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I have been a christian for 9 yrs now And a couple Months ago fell into sin. I had never fallen this bad during my whole walk with God. Ever since then, God has restored me and forgiven me but I feel him very distant even though I pray. Do you think this is just part of me going through the consequences of my sin? I feel like the close connection I once had with God has been cut off and it’s so hard for me to attain it once again..I really miss it. Do you have any advice?
First of all you should know that this is something that everybody goes through. Everybody backslides and everybody goes through periods where they feel distant from God, and very often those two things are related. It’s something I have definitely been through.
There is an old saying “If you feel distant from God, you are the one who moved”, a little simplistic, but there is a lot of truth in that. I think that one of the reasons you might be feeling distant from God is that you have just come out of a period of closing off part of your heart to God. When we are a period of habitual sin, we are closing off part of ourselves to the authority of Jesus because we know that if we let Him in we would have to change.
I don’t know for sure in your case, but when people talk about “falling into sin” they often mean something habitual, not a one time thing. One of the things that happens with something ongoing like that is that we kind of quarantine a part of our heart off from God, and that tends to snowball. Here”s an example: if you are abusing pornography, you know that Jesus doesn’t want that for you so you have to keep Him at a distance whenever you make the decision to do that. After a while, you will expand that to keeping Jesus out of your decisions in regard to how you meet your needs in general.
Distance from God is a consequence of sin, but that consequence has been taken by Christ on the cross. If we were left to deal with the consequences of our sin, we would all be grease spots on the ground. So regaining that closeness with God can be done. You need to be honest with God in your prayer to a relentless degree, you need to get to a point where you can talk about your struggles out loud to someone close to you. It’s about getting rid of your shame so that you can get back in the habit of allowing God into all the corners of your heart. You can do it, and it will be worth it.
-Matt from The Bridge
I have a problem judging others harshly who sin differently than I do :/
That is a very astute, mature observation. The concept of “sin differently” as opposed to “sin worse than I do” is absolutely spot on and a concept that many Christians would do well to wrap their head around. Sin is sin and it is all equal in the sight of God. So judging the sin of other’s is not only forbidden by Jesus in scripture, it just doesn’t make any sense.
You should take in the victory of this insight, but you should not rest on it. The question is: I have realized this about myself, so what do I do about it? That is the next step. Far too many people stop at “I have realized this weakness in myself”. Since you asked the question, I assume you have the desire to address this thing which, again, is great. So you have identified the problem and have a desire to move past it. That is the majority of the struggle, so now all we need is a strategy.
So the big question is: what is underneath the behavior of this judgment? Some people would say that you have not properly been crushed by the weight of your own sin. That is a thing to pretty much never happens, so we will not focus on that. It is more likely that you do properly understand that your Sin does not define you. Sin is a part of your life, it is something you are dealing with, but what defines you is that God created you and Jesus shed His blood for you.
The strategy needs to be to extend that proper contextualizing of Sin with other people. You know the good things that God has put in you and that God loves you, and you know that your behaviors do not make those things untrue. When you see the ways other people sin, since you aren’t around them all the time, it is easier to let that behavior define them. You see them as a sinner instead of someone who Jesus died for, who is still dealing with their Sin. Ask God to help you see people with the patience and compassion with which He sees them. Your world will be a much better place for it.
-Matt from The Bridge
I just read your response on how we should treat homosexuality just the same as any other sin; that it doesn’t define who someone is. I totally agree with your entire response, but I do have a question. How does one deal with a person who struggles with homosexuality, but does not recognize it as a struggle or sin? In other words, they call him or herself a Christian, but see nothing wrong with their lifestyle and no reason to change?
Thank you for the kind words about the post. If you haven’t read it, you can here. Let’s revisit that post for one key point. Homosexuality does not mean that your friend isn’t saved. Every Christian has sin that is ongoing in their life, that is living as fallen people in a fallen world.
Someone not being ready to change is something that we all run across at some point. It can happen with pretty much any behavior. The situation is always touchy, and issues of sexuality are even more so. It is easy to see how the other person would not take this well, since you are essentially telling them which choices to make for their life.
And it is frustrating from your end because you know you are right. This person is going down a path that is not good for them, and you can see it where they either can’t or refuse to. There is no doubt in my mind that you just want the best for your friend. That being said, my advice to you is to let it go for now.
Sometimes people have to experience the consequences of behavior before they want to change. Even with behaviors that are straight up destructive, like hard drugs, people often have to end up in prison or in an otherwise dire situation before they get motivated to change things. And as for it being a sin, convicting people of their sin is the territory of the Holy Spirit. That is not the job you or I any any human is up to.
The role of us as Christians and friends to love someone as best you can while they are in their situation. Treating someone nicely does not mean “condoning sin” or whatever labels churchy people use because they just can’t stand people not feeling guilty. Also, that sets you up to be the person they turn to when they are ready to make changes. Change someone initiates themselves is going to be more lasting, and much less messy than trying to convince someone that there is a problem where they don’t see one yet. Playing the long game is the best strategy.
-Matt from The Bridge
-Lee Younger on episode 21 of the Say That podcast.
Hi Matt, I love your posts, they are so encouraging and inspiring. I really liked your post on marriage equality a while back. It answered a lot of questions that I had been trying to find. However, I still don’t really understand how we can claim to love homosexuals and at the same time say that homosexuality is a sin. I understand loving someone, sins and everything included, but homosexuality seems different to me than something like pride or lust. Could you shed some light on this?
Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate that.
The confusion you describe is a common problem for some Christians. Let’s look at the example you gave of lust. If you had a friend who regularly looked at pornography (which I bet you do) you would see that struggle as just one aspect of their life. If, however, you had a friend who was gay, you might see that as their defining characteristic. But it isn’t. Gay people are people, they are not defined by their sexuality.
Scripture is very clear that everyone has sinned. It is also clear that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. That is why, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus says that lust is the same as adultery and anger the same as murder. Yet, there are only a few sins which some Christians want to let define people. They often happen to fall in line with a socio-political agenda. Things like homosexuality and abortion. I think that is an attempt to dehumanize people in order to justify making villains of them.
What defines people is that Jesus spilt His blood for them, in full knowledge of their struggles and issues. The book of Romans says that the proof of God’s love is “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Jesus died for someone’s struggle with their sexuality just the same as He died for pride, or lust, or whatever else.
People who have sex with someone of the same gender are sinners. So are you, and so am I, and we are all the same category of sinner. The good news is: God loves sinners, and Jesus came to die for sinners. Trying to say that one sin is worse than another is arrogant and theologically inaccurate.
Jesus loves gay people. I can say that with confidence because He loves me, and I am a sinner just the same as they are. That is the wonder of Jesus’ love.
-Matt from The Bridge
Hello, I’m wondering what sin is and what makes it? I ask this because I always hear from different Christian groups the things we can and can’t do because it’s deemed sinful, and quite frankly, it’s flummoxing me. Could you maybe shed some light on this conundrum? Thanks.
Well “sin” is a big, scary word that sparks a lot of harumphing. The first distinction that needs to be made is between Sin (capital S) and sins. Sin is the theological term put on the fact that humans have a nature that is separated from God, which is why Jesus came to die as a substitute for our punishment. The blood of Jesus is the only answer for Sin. So if we think of Sin as a disease, then sins are the symptoms. By that I mean that while addressing the symptoms is a good thing, they will do nothing to cure the disease. So with that distinction made, let us turn our focus to sins and what makes a behavior a sin.
On it’s simplest terms, a sin is anything that is disobeying God. Some of these activities are widely applicable: God says don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery. In the sermon on the mount Jesus expanded that definition from actions to thought. So lust is the same as adultery and anger is the same as murder. Again, let us remind our selves that although these things are not what we should do, they don’t mean you go to hell if you have had faith in Jesus.
The word “sin” is taken from an archery term that means anything but the bullseye. So a sin in the spiritual sense is anything misses the mark for what God wants for your life. Think about Adam and Eve. God said “don’t eat the fruit of that tree” and they did it, that was sin. Now some people love to make up rules and declare things sin: drinking alcohol, dating, wearing jeans in church, whatever. This is where it goes wrong. Legalism gets confusing really quick and it’s goal is control and guilt.
The most important thing to remember about sins is that they are something to be worked through. Not doing a bunch of things on the naughty list does not save you, a relationship with Jesus saves you. Sins are things we want to move past so we can be the person who lives out the plan God has for us, and no amount of struggle will lead to him giving up on us.
-Matt from The Bridge