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How Do You React to Your Sins?
By David A. DePra
Are you in despair over not being able to overcome a particular sin? Are you depressed over your spiritual condition? Does your continual failure to be what you think God wants you to be weigh you down – every day, perhaps even every minute? Does all of this seem to come between yourself and God, to the point where it is even hard to pray about it? If these things are true of you, then despite the fact that your failure may be real, you have a bigger problem: Your reaction to your failure. And it is THIS that the enemy is using against you.
The reality is, our reactions of fear, anger, despair, and confusion OVER our sin are usually a much bigger problem than the sin itself. Indeed, as we are going to see, those reactions are actually what keep us in the sin itself. THEY are the bigger problem. Deal with those, and you have dealt with the core of what is wrong.
There are fundamentally TWO possible reactions when we sin – when everything is said and done. Those two are FAITH or UNBELIEF. Each speak of what we do with our sin. To whom do we turn?
Because we do not understand what faith is, we act as if faith and unbelief are things which HAPPEN TO US. It is almost like we are spectators to our own faith. So if faith, "happens," then we feel we are doing good. But if doubt, fear, or unbelief rules, then we feel as if there is something wrong with us. But all of this is nothing more than a description of deception. Faith doesn’t HAPPEN TO US. Faith is a choice – faith is something WE MAKE HAPPEN. And the fact is, we can make faith happen anytime we want.
Somewhere along the way, we get the notion that if we are truly Christians, and if the Holy Spirit is really in us, that faith should automatically, "happen to us." But this is wrong. Faith is not something that happens to us. Faith is a choice. And so is unbelief. And we must choose one or the other when we sin.
We are going to sin and fail. The question is whether we turn to God in faith, or react to our sin with despair, unbelief, or confusion. It is this CHOICE or REACTION TO SIN that provides the basis upon which everything else turns. Many Christians have been deceived into thinking that there is nothing they can do about their reactions. So first they fail or sin. Then they react by getting fearful or depressed over the fact they could have sinned in such a way. Then they react with despair over the fact that they are fearful and depressed. Then they further react to the fact they are in despair. All of this is a vicious cycle – one that is opened up back in the beginning when we did not turn in faith and rest in the finished work of Christ.
You see, the problem is that we are not settled on the finished work of Jesus Christ. So when we sin, or fail, we are vulnerable to the suggestions of the enemy. Our emotions react, and perhaps we fear – we fear our condition, and even despair over it. Can we see that it is precisely at this point that the enemy is at work? Can we see that the sin which started the whole thing is not the problem here, or even the primary point of vulnerability – even if it was a real sin? No. The primary point of vulnerability here is our REACTION TO our failure. Because we are not standing by faith in what Christ has done, the enemy is able to use our fear and emotions against us. He is able to feed us a spirit of fear, doubt, and condemnation. For we have little faith to combat it. We have no defense against these lies.
The question is never whether we will sin. We will. Rather, the question is what we do with the sin. And the incredible irony is that if we do with it what God says, we will eventually find, in that choice of faith, the power to stop sinning. You and I will never find peace and freedom with God through our good works. We will find it only through His finished work. Faith.
Taking A Stand
Many people allow their emotions to govern their WILLS. This isn’t something they even realize they are doing. But if they feel a certain way, in time they begin to choose that way, and even interpret life through those emotions. The opposite ought to be the case for Christians who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Our emotions are NEVER going to obey God on their own. Our emotions cannot believe – they aren’t "believing" components of our makeup. We must obey and believe with our WILLS. If we do, then in time our emotions will line up with our wills. Not perfectly. But in a more controlled way.
When we sin and fail, we have a choice. That choice isn’t something that HAPPENS TO US. It is a choice we must make, and, through Christ, have the power to make. We have the power to choose to stand upon the finished work of Christ, or the power to allow the lies of the enemy, and our emotions, to rule us. The first step to freedom is to realize that, in Christ, we DO have that freedom.
The power of the enemy over Christians is restricted to deception. So the enemy cannot make you sin, or make you fail to stand by faith. But he will try to blind you to the fact that you DO, right now, have the power to stand by faith when you sin. He will use your doubts, emotions, and fears to create an atmosphere wherein it seems impossible that you can believe. He will cast a shadow over the face of God and make God seem as if He is inaccessible.
If you are a Christian, and you feel as if you cannot get through to God, the Devil is working. You provide him with the material – your fears, and perhaps even disobedience and unbelief. But no matter how real it might seem that God is not there for you, HE IS THERE FOR YOU. The reality of that doesn’t depend upon YOUR perception of it. It depends upon HIM.
At some point, we must decide whether we believe. It is just that simple. Especially when we sin. Either we believe that what God says is the Truth, or we believe that what we feel is the Truth. Either we believe that our emotions, perception, and fear are LIES – enhanced by the enemy, or we believe they are the Truth. The enemy will be perfectly content as long as we merely DEBATE the issue. That is enough to keep us out of faith, and in confusion. God wants us to cut the chord, and risk all on Him. He wants us to believe and refuse to be moved from our faith.
Notice how the apostle Paul treats spiritual warfare as, "business as usual" for Christians:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Eph 6:10-18)
We must stand by faith AGAINST the suggestions of the enemy. But how do we do this, in a practical way?
Imagine being alone in a room, with two radios blasting away, one at each end of the room. You are not allowing to touch the volume knobs on either one of them. One radio is playing Christian music. The other is playing bad stuff. Is it possible for you, without physically touching either radio, to sort of TUNE OUT the bad stuff, by TUNING IN the good music? Sure. We all do that everyday. It is a matter of choice and focus.
Note that if you, "tune out," the bad music, and, "tune in," the good, that the bad does not go away. No. It is there as before. But YOU are not being affected by it – not much. YOU are listening to the good stuff! But notice the folly of trying to simply tune out the bad music without tuning in the good music. It just won’t work.
Such is the case spiritually. You cannot just stand there and resist the enemy. Indeed, the more you try to fight fear and doubt, the bigger they become, because your attention is on them. The way you resist fear is by treating it as you would any other lie: Stop listening to it. But more importantly, stop reacting to it. It is a LIE. Stop reacting to a lie.
All through the Bible, we are taught to resist evil, resist the Devil, etc. But how? By trying to defeat these things? No. By walking in victory. In the final analysis, we don’t need deliverance from a defeated enemy. We need to see we are delivered, and begin walking in victory.
God does say that if we resist the enemy, he will flee from us. But we must resist him, not by fighting him, but by focusing on God. One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is to try to DEFEAT a DEFEATED enemy! You don’t have to defeat him. He is defeated. What he is trying to do is convince you he is not defeated, or that you are not forgiven. The key to defeating him is to NOT believe him, but believe God. Again – faith.
So how do we do that? We CHOOSE to speak the Truth in our hearts. We praise and worship – not as a ploy or gimmic, but because it is the Truth. Rather than just fight the bad, we are to counter it with the good.
In the above passage, Paul doesn’t tell us to simply fight the enemy. He says to STAND AGAINST the enemy – by, "putting on," the many defensive elements of the victory of Jesus. The items mentioned are primarily defensive because the Christian warfare operates from VICTORY, not from trying to win a victory. The finished victory of Christ IS ours, but becomes ours in a practical way once we believe and stand in faith. As John said, "This is the victory….our faith." (I Jn. 5:4)
If you and I are waiting for God to come down and make unbelief go away, we are wasting our time. If you and I are waiting for God to make fear go away, we have a long wait. God isn’t going to remove from us the possibility of these things. But in Christ, these things are not reflective of the Truth. Thus, we are able to overcome them by BELIEVING, and then by standing in that faith, no matter how much our emotions or fears might otherwise dictate.
Christians sometimes have more difficulty with their reactions over their sins than they do with the sin itself. That is because the reaction of unbelief gives place to the enemy. He is able to play on that and bring in all kinds of spiritual destruction. Thus, we must take a stand at that point – when we sin – and believe that in Christ we have the victory. There is simply no other way we can experience the victory of Jesus.
This is not easy, and the enemy will try to convince us that, "it is not working," or that, "we are kidding ourselves." But again – do we believe God, or our emotions, fears, and perceptions? Do we believe Jesus died for ALL of our sins? If we do, then we are, right now, as forgiven as we are ever going to be! Completely. Are we willing to STAND in that Truth at all costs – against all that would exalt itself against the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ?
The number one thing which Christians use as PROOF that they are not right with God is their sins. But notice that we are really saying that OUR WORKS determine our standing with God. Our sins are not proof we are right with God, anymore than our sins are proof we are wrong with God. We are right with God for only one cause: His Son, Jesus Christ, and our faith in HIM.
So rather than react to our failures and sins with unbelief and fear – and thus providing a forum for the enemy – God would have us immediately turn and rest our faith in the Cross. There is no sin we can commit or be in bondage to that was not placed in Jesus Christ on the Cross. Thus, God is as finished forgiving our sin as Jesus is finished dying. We are forgiven people.
This matter of faith vs. unbelief is not a bunch of psychological mumbo-jumbo. It is reality, and has to do with the realm and spirit which governs us. It speaks directly to our relationship to God. The freedom of the Christian walk is at stake here. It is upon these things that so much of our experience in Jesus Christ depends. The Holy Spirit, who Jesus said would lead us into all Truth, will show us these things if we will continue to seek God for the Truth.
How do you react when you sin? Hopefully the way GOD HIMSELF reacts when you sin! You believe that He knows better than you do! You stand in the Truth of God's forgiveness and refuse to be moved. *
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