The Two Wages of Sin
James R. Aist
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
A great many Christians find it much easier to accept God’s forgiveness of their sins than it is to live free of the stains of those sins: guilt, shame and condemnation. In Romans 6:23, Paul correctly declares that the wages of sin is death, but, for many, these lingering stains are another wage of sin that needs to be dealt with. In this article I will show that a better understanding of how God responds to our confession and repentance of sins can help remove the stains of sin once and for all.
Let’s begin with the key verse, above. Notice that if we confess our sins to God, He will respond by doing, not just one, but two, things: first, He will forgive our sins; and second, He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness associated with those sins. These are not two ways of saying the same thing, but two very different, but related, things: forgive and cleanse. So, let’s focus on this cleansing from the stains of sin for a few moments.
In Isaiah 43:25, God says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins, and Hebrews 10:17 says, “Their sins and lawless deeds will I remember no more.” Here again, we see two things that God does in response when we confess our sins and repent: First, he no longer remembers our sins, meaning that He will no longer bring them to mind and hold them against us; and secondly, He will “blot out our transgressions”, meaning, in effect, that He will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In the book of Hebrews we find the same process of removing the stain of sin referred to as “cleanse your conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14) and “cleanse them from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). Finally, we see the same theme recorded in Ephesians 5:25-27, “…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And, concerning specifically the stain of condemnation, Paul had this to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1a).” Clearly, God has promised to cleanse us from the lingering guilt, shame and condemnation when we confess our sins and repent, and He has surely done it. So, God, for His part, has released us from these stains of sin, but the question is, have we accepted His release as the final word on the matter and released ourselves from the stains?
How, then, can we be released from these stains left by sins? I believe that the first thing we must do is to forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us. This means that we must “remember our own sins no more.” In other words, we must no longer bring our sins to mind as if God still holds them against us! After all, it is to God, and Him alone, that we must give account (cf. Psalm 51:4), so why not let Him have the final say in the matter? And, we can have a very active part in letting go of the stains. Satan likes to remind us of our sins by putting evil thoughts about them into our minds, thoughts of guilt, shame and condemnation. But we do not have to allow ourselves to dwell on these evil thoughts until they consume us. Remind the devil that God has cleansed you from all unrighteousness. James exhorted us in this way, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7b).” Keep on resisting these lies of the devil until he doesn’t bring these accusations to mind any more. In this way you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), and you will no longer have to struggle with an “evil conscience.” You can do this; God will help you, if you will trust Him!
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