"Behold, Yahweh's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear." Isaiah 59:1
If you are saved, how saved are you? When the word saved is used in a Christian context, many people think of salvation in terms of being saved from hell and damnation. Being saved does indeed save a person from hell and damnation. However, eternal damnation in the lake of fire is not the only thing from which a saved person is supposed to be saved. The angel of the Lord told Joseph, "Thou shalt call His name Yeshua, for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). The primary thing from which are supposed to be saved is from our sins, not just from the penalty we deserve for our sins.
If Yeshua/Jesus saved you from hell and damnation, that's wonderful. But that is just the first step. You need to be saved not only from the penalty for sin, but also from the power of sin. The power of sin is that inclination towards evil that resides in the human heart, that natural bent to backsliding. It is that lust that James referred to when he wrote that "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:14). It is that sinful nature inside you that pulls you into temptation and prevents you from overcoming temptation.
Yeshua said to pray "Lead us not into temptation." Would He tell you to pray for something that your heavenly Father is unable or unwilling to do? Would He tell you to pray for an unattainable goal? Of course not. If He told you to pray "Lead us not into temptation," then He obviously expects you to not enter into the temptations that come to you. He expects you to be saved from the power of sin. Therefore there is no excuse for having a defeatist attitude toward the power of sin. There is no excuse for saying, "I'd really like to overcome this sinful habit, but I can't help it. I'd like to quit, but I can't." Believers who think this way are, in effect, calling God a liar. Believers who think this way are saying that the Lord's hand is not long enough and strong enough to save them from their sin. They are saying that His hand is only long enough to save them from the penalty for sin, but not from the power of sin. Whether they blame their sin on other people, on society, on their circumstances, or on their genes or hormones, they are saying that God is either unwilling or unable to save them from their sins.
God does not believe in peaceful co-existence with sin. He does not say, "Let's the three of us dwell together—you, Me, and your sins." If sin is present, known, tolerated, and excused by rationalization ("I can't help it"), then sin separates you from God. It hides His face from you and prevents your prayers from being heard: "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear," Isaiah says (Isa. 59:2).
Isaiah describes the results of tolerating and excusing known sin: "We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men" (Isa. 59:10). If you tolerate and excuse known sins in your life, you will be smitten with spiritual blindness. You will aimlessly grope your way through life with no sense of direction, no vision, no purpose. You will stumble even "at noon day," even in the presence of preachers who are great luminaries. Brilliant expositors of God's Word will be of no benefit to you in your spiritual blindness, just as brilliant light is of no benefit to a blind man.
If you are not saved from the power of sin, it is not the Lord's fault. His arm is not too short to save. God did His part by sending His Son as the Arm of the Lord to die as a sacrifice to save you from your sins. Your part is to believe that His arm is long enough and strong enough to save you from the power of sin as well as from the penalty for sin.
Sin is the thing from which man needs to be saved. This is probably the reason most salvation tracts start out by quoting Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." The knowledge of sin's presence is extremely vital. If a man is unaware of sin in his life, the question "Are you saved?" will probably bring the response "Saved from what?"
Before a person can be saved from his sin, he must have a knowledge of sin. He must know what sin is. Ask some people what sin is, and they will say, "Sin is whatever makes me feel guilty." Some Christians might say, "Sin is whatever makes me feel under conviction." This erroneous view of what constitutes sin results in every man doing that which is right in his own eyes. Sin is not merely whatever happens to make each individual feel guilty or "under conviction." There are thieves and murderers who do not feel guilty about their crimes. We must let the Bible define what sin is. The simplest, clearest definition of sin in the Bible is in 1 John 3:4: "sin is the transgression of the law."
To transgress means to step over the line, to step outside the boundaries that God has set. Every time God says "Thou shalt not," He draws a line. Every time you step over that line, you sin by transgressing the law. There can be no knowledge of what sin is without a knowledge of the law, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20).
Romans 3:20 and 1 John 3:4 provide us with a Biblical definition of sin. But to understand this definition, we have to know what the law is. When John wrote "sin is the transgression of the law," which law was he talking about?
Suppose we could go back in time to the first century and talk to John. "Brother John," we would say, "in your first epistle you made several statements about the law and the commandments of God. You said, 'And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him' (2:3f); 'And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight' (3:22); 'And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him' (3:24); 'For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous' (5:3); 'Whosoever commiteth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law' (3:4). Brother John, what are the commandments and what is the law?"
John would answer, "We've got this scroll over here that's called the Torah. The commandments of God are written here in this Torah scroll."
The written Torah is the law of God. However, there is also an unwritten law of God that the Lord expects you to obey. There are times when the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart in a still, small voice, telling you to do or not do certain things. It will not be an audible voice in your physical ear that you hear, but an internal, intuitive impression in your spirit. The Holy Spirit will bring thoughts to you, telling you, "You are compromising your faith when you do this. This is spiritually unhealthy for you. Others may do it, but you cannot. Stop doing it. Turn it off. Get rid of it. Walk away from it."
While there are some people who say, "The only commandments I need to obey are those commandments that I feel personally convicted to obey," there are other people who say, "The only commandments I need to obey are the commandments specified in writing in the Torah." Both of these views are flawed. God did not say, "Obey My commandments if you feel a personal conviction to do so." And while the definition of sin is the transgression of the law, every possible way to commit sin has not been written down in the Torah. The human heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). The human heart is so desperate to sin that it can invent countless ways to commit sin. If God were to write down in specific detail enough commandments to cover every possible way to sin, the book would never end, because man can think of endless ways to sin.
God's written commandments do not specify in detail every possible way to sin. However, God's written commandments do provide principles from which we can infer that certain kinds of behavior are acceptable or unacceptable. Here are a few examples. There is no commandment that specifically says, "Thou shalt not look at Playboy magazine." But there is a commandment that says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and from this commandment we can infer that it is a sin to look at pornography. Matthew 5:27f affirms that this is a correct inference ("...Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart"). There is no commandment that specifically says, "Thou shalt not cheat on thine income tax." But there is a commandment that says, "Thou shalt not steal," and from this commandment we can infer that it is a sin to cheat on income taxes. Matthew 22:21 affirms that this is a correct inference ("Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's"). There is no commandment that specifically says, "Thou shalt not buy or sell on the Sabbath." But there is a commandment that says "nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant" is to serve you on the Sabbath, and from this commandment we can infer that buying and selling on the Sabbath is (under ordinary circumstances) a sin, because if you buy food or merchandise, you are paying someone to serve you. Nehemiah 13:15-22 affirms that this is a correct inference ("...I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals...What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?").
Hebrews 7:25 says that Yeshua "is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him." To be saved to the uttermost means to be saved from the power of sin as well as from the penalty for sin. John wrote, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not" (1 Jn. 5:18). John did not mean that a believer will necessarily be 100% flawless in his character and never stumble, for in 1 John 1:8 he said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." A born-again believer might stumble and fall into sin in a moment of weakness. However, these falls, if they happen, will be rare. They will not be the norm, they will be rare exceptions in the life of the believer. And a true believer will not try to excuse his sin. If he stumbles as described in 1 John 1:8, he will immediately follow the instructions in 1 John 1:9. He will confess his sin, be forgiven and cleansed, and let his heavenly Father lift him up so that he can continue walking forward. As Proverbs 24:16 says, "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again."
If you have stumbled, confess your sins to your heavenly Father, accept His forgiveness, and let Him cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then trust Him to save you from the power of sin so that you can walk in righteousness. His arm is not too short to save you to the uttermost.
The above painting by Daniel Botkin titled, "21st Century Exodus"was conceived and commissioned by Rod Runyon. (Read the story behind this piece).
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Learn more about Daniel Botkin's commissioned art pieces here.
Image (Top): Three Men in a Boat, an original painting by Daniel Botkin from his Miscellaneous Gallery on his art site, DanielBotkin.com.