While I don’t know the accuracy of this tale, I was told once about a salesman who was fired. As the story goes, he had been submitting the bills for his company car to be serviced on a regular basis, but it was discovered that these oil changes never took place…when the car’s engine seized up! The salesman had been pocketing the money all along, but the car eventually revealed his secret.
In a message to certain tribes of Israel, Moses warned them of trying to get away with not keeping their word:
But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.
Numbers 32:23 NASB
When our lives include hidden sin – those that may only be known to us and God – we live in the knowledge that we could be found out at any time. Even “overt” sins – those clearly visible to others – accumulate the judgment that we deserve, as we offend a perfect, holy God. It’s hard enough keeping “good” secrets from others (like what we purchased for their birthday), but keeping sin hidden – or just unresolved – eats away at us, whether we fear being discovered by other people, or eventually having to face God.
The good news is that, while God is sinless and perfect, He also loves humanity more perfectly than any relationship we ever see here on earth. So, He offers an “amnesty+” plan, where our sins aren’t simply ignored or overlooked, but are actually fully paid for. Under God’s plan, we don’t just receive His mercy (when we don’t have to face the eternal consequences of our wrong choices), but also His grace (where we receive the blessings of being adopted into His family, obtaining perks that we don’t deserve).
Here’s what we have to do in order to accept this offer, though: For one thing, we must come clean. We have to own up to the fact that we are indeed sinners, and that we have fallen short. (After all, if we can’t admit that we’ve failed, why would we be accepting an offer to free ourselves from the penalty of our wrong choices?) There’s no hiding from God; no doing things in the dark that He doesn’t notice. So, when we confess that we have sinned, He is not surprised. We merely own the fact that we aren’t good enough to spend eternity with God, in all of His goodness. Once our sins are out on the table, we can not only ask for Jesus’ heroic death to count on our behalf, but we can also start to work on doing better in the future.
The fancy word for reversing our course and walking away from our sins (as best as we can, with God’s help) is “repentance”.
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts of the Apostles 2:37-38 NLT
Note that God doesn’t just expect us to “stop sinning”, but rather to turn to God and be baptized. This is not the only place in the Bible where the absence of something bad is shown to be insufficient (see Matthew 12:43-45). Our old ways of sin must be replaced with something else – something better. Not only are we called to turn to God1, but being given access to the Holy Spirit (dwelling in us) actually provides us with a fighting chance of doing the right thing, contrary to our selfish desires.
By implication, though, another thing that we have to do is to accept the offer of forgiveness before it expires. God can accept our confession and repentance as long as we are still able to confess and repent. When our mortal life is done, or when Jesus returns (neither of which we know the time and date of), this offer will no longer be available. Our decisions – to accept Jesus or to not accept Him – will have been made.
So, if sin (a.k.a., evil deeds, vices, bad habits, inappropriate behavior, or wrong thinking) is getting the best of you, and you feel too burdened from hiding it or just carrying it around, don’t give up! Since God could redeem people in the Bible who had gone down a really bad path, and He welcomes people today who have done terrible things (not the least of whom would be me), He has a place for you. Own up, ask for His help, and find some peace.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- Note that, once we repent and turn back to God, we owe our lives to Him twice: not only as our Creator, but again as our rescuer and redeemer. ↩