By Chelsi Woods
Originally Published in Be Still Magazine, Issue 10
Sin is something that is addressed less and less in the church these days. It is almost like we are so worried about stepping on toes that we don’t call for any accountability. I think many of us are afraid to address our own sin because we know we are forgiven. Spending time in the book of James this morning, I was convicted of my sinfulness and of the fact that I am not radically pursuing the holiness I should be.
My conviction doesn’t come from legalism. We will never be perfect. Many of us are all too familiar with what James writes to his readers addressing the problem of sin. James says, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The temptation is there, and more often than not, we fall instead of flee. Afterward, we can let unholy condemnation settle in our minds instead of conviction, and we run away from the cross instead of to it. We let Satan tell us that we cannot be forgiven because we keep making the same mistake over and over. I want to encourage you, sisters, that that is not the case. Nothing is beyond the grace of God, and the concern should be when we no longer care about our sin. I pray that my heart is never hardened to the things that grieve the Spirit. We should never take advantage of the mercy and grace God has bestowed on us.
Why do we seem to fall into the same sinful patterns over and over? Many times, we don’t want to do the work. Spiritual warfare and fleeing temptation is difficult. When our flesh craves satisfaction, we are quick to give in because it is easier at the time. Sanctification is slow, and it is hard. God isn’t going to do all the work for us. Just as a loving father, He teaches us, and He helps us to grow. J.C. Ryle puts it this way, “In justification the word to be addressed to man is believe — only believe; in sanctification the word must be ‘watch, pray, and fight'” (Holiness, ix). To be sanctified is to actively be engaged daily.
How do we overcome our repetitive sin? Is it possible to be forgiven for something we keep doing over and over? The first thing we need to remember is that we can’t do anything on our own. We are sinners by nature. Sin may show itself in action. It is by the grace and mercy of God that we are able to live free from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and that we can take a one-time sin or a repetitive sin to God and it will be forgiven. John tells us 1 John 1:9, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. What he is telling us here is that God will not only forgive this particular sin one time but every time. Never get discouraged in repentance. Repentance is a gift of grace and mercy given to us by God. God doesn’t see His children as sinners, but because of Christ’s work on the cross, He sees us as holy.
God will never give up on us. Paul tells us that “He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6), and we are not condemned in our sin (Romans 8:1), but that does not give us an excuse to live in a sinful lifestyle. We are to pursue holiness, and when we fail, take our failures to the wounds of Christ, not hide from Him.
God is gracious and merciful. He is not condemning, and though He may discipline us at times, as a loving Father should, He knew we were sinners and sent His Son to bear our punishment. We can rest in the fact that we are loved by God, and that we can come to Him in our praise, in our worship, and His love should drive us to repentance. Be encouraged, sisters. Fight for your sanctification and never give up. You are loved.