Not “You have sinned,” but “Sin no more.” Jesus never ignores sin, nor does he deny its existence, but from the moment he engages us, he points out the true future course he wants for us: Sin no more. Simple. Straightforward. Staggering. The man Jesus is addressing had been sick and unable to walk for thirty-eight years. That was longer than Jesus had been alive. How could Jesus have known that the man’s illness had been related to sin? In John 9, we read the account of Jesus healing a man who had been blind since birth. On that occasion, when Jesus’s disciples asked whose sin had been the cause of the man’s blindness, Jesus defended both the man and his parents, saying the blindness had not been caused by sin. How did Jesus know these things? Who can come up to a complete stranger, look inside their heart, and know the state of their soul? Who can heal the lame and blind? Only God! This is one of the many ways in which we know that Jesus was more than just a compassionate healer and teacher. Jesus was God in the flesh!
God incarnate came to earth, not simply to live as an example for us to follow. He came to earth to die for us so that he can save us. However, after he saves us (just as Jesus saved the lame man), he gives us his example to follow! Jesus lived a sinless life, and he tells us to stop sinning—to die to ourselves and our own ambitions . . . to give up our own agenda for success and let the life of Christ live itself out in us. Furthermore, he adds a warning, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14).Are you struggling with some sin that has disabled you? Have you made an idol out of some person and it’s ruining your life? Or, maybe you thought everything was going to be perfect if you could only have (fill in the blank with anything but God), but you have whatever and it’s still not perfect? In fact, it’s not even “okay.” You’re hooked. You’re addicted. You’re immobilized.
No matter what you’ve done or how lame you’ve become, Jesus can heal you, and he will if you want him to. I met a man at an art festival several years ago who thought there was no hope for him to be saved because he’d divorced his wife some twenty+ years before and married another woman. He was overwhelmed with relief and joy to know that it does not matter what sins we’ve committed in the past. Jesus died in payment for every sin that each of us has committed, and he offers to save us and heal us at any point in our life when we ask. That’s the wonderful news!
The other piece of wonderful news is that Jesus does not condemn us. He doesn’t say: “You sinned!” But, he points us to the future and says, “Sin no more.” How? Well, I have no clue. I can’t look into your heart and tell you anything, because I’m not God. But, Jesus is and he can! Ask him, and he will tell you how to keep from sinning from this point going forward! Once we’ve surrendered our lives to Christ, his Holy Spirit indwells us, and he will lead us into lives of truth, love, and peace if we just ask. So, just ask, and “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:9-14).
P.S.—I just reread this and realized that you might get the impression I am saying that we “can” or “will” never sin after we believe in Jesus. I wish that were true, but it’s not. I have been a Christian for over 50 years, and I still struggle with sin. But, here’s what I think: Jesus is telling us what we should do, and what we should aim for. We should attempt to live pure and holy lives that are free from sin, and we should have as our goal to avoid “every appearance” of evil. Once we have given our lives to Christ, we need to recognize evil for what it is and repent every time we sin. We need to give up any way of life that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible and Christ. We need to agree with Christ about what is good and what is evil and pray for the Holy Spirit to help us “turn away from evil and do good; let him [that’s us!] seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11, ESV). Sound more possible?