I have been noticing a pattern of sin in my life that I know has always been there, but I never really recognized it for what it was. When God redeemed and made me a new creation almost 13 years ago, He gave me a new nature. As part of that nature, God made me aware of my sin, not in a generic sense, but in a very specific one. No longer did I feel bad about coveting, lusting, lying or hating just because bad consequences occurred. I actually began to hate my sin because I saw it for what it was, a rebellious act toward a kind and loving God. A God who mercifully redeemed me by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And instead of just trying to find someway to justify my sin, I now wanted to repent of those things because I loved my Savior.
That battle to repent from my sins and to live a life that is pleasing to God has never been an easy one. In fact, one besetting sin stuck with me for over three years before God helped me to see just how wicked it was. Today I struggle with that sin, but I no longer dive head long into it. I make great efforts to never again set my feet anywhere near the path that leads me there. I rejoice when God gives me victory over sin, but I am ever aware that this wicked flesh is always waiting to find reason to transgress God’s law for its own satisfaction.
However, as of lately, I have become aware of multiple areas of sin in my life. Perhaps it is because my family and I have been going through many trials that I am more sensitive to His working in me. We certainly have had to rely on the Lord far more than ever before. As a result of that, I am becoming more aware of His working in our lives. And perhaps that is what has opened my own eyes to the sins I had previously ignored. Yet, it is my reaction to these areas of sin that is an even greater problem than the sins themselves. It is this area that I desire to share with you in hopes you can be edified and strengthened.
I have noticed that whenever I have begun to see an area of sin in my life that God is exposing, my first reaction, almost without fail, is to become upset, despondent, sad or depressed. I will practically shut down and begin to focus solely on myself and my failure to live up to the perceived standard I am supposed to live up to. I then complain about what a terrible Christian I am. I begin to seek comfort with family and friends, telling them about how bad I realize I am in the eyes of God. When they console me and tell me I am being too hard on myself, I feel refreshed, thinking I clearly have misunderstood what God was showing me. I then proceed on with my life as if nothing had ever happened.
Did you catch the sin? I see that God is showing me an area, or even areas, of sin, but rather than admit it and repent, I become introspective and complain to others. That is the sin. As a Christian, I am one time sanctified, made righteous in the eyes of God through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, my rebellion and wickedness is placed on Jesus at the cross, His perfect righteousness is accounted to me through repentance and faith. From that moment on, I am seen in God’s eyes as perfect, because all my sin – past, present and future – was punished at the cross. So no matter how often I stumble into sin, I am secure in the Father because I was purchased by the Son.
However, it does not stop there. Throughout my walk as a Christian, I am sanctified by God. That means that He is continually working to make me more like His Son. He is ever growing me through the reading of His word, expanding my understanding of the richness of His grace. He leads me in deeper prayer and worship, causing me to love Him more, and in turn, loving others around me. He causes me to care less about myself and to desire to serve Him alone. And He is also constantly exposing areas of sin in my life, leading me to repentance. God is purging me of my sins so that I may reflect my Savior in my thoughts, words and deeds. This process of sanctification is ongoing, never ending, right up until the day God calls me home. On that day, I will be glorified. I will be made perfect and will sin no more. But until that day, God sanctifies me and every other Christian He has redeemed in Christ. So the process of sanctification should be welcome in the life of every Christian. After all, God is refining us in the fire, removing the dross which is the sin for which Christ died. Yet, I find that rather than embrace sanctification, I am actually resisting it.
When I become morose over an area of sin in my life I am actually doing a couple of things. First, I am actually denying my own sinfulness. By acting shocked that God has revealed more sin in my life, I am claiming I should be able to not sin. If I am in fact, as the Bible describes me, a wretched sinner deserving nothing but judgment from God, then I should not be surprised that everything I do is tainted by sin. I should expect, daily, God to be showing me areas from which I need to repent. I should express concern over sin in my life, because sin is wickedness against God; however, I should not become distraught over it. By succumbing to emotional turmoil, I am actually stating that I believe I am capable of not sinning. I am ascribing to myself a kind of sinless perfection that exists only in God Himself.
Secondly, when I become this despondent over my sin, my inclination is to seek comfort in the eyes of others. By seeking their comfort, rather than repenting before God, I am actually trying to deny that sin which God has revealed. As I described above, I have personally complained to family and friends when I start seeing new sins in my life. I seek their comfort because I secretly believe that they will dull the edge of the sword which God used to expose me. When we run to others, asking them to reaffirm our personal image of ourselves, we are asking them to actually act in God’s stead as our judge. We value their opinion over God’s word because we believe their personal relationship with us will prevent them from saying anything too harsh about us, even if it is true. We are further sinning because we are setting up men in the place of God to judge us. And if you doubt this, check your reaction when a loved one doesn’t affirm you, but rather points out that sin God is revealing. If you are even more hurt by what they say, then you know that you were not asking for the truth from them, but a lie which would make you feel better.
So by ascribing to ourselves a kind of pseudo-perfectionism and getting others to affirm it, we are actively resisting God’s work of sanctification. We are denying that we need to repent before the Lord and submit to His holy work in us. This is utterly sinful, yet we can submit to it so easily. We can justify this mindset because we know that we should not sin, especially because we have a new understanding of how evil sin is. So we make the mistake of setting up personal, legalistic standards that we can then judge the progress of our Christian growth by. In doing so, we actually are falling back on idolatry because we become the judges of ourselves rather than God. In God’s eyes we are completely sinful and only the blood of Christ makes us righteous. In our own eyes, if we can reach certain benchmarks, we can declare we are righteous by what we do. When God exposes sins that we were previously unaware of, it deals a serious blow to the idolatrous view of ourselves. Wanting to reassert that view, we can easily fall into the trap of resisting God’s work of sanctification.
So what are we to do? The first thing is to remember who we are in Christ. Before we were redeemed, we were rebellious and wicked sinners bound for Hell. There was absolutely nothing good about us. By recognizing this, we can do away with the absurd notion that we are capable of not sinning at all. We will sin, even as new creations in Christ. But because we have been bought by His precious blood and have been made new by the Holy Spirit, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. We no longer have to sin. We will be tempted because our flesh is weak and longs to be satisfied. Because of that, we will fall into sin. Yet, because the power of the Holy Spirit resides in us, we can trust in God, being slaves to Him, to give us a way of escape when temptation comes. So we recognize that we are not capable of perfection of our own accord, but only in the power of Christ can we resist temptation and sin.
The other thing we can do is embrace sanctification. Rather than retreating into ourselves and grumbling over newly discovered sins (or the discovery that we are still struggling with the same ones) we should rejoice that our heavenly Father is at work in us. By revealing this area of wickedness, God is seeking to make us more like His Son. He is refining us into a tool fit for His use. If I am overly concerned that I am still sinning, yet I do not repent, it is like I am refusing to sharpen the blade on a dull axe. Instead of making the tool fit for use, I am demanding that God use the tool in its busted condition. It is a ridiculous notion to think that I am already a tool that is perfect in design and will never fail. But if I yield to the sanctification of God, He takes me as that busted and worthless tool and makes me into one that is perfectly designed for the job He has in store.
My encouragement to my brethren is to examine your own heart when it comes to sanctification. If you are angry at your sins, depressed and begging for affirmation, then you are denying the need for God’s perfect work in your life. If this is happening, repent, turn from that wickedness and yield to God. It is part of His perfect plan and will that you be made into a tool fit for His use and His glory. Therefore, I urge you to submit to and rejoice in His sanctifying work in you.