Loving Those Trapped in Sin

John 15:9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-- fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

How do you deal with someone who feels their sins deeply?

I have met with young ladies who are scared because they are still in high school and now they are pregnant. She has no idea what she is going to do, how her parents are going to react, if the members in her church are going to shun her.

I have ministered to older men who have had an affair. He doesn’t know what to do. If he tells his wife, it will destroy her. If he keeps it hidden, it will eat him up inside.

I have spoken with people of all ages who are in bisexual relationships, who are addicted to alcohol, who have had their children taken away because of very poor parenting, and plenty of others who have been swallowed up by guilt and disgrace. 

What do you say to people like this who are caught in Satan’s snares? How do you rescue them from the depression and guilt they lug around like a ball and chain? How do you console people who feel their sins so deeply?

Listen closely to this note that was given to another pastor from a young lady who had an abortion. You can feel her pain pouring through her words.

“I had an abortion. I was young and naïve. And now it tears me apart on the inside. If I could do it all over again, I would have my child. Now all I have is the heartache that I suffer for what I did. Now I worry that God will punish me and won’t give me other children. Can God forgive me for failing him, myself, and my baby? Will God stay mad at me for taking a life? Please, help. I don’t know if God will forgive me.”

There is a voice that is driving this young woman to despair. It is leading her to distrust the love and forgiveness of her Lord. You’ve heard a similar voice. Sometimes it screams at you that God is punishing you for your past indiscretions. Other times it is a whisper, constantly nagging at you, reminding you of how you let your God down. It always has the tone of accusation. It won’t let your mistakes die. It shoves them in your face. Again and again and again.

You feel like King David who whose sins of adultery, murder, and impenitence weighed heavily upon him. He wrote: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).

The things you’ve done are too big to change. The memory is too raw to forget. The voice is too loud to silence. What do you do?

To combat this accusing voice, you and your friends need to hear the voice of Jesus. So, what do you say?

Some might say, “Don’t judge. Jesus loves you just the way you are.” They overlook the sin and ignore the pain you’ve caused and the guilt you feel.

Others might say, “You are getting what you deserve. What you are going through right now is God’s anger over your lifestyle choices.” They come down hard on the sin and ignore the guilty conscience that already plagues you.

I’m sure you’ve heard these things. I’m sure you’ve said these things. We condemn when we should offer Christ’s forgiveness. We ignore when we should confront with Christ’s Law. We become moralistic. We endorse poor theology. We do more damage than healing. We cause more hurts then help.

We try to love, but any love apart from the love of Jesus is not real, divine, lasting love. It is a shell. It is a lie. It is a farce.

Let me tell you about another voice. It is a bigger and better voice. It is a merciful and loving voice. It silences Satan. It quiets fears. It soothes guilty consciences. It is a voice that exudes love.

Before any of your sins were ever committed, the Son of God already saw them in eternity. And then He resolved to do something about them. Listen to the Son speaking to His Father, “Father, I will go and take care of my sister’s sin. In her confusion and fear, she will have an abortion. She will end the life of one of my children. I will not excuse her sin. I will not ignore her sin. But I will die for her sin.”

“I will take that sin away from her and not give it back. I will be the One who has the abortion. I will transfer her guilt and regret and heartache onto myself. I will forgive her sin and remove it from your memory.”

“I will do the same for all my brothers and sisters. I will become the adulterer; the alcoholic; the abuser … Once these sins are placed on me while I am hanging dying on the cross, we will not speak of them again. We will not remember them again. They will cease to exist.”

This is the voice we need to hear. This is the voice we need to share.

David heard the voice of his Savior after he finally repented and confessed his sins to the Lord. He wrote: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. … Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-2, 5).

The voice from eternity is the same voice that was speaking in time in the upper room to His disciples. It is the evening of His betrayal leading to Christ’s arrest, trial and crucifixion. He washed their feet. He gave them His body as bread and His blood as wine. He taught them about remaining connected to Him as the vine is connected to the branches. He prayed for them as a high priest prays for his people.

It is in this context – the context of Christ’s impending death, His laying down His life for the life of the world – that Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”

His is the voice of love.

It was you He was speaking of in the upper room. It was you He was thinking of during His passion. It was you He was contemplating on the cross.

What a blessing to enjoy the love of the Son of God! No matter what you’ve done, where you’ve gone, whom you’ve hurt, you are loved. Loved with an unconditional, unbreakable, unbelievable love! He makes it so the abortion never happened. He has forgotten the adultery. He has covered up the alcoholism. He has repaired the abusive relationship.

Jesus loves you even when you sin. But He also loves you too much to remain in your sin.

So often people will say, “Don’t judge. Jesus loves people just the way they are.” But that’s wrong. That’s just another of the devil’s lies. Jesus does love you the way you are. But He also loves you too much to leave you the way you are.

Jesus wants you to have the same kind of joy He has in keeping His Father’s commands: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.”

You will not have joy in breaking God’s commands and living apart from His will. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. … You are my friends if you do what I command.” Contrary to what the unbelieving world thinks, true and lasting joy comes from knowing and serving a loving Savior. While the unbeliever seeks joy in the pursuit of sinful pleasures, the believer is reminded that real, complete joy is found in the Savior. Receiving Jesus’ love when you break His commands so that you might demonstrate your love back to Him in keeping His commands is what friendship is all about.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Today is Mother’s Day. We know that our mothers poured out their hearts and lives to make us what we are. Our mothers love us and we know it. But as great as their love for us is, Jesus’ love is greater. He wasn’t just willing to die for you. He did die for you. He shed His divine blood for you. He endured the agony of hell for you. And now Jesus lives for you.

In response to that great love, we show love to others. Great love speaks the truth in love. Great love does not condone sin. Great love confronts sin and applies the Savior’s love to a guilty heart. Great love recognizes that Jesus laid down His life for us, so we no longer wish to live apart from Him, His will, and His commands.

Again, what do you say to someone whose past sins are tearing them apart? What do you hear when your guilty conscience plagues you?

St. John tells us today: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Listen to the voice of love. He tells you, “I’ve taken care of everything.”

His love is the voice that drowns out all other voices. “You are my son. You are my daughter. I loved you before the creation of the world. You did not choose me, but I chose you to be in my family. When I look at you, I do not even see a speck of wrong in you. You are washed in my blood. You are redeemed by my sacrifice. You are forgiven in my love.”

“I’ve forgotten and left your life of sin behind. Now you do the same. Go and bear fruit – fruits of faith and forgiveness, fruits that will last.”

When you listen to this voice and apply it to yourself, then the Father will give you whatever you ask in His name.

When you share this voice with others and apply His words to their lives, then you are following Jesus words: “This is my command: love each other.”

That is how you love those who are trapped in sin. Amen.