Five ways not to respond when you sin

We’ve all been there.

That stupid decision. A click onto that website. That angry outburst.

The Bible says that before we were Christians we were slaves to sin – that we couldn’t avoid sinning (Romans 6:20). But now, in Jesus, we’re set free from sin.

And then we sin - we ditch God’s good commands for a good life and wander off looking for a better option. A sinful one.

Here are five ways not to respond when we do that.

#1 Think it doesn’t matter

‘No one knew about it. And it didn’t hurt anyone. God understands that I’m tired and upset.’

‘God’s already saved me, so I’ll be forgiven if I gossip about that colleague again at lunch.’

This one has a long history that goes all the way back to Eve in Eden. Satan convinced her that disobeying God wasn’t such a big deal (Genesis 3:4-5). God was a bit of a kill-joy anyway.

Well, we all know how that went.

Don’t make excuses for your sin. Don’t make light of it. If it was serious enough to send Jesus to die on a cross, it’s serious enough to fight with all your being.

No longer being a slave to sin means that sin’s no longer your master (Romans 6:14). You have God’s Holy Spirit living in you, not to make light of sin, but to give you the power to fight it.

God’s your Father and loves you, so aim to live in a way that pleases him. If you love Jesus, do everything you can to grow in obedience to him (John 14:15).

#2 Doubt you’re a Christian

‘Christians shouldn’t struggle with this. I can’t really be one of Jesus’s people if I keep slipping back into these sinful thoughts again.’

Don’t be like Peter. He denied Jesus three times and when he realised what he’d done, ‘he wept bitterly’ (Luke 22:62). This was it for his friendship with Jesus. Or so he thought.

Not so (John 21:19).

If you profess to be a Christian, you are professing to be a sinner. And the thing about sinners is that they sin.

If we deny that we sin then we lie to ourselves and make God out to be a liar (1 John 1:8-10). God’s Spirit may have set us free from the power of sin, but the presence of sin will linger until we’re with the Lord.

Don’t doubt that you’re a Christian when you sin. Remind yourself that Jesus didn’t come for the righteous but for sinners (Mark 2:17). Like you and me.

He came so that we could say: ‘he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).

 #3 Think you’re the only one

‘I want to please God, but just end up doing the complete opposite. And all my Christian friends are doing great. Maybe I’m the only one finding God’s word hard to obey.’

Here’s a thought. The Christian who’s had the greatest influence for Christ across history described himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

He really knew the battle to obey God: ‘I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing’ (Romans 7:19).

When you sin, join the apostle Paul in praising God for our forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 7:25).

Remember, being a Christian means being a sinner. When we try and appear perfect and ‘together’ we’re effectively saying, ‘I don’t need Jesus.’

Buck the trend. Confess your sins. Ask others in your church to pray for you. Your honesty will free them up from the burden of putting on a perfect front and allow them to be what they are – sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:5).

 #4 Hide from God

‘I’ve fallen into that pattern of sin again. I’m too ashamed to go to church or pray because I’ve messed up: God won’t want me to come to him now that he’s seen what I’ve done again.’

This was Adam’s tack. “Quick, Eve. Hide so that the one who sees all things won’t see us.”

God sees you (Proverbs 5:21). But most important of all, he loves you (1 John 4:10-11).

He saw you and loved you before sending his son to die for you. Think about that. He died for you in the full knowledge that you would sin in the way you just have.

So don’t run away. Turn to him, not away from him. Turn to promises and find hope and forgiveness.

By confessing your sin to God you can feel again the joy of your salvation won for you by Christ (Psalm 51:12).

#5 Make it right

‘I’ve messed up again! I’ll pray a bit more and spend longer doing my quiet time tomorrow then God will see I’m ok after all.’

When you sin, don’t be like the Pharisee who looked to his own good works to tip the scales in his favour (Luke 18:11-12).

We can’t make ourselves right before God: doing things will not deal with our sin problem (Romans 3:28). Helping serve coffee at church, leading a Bible study or praying for hours day and night won’t make you right with God.

Instead, accept God’s free gift of moral and spiritual perfection through Jesus. We have a God who ‘justifies the ungodly’ because of his great kindness to us (Romans 4:5).

Accepting this free gift by faith in Jesus is the only way to be rid of our sin (Philippians 3:9).

What to do when you sin

When you’re tempted to think that sin doesn’t matter, remember that sin was serious enough that Jesus left his throne in heaven to rescue you (Philippians 2:7).

Jesus didn’t only free you from sin; he freed you to a new life that pleases God (2 Corinthians 5:9). So make that your aim.

When you’re tempted to despair at your failure to do this, remember that Jesus’ life is now yours. His perfection is yours. His life is yours. His standing before God is yours (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Because of this, God is no more likely to reject you than his own son (John 6:39) – the one who he’s been in perfect relationship with forever (John 17:5).

In other words, his love’s going nowhere. You’re on your way to be with him. So get ready to go be with him. You’re about to meet the king - along with all the other sinners he died for.