I received the following e-mail this past week from a Boundless reader:
I truly feel that God has told me that I can no longer be saved. That my “eyes were opened.” I think I judged and accused and sinned so much after knowing Christ, that no sacrifice is left for me. Just a fearful expectation of things to come. Is this true?
While it was intended for John Thomas to address in one of his Boundless Answers columns, and I did forward it to him, I felt compelled to take some time to respond personally. Below is my reply. I’ve changed the letter-writer’s name to protect his privacy.
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There are a lot of ideas floating around in this world. Some are true, and some are false. How do we know what’s true? For one thing, we absolutely know that the Bible, a book unlike any other in the history of our world, is true. It presents words and ideas from God that are dependable and accurate and trustworthy. Consider the following:
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
That’s from Romans 5:20. If you have a chance, read the verses before and after that phrase, preferably starting at verse 1. It’s such a powerful and encouraging passage of Scripture.
What it’s saying is that God’s grace, expressed in the willing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, is more than your sin. If you sin a little, God’s grace is more. If you sin a lot, God’s grace is more. If you murder and steal and have sex with someone you’re not married to and lie about someone — that’s some hefty sin. But God’s grace is more. More! Always more.
What Jesus’ death on the cross has accomplished is unlike any other thing in the world. His death has *paid* — fully — for our sin. His death gave us life *in exchange* for our sin. Think about someone paying $5,000 for a used car, or “exchanging” $5,000 in cash for a used car. It’s not like that. Instead, it’s like that person is offering an **unlimited** amount of money for a used car. An inexhaustible amount of money for that used car.
Your sin, Tim, is that used car. The price that God paid is that inexhaustible bank account. No end to what He has already paid, and what will be paid from that account. None.
God is the God of second chances. And third chances. And tenth chances. And 2,000th chances. And 26,302nd chances. And so on.
God has provided this “exchange” for His glory. It reveals His wonder and loftiness and grandeur by offering such mercy to you. Sorry to say this, but it’s really not about you and your sin. No, it’s about God and His nature to be loving and gracious and forgiving. It’s who He is. And practicing such great mercy shows how great He is.
Tim, you’ve sinned much. You’ve disobeyed God’s commandments. You’ve disappointed people around you, including yourself. You’ve not just made “mistakes,” but you’ve intentionally rejected what God had to say and decided to go your own way. You’ve really messed up. Your life is a disaster.
And here’s the good news — really good news: “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Yeah, you’re a scoundrel, just like me, but God is so much more glorious on the other end that His love envelopes and overtakes and more than covers what you’ve done.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Ephesians 2:1-7:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
I suspect you skipped over that, or just skimmed it. Let me encourage you to read it again, slowly. These words are God’s words for you. They are life. They speak life to your spirit. And they’re true. The words that condemn you are not true. These words, though, are true. Please go up one paragraph and read it again. Slowly.
OK, so you may be habitually sinning in some area. Maybe you’re addicted to porn and masturbation. Maybe you’re stealing things from stores or from your employer. Maybe you’ve said things that have really hurt others. Maybe you’ve physically hurt someone. Those things are lousy, and God wants you to stop and repent from those things. You may have to face consequences for what you’ve done. You may even go to prison, if what you’ve done is bad enough.
But if you accept the loving grace of God, which is so much more “weighty” than your sin, and if you continue in fellowship with Him, He’ll help you overcome those sinful things you’ve been doing. There’ll come a time when we’re introduced to Christ in heaven as a sort of “bride,” and God wants you, Tim, to be presented as a pure and spotless bride. And you’ll love being introduced as such.
I know it’s an odd metaphor, since you’re a guy (as am I), but the point is that God is committed to seeing you become more Christ-like over time. With help from other Christian guys, and with the Lord’s help, by speaking biblical truth to yourself and being willing to change, I’m confident that you will change into someone more Christ-like.
Take heart, Tim. Let me leave you with words Jesus Himself said in John 16:33: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” God has overcome the world. He has overcome your sin.
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What would you add? How can you encourage “Tim” in his faith?