There are many things that can run through the mind of a Christian who is struggling with current or past sin. For instance, they might wonder if grace is capable of reaching them to the point where they have fallen. At times, sin can make a person feel so enslaved and weak that the task of overcoming it seems hopeless.
They may feel a willingness to turn away from the sin but find a certain inability to do so. In these cases, people may linger in the vice instead of attempting to make positive changes. Even after making positive changes, there is the chance of returning to the sin. This is because sin has a type of power over flesh that easily enslaves the heart and mind.
Sometimes there is a voice in the mind that attacks a person. It tells them things like, “You aren’t forgiven,” “You aren’t saved,” “There is something wrong with you,” and “there is no fixing what you have done.” Not only is that voice drumming this into the mind, but sometimes the entire world around a person seems to confirm what that voice is saying.
Have you ever felt trapped by sin?
I have. You see, as I speak of these things, I am not speaking from a perspective that is somehow immune to this predicament. I am also not trying to speak in a manner that implies that I have it “all figured out” myself. I simply am here to bring you encouragement and to say that if any of this applies to you then you aren’t alone. I have been there, and sometimes I still find myself fighting to not fall back into it.
That sense of condemnation and shame that lingers can be brutal and unrelenting. But take heart, Christian, because God’s Word and the work of His son promises that none of the doubts, worries, and fears I have just described make you remote from God’s love, grace, and mercy.
I also want you to know that sense of entanglement you feel is exactly what Satan wants. He wants to keep people deceived by the illusion that they are forever trapped in their sin. How is he able to do this? He plays on the Christian’s feelings of guilt and shame.
Guilt can be a good visitor. Guilt gives us an indication that we are doing something wrong, and it convicts us. True guilt will turn us to repentance where we can eventually find peace. Guilt draws attention to the separation from God that we experience due to our sin.
The trouble comes when we mistake false accusation from Satan as being this good type of guilt. People have a habit of letting Satan’s false accusations take up residence in their heart. It stays longer than it should, and it eats away at them. Satan’s denunciations keep people enslaved to sins that have been forgiven. His accusations also make people question their salvation and God’s love for them. Finally, it causes self-deprivation in a way that is unhealthy and wrong.
How can you differentiate true guilt from Satan’s snares? God-focused guilt, conviction, and prompting from the Holy Spirit will make a person aware of the spiritual wall between them and God. It will ALWAYS point a person back to God and His mercy. It will induce Christ-like changes, repentance, and positive results.
Satan’s ungodly guilt will evoke feelings of unrelenting worthlessness and condemnation. It will make a Christian feel estranged, and also convince them that God is not listening to their prayers. Another interesting quality of Satan’s ungodly guilt is that it will keep people more fixated on their peer’s feelings towards them rather than God’s feelings towards them. For instance instead of saying, “In the eyes of God I have sinned,” people will think things like, “My sin will not look good in the eyes of others,” or “compared to others, I am worth nothing.”
It doesn’t just stop there. Satan will eventually invite shame to camp out in a person’s heart as well. Shame likes to attack our very sense of self. So now with shame thrown into the mix, people will not only remain fixated on bad things they have done, they will come to despise themselves as a person.
I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame
Psalm 44:15, NIV
Shame is the voice in someone’s head that says, “There is something wrong with you,” “you are dirty,” “your sins are unforgivable,” “If anyone truly knew you they would turn their back on you,” “You are not a Christian, you are nothing but a hypocrite,” etc. These thoughts will eventually become embedded in a person and affect the way they behave.
Perpetual blame and disgrace causes people to feel alienated from God and other believers. It also causes feelings of insufficiency and doubt.
When people keep these feelings stored up in the heart and fail to forgive themselves, they are not focusing on Christ and His redeeming work. Likewise, when Christians store up shame in their heart, they are also in turn rejecting their true identity as God’s children. No matter what has been done, we are still made in God’s image.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
Romans 10:11, NIV
Ultimately, the grace that has come by way of Christ is able to elude everything. No matter what has been done, God practices radical forgiveness. That means anyone who TRULY repents, accepts Christ in their heart, and calls on the name of God can be not only forgiven, but also saved. I place an emphasis on the word “truly” because the action of repentance has to be genuine. God knows if it is or isn’t.
Now, I am not so naïve to say that this means there are no consequences for sin. Anyone who knows the story of David and Bathsheba knows that as a result of his sin, David lost one of his sons that he had with Bathsheba. There are indeed consequences in this life for sin.
Sin can certainly bring about loss, and waves of deep emotional, spiritual, and at times even physical pain. In the end, however, we are not doomed. Christ was given up as a guilt offering for our sins. Through Christ’s great love and sacrifice we are forgiven.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23, NIV
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
Isaiah 53:6, NIV
When Satan accuses you, Christian, and the condemning voices of false accusation and shame become increasingly audible, look to scripture and pray. The truth of God’s promises can be found within scripture. When the Christian accepts responsibility for sin, repents, and has faith in Christ, God remembers our sins no longer.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
Hebrews 8:12, NIV
For more of my articles on forgiveness and other related topics take a look at this site’s Christian Living archives.