I’ve Repented! Why Am I Not Like Christ?
A man decides he wants to be in shape. He brings a bag to work with him. After work, he hits the gym. He does this for a week. The next week, he takes off his shirt in the bathroom and looks in the mirror. The gut is still there. He gets on the scale, he’s only lost one pound.
Why isn’t he skinny? Most would answer simply. It takes time and commitment.
Sanctification is no different. When one repents, accepts Christ as his savior, and even gets baptized (which is a symbol of salvation, not a requirement), he’s just filled his metaphorical gym bag. No human in the flesh will ever achieve perfection because he’s still made of sinful flesh. Therefore he’s literally composed of sin. His heart is born in sin (Psalm 51:5).
Just like that man who’s realized he needs to live a healthier life, so to a repentant sinner is one who’s realized he needs to live a more spiritually healthy life. Just like that man in the gym, so to does the man who’s just repented needs to realize that it takes time and commitment.
Paul is an amazing source of encouragement for sanctification. Whenever he talks about growing in faith, he talks like the beefiest muscle man speaking to that wimp who’s just decided to hit the gym.
He teaches us to discipline our bodies and keep it under control (1 Corinthians 9:27). He teaches us to see the day of Christ’s second coming as the goal, to run for it, to finish (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Another great stumbling block for me (and some others I know) is the discouragement that comes when you’ve dedicated your life to Christ, and then you sin. You begin to mourn, but an unaware Christian can fall prey to the Devil’s schemes by beginning to believe that God has forsaken him.
Have you ever thought, “I can’t stop sinning! God must not want me”?
I have. I’ve had sins I’ve struggled with that made me feel ashamed and weak. I have sins I struggle with that make me feel foolish and slow. That’s when this tiny verse from 1 John comes to mind. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1 partial).
If you stop there, your discouragement only grows. Read the whole verse, and even the rest of the second: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2: the rest of 1-2)
This isn’t a message saying, “don’t worry if you sin, God doesn’t care.” To complete this picture, we need one more verse that is typically (even by me) misunderstood.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Remember that sadness and remorse I mentioned above? That’s a good thing. The difference between the redeemed and the unredeemed has a pretty simple measuring tool (there are a few, but I’m focusing on this one): The unredeemed don’t mourn their sin. They don’t feel guilt. The most painfully misguided think their sin is like some sort of unlimited credit card that Jesus will pay off. Let’s think about this realistically.
A father gives his son a credit card with which he should buy some food. The son proceeds to buy whatever he wishes, choosing not to purchase any food, but instead using it for women, drink and debauchery. When that father receives the bill, do you think he’ll simply pay it with no complaint? Won’t he instead say, “Son, I gave you that card for things you need, and you just used it to put your life into a deeper pit.” Would that father, no matter how much he loves his son, choose to still pay that bill? Now you could run off on this tangent, but the truth is the father (even if he really wanted to, which I affirm he wouldn’t) would ether be unwilling or unable.
When we mourn our sin. When we strive to change our lives, we stumble. Like the person who’s just started working out, we pull muscles. Our commitment fades for a moment (usually because of discouragement, which could deny them the spirit necessary to push through, or because of a true unwillingness to put forth the effort, which shows the person never wanted to change in the first place).
But if we remember what Jesus said, we can seek that comfort, and there is much comfort to be found. This comfort doesn’t brush our sins aside as if they don’t matter. They lovingly tells us we’re forgiven. They tell us to rise again and trust God, who’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
This is all to help one realize becoming Christian in no way makes you perfect or sinless. It’s the beginning of the journey, and the end comes when you finish the race. Run! Sprint! If you fall, get back up and keep running! The Lord is there waiting for you! He’ll wrap you in his arms and welcome you. You just have to keep running.
For our panel: Do you ever feel discouraged? What do you do if you do feel discouraged? How does one address any critics who may become aware of a sin you’ve committed? I guess that question is in regard to people who want to call you a hypocrite. When you stumble, in whatever way, how do you maintain that you are indeed saved even though you’ve just sinned? How should a person respond if they sin? Does a person’s sin immediately mean he’s not saved? Are you willing to share a sin you may have struggled with even after salvation?