Struggling with Repeated Sin

“I have failed over and over and over again.  And that is why….I succeed.”- Michael Jordan

The worst thing for you to do after sinning is to look at yourself as a lost project. You might say, “I keep screwing up and screwing up, what’s the point of trying to do right if I can never control myself.”  I’ve felt that way many times.  You struggle so ferociously with that one aspect of your life in which you are weak—you commit to it, study it, find its origins, and then work ruthlessly to expel it from your life.  Yet, after two or three weeks of feeling pretty good about your progress, you let one little inch of that weakness back in your life.  Next thing you know, you are right where you began, stuck in the same cycle of that consuming sinful desire, and you find yourself doubting whether it’s even worth it to begin the process all over again, especially when your lack of commitment dooms the next round of the fight as well.

Yes, this has happened to me many times.  I have failed and failed and failed with one certain aspect of my life over and over and over again. Paul’s words, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15) ring in my head every time I repeat this sin. It’s seriously depressing because, the truth is, I do not want to keep sinning in this way. I tell myself, “You have to think about the future and how you’re everyday decisions affect that future.  You don’t want to do that even if you are tempted to”.  I prepare myself for battle each time, praying and avoiding certain situations, yet one small minor change of plans, one small scent of opportunity, and that sin returns in full force grabbing my throat and overtaking my desire to expel it. I can honestly not control myself.  I am not strong enough.  I screw up, and I keep screwing up.  I screw up by not being in the Word and abiding in God and seeking his approval in everything I do.  I screw up by allowing the praise of man or the sensations of this earth creep in and overcome my rationale.  I am the epitome of imperfect.  I am a slave to the cycle.

The fact of the matter is that we will all screw up, a lot.  We will all screw up in varying degrees as well.  David, the man after God’s own heart, went to the lengths of having a man killed to cover up an act of adultery(2 Samuel 11). If you are like me, you read that story and thought, “Man, I’m not so bad after all. I mean, I’ve never done anything close to one of those two”.  I have to admit it. I felt pretty good reading that story in light of how close to God David walked during his lifetime.   But that is a wrong approach.  We cannot use the story of David and Bathsheba to reduce our guilt.  Instead, we must use the story to look at our guilt in a different way.  This different way starts with how we look at ourselves following another backslide into our repeated sin, into the cycle, and it ends with how we approach the day after this failure that has become so second nature to us.

Let’s examine the feelings we get when we once again do something that we do not want to do.  Maybe you told yourself you were not going to drink to get drunk. Friday night comes, and all your friends are around and having a good time, and it just seems to make sense at the moment to have one too many and loosen up.  The hours pass, and you wake up Saturday morning with a hangover and the accompanying regret for the things said and the things done while under the influence.  You screwed up.  Again.

“I can’t escape this,” you tell yourself.  “I’m not worth the ground I walk on.  I can’t even control myself in this one small thing. I’m such a waste. I hate that I told myself I wasn’t going to do this, and here I go again.  I don’t know what to do.”  It’s so discouraging to fall prey to the same sin that you so ardently believed you could move away from.  In the moments after the regret, we all get the same feelings and lack of resolve.

“What’s the point?” you ask yourself.  “I’ll never escape this.  What? I’m not even going to lie to myself anymore and say ‘I’m never gonna’ do this again’ because I know I will.  I’m useless.”  How many times have we felt like this?  How many times have we felt so dirty that we couldn’t come to God?  Of course you skip church on Sunday because you would feel too dirty after what happened on Saturday night.  You feel like you should at least wait one week without committing that sin before you can come before God and ask for forgiveness.  You have to prove that you are trying to do better.  You will do better.  You can do better. 

Maybe, you’re sin was sexual, and you now think that you are forever so severely stained that you can never be used by God again.  You screwed up so bad that you can never go back to the innocent pursuit of righteous living.

STOP RIGHT THERE.

HOW ARROGANT ARE YOU?   How good do you think you once were?  You don’t think that you can be used by God now? Because you have sinned?  How good do you think you once were?  Was there a time when God looked at you and said, “Ok, he’s not so bad. I can use him.”  NO! “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory!” (Romans 3:23).  There was never EVER a time in your life when you were fit to follow God.  There was never EVER a time in your life when you weren’t too dirty to enter the house of God. There was never EVER a time when you did any work worthy of gaining you favor in heaven.

Stop punishing yourself. That is exactly what the devil wants you to do.  So many people have led horribly mediocre and valueless lives by listening to the devil’s lies.  We sin, and he tells us, “You are too dirty for God.  God is ashamed of you just as you are ashamed of yourself.  Run from him to hide your shame.  Clothe yourself because you are naked.  You don’t deserve to walk with God”.  That is exactly what we tell ourselves when we punish ourselves after a screw up.  We tell the devil that he’s right—we can’t confess our sins to God because He would never accept a confession from such a dirty and failing symbol of imperfection.  We might as well walk away and make ourselves feel better about other worth we have on earth.

We cannot follow that path.  We cannot be like Adam and Eve and try to hide our nakedness. You are imperfect, and you are unworthy of walking with God. We don’t deserve forgiveness.  But the thing is, we never have.  Screwing up over and over again is what we were born to do as humans. If we revel in our sin, we tell God we are ashamed of ourselves because we were once worthy enough for Him. But we never were.  Instead of punishing yourself, and distracting yourself from your walk with Christ, let your screw up remind you of your humanity. Let your inability to do anything good or righteous on your own remind you of how much you truly need God.  Let your weakness show you His strength.

In that regard, we need to learn from our mistakes. After being confronted about Bathsheba, David wrote Psalm 51, asking God to “blot out his iniquity”.  I think confession is the first step that many people miss or leave out because they think everything that happened is understood.  God knows what happened and so do I–there’s no need to rehash it.   But there is a need.  God wants you to confess your sins constantly.  It’s clear in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.  PURIFY! That’s exactly what we want! There’s only one way to leave a cycle of repeated sin and that’s to be washed completely with the Word of God and be cleansed of our sinful desires. 

The next statement is even more evidence of the need for confession: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (I John 1:10). I think many times we don’t confess our sins because we don’t think they’re thatbad, or we don’t think we should be punished for them.  OR, even worse, we don’t trust that we won’t do them again.  All of these perspectives show a desire to abstain from change.  What is the first thing that you do at an addiction support group?  “Hi, my name is Robert, and I’m an alcoholic.”  How can we fix a problem if we don’t admit that we have it? I think a lot of us, me included, are scared to openly admit our sins to God because we know that we will truly feel how hurt He is by our sin and that pain would hurt too deeply. But we must feel that pain.  We need to feel bad about our sin; otherwise, what would convict us to change? So, step 1 after falling of f the bandwagon? “Hello, Lord. My name is Robert.  And I have sinned against you.”

Step 2: Realize who we have sinned against.  God says it over and over again in the Scriptures. “What you do to the least of these you have done to me.”  David says it in Psalm 51, “Against you, and only you, have I sinned and done what is evil in your eyes.”  Any time we sin, we have sinned against God. Every action we take on this earth contrary to God’s nature hurts God.  But, the thing is, we are only accountable to God.  We have to remember that what others think about us doesn’t matter.   The devil has no authority to punish us.  We have no authority to punish ourselves.  How can we assume that responsibility without attempting to build our own Tower of Babel? If we confess our sins, it is up to God to deal out our punishment.  Stop wasting time punishing yourself like Dimmesdale in Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.  Do you think by staying away from church or hating yourself you will find redemption? Do you think that there will come a point where you feel good about the amount of suffering you have put yourself through? Confess your sin openly to God and to others (James 5:16) so that Jesus can lift the weight off your shoulders with his sacrifice, and you may carry on to Step 3: the day after the failure.

Micah 7:8, “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right.  He will bring me out into the light.”  The devil’s thoughts cannot creep into our minds after sinning.  We have to give our sin up to the Father and allow Him to show us how and where we can improve.  The day after our failure needs to be seen as day 1 of Boot Camp.  We should wake up even earlier for church and scream even louder in worship because we have sinned and that failure has reminded us that we are farther away from God then we imagined.  Be thankful for the wake up call! Now you have transparency!  You can see yourself for who you really are and not what your previous good behavior made you believe you had become. 

Michael Jordan once said, “I have failed over and over and over again. And that is why…I succeed.” We are humans.  We will fail.  God never expected us to be inhuman.  That is why He sent His Son Jesus to cover our humanity.  You are going to have to come to grips with your humanity.  You will have to understand it, know it, read about it, study it, and face it head on.  Why?

Because it is your enemy.

The Christian walk isn’t about perfection.  That’s impossible.  If you attempt to be on track with perfection, we will find ourselves totally distracted from the real story of the cross and our redemption.  The Christian walk is a fight, a battle with our humanity.  We know the battlefield, do we not?  It’s our sins, our cycle of repeated sin and our wish to stay in that cycle.  But how do we fight this battle?  Do we try really hard to not do the things that our outside of God’s will? No. We defeat ourselves with God’s weapons.  We will never ever be able to defeat human nature ourselves.  No matter how hard we try it will always reign victorious.  We win the fight by letting our Savior fight for us.  We use his weapons like the Word and prayer and communion to purify our minds and our hearts for Him.  We don’t let a day go by without furthering our relationship and drawing closer to Him. We protect ourselves from the enemy and never let ourselves be vulnerable. 

Romans 13:12, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” We guarantee defeat if we try to fight the battle alone.  We revel in our defeat if we try to pick up the pieces alone.  We face defeat again if we abandon those things that gave us victory.  Nobody would abandon a game plan that guaranteed victory? Why try to win the battle by taking over God’s authority of our life and our punishment?

Next time we fall, let us not allow this failure from stopping us. Let us conquer the desire to be less than what God has made us to be.  We need to remember that we never deserved His love, yet he has given us more than we ever could have asked for.  All He says is to follow Him.  He has forgotten our sin as far as the east is from the west.  It’s time for us to dwell on how to fix the problem rather than punish ourselves for sins that the Lord has forgotten.  Christians must be proactive, not reactive.   The best athletes are the ones who start training even harder after a season ending failure. The best boxers are the ones who can get off the mat and fight back even stronger.  The most effective people are the ones who allow their failures to make them better.  They do not sorrow in their disappointment.  They hunger for the next opportunity.  Stay hungry for God’s word and life altering will. Because…

We are more than conquerors.

1 Comment

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One response to “Struggling with Repeated Sin

  1. This is such a timely word. It’s hard to grasp sometimes that God still likes us and still enjoys being in relationship with us even when we mess up on the same thing over and over and over again. I can think of one thing in particular in my own life that I’ve battled for years, and every time I think it’s in the past, suddenly there I am right in the middle of it again. Your attitude of “Be thankful for the wake up call! Now you have transparency!” is right on. Thanks!

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