“I can’t come to God about that sin again,” sighed the disillusioned young man. “God is weary of hearing me ask forgiveness for the same thing over and over. I’ve decided to let everything slide until I know I can hold out.”
His story is one that in principle has happened a thousand times. He accepted Christ as Savior at about the age of twelve. After the novelty wore off, his relationship with God took a nose-dive. During his teen years, he rebelled against his parents’ restrictions. He soon learned to swear, drink alcohol, and read pornography on the sly. He often asked God’s forgiveness and vowed that he would not repeat the endless cycle of personal failure, but for some reason he never made a clean break.
As he grew older, he felt so discouraged that he often would go for days or weeks without praying. Sometimes he determined to do better. He felt sure that if he read the Bible more regularly and spent time in prayer, God would give him the victory he desired.
So he tried. He got out of bed a half-hour earlier, read a few verses from the Bible, and prayed, but nothing happened. Nothing, that is, except that he felt more exhausted during the day. If only he knew for certain that he was forgiven! If only he could have “whatever it takes” to live in fellowship with God!
I am convinced that the greatest single cause of spiritual defeat is a guilty conscience. We know we have sinned and are weary of it; yet we don’t know how to be free from a sense of failure. In fact, most of us have experienced the same futile cycle. We sin, we feel guilty, we try to confess our sins, and still our past fills our minds. We then try to do something good to offset our guilt; but the harder we try, the more useless it becomes. The result? Discouragement and the suspicion that we have blown it. So we commit the same sins again.
C. S. Lewis, in his book the Screwtape Letters, vividly describes Satan’s strategy: he gets Christians to become preoccupied with their failures; from then on the battle is won by Satan.
The greatest blunder of Christians is not their failure when trying to live for Christ; a greater mistake is that they do not understand God’s provision for sin, defeat, and guilt! We are successful only to the extent that we understand God’s remedy for failure! Read this article carefully: it is an attempt to explain God’s cure for the guilt syndrome.
First, Christ’s death on the cross included a sacrifice for all our sins, past, present, and future.
Every sin that you will ever commit has already been paid for! All of our sins were future when Christ died two thousand years ago. Therefore, He made one payment for all sins past and future. There is no sin that you will ever commit which has not already been included in Christ’s death (Col. 2:13).
God does not find it “hard” to forgive us. It is not as though He must regretfully give us a second chance. The price of forgiveness has already been paid, and God wants us to accept it freely.
Christ is the satisfaction to God for all the believer’s sins (1 John 2:2). That means He satisfied God’s justice for all sins which can possibly be committed. Let me repeat, God’s justice has been satisfied for any imaginable evil you might commit.
When Christ cried on the cross, “It is finished,” the expression is but one word in Greek, a word used for business transactions. When this word was written across a bill, it meant, “paid in full.” You need never try to “make up” for your sins on your own. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sins in full.
Second, God will not punish the believer for his/her sins! All of the punishment has already been given to Christ.
As Isaiah predicted, “But the Lord was pleased to crush (Christ), putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering… (Isa. 53:10).
God bruised Christ; Christ received God’s anger for our sin. God disciplines us, but He does not punish us. His justice was satisfied at the cross. Some Christians interpret all calamities as God trying to get even with them. For example, a sick child, an accident, financial problems, all of these are sometimes falsely believed to be God punishing us for our sins.
In fact, some people try to punish themselves for their sins! They often brood over their sins and even injure themselves physically to try to satisfy God. All such attempts to pay for our sin are diabolical. Satan does not want us to understand that Christ paid it all!
Third, although we may become weary of confessing the same sins, God does not become weary of hearing our confession.
If I say to God, “I am coming to confess the same sin,” God’s reply is, “What sin?” Any previous sins which have been confessed have already been blotted out forever! “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud,” God told His people (Isa. 44:22).
The sins you confessed yesterday will never again be a barrier between you and God, unless you refuse to accept God’s forgiveness and doubt the value of Christ’s sacrifice. The consequences of sin often remain, but the guilt (the legal condemnation for the offense) is gone. If we have a clear conscience toward others (which is brought about by personal confession), we can always have a clear conscience before God.
One of Satan’s most popular deceptions is to make us believe that we should not confess our sins until some future time when we are living more “victoriously.” Since Satan deceives by feelings as well as by words, he gets us to “feel” we are unforgiven; he makes us believe that God is not pleased with our performance, and, therefore, we should stop bothering Him about forgiveness!
In order to defend themselves against this attack, Christians often resort to trying to find some sign that God is not displeased with them. They think, “I’ve received such a blessing from reading my Bible today, surely God must be pleased with me.” Or perhaps they have been extra kind or patient. On this basis, they hope to meet Satan’s attack. They hope to please God by being victorious, thinking that that should give them a more meaningful relationship with the Almighty. The result? Endless despair and more failure!
We are never made acceptable to God by our faithful reading of Scripture or by disciplined prayer(though both are needed). We don’t receive God’s approval because we witness to others or are faithful at church. God does not even accept us because we do good works which He gives us the ability to do! God is pleased with the good works of His children because of what they signify – love and gratefulness. But the works per se are not the basis of our acceptance.
What is our basis for pleasing God?
It is standing by faith on the sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice which satisfied the Father completely. We are accepted in Christ! That basis remains secure even when we fail!
How righteous do you have to be in order to get in to heaven? The answer is simple: as righteous/perfect as God. Of course we all come short of that! But God’s standards don’t change.
Fortunately, God has a plan to make us that righteous. It involves forgiving us of our sins but also much more. A Christian is one who is forgiven and has the righteousness of Christ credited to him. God accepts us like He accepts Christ!
Now, since any of us could die at any moment, God has already accepted us forever in Christ! That is, legally, all of our sins have already been forgiven; Christ’s righteousness is ours.
Think of this: God sees believers as absolutely perfect because God sees us in Christ. And nothing you can do can change God’s complete acceptance of you!
If we are permanently accepted by God, why is it necessary to confess our sins? Our sins block our fellowship/closeness, though not our acceptance, with God. To confess means to “agree with God” about our sin. It does not mean to beg, plead, or live in misery until we convince God we mean business. We simply agree that we have sinned and freely accept God’s forgiveness. When we do this, God does not compromise His justice. “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Like the prodigal son, we have all the rights of sonship, but we must confess our sins to experience a close, harmonious relationship with God.
God is not displeased with you, if you depend solely on the death and life of Christ for your acceptance.
But one difficulty remains. God is pleased with Christ’s sacrifice. He has forgiven you, but have you forgiven yourself? Many Christians are handcuffed by regret. This goes all the way from the widow who says, “If only I had persuaded my husband to go to the doctor earlier, he would not have died,” to the person who believes that he has committed the unpardonable sin. By nature, we know that sin has to be paid for; consequently, some people nurse their regrets and cling to their grief. The reason? They believe that such an attitude is necessary to punish themselves. Unconsciously they want to pay for their sins.
If Christ has paid the penalty for our sins and failures, why should we try to add our continual regret to His work? Christ came to free us from the bondage of our sin toward God and from our slavery to past failures. The purpose of the cross was to repair the irreparable!
It is the deep, difficult heartaches that the cross was meant to cover. Christ’s sacrifice is as good for big sins as it is for small ones. From God’s perspective, there is no reason we must be defeated. We are always accepted in God’s books, and if our fellowship/closeness to God is broken, it can be restored immediately.
John Newton had committed every sin imaginable. Yet later he understood the reason he could be totally righteous/perfect before God. He wrote, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see.”
That grace is available for you and me! It is an insult to Christ if we believe His sacrifice was not good enough for us!
Condensed & edited from Chapter Five, Failure: The Backdoor to Success by Erwin W. Lutzer.
Recommended Topics for you:
- “New Nature, New Conflict”
- “Tactics Against Temptation”
- “Who Needs a Quiet Time? You Do!”
- “How to Live a Fruitful and Successful Christian Life”