You did it again. How could you? You made a promise. The promise didn’t hold. Good intentions, poor execution. What do you do?
Giving into sin brings about a very real frustration. That may be putting it mildy. We fail and exasperation arises from seeing how simple it would have been to refuse the sin. But we didn’t. Paul identified with the struggle as he cried, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
One thing that will not help: beating yourself up over the choice that you made. Feeling remorse and admitting what an idiot you are doesn’t get you any closer to overcoming the struggle. Often times when we fail we try to make up for it. However, doing good works cannot absolve guilt.
Here’s the problem. Our dealing with sin never goes far enough when focused on beating ourselves up. It’s a delusion to believe that every failure, every sin, can be pacified by punishing ourselves. The Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Therefore, any self efforts to make up for your sin are not taking it far enough. It cannot cover the penalty of our failure nor can it overcome sins stranglehold in our lives. Paul said that it has “no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).
Have you ever wished that your new self in Christ could beat up your old self? I have. Not simply the choices from long ago, but the choices where my old man rears his ugly head still today. But then I realize something. It’s not simply about beating up the old man, for Christ did much more than that. My old man was crucified. Put to death. (Galatians 2:20)
The problem with beating yourself up is that it focuses your energies on what you can do or should have done and not what Christ has done. Don’t get me wrong, there is a grief that is felt when we sin. This is an adequate response, a righteous response. A godly grief produces repentance within us (2 Corinthians 7:10). In other words, that godly grief is to cause us to fix our eyes upon Jesus. The one who took the penalty for that sin you are beating yourself up for. The one who has conquered our sin.
The battle over sin is not won because you beat yourself up enough times. It is fought by looking to the finished work of Jesus for our righteousness, hope and freedom. That is what we fight – the tendency to look to our efforts for our righteous standing. Our righteousness is only found in Christ. That is why Paul in the midst of his struggle could rejoice that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
That is the fight. Not in beating ourselves up, but in fighting our tendency to look beyond the cross.