A Christian can slip and fall into sin. But a true child of God wants a quick recovery. What about that recovery? What happens when you slip? God has provided the way to deal with your guilt as a Christian when you fall into sin.
First, would you agree that our greatest joy is to have fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ? The apostle John knew that. As one of Jesus’ closest companions on earth, John knew fellowship with Him from personal experience.
That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
1 John 1:3-4.
Fullness of joy comes from having unhindered fellowship with Him. But how can we fellowship freely with Him when we’re burdened down by sin and the guilt that comes with it?
If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7
The formula for fellowship is a cleansed life.
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 to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10
John diagnoses the disease and prescribes the cure: All of us have sinned, and if we claim we haven’t, we’re fooling ourselves.
What is the cure?
1. Call it what it is: sin.
It wasn’t “a mistake.” If you call your sins “mistakes,” you'll never deal with them. You must understand: sin is an affront to a holy God. Sin has caused all the devastation in this world. If you call sin by some other name (misjudgment, malfunction, mistake, sickness), if you say man is ill, but not evil; weak, but not wicked; sick, but not sinful—then you're never going to deal with sin as you ought. And you're never going to have genuine fellowship with God.
Today people carry a burden of guilt without a sense of sin. We don't see ourselves as sinners needing to be forgiven, just people whose mistakes need to be fixed. We try to fix ourselves and compensate for the problem without getting cleansed and forgiven.
2. Admit there is only one answer.
The only answer to our guilt is the gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby God forgives, cleanses and (the wonderful part) forgets our sin.
When you get saved, God says He will remember your sins no more (Hebrews 8:12). "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isaiah 43:25). Twice God says, “I will not remember.” He buries our sin in the grave of His forgetfulness, never to come up again. Buried, gone, forgiven.
That doesn't mean God forgets it intellectually and cannot recall it. Because He already knows everything and nothing escapes His knowledge, God could never truly “learn” or “forget” anything. So when God says He will forget our sins, He doesn’t remember them as sins, but as forgiven sins.
What God has forgotten as a sin, you can forget as a sin. We can remember our sins intellectually, but thank God, we can remember them as forgiven sins, buried in the grave of God's forgetfulness. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:8).
When we are born into the family of God, we are born into “sonship.” You become a child of God. You can never ever be unborn. But if you disobey your heavenly Father, then your fellowship changes.
I was conceived and born into the Rogers family. I was born a Rogers. I will be a Rogers for all eternity. Nothing can undo that. That is sonship. But there were times when my dad would tell me to cut the grass, and I wouldn't, or clean the garage, and I wouldn't clean the garage. Sonship didn’t change, but at that point fellowship would chang! He knew how to apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge. I didn't like it. “No chastening for the present time seems to be joyous but grievous. But afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those that are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). So God, a loving Father, chastens us when we need it.
Fellowship is determined by whether or not we obey the Father's instructions. Your sin will never be used to condemn you, if you are truly saved. But your sin can interrupt fellowship with the Father.
How can you get rid of your burden of guilt and be restored to fellowship?
3. Your sin must be exposed to the light.
Are you denying you have a sin problem? John expected we might do that, and begins three verses in chapter 1 (6, 8, and 10) with “If we say.”
It’s in our nature to deny we have a problem. If you lie to yourself long enough, you're going to begin to believe it. You become a spiritual schizophrenic. That's the way to depression and a mental breakdown. We end up lying to God and calling Him a liar, really (“If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”—the most dangerous thing we can do.
We must expose sin to the light, not to condemn us, but to be totally cleansed, having fellowship with God and one another.
Ask the Holy Spirit to turn the searchlight of His holiness on your heart. The closer you get to a bright light, the more imperfections show up. You don't have to do morbid introspection on yourself. Simply open yourself to the Lord and ask Him to reveal that sin to you.
4. Learn the difference between Holy Spirit conviction and Satan's accusation.
The Holy Spirit convicts you of sin. The devil accuses you of sin. There's a vast difference. The devil will bring up that which has already been forgiven and cleansed. Remember, Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). The Bible says, if it has been cleansed, it will never be brought up again.
The Holy Spirit will convict you specifically: “You told a lie.” The devil will accuse you generally. Your sin nature is all under the blood of Christ. You’ve become a partaker of the divine nature. But the devil doesn't want you to understand that, so he says, “You’re just no good. You're unworthy. God couldn't love anybody like you.” Under his oppression, Satan makes you feel bad all over.
But the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict you generally. Like a skilled physician, He puts His finger on the spot and pushes. You say, “Ouch, that hurts.” That's where the sin is. The Holy Spirit will call it by name.
5. Confess it to the Lord
Don't try to deal with sin by saying, “Oh God, if I've sinned, forgive me,” or “Lord, forgive me for all of my sins, whatever they were. I don't know, I haven't got any idea.”
That's a waste of breath. Say “Lord, I told a lie. Forgive me.” Or “Lord I was cruel, forgive me.” Or “Lord I was dishonest, forgive me.” Not “But I just feel terrible.” That's the devil making you feel terrible. Name it specifically. That's where you get forgiven.
The Holy Spirit will only convict you of sin that’s not been confessed, and He’ll tell you exactly what it is. He'll put a name, face, time and date on it. That way, you can know it’s cleansed and forgiven.
God convicts you redemptively. When God deals with you as a son, He's not trying to get even with you; God wants to bring you back, to restore you to fellowship with Him. The devil accuses you destructively. He wants to drive you to accusation and despair, away from God. But God says, “Now come to Me, and I will forgive and cleanse you.
Open your heart to the Holy Spirit. Say, “Lord here I am.” The Holy Spirit will redemptively say where the problem is. You respond, “That’s right, God. There is the problem in my life, and I judge that sin. If there is any unconfessed, unforsaken, unforgiven sin in my life, turn on the search light of your holiness, forgive, and cleanse me.”
Do it immediately. Do it specifically. Do it confidently. Don't save up all your sins for the end of the day, or worse, the week. Say, “Lord I'm going to get right with you again right now. Immediate action. When you get a speck in your eye during the day, you don't say “I'll get that out at the end of the night. Or maybe in a week.” No, you say, “I've got something in my eye I need to get out right now.”
Do the same thing with your sin. I do this all the time: “Lord that was wrong. My attitude was wrong. Forgive me and cleanse me.” What a relief there is when you say, “I am sorry. It was wrong. I agree with you.” Call it sin. Do it immediately, specifically, confidently.
You can be absolutely, wonderfully, totally, cleansed. If God did not cleanse you and forgive you, he'd be a liar, unfaithful and unjust. It will be gone, never to be brought up against you anymore.
When we're clean, we have fellowship with God and with one another. there's nothing like just being clean with God. You feel clean all over.
I pray that you will know the joy of the burden of sin lifted and gone. The devil loves to accuse, but the Lord loves to convict, cleanse and restore. You're His child. If you've been out of fellowship with Him, He’s calling you back to Him. He wants to do it right now. Thank Him for His mighty love for you.