It cannot be too strongly emphasized that holiness is retained only while vital contact with Christ is maintained. On our side this Divine contact may be interrupted and even temporarily broken. Now, an interrupted or broken circuit, when it occurs, always results in a darkening of the spiritual sky, a loss of conscious fellowship with Christ and a lack of real victory in the life. This experience may be illustrated from electricity. In order to make a circuit the wires from the positive and negative poles of a battery must be brought together. This forms the contact, as it is called; and upon the contact depends the electric current. Breaking the contact interrupts or destroys the current. The separation of the wires need not be great-only just so that they do not touch. In like manner, our holiness depends upon contact with God; and anything that breaks or impairs this vital contact, however slight it may be, interrupts our communion with Christ and brings defeat instead of victory into our lives.
Now, there is just one thing and one thing only, that can cause an interrupted or broken circuit between the soul and Christ. This is sin. Sin breaks the contact. But let it be clearly understood that when we say that sin breaks the contact, we refer not to the practice or habit of sin, but to the commission of a single and solitary act of sin. It is true that regeneration destroys the love of sin and that sanctification breaks the power of sin. No one who has been truly converted and received the Holy Ghost can possibly thereafter live in sin or habitually practice sin. This is the clear teaching of I. John iii. 6, 9:
"Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not; whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him."
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin; because he is born of God."
In these passages the italicized verbs are in the present tense, which in Greek denotes continuous or repeated action. In each instance the expression "practise sin" will better bring out the force of the original. Thus we may Tender as follows: "Whosoever abideth in Him practiseth not sin; whosoever practiseth sin hath not seen Him, neither known Him." Again: "Whosoever is born of God doth not practise sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot practise sin because he is born of God." See also Galatians v. 21, where the Greek verb translated "do" in the Authorized Version is rendered "practise" in the Revised Version.
But while this is all gloriously true, it is not true that a believer can ever reach a state of grace, where it is not possible to commit an act of sin. In Galatians vi. 1, Paul says:
"Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault (literally, this word means a falling aside; it is one of the Scriptural terms for sin), ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted." Moreover, in I. John ii. 1, the beloved apostle says:
"My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous."
Here the italicized verbs are not in the present tense but in the aorist tense, which denotes a single and solitary act. Yet even such an experience is not necessary, for the apostle distinctly states: "These things write I unto you that ye sin not"--that is, that ye may not commit even an act of sin. Indeed, Jude declares that God is "able to keep you from falling (R. V. stumbling), and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." (Verse 24.)
The sin that interrupts or breaks the believer's contact with Christ may be occasioned in various ways. It may, for example, be due to a failure in reckoning. Because of fear of the shadow of the past or because of the pressure of temptation you may have taken your eyes from Christ and fallen under the power of the old life. Again, it may be due to unsteadfastness in abiding. The secret of abiding is not mastered in a moment; and you may have stumbled or fallen in honest but mistaken efforts to keep Christ's commandments and live in His love. Still again, it may have resulted from disobedience to "the still, small voice." Perhaps you have not met God squarely in some of His dealings with you. You have not kept saying "Yes" to Christ. You have not been careful in little things always to "walk in the Spirit." You yourself, dear friend, know just what happened; or, if you do not know and will be honest with God, He will show you. At any rate your contact with God has in some way been broken. You are not enjoying conscious fellowship with Christ. Your spiritual sky is overcast with clouds. You are not in victory. And the reason is: You have sinned.
Two grave perils that should be avoided beset a soul out of fellowship with Christ. One is the temptation to discouragement and despair. The other is the unwillingness to acknowledge sin and even the attempt to evade and ignore it.
On the one hand, discouragement and despair which are always the work of the enemy expose the soul to fierce temptations and make it an easy prey to presumptuous sins. Consequently, if you have a fall, beloved, do not allow yourself to become discouraged nor plunged in despair. The fall is indeed sad, but it is not hopeless. There is of course a prestige that comes from never losing a battle; but the loss of a battle does not necessarily involve the loss of a campaign. Many a campaign, indeed, has been lost, yet a war has been won. Cheer up, then, dear heart, cheer up! Remember that on God's side the contact is not broken; He still holds you safe in His almighty army. Moreover, nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. And the blessed Comforter has promised to abide with you forever. But for a moment the Lord is in hiding. Because of your sin a cloud has come between you and your Saviour. As of old you cannot see His blessed face nor feel the thrill of His radiant presence.
On the other hand, the unwillingness to acknowledge sin and the attempt either to evade or ignore it is even a graver peril than the temptation to discouragement and despair. Such a dangerous attitude towards sin is the result either of the deceptive snare of Satan or of unscriptural views of sanctification. It is one of the devices of the devil to try to blind us to the "exceeding sinfulness of sin." Again, those who believe in "sinless perfection" can never of course consistently admit that they can commit sin. To them there must be some other explanation. So, what the Scriptures call sin, they call "an error of judgment," "an innocent mistake," "an infirmity of temper," "righteous indignation," or some other equally mild and delusive term. An act cannot be wrong, they contend, if the motive which prompts it is right. Thus, not having, in their view, committed sin, they have no confession of sin to make. My beloved friend, beware of such trifling with sin. It will so dull your moral sense that soon you will not be able to discriminate between right and wrong. Sin is a horrible monster; unless confessed and pardoned, it will separate the soul from God. For a time indeed you may have a fancied feeling of security; but in the end your faith will be destroyed and you yourself plunged into the darkness of hopeless ruin and utter despair.
Now, there is one and only one remedy for sin. This is the blood of Christ. Consequently, there is one and but one way in which an interrupted or broken contact with Christ can be restored; and this is by the honest confession of sin and its complete cleansing by the blood. Beloved, whenever you feel yourself out of conscious touch with Christ, go at once to the blood. Do not lose a moment. Delay is perilous. Neither attempt to justify yourself nor indulge in vain regrets. At once confess your sin to God and seek full pardon and complete cleansing. Keep nothing back; make a clean breast of everything. Call sin by its right name. For example, if you have manifested impatience or irritability of temper, if you have given way to anger, jealousy, or any other form of passion, do not call it nervousness or peculiarity of temperament. Own up squarely that it is sin. Moreover, if you have wronged a brother or sister in Christ apologize-make complete reparation and, if necessary, full restitution before you seek pardon and cleansing from God.
If in this way you will meet God in honest confession, He will meet you in complete cleansing. His promise is:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I. John i. 9.)
Thus will the Lord lift the burden of condemnation, dispel the overhanging clouds of darkness, bring you back into conscious fellowship with Himself, and restore unto you "the joys of His salvation." But do not wait for feeling. Take God at His word. Believe that He meets you in complete cleansing and in full restoration. Then at once resume your former attitude of reckoning and take your old place of fellowship, thus learning by your humbling experience to listen to "the still, small voice" and to "walk in the Spirit," and trusting the Lord more fully than ever to "keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy."
"To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24, 25.)