What happens when a Christian sins?

We have here a doctrine that has caused some confusion among Christians. Some believe that sins prior to the new birth are forgiven, but sins following that are another matter. Others believe that all sin is forgiven at the time a person receives Christ as personal Savior and there is “therefore no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus,” therefore there is no penalty for sins that a Christian commits. Neither of these opposing views is correct.

While it is true that a Christian is a forgiven sinner, and the blood of Christ has paid for his sins, there are still consequences for sins that a Christian commits. First, there are consequences in this present life. If a Christian should get angry at a driver who cuts him off on the highway and try to get his pound of flesh by catching that car, maybe passing it and yelling at the driver, and crash, he or she could have permanent scars or disabilities as a result. God would forgive the sin, and the eternal penalty of that sin would have been paid on Calvary by the death of Christ, but God does not erase the scars or correct the infirmities.

Years ago I heard this illustration, and it has stuck with me every since. A young farm boy was having trouble behaving, as he should. His father gave him the project of putting a nail in the barn door every time he did something bad. He gave him a bag of nails and a hammer. For several weeks, the path from the house to the barn stayed well worn, as the boy obediently pounded a nail in the barn door each time he disobeyed. Soon he came to his father and said, “Dad, I am all out of nails! Now what do I do?” His father then told him to pull out one of the nails each time he obeyed. Some time later, he again came to his father and said, “Dad, I have pulled all the nails, but…” “But what?” his dad asked. “Dad, the nails are gone, but there are holes all over the door, and it is ugly!”

God pulls the nails through His forgiveness, but many times the holes are left as scars of the evil deeds and thoughts. King David got forgiveness for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, but he watched his young son die, his family ruined, and his fellowship with God break. Here is his prayer following his being exposed by Nathan.

Psalm 51: Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

The results of David’s sin was a feeling of filthiness. A Christian is a lamb, not a pig. A lamb is uncomfortable in dirt and filth. He cries out for a cleansing. If you can wallow in the mud of sin and feel comfortable, you may not be His lamb. It also left David with a guilty conscience because he has sinned against God, and he knew it. By the way, a conscience is only a safe guide if the conscience has been tuned to God’s Word. David knew better, but sinned any way.

He had a feeling of disappointment, knowing that he had disappointed God. My dad did not discipline me physically very often. His worst form of discipline, as far as I was concerned, was for him to tell me that I had disappointed him. That hurt me far more than any spanking would have done. God allows the Christian to know that he has let God down. God’s love is still just as strong and meaningful, but the Christian knows a guilt from falling short of what God expects of us.

David also lost his joy. He mentions that in verses 8 and12. So many Christians are living below their privilege because they have unconfessed sin and a guilty conscience. Perhaps you are thinking of a sin right now that you need to confess to God, and perhaps confess to the person that was the victim of your sin. You need the joy of your salvation back, and sin is hindering that. You, like David, have lost the song in your heart. He asked God in verse 14 to deliver him that he might once again sing God’s praises. He also lost the respect of the world. Let me ask you, when was the last time you witnessed successfully for God? Sin can be like a sign hung around your neck that tells the sinner, “Don’t listen to me, I am a sinner like you.” Ask God to cleanse you and you like the forgiven, cleansed David, will teach transgressors God’s way! What do you suppose would be the result in your community of several Christians just got a good bath in God’s forgiveness tub?

Perhaps one of the most devastating consequences of unconfessed sin in a Christian’s life is not being able to conduct an effective prayer life. The Bible says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” Psalm 66:18. This can translated literally, “If I view and tolerate sin with pleasure, God will shut his ear to my prayer.” There will come a time when your prayer, not the prayer of your Pastor, a deacon, the listeners to Family Altar on this radio station, or anyone else, will be the one that will make the difference. It would be tragic if God stopped his ears from hearing you because you had refused to own up to your sin, confess it, and get God’s cleansing. He has promised, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” First John 1:9.

Paul warned the Corinthians of further consequences of unconfessed sin. He gave the teaching on partaking in the fellowship of communion or the Lord’s Supper. First Corinthians 11: 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” Notice that some Corinthians were sick and some had died because they refused to confess sin and judge themselves. No, a Christian cannot live a life of sin without bad effects, even sickness and death. While some sickness is not directly related to sin in a Christian’s life, much is. David’s baby with Bathsheba became sick and died because of David’s sin!

There are also results of that sin at the Judgement Seat of Christ, where every Christian will give an account of the deeds done in the flesh. Although Christ has purchased the Christian’s place in Heaven, there are still consequences of sin in the Christian’s life. There is such a thing as the Judgement Seat of Christ! Paul describes that event this way; “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” First Corinthians 5:9 & 10. Now I am not sure what this will be like. I am concerned because the very next thing the Apostle told the Corinthians was, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” Verse 11. Remember, unconfessed sin robs you of the opportunity to serve the Lord as you should. Isn’t it time to confess that sin to Him and claim his forgiveness and cleansing?
For more information about having your sins forgiven please see: What the Bible Teaches about Sin or visit BBN Bible Institute and study course # 12100 Doctrine of Repentence

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