When I struggle with sin in my life, especially sins that come back around even after I’ve had victory over them in the past, I feel like a huge chasm has grown between me and God. I know that the cross of Christ bridges that chasm, but sometimes my embarrassment over my weakness causes me to pull away from Him. In my mind, I try to hold onto the truth of God’s unconditional love, but my heart feels like “how patient can God be?” As I grow in my faith and have His Spirit inside me, why can’t I conquer this little sin or that little sin permanently? In the New Testament, why does Jesus tell people to “go and sin no more,” when that’s impossible for us?
Often, when I receive a question of this length, I amend it. This time, I’m including it in its entirety, because I feel that you, reader, have answered your own questions right here. Let’s walk through this together.
“When I struggle with sin….” Welcome to the human race! You are in good company – and the apostle Paul was the first to admit that he didn’t have it all together (see Romans 7). When he honestly declared, “I want to do good, but evil is right there with me,” it feels like it’s written just to me. Well, and you. As long as Satan has free rein in our world, we will struggle with sin.
“I feel a huge chasm has grown between me and God.” Was it your heart’s desire to create a chasm between you and God? It certainly wasn’t His. So who does that leave? Who stands to gain the most by coming between you and your loving Father? Who wants you to feel like a failure? It is the enemy of our souls, the enemy who wants to destroy your kingdom effectiveness by worming his way into your heart, coming between you and the Spirit who inhabits you. Rebuke him and send him packing.
“I’m embarrassed by my weakness.” This is where we get hung up. We can’t get past this point to find victory on the other side. We all have moments of weakness. And anyone who says otherwise is lying to himself. Jesus told Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) As soon as you catch yourself falling into the embarrassment pit, grab the lifeline and let Jesus pull you out. Don’t waste energy trying to claw your way out. Let Jesus save you from yourself.
“In my mind…but my heart.” Sometimes the 12 inches between our head and our heart feels more like a mile. It’s time to trust what you know to be true and then take a deep breath. Open your heart to receive the truth and stop letting the fear of failure rule your thoughts.
“How can I go and sin no more? It’s impossible!” It’s easy to fall into fatalism, when in reality, we are not the victims of our sin, we are the perpetrators. The beauty is that as we grow in Christ, we become more sensitive to our sin and we naturally want to overcome it. This is where you find yourself. You do want to find victory over sin. And as you open your heart to God’s truth and rebuke the enemy for telling you otherwise, your loving Father will give you what you need, and you will find victory.
Think of yourself as a willful toddler. Parent yourself by diverting your attention away from temptation and back to Jesus. Again. And again. As many times as it takes.
“But remember this—the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it.”
–I Corinthians 10:13 (TLB)