Developing Christian integrity requires that believers learn to isolate certain sins and deal with them so that they do not continue to distract you from living the Christian Way of Life. All of us should be aware of how to stay in fellowship with God and filled with God the Holy Spirit. Since God completely blots out our sins when we acknowledge them to Him, and doesn’t remember them any longer, we have no right to “take them back.” We have no right to relive them, to think about them, to cry about them, to worry about them and to regret them. God says that we need to forget them, put them behind us and move forward.
Forgetting means that we are to lose them out of our mind, to neglect them, don’t consider them, don’t dwell on or ponder them. In other words, don’t give them an audience in our thinking. If and when they sneak back into our memory, we can simply use gratitude and thank God that they have already been forgiven and dealt with. God will never use our sins against us, in fact He doesn’t even remember them! Therefore, don’t insult God by using them against yourself!
There a procedure for doing this. Philippians 3:13 says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind (past sins), and reaching forth (studying and applying God’s Word)) unto those things (God’s plan for your life) which are before, I press towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (exhibiting the character of Jesus Christ).”
So we should start where God starts. When we name our sins to God He forgives them and purifies us from all wrongdoing (sins we have forgotten and sins that we did not even know were sins). Forgiveness means that God completely blots out our sins and remembers them no longer. (Psalms 103:12; Isaiah 43:25)
Once we name our sins, we are once again in fellowship with God and filled with the Holy Spirit. This prepares us to move forward in our Christian lives utilizing the power of God the Holy Spirit. We need to deal with our sin the same way God deals with it. We need to forget it! (Philippians 3:13-14)
What happens if we fail to forget about our sin and we begin to think about it, talk about it and worry about it? Out of fellowship we go and no more control of the Holy Spirit. This is the pattern that plagues many believers. They spend so much time jumping in and out of the same sin that they never advance in their Christian lives. They stay immature believers until they die!
This is not how we want to live our lives. Isolation of sin is something that each of us must learn how to accomplish if we want to successfully execute God’s plan, purpose and will. The fastest way to get out of fellowship right after getting back in is to begin thinking and worrying about the sin that you just named. Remember God has blotted it out so we have no right to that sin any longer. When we take it back, we are making a mockery of God’s recovery procedure.
Failure to use God’s recovery system can result in “chain-sinning” or building one sin upon another (even if it’s the same sin over and over). However, failure to isolate sin normally leads to other sins like guilt or bitterness or hatred (even of self). This type of sin pattern will also incur the discipline of God. God is a good father and only wants the best for His children. Therefore, He does everything it takes, short of violating our volition (free-will) to get us back on track. This does not mean that God is trying to hurt us or torture us. It means that He loves us. (Hebrews 12:6)
Here’s what many of us do: we commit a sin, we confess it and God turns what might have become divine discipline into divine blessing. However, sometime later when the pressures of life close in on us and we are facing adversity, we immediately think that we are being disciplined for that past sin (our pet sin or worst sin) and we start feeling guilty. Since that particular sin has already been dealt with when we confessed it, it cannot be the reason for any adversity that comes our way. But in the process of reliving that “pet sin” we have committed a “new” sin - guilt. Do you see how the pattern of chain-sinning begins?
The truth is that the pressure or adversity in our lives may have nothing to do with divine discipline. It may simply be a test to strengthen our faith. Everything “bad” that happens to the believer is not because of sin in his/her life! This is exactly what they said in the Old Testament was causing Job’s adversity, when in fact it had nothing to do with divine discipline. (I Corinthians 10:13)
Since we have no right to any sin that we have confessed, we must learn to put it away from us (isolate it) and stop thinking about it. The best way to do this according to the Word of God is to replace it with Bible Doctrine. The more time we spend thinking and applying God’s Word the less time we will have to think about any past failure. (Romans 12:1-2)
Remembering past sins is mental and will normally cause a believer to get out of fellowship. Remembering past sins means that either we don’t believe God has blotted it out or we don’t feel it is blotted out. Remembering your sin after God has blotted it out causes discouragement and will often lead to guilt. Therefore, if we are feeling guilty about anything, we are out of fellowship. As long as we carry guilt about anything that occurred in the past, we will never execute God’s plan for our lives.
Guilt also produces self-recrimination or self-torture. And no one can torture you like you. This torture comes in the form of emotion. “I don’t feel forgiven,” “I’m being punished for my past failure,” “I’m a failure,” “I’m a loser,” “I’m worthless,” “I’ll never amount to a hill of beans for God,” etc. What are we doing? We’re emoting, we are thinking human viewpoint. We are forgiven, we are not being punished for past failure, we aren’t failures, we aren’t losers, we are worth a great deal to God, and we can amount to something for God. Now what are we doing? We are thinking Divine Viewpoint. (Philippians 2:5)
Bitterness is another mental attitude sin that causes a lot of misery. If you’re bitter it’s probably because you haven’t recognized and dealt with the sin problem in your life. Therefore, you begin to blame others or even God for your miserable condition. All the time it’s your failure to isolate and forget past sin. (Hebrews 12:15)
As a believer in Jesus Christ, perhaps you have heard others describe their lives as wonderful or marvelous or fantastic and you are wondering why you are getting left out. Why? Perhaps because you are spending all your time thinking about, worrying about, feeling sorry for, trying to atone for or trying to destroy the terrible feelings of guilt of past sin/sins that have already been forgiven and blotted out. Therefore, you have no right to even think about this sin. This is failure to isolate it.
There is good news, however. Look at many of the great believers in the Bible who failed at some time during their lives. The reason they became great is that they learned to isolate their sins. When they confessed them, they knew that God had forgiven and forgotten them. They didn’t sit around and cry about it. They never looked back. They just picked up the pieces and moved forward by the grace of God. They didn’t allow past failure to hold them back in their service to the Lord. (Philippians 3:13-15)
Failing the grace of God means failure to appropriate God’s grace experientially. Isolation of sin, like everything else in the Christian Way of Life is a grace function. We don’t earn or deserve forgiveness from God. (Ephesians 1:7)
Failing the grace of God means that you likely don’t understand what God is like. God is gracious. (Isaiah 30:18) In His grace He not only made salvation simple for us, He also made fellowship with Him simple. Both are grace functions. Both are appropriated in a non-meritorious way - salvation by faith, fellowship by confession. God does all the work! (John 3:16; I John 1:9)
Failure to utilize or apply the grace of God will lead the believer to failure. You’ll try everything and everybody to make you happy and all you will find is misery. Happiness is not found in some overt Christian activity, it is found in Divine Viewpoint Thinking! (Hebrews 12:1-3-15; Psalms 146:5; Proverbs 3:13)
When Divine Viewpoint Thinking is developed through consistent study and application of Bible doctrine it produces confidence based on absolute truth from God’s Word. (Hebrews 4:9-16) This confidence in God’s Word leads to spiritual maturity. Study and application takes work. A person can be a Christian for many years and still be a “babe in Christ.” Longevity in marriage for example does not necessarily translate to a happy marriage. Fulfillment in marriage is a result of learning and applying virtue and integrity, resulting in the needs of both parties being met. This is marriage maturity. In our spiritual life (as in our marriage) we should continue to grow and mature until we depart this life.