You’ve Sinned Again—Now What?
What are you to do when you have sinned…again? When you have committed the very sin you resolved to never repeat? When you can’t help but feel defeated, despite the fact you know you’re supposed to be “more than a conqueror”? When you start to wonder if you can ever live a life of holiness? When you find yourself in that familiar place: the guilt-ridden crash that follows the sin you hate and love at the same time? When you are so ashamed of yourself that the absolute last thing you feel like doing is being anywhere near God? When you feel nothing but remorse for what you have done and hopeless that one day this losing battle will be behind you? What should you do when it is painfully obvious to yourself that you don’t deserve God’s love or friendship, and that a wicked sinner like you doesn’t belong within a thousand miles of him?
It’s simple. You should do the very thing you don’t feel like doing. You should march straight into the presence of God. Not when you feel like the guilt has worn off enough that it doesn’t seem quite as awkward, but right away, at the very moment everything is telling you to flee in the other direction. When you don’t want to come near to God is the very time you need to react against your instincts and run to him instead.
How Sin Defeat Us
Sin never works alone. He is a tandem enemy. Not only does sin beat us by providing temptations with which to dupe us, but also doubles that up with a heavy dose of shame and guilt when we fall for the trick. Sin pulls us away from God and then makes us feel like we aren’t worthy of returning. It leads us to walk away from the Lord and then lies by telling us there’s no going back. In that way, sin is doubly-deceptive. It lies about what we should do (break God’s laws), and then what we should do about it afterwards (hide).
This can be seen by the example of Adam and Eve. After falling for the temptation the serpent presented, the couple attempted to hide themselves from God. Their shame became so powerful that they no longer saw God as the one to run to but rather the one to run from. And just as this tactic worked all those years ago, it still works today. All Christians experience the natural feeling of guilt that comes after sin and that unpleasant feeling of wanting to pull back from God. This double-whammy often leaves us alone and stuck in the shame and guilt of sin.
Going On the Offensive
The only way to combat these thoughts and feelings is with truth. We kill the power that lies have over us by slaying them with truth. God’s word is a two-edged sword, and speaks directly to this issue. Here is a passage worth committing to memory:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
The truth in these words are some of the most powerful in all of Scripture. I know they have been very precious to me as I have tried to fight the sin in my own life. Let me break down the phrases and show you why it is such a cherished reality to cling to.
We do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
When we sin, or are even tempted by sin, sometimes is it easy to think that God must be disgusted with us. We might imagine Jesus looking on and retorting, “How could you possibly fall for that?” We tend to expect that God would have nothing but disappointment in us.
Now, don’t get me wrong—God is not pleased with our sin. But his response to it is much more than that. This passage says that God sympathizes with us. He looks on our struggle with sin and says, “I know what it’s like. I know what you are fighting with. I’ve been there before.” How can this be? Because Jesus, our great high priest, has experienced the full range of temptation. He became a man and knows what it is like to feel the lure of sin. He has experienced what we do too.
The difference is that Jesus never caved. He resisted temptation every single time. We might want to respond by saying, “If that’s the case, then he really doesn’t know what it’s like!” But think about this for a moment. Who knows the true weight of a bench press: the person who can’t lift the weight on their own, or the person who can do a full press by themself? Jesus took on the full weight of temptation and still resisted. In that sense he actually knows what we experience—and more—when it comes to the power and pull of sin. Jesus really does know what it is like. He can sympathize with you!
Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace…
If Jesus can sympathize with our battle against sin, then we should not be ashamed to come to him about it. We will not be met with a dismissive Saviour, but an empathetic one. Knowing that Jesus too has been tempted as we have in our flesh is supposed to arm us with confidence. It is meant to open to door to God, not close it against us. That’s what the verse plainly says!
This is where the battle of the mind becomes so important. The guilt and shame of sin will make you want to run from God. It is a purely natural response. The only way we can overcome the urge to flee is if we are armed with a truth that can overturn those false feelings. Hebrews 4:15-16 is such a weapon. It gives us grounds of assurance that if we come before God with all of our mucky baggage, he will not smite us but rather greet us with a sympathetic embrace. Now that is a powerful promise! It is true whether you feel like it is or not.
…that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
It would be nice if Jesus met us with sympathy when we needed it, but he provides so much more than that! The end of this verse says he also offers two other things.
(1) He extends mercy. And thank God for that! Heaven knows we need all the mercy we can get. Our sin is not small. It is not rare. It is not a blip on the radar. It is rather the very thing that draws the wrath of God upon us. But here we are assured that at the throne we can find mercy. Our sin, no matter how egregious or repetitive, can and will be washed away by the mercy that flows from our sympathetic Saviour. Such is the beauty and freedom we have in Christ!
(2) He gives grace to help in time of need. Here the promise is extended beyond only mercy after sin. Jesus is not just helpful once it is too late, but he is there to give grace even before mercy is necessary. We need not wait until sin has taken root in our heart to come before the throne of grace, but rather it is the place we can flee to when temptation is pressing in on us and we are in a great moment of need. Do not be shy about it—with confidence come to Jesus and call for help! He is sure to meet you there with the grace you need to face any trial that comes your way.
Don’t Run From God…Run To Him
I suppose there are few passages in the Bible that have I have leaned on more than Hebrews 4:15-16. Contained in this short section of Scripture is some of the most timely, profound, and precious promises that a believer could ever arm himself with. When sin has you backed into a corner, or has you knocked down on the mat, do the very opposite of what you feel like doing. Don’t hide in shame, but run to the High Priest who will not turn you away, but rather sympathetically give you the mercy and grace you need to get back up again and into the fight. In the sustaining and helping power of Christ we find our Christian victory.