Set apart. Holy. No longer slaves to sin. Different from the rest of the world because of Christ.
This is our calling as Christians, but what happens when we slip off our set apart path? What happens when we trip and find ourselves falling back into the ways of the world?
The Bible says that by accepting Christ, we are putting to death the old sinful self and taking on a new life in Christ. We are dead to sin and alive in Christ. It’s beautiful, but that can also seem like a lot of pressure when we aren’t made completely perfect until we meet Jesus face to face in heaven.
So how do we recover when we slip up and fall into sin?
I’m not talking the little things that can happen day to day. I’m talking the stuff that keeps us up at night, the sin that constantly nags at us, that we’ve repented of and vowed never to do again but which guilt just can’t seem to let us forget about.
How do we move on? How do we accept the forgiveness and renewal that Christ has offered to us when all we’re consumed with is shame?
First, we simply CANNOT forget what Jesus did for us on the cross!
Yes, we’re called to be set apart, but God knows we aren’t perfect. That’s the whole reason he sent his Son to die for us.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took all our sins with him.
So that leaves absolutely no room for guilt or shame. It leaves us with nothing but the holy, perfect, undeserved freedom that comes from grace alone.
Ephesians 1:7 says, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (NLT).
Paul writes that in the middle of a passage that talks about how we’ve been adopted into God’s family, made blameless before him because of Jesus, and received an eternal inheritance from God alone. It’s a beautiful picture of heavenly belonging that we didn’t deserve and that we can do absolutely nothing to lose.
The work on the cross is finished. We are forgiven, no matter what.
That means that we must forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us.
If God, the perfect and holy Creator of the universe, can and has forgiven us, who are we to refuse to forgive ourselves?
By refusing to forgive ourselves, we are, in a way, diminishing God’s sacrifice. If Jesus’ sacrifice is good enough for God, shouldn’t it be good enough for us?
One reason we might struggle with forgiving ourselves could be that we don’t necessarily define ourselves by Christ and Christ alone. I know I can frequently take a whole lot of pride in my accomplishments—and, conversely, feel a whole lot of shame when I mess up. But what I do doesn’t define me. It isn’t the cause of my salvation. In fact, good deeds are just a result of my salvation, just evidence of Jesus in me.
That means that the heart of who I am as a Christian isn’t my good or bad deeds: it’s Christ.
That being said, I find that reminding myself of who I am in Christ goes a long way in helping me accept Christ’s forgiveness and move away from guilt.
But can we still be set apart if we’ve messed up, big or small?
But of course! Don’t you see? That’s the beauty of the cross! It’s what makes Christianity so mind-bendingly awesome!
Jesus doesn’t expect us to uphold some crazy stringent set of requirements. All he wants from us is our heart.
Which means that, yes, we will mess up and yes, that’s okay. In fact, it gives us an opportunity to show off Jesus’ light in a whole new way.
By repenting and turning our backs on sin and looking up to Jesus for guidance, we are showing the world that there is a different way. We’re showing the world that we don’t have to be slaves to sin. We’re walking displays of Jesus’ sovereign grace.
And if that’s not the perfect example of the power and renewal of Jesus, then I don’t know what is.
Kayla Johansen – Column: Road Less Traveled