One of my all-time favorite lessons in life is one I write on often, but it's just so good, so it bears repeating.
Probably 10 years ago, I was in church listening to a sermon from a young pastor. He was recounting the story of when he met his spiritual icon (maybe not the best word :/) and he was desperate to get advice. He asked him, ‘out of all things, what is the secret to living so closely to God.’ The question itself could be criticized, but I love the older man’s answer. He said “Ask for forgiveness quickly and accept it quickly.”
The younger pastor confessed that he had expected the man to say ‘read your Bible every day’ or ‘just stop sinning.’ While I don’’t know what this younger pastor did with this information, I know that it has changed my life for the better for 10+ years, and has consequently become my top piece of advice to anyone who sins.
Because when we sin, our tendency is to sulk in guilt as if this makes us holier…even after we repent. We qualify our level of repentance by how miserable we make ourselves and how long we do so. To our logical minds, the longer we wallow in our sin, the more real the repentance.
But this isn’t true, or Biblical. In the Bible, we see people immediately turn back to God. And we see God immediately forgive. To deny God’s immediate forgiveness (and stay in our “I’m a sinner” mindset), we fall into Satan’s trap.
Think of it this way: if I went out and had sex right now, I’d feel awful. I’d hate that I did it. (and if this is you, know that Jesus really does know so much better when He says to refrain) But after realizing my guilt, I’d repent quickly (following the older man’s advice). And then, I’d have two choices.
1- I could accept God’s forgiveness quickly, see myself as holy, seek out counsel so I can be empowered to change these decisions, and continue to live for God. I could admit to the mistakes, but know my repentance ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING, and that I’m really (legitimately) clean.
2- I could not accept God’s forgiveness quickly. I could think of myself as marred by this sin, and because of that, I could reject opportunities to use my gifts for God because I think of myself as so far from God. I could pull away from church, see myself as unworthy to read my Bible or worship Him, and eventually tell myself the sin wasn’t that bad to myself feel better.
Accepting God’s forgiveness quickly has become the most helpful advice I have ever received because it is necessary to knowing who I am in Christ. To do anything else is to give Satan even more power over the situation. Condemning myself after repentance isn’t Godly at all. In fact, it is denying the power of forgiveness and salvation. It is denying the power of His blood.
BUT also— I’ve realized— repenting over and over --and then going back to that sin over and over-- is also denying the power of His blood.
Because His blood doesn’t just clean us, it transforms us. He wants to do so much more than free you from the pain of sin after it happens, He wants to free you from it before it happens.
He just loves you so much. When He told us what are sins (and in the long run-- harmful), He was right. Believing Him in all areas of our lives is the wisest thing we can do.
But while I wanted to throw that in there, this blog is about when we know this truth about sin, and we try to do our best, but we slip up.
In these tender moments, when we are tempted to punish ourselves, we get to practice accepting God’s grace. We get to practice partnering with God’s grace and giving it to ourselves. It’s actually the only Biblical way to handle it. Not sulking in sin, not condemning ourselves. Repenting and KNOWING you are clean.
Yes, it's good to seek help with the sin for the future’s sake (and apologize to any involved parties), but don’t wallow for God’s sake. He doesn’t offer you forgiveness so you can deny it. Waiting to feel holy again doesn’t prove our holiness to Him. It just is communicating that we don't actually believe His forgiveness is enough.
BUT IT IS ENOUGH. If we believe the Bible, God’s forgiveness doesn’t leave you in the mess, It wipes you clean. So stop living as if it doesn’t. This is actually doubting God. If you repent, then God forgives. And if God forgives, you are really clean.
There is so much beauty and freedom in this! We can bravely say no to shame. We can confess to our leaders without shame, because we know who we are in Christ and we want to grow. There's no condemnation for those in Christ.
So, if you've just sinned, this is a beautiful chance to practice partnering with God's grace. To walk out of condemnation and choose to believe in the power of forgiveness. To stop the sin because you know God has better for His pure and beloved, not because you need to make up for your mistakes. Let this be a beautiful moment of knowing the true weight of forgiveness, and walking in it.
God loves you so much. He’s for you even when you mess up beyond belief. Nothing can separate you. Repent quickly and accept forgiveness quickly. He wants for you to remember who you are as soon as possible. He qualifies you.