You ever messed up so much that you were sure that there was no way God could possibly forgive you. That maybe in the past He was able to forgive you but this time you went too far and there was no way He’d forgive you yet again…especially if what you messed on was the same thing you found yourself often saying you’d never do again. Do you picture God like an irritated parent who is tired of hearing you say how sorry you were and that you wouldn’t do it again? Maybe you picture Him more angry and yelling at you for being stupid enough to find yourself in this mess.
These perceptions aren’t true of God at all, but they deeply influence our lives. I know it did for me at least. When I gave my life to Christ it took me a while to really believe that God really did still love me, but what took even longer was believing that God really did forgive me. I had gotten in my head that I wasn’t forgiven as much or loved fully by God and that I somehow had to keep learning to be a better Christian in order to earn more of God’s love and forgiveness. And I needed to try to somehow undo all the sin I already had committed. I had come to understand that God loved me enough to want me back after I had done everything to run away from God. But as I have shared earlier on this blog I was struggling with sin from my old life that left me often feeling like I couldn’t come to God until I had figured out a way to pay for my sin myself or clean up my act. But here’s the truth. We can’t pay for our sin or clean up our act on our own. We need God’s help for both those things.
If you haven’t heard/read my testimony post ya should. 😉 Go to that post If you already have then you know I struggled with porn for many years. That specific struggle caused me to feel a lot of shame and was the one thing about my past that lead me to struggle with God’s love and forgiveness the most. What’s crazy is that one thing that was the hardest thing for me to understand was a huge key in God finally setting me completely free.
No, I’m not talking about a person. I’m talking about the grace that God gives us. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “ unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their sanctification” I’ve also heard it put as the unmerited favor given us by God or basically giving us something better than the punishment and commendation we deserve. The truth is we mess-up and sin. Even when we give our lives to Christ we still sin. God’s grace is the forgiveness He gives us for past, current, and future sins the minute we give our lives to Him. That grace is key to helping us change from our sin nature and learn to be more Christ like. This is a process that happens our whole lives and isn’t finished until we die. So none of us will ever be perfect on earth.
For me, I would go through periods where I could resit my desire to look at porn or have inappropriate conversations with guys online for short periods, but then I’d fall. Then cue shame which would turn into me picturing God frustrated with me and walking away as He yelled at me for not being strong enough to fight the temptation. Then I would fall into the what does resisting even matter? And I would allow myself to stay in the “mud” of my sin for awhile, until someone would speak truth into my heart or I would be convicted somehow and would go back to resisting. This pattern was how I lived for years! And let me tell you, it is an exhausting way to live!
Things started to change when I started to understand that the minute I excepted Christ and asked for His forgiveness I was forgiven! He already forgave me for all the times I had fallen in the mud of sin before I gave my life to Him and He forgave the times I would fall in the mud of sin in the future. If God has already forgiven us for everything, then there really isn’t anything that we do to get God to forgive us more. This doesn’t mean we can just go around doing whatever because it’s already forgiven under the grace of God. Grace is there to catch us when we fall, but not a reason to purposely fall. God’s forgiveness and grace does give us the strength to get back up when we do fall in the mud. We can thank God for His grace and forgiveness, and ask for His help to get back up and to choose the “out” that He promises to give when we face temptation. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1Corinthians 10:13 NLT
When I started to understand all this instead of living in the cycle of sin, my struggle shifted to look more like, I’d fall in the mud of sin, I wouldn’t stay there as long (constantly getting to be shorter and shorter periods of staying in the mud) because I would remember that God already forgave me and promised to help me. When I was believing that God was angry with me when I sinned, I would go into tearing myself down. I felt like I had to tear myself down in order for God to see that I was sorry so that He would forgive me. And when you are spending all your energy beating your self up, you aren’t using it to get out of the mud. Eventually, you hit exhaustion which would lead to me going into, “what does trying to resist even do?” mode. And I would just stay in the mud. But when I got the correct picture that God isn’t scolding me when I fall, but is immediately there hand out to help me up and continue learning to follow Him, it changed everything.
“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8 NLT When I thought my ability to turn from my sin and stop falling in the mud of sin was completely on me, I ran exhausted and easily lost motivation to keep choosing the “way out” of temptation. When I realized the truth that it was a team effort between myself, I have to choose the way out, and God showing me the way out, my victories were far more common until they were the majority and falling in the mud was almost nonexistent. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, but that’s where His grace is involved. I’m so grateful He gives us forgiveness and help instead of what we deserve, His anger and punishment.