Below is another question that was sent in by a reader. He wants to know how to stop sinning. Don’t we all! Below his question I have included the answer I sent to him, but I am sure he would like for you to weigh in as well. As always, be gracious or be silent.
I need your advice. I was saved in 2005 and really pursued God and got close to Him. I have a reputation in my town and with my family as a big Christian. God used my to witness and that made people form the opinion of me. I have been living for him off and on. Finally the other night I drank some alcohol and slept with a girl. Now sometimes I feel awful. I feel like the biggest hypocrite alive. And I’m afraid if people found out it would discredit God. I used to live a life of integrity and had boldness. Now I am often reminded of what I have done and feel less than bold.
Thank you for any advice.
P.S. I know that you are very big on believing God always finishes His work in us. So my question is what do I do when I sin? I know it can’t be OK and fine to live in sin and claim to be a Christian. How do I get my confidence before God back by not sinning for a long time? That doesn’t seem right. And lastly if I try and witness I am reminded of my own sin so I lose confidence.
This is a very difficult question, as I know almost nothing about your situation, your beliefs, or your background.
But let me suggest this: It sounds to me like are trapped in religion. It may be the Christian religion, but it is still a religion.
One prominent sign of religion are the desire to live a certain way to give an impression to others that we are godly and spiritual. We hide from others who we really are, and we never, ever let them see our mistakes, our failures, or our weaknesses.
There are other indicators of religion as well, such as the desire to keep God happy with us through our obedience and the pressure to live by a set of rules and standards that keep us in good standing with others in our religious group.
I could go on and on about religion, but that is not going to helpful for you right now.
Here are my recommendations:
Learning to live the victorious Christian life is based on three things:
1. Honesty with God about who you are
Most sin comes from a failure to be honest with ourselves and with God about our own weaknesses and mistakes. We often try to put on a good show for God and others, hiding from them the real struggles that we face.
But if we are not honest with God about our struggles, then we will never be able to receive help from Him.
Though it may sound trite, confession to God of your sin is the beginning point of gaining freedom from that sin (and the guilt that comes with it). See 1 John 1:9-10.
Then every time you struggle with sin, with temptation, or even find yourself in the midst of sin, be honest with God about it.
There have been times when I have been in the midst of some sin, and I look at what I am doing and in the midst of that sin, pray, saying, “God … what am I doing?” Almost always, it seems to me that God says back, “Yeah, I was wondering the same thing.”
And then we are able to have a conversation about that sin, why I fell into the trap, and what I got out of it. Usually, such open and honest conversations with God help me resist the temptation when it comes at a later time.
As we are open and honest with God about our sin — even in the midst of the sin — we begin to understand that God is not scared off by our sin, nor is He shocked, surprised, or ashamed when we sin. God wants us to invite Him into our sin, not so that He can participate with us, but so that He can rescue us from it.
Living this way will help with my second recommendation.
2. Knowledge that God loves and forgives you NO MATTER WHAT
As we are honest with God about our sin, we will come to see that God loves us and forgives us no matter what.
Religion often teaches us that God’s forgiveness has a limit. But if Jesus tells us to forgive those who sin against us 490 times (which means … don’t even count, just always forgive), don’t you think that God Himself does the same thing toward us?
Infinite grace, love, and forgiveness is not a license to sin as many Christians assume, but is the starting place of learning to live without sin. Sin loses all its power when we realize that sin will not cause God to love us any less.
Learning to live in God’s love is essential to learning to beat sin and temptation.
3. Belief that as you are honest with God and rest in His love, He will conform you to Jesus Christ
When we are honest with God and learn to rest in God’s love, these two things allow God to begin to work in us in ways that we were trying to do in our own strength previously. When we are focused on a list of do’s and don’t’s, and behaviors and actions that we must practice for God to love us and forgive us, we are trying to live life on our own strength. If we are successful, we become self-righteous and proud. If we fail, we become depressed and desperate.
But when we are honest with God, and know that He is with us, loves us, and forgives us, it is from this place of resting in God’s love that He begins to perform His work within us. It takes time, to be sure, but God’s will can only be done in God’s time.
So those are my three recommendations.
Notice that I am not telling you to broadcast to your town and your family about what you have done. Some Christians would tell you do this, but I won’t. It might be important for you to make a public confession, but it might not. That is something between you and God. I think that as you incorporate the three recommendations above, God will make it clear to you how He wants you to proceed regarding your sin.
Let me say one thing though about your lack of boldness and confidence. I might be wrong, but it appears that your boldness came from your ability to be a good Christian. Now that you have failed, you no longer have the self-righteous pride you did before, and so lack the boldness. This is actually a very good thing. In that sense, praise God for the good work He is already accomplishing in your life as a result of your failure. We must not ever be confident in ourselves, but confident in God and His grace. How do you gain this confidence in Him? Through the three recommendations above.
Oh, and one last thing. As I was searching for images for this post, I found the two images below:
I laughed a bit because of the internet memes these images come from, but the images gets it right. One does not simply stop sinning. And we can wish to stop sinning and try to stop sinning all we want, but sin will be a constant reality this side of glory, and the sooner we learn that fact, the better. Again, this is not a license to sin, but an invitation to invite God into our sin, and let Him deal with it as only He can.
I hope this helps a little bit. Hopefully some of the comments below will be helpful as well.