It has long been a struggle for me to be honest about my shortcomings and failures. Whilst it is wise to have restrictions on what you share and to whom, it is dangerous to neglect your Christian community for the sake of keeping up appearances. I have been guilty of doing the latter far too often.
“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7
Growing up in a Christian home, my parents regularly told me that I needed to repent of my sins and trust in Jesus or hell awaited me.
This happened often since I regularly got into trouble. Revelation 21:8 was a verse I became well acquainted with. I developed an unhealthy and ultimately wrong view of hell and wanted to escape this eternal torment. So instead of throwing myself at the mercy of Jesus who promises the eternal life to all those who trust in Him, I decided I could change myself. I made sanctification my mission, unfortunately, with a poor understanding of what sanctification was, I ultimately was undergoing behavioural modification.
After trusting in Jesus at around 12 years old, I had a newfound desire to do what is right. What I didn’t understand at that moment was what had happened in me, namely that God took out my heart of stone and gave me a heart flesh, fresh with new desires (Ezekiel 36:26, Hebrews 10:16).
I had always assumed that righteousness came with age and that as I grew older that I would sin less. I was incredibly wrong. I seemed to be sinning more since my profession of faith and with the sin came an increasing amount of shame. I knew sin was wrong and that I didn’t want to do it but yet I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone what I was struggling with.
This bad trait followed me through to adulthood and the cycle of sin, shame repent continued. I didn’t know what to do but God was gracious to me. Through various providential means e.g. sermons, podcasts, reading of scripture etc, I realised that I was believing the lies that the devil told me about my sin. I thought I was trapped, that sin was inevitable and the life of hypocrisy that I was living couldn’t stop.
Jesus put a radical stop to these lies by illuminating my life with the truth. In Christ, sin didn’t and doesn’t have power over me and who the Son sets free is free, indeed. Jesus told me, through His word, what I just didn’t believe for so long – I was free.
I refer us back to 1 John 1:7, if you are in Christ you are now a son of light not of darkness. You do not have to live in sin, nor do you have to hide in shame when you fall. Here is real encouragement a couple of verses later, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. 1 John 1:9.
If you confess, Jesus is able to forgive. Your sin is not more powerful than the riches of God’s grace, and if you cling to Him you will realise that God is gripping you all the more tightly and He promises to never let you go. I needed to know when I was in the middle of my biggest messes due to my sin, that God hadn’t let me go. I believe that God wants all of those who are trusting in Christ alone to know this great truth – Jesus wins. This means that sin doesn’t get the last word in your life and you will overcome every sin because Jesus overcame sin on calvary (Colossians 2:15).
Here are some of the lessons that I have learned over the past few years that I would like to share, and I hope would be of benefit to you.
- Be honest in prayer. Don’t downplay your sin or struggles before God in prayer. He knows what you have done. Being honest indicates that you trust God to be who He says He is, namely that He is a loving Father who will never leave you.
- Be an active member in your local church. I don’t just limit this to service. The Bible is replete with ‘one another’ admonishments. It’s impossible to do these commands in isolation. We are just not called to give love to our neighbour but to also receive love from our neighbour. To be regularly meeting with other saints is vital for spiritual maturity and health.
- Confess often. This, in particular, is a scary one for me, perhaps for you reading too. Sin thrives in isolation and often we can deceive ourselves into thinking that I can deal with ‘x’ sin by myself. Whilst ultimately change comes through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible exhorts that spiritual healing also comes through confessing to other saints (James 5:16). Confessing regularly states that you take sin seriously and that you realise that sin doesn’t just affect you individually but affects the body of Christ corporately, especially when unrepented of.
- Look to Jesus. When you’re deep in sin, it is so easy to feel hopeless. I know I did. Looking at my sin increased my hopelessness, but looking to Christ who promises to keep, change, sustain, and hold me, I see sin for what it is – evil and worthless. Hebrews 12:3 states that Jesus endured much from sinners (like me) that I would not grow weary in my battle against sin. Sin will offer much and deliver nothing ultimately but death. But Jesus promises life and enduring satisfaction. Keep looking to Jesus.
- Know who you are and Who’s you are. ‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. I was much of who Paul states here, and in focusing on who I was, it was easy to neglect verse 11. Whilst we should name our sins, we should be mindful not to identify with them. If you are trusting in Jesus you have been washed, sanctified, and justified in Jesus by the Holy Spirit and that is final. Ask God to help you believe it and then by the power of the Holy Spirit walk it out.
We should desire to live godly lives both online and offline.
It is easier to appear godly than to be godly. We shouldn’t revel in our sins or find solace that other people sin similarly to us. Instead, we should encourage each other to do good works and make much of Jesus in our daily lives.
It is my prayer that the Christians reading this will be encouraged that Jesus is with them and that your battle against sin is not a hopeless one. In Christ, you will be victorious.
For any non-Christians reading this, it is my prayer that you would see the worthless, destructive nature of sin. That God would open your eyes to your sinfulness and His righteousness. I pray that you would turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. For both Christians and non-Christians my message is the same, Jesus is so much better.