Sin Never Defines a Christian
It is really easy to be dragged down by guilt. Though it seems right to let the blackness of sin define us at times. This is never how Jesus sees us.
We are washed clean.
We are new creations in Christ.
We are not bound by our sins, despair or guilt.
It may be a familiar cycle. We feel the temptation to sin, fall into sin despite the conviction, and then get hit by the terrible guilt of what we have done. “Oh no, not again, I thought I was better than this!”, we cry in anguish. A terrible trap then gets sprung. We get ensnared in the self-condemnation that comes in the aftermath of sin. It feels like we have dipped everything in life in waste and there is no way to get it clean. “You will be a sinner forever”, Satan whispers to us repeatedly, “God can never take you back”. It feels so much easier to just stay there wallowing rather than face another day feeling as bad as we do.
John Bunyan in his classic A Pilgrim’s Progress depicts this state allegorically. An allegory is a story used to show an underlying truth. It is like when Jesus spoke in parables. Bunyan’s story has the main character, Christian leave the City of Destruction and set out to find the Celestial City. The plot is a depiction of a Christian’s conviction, salvation and walk through this life on the way to heaven. Along the way, there are hazards, including an area called the Slough of Despond. A slough is a deep swamp and despond an older form of the word despondency. Despite being warned not to, Christian steps off the clear path set out for him that leads directly to the City of God. Instead of simply following the directions given, he decides he knows better and walks straight into the middle of a fetid swamp.
Does this decision sound familiar? Yeah, me too. This has been the way of man since Adam and Eve.
Christian chooses his own way and suffers the consequences. He then becomes despondent when he is lost and trapped. His situation is made worse by a weight that he has been carrying throughout his journey. This is called his burden in the story. It is a picture of his realization of his sin and the guilt it brings out in him. That weight is pushing him down and trying to destroy him in the swamp.
Satan is all too happy to destroy us using any means necessary, including death by guilt and shame. Christian understands he is a sinner and that is pulling his body down. The big problem is he does not yet understand the Gospel, though. As a result, he is perpetually standing condemned before the Lord without experiencing the sweet relief of God’s mercy and grace. This huge weight understandably drags him down.
This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
God does not Abandon His Sheep
This is one of the underrated reasons we desperately need to rely on God’s judgment in life and not our own. Despite the evidence before our own eyes, if we are His children, God never defines us by our sin. He never sees us as defiled and lost. He does not leave us struggling to stay above water in a putrid swamp of our sin. Yes, it often feels like this is who we are and what we deserve, but it is not our judgment that matters. It is God’s. He is the ultimate judge. He finds us righteous because of Jesus, not because of us. God paid too high a price for His sheep to let them drown. Jesus gave His life on the Cross to ensure this would never be so. We think we are trash, God calls us sons and daughters. We think we are worthless, He gave His Son for Us. We think we are covered by filth and muck, He knows we are washed clean by Jesus.
God Defines Us as Christians
No matter where you are today. No matter how far out in the swamp you are at this moment, remember that you are not who you think you are. You are not defined by your view of your sin. You are who God says you are – and thank the Lord every day for this truth – Here is how God defines you:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.