Early this week I was in a conversation with a dear friend who lives out of state. He was asking me a question about counseling a relative of his who as a new believer had just fallen into scandalous sin. It was a great conversation around how to handle a sinning believer and also how to restore such a one.
On the one hand, we don't want to be dismissive about sin and soften the blow - sin costs a lot. It hurts us and it hurts others. God hates our sin and Jesus died for it. Sometimes the effects of our sin simply cannot be undone or reversed.
But at the same time, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. And for the believer, every sin is paid for by the precious blood of the lamb. That means we are clean and pure. How's that for mind-blowing? Our sin isn't the final word. So seeing our sin ought to produce humility and joy and gratitude in our hearts because we see the depth of God's love for us (Romans 5:8).
I want to share an article with you, written by a pastor friend of mine who I went to seminary with. This article removes some of the subjectivity in analyzing whether your 'bad feelings" are worldly and self-focused, or if they are evidence of Christ at work in your life. It also reminds us that we aren't to stay in a state of sorrow - once sin is confessed and forsaken we are to move on in faith and hope.
This topic is also part of this upcoming Sunday's sermon in Hosea 14.
May it bless your soul.
Matthew Stanchek (How do we deal with feeling bad or feeling guilty about our sin?)
We need to answer the question: why do I feel bad about my sin?
Is it because I truly hate sin itself and the offense that it is to God; am I bothered by the thought of ever offending God and grieving His heart and sinning against such knowledge and such love and such grace as I have been shown? Do I want to be liberated from my sin so that God’s glory would shine forth in my life in greater and more manifold ways?
Or am I bothered by my sin because of the way that it makes me feel? Not because I hate sin itself and the offense that it is to God and the fact that I’ve grieved His heart and sinned against His love but because I simply hate the guilt of my sin, the consequences of my sin, the embarrassment of my sin, the shame of my sin, getting caught in my sin, the fact that people might think less of me because of my sin and so I want to be perceived a certain by others because I love myself and think so highly of myself and want others to love me as much I love myself and want to others to think as highly of me as I think of myself, etc.?
The first response to sin reveals a godly grief that leads to repentance, while the second one reveals a worldly sorrow that leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10)
We need to answer the question: is the effort that I’m putting forth (by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit) to eradicate and expunge this sin from life (Rom. 8:13-14) commensurate with the grief that I feel over this sin?
Often times, I think we confuse self-pity (feeling bad about sin because of the consequences of sin or the shame of sin or because we want to be better on our own or so that our life will be more comfortable or convenient or because we want to be perceived a certain way, etc.) with true spirit-wrought hatred for sin; the true test of whether I am genuinely grieved by sin and truly hate my sin (in a biblical way) is the effort that I’m putting forth to deal with it.
If I say that am I’m truly grieved by my sin and truly hate my sin but put forth minimal effort in dealing with it, it’s a sign that I’m not truly grieved over my sin and don’t truly hate my sin (but rather that I just want the sanctification process to be over for my own comfort and my own convenience sake, without really having to put forth any real effort). In other words, I want to change by snapping my fingers not by applying biblical principles and striving by the Spirit’s power and patiently waiting upon and trusting in the Lord as I walk by faith in what He’s revealed in His Word regarding how I’m to battle sin.
And so the question is: Am I availing myself to every resource possible in order to change (i.e. the Word of God, the Spirit of God, the people of God, etc.); Am I making every possible effort to change and truly striving by the power of the Holy Spirit to eradicate and expunge sin from my life (Phil. 2:12-13; Rom. 8:13-14)? Do I rightly understand the biblical change process? Do I have a biblical paradigm and pathway for change? Am I applying that as diligently as possible? Am I trusting God’s Word (that if I’m faithful to apply the truths that He’s revealed to me in His Word that I’ll change in His way, in His time, for my good and His glory or am I questioning Him and doubting Him and looking for shortcuts and other human schemes to speed up the sanctification process and to make it easier and less demanding on my flesh?
If we do hate sin for the right reasons and we do understand how to change biblically and we are putting forth maximal effort by the Spirit’s aid and empowerment than we need to respond to sin on our life by being: humble, happy and hopeful!
We need to be Humble(God uses the sin in our life to keep us humble, dependent and reliant upon Him; if we completely eradicated sin from our lives we would become proud and independent and self-sufficient rather than humbleand dependent and reliant upon God! We would take credit for our holiness (Deut. 8-9) and we would be like the self-righteous Pharisee, always condescending towards others who weren’t as holy as we were (Lk. 18:9-14); and so sin keeps us humble by continually reminding us that we haven’t arrived!
We need to be Happy(Every time we sin it should produce in us a greater love for and appreciation of Jesus Christ! It should cause us to worship Him and adore Him all the more, knowing that we deserve to be eternally condemned for the sin that we just committed and yet Christ was condemned in our place so that we wouldn’t have to be; therefore we don’t need to live under a cloud or guilt and condemnation (Rom. 8:1). 1 Jn. 2:1 tells us that when we sin we don’t need to despair because we have a divine defense attorney in heaven who is always pleading our case before God; and thankfully He pleads His portfolio and His propitiation and His perfection not our performance!
And so while Satan’s accusations are often true (Rev. 12:10), they don’t stick because the accusatorial power of Satan was broken at the cross and because of the mediatorial position and power of Christ (Rom. 8:33-34; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1) we can now rest and rejoice in His finished work on our behalf; this is not a license to sin (Rom. 6:1) but it is liberation from living under a cloud of guilt and condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
The fact that Christ bore the full fury of God’s wrath in our place, bearing all of our sin and removing all of our guilt and the fact that He lived the perfect, sinless life that we’ve failed to live and could never live in a thousand lifetimes and the fact that He’s given us His perfect, spotless, righteousness, which we don’t deserve and could never earn is a cause of rejoicing and adoring our Savior all the more, even in spite of our ongoing battle with sin!
We Need to be Hopeful(We need to find great hope in the fact that Christ has not only paid the penalty for our sin but has also given the permanent, indwelling presence and power of His Spirit to overcome sin! God has promised that He will perfect and complete the work that He has started in us (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thes. 5:23-24); and so regardless of how slow or how difficult the change process may seem and regardless of how besetting some particular sin may seem to be, He has promised to one day completely remove the presence of sin both from within us (Rom. 8:30; 1 Jn. 3:2) and from around us (Rev. 21-22).
And therefore, we can find great hope even in the midst of our failure (Lam. 3:19-26). There is always hope and help in Christ! We need to keep our eyes fixed upon Christ (Heb. 12:1-3) and the gospel, lest we become weary and despairing in the fight of faith!
Matthew Stanchek’s church website