How do we account for occasional sinful failures?
Vessels Of Clay
Obviously, on any given day, there are various circumstances which can surprise even a believer who has experienced the Spiritual merger and truly shares in the character essence of Christ. Why? Because, the reality is, such believer’s still remain human as they move through the very dynamic process of redemption. They do not become superhuman, even in Christ, in that they suddenly become impervious to life’s unexpected or treacherous moments and circumstances.
For example, even a mature, Spirit-filled believer can be caught off guard. Or, she can be caught up in a circumstance which she cannot manage well, simply because the complexity of that circumstance is beyond her maturity level in Christ. Or, she might simply be physically or emotionally weary, and therefore, less than at her best. And, a believer may lack good situational awareness in a given circumstance, and thus, react wrongly to it.
All of these circumstances, and many more like them, merely serve to remind us that we begin our character development in Christ at the infant level, just as Jesus indicated when He used the phrase, “born again.” That phrase does not convey the idea of maturity, but rather, that we do, indeed, “start at square one” in the redemptive process and then grow to the consistencies of maturity. So, as in our physical development, managing the dynamics of our development in Christ can also sometimes be pretty tricky.
The War Of The Secondary
And, then there are the Secondary Sin Confrontations. These are sin issues which have been spawned by the Primary Sin Value and now exist as secondary sin issues on various levels of awareness in our heart and life. So, even after Christ has subdued that primary sin value, there are still these secondary issues which must be confronted and conquered as we grow to maturity in Him.
For example, among many other possibilities, we might need to confront and conquer motives like materialism, jealousy, hate, lust, pride, etc., as we discover these secondary sin motives and their expressions in our heart and life. But now, we are actually empowered to do so by the Living Christ.
But, not so fast, know this also. Our first attempt to gain those victories may not always be the only effort which is required, because, even these confrontations have a higher purpose. The reality is, even in Christ, especially in Christ, God doesn’t simply wave a divine wand and make all of our struggles immediately disappear. Rather, He understands and employs the value of those God-shared struggles to achieve His higher goals: to develop real depth in our new Christ-based character, and thus, deepen and strengthen our growing heart-oneness with Him.
And, indeed, in the pursuit of those higher purposes, there is sometimes the bitterness of occasional failures when we temporarily fall short of our faith aspiration to always, please God in our heart and life. But, that anguish, at the end, just becomes part of the joy of the final victory over those secondary sin issues.
Is This A Contradiction?
But wait! How is it any different to say, “The believer may occasionally experience momentary failures,” than it is to say, as the non-responsible gospel does, that “We are hopelessly consigned to a pattern of daily sin?” How can we recognize one idea, and deny the other? In truth, these two ideas, don’t even exist on the same plane.
One important difference must be understood to sort this out. It is this. An occasional and inadvertent failure in the struggle to conquer the secondary sin issues, is vastly different from a regular pattern of sin created by a comfortable co-existence with a dominant sin value remaining in the heart. The first circumstance is simply part of the transformative growth struggle of the faithful believer. But, the latter indicates a redemptive process stalled in the carnal phase – at best.
A Cleansing Sub-process
So, it is pretty much self-evident that, as part of the redemptive process, God has chosen to use various kinds of challenges, including the secondary sin issues, to cultivate the fullness of the Christ character within us. And the apostle, John, in his writing shows us a kind of redemptive sub-process for handling occasional failures which occur with these challenges.
In 1 John, chapter 1, the apostle writes, “If we say that 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.”
Always With A View Of Victory
But, notice, while John indicates a recognition that there will be occasional and inadvertent failures on the part of the believer, there is also another indication here. Note that what he prescribes is by no means a consignment of the believer to defeat. But rather, he prescribes the means by which the believer can obtain forgiveness, and then continue on to eventual victory over those secondary issues.
First, John prescribes what should always be the first initiative of a true and vibrant faith in the face of failure: essentially he says, “First, just own it.” The idea is to admit (confess) our failure to God. So, in his own words, the apostle says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” But then, the apostle goes on to let us know that, eventually, as the redemptive process plays out, the power of Living Christ within will, indeed, “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The Larger Conclusions
So hopefully. it is now obvious that the reality of a consistently faith-expressive and sin-free lifestyle is completely dependent on our Spiritual merger with the Living Christ. It is through that merger that Christ first subjugates that primary sin value of self-determination on both the conscious and subconscious levels of the believer’s heart. And it is through that merger that the believer is also empowered by the shared resources of the Living Christ, to address the secondary offspring of that essential sin motive on the various awareness levels of his heart and life.
So obviously, even the Spirit empowered believers must continue to live in and honestly confront the challenges of the real world, every day. Real life and the human side of the equation are not set aside by our Spiritual merger with Christ. And, in fact, it is true. Sometimes we win some, and sometimes, we temporarily lose some as part of the dynamic realities of the redemptive process.
But, the overarching reality is this. Christ empowered believers ultimately always decisively conquer sin in its every form and manifestation on every level of confrontation. And in the process of meeting these and all of life’s challenges, we are transformed as our heart-oneness with Him is deepened with every single life experience that we share with together, the struggles and the joys, the foxholes and the mountain tops. In the Living Christ, they are all simply God’s means to an ultimately deep and durable heart-oneness.
Sharing everything, the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, that is just the way intimate friendships are built – even divine friendships. And ultimately, redemption is just about that friendship.
[Continue to Section 9]
[Continue to Section 9]