Have any of us struggled in fear of their sin? Fear that one day, we will go back to our old ways? Fear that the only thing standing in the way of screwing it all up again is a thin shred of faith to which we cling desperately?
We pray. Not just soft prayers that waft through the church lofts, but heartfelt, desperate prayers, begging God to take away the temptation so that we do not have to suffer any longer. And we fill our prayer time with convincing testimonies that we just aren’t that kind of person anymore and plead with him to remove the temptation. Then we wake up to find the temptation stronger.
· We need just one more hit. One more drink.
· We need to see a former lover just one more time.
· We need one night of careless adventure to take away the stress.
· We need to revenge.
· We need to buy
· We need to take the easy way out of a financial situation.
We need one more of a hundred other sins that that don’t seem so bad in the wake of all of the good we’ve done, and headway we’ve made in our relationship with Jesus.
But loving and following Jesus is not about good works performed in order to be rewarded with sin.
And we know this. That’s why we live in fear of what is happening to us.
We love Jesus. And we are so afraid of screwing it up. We’ve worked so hard at giving up a certain lifestyle, but through prayer, soaking up his presence and worshiping him with our whole being, we have fought our demon over and over and have been victorious through Jesus Christ. We know it’s possible through Him.
But our sin creeps up again, nagging and pulling until we feel its presence in a physical weight. We know good, we know the right thing to do, but we drive ourselves mad with the temptation and the fear of failure. Maybe we turn to friends, family and people we trust, but only receive condemnation with no hope.
So, we struggle and cry and fight until we listen to the lie that if we just give in this once, we will at least find sweet release from the struggle.
And then we hear the voices, both real and imagined, tell us, “If you really loved Jesus, your struggle would not be such torture.”
And so, our condemnation becomes our shame. And when we cling only to words of condemnation without believing in hope, we can spiral spiritually out of control quickly. We give up on ourselves and quickly fall victim to building stone walls around our heart. Falling right into Satan’s hands.
But there IS hope.
Romans 6:6-7: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
So, if we believe this, why do we let ourselves continued to be ruled by our sin? For me, my fear of sinning, bore the same weight as the shame of my sin.
I wore my shame like a badge and cast myself as the pariah, not worthy of the presence of those more righteous.
I had simply traded struggles.
But again, I found hope. Hope in His Word. His Word is filled with promises to lift us up in our time of dread.
Romans 7:15, 19: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing
Paul, struggled over and over again. Paul was captive to the vicious circle of the struggle to sin, the sin, the shame, the desire to do better. And I find great comfort that God chose Paul, the imperfect, to spread the love of the Perfect One.
I find comfort that if I continue to place my faith in Christ Jesus and keep the longing of righteousness in my heart, I might “fall seven times, and rise again.” (Proverbs 24:16)
I am promised that if I delight in him, in my joys and trials, he will hold me up when I stumble and fall (Psalm 37:23-24)
And finally, I am reminded that I was never promised a struggle-free life, but that I am to glorify God in my sufferings,
“because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Friends, I want to encourage you that if you feed your torment through fear, you need only to turn to Jesus and whisper his name. Every day, every minute if you need to. I promise you, that each breath that you surrender to Him is a breath not surrendered to your sin. I say to you that “you were not given a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy1:7) and “be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution, he will come to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)
Though you will stumble and you will fall, there is One who is greater than any of your trials. I pray that you will not live in fear of your sin but in fear and admonition of the Lord. I pray that you will not live in your shame but use it to build a contrite heart, turning to Jesus to fill in the cracks that shame leaves behind.