Question from a Site Viewer
Sometimes after I sin, I don’t always immediately feel guilty. I feel like I should be beating my chest in repentance or crying my eyes out. When I feel like this, I remind myself of James 4:7-10:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
It feels almost as if God is disappointed with me and He has left me empty on purpose. I wanted to look for the Bible for help and this is what I found from Amos 4:
“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. ” . . . you did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards . . . yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
I know that God is the same forever, and yet people always tell me that God is merciful and God is loving; I believe that wholeheartedly and unwaveringly, but I also think that God is a powerful judge, who isn’t afraid to take away things from me if he wants to. Is it possible that God is taking away His presence, or His Spirit from me? It also says in Amos 8:11:
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”
I feel so distant from God after I sin, as if He left me, or as if I fled from Him. But sometimes when I know I should repent, I don’t because I feel like my prayers will be weak and I can’t humble myself like James says to do. I have been closer than ever to God lately but sin took me away from Him, and I fled from God’s love, and now the sin that I almost fully gave up is kicking back in again, and temptation has been stronger than ever. But shouldn’t the Holy Spirit lead me to repentance? I don’t know why even when I do repent, my prayers are so weak and my repentance isn’t strong. Please help me, thanks.
Thank you for your question concerning sin and repentance. You express concern about the fact that you often do not feel guilty for your sin, or as guilty as you think you should feel, and that when you repent your repentance and prayers seem so weak.
One of the great problems of sin is its anesthetizing effect on humanity. It dulls our spiritual senses. In many ways, it is like the mosquito that bites us. It desensitizes us to the fact that we have been bitten. When we sin, our fellowship with God is broken, the Holy Spirit is insulted (Hebrews 10:29), and our sense of right and wrong is deadened. If we sin in a particular area enough, our consciences become warped and ineffective and we may be left with only an intellectual knowledge that what we have done is sin. Even intellectually, our minds are able often to rationalize our conduct to convince us that what we have done is not so bad, and even may be good. I remember a pastor who abandoned his wife and his children for another woman, and seemed to think in his mind that because he loved this other woman that he had done the right thing. For those of us on the outside, we saw the horrors of sin and its effect on his wife and his children, as well as on the community of believers and those outside the church, and on his own life.
Thus, when we sin, we often will not have a strong desire for God, or a burning yearning to be close to Him. It is a result of the effect of disobedience on one’s life. Sin begets more sin; just as righteousness begets more righteousness (see Romans 6).
But, for those who have known what it is to walk with God, we will notice the missing Presence. God does not share space with sin. Romans 8 does a great job of exploring this subject. We can live according to the flesh, or we can live according to the Spirit. The Apostle Paul states in verses 12-13 that if we live according to the flesh we will die. Just as Adam and Eve died when they ate the fruit in the garden, so we too die when we live according to the flesh. There is an instant separation in fellowship between us and God, which is the death of life. Isaiah 59:1-2 speaks of our sins separating us from God. Jesus said in John 14:23 that He and the Father will come to the One who loves Christ and keeps Christ’s words. Conversely, I think one can safely assume that if we do not love Christ or keep His words, Christ and the Father will not be present.
I do not see any of this dealing with our ultimate salvation. Scripture teaches that we are sealed until the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30). Even the Corinthians, who were not the most faithful in following after God, still were told that they were the temple of the Holy Spirit who was in them (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Yet, there is a separation from God that is real and that we feel, whenever we sin. We cannot have fellowship both with light and with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). As the Apostle John states, if we say we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness we lie (1 John 1:6). If we are walking in sin, we do not have fellowship with God.
That sense of a loss of fellowship can be remedied in only one way, to repent and turn back to God. Like faith itself; repentance, which is a subset of faith, is based on action and not feeling. The question is not whether we have strong faith or weak faith, but whether we have faith in God at all. Faith is a decision to count God to be true and to live by that decision. Whether we feel strongly that God is true or have strong doubts but we nevertheless cling to the promise, God honors all those who seek Him. In like manner, repentance may be accompanied by strong emotions or no emotions. But what God is looking for is a heart that turns back to Him.
And you are right. Often our repentance is weak, and our prayers are weak. The power is not in the strength of the cries or in the agony of our souls, but in the One to whom we seek. We look to Him. If we turn back to Him, He is faithful to forgive and cleanse and restore us to fellowship (1 John 1:9). And, as we afterwards walk with Him, the feeling of fellowship will follow the return to fellowship and His power will rest upon us.
The best time to repent is immediately after we have sinned. God has no pleasure in us wallowing in our sin, nor does God need time to come to grips with the slap we have given Him and to extend His compassion towards us. Every moment we are away from God is a moment lost for eternity. So, I encourage everyone to walk with God and not sin. But if we sin, I encourage everyone to repent immediately and start abiding again in our Beloved.
The only help to weak repentance and prayer is to abide in Christ; that is, to develop the disciplines and habits of life that lead to constant prayer and devotion to Him and meditation on the Word of God. The more you love Christ, the more deeply you will feel about sin and the stronger will be your desire to repent and return to that love relationship. And, if we fear Him as we ought, we are more impressed with the horrors of sin to Him and the call upon each of us to live holy and righteous lives in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:12-15).
I share with you the joy of walking with God and the agony of realizing that the thing we thought was gone is back. But Galatians 5:16 is still true. If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. Always, when we sin, it is because at some point we stopped walking in the Spirit. I encourage you to return to a life led by the Spirit in every aspect and moment of life. Pray about everything, be thankful in everything, and live a life of love towards God and humanity. And your life will be a blessing to God and people.
I hope this is helpful to you. And may your walk with Christ through the indwelling Spirit only deepen and intensify your longing for Him.
a fellow pilgrim,