29. Sinless?

Meditations in Job : 29 :  You are sinless?

Job 11:4,6b You say to God, `My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.’ ….. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.

There seem to be two opposite extreme ways of thinking that Christians fall into. The first is to be totally preoccupied with their sin and the second is to deny they have any sin. The former tend to be more common than the latter. The apostle Paul wrestled with this. In the two chapters in Romans where he deals with this, 6 and 7, he starts out, We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom 6:2) and “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (v.6,7) and “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (v.11,12) Thus he establishes a clear teaching that sin is not to reign in us and we are to play a clear part in not sinning, i.e. we are to decide and determine not to sin.

Then, as he moves on in chapter 7, he makes us realise that we can’t do this on our own. “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (7:15) and goes on to explain it further: “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (7:22,23) and concludes with this cry and declaration: “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:24,25) In chapter 8 he explains how the Holy Spirit empowers us not to sin.

When we come to the apostle John’s pastoral teaching, we find him similarly facing us up with our initial dilemma: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 Jn 1:8-10) But he now recognises that once sin has been dealt with, it is not to be an ongoing experience of our lives, as he continues, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1)

Now we need to lay this groundwork before we come to the next attack on Job by the third of the three friends, Zophar the Naamathite.  He is obviously quite niggled by Job’s words so far and launches in, “Are all these words to go unanswered? Is this talker to be vindicated? Will your idle talk reduce men to silence? Will no one rebuke you when you mock?” i.e. are we going to let this character with all his many words get away with this? Is he going to vindicate himself by the use of many words? Will his many words bring us to silence? He is mocking us and he deserved an answer! Zophar comes as a combatant and again we need to observe this approach which is so common among many Christians. It gives no thought to the pain, anguish and suffering that Job is going through;  it is just concerned to declare its own point of view and put down ‘the opposition’ who it considers are wrong. To him, morals are more important than meeting Job in his need. It lacks compassion and comes over, instead, as cold orthodoxy, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

He picks up on what he believes Job has been saying: You say to God, `My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.’ (v.4)  Now, was Job able to say that? Well according to the accounts, yes!  He was blameless and upright according to the Lord Himself, and when, at the end of the book, the Lord chides him, it is simply for speaking into a situation of which he had no knowledge. If you want to sum up Job’s error (which is not spoken of as sin) it might be that he didn’t come with Ezekiel’s attitude, which was shown when he had the vision of dry bones and he was asked by the Lord if these bones could live. He simply replied, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” (Ezek 37:3). In other words, Lord, I don’t know, but you do. However, we wouldn’t have had the book if Job had just turned round to his friends and replied, “Sorry, guys, I just don’t know what this is all about.”

No, Zophar, isn’t happy with this because he comes from the “preoccupied with sin” school. He wants the Lord to come and sort Job out: “Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides.” (v.5,6) i.e. I wish the Lord would speak to you and show you how it all works, because there is far more than meets the eye, and you need His help in understanding this. Then comes his devastating conclusion, why Job needs this: “Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.” (v.6b). What he’s actually saying is, “No you are not sinless, far from it. Because you’re a human being you are saturated with sins and there are so many that even God has forgotten half of them!!” or “You are such a sinner that even God can’t keep up with all your sins.”

Now that isn’t so strange, because that is what some of us feel?  At every turn we fail, we feel. It comes with the feelings of unworthiness that some of us feel. Earlier in life we either did make a mess of things and we just feel constantly guilty and that guilt overshadows everything else and makes us feel bad generally, or we lived under such parental strictures that we are just rule focused and of course focusing on the rules also means we are doubly conscious of not being able to keep them all always. Thus guilt and shame are constantly there. We suffer low self esteem, feel we are rubbish and that everything we do will turn to failure. Life is spent battling with sin and wallowing in failure, instead of joyfully relishing the wonder of being loved by God and blossoming and being able to love life and others.

If you are a ‘Zophar’ it’s time to get free. Let the truth set you free. Jesus has died to take all your sins, your guilt and your shame. He wants us to enjoy him and the life he has for us, he wants us to know joy and peace and love. Yes, we will occasionally blow it, get it wrong and sin, but the way out of the guilt and shame syndrome is to face it, confess it and receive forgiveness and cleansing, just as the apostle John said. Focus on sin and it’ll drag you down. Focus on Jesus and life will flow. Go for it!

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