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Ask a Pastor: How Can I Start Over?

Question

I’m struggling with self-condemnation. I’m so focused on my last regrets and mistakes. I feel like I’m always struggling with an issue - porn, relationships, fear of abandonment. I’m afraid of reaching out to the church for help because I’ve hurt many people in my past (burned bridges). How can I move forward and ‘start over’?

Answer

This is a reality all believers struggle with, if they’re honest, in one way and degree. Recently I preached on Romans 7, where the Apostle Paul writes how he cries out to God, “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (v. 24)? Read it and see how he was confronted with the 10th commandment (v. 7!) and how he owns up to his ongoing battle with sin (v. 14-24)! So, even 20 years after his conversion, he clearly did not only struggle with memories of his past sins, but with the real and painful presence of sin!


Thankfully he doesn’t end there. His agonizing prayer turns into heartfelt praise, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 25). He takes comfort believing the biblical truth that God forgives his sins the moment he confesses them. Read Psalms 32 and 51! The New Testament confirms it, “If [or when or whenever!] we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Note that this is not only a promise about the forgiveness of our sins but also of an ongoing cleansing. So Paul also humbly acknowledges, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (v. 25).


Now there are two truths to remember. The first: though there is forgiveness, there is no excuse for sin! Psalm 130 clearly states that there is forgiveness with God so that He be feared. We are commanded, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). In other words, how to fight the darkness of sin? Turn to the Light! Search the Scriptures, feed on them, because they are food for our soul. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Take refuge to Him, not only for the forgiveness of your sins but also to be made more and more like Him.


That brings me to the second truth: the older you get and the closer you follow Jesus, you will see more of your sins and sinfulness. As you prayerfully grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, so you also grow in understanding of your sins of thought, word and deed, not only your sins of commission (doing what you shouldn’t have done) but also your sins of omission (not doing what you should have done)! A while back I read something very encouraging about this. The author used the example of a sunbeam breaking into a room, showing millions of dust particles. The closer you are to the light, the more dirt you see. They were there already but we don’t see them till the light exposes them. The closer to Jesus, the more you see your sins.


So, though it’s not pleasant to see our sins and there is no excuse for sin, yet it is profitable. It’s like pain without which we wouldn’t take medicine or go see a doctor. It would be worse if you did not feel your guilt and lived on with a calloused conscience.

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