“The Knowledge of Sin”


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The difference between learning sin in God’s presence and learning by falling into it is very great. One may feel sin deeply, because one has committed it, but this never gives one God’s sense of what sin is. The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the measure of what sin is in the sight of the Father. I personally measure sin as it pains my conscience and deforms me in the sight of God and man. And hence, one sin is greater to me than another (the judgment of the damned will vary in degrees according to the severity of their sins - Mat 11:21, 22; Luk 12:47, 48—NC); and the sin I commit is therefore necessarily the one I feel about, and my sense of it is according the condition of my conscience. My conscience is active according to my apprehension of God’s claims and appointments for me; and departure from His will and from subjection to His Word are known to be sin.

But all this is only viewing sin as it affects ourselves. This is not the true measure of it. I must see how it is viewed by God. The terrible distance from God in which sin places one is only learned in the Cross. If I see it there, though I may never have committed any of it, to the knowledge of my conscience, yet I see that the working of the law in my members is of that sin (Rom 7:23 – sinners are not “captives” but willing subjects—NC) which is judged in the Cross, and there only is its measure met out according to God.

Then I get a sense of sin which no amount of personal failure could ever give me. There is no excusing it; no toleration of it. The Cross is God’s measure of every bit of it, the least as well as the greatest; and as I see this, I can allow no less a measure of it than His, and I shrink in holiness of nature from the least, as much as I should from the greatest.

As a rule, you will find that those who have committed most sins have not the deepest sense of sin (which varies with maturity in Christ – Eph 4:15—NC). They generally have a deep sense of being forgiven, and they occupy themselves with that. Those who have been preserved, though greatly tempted, while fearful of danger (danger of not growing in their faith, not of losing their salvation—NC), have not only a deeper sense of the grace of God, but also a greater horror of that from which they have “escaped” (2Pe 2:20—NC).

True sense of sin is less concerned with the extent to which it can go (unconcerned of how bad it can make one—NC), than with its purpose at the inception. The latter, I can only know in the presence of God; and hence the word, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Ro 7:24 - not the physical body but that “body of sin” - Ro 6:6, which has its members in the body of the “old man” - Col 3:5—NC)? If I only condemn myself for what I have committed, I exonerate myself from everything else (deliverance includes all sin, esp. concerning the continued indwelling of the presence of the “old man” - Ro 7:17, 20—NC). The Cross is the measure of the distance between me and God created by sin, and in the Cross only that distance has been removed and the sin condemned (the old man’s damnation - Ro 8:1 and dominion Ro 6:14 - is nullified in the Cross—NC). Hence, I have God’s sense about sin if I am near Him, and a deeper abhorrence, and a more rigid separation from it.

It is not only that I have to see sin condemned on the Cross, but in order to have a true realization of it, I must be on God’s side, and see it at the root in its native willfulness, and not merely in its fruit, which is the extent to which it can go. In the one case it is God who is before me, and I see my sin, in its true distance from Him—the unutterable agony of the Cross. In the other, my own hideousness is before me, and I dwell on the mercy that has met me and saved me. This indeed must come first, but when I am occupied with the holy side, my sense of holiness is divine, while I know only the more deeply the grace which can forgive, and the deliverance vouchsafed to me.

— James Butler Stoney (1814-1897)

MJS daily devotional for August 29

“It is essential that a believer have a clear understanding of his position before the Father—his place in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This alone will give true peace of mind, joy and comfort of heart, strength for conflict and power for service. We will never be able to properly understand or fill our place for God on earth if we do not realize our God-given standing before Him in heaven.

“And never forget that our place before the Father is His gift, and a gift worthy of the Giver; not a gift according to the measure of our worth but a gift intended to display the exceeding riches of the grace of the Giver. The greatness of the Giver then is the measure of the blessings that are mine in the Lord Jesus Christ, not what I am or what I deserve.” —Theodore Austin-Sparks (1888–1971)
I especially love the "hungry heart" part. Its the thirsting/panting after the waterbrooks as my soul thirsts for Thee oh Lord. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.
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