You chose to enter into sin…your words, your actions, your intentions and desires fully cooperated, and you knowingly submerged yourself into the depths of rebellion against God’s clearly defined Word. You enjoyed yourself for a season. Then the regret and guilt took over your conscience, and you recognized your foolish rebellion, hung your head, and wondered why you succumbed once more to the very thing you know is hell bent on destroying your soul.
We’ve all been there…too many times. Actually, you might be, at this moment, driving toward the all too familiar cloverleaf interchange of sin. Now the burning question is: What will you do? Your answer to this question provides a vivid illustration of what you believe about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You respond by going off into the “corner,” hiding from God, mentally beating yourself up for days. You go to your accountability group, tell them of the horrible deed and how badly you feel. They tell you what you need to do to guard yourself from falling again and agree to check in on you more. Satan whispers to your mind and heart that your ongoing struggle with this sin is evidence that you are not really saved. You admit you don’t deserve God’s blessing, but you work hard to clean yourself up, confess your failure to God, ask for forgiveness, read some Scripture, get some positive affirmations going and determine….REALLY determine to do better next time. At this point you feel better about returning to church, you worship with enthusiasm, and you even respond to an altar call as the sign that you’re really committed to cleaning up your life so that you can please God and show that you appreciate and deserve the sacrifice Christ made on your behalf. After all, Jesus died for your sin and you need to live a holy life to show you were worth the investment and that you really do appreciate His sacrifice. Of course, by doing all of this you realign yourself with God’s favor and blessing in your life.
You run back to the foot of the cross and realize that Jesus knew you would still battle sin as long as you are on this earth (Romans 7), which is exactly why He was obedient to God on your behalf, took the punishment you deserved, and offers life and forgiveness to you, His beloved child. You confess your sin and pray for God to grant you repentance (2 Timothy 2:5). True repentance, you know, is a change of heart that God creates in you that leads you to love what you used to hate and hate what you used to love (Romans 7). You recognize the tactics of Satan to tempt you to believe that your struggle demonstrates that you aren’t saved. That lie is countered by the truth that before we were saved we were powerless in the struggle with sin, but through Christ we were given the ability to struggle with sin and the empowerment to overcome sin. In response, you rise by the power of the Holy Spirit, forgiven and empowered, knowing that the battle is only won through His power at work in your life (Gal 5:16). There is nothing you can do other than continually returning to Christ who is your life (Colossians 3:4). Once more you recognize, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). You remind yourself that He is always with you (Matt. 28:20; Isaiah 41:10) and will bring to completion what He started in you (Philippians 1:6), and no one can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:28).
Many view the Gospel as something that provided forgiveness of the sins committed up to the point of praying the sinner’s prayer, but after that you have to be moral, holy, and perfect—anything less shows you let God down or, even worse, you may have forfeited your salvation. However, the Gospel is the complete demonstration of the fact that man has no ability to pursue God or holiness in his own ability and willpower. We are powerless and our hearts are corrupt, hostile toward God (Colossians 1:21, James 4:4; Romans 1:21), but, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We were reconciled to God—free from His wrath (Romans 5:9-11).
Colossians speaks so beautifully of who we are in Christ and how we are to live in response to the Gospel as we rest in the finished work of Christ: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel” (1:21-23). How do we achieve fullness and maturity in Christ? We focus on Christ in us, the hope of Glory! We contend with the energy Christ powerfully works in us! Not in our own strength or efforts (not of works so no one can boast, Eph 2:9), but Christ in us—our life, we die to ourselves and live for Christ. This is only possible by the work of His Spirit.
May we continually return to the Gospel of Christ, preach it to ourselves day by day, pray for the Spirit to conform our hearts to His, and pray for faith and the ability to believe the Gospel more each day!