I need to more clearly understand what Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection accomplished. I know it provides us eternal life (and that is more than enough), but I know there are other results as well. I need to understand what His promises are for me during my life here on Earth.
Clearly, Jesus did not promise a life free of suffering and He did not promise that we would never sin again. Though I have put my faith in Christ, I continue to struggle with sin. I know that sanctification is part of the Christian life, yet I’ve somehow fooled myself into thinking that my continuous struggle with sin means that I don’t really know God at all. No matter how much faith I have, I will always struggle with sin because of the fallen state of human nature.
Therefore, I don’t need to flip out every time I make a mistake. It doesn’t mean God is far away and it doesn’t mean I have completely turned my back on Him. A better indication of the strength of my faith is my response to sin. No one is perfect so we don’t always respond correctly but when I do mess up I don’t need to lament a long list of mistakes and label my entire Christian life as a failure thinking I never really understood it to begin with.
Every mistake I make shouldn’t make me question my salvation. Instead, mistakes should make me question my nearness to Christ throughout the day. As Christians, Christ is certainly always with us, but that’s not to say we don’t have times when we ignore Him. And, yes, we should be sad about those times but not because we think it might mean we are no longer saved or never were to begin with.
One sin pattern I often find myself in is choosing to dwell on my sin, thus not accept Christ’s forgiveness. However, my tendency to fall into the sin of self-condemnation doesn’t mean that I am not a Christian. As long as I return to Christ every time I catch myself wallowing in self-pity, then I don’t think I have become an unbeliever.
I am so focused on the possibility of not being a Christian that sometimes I completely overlook the real reason for my sin – sneaky, almost unnoticeable decisions of the heart that temporarily move my focus off of Christ. As strange as it may seem, Christians regularly make decisions to ignore God (if only for a moment). To categorize my sin as any different is ridiculous. No matter what our sin is, God is always eager to forgive us.
If a sermon I’ve heard or something somebody has said has led me to believe that my sin or apparent lack of good fruit is a sign I am not saved then that is a gross misunderstanding of something that was just meant to encourage me to grow closer to Christ.
Repentance is good, but sometimes when I repent, I replay a long list of mistakes and look for reasons and explanations. However, I don’t need to spend time analyzing why. That answer is easy – I took my eyes off God long enough to make a bad decision. The end. There’s no reason to delve further into every single detail leading up to that, and there’s no reason to assume that the reason I fell so far was because God was never a part of my life to begin with. Because that is not true. I’ve had many close encounters with God and have absolutely felt His love.
When my repentance is focused on the why, I never get to the who. Who am I asking for forgiveness? It’s not about me and my ability to understand every aspect of Christianity so I needn’t repent for my lack of understanding (the why). I am acknowledging that but repenting for the decisions of my heart. God knows humans are weak and lack understanding. It’s our response to this that matters.
Sometimes I wonder how I can be so resistant to accepting God’s forgiveness and still consider myself a Christian. How can someone live in such a deep pit of self-condemnation and still claim Christ as their Savior? I don’t know. All I know is that at some point in my life I made a wonderful decision – a decision that changed my life forever. That decision wasn’t made with the expectation that I would never sin again, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the endless forgiveness of Christ. I became too focused on my sin and I spent endless hours contemplating whether or not I was really a Christian.
Sometimes Christians lose sight of Christ and the true Gospel message, but this isn’t unforgiveable. The choice I made to dwell so long in a state of self-condemnation was unwise – I lost sight of Christ and the whole point of His sacrifice. However, once I repented and turned back to God, the self-condemnation didn’t even matter. To have spent any longer than necessary in a state of confusion about my salvation would have been pointless since God was ready to welcome me back anyway.