Day 30: Persisting Through Falls
HOW FAR WE'VE COME
How have you been doing so far in your struggle against sexual sin? Some will answer positively, but some of us might be starting completely over. By starting over I mean that we've recently given in to sexual temptation, and although we are redeemed before God through Christ, it’s hard to escape that sinking feeling that we’re back at square one. Where are you now? Are you enjoying victory or do you feel like you're back at square one?
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. -Romans 3:23 (NIV)
I suppose it was a trick question. After we accept Christ, there is no square one, only forward. As we’ve discussed many times in this course already, even on our best days (before we knew Christ) we were seen as unholy sinners before God, we were doomed for eternity in hell. Even after becoming Christians, we are still saved strictly by grace, not by our works (see John 1:12, Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 2:13, and Hebrews 8:12). It is easy to get caught up in the idea that we’re “starting over” when we stumble. Not so, God redeemed you once and for all time when He had Christ die on the cross:
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. -Romans 3:24
His desire is for you to come to a place perfection, but you and I are a work in progress:
How could God "carry it on to completion" [the work He started in you] if you or I were already complete? Perfection was obtained by one man alone (Jesus). All of mankind is working toward that perfection, one small step at a time. The same is true for you.
IN LIGHT OF OUR STORY...
Does this mean we can or should dive right back into sin? No! In fact, it's quite the opposite. No potter, when molding, wants the clay to shatter. God wants forward progress in our walk with Him. He is working you and I toward perfection, not away from it. Imagine for a moment that you owe an insurmountable amount of money to someone. Let's also assume that there wasn’t even a chance that you can pay it back in your lifetime. The person whom you owed then forgives the debt completely. When you’re forgiven a debt, do you go out and acquire more debt? Of course not! We recognize this truth simply because you presumably learned your lesson the first time around. As followers of Christ we have been set free of the weight and debt of sin but many still walk around continuing to make the same mistakes as if our debt has not been paid.
Christ paid a debt he didn’t owe so that we’d receive a gift we didn’t deserve. That event completed God's redemptive work for mankind. The decision to accept His gift is now up to us. One mentor put it like this:
We sin, hundreds, maybe thousands of times, and we feel indebted to God, guilty of sin, and ashamed. We repent, and accept Christ, asking for God's forgiveness. But, we do not grasp the weight of Christ's sacrifice, and so we still feel as if we owe something.
Or perhaps we haven't fully accepted Christ's sacrifice: we feel so wicked that we cannot imagine or allow someone else to take the punishment we feel we deserve. Both of these issues contributed to the false doctrine of Purgatory - that somehow our own sin was too much for Christ to abolish. We need the humility to allow Christ's work to cover over our sins, or we will only continue living under the depravity mindset of punishing ourselves and refusing grace.
We need the knowledge of what Jesus suffered to understand that he fully and forever paid the price - there is no debt left outstanding. That wrath that you feel you deserve? Jesus took that upon himself so that you wouldn't have to. Do not let his sacrifice be in vain - live in the victory that he paid for. Rather than feeling the shame, you can feel the gratitude that Jesus took it all.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. -Galatians 5:13 (ESV)
Our past belongs in the past. The person that you once were is no more; he was soundly defeated the moment you accepted Christ into your heart. What has taken its place is the loving joy, peace and sanctification that follows knowing Jesus Christ.
HAS YOUR OLD SELF BEEN CRUCIFIED?
To make sure, try to study and better understand the following:
- We never truly have to start over
Memorize verses like 1 John 1:9 and Romans 3:23. Recognize that you and I were never good enough on our own and that only through Christ can we be saved.
- Don’t give up!
The easiest time to give up is right after a fall. Friends, if I had given up completely I would not be writing this today. Trust me, there were many times when I wanted to throw in the towel, but God in His infinite wisdom and mercy granted me the strength to continue.
- Don’t give in
The fool-proof way of avoiding the feeling of starting over is to actively make choices to resist temptations. Every waking moment bears opportunity for the enemy to strike. But it's also an opportunity for us to be renewed and lifted up by the light of God’s mercy in our lives. Know when you are at your weakest and guard against that. Don’t let the enemy have any sort of foothold in your heart.
Day 30 Application
Have you fallen so far in the past that you vowed to simply give up?
When we give up fighting against the darkness, what is the ultimate result in our lives?
You've gone through nearly a month of courses! How have you seen God at work in your life? Have you been in contact with your accountability partner such that you were asked tough questions about purity?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?