No More Sin Consciousness

The scope of the change from the Old to the New Covenant era has been debated since the first days of the church-even before Jew/Gentile and legalism issues. The apostles had the unenviable task of trying to simultaneously claim continuity and discontinuity with the Old Covenant Scriptures. They had to wrestle with: “How, and to what degree have things changed?” It wasn’t an easy job then. It’s not an easy job now, and to this day, has never been fully resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. My personal conviction (which I hope is agreeable to many) is that the Calvary-Act (i) is the great interpretive filter for all Scripture. However, this hopefully amenable premise does not eliminate debate on various issues.

It has been my church experience (36 years) that most Christians live in varying degrees of mixture of old and new creation beliefs and practices.  The sweep of the change from the Old to the New era (pre to post-Pentecost) is neither well understood nor practiced. Most Christians understand our sins are forgiven in Christ. But that is Godward awareness. The mixture normally manifests in the daily mucking and grinding of practical living, what some call sanctification. Some sincerely teach that we are justified by grace, but after that, it is all up to our discipline to live the Christian life.

The Pauline grace of God in the New Covenant is so radical, that scrupulous moralists of his day accused Paul of excusing sin (Rom 6:1-2). That accusation still echoes today in those who want to resist the New Covenant message of undeserved, unmerited, unqualified, raw, grace, effective for both our justification and sanctification. They think that preaching a “grace message” promotes sloppy living and that diligent focusing on our sin, and mastery and overcoming of the same, is the way to please God and obtain his personal favor above others who are not as disciplined as, well . . . our wonderful selves!

Sin awareness and management through the disciplined application of biblical principles is not the new creation life we are promised in Jesus Christ. If we could manage our sin, we would not need a Redeemer.  The old creation nature is very disciplined. This is especially true if there is some benefit or gain associated with the mastery of sin such as, esteem, respect, promotion, privilege, promise of leadership position, etc. Like a dancing dog in a circus, the old nature will flawlessly perform to biblical standard for the applause of a crowd. But when the applause stops . . . its still . . . a dog . . . the old nature.

Spiritual maturity is not defined by how well we apply biblical principles to suppress sin. The Scripture plainly tells us that trying to a live a life of commitment to principles is contrary to God’s will and designed to cause us to fail, go backward, be broken, snared, and taken in a trap. (ii) God had a rest and refreshing for Israel, bound up in His Person, relationship, and love, which they refused. So he taught them precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little, like a bunch of babies! It is not a compliment from heaven! Most of Christianity thinks “line upon line” is the “standard” to be desired and pursued!

Gordon Dalbey (iii ) has a unique grasp on the depth of this significance:

Father God will not allow relationship to him to be reduced to a set of principles. Men who live by principles therefore cannot know God, for he is approached and known not by striving after righteousness, but only by confessing brokenness. A man cannot hide the fact that his rigid principles are not signs of integrity, but weapons to shield his own fearful weaknesses. The man who is always right is the most dangerous threat to God’s purposes in the world. It is the man of principle who is always the most ready to reject the gift of God and to hurt, even destroy others whom God has ordained for us to be in relationship, because of adherence to his principles. A person who lives by principles can only receive what he or she has earned through his/her careful adherence to those principles. (iv)

It’s a negotiated deal-Deuteronomy 28-We do our part, God does His. I have heard it taught that way. The only problem is, the terms of the New Covenant have only one party involved . . . Himself (Heb. 6:13-20).

Part of the joy of being a participator in the new creation is to be free of a constant awareness of sin (Heb 10:2, 10:22)! Yes, I know this sounds too good to be true, and some are probably already shouting at me: “Yeah, but what about obedience?” I will get to that.  The strength of sin is the law. (v) That is, all law living, not just Torah adherence, but striving to live by “laws” . . . Jew or Gentile law, even “good” biblical “laws.” Being “hard on sin” is actually empowering the same. You can bet that if a preacher is harping on a particular sin, that his/her own sin is lurking in the dark somewhere.

The essence of the old order was sin consciousness: God is holy, humanity is in debt to that holiness, Torah demands adherence, and a hope that sins might be forgiven for at least another year after the Day of Atonement. There was no assurance. Rather, through the repeated necessity of offerings, the worshiper was continually reminded of his or her sins.  The whole point of the New Covenant is to accomplish something that the Old could never do: provide the believer no more conscience (awareness/self-indictment) of sin.

Instead of Torah as a center of consciousness and as a means of conviction of sin, we have been given the spirit of sonship in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who brings conviction of sin-in filial relationship with the Father, through Christ.  The only sin believers should be “focused” on, is the sin the Spirit brings to light as we are in intimate dialog with the Father! Only as we sit on His metaphorical lap, hear His heart beat, and listen to the mercifully severe Voice of transforming love and power, are we to address matters of behavior. We are not called to self-energized, self-analyzed, self-managed,  “sintrospection!”

The Psalmist said, that in His light, we would see light. (vi) Our ability to even recognize sin is the direct result of His gift of light to us! Without His light, we will only see what we want to see! We do not possess the faculty necessary for sin inspection! We’re not capable of accurately assessing our own iniquities. Depending on our personality and temperament our self-analysis will result in either excusing ourselves into licentiousness (Oh, its not that bad) or accusing our selves into guilt (Woe is me, I am undone). Neither is appropriate for a new creation believer! There are  only two verses in the entire NT that specifically tell us to examine ourselves. One is  in the context of the Lord’s Table in 1 Corinthians 11:28, and the other is an exhortation to examining ourselves to see if we are in the faith,  (2 Cor. 13:5), not examining our selves for sin deficiency. That’s it.

For believers, we are supposed to have experienced the joy of a sprinkled (washed) conscience, as well as a change in a center of consciousness. My awareness is no longer supposed to be sin-centric, or Torah-centric, but Christ-centric. That is, He in His Person and His work for me, in me, and through me, is the new center of my own self-awareness and understanding. Our faith is made practically effective, not by focusing on sin, but by the acknowledgment (vii) of every good thing in us, in Christ Jesus! (Phm. 6).

Only in the light of His Fatherly embrace should the issue of sin, behavior, or sanctification be even considered. Because there, at the throne of God, seated with Him, I find not only conviction and truth–but transforming grace, the teaching and empowering kind, that enables me to overcome, not through my own disciplines and determinations, but through receipt of the transforming power of a new life . . . the very life of Jesus, living His life through me, as a new creation.

I am crucified with Christ: never the less, I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal.  2:20

But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace was bestowed upon me not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Cor 15:10

_________________

End Notes

i Birth, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of our Lord, Spirit out-pouring, and Spirit indwelling.
ii Please read Isaiah 28 in its entirety and in context some time.
iii www.abbafather.com
iv The preceding paragraph was paraphrased and adapted from Sons of the Father, Gordon Dalbey, 1992.
v 1 Corinthians 15:56.
vi Psalm 36:9
vii Epignosis – experiential knowledge . . . knowledge gained by participation in and with the object of one’s knowledge. This is fundamentally . . . relational.

Copyright 2010 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

24 comments on “No More Sin Consciousness

  1. “My awareness is no longer supposed to be sin-centric, or Torah-centric, but Christ-centric.” “That is, He in His Person and His work for me, in me, and through me, is the new center of my own self-awareness and understanding.”

    I would say that these sentences sum up what it means to know you, Steve. You live and breathe this belief and it is wonderfully contagious as it permeates all your lessons from the podium. I can picture you pointing to the ceiling and saying “the focus is HIM!”
    I have had moments of guilt when I realized that I no longer judged myself as a sin-ridden, black-hearted, filthy human; but then comes the wave of glee when I remember that I am loved, that I have Christ, the Holy Spirit in me, and my liberation from those sin-thoughts has caused me to no longer judge or focus on the sins of others. For this, I know the Father is pleased with me for loving and not judging…and pleased with you for teaching me such a truth. Forgiveness comes fast, love runs deeper and I look closer and more realistically at my fellow humans. It is SO much easier to be a happy person!
    Thank you so much!
    “The only sin believers should be “focused” on, is the sin the Spirit brings to light as we are in intimate dialog with the Father!” I see here that your statement is void of witnesses and does not coincide with a our favorite source of verbal clubbing: Luke 17:3. Would you like to answer to that? Hmmm?

    • Thanks Victoria, for the encouragement. Isn’t it indeed easier being a happier person, and you are right, we no longer focus on the sins of others.

      Re: Luke 17:3 – – 1. Pre-resurrection, Pre-Pentecost, old creation beings . . . so there are some serious interpretation and application issues and differences. 2. It is talking about our living together in community, not my individual standing before God so to speak. He is talking about not “sweeping things under the rug.” When sin is obvious, sin is dealt with interpersonally, it is not calling us to be “sin police.”

  2. Sin consciousness is dependent on one thing…What is your definition of sin! If your definition is that “sin is doing bad things (define bad?) then righteousness is the opposite or doing good things or not doing bad things. However, in my mind, sin is independence from god…Sin is doing your own thing as opposed to doing God’s thins (which is a who!) or (JESUS).

    my bible tells me that Jesus has been made unot us righteousness (as well as other things). righteousness is not the absence of sin…righteousness is the presence of Jesus! If you have Jesus you have righteousness – He IS your righteousness.

    If you truly desire to be righteousness forget about sin consciousness and become Jesus conscious!

    As I stated, righteousness is not a thing to be acquired. It is a person to be received, cherished and enjoyed.

  3. Steve,
    Great post. I recently myself dealt with this issue from another perspective an that was the issue of hell and life and I told some people that yes Jesus did mention hell (a little) but he spoke mainly about entering into a “life”, hence John 10:10 and I think Paul would say some of the same too. I need to do a little more research on it and study to really bring it our clearer, but for now I just introduced that thought to see what you and others think.
    Now I do agree withyou that we can be too sin conscious especially those of us who may have had some holiness pentecostal background. But what do we do with the 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. I think this may be where my Arminiasm kicks in. I beleive that there is a tension here and I dont believe that you’re saying it’s not, from what I gather you’re just saying let us not be looking for it let us look to Him and he will show it and then we..dicipline or beat our bodies as Paul says. Am I correct in this? Which to me still entails some type of discipline or cross bearing on our part, but I guess the point would be, the source of it all. Blessings brother!

  4. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

    For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Eph.5:9

    And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace Jas 3:18

    Matt. 7: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    It is suddenly so clear to me that Righteousness is a fruit!

    We are the pklanting of the Lord…grafted into the vine. our root, or source for all the life and vitality taht can lead to the bearing of fruit comes from out life source. Without Him (our life source) we can do NOTHING. However, wheter we bear no, little or much fruit is not in our control – no more than a vine can prune itself, sun itself, water itself or proved theenvironmental conditions necessary to fruit production.

    In studying the production of grapes, it is the training and pruning of the vines that (apart from sonshine, rain and soil) contributes much to the abundance of fruit.

    Only our Lord, our source, or life essence can produce the peacable “fruit of righteousness”.

    As the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified, we have but to yield to him and allow him to produce fruit in us…especially righteousness.”

    “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Heb. 12:11

    Some years ago, i felt as though the Lord was really taking a wack at me. I remember telling one friend taht I had abeen pruned to severely that I was going to change my name to stumpy! Recently, in this latter season of my life I am becoming aware of an abundance of fruit of certain kinds, including peace, righteousness, joy, etc. More is coming out of my life than ever before.

    When we desist from trying in the flesh to perfect ourselves and yield God uses all thing for his good and from even severe drought can produce fruit, as pleases him.

    one last thought. I recently learned from an arborist in California, that “stress on the vines” fromj weather, etc. (at certain times is a “Good” thing. He said they have a saying, “The greater the stress the sweeter the grapes.”

    This may be a departure and if so I apologize but your posting really stirred up something.

    Keep up the good work.

    George

    • I know its been 7 years since this was posted, but the word lives on. i hope you can still reply. You wrote this “we have but to yield to him and allow him to produce fruit in us…especially righteousness.” How exactly do you yield?

  5. One of the things I have been thinking about lately is how the rich young ruler lived by “biblical” principles yet missed eternal life.

      • Steve,
        Once again you have scaled the heights of the New covenant life. I had a thought on the “confrontation of sin”, as I see it (personnal life experience here). Confrontation of sin always is driven by the standard of the confronter. “What they see as a problem in a persons’ life”. You can make those changes to appease them, but I think it always feels like death to the heart. The Revelatory power of Christ in us produces the change that is pure & permanent. The residule affect is joy!
        My wife & I just talked about last night. She loved this blog. I told her this is why I have never in 5 years of marriage “confronted her on any sin” I have always let the Holy spirit do the work. Mick

      • Steve,
        Once again you have scaled the heights of the New covenant life. I had a thought on the “confrontation of sin”, as I see it (personnal life experience here). Confrontation of sin always is driven by the standard of the confronter. “What they see as a problem in a persons’ life”. You can make those changes to appease them, but I think it always feels like death to the heart. The Revelatory power of Christ in us produces the change that is pure & permanent. The residule affect is joy!
        My wife & I just talked about last night. She loved this blog. I told her this is why I have never in 5 years of marriage “confronted her on any sin” I have always let the Holy spirit do the work. Merry Christmas. Oh How I wish we were close. I would be hanging out all the time with you and learning.

        • Mick, you have said it beautifully . . .the standard of the confronter . . . man, that’s it.

          Wish we were closer indeed! Lots of great friends all over the world whose company I miss. Maybe some day I could get up to good old AK again . . . just not in winter!

  6. Hi. I appreciated this writing. I am praying through it as I type but so much of it resonates with how the Holy Spirit has wrapped Jesus into my life. When I have gone to the Lord for help, I have consistently found something different from some teaching. I have found I am not being asked to “build a better habit” by self-discpline. Usually what happens is a relational shift and frankly, it seems to just happen outside of anything I could do. I mean, if I can do it, can’t I boast about it? But if God is doing it, what do I have to boast about? Instead, I have a lovely witness to His goodness. I got very ill years ago….the doctors were of no help and certainly of no hope. I turned to God and prayed for wisdom about my health but upon reflection, what came to me wasn’t really “strategy.” What came was a lifestyle shift of huge proportions but brought to me in small relational increments. I learned to do life with God….we went grocery shopping together, we cooked together (I needed a lot of help), we just did as much as possible -together. I got to know Him, to hear His voice, to trust Him, to sit with Him, to eat with Him….it wasn’t a discipline of reading the Bible or praying as some create to build a habit….it was a relational thing….praying is nothing to me at all….I do that all day….listening was my and is my challenge…getting sensitive to that ping….when we study the scriptures, it takes years on some passages because we go on this crazy journey….and it is painful sometimes…..I ask questions, and I get answers…sometimes instant, sometimes it is a journey of understanding…..I long for that fellowship community of just being with God and each other, making merry melody…..I haven’t found it yet but I know I have so much to partake of Christ myself in being in merry making fellowship myself….anyway, this article resonated with my witness in a better way than I could explain it. Thank you.

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