How To Stop Sinning Long Enough For God To Forgive You

Have you ever found yourself thinking that you need to stop sinning in order for God to forgive you, that repentance from sin is a prerequisite to his forgiveness. Perhaps you act sometimes as if God forgives only the deserving.

If you ever do find yourself thinking such things, I have good news for you. You’re wrong. God loves you more than that.

And if someone ever tries to tell you that God forgives only those who turn to him in repentance, you can say that you have good news for them. They’re wrong too. God loves them more than that.

The Bible says so.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8.)

That verse is packed with grace not only for what it says, but for what it doesn’t say.

  • It doesn’t say Christ died for you because you were a sinner looking for forgiveness.
  • It doesn’t say Christ died for you because you had already started to repent of your sin.
  • It doesn’t say Christ died for you because you showed yourself worthy.

It says Christ died for you just as you are. And he did it while you were unable to clean yourself up for God, because you were dead.

When you were dead in your sins … God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (Colossians 2:13.)

The truth is, you are forgiven despite the fact you don’t deserve forgiveness. And according to that Colossians verse this forgiveness is not only past tense but applies to every future sin you are ever going to commit.

This is the gospel of grace.

The Gospel of Grace in Action

In one of the best-known forgiveness stories in the Bible, we see Jesus interacting with two very different types of people: a group who needed a reminder of their own unrighteousness and a woman who knew she wasn’t righteous at all.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11.)

Note the change in Jesus’ posture when the self-righteous bring their accusations against the woman. He did not remain sitting, but stood up to them both literally and figuratively. He rose to become her advocate against her accusers.

Then he lowered himself again as they came to grips with their own lack of righteousness. But notice that Jesus stands once again, this time to speak to the woman. He is no longer her advocate but addresses her face to face, a friend who is also her Savior, the one who has saved her from death at the hands of those accusers.

And note the woman’s response when Jesus asks where her accusers are. She doesn’t wonder if Jesus should be counted among her accusers. She says that all her accusers are gone.

Jesus then says, “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus could easily have told her that her sins deserved punishment under the law, and the only way she could receive forgiveness was through repentance and sacrifice. After all, the New Covenant had not yet been created because Jesus had not yet become the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for everyone. (Titus 3:4-7.)

But Jesus did not say, “Change your life of sin and then you shall be forgiven.” He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

This is possible because in God’s grace you are now righteous,

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19.)

and you are invited to live accordingly,

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12.)

God’s grace, forgiveness, love, mercy – all these come first. Only after God has done all that for you do you then through grace live for him.

This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness comes first.

That’s how much God loves you.

***

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13 Responses to How To Stop Sinning Long Enough For God To Forgive You

  1. patbadstibner says:

    Tim, as I get older there are probably few things that I will fall on my sword for so to speak, but those things that bring confusion, that take a work of God’s like the gospel of grace from start to finish and confuse it or even in the littlest, tinniest, most miniscule way and make it anywhere in the process about something we must do other than focus on Christ and live now to our identity are worthy. The subject of repentance is one of those items that is used to confuse more, lead people on guilty trails, doubt God’s amazing work in their lives, doubt his passionate love for them and as a thief robbing others banks of joy in clear broad daylight, unmasked.

    Currently reading Robert Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgement, Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in The Parables of Jesus. To paraphrase a statement Often the error is made in believing that confession is simply admitting we made a mistake and we have now chosen to correct ourselves and thus now the repentance is the correctional path. This is why Spurgeon said that when repentance is only made for specific sins it remains shallow. No, confession is the admission that I really do not know best and am changing my mind in accepting that at no one point can I save myself, that this little sin enjoying interlude is merely a reflection of me giving a dead man life. Then repentance being if I am going to stop living as a zombie and ever have life again, then I will indeed accept that the living of life rests in the authority of another. If I am to return to being fully human again, then I will live in the acknowledgement that my joy and the very essence of life lived is found in being what I designed to be.

    Also, said confession and repentance does not mean I will not go right back out and do it again. Does not mean that to me my repentance is not sincere, only that I am God’s workmanship and not my own and as a result that area may not completely change till God has finished working in that area. Steve Brown’s calls it the believers gospel and well it is. For as you said it is within knowing that we are already forgiven and passionately loved, in which the reminding of such leads to repentance. I could say much more and have already said too much. Yet, this topic rarely is taught correctly. Sorry for taking so much space and turning this into a blogpost.

    • Tim says:

      Good words, Pat, laying out the proper roles of repentance and confession in a person’s walk with the God of grace.

  2. Ellen says:

    Reblogged this on When Church Hurts and commented:
    This is such an important message that I want to share it with the readers on my blog. Those of us who have been spiritually abused are often led to believe that we are unacceptable to God and to the church because we don’t behave the way the leadership would like us to behave. Maybe we ask too many questions or point out problems that they don’t want to address. And in the process we are made to feel that we are so sinful that God cannot love us or except us because they don’t love us or except us. Please know that you do not have to except the message of church leaders if it is anything other than God’s love and grace as described in this post.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for sharing the post at your place, Ellen, and for your wisdom for those who have been misled on grace by others.

  3. Jeannie says:

    This scene with Jesus and the woman is such a beautiful example of God’s grace, and I love how you’ve unpacked it here. I was struck by the part about how Jesus could legitimately have demanded that she repent and offer sacrifices for sin, since the New Covenant was not technically in effect yet. That Titus passage starts out “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared…” — and there He was, in the flesh, talking to this woman and showing her God’s grace incarnate, not a set of laws and rules. Truly awesome.

    • Tim says:

      I wonder if that woman ever sat in a congregation and heard Titus’ letter read aloud. She could have said, “It did appear … to me, to me!”

  4. Kati Hammar says:

    Beautiful! Thank you so much for posting this! 🙂

  5. mkubo2013 says:

    When churches/pastors preach sin-avoidance, it is quite a bit like telling a cyclist to “don’t look at the rock in the road.” Attention is directed toward the very thing that a person is supposed to avoid. You don’t want to hit it, but… BAM!

    In the messages that I hear from some of my more conservative pastors, repentance really is about sin-avoidance. It is most often about turning away from all those “bad things” that cause a person to stumble. In passing, turning to Jesus is mentioned, but the bulk of the message goes back to the “bad stuff.” When the message is constantly about how sin traps you, even if a person wants to find freedom, they end up looking back to see if they’ve escaped, and then they’re right back in the trap. Like the cyclist told to stop looking at the obstacle…

    My own, personal, anecdotal experience is that I used to think of sin and repentance in the terms described above. That’s what I heard from the pulpit, from all the well-meaning “How to be a good Christian” type books. Freedom came when I finally encountered an author who wrote that focusing on sin-avoidance simply doesn’t work. Understanding the true meaning of repentance – that of looking forward toward the path I want to see myself taking – was what liberated me from the trap and cycle of sin, guilt, and shame.

  6. hirstiusd says:

    When my child goes astray I do not abandon him or love him less. In fact, I reach out to him more than ever. All I know is, the love I have for my son must be of the same character as the love God has for each of us. This love yearns, seeks, suffers with and for, but never abandons or waits for repentance before acting. If God is indeed Love (experience and reality bear this out completely), then we need to pattern our entire way of being on that kind of love.

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