Some people have no problem recognizing sin in their life. In fact, they magnify their faults in their mind, whether real or imagined, thinking less of themselves than they ought to think.
Other people have the problem of not recognizing sin in their life. They magnify their strengths instead, whether real or imagined, thinking better of themselves than they ought to think.
Most of us fall somewhere in between: we magnify some weaknesses out of proportion, while minimizing others.
wants to give us an honest and objective look. For those of you who think you’re perfect, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news today. And for those of you who don’t think you’re perfect, I don’t want you to magnify what I’m about to say and feel worse about yourselves. But here’s the truth, according to what God says through Paul’s letter to the Romans:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
So far, this is a pretty inspiring message, right? But the truth is, the gospel—or good news of Jesus Christ
—is often bad news before it’s good news. If you’re not aware of your sinfulness, you’ll never be aware of your need for a Savior
. And if you don’t recognize your need for a Savior, you’ll never find salvation.
God didn’t give you the laws of the Bible—the ten commandments and the more than 600 additional laws that followed in the Old Testament
—to crush you. He gave them to help you and protect you. And to the extent that you can keep those laws, you’ll be blessed. But when you fall short of being able to keep those laws, God sent Jesus to make up the difference—to fill the gap between the best that you can do and the best that God wants for you.
And since the Bible says that “there is no one righteous, not even one,” that means that God sent Jesus for each one of us. If you want to renew your mind and get a new perspective on life, it’s important to see your sins as God sees them. For when you see how short you’ve fallen from God’s righteousness, you can see what needs to happen to make up the difference: put your faith in Christ
This is not a message just for non-Christians to encourage them to put their faith in Christ. This is just as much a message for Christians, who need God’s grace
just as much after being saved as before. As professor and philosopher Dallas Willard says:
“The sinner is not the one who uses a lot of grace. The saint uses more grace. The saint burns grace like a 747 burns fuel on takeoff, because everything they do is a manifestation of grace. But we have to learn how to use it. It means we no longer trust just our efforts to manage our lives.”
Throughout the book of Romans
, Paul addresses the differences and similarities between Jews and Gentiles—or non-Jews
. What good is it being a Jew
, some have asked, if both Jews and Gentiles both can be saved by grace? Here’s what Paul said:
“What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1-2).
God gave His words in the form of the Scriptures to the Jews, and to the extent that they heeded those words they were blessed. But to the extent that they didn’t heed those words, there was a gap.
God gave them ways to fill that gap, through sacrifices of atonement that they and their leaders could make. But as good as this was, it was never enough to completely fill the gap. Paul said that it was only because of God’s forbearance—His patience, self-control, and restraint—that He never brought upon them the full punishment that they deserved for their sins. Paul said:
“Because in His forbearance, He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Romans 3:25b).
But when the time was right, God provided a way to fill the gap completely, once and for all. He filled it by offering His own Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for our sins. That’s the gospel, or good news of Jesus Christ. Even though none of us are righteous on our own, we can become righteous by putting our faith in Jesus Christ.
If you feel like a sinner today, hallelujah! When you become conscious of your sins, you’ve hit upon a truth of God. That means you recognize your need for a Savior—someone who can save you from your sins! And that means you can be saved, if you recognize Jesus as your Savior! It really is great news, see?
Becoming conscious of sin is one of the main purposes of the laws that God gave us. As Paul said:
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).
If you want to renew your mind today, ask God to help you become conscious of sin in your life. Then, when you become aware of what needs changing in your life, invite Jesus in to do his work. Remember, God’s grace is just as much available to you after you’ve become a Christian as before.
At the same time, as you ask God to help you become conscious of sin in your life, don’t let Satan magnify your weaknesses out of proportion.
I had a friend this week who shared with me that she was struggling to hear from God. She felt like God wasn’t answering her prayers and she wondered what she might be doing wrong. At one point in our conversation, she confessed to me this that she felt God wasn’t answering her prayers because she had gone off her special diet that she had for a particular health condition, and had eaten some candy bars. She felt awkward saying it, and said she hadn’t told anyone else what she was thinking. But from the way she said it, I knew she was dead serious and completely distraught. I looked at her and said:
“Satan is lying to you. The truth is that God loves you so much that He has already paid the ultimate price for you—by sending Jesus to die for your sins. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do for you if it’s in His will for your life. There may be good reason for you to be careful about what you eat for the sake of your health. But that’s a different issue. I don’t believe that God is holding anything back from you because you ate some candy bars. If you believe that God wants for you what you’re praying for, then keep on praying for it! Believe that God will answer your prayers and don’t let anything stop you from praying for it.”
My friend listened intently to what I was saying, and when I was finished, asked if I could repeat it all for her one more time, which I did.
I confess that I fall into the same mental trap at times, and maybe you do, too. Maybe you’ve had thoughts like these:
– “I don’t have enough money because I haven’t made enough contacts this week—God must not love me, or He thinks bad about me, and He’s not answering my prayers because of it.” (Maybe there’s a connection between your contacts and your money, but maybe not. Your work matters to God, but don’t let Satan lie to you that it’s because God doesn’t love you because you haven’t done enough. If you fall short in what you can do, ask God for forgiveness and let Jesus fill the gap.)
– “My kids are a mess because of a sin I committed in high school and now they’re just following in my footsteps, even though I’ve repented a thousand times for it since then.” (No, don’t let Satan lie to you. If you’ve confessed it, you’re forgiven. God has wiped the slate clean and starts all over again with your kids on their own.)
– “I’ve been praying for a husband or wife, but no one will marry me. It must be because of my ____ (fill in the blank: nose, temper, scar, income, freckles, hair, lack of hair, etc.).” (No, don’t let Satan lie to you, either. There are plenty of people who have gotten married in spite of having a multitude of traits that seem to be ignored, and even adored, by a devoted spouse. While there may be qualities or characteristics about yourself that God does want you to work on, that’s likely a different issue. Trust God that He is answering your prayers and working on your behalf, behind the scenes. At the proper time, you will see the fruit of your prayers.)
If there’s a a gap between you and perfection, there’s good news for you—even as a Christian. Jesus came to fill the gap!
God want to renew your mind. He’s given you His law to so you can become conscious of sin. But once you’re aware of it, don’t wallow in it! Put your faith in Christ, and let Him make things right again. As the Apostle John said:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for helping us to become conscious of our sins, so that we can see our need for a Savior, so that we can find salvation! Thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ, who came to fill in the gap between the best that we can do and the best that God has in store for us. We ask that you would fill the gaps in our lives today where we fall short, as we put our faith in Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.