Bible Study with Jairus – Leviticus 16
The man who led our Bible study on Leviticus 16 asked a good question. When the high priest stood before God and used the blood to make atonement, did the Israelites still have sin (verses 14-15)? Clearly, the sprinkling of blood only covered sin temporarily. It didn’t take the sin away forever. In the New Testament, our sin was cleansed by the blood of the Lord Jesus. Why do we still sin then? In the Old Testament, Balaam prophesied that Israel was blameless in his sight (Numbers 23:21). The New Testament also says that the church is holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27). How can we look at the Israelites and ourselves as blameless when we know that the Israelites were full of apostasy and sin, and we in the New Testament church also still sin? How can these two seemingly contradictory truths be explained? This led to a lively discussion. There is a famous Christian song titled: “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” I also mentioned this in a message. A Chinese listener sent a letter telling me that I was wrong. We are no longer sinners; we are saints. I replied to him, saying that this was translated from an English song into Chinese. The English title is: “I was a sinner saved by Grace,” so this sentence is correct, but because Chinese has no tenses, naturally, the original meaning cannot be seen. There is nothing wrong with the expression in English.
If you search online, there are a large number of articles proving “You Are Not Just a Sinner Saved by Grace.” I haven’t read each article entirely, but it’s clear that we are no longer sinners after we are saved. Peter says we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and his own special people (1 Peter 2:9). But how do we understand Paul’s comment about himself being the chief of sinners?
Let’s look at two aspects of truth. First, I agree that when we are saved, we are no longer sinners but saints. Once we are saved, the Bible says we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. His death on the cross provided freedom from sin for us.
We can analyze it from several aspects. 1 John 3:9 (NIV) says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin.” I was saved in the Local Church Movement. We were taught that “born of God” here refers to our spirit. Our spirit is holy and, therefore, cannot sin. But our souls and flesh have not been transformed by the life of God, so we will still sin. Because we are still in the transformation process, our soul or flesh isn’t holy, which is why we can still sin. I think this makes a lot of sense.
We are composed of 3 parts: body, soul and spirit. As a believer in Christ, God has drawn a boundary that keeps Satan and sin from touching our born again spirits. Even when we sin through our mind, will, or emotions through jealousy, covetousness, etc., our spirit is protected. The same is true when we sin in our flesh, such as stealing, adultery, etc. Nothing can come against our born again spirit, which is sealed by God. When you are born again, you become one spirit with God (1 Corinthians 6:17). An unbeliever committing the same sins does not have that protection, and his spirit can die.
When we are born again, our spirit is sinless and holy. In Charismatic circles, the saying is: we are a spirit that has a soul and lives in a body. Our true new man, which is the spirit, is saved, yet our unregenerate body is still compelled to sin and taints our soul to some extent. Our spirit remains pure and holy, regardless of the body’s sin.
Our body, soul, and spirit can be compared to a gold mine. Gold represents our spirit, our soul is represented by a stone, and our flesh would be like the dirt. If you are an experienced geologist or gold miner, you don’t focus on the stone or the dirt all over it. You are only concerned with whether there is gold inside that stone.
Although we are born again, we still struggle with sin and tend to focus on the dirt or sin. It’s hard for us to look past the dirt because we feel so bad about our sins. When God looks at us, he only sees the gold. Even though He’s aware of our sin, He values us based on our pure born again spirit that was cleansed by Jesus’ blood on the cross. He understands that we are in the process of allowing the dirt to be removed so that the gold can shine through the stone. We look at our problems through time, but God looks at them through eternity. His angle is entirely different.
The reason I said that we are no longer sinners but saints and holy people of God’s kingdom, is viewed from the perspective of God and eternity. We were chosen before the creation of the world. We know that sin came after Genesis 3. Once we are saved, we have eternal life, and God looks at us from an eternal perspective. Although we may still sin, God knows that there is a process for us to change and be sanctified. This problem will be solved over time.
Let’s illustrate this principle with another example. We often look at ourselves or fellow believers and notice shortcomings or sinful behaviors. We observe people at face value, but God looks right through us. He doesn’t just see the flesh. His eyes are like an X-ray machine seeing the bones as well. Bones are often used to represent the resurrected life in the Bible, which shows us that God sees the resurrected life inside us.
It’s not always easy for us to see from God’s perspective. Kris Vallotton, a prophet at Bethel church in California, said: “It takes a genius to discover the greatness of another person, but it doesn’t take a genius to find other’s shortcomings.” Kris testified that since he operated in the gift of prophecy, he often supernaturally knew the sins committed by fellow believers and would share it when he saw them. This caused a lot of hurt within the congregation. He thought he was doing what 1 Corinthians 14:25 says: “And the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” He also thought he would be recognized as a true prophet this way, yet it had the opposite effect and caused much disagreement in the lives of those around him.
One day, God spoke to him, saying this person’s sin is not the secret of his heart. He knows he is sinful. His heart’s secret is that he doesn’t know the hope to which I called him and the riches of the glorious inheritance that I gave him. My beautiful plans and dreams for his life are the secret of his heart. This word from God had a significant impact on Kris. He began to understand that although God told him the person’s sins, it was only for him to diagnose, heal, and understand their circumstances. It was not the real message that the Lord tried to give him. The Lord’s wonderful plan is for the prophet to share words of hope and encouragement, not conviction.
In many churches, there are former drug addicts and others whose lives were a mess before they were saved. It’s often difficult to see the good in them and encourage them to recognize their identity and status in Christ. They need to be convinced they are no longer sinners but saints of God. When a person repents after falling into sin, it’s difficult to break through the past and the nature of sin that still tries to influence their lives. Even though an individual may know in his heart that he isn’t perfect, it can be even more challenging to see his own life as beautiful in the midst of his weakness or sin.
It’s vital for us to see ourselves as God sees us. We are fully loved, and accepted children of God cleansed completely from all sin. A revelation of this truth will change our lives. Rather than permit us to indulge in sin, it empowers us to overcome all of our weaknesses in the flesh. What makes me say this?
The world we see is not a real-world but a short-term illusion. The Bible says that the world that can be seen is temporary, but the spiritual world that cannot be seen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Our past sins and weaknesses are not real. They are just an illusion. But what we are in Christ is real. I’m not saying this to deny that you have sinned in the past. Rather the blood of Christ has indeed cleansed you. Though it may seem like our sin, weaknesses, and past memories are real, we are cleansed and forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross. The devil may try to tell you who you aren’t, but God wants you to know who you are in Christ.
One day, I was doing a Bible study and fellowshipping with a Chinese student in a restaurant at George Washington University. We discussed Christ’s work on the cross, our problem with the old sin nature, and how we should use the blood of Christ to enter into the Holy of Holies without fear. He didn’t understand the concept, so I gave him the following example to explain it better. We were sitting beside a glass window at the student cafeteria’s outer side, and it was raining hard outside. I compared where we were seated to the tabernacle’s outer courtyard, and the dining room in front of us would be the sanctuary. When we go through the dining room door into the kitchen, we enter the Holy of Holies. When we first get saved, it’s like being seated in the outer courtyard, and the heavy rain represents our past sin. It seems true in one way but not in another. Why? As we sit in this room, the glass that separates us from the pouring rain is like the cross represented by the brazen altar of the outer courtyard that separates the holy kingdom from the sinful world. Once the blood of Christ saves you through the cross, you are transferred from Satan’s kingdom of darkness to God’s kingdom of light. You are set free from sin! The heavy rain outside, representing sin, no longer has any power to soak you. This is a spiritual reality. Even though you are very close to the rain and can see it pouring down, it can’t touch you. There is no rain or sin in God’s kingdom. Although you still see it with your eyes and sense it, no longer does it have power over you.
This doesn’t mean you live in denial that you were soaked by the rain in the past and can still see it pouring down through the window. It’s real in one sense but illusionary in another. It’s real to you because you are sitting next to the window too close to the down pouring rain. Although you aren’t getting wet, it feels very real. If I were to tell you that God lives in the Holy of Holies represented by the kitchen where there is no rain, you might not believe it because you can’t see it. You are too far away to see it clearly.
You will still get wet if you leave this building. Likewise, you still sin if you do not live a life in union with Christ. But you can live a sin-free life when you make Christ your shelter and hiding place. Paul calls it the habit of sin. He says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5). Paul meant that we have to put to death these behaviors. But he also said we died with Christ (Galatians 2:20). This seems controversial. How is it possible that you have died already but have put to death these sinful behaviors? There is no controversy here. It is like the locomotive has stopped, but the momentum of its movement is still very powerful. When I say you are a saint and sinless, it is like saying that the locomotive has stopped. Christ has put a stop to this train when He died on the cross. We do not deny that the momentum, habits, or the consequences of your sins or sinful deeds are not there. They are there, and they are powerful. But the way to overcome this powerful habit or momentum is to recognize that the train has stopped.
You think you are still a sinner because you are too close to the outer courtyard. The closer you are to God, the more holy you will be. It may not feel that way because the closer to God we get, the more we realize just how sinful we are. As new believers, it’s common to have a “sin consciousness” way of thinking, often dwelling on how not to sin or overthinking our past sin. When we enter the Holy of Holies and get closer to God, we will eventually have a “God-consciousness” that rarely thinks about sin. Instead, you will focus more on God’s purpose for your life and will have the ability to overcome sin and the flesh.
In other words, what we focus on the most is what we will become. For example, if we spend most of our time focusing on celebrity gossip, we will become celebrity gossip experts. If we focus on a particular game, we will become an expert in this game. If we focus on sins and weaknesses, we become experts in sins and weaknesses. Doing this often leads us into sin and weakness instead of overcoming it. But when we put our attention on God, we will be transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (NIV, 2 Corinthians 3:18). When we focus our attention on God and His victory on the cross, we will behold Him and experience greater transformation.
Remember the example earlier of the cafeteria? I used this example to demonstrate to the student how it works. As I walked into the kitchen, representing the Holy of Holies, I looked back at the heavy rain pouring outside the window. Even though I was close to God, I was still looking backward at the rain representing past sin and weaknesses. Even though I moved forward into the Holy of Holies, looking back makes me susceptible to falling because I’m not focused on the way forward. The student finally understood the problem. Many Christians fail to reach a deeper level of spirituality and victory in their lives because their focus is wrong. Their eyes need to be focused on God’s greatness, His goodness, and calling on their lives rather than past sin and weakness.
Although we still need to repent and confess our sins after we are saved, we can’t always be focused on how terrible our past was. That focus will only hold us back. If our heart’s desire is to pursue God, we need to have an attitude of praise and recognize the victory that Christ provided for us. This type of attitude will bring much spiritual breakthrough.
The book of Hebrews also tells us that we must throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (NIV, Hebrews 12:1). We must fix our eyes on the glory ahead to run well the journey beneath our feet.