This post is for everyone, but especially those who feel trapped in their own sin and shame. It’s for those who enter worship on Sundays with a heavy heart, feeling unworthy to approach God because of their failure and making promises to God “to do better” that they know they can’t keep. This post is for those who are struggling to understand how God could love them when they keep asking for forgiveness.
What do you do when you’ve found yourself confronted with the reality of sin in your life? More specifically, what is a healthy way to repent and move forward?
Before I approach any kind of “steps” to take, I want to address what the Bible says sin is and why sin in our lives is bad. It has helped me in my life to understand why something is a sin, rather than just hearing, “that’s a sin, don’t do it.”
Sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” The mark refers to the standard of perfection according to God’s Word and exemplified in the nature and character of Jesus. It’s clear that we are all sinners. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23).
When thinking about sin it’s important to remember that it violates multiple parties: first and foremost, God, then yourself and/or/another person. First and foremost, sin is an offense against to God because it goes against His very nature. For example, lying is a sin because God cannot lie. Secondly, sin violates yourself because sin is morally wrong and brings destruction and ultimately death (Rom. 6:23), but it also harms others. All sin, even so-called private sin, harms others indirectly. If you have ever watched the TV show Intervention, you know what I mean.
Ultimately, sin separates us from God, brings death to our inward life, and eventually brings eternal death to our souls. Paul says, “the wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23). That means the only thing that sin brings to our lives is death, whether that be emotional, mental, or physical.
How to acknowledge sin, repent, and move forward
One of the hardest mindsets to break is the one that comes when you know you are living in sin. The Bible says when that happens, the accuser (Satan) brings words of condemnation, like: “Oh man… you did it again! You’re no good. You’ll never measure up and be good enough.” This thought process is called condemnation, and it’s not okay. Condemnation makes you think you can earn forgiveness by beating yourself up and putting yourself on probation for a few days. But the truth is that you can’t earn forgiveness.
We often feel that our sin is too great for God to forgive. Please understand that condemnation is not from God at all, however conviction is. Condemnation keeps us from God and in essence says to Jesus ‘Your blood isn’t good enough to cleanse me of this sin.’ Conviction sheds light on our sin, helps us feel truly sorry, and points us to our Savior. This is from the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).
Repent and accept Christ’s forgiveness
‘For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.’ 2 Cor. 7:10
True repentance is more than acknowledging sin, it is turning away from sin and to God. It is not simply saying ‘Lord, I repent’ and while still seeking sin out. If you find that your desires are sinful, pray ‘Lord, create in me clean and pure desires. Take out these sinful desires in my heart.’ Be honest with yourself. You won’t get past sinful desires if you never admit that they are there.
Steps to repentance:
- Acknowledge your sin to God and ask Jesus to forgive you
- Commit in your heart to turn away from that sin
- Find a trustworthy mature Christian friend or pastor that you can confess your sin to
- Accept Christ’s forgiveness and realize you stand justified in God’s eyes
It’s important to confess your sin to a pastor, counselor, or trusted friend because this helps bring light into this dark area. When sin is in the darkness, it thrives; but when you confess your sins, it helps nullify the power of shame. Depending on what sin you’re dealing with, you may also consider receiving Christian counseling from a professional.
I believe the final step of accepting Christ’s forgiveness is crucial to your commitment to turn from sin. This is an act of accepting that we are a new creation because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and that we are new (2 Cor. 5:17). When I’m accepting Christ’s forgiveness, I speak it out loud in a prayer. An example might be, “I accept your forgiveness and believe that I am made righteous in Your sight. Thank You for forgiving me and justifying me.”
Moving forward in enjoying God
Summing up this post, I will tell you what has helped me in the past to move forward and walk in victory over sin: fighting to enjoy fellowship with God. That may sound odd, but I believe we must be intentional and aggressive in our pursuit of enjoying God. This starts with taming the thoughts that feed your flesh until it produces sin (James 1:15).
‘…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” 2 Cor. 10:5
You have to be aggressive and be on the offensive with your thoughts. Passivity usually leads to stumbling, because the greatest battleground is our minds. Learn how to distinguish when your mindsets are fleshly and have the courage to fight them. If you find your mindset is out of line with Scripture, but don’t know how to fix it: stop and pray, ‘Lord, I know this mindset is wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. Give me understanding. Lead me, Holy Spirit.”
The Christian life is all about glorifying God by enjoying Him and being with Him. It’s not supposed to be about trying to not sin. I’m not trying to lessen the seriousness of sin, but I am trying to magnify the importance of the pursuit of enjoying God. When you enjoy God, you obey Him more consistently because it’s based on love. And love produces a powerful kind of obedience.
Note: if you are dealing with a controlling sin, please consider talking with your pastor or spiritual leader about the best steps for you to take. Take time to fast and pray about it and consider seeking Christian counseling if you need it.