We’ve all got them. I like to call them conscience-killing or faith-destroying sins — those sins you just can’t seem to shake, sins that run the risk of becoming regular or, God forbid, enjoyable to our corrupt and sinful flesh. These are sins we know in our heart are so evil and wicked we can hardly bare to confess them. They are the sins the devil loves to use against us, battering our conscience until we are beaten and bruised. As Christians we know how sinful we are. God’s Law makes no mistake about it. We long for the sanctification that never seems to come.
I struggle with all kinds of sins, confess them and know they are forgiven; however some seem to eat at me more than others. I have personal battles against my flesh and the devil, but I know I’m not alone in this struggle. My battle may be different than yours, but the war is the same — the war we fight daily against our sin.
The Back Slide.
Everything seems to be going well in your life. That sin that used to get the best of you hasn’t reared its ugly head in weeks or even months, but then comes the back slide. While we obviously sin throughout the day, here comes that sin that seems more painful, more unforgivable.
There are all kinds of thoughts running through my mind when I fail to control a sin I think I should be able to control. Usually this involves my thinking I should be able to stop myself. Jesus Christ has died for my sins and this is how I respond? I hear the Word and receive the body and blood of Christ every Sunday; shouldn’t I be getting better at fighting this sin?
The devil feeds on our conscience, stoking the fire of our doubt and fear. We are right in the devil’s wheelhouse, and he’s pulling the strings. When we look at our lives of sin through the world’s standards we are probably doing pretty well, perhaps even getting better. But when we mistakenly think we are getting better at not sinning, we run the risk of falling for the lie that we don’t need a Savior.
We start thinking we can do it alone. The devil likes this kind of thinking.
He’ll tell you your sins aren’t that bad, while in the next breath insisting there is no way God can forgive you for these sins that cause you so much pain. He wants you to back slide and give up on fighting against your sin. He wants Jesus out of your mind and heart. He wants you to stop confessing your need for a Savior and for salvation and redemption. He wants you to take your eyes off Jesus and the cross and depend on yourself. Suddenly you’re down in the dumps, worrying and doubting over how God could love a sinner like you. This is the best life now? Everything is awesome?
In the Christian life, things are rarely awesome. Our sinful Old Adam will always be curved in on himself, not looking outside himself to God. How do we avoid the back slide into sin? To put it nicely — we can’t. Once we think we have a handle on one sin, another will show up or we’ll trip up and that same sin will be back. And round and round we go. This is our life as children of God in a broken, sinful world.
So how are we supposed to handle the seemingly daunting task of living with this sinful flesh, in a sinful world with the devil constantly nipping at our heels? Luckily for us God doesn’t throw us to the wolves without some weapons to fight this battle.
We must admit we can’t do it alone. We need a Savior. We need help and forgiveness and even when our sin seems to be getting better, we must realize it’s not our doing but God doing the work in us. He has given us baptism in which our sins are drowned and we are forever connected to Jesus. He has given us the true body and blood of Jesus Christ to eat and drink for the forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith. God has given us pastors to administer those Sacraments and teach us the Word. He gives us His Word with the Law and the Gospel. While our sinful Old Adam may hate the Law, as Christians we must confess that the Law is good. The Law shows us our sin and our total dependence on God for anything good. Without the Law I would not know how my sin damns me and hurts my neighbors. God has given us the Law because we don’t know what’s best. Without the Law I would back slide and sin my way right into hell. The Law leads us to repent and completely rely on God for mercy and forgiveness. The Gospel is often called the Good News — a huge understatement, if you ask me. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what it means to be a Christian. While many Christians say how we live our lives and treat our neighbors are the marks of a true Christian, we confess Jesus Christ crucified for our sins. We confess we are not good people but broken sinners who cling to Jesus Christ for everything. We confess our sins against our family, neighbors and God all the while knowing Jesus Christ has redeemed us and made us right with God.
How could God love sinners like us? He loves us so much He sent His Son into the world to die the death we deserve. Jesus Christ took on human flesh and lived the perfect life for us all. Jesus Christ did not back slide, because he was without sin through his entire life. When the devil tries to taunts you about your back sliding, repent and direct his attacks to Jesus Christ. When your conscience is broken and it feels like God could never forgive a sinner like you, repent and confess the only thing worth anything to God, Jesus Christ.
Jesus has redeemed you by his holy and precious blood. God isn’t looking at your back sliding; He is looking at his Son and He is well pleased. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God is looking at another perfect child of God. We are fortunate as Christians, because there is an end to the sin and suffering we endure in this life. The resurrection of our flesh when Jesus returns shall be a tremendous display of God’s love for us all. Until then we must continue to go ‘round and ‘round. Repent, be forgiven, repent and be forgiven. Come, Lord Jesus.