For some reason, other than just our “sin nature,” letting go of bad habits is hard. Like, really hard.
We get in our mind that we have to have the thing and then we absolutely refuse to let go of the thing. For me, the thing is Starbucks. I’m very much aware of the fact that I can make coffee at home; that there are all kinds of knockoff recipes on Pinterest and that I could save a boatload of money if I stopped venturing to Starbucks every. single. day. Buuuut…there’s something about that little green lady and the quality of the coffee (please, no debate on Dunkin vs. Starbucks. Been there, done that…Dunkin isn’t Starbucks. Period) that keeps me pulled in.
At the beginning of 2015 I managed to kick one nasty habit and put down my daily Dr. Pepper. I still indulge on occasion, but I typically don’t drink soda anymore. And when I do, it gives me a headache and a sugar crash; which was part of the reason that I finally gave those up.
In some of my time in counseling-both with pastors and with psychologists-I’ve spent some time discussing addictions and sin; the depravity of our culture…how far we’ve fallen from the glory in which we were originally created in…how stubborn and hell-bent on doing what we want we have all become.
There also seems to be this misinterpreted thought that since we have grace, we can do what we want. This is totally off base and not at all what Grace is about.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins.
That’s all it takes right? We recognize and realize that our sins are, well, sins. That they are wrong and that we should repent. So we close our eyes (if we’re really feeling holy on a particular day), pray a little prayer of “God please forgive me for [insert your sin of preference here]” and go about our merry way. I envision us kind of doing this half-hearted thing and more or less wiping our hands of the bad decision we’ve just made; as if to say,
Alright, I prayed. I’m forgiven. Time to move on with my life like nothing has ever happened. God promised me forgiveness if I ask, so there. That’s done…
Right? Or am I the only one who has ever prayed this half-hearted prayer, believing that it’s all good because, “Jesus loves me and, well, grace…”
You see friends, it really just doesn’t work that way. No matter how badly we want it to. It just doesn’t. True repentance…true grace…true acceptance of the gift of Salvation that Jesus Christ came to offer results in a change of heart and a desire to not sin.
I think it was Candace Cameron Burr’s Convocation Speech at Liberty University that first drew me to this; that first made me really stop and think about it. She referenced a scene in the Left Behind movies/books where Pastor Bruce Barnes gets left on Earth following the Rapture. She spends a lot of time talking about this idea…this willful and intentional sin that so many of us continue to battle.
- Finally find the strength, through God alone, to let that sin go. No matter how long we’ve tried to do it on our own, no matter how many times we’ve tried or how many “anonymous” meetings we have attended. That once impossible feat becomes a thing of the past that we can learn from, grow from and maybe even inspire and encourage others to do the same. OR
- Continue to live in that sin, but rather than finding any kind of happiness in that or relief or whatever we were once finding in that sinful behavior, we find nothing but despair and pain and heartache. What we once turned to for a release or for a high of some kind (whether physically through substance abuse or emotionally through something like pornography or inappropriate relationships) suddenly becomes a burden too great to carry until we are forced to let it go.
As someone who has battled with any number of demons in my life, I can attest to number two…there were times in my life where the guilt and the shame of the sin that I was in burdened my heart so deeply that I couldn’t even function anymore. When we choose to accept Christ as our personal Savior, it’s that kind of pain that he was experiencing in a much greater magnitude for the sake of that burden that we bare. My grief and shame over some of my mistakes has been so deep and so heavy that at times I began to feel like I physically couldn’t breathe.
There’s also a misconception that this verse strips us of our salvation…
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins… – Hebrews 10:26
That’s inaccurate as well. You don’t lose salvation once you’ve gained it. There is no stipulation for the things that we must do or the rules that we must follow in order to gain access to the Kingdom of Heaven. We just simply have to believe and trust and have faith that Jesus is who He says he is.
Just for clarification purposes, that verse refers to the sin of blasphemy and the intentional denial of Jesus Christ as Lord, which ultimately just means that a person hears of the good news of Christ but intentionally chooses NOT to believe it. This doesn’t refer to any sin of human flesh that you may battle on any given day. Just because you told a lie knowing that it was wrong doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden are doomed to Hell because you did it knowing it was wrong.
[pullquote]A true believer, one with a repentant heart for Jesus Christ, won’t seek to do things that they know are wrong.[/pullquote] We don’t desire to just go out and have an affair or go out and steal something from a department store or fabricate some elicit story to make ourselves look better. Because we know better. Just as we, as parents, expect to teach our children right from wrong and expect to watch them make mistakes time and time again, Christ does the same thing. And He expects the same thing from us.
It’s amazing how easily we (as moms and dads) can forgive our children for making mistakes but tend to forget how to forgive and overlook the mistakes of adults as they get older (or overlook the mistakes we make ourselves). We were never created to be perfect. And as long as we are on this side of entirety, we never will be.
Day Five Prayer of Release
Father God, I realize that there are things in my life that I’m still holding onto. While my sin may not be as big or as small as someone else’, I know that there are sins in my life that I need to release to you. I hold onto [insert your struggle here] with a fierce intensity because I fear that I won’t be able to let it go. I’m afraid that I can’t do it. And in my own strength, I know that I can’t. Lord, I pray that you would come alongside me and help me to release this sin once and for all. You paid it all, and all to you I owe. Your sacrifice on Calvary washed away all of my unrighteousness and I praise you for your gift of Salvation.
If you feel like you still need prayer or help in overcoming an area of your life that you’re struggling through, I invite you to submit a prayer request so we, as a community, can cover you in prayer. Or feel free to contact me directly if you just need someone to talk to. My virtual door is always open.