Summary: What’s going on when the saints sin?
When I put my faith in Jesus Christ decisively at the age of 21, God spoke a sentence into my consciousness that I will never forget: “You’re forgiven. Go and sin no more.” From the moment that lightning bolt realization struck, I’ve never doubted God’s complete forgiveness. That simple understanding of His grace fundamentally changed who I am on the inside and progressively alters my outward actions too.
But He also said, “Go and sin no more.” I went, but I have sinned some more – a lot more. Every now and then I stumble over major flaws. I think the first time this really hit me was several years after coming to faith when I was in seminary in South Carolina. One time my mother-in-law was raving about a guest speaker at her church who just happened to be one of my professors. She said that he was so good her mouth hung open the entire time he spoke. What words edification overflowed from my saintly heart? “Yeah … but he sure does repeat his stories a lot in class.” She’d never said my preaching left her mouth hanging open and something inside me gushed out to take him down a few notches. The ugliness of my envy and insecurity was shocking. I assure you God has dealt with the habitual sin of comparison in me over the next decade or so.
I’m no longer surprised by my pettiness. Occasionally, I’m ashamed by the sinful words that spill out of my mouth. Regularly, I’m confronted with the enormity of my self-absorption and pride. I’m constantly glad that people can’t read my evil thoughts, but I know that God can. There are days when I think I may not have sinned, but even then I’m sure I’ve just overlooked something.
The sad fact is that all Christians sin, even after genuinely trusting in Christ for their forgiveness. In the Middle Ages Catholic Christians believed that the waters of baptism literally washed away their sins. Great! But there was one big problem. They noticed that they still sinned after baptism. What would wash away sins after that? To solve the problem they developed practices like penance – doing good deeds – and confession to deal with post baptismal sin. They also came up with the theology of purgatory, a state of existence between heaven and hell where believers burned off their remaining sins over hundreds or thousands of years. Lots of them waited just until death to be baptized to make sure that no sins trailed them into eternity.
Although we’re fairly confident we’ve got this one figured out, most of us still struggle with the issue. How is that people of sincere faith still sin after such grace has been lavished on them and the Holy Spirit resides within their hearts? Why do we still fall into transgression even when we’re fighting hard against it? Is there forgiveness for willful sins after salvation? Does our sin disrupt the will of God? This morning I want us to come to a basic understanding of why and what happens when God’s people do bad things.
I hope you noticed that the story from Genesis 27 is a mess. Isaac’s family put the fun in dysfunctional. God’s people dropped the ball during every play. The saints sinned big time and the author of Genesis spared no detail. The only one who didn’t sin in this story was Esau, the guy who wasn’t one of God’s people. How do we make sense of this episode?