God Reveals Our Sins to Change Us Not to Condemn Us
John 3:16 is probably the best-known verse in the Bible, famously stating that God’s love for us was so great that He sent His one and only Son into the world that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life. The very next verse states, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17) What wonderful news!
Yet later in this same Gospel, in the words of Jesus Himself, we are told that when the Holy Spirit comes into the world, He will show the world its guilt and sin (John 16:8).
So, the Father sends the Son into the world to save the world, then the Son sends the Spirit to show the world its guilt. Is this a contradiction?
Not at all. Rather, it is all part of the process. Jesus dies to save us from our sins (see Matthew 1:21), but many of us are not conscious of our sin, comparing ourselves to others and justifying our own misdeeds and failings. As the Scriptures state, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives.” (Proverbs 16:2)
How Righteous In Our Own Eyes
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a heroin addict before I was a believer, back in my drug abusing days. (Yes, at that time, just 15-16 years old, I had started shooting heroin. God’s mercy is great!)
This junkie was warning me about doing business with another junkie, telling me that this guy was so low he would steal from his own grandmother.
I said to him, “But you told me you stole money from your own mother.”
He replied, “Yes, but I would never steal from my grandmother!”
How righteous we can be in our own eyes!
Yes, I break into homes and steal, but I try not to make a mess.
Yes, I extort people for money, but only if they’re really rich.
Yes, I’m addicted to porn, but not the really bad stuff.
Yes, I scream at my wife and kids, but I would never strike them.
That’s why Paul, after listing the woeful sins of the human race, wrote this: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1; for the context, start in Romans 1:18.)
Reveals Our Sins to Take Them Away
The reason, then, that God reveals our sins to us is so that He can take them away. He shows us what we’re doing wrong, not to destroy us but to deliver us. It is His love that moves Him to do so. As Jesus said to a congregation in Asia Minor almost 2,000 years ago, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
Back in my days of rebellion, in particular from 1969-1971 when I was given the nicknames of Drug Bear and Iron Man due to my pronounced drug habits and when I was filled with anger and pride, I thought that I was basically a good person.
In fact, when my two best friends came to faith and started to share the gospel with me, I thought about my life and said to myself, “If I see an old woman on her way into a store, I open the door for her. If I see a bum begging on the street, I give him some change. If there’s a God out there, He knows that I’m a pretty good person.”
Yes, I came to this conclusion despite the fact that I lied day and night to my parents, that I actually stole money from my father, that I was cruel and nasty even to my friends . . . . You get the picture. But hey, overall, I’m a pretty good guy!
It was only when the people in a little, Italian Pentecostal church in Queens, NY began to pray for me that things changed (this was the place where my friends came to faith).
I had no idea they were praying, but I came under deep and acute conviction of sin, feeling miserable about my life and wanting to crawl out of my skin. The very things I had boasted about one week earlier now hung like a massive weight around my neck. How did I get rid of this internal torment?
It was only then that I was ready to understand the gospel and only then that I was able to understand the depth of God’s love.
Jesus died for my sins — and I had many. In fact, I myself was sinful. Yet even in my sin and rebellion and mocking of God, He loved me enough to send His Son to pay for all the evil I had done. What love! What mercy! What grace!
Overnight (literally) my life was turned upside down (making it right side up!), and by that same grace and love, I have never looked back.
To this day, that’s why our loving God reveals our sins, to bring us to repentance and forgiveness, to bless us, not to damn us.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is The Political Seduction of the Church: How Millions of American Christians Have Confused Politics with the Gospel. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.