13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
The depth of our sins magnifies the depth of God’s mercy. The Pharisee in this parable depicts “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee justified himself in comparison to others. He considered himself to be superior spiritually – “not like other men” (Luke 18:11-12). When we cannot see our own sins we are unable to show compassion to others, much less receive God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins. God is ready, willing and able to show us mercy when we, in anguish over our sins, turn to Him for relief (Psalm 51:17). The tax collector was crushed over his sin. Even so today, a sinner who is “cut to the heart” over his sins receives God’s mercy when he repents and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The contrite heart turns to God for compassionate forgiveness and receives it. It is precisely when we understand our own need for mercy that we are able to show mercy to others. The merciful do not elevate themselves above others, for they know their own need for mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The self-righteous do not give or receive mercy.
1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NKJV)
When we say “we have no sin” at least three things happen: We deceive ourselves, the truth is not in us, and we make God a liar (1 John 1:8-10). The fact is we have all chosen to sin (“all have sinned”). We were not born sinners. We do not have a sin nature that forces us to sin. Sin is a choice we make (1 John 3:4; Romans 7:7-11). Although we have sinned, God’s will is that we “may not sin” (1 John 2:1). God wants us to sin less and less. To deny sin’s reality is a lie. When we confess our sins, we are assured of forgiveness and cleansing because we have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). As our Advocate He pleads our case before the Father. As the propitiation for our sins, His blood is offered to God as the sacrifice that appeases divine wrath against our sins. Jesus is our Advocate and the propitiation for our sins, not so we can ignore our sins, excuse our sins, deny our sins or continue practicing sin. He is these things so we will confess our sins and practice the truth rather than walk in the darkness of sin (1 John 1:6-9). “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:12).
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7, NKJV)
They had brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery (John 8:4). Desiring to accuse Jesus of wrong, His enemies tested Him by asking if He agreed with the Law of Moses that the woman should be stoned (John 8:5-6). If Jesus agreed with Moses, they could accuse Him to the Romans. If Jesus disagreed with Moses, they would accuse Him to the Jewish council. What they failed to remember is that Moses charged the witnesses of a death penalty offense to be the first ones to cast the stones (Deuteronomy 17:6-7). That is why Jesus replied as He did. He was not saying it is wrong to judge sin. He was exposing the hypocrisy of those who brought the woman to him (yet for some reason had not also brought the man with whom she was caught “in the very act” of adultery). Jesus was not a witness to her sin. When those who claimed to be witnesses departed, He had no legal ground to condemn her (John 8:9-11). But, He told her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Jesus knew her sin and commanded her to stop sinning. Are you willing to let Jesus tell you to “go and sin no more?” Or, will you condemn Him for telling you that your conduct is sin?
6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:6–7, NKJV)
Is John saying that Christians never commit a sin? If so, then he contradicts himself earlier in this epistle when he wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself with double talk. The key to understanding today’s passage is the word “practices” in verse 7. On the one hand, the apostle is describing one who practices sin as the course or habit of his life (verse 6), while on the other hand describing one who practices (has the habit of) righteousness (verse 7). God’s will is that “you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). God wants us to sin less and less. To deny sin’s reality is a lie. To practice sin is unrighteousness. When we confess our sins we are assured of forgiveness and cleansing because we have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). By doing so we walk in the light – establish the habit of practicing righteousness – and are “righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 1:7-9; 3:7). As Jesus put it, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).
7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; They set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; They shall commit harlotry, but not increase; Because they have ceased obeying the Lord. (Hosea 4:7–10, NKJV)
The northern kingdom of Israel was in the throes of spiritual adultery. The nation was unfaithful to Jehovah with the idols of the land. Immorality and selfish oppression of others was the order of the day. Sin increased daily, even as did the scarcity of their daily provisions. Famine, drought, plagues, pestilence, and warfare had not turned Israel back to God (Amos 4:6-11). Their hearts were set on sin. The priests taught the people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). So, God was ready to punish them for their sinful conduct (Amos 4:12). We must turn our hearts to God fully and be faithful to Him alone. Then He will bless us. Otherwise, judgment is certain.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10, NKJV)
It is notable that the apostle John addresses Christians in this passage – those who “walk in the light” are warned not to deny their sins (1 John 1:5-7). Yes, Christians can sin, and Christians can yield to the temptation of denying their sin. But, to do so is a futile exercise of self-righteous deception. Denying one’s sin is a failure to take personal responsibility for sin. The truth is not in the person who denies his own sin. On the other hand, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse our unrighteousness when we freely and fully acknowledge our sins to Him. When you are tempted to deny your sin, remember that to do so makes you a liar. Furthermore, you also make God a liar, because God’s word says we all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Christians refuse to be controlled and ruled by sin (Romans 6:6-14). When you sin, do not become a liar by denying it. Confess your sins to God. Repent and pray, and God will forgive you (Acts 8:22). What joyous release! What wonderful mercy we have in Christ.
And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ (Acts 13:22, NKJV)
What an extraordinary blessing for God to identify David as “a man after My own heart.” God did not describe David this way because he was sinless (far from it), but because David gave his heart to God and to His purposes. He loved the Lord with all His heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). This kind of heart prepared David to do all of God’s will. When David sinned, he learned some hard lessons. He learned you cannot hide your sins from God (Psalm 32:3-5). He learned the painful consequences of sin (2 Samuel 12:11-14). David’s heart allowed him to learn the lessons. When his sins were laid before him, David did not become defensive. He did not blame others. He took responsibility, he repented, and he remained faithful to the Lord (Psalm 51). None of us are without sin. How we acknowledge our sin and remedy it shows whether or not we are people after God’s own heart, who do all of His will.