One of the things we, as Christians, are very good at is beating ourselves up over failure and sin. I think, for most of us who have tendencies in that area, the problem stems from believing that somehow we do not live up to God’s standards. We believe we are saved by grace alone, but then surely there must be something we can do to add to or prove to God that we are worthy of such grace. The result is we end up with a quasi-belief in grace and then add a dab of our own effort to that grace to make a concoction that doesn’t look anything like the Biblical view of God, redemption, righteousness, or sanctification.
When we don’t live up to that self-imposed view of how salvation works we become discouraged and despondent regarding our relationship with God. The next thing we know we are doubting our status before God and even God Himself.
Let’s begin with a definition of sin. I think we over simplify it when we simply say it is “breaking the law,” though that is an aspect of it. If we go back to the Garden of Eden we notice that God had created Adam and Eve for two very specific purposes. They were to have fellowship with God or enter into Worship with God and they were to be stewards of creation. They were to represent, through their worship (praise, love, relationship) to God, the joy of creation and living within that creation. In short, they were to love God and put their trust in Him.
Sin in the garden was simply the choice Adam and Eve made not to put their trust in God and therefore not to love Him. Oh, they probably thought they still loved Him, but they had allowed Satan to put an idol in their life. And that idol was self-love. The desire to be like God and to elevate themselves to a position and status that was never meant or could ever be for them—God-ship.
Sin is turning our back upon our humanness, our purpose for living, and our calling in order to pursue the idols of our own heart. I was recently listening to a sermon on Galatians 4:8-11 and the speaker pointed out that the breaking of the last eight commands is always predicated upon the breaking of the first two. We break the last eight because of the idols in our lives. He also pointed out that the word lust as used in the passage means “over striving” and that over striving is always for what is good and not for what is bad.
For example, a sexual relationship between a married couple is good and proper, but when the drive for sex begins to rule the life that is over striving for what was good but has now become an idol in the life. The result is a fantasy life, prostitutes and pornography for millions of men. What started out as good became an obsession (over striving) and became the controlling factor in life.
So, how do we get over beating ourselves up over sin and failure? There are no short, smooth answers to that question, but there are a few aspects of our relationship with God that can help a great deal.
We need to understand that we were never created for perfection. We were created for fellowship, worship, and stewardship. When you sin does God know it? Of course He does. Does He know you will sin? Of course He does. From before the foundations of the World God had the plan of salvation in place and that was a rescue mission to deliver His captive people from the power of sin and Satan.
Just an aside here, we need to start thinking about justification as more than God saves me from sin and I go to Heaven. There is much more going on with redemption that is much more about God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises and His ultimate plan for us. We are delivered from the clutches of Satan that has kept us from being the people that we were created to be. When God rescued us through His Son Jesus we were not only saved from Satan but we were saved to something. But that is discussion for another post.
The fact you and I fail is not news to God and it is not unexpected by God. He did not die as an example to me on how to overcome sin and when I fail I somehow fail God. Christ died so I could be free of the power of Satan that enslaved me. This is a great part of what Galatians is talking about. When Paul says in Galatians 5:1 that we, once being free, are not to go under the yoke of slavery again, this is what he is talking about. We are not to allow Satan to rule our lives and dictate the idols that we must bow down to. Instead we are to put our trust in Christ and believe Him.
This is what it means to be saved. It is not mouthing some words, “I believe” though that is important. It is acknowledging that Satan no longer owns you or has dominion over you. It is then, and only then, that you have freedom to allow God’s love to transform the heart and do what is pleasing to Him.
And by the way, what is pleasing to God is to believe in Him, His death and resurrection. Like the song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus — and the things of this Earth will grow strangely dim.”
If you want to deal with the sin that is beating you up just turn your thoughts to Jesus. I know this sounds trite and over simplistic but it is true. If we focus on our failures and defeats, they overwhelm us. They become entrenched in our minds and keep us from moving forward. I remember there was a catcher who played profession baseball and he got it into his head that he couldn’t throw the ball back to the pitcher and the longer it went on the more it became a problem (obviously).
God knows we sin and He also knows there is no sin that we commit that He will not forgive and forget. The more we focus upon our relationship with God through prayer, fellowship, and Bible study the less we are inclined to focus on sin.
We beat ourselves up because Satan says we have failed. We haven’t come to the point yet where we believe the cross has set us free from the power of Satan to dominate us. Our salvation is not based upon performance or how good and moral we are. It is based upon how good and moral and loving God is.
He knows our failures and loves us in spite of them. Sure, most of us have done bad things and things we are ashamed of and don’t want anyone to know about. And those things come back to haunt us and condemn us but we must remember to counter this with the promises of God that our sins are forgiven and forgotten. He doesn’t beat us up with sin; He carries our sins far away.
The thief on the cross cried out for Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. And Jesus said, “You are in.