it is “speak the same”. Confessing is speaking the same or agreeing with
another person. It’s speaking the same thing as another person is speaking. So confessing is
agreeing with God. Rationalizing sin is the very opposite. That’s one thing we do.
Another thing we do is we want to make up for our sin instead of throwing ourselves into the arms of
Jesus. We grieve the Holy Spirit by wanting to make up for our sin instead of throwing ourselves
into the arms of Jesus. It’s works of righteousness I suppose. We want to do something. We want to
be better people. We want to reach a position of victory. Strive, strive, strive, instead of
throwing ourselves into the arms of Jesus and saying, “Lord Jesus, You did the only thing that could
be done with us. You destroyed us, thank You. We owe everything to you.”
Instead of doing that, we want to improve ourselves. So we keep trying and trying. We’re just
grieving the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is saying, “Look, the only thing to be done with you is destroy
you. That’s what God did in Jesus and that’s what I am trying to bring home to you”. And we’re
replying, “No, we’re trying to show you that we can be better on our own. We can overcome this sin
by trying harder. We can strive and be better people.” We grieve the Holy Spirit and therefore guilt
comes on our conscience because we’re resisting Him.
Another way I saw that many of us “good Christians” grieve the Holy Spirit is living by laws that we
think describe the life of a good Christian. That is, we get a whole series of laws or principles
and we judge ourselves as good Christians by how we live up to those laws and principles. Of course
the change is still not wrought in us by the Holy Spirit and so our carnal nature fashions those
laws into the kinds of things that we want to do and the kinds of things that we don’t want to do.
So we end up making the laws in our own image.
We pick out the principles that describe our life and we play down the ones that don’t describe our
lives. We get used to a Christian way of life instead of listening to the Holy Spirit moment by
moment. “Holy Spirit, I have allowed myself to be destroyed in Jesus. You’re the only one that can
run my life. What do you want me to do?” Then we go moment by moment in loving heart submission to
the Holy Spirit. Instead of doing that, we set up our Christian pattern of life that we follow.
So — many of us have Christian lives that are dead. They’re dead. We do Christian things. We go to
church. We follow Christian principles. We have all kinds of little things, (even prayers and Bible
study) which we do. But we’re dead inside because the Holy Spirit has not been listened to by us for
years. We no longer have a dynamic relationship to the Holy Spirit.
Now, if you say, “Well, can we live in continual peace with God and in continual victory over sin?”
Yes. If you say to me, “How?” My answer is the Holy Spirit — the Holy Spirit. You and I ease closer
and closer to the cliff over which we fall into outward sin by just turning away from the Holy
Spirit repeatedly until there comes a time when we can’t hear His voice anymore. That’s it, loved
ones. That’s how we do it.
I know that’s how it works with me. It starts with the thought life. You just allow a little more
laxity to your thoughts, a little more broadmindedness, we say. At the beginning when the Holy
Spirit spoke, we acted. Right then, we were afraid to hurt our God. We were afraid to grieve the
Holy Spirit. We were afraid to hesitate even. For us, obedience was instant obedience.
What we do is, we get easy going. We get a little more lax each time. We allow a little more
critical attitude to come into our minds, a little more unclean imagination, a little more
ruthlessness, a little more irritability. We allow these things to creep in instead of listening to
the Holy Spirit and doing it immediately. Loved ones, the Holy Spirit is sent here to make real in
you the change God wrought in you in Jesus. He will do it if you and I will listen to Him. He will
keep us from falling if we will listen to Him and give Him instant obedience. Is there a beautiful
place to live above sin and self? Yes, yes there is.
Is there a beautiful place where we can love each other freely and with open hearts with beauty and
purity? Yes, there is. And will it give us each more satisfaction than anything else would give us?
Yes, it will. The Holy Spirit is able to keep you and me in a life that is free from sin where we
live continuously in the presence of the Father. It’s not a life of striving, to keep up above the
standard. It’s not.
It’s a life of loving companionship with the Holy Spirit. It’s a life of honor and respect for this
dear gentleman that God has sent to us because that’s what He is. In Revelation, the Holy Spirit
said to the churches, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. (He is a gentleman.) If any man will
open the door, I will come in. (If he opens the door, I’ll come in but I won’t push in, I won’t
force my way in.) But if any man opens the door, I will come into him and will sit with him and he
with me.” The Holy Spirit is God’s gentleman. He will lead you and me in paths that are paths of
pleasantness and ways that are ways of peace.
I don’t know if there’s anybody here this morning that has found themselves to have sinned and has
not been able to get clear. Then this morning you should just take the step. You should just confess
it as sin to God and thank Him, (you don’t need to ask Him), thank him for His forgiveness and for
what He has done for us in Jesus. Then turn to the Holy Spirit and say, “Holy Spirit, not an inch
will I move without listening to you. Will you bring in to me this external life of God that opens
my heart up and that delivers me from myself and the domination of my own mind? Will you bring into
me the freshness of God?” He will do it.
That’s what I am going to do and then you could do it if you want to. Then we’ll just close after
we’ve done it. So come up if God prompts you to.