For me, I find the sins that I commit to be a literal scar upon my conscience, and the more I study God’s Word, the more I feel the damnation in sin itself, but yet I continue to do what I hate. And at times, it depresses me; at others, it infuriates me; but at the end of the day, I feel the weight of condemnation on my conscience by my sinful acts. For me there is no greater comfort than God’s Word so let us turn there together, my brothers and sisters in the faith.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:15
This perfectly describes my feelings about my sin. I do not understand why I do what I do, I hate these things I do with a righteous hatred (not that I am righteous in and of myself, but that my hatred is not a malicious hatred but a hatred of sin, a just hate, a righteous hatred), but yet I still do them, as if I desire to do them. But yet that desire is only momentary, lasting as long as the act, and after the act all I feel is shame and damnation, and yet another slash across my conscience; just as the Psalmist declares: “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:4) and again: “For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” (Psalm 38:17-18). And that feeling of condemnation only increases when the cross is brought to the forefront of my mind’s eye. I don’t believe that anything can be more convicting than when one sins to have the cross immediately put before their eyes after their deed of wickedness is done.
Let us see more of what Paul has to say:
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. – Romans 7:17-20
Here Paul exemplifies the struggle that I, and many, if not all, of my brothers and sisters in the faith are continually going through, this warring of two natures within us: the flesh, in which “nothing good dwells” and the reborn nature in which we have “the desire to do what is right”, but yet our flesh removes our “ability to carry it out” (“it” being the desire of the reborn nature). For what we wish is not what we do but the evil that we do not want to do. But here the comfort comes in verse twenty: “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me”. Here the comfort is in a few things: firstly, that Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus, fought this same battle before us; secondly, that it is not us who do these things but our flesh, in which sin dwells. Not that we are not responsible for our sin – I assure you that we are accountable for every deed and word – but rather that the work that God has done in us [(making us alive in Christ Jesus and giving us a new heart and a new desire (Ephesians 2:1-10)] is not defective or somehow not true. The issue, as it appears to me in my life, is that we do not “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” enough, because we often forget that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”.
And as for the conscience of the believer whose sin is ever before him, Paul says to you:
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. – Romans 8:33-34
Who is to accuse us? If Christ has paid for our sin, then God “will be merciful toward [our] iniquities, and [He] will remember[our] sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). And who is to condemn? Did not Christ bear our griefs and carried out sorrows? Was He not pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities? And hasn’t the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all? (Isaiah 53:4-6). If Christ has not only died but risen that we might be made righteous in the eyes of God, then how shall our sin make us any less His children? Not that we ought to live however we please, on the contrary, we are to live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1), but Christ Himself declares that “no one will snatch [us] out of [His] hand” (John 10:28). And John also declares, “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). Let not our weaknesses make the cleansing work of Christ any less effective, but rather strive to live “worthy of the calling” but yet, at the same time, do not think that God will cast you out for your sin, for Christ Himself says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37); the work of God will be done, and Christ will never cast out whoever that comes to Him.
And so, in closing I shall leave you all with this quote from the movie ‘Luther’, in which the actor that plays Martin Luther says these words which I find comfort in:
“So when the devil throws your sins in you face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
– Martin Luther
Blessings to you, and remember the words of Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).