Sunday, November 14, 2010

Are We Really Forgiven for Ongoing Sin After Praying the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’?

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

~Romans 8:1 (NRSV).

Let these words above sink in. We’re to be forgiven for doubting the sincerity of God in all this. For that which we’ve been forgiven—the sinner’s life—we’re summarily forgiven.

To put it in Jesus’ words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Practical and Prayerful Challenges

Firstly, we’re saved by manner of praying the “Sinner’s Prayer,” a.k.a. the “Believer’s Prayer”. Being ‘saved’ is one thing but working out our salvation—and grappling with ongoing sin—is entirely another.

We can often wonder if God really hears and believes our prayers-of-commitment particularly as we struggle with particular areas of sin in our lives. This is more common than we realise. Indeed, just about every serious Christian will feel guilty about their issues of ongoing sin—until they accept grace. Perhaps it is best illustrated in the Apostle Paul, who had a ‘thorn in his flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7) which could easily have been an issue of ongoing sin that he battled with.

Key Questions on Prayer

We can very easily doubt God when it comes to our prayers.

Does God hear our prayers for salvation? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. See Romans 10:9.

Does God doubt the sincerity of our prayers for salvation when we sin the next day after praying the prayer? No, God wouldn’t. God knows it’s our nature to sin. That’s why we need grace. God knows that each person is ‘afflicted’ for a personal portion of sin, just as each person is blessed with a personal measure of faith, spiritual gifting etc.

Our Goal – Not ‘Perfection’ But ‘Progress’

The day we reconcile all the sin in our lives, and are purged most completely of it, is the day we’ll be dead. We will never attain spiritual perfection, i.e. completely rectify our sin, this side of the physical death.

This gets us back to the top. There is now no condemnation—because of grace—for the sins ongoing. That is not to say there won’t be consequences for our sins, for there most certainly will be. But condemnation in God’s eyes, there is not!

Our opportunity then—foregoing guilt for sin, for God holds it not against us—is to live a life fully devoted to God, to the love of our neighbours, to the moral practice of following God’s will, and to the adherence to the process of costly discipleship to Jesus.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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