Something I love about Jesus is His ability to affirm a person's value, while challenging them to rise above their sin. He is passionately in love with people, but ferociously against their sin.
This morning I was reading Matthew 12 and found one such occasion where Jesus affirms the value of the person, but then later gets angry about sin.
When answering a question about whether or not it is lawful to heal on the sabbath, he says, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12 ESV)
While addressing this important issue, Jesus affirms the value of people. He takes the opportunity to elevate people above animals. This is great news. God does not view us as lower, animal-like beings. He views us as people of eternal value who were made in His image.
Then later on in the chapter, Jesus shows his disdain for sin and calls us to rise above it.
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 ESV)
I don't know about you, but this passage convicts me big time. Specifically the line, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Does He really mean that what I say is a reflection of my heart? That's a sobering thought. Not to mention that Jesus assures us that we will be held accountable for the careless words we say.
When I was reading this passage, I immediately thought about some of the hurtful things that I've said to people. I thought about some of the vile things that can come out of my mouth if I'm not careful. I thought about my human tendency to want to gossip about people. I thought about my tendency to lash out at those I love when we argue.
According to Jesus, whatever comes out of my mouth is a reflection of what is in my heart. When I think about some of the things that I'm capable of saying it makes me think seriously about what is in my heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
Let's face it, without Jesus, we have sick hearts. If we detach from Jesus, our heart is going to spew out some nasty things.
This leads me to the question that I want to answer this week, "How Do I Find Freedom From My Sin?" To answer this question, there are two things that you need to know.
1. Although Jesus loves us and will always forgive, He does not excuse our sin.
If you are a Christian, you know that Jesus loves you and has forgiven you. If you are not a Christian, you need to know that Jesus loves you and will forgive you if you repent from your sins and believe in Him!
However, God's forgiveness does not lessen His challenge for us to run from our sin, it actually raises the bar. Because we have been forgiven and given a new heart, God calls us to a higher standard.
One such example is in Matthew 5:27-28. Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Jesus doesn't just call Christians to refrain from adultery, He calls them to refrain from any kind of lust. He raises the bar. He doesn't only do this on issues of sexuality, but on issues of all sin. (Read Matthew 5 for more on this.)
The point is, God calls all Christians to take their sin seriously. Paul David Tripp said it best, "You cannot be serious about your relationship with God and not take sin seriously."
Forgiveness does not reduce the challenge to run from sin, but raises it.
We don't obey to earn God's love, but we obey because He has loved us so much.
If you are serious about the things of God and have a relationship with Him, you must run from your sin.
Now that we understand the seriousness of running from sin, the question remains, how do we find freedom from our sin?
2. The remedy for our sin is heart transformation, not behavior modification.
When challenging us to watch what we say, Jesus brings it back to the heart.
He assures us that we cannot fix our nasty words by focusing more intently on what we say. Instead, if we want to cure our propensity to gossip, slander, and lash out, we must get closer to Him so that He can mold and shape our hearts.
This applies to any sin. If you want freedom from your sin, the cure is not behavior modification, but rather heart transformation.
Whether you're struggling with gossip, pornography, or anger, Jesus' solution is the same, get closer to Him.
If you want to find freedom from your sin, then you have to get closer to Jesus. You can do this by reading the Scriptures, prayer, worship, serving others, and so forth.
This should give us great hope. It is not our responsibility to pull up our boot straps and try harder so that we can overcome sin. Instead it is our responsibility to get closer to Jesus so that He can transform our hearts. It is our responsibility to stay near to Him and His responsibility to change our hearts.
In order for this to happen, we have to understand His love for us and that He will not condemn us if we only trust in His sacrifice on the cross. When we sin, we run to God instead of from Him because we know that He calls us son or daughter and has already purchased our salvation.
So how do we find freedom from our sin? We find freedom from our sin by living our lives in close proximity to Jesus. We do whatever it takes to get closer to Him. We know that our performance does not dictate His acceptance. With His loving acceptance in mind, we stay close to Him and allow Him to do the heavy lifting of transforming our hearts. When we do sin, we run from it, confess it, and ask Jesus to give us the ability to overcome it.
This week, I want to challenge you to get closer to Jesus. Spend some extra time with Him. Allow Him to do a work in your heart. You will be pleased with the beautiful fruit that grows out from you as you stay connected to the vine of Jesus.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 ESV)
Love you guys,