This week we talked about how to recover after we have stumbled in sin – the procedure for picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and getting back onto the high road to Zion. A good bit of time is spent discussing 1 John 1:9, and how obtaining forgiveness really is as simple as this verse says: if we confess to God (and mean it), then God does forgive us just like that, because Jesus Christ has already paid the price to redeem us.
(Derived from https://ichthys.com/6A-Peripateo.htm)
What to make of the fact that we all sin?
Hebrews 12:12-13 | translation from Ichthys
(12) Therefore (going back to the race analogy of v.1), pick up those hands hanging slack at your side, put some strength back into your weak knees, (13) and make straight tracks for your feet, so that, [even though you fell down,] what you sprained might not be twisted completely out of joint, but might instead work its way back to health.
No one has ever run a perfect race. No one has ever fought a perfect fight.
In spiritual terms, while we deeply desire to walk perfectly with our Lord at all times – and that is the standard to which we have been called – sinless perfection is something which even the most mature of believers will never achieve.
The great believers of the Bible may have come close, but even they had feet of clay (and some of their more prominent lapses are recorded in scripture in part to assure us that this principle is true).
The fact of imperfection must not, however, be allowed to become a justification or rationale for sloppiness in our spiritual walk.
Quite to the contrary, we ought to be humbled by the knowledge that “we all stumble much” (Jas.3:2), and for that very reason make it a top priority to defend against just such stumbling as far are we are able to do so. But even with our best effort, there will be times when we fail, for “all sin” (Rom.3:23).
When we do fail, when we do sin, when we do fall into some bad pattern or fall out of our good pattern that has brought us to where we are in our spiritual advance, the advice given by Paul in the quote above should be embraced immediately and energetically: we need to get back up; we need to pull ourselves back together; and we need to get back into the race just as soon as is humanly possible.
Wash don’t wallow
Nothing is worse than allowing sin to beget sin and torpor to beget torpor until we find ourselves in some terrible funk of spiritual free fall where one mistake leads to another in a vicious circle of retrogression.
As the contemporary proverb goes, “when you find yourself in a hole, first – stop digging”. This is good advice. If we are engaged in wrong doing of any kind, first, we need to stop it at once. That is the first principle of recovery from all spiritual defeats.
To this most important of points, we add the following:
Confess to the Lord
Whatever we may have thought, said or done, however many times we have thought it, or said it, or done it, however long and however far our stumble has been, we are promised absolutely absolute forgiveness upon confession along with restoration of fellowship with the Father and the Son whom we love more than life itself (Ps.32:5; 1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.51:1-19).
We should make it a habit to confess immediately whenever we err. If we do make this our practice, we will find that we are less likely to turn a small stumble into a precipitous fall.
Accept God’s forgiveness
When we do confess, we must accept that God’s promise to forgive us is true and that we have indeed been forgiven. The discipline we have received may continue – as when we forgive a penitent child without necessarily restoring his or her privileges immediately (in order to let the lesson sink in).
But we are within our rights – and indeed it is really obligatory – to accept the glory and the warmth of our Lord’s love and fellowship again, immediately after we turn back to Him and confess whatever we may have done that was offensive to Him (Lk.15:22-24).
For whatever reason, many believers are harder on themselves than the Lord is. He does discipline us, but in a loving way – as a father comports himself towards the son he loves (Heb.12:5-11).
We need to remember that discipline is His job, not ours. It is a subtle form of arrogance to continue to mope around after confession, after having received God’s forgiveness.
Such pointless exercises in self-flagellation are at the least border-line legalistic, gain no points with God, and only delay the believers return to the race and to the fight.
Just as soon as we are back on our feet, we need to put ourselves mentally back into the race.
From a spiritual point of view, that means remembering that we are very dear to our Savior, that the Father loves us with a perfect love, that this life is temporary, and that what is going on down here on planet earth is really only important in a lasting way in terms of its spiritual import.
We need to reorient to the truth of why we are here: to please Jesus Christ; and to what we are about and have purposed to do: to grow up to spiritual maturity and to keep growing, to progress in our walk with the Lord and to keep progressing, and to help our brothers and sisters in His Church do likewise through the ministrations we are given to provide in their behalf – and to keep doing so might and main, all the way to the end.
We need to remember to respond to the Spirit who is telling us this at all times as He reminds us that our Christian hope “does not disappoint” (Rom.5:5), because we know absolutely by faith that we are saved, that we have a perfect, eternal body in waiting for us, that we have a place in the New Jerusalem in the presence of the Lord we love forever, and that if we persevere in running this race we also have fantastic eternal rewards in store, the least of which is worth more than this entire, temporary world we now behold.
Looking back is not productive for us as Christians
It should also be noted that long post-mortems following spiritual defeats serve no useful purpose and can often cause us to set our gaze looking backwards instead of forwards as we ought to be doing.