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Too often, Christians will say that someone is not a "real Christian" because of something they've done or a habit they have. It's an attitude that's hurtful to the Church and unbelievers as well. The expectation of a life-long "test" inevitably alienates people, and they decide they'd rather ignore the whole idea. The Bible does tell us to "produce fruit" from our faith - so how do we align that with the fact that sin will always exist in our earthly lives? How do we answer others if they ask, "Am I bad if I sin?"The forgiveness of Jesus is a gift for anyone, but following Jesus does require us to change how we address sin. Inviting Jesus into our hearts is not just about saying the words; it's about repentance and trust. Repentance means to turn a 180 and move in a different direction. If we trust Jesus, we believe He is who He says He is, and we want to pursue His purpose for us. We twist it up when we think that trust immediately eliminates our sin. Sin is not passive; it's an active distraction from God. When we seek a relationship with Jesus, we want to live like Him, but that doesn't mean it's easy. There is still a part of us that wants to sin. Sin is a tension to manage by trusting God’s wisdom, not our own. This is the tension that Paul deals with in Romans 7:15-20, saying:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” - Romans 7:15-20
We can define actions by right and wrong, but there is no tipping point where we go from good to bad. We are all born into sin, and not one of us is blameless (Romans 3:23, 6:23). No matter what we've done, we each have an equally extended invitation into God's family. And yes, that includes murderers and traitors. As a believer, that can be a hard pill to swallow when I see horrific headlines and want to wish the worst punishment on the perpetrators. In God’s eyes, those are people He wants to make new (We can see an example in the story of Jonah).We could explore a lot of theology on this topic, but it boils down to this: We are all equally human, equally in sin, and we all equally need a savior.Believing in Jesus does not make us "better" than others, but it does give us a reason to share God's love and forgiveness with those who have not experienced it. Every good thing we do is God's work through us, so the more we trust Him, the less room there is for sin to take hold.
Guilt can help us when it pushes us to repent, yet it's not a one-and-done thing; sin will continue to crop up in our lives. We don’t need to worry that temptation will negate God's forgiveness. Guilt tells us we’ve done something wrong; it doesn’t have to make us question our value. Shame is destructive because it tells us we aren’t worth love, and that’s not who God says we are. We can embrace repentance without shame, and that leads to redemption.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - John 1:9
The way you handle sin does not affect your worth. Sin comes in many forms beyond the obvious "no-nos," so it does no good to compare your sin to others. If you struggle with sinful habits or aren't even sure what sin is, you don't have to "fix" yourself before going to Jesus. You do need to open up to the changes He will make in you. Jesus will always offer you a fresh start, a new life, and freedom from the effects of sin and shame. But the transformation of your habits won't necessarily happen overnight. Growth takes time and attention to God's Word.As you move forward, pray to God not only for wisdom but as a release of your guilt and insecurities. God already knows your darkest thoughts, and before you panic, you should know that nothing will ever diminish His love for you. Your Creator wants you to thrive in His path, and He will guide your steps when you listen for His voice.
"You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." - Micah 7:19
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Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.