There is little else that can hang the head of the Christian so low than giving in to a stubborn sin. We can become exhausted and discouraged by a relapse into lust, or the reemergence of a sinful habit. There goes that temper again, or that pride, or that jealousy. The Christian’s growth in grace is often a one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of deal. And let’s be honest: there may be aspects of our life where we don’t see spiritual progress at all!
If you’re struggling with that one sin that never seems to go away, the one that has a perfect record when facing off against you in the ring, that’s when you need the good news of the inexhaustible grace and love of Jesus more than ever. Why? Because when we’re low we’re more likely to believe that devilish lie that God’s love is contingent on our performance. We may think that his forgiveness can be depleted. We sin again—for the umpteenth time—and then think, “Will God really forgive me this time?” For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, here’s your answer: Yes! To remember that, take to heart these three truths:
The Abundance of His Grace
I was perplexed, like most Americans, this past summer when I started seeing notices all over town that there was a nation-wide coin shortage. Suddenly, I had to pay with exact change, or in some instances I couldn’t pay with cash at all! I never once pondered that we might run out of coins in our country. They were so ubiquitous I would hardly consider bending over to pick up a quarter if I spotted one on the sidewalk—there would always be another. Apparently not. I never questioned the production of our national mint, and it failed me.
On the other hand, repeat sinners often call into question the dependability of God’s character and promise, yet he will never fail us. When God tells us that he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6), he means it. We are quick to sin, but he is slow to anger. His anger is in short supply, but he overflows with steadfast love and faithfulness. As God is infinite in his being, so he is infinite in grace—he is infinite in his commitment to you. This is irrespective of our commitment, or lack thereof, to him. The gloriously freeing gospel truth is that even “if we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Tim. 2:13). His grace is as an ocean without brim or bottom and as big as God himself.
The Depth of His Love
The Apostle’s Creed, an ancient summary of Christian doctrine, teaches that Jesus “was crucified, died, was buried. He descended into hell.” This reality is a needed remedy for the wearied and worn sinner. Do you feel laid low by sin? Do you feel pummeled, even buried, by the weight of guilt? Here we learn that Christ was laid lower and buried deeper. Christ’s descent into hell is a measuring stick for you to use when you want to know how much God loves you: In Christ, he takes on the curse of your sins—even the repeated ones.
In years gone by, you likely read the classic children’s story, Guess How Much I Love You, where the bunny Little Nutbrown Hare tries to outdo his father, Big Nutbrown Hare, in displays of love and affection. But he finds out if he says he loves his dad as far as his arms can stretch, his dad’s arms can stretch further. If he says he loves him as high as he can hop, his dad can hop higher. At last, Little Nutbrown Hare thinks he has got it: “I love you right up to the moon.” “Oh, that’s far,” said Big Nutbrown Hare. “That is very, very far.” But then he lays down close by and whispers with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon—and back.”
That’s something of what Scripture says about God’s immeasurable love to us: “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds” (Ps. 36:5). How deep is God’s love for you? In Christ, it’s as deep as the deepest pit in hell. It’s also as high as the highest court in heaven, for Christ did not remain in the tomb. God loves us, not to the moon and back, but to the grave and back.
The Strength of His Arm
The grand point of hearing of God’s pardoning mercy is that we would “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). We innately know this is easier said than done. There will be multiple reasons why certain sins are more stubborn than others: our history, our physiology, our environment, and so on. But one thing that should never be cause for continued sinning is a dejected determination that God is holding the sin over us anyway. Rather, we are told in Psalm 103 that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (v. 12).
The way we cast off “the sin which clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1) is by believing the declaration that God has already cast off these sins for us. And when God casts something away, it can never be caught. When we confess our sins by looking to Christ, God entirely removes our sins. He throws them the unretrievable distance of east to west. And this he does again and again and again. Since God’s arm never grows tired, we should never grow discouraged to set out afresh in the way of obedience.