I woke up exhausted. Thoughts racing through my mind made it difficult to fall asleep. When I did sleep, it was a restless sleep filled with tossing and turning. A little after 5:00 am, I gave up and reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, deciding to spend some time with the Lord. Yet, even as I sat before Him in prayer, I struggled.
I kept replaying the thoughtless words I had said the day before and how my untamed tongue caused me to sin. My mouth gets me into trouble more often than I care to admit. It frequently leaves me fretting over what I wish I hadn't said.
An out-of-control mouth isn't the only thing that causes me to sin. Frankly, it doesn't matter what the sin is; when I remember it, it plagues my thoughts bringing guilt and shame.
Sin has a way of doing that, doesn't it? When we sin, it seems to rapidly consume parts of our life, causing us to feel hopeless and broken. If left to fester, sin will make us believe it's part of who we are. We begin to feel helpless to stop whatever sin has its grip on us. We start to think we're a failure and that there is nothing we can do to stand against that sin, so we may as well give in and let it take over. Sin tries to define us.
Perhaps you, too, have felt the crushing weight of sin trying to bind you and make you buy into the lie that it is just who you are. You've messed up again, so what's the point in struggling anymore? Just give in and admit you will always make the same mistakes.
As I prayed early that morning, I asked the Lord to release me from the guilt and shame that seemed to be binding me. As I did, the Holy Spirit brought a familiar Scripture to mind.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
As I meditated on that passage, the Holy Spirit reminded me of who our God is. Our sin doesn't change who He is, and there is great hope in that understanding.
God is Love
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases." Lamentations 3:22 (ESV)
Sometimes we're tempted to think our sin makes us unlovable by a Holy God, but that's a thought from the enemy in an attempt to limit who God is. We must understand that love isn't just something God does; it is who He is. 1 John 4:8 (ESV) puts it succinctly, "God is love."
No matter what we've done in our past, we can be assured that God continues to love us. What we did or didn't do won't change God. Yes, God hates our sin, but He still loves us because love is who He is!
God is Faithful
"Great is your faithfulness!" Lamentations 3:23 (ESV)
When we sin, and have no doubt we will, God is faithful to forgive us. 1 John 1:9 (ESV) promises that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The enemy wants to make us believe our sin defines us. That's a scheme he uses to prevent us from turning to the Father and asking forgiveness to receive His mercy and be renewed in Christ's righteousness. The enemy knows that if he can keep us preoccupied with our mistakes, we will think that sin is part of who we are. If we believe that sin defines us, he can keep us stuck in the cycle of that sin.
Living in the sin cycle not only keeps us down, but it also prevents us from fulfilling our Kingdom role and sharing the gospel of Jesus with others. The enemy doesn't want anyone else to learn about Jesus, so believing we are stuck in our sin is right where he wants us. We must remember the promise that if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and put the righteousness of Jesus back onto us! We can have confidence in that promise because God is faithful to forgive.
The Freedom of Love and Faithfulness
"His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning." Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
Every day we have the opportunity to accept new mercy from the God of love and faithfulness. Every singly morning, He is waiting, ready to pour out new mercy on us because He knows we need it. So, how do we get His mercy and find freedom from our sin?
First, we have to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness. When we do, we release our sin to God, freeing ourselves from the burden it bears. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are forgiven in Him and clothed in His righteousness. Acknowledging that God is able to forgive our sin reminds us that our sin does not define us.
Second, we must acknowledge who God is. He is love. He loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us. If we believe in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we will have a relationship with the Triune God forever (John 3:16)! God condemned His Son to die in our place. That is love.
It is also a sign of God's faithfulness to forgive our sin. Any parent knows seeing your child hurt is unbearable; the sacrifice God the Father made for us when He sent Jesus to die in our place demonstrates the lengths He will go to redeem us from our sin. Psalm 103:12 tells us He not only forgives our sin, but He removes it from us as far as the east is from the west. He casts our sin as far away from us as possible because we are not our sin. In Christ Jesus, we are forgiven because God is faithful to forgive.
Finally, we need to ask God to help us take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). One of the most powerful ways God helps us take captive every thought is through Scripture. To see the effects Scripture has, select a verse that resonates with you regarding either the sin you struggle with or the Father's love and faithfulness. Then, write that verse down and meditate on it by pondering what it means. Claim that Scripture for your life by praying over it and giving it to the Lord! A bonus to meditating on Scripture related to our sin is that we will hide those words in our hearts. When we do that, the Holy Spirit uses them to correct us when we're on the brink of sin.
Like all things worthwhile, this method takes practice. Full disclosure: sin still threatens to bind me in my brokenness. I have to exercise the above technique frequently to remember who God is and that Christ is now my identity, not my sin.
The next time your sin threatens to bind you and make you think you are stuck there for good, practice confessing your sin, acknowledging that God is love and He is faithful to forgive. Then, ask Him to help you take captive every thought by meditating on Scripture.
Sweet friend, we are going to sin. But the weight of that sin does not need to consume us. Our sin does not define us. God's mercies are new every morning because His love and faithfulness know no end! Cling to that and allow Him to release you from the weight of your sin.