“How can I pray for you?” I asked my friend.
She mentioned a few things. Then she hesitated. “I have so much trouble with sin,” she said. “I keep sinning. I feel suspicious of people, that they don’t like me. I’m so jealous—-I see other people doing well, and I feel full of jealousy. Just sin, all the time.”
I could have laughed and said, “Welcome to the club of humanity.” But I didn’t.
We prayed together for deliverance and victory. Then I asked, “Tell me, tell me how it all proceeds. When you sense the sin in you, what happens? What do you do?”
She said, “Well, first I don’t want to admit it. At first I try to ignore it or make excuses for it, because I don’t want to acknowledge that it’s there.
“And then . . .” she went on. “Then I finally admit it, and I say I’m sorry.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“What happens after that? After you say you’re sorry? Do you do anything else? Does God say or do anything?”
“No. I just say I’m sorry, and that’s all.”
This is a hard place to be, especially for a Christian with a sensitive conscience, one who really wants to live a life well-pleasing to God. The problem is that there’s a veritable cesspool of sin that can keep bubbling up with its noxious fumes, invading the thoughts and even pervading the life.
“I’m sorry,” we say. And “I’m so sorry,” we say again. And on and on and on it goes.
And no wonder we don’t want to acknowledge it when it appears, because it’s one more evidence that we don’t have victory, that we’re full, full, full of sin. When we stop to acknowledge it, it seems simply overwhelming. Discouraging and depressing, to the point of despair.
We struggle. We want to be thankful for forgiveness, but feel stuck in a cycle of sin-confess-apologize-sin-confess-apologize, when the Bible seems to indicate that there has got to be something more to the Christian life.
So I proposed a new plan of attack, one that I’m putting to work in my own life, not at all flawlessly, but in faith.
First, when you see the sin in you, don’t ignore it or make excuses for it. Acknowledge it immediately. (That’s confession.)
But don’t despair! Instead, thank God, for one thing, that your sin never takes Him by surprise, and for another, that He’s kind enough to show it to you. Because He is a good God, gracious and kind and loving.
Then, repent. This doesn’t have to include an “I’m sorry,” though it can. (I believe that “I’m sorry” has, in our culture, lost a lot of the true “sorrow” it’s supposed to convey.) But it would definitely include a deep sense of seeing the wrongness of what you did, in line of the real meaning of Biblical repentance, which I blogged about here.
And then, if I just gaze on my sin and watch the disgusting, noxious fumes burbling up from the depths of my soul, again I can fall into deep despair. I can sob over my sin and feel no sense of relief.
So I can’t stop there.
There’s another step. And this is the step that eventually leads to more and more victory.
After confessing and repenting, look to Jesus. First of all, the Jesus who died on the cross to pay for this sin and millions of others, but then the Jesus who rose from the grave. Not just victorious over death, but victorious over sin. This is important for you personally because Colossians 3 says that if you’re a real Christian, you’ve risen with Him.
Have you died to sin? If you’re a real Christian, Romans 6 says you have. What does it mean? Grapple with it. Don’t let Him go until He blesses you with understanding of that truth.
Yes, look at your sin. In some cases, you may need to weep heaving sobs over it.
But even more, gaze at the Savior. You can go beyond just being thankful that once again you’re forgiven, though there is much to be thankful for in that. You can go beyond that, to expecting, anticipating, that either little by little or all at once, your besetting sins will fall away and no longer have that grip on you that they now seem to have. And because of the power of Jesus Christ, this victory doesn’t have to wait for the next life, but can happen on this earth. I’m not talking about being sinless or flawless, but about being, in the power of the Holy Spirit, what Jesus Christ Himself promised us we could be.
“You’ve given me a lot to think about,” said my friend. So with her permission, I’m writing it, as a reminder for her, and for me. We can joyfully anticipate much victory in the resurrection power of the Living Savior.