So, what do you do when you sin? I am not asking what sin you committ, I am asking what you do when it is clear that you have sinned. Do you run to the Lord to make it right – or better said – to receive forgiveness and grace to change? The reason I ask this is that unfortunately there are those of us who think that a little time in self-punishment is in order first. You know what I am talking about. It is when we take time to truly “beat ourselves up” for what we’ve done by sinning against God. Let me illustrate. The reason that I can is that I have a tendency to practice this meaningless religious rite.
I’ve sinned against God in something I’ve done. My next step SHOULD be to run to God – confessing my sin. But a little more often than I am comfortable admitting (but I guess I just did), I take a trip to spiritual self-deprecation mountain for a ride on the “beat-down master,” a ride known for its ability to pummel its riders mercilessly. The weird thing about this ride is that the beat down does not come from a source outside of the one riding it. The beat down is self inflicted. The rider takes it upon himself or herself to inflict as much guilt and shame upon themselves as possible. Here are some of the things I’ve heard while on this less than enjoyable ride.
“I can’t believe I did that again!”
“You are so stupid to sin against God!”
“I’m awful – just awful for doing that!”
“What was I thinking?!”
“I don’t deserve to be a Christian!”
“Maybe I am not a Christian – if I do this?”
“God is so mad at me – bet He doesn’t even like me anymore. I know right now I sure don’t like myself!”
These are a few of the choice statements I’ve heard others (and honestly have said myself) while on the “beat-down master ride. Oh, by the way, I may have kind of enjoyed the ride – but it has NEVER furnished me one bit of good having ridden it. I get off pretty much like I got on the ride. If anything, it increases my sense of guilt and shame – and more often than not – actually delays me from going to Jesus for what I truly need – forgiveness and grace.
What I truly do need when I sin is a visit to my Savior. I need to follow the counsel of Scripture in 1 John 1:9 where it reads, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Note, there is no mention of giving yourself a spiritual beat-down before you go to Jesus. That is something religion has added to this process. Now, please understand that I am not saying that we do not need conviction of our sin. That is very much needed! But there is a clear distinction between how the Holy Spirit convicts and how we go to extremes in beating ourselves up over our sin. In fact, in a coming week I will share with you several distinctions between the Spirit’s conviction and our contrived beat-downs.
The real problem with spiritual beat-downs is that we are not changing our focus at all. We sin because we get our eyes off the Lord and onto ourselves and the world around us. When we decide to engage in spiritual self-insults and other ways to make ourselves “feel worse” about our sin – guess where our focus still remains? Yep – it remains on us! When we decide to deride the world and bash it for how it crept into our lives – again – we still have our focus off of Christ Jesus and on the world. The best thing we can do for our renewed spiritual health is to get our focus completely off ourselves and the world around us.
Confessing our sins to God involves coming to Him. He is asking (actually commanding) that we come to Him and make a full confession of our sin. We do that by stating what the sin was – as we come to Him and turn from it. Note the sequence in 1 John 1:9. We first come to God confessing our sin. That confession involves saying the same thing about our sin that God says about it. If there is a problem with not being “hard” enough on sin, this is usually where it shows up in this process. What did God’s Word say about your sin? That is what you are to say to God that it is as you make your confession. Don’t come to Him saying that you slipped up – admit that you were angry – filled with rage – that you lusted – you were greedy – you were unkind – you were unforgiving – or any number of things God says is sin. BUT . . . when you’ve done this – take the next step. What is that step?
Believe that God keeps His promise and forgives you! That is the next step in the verse. “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” There is a promise of forgiveness – and cleansing from all unrighteousness. Do you take it? That is where it is hard – very hard to humble yourself and receive God’s forgiveness. We think we need to be miserable longer. We want to go through some sort of religious penance that seems worthy of our misdeed. It cannot be as easy as confessing our sin – and receiving God’s forgiveness? But that is exactly what it is. Grace is God’s forgiveness of our sin – at the expense of Christ Jesus. Jesus paid the price on the cross. Therefore there is NOTHING – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you can do to merit it.
Here is the dirty little secret. We put ourselves through a spiritual “beat-down” because we FEEL like that makes us more “forgive-able.” Let me redefine that last sentence according to truth. We are too proud to actually humble ourselves and admit that we never have been able to – nor will we ever be able to do anything that will merit God’s forgiveness. It is offered to us and given solely and completely by grace! Isn’t that pretty astounding?! No matter whether we are coming to Him for the first time for salvation itself – or we are coming as a Christian for the 10,418th time to confess a sin we’ve committed – the entire matter is accomplished by grace and grace alone. Kinda blows your mind doesn’t it? So, if you have sinned. If you’ve blown it – again! Don’t think for a moment that beating yourself for a while is going to offer you any spiritual help whatsoever. You have one hope and one hope only – that as you come to God – He will receive you, forgive you, cleanse you, and change you by an act of His wonderful grace. That is it.