Read our other “Tactic” articles below!
Tactics: Waging Wise Warfare for Your Sexual Purity – A New Series
Tactic #1: Fight From Your Justification, Not For It
Tactic #2: Recognize that Your Soul is at Stake
Tactic #3: Don’t Despise God’s Good Gift
Tactic #4: Anticipate the Battle
Tactic #5: Anticipate Progress
Tactic #6: Prioritize Bible Reading, Meditation, and Prayer
One of the ways men are often waylaid by lust is by their inability to get back on their spiritual feet after they’ve sinned. The shame that attends this sin is often so deep that, despite their knowledge of the gospel, some brothers find it difficult to come back into communion with Christ. This is where Satan has caused great confusion among Christian men. The gospel says, “Come, sinner, with all your filth to be cleansed in the blood of Christ” (see Isa 55:1; Rom 4:5; 1 John 1:9). Satan says, “You can’t come to Christ now. You’ve sinned so badly. You must wait awhile, make grand resolutions, and promise to never commit such a sin again before Christ will ever entertain your presence.” This is a lie. A pious-sounding lie, but a lie nonetheless, and one that will keep us from attending to the remedy we desperately need.
Charles Spurgeon recognized that this temptation to delay coming to Christ after we’ve sinned a great sin would cause great trouble in the Christian’s life. He offers us wise counsel that we must heed if we are going to make an advance on our enemy.
In your most depressed seasons you are to get joy and peace through believing. “Ah!” says one, “but suppose you have fallen into some great sin—what then? Why then the more reason that you should cast yourself upon him. Do you think Jesus Christ is just for little sinners? Is he a doctor that only heals finger-aches? Beloved, it is not faith to trust Christ when I have not any sin, but it is true faith when I am foul, and black, and filthy; when during the day I have tripped up and fallen, and done serious damage to my joy and peace, to go back again to that dear fountain and say, “Lord, I never loved washing so much before I do to-night, for to-day I have made a fool of myself; I have said and done what I ought not to have done, and I am ashamed and full of confusion, but I believe Christ can save me, even me, and I will rest in him still.”Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, 173.
Satan’s trickery would have us believe that our sins and failures are beyond any remedy found in the gospel. Subtly, he suggests the idea that Christ only welcomes those with minor infractions, not those who, like us, have committed great evils of unbelief, anger, and lust. Our hearts, still not yet entirely immune to the infection of legalism, easily believe such righteous-sounding fabrications, and we keep ourselves at a distance from Jesus.
The spiral produced by such backward thinking can only spin in one direction. If I can’t go to Jesus with my most grievous sins, then I will have no resources to fight this and other sins. Away from Jesus, I lean on my own resources which lead me back into the filth I tried by my own willpower to escape. Piling up sin after sin with no recourse (it seems) to a merciful Savior, our troubles mount only higher. If Satan can keep us in this spiritual corkscrew, he will have done much to remove our joy, our power against sin, and our ministry effectiveness. One little nail—a crafty, plausible-sounding lie—in the tire of our conscience, and we can now, at best, only hobble slowly from town to town.
But Scripture sets us back on track. We must be reminded that God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5). When we first came to Christ, God forgave all our sins and imputed Christ’s righteousness to our account. Every sin that we committed up to that point and every sin we would commit from that point onward was paid for at the cross (Col 2:13). The moment we were justified, however, we were still ungodly. The ground for our justification was not located in any amount of relative righteousness in us. We were filthy, unclean, worthless, unrighteous (see Rom 3:10-19). The kind of sin we committed prior to our salvation—whether it was lying or bank fraud or murder—is irrelevant. Even the smallest infraction is worthy of an eternal judgment (James 2:10). Besides, we were rebellious at the deepest core of our personhood so that everything we did—every thought, motive, feeling, word, and deed—was foul in God’s sight (Rom 8:8).
But that’s precisely when Jesus saved us, justified us, and cleansed us, adorning us with a righteousness that was not our own (Rom 3:21-26; 5:8). Having graciously delivered us out of a state of undiluted, unchecked rebellion, would our Savior reject us when, as his beloved disciple, we sin, even grievously? The answer we must shout to our souls is a resounding, “No!” Satan’s lie cannot withstand the logic of Scripture. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:10). If God saved us and invited us into his family while we were his staunchest enemy, will he not keep us to the end now that he has draped us in the righteousness of his beloved Son? The expected answer is, “Yes. A thousand times, yes!”
Therefore, brother, although you must be ever-active in putting sin to death, you must also be ever-ready to go to Jesus when you fail. Resist the temptation to stand at arm’s length from Christ when you’ve sinned. Remind yourself of the gospel of grace, of the basis for your right standing with God, of your repulsive status prior to your conversion and the mercy God had upon you when he saved you (Rom 3:10-19; Titus 3:4-7). Remind yourself that Jesus came to save the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:12-16) and go directly to him with your sin, confessing it, turning from it, and receiving his gracious forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Only by this method of sanctification will we ever make progress in our battle against lust.