The other night my roommate and I were watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, the group of friends discuss each other’s biggest flaw, their “but.” For example, she’s really funny, but she talks too much. He’s extremely intelligent, but he’s always correcting people.
This got my roommate and I talking about what we thought our own fatal flaw was. Initially the conversation was purely silly, but I soon found myself seriously contemplating what other people found annoying about me. But as my mind began to overanalyze every possible one of my flaws, I had to force myself to stop and seriously consider the harm I was doing:
- I was caring way too much about what people’s opinion of me was,
- I was being way too hard on myself and not giving myself any grace,
- And most importantly, I was not caring about what God thought of me, especially as His creation.
In Ephesians 2:1-9, Paul wrote:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Paul writes that even at our darkest points of sin and doubt, God always chooses to give us grace. He reminds us, however, that while the giving of grace is an ongoing process of sinning and sanctification, our salvation is not a process.
On the contrary, our salvation is complete the moment we commit ourselves to Christ and become believers. That’s it. No good work can make us better in the eyes of God, and no sin can make us worse. Once we are saved by God’s grace through our faith, we are saved. We are new creations, and our sin no longer defines us. Our identity is in Christ alone. It is finished.
Therefore when we find ourselves wallowing in the guilt of our sins past and present, we in turn doubt God’s grace and our salvation. While sanctification through the Holy Spirit allows us to recognize and repent of our sin, we must be careful that Satan does not use our sanctification against us. We cannot allow the enemy to distort our understanding of grace. Where instead of seeing acknowledgement of sin as a gift from the Holy Spirit to repent, we become so caught up in our guilt that we begin to believe that our sins are too big for God to forgive.
We must caution ourselves from falling into the trap of creating a “but” argument for God against us. Instead we must remember the “but” argument that God created for us. Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
Jesus didn’t sacrifice himself to make us feel guilty and chain us to our sin. He died on the Cross so that we may live a new holy life free from sin and death. While that doesn’t mean that we can sin without remorse, it does mean that acknowledgement of our sin should lead to repentance, not guilt. For unlike guilt, which is grief over what we have committed against the world, repentance is grief over what we have committed against God. Guilt creates in us a weak spirit, but repentance creates in us a righteous, sanctified heart.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation as I was, where you can’t seem to let go of your past sins and you’re finding every reason to doubt yourself, remember there’s grace for that.
God has already forgiven us. All we have to do is accept His gift and allow ourselves to be forgiven. For our inclination to sin may be strong, but God is stronger.