So, apologies for this post. It is much much more a matter of personal reflection rather than any sort of “Biblically based study.” But I was given revelation concerning my own shortcomings recently, and I feel that quite often it is in these falls that we truly gain knowledge about the kingdom of God.
So, much as St Paul so often wrote about the “thorn in his side,” there are many sins that I struggle with daily. I have always held my belief that it was neither physical infirmity nor a “party of Jews” about which Paul referenced when he wrote those things, but rather a sin which he constantly struggled with, and in so praying to the Lord to remove that thorn, the Lord refused, knowing full well that those struggles would keep Paul humble.
Anyway, there are many sins that I struggle with daily, and at one point recently, I realized that I had overcome many of them. And the moment I realized that, I became very proud of myself for having overcome them. Rather than turning to the Lord with thanksgiving, I became proud of myself for having overcome them. Thus, I learned on a personal level what is meant by the expression that “pride always comes before the fall.” And within two days of having realized this and become proud of the fact that I had defeated those sins, I fell immediately back into them. And I immediately became overwhelmed with personal anger and self-loathing for having stumbled, followed by the inevitable “I’ll never do that again” statement, which often follows these lapses.
And then I read something that cut to my heart like a knife. It was the teaching that (to paraphrase), when you become angry or despondent about failing to achieve holiness, you have already failed because your source of healing is not correct. To focus on your sinfulness means that you are not focusing on the grace and love of Christ in your life. When I become proud instead of grateful for having overcome a sin, it is not the grace of Christ that I am looking to for my salvation, but rather my own willpower. Likewise, when I become angry about a failing, it is also myself that I am looking to, rather than the grace of Christ. I become angry with myself for having failed to achieve the perfection that I can only achieve through Him, my own human nature will never allow me to become perfectly sinless.
See, it was revealed to me that the enemy would love for us to conquer our sins and become very proud of those progressions, but it is at those very moments that the Lord will allow us to fall back into them, to humble us. As He instructed Paul, “My grace alone is sufficient.” It is not that we should ever strive for sinfulness, as St John the Theologian instructs us, “whoever says he knows God and walks in darkness lies and the truth is not in him,” however, it is imperative that we accept the fact that we will sin. We will stumble, and it is not in the stumbling or the sin that we are saved, but rather in our reliance on God’s grace that will help us to overcome. As St Paul teaches, “shall we continue in sin so that grace may be multiplies, NO.” Our salvation is fully reliant on our striving towards the perfection, the “sinlessness of God,” but not in our own power. We must fully realize what is sinful, and turn to the Lord in full repentance, each time we recognize that we have missed the mark. However, we must also fully recognize that it is not in our own power that we overcome those sinful tendencies, but rather full reliance of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to get us through them, to overcome them, and to become a true child of our Lord Jesus Christ. When I focus on the sin itself, then it is the sin I’m empowering, not the grace of our Lord. And when I become distraught over a failing, it is usually because it is myself I’m trusting in to overcome it, rather than the grace of our Lord.
Christ is in our midst.