As a Christian, I desperately want to be completely free from sin, to leave the old nature behind like a snake shedding its skin. Instead, as Paul wrote, I still find myself doing the things that I don’t want to do, and not doing the things that I want to do. We are familiar with the numerous sins listed in the Bible, of course. But what about the sins not listed?
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” ~ James 4:17
“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” ~ 1 Tim 1:19
I read that, and think, “Oh no, I’m doomed.” My conscience is regularly pricking at me, and more often than not, I find myself again weighed down by a sense of guilt over ill-timed words, impulsive actions, a whole myriad of real and imagined offenses against God and others. I stand condemned by self.
But then, I read:
“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.” ~ 1 John 3:20-21
“My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” ~ 1 John 2:1-2
I cannot begin to tell you how priceless those verses have become to me. Rather than having to ask God’s forgiveness, and then spend hours trying to “feel” it, I am now able to stand on passages like the ones above in faith. Even though my heart may still not be in alignment with His word, to remember that God is greater than my feelings, that there is no condemnation in Him, and that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive them. Our feelings are not a reliable indicator of how forgiven or not we are.
This is part of the wonder of grace.