Do you remember when you first gave your life to God? The excitement, the joy, the passion! Worship was easy because you had so much to be thankful for and you felt so, so clean on the inside!
Then, it happened… You sinned… The first time sinning after you get saved is like a punch to the gut, like a needle to a balloon. Pop! Joy turns to shame. Clean turns to dirty. And all the questions come. “I thought I was changed?”, “Am I really saved?”, “There must be something really wrong with me?”
But religion teaches us to push through… So we do. We repent, promise to never to do “it” again, and we try to increase our religious fervor and work load to make up for our blunder. Then, it happens again. And again. And again.
At this point we have a couple options: 1) We choose to believe the issue isn’t with us, its with God. Christianity simply doesn’t work. 2) We continue in our religious fervor on the outside, but are dead on the inside… and never honest about how empty we really are. 3) We decide that living “Holy” was never really God’s plan… so we throw the whole idea out the window and don’t even try anymore (this often involves throwing Church out the window, too… because it reminds us of how hard we tried and failed… and then there’s those pesky people who chose #2 and think you should put your mask back on too… we call them hypocrites, but they are really just people trying to deal with their own sin in their own way, just like we are).
None of these options ever end up in us living the happy, peaceful, and powerful lives we were created to live. The good news is, there IS another option. In fact, there has always been. But before we get to the solution, we have nail down what the real problem is. Most of us know what the Bible teaches about GRACE… We know that we are saved by it through FAITH and not by WORKS. Its Gospel 101. The problem is, knowing is not always believing.
Let’s return to our first days as Christian. When we get saved, we recognize that we don’t deserve it, that it was completely Jesus’ sacrifice that made it possible. Our only part was saying YES. But something else happens at that same moment. The enemy begins to put an unconscious thought into our minds… Salvation came to us by GRACE, but now, the rest is up to us… Though most Christians wouldn’t make that statement, most believe it without even knowing. We have all felt the affects of this way of thinking. Ever felt like being a Christian was tough? That feeling is most often motivated by this simple thought the enemy tries to plant in us.
This thought can have devastating affects on our lives, and not just in our walks with God. People make terrible decisions when they think that everything good comes from THEIR OWN HARD WORK. Spouses begin to think that they themselves work hard to make their marriage work… Then, when something goes wrong, it can’t be their fault… they are WORKING SO HARD. They blame their spouse, and its all downhill from there.
Pastors, business leaders, parents… its all the same. We make selfish decisions when we believe its our hard work that brings good things about. James 1:17 tells us “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” WHEN I STOP RELYING ON GRACE, I STOP RELYING ON GOD.
I love my marriage. My wife and I BOTH work hard on our marriage. But the honest truth is, neither one us is EVER going to make our marriage perfect. So, we rely on God’s GRACE to make our marriage work (she has to have ALOT of grace being married to me!).
So, back to our point. We get saved, then we sin. And now we believe its all on us. We try to fix. We try to pray through. We try to be more “spiritual”. We read a book, get an accountability partner, preach against it (hoping our message will rub off on ourselves)… All of those are GOOD things, but they have to start on the right foundation… GRACE. Here’s the truth of the Bible. When God created you, He had a plan (and a good one at that). But of course we sin and derail everything… or so we think. Sin is never God’s WILL, but it is in God’s PLAN…
Again, it is NEVER God’s will for you to sin. The Bible is clear that we can never blame that on God. But, since God is all-knowing, He knows when you will sin… He CHOSE you knowing you would sin! He created you, knowing that one day you would give your life to Him, and that the next week you would make a big mistake… He accounted for it. His plan for your life took into account every sin you will ever make in the future. When He put the dreams in your heart that you may be trying to forget since now you are “no longer qualified” due to sin, God had already made a way. That’s what He specializes in. Taking people who can’t get it right and working with them to CHANGE THE WORLD. Read the Bible… its full of stories that follow that pattern.
Its also full of stories of people who made our first 3 options… so how do we choose option 4? Can we make a new choice if we already went down roads 1 through 3? The answer is, as emphatically as I can say it, YES!
So, here is option 4: Ask God to forgive you of your sin… All of it. The ones you committed right after you got saved. The ones you committed today. Ask Him. Then stop. Listen. This is the part of repentance so many Christians miss… For some reason we throw out repentance like God HAS to forgive us! Take a second. Listen for the voice. It will come. Don’t rush. “You’re forgiven. And I love.”
Powerful aye? But not as powerful as the next step. BELIEVE IT! Don’t think, act, or live like you have a debt to be paid. It has already been paid. Resist every thought about how bad you are and how much work its going to take to make things right. Resist the thought that you now have to START OVER with God… He’s not interested in starting over! But how do you get back to where you were with God before you sinned? The same way you got there in the first place… BY SAYING YES. You can never earn you’re way back to any place with God that you got to originally for free!
Can you hear the song “Don’t stop… Believing….”… What? Only me? Okay, then. Either way, its time to LET God forgive you. GIVE UP. Accept HIS GRACE. Recognize that it was never up to you anyways. Brother Lawrence, the monk who wrote the incredible book “Practicing the Presence of God” (link to the FREE audio version of his book) had a unique way of repenting that I often practice. He would pray and ask God to forgive him. Then, he would remind God (and himself) that this simply is what he is unless God comes in and changes him… Wow…
Now none of this is an excuse to sin… Its just the opposite. Its the power to live a life FREE from sin (and condemnation too!). Now, feel free to weigh in and leave your thoughts… but, PLEASE, do more than that. Go talk to God… Say YES to His GRACE. Listen for His voice that tells you, “You are forgiven, and you are loved…” Then believe it. With everything inside you, believe it. People who do that have no choice but to accomplish everything God created them to do!
Now you are free to do what God has cal