Judges 3:7-9. 7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. 8 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. 9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
The book of Judges is often seen as a comic book collection of stories about super heroes who save the day. Heroes like Gideon, Deborah, and Samson that we can all look up to. But it’s actually a depressing story demonstrating what living without faith in the life of God looks like. It’s the story of a vicious cycle. A time loop of sin, bondage, repentance, deliverance, repeat. Just look at the story of Judge Othniel above.
Sin: the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Bondage: the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia.
Repentance: the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.
Deliverance: the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel.
And then, back to sinning.
Eleven times this cycle will repeat. And after eleven times the people are more hopeless than when they started. By the end of the book the people are grossly immoral, the judges are contemptible, and “everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.”
Sadly, this cycle is exactly how many Christians think life is supposed to be lived. They are trapped in this same loop of sin-repent-repeat. We believe that Jesus shed his blood for our sins, but somehow we must reapply that blood over and over again. And so when we sin we quickly confess and plead for Christ’s forgiveness, keeping “short accounts of sin.” Or, we pray general prayers asking for forgiveness for the “sins of the day.” We feel remorse and make a new commitment to never sin again. But eventually we do of course. So we repent again and again. We ask for forgiveness again and again. And we re-commit over and over and over.
Christian, this is not how you were meant to live. God has raised up a final deliverer. Jesus Christ our Savior. And he has rescued us once for all time from the power of sin. In Christ every sin in your life has been forgiven forever. But beyond this, the power of sin in you has also been broken forever. You have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). You are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11). The old is gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
Do you see? Life in Christ is no cycle. Union with Christ is a once for all time event. The cross of Christ was once for all time, and your death with Christ on the cross was once for all time. You aren’t cleansed over, and over, and over. You are made new!
Yes, we still sin. But how do we deal with the sin in our lives? Do we confess? Do we repent of our sin? Yes. But the vicious cycle of sin-repent-repeat is not the answer. And it’s not the good news. In fact, it’s just another form of self-justification. It makes your confession the object of your faith, rather than your death with your Savior. And if you stay in this cycle long enough, like in Judges, you will cease to make any progress in the Christian life, while continuing to break the heart of your Savior.
But the good news of our union with Christ brings hope for real change. By placing our faith in our once for all justification and sanctification on the cross, holiness grows in us from a heart of faith and love, not from a guilty conscience. Now our confession cries out “Thank you Jesus!” rather than “Help me Jesus.” Now our repentance is unto an appropriation of grace, rather than unto an alleviation of guilt.
“To live is Christ” makes our confession and repentance acts of faith in our death with Christ and our resurrection with Christ to his indwelling righteous life. Only when we trust fully in what our union with Christ has already accomplished will we be free from the cycle of sin-repent-repeat. Only when we believe that all sin has been dealt with forever, will we find the freedom to pursue God’s holiness from faith and not from fear.
How do you deal with sin in your life? Are you trapped in the sin-repent-repeat cycle?
You in Christ
In Christ every sin is forgiven and the power of sin is broken. How does this change how you approach growing in holiness?
Christ in you
Where can the Christ in you pursue righteousness today?
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