“Can You Have Multiple Besetting Sins and Still Be a Christian?”
I read the article that you wrote in response to a gentleman who was almost 70, had prostate cancer and stated that a besetting sin he had caused him to doubt his salvation for years. I related to that somewhat, as I am 68 and also have bouts with doubting my salvation. I always wonder if I have repented as I should and have studied about repentance extensively.
My problem is, I think I have more than one besetting sin. I never can understand whether or not a person can have more than one besetting sin and still be a genuine Christian. My major sin is my weight, having struggled with that for years. But I also struggle, though maybe not as bad, with a temper, easily offended, critical and judgmental thoughts of others, am lazy a lot of the time, sometimes watch TV that I shouldn’t, and I have negative thoughts of God, and probably others as well. So you see, I am at a loss as to what is going on with me.
I would so much appreciate it if you could help me understand rather or not a true Christian (an individual Christian, not a general group) can have struggles with all kinds of sins, not just one and still truly be a Christian. This is what has haunted me for years, I even gave up the Christian life and went back into the world, I am ashamed to say, but have been back in the church now for 30 years.
I am so sorry for the way your fears have beaten you up and stolen your joy! All Christians struggle against our flesh, and we all have a number of sin patterns. That’s just the way the brokenness of sin plays out in our lives. It’s not that you have more sin patterns than other Christians—it’s that you are more aware of your own than of mine, or your pastor’s, or anyone else’s. Everyone has multiple sin issues. Those that don’t think they do, are engaging in the sins of self-deception and pride.
Sin causes such blindness and such brokenness, it’s pretty much amazing that we’re able to do much that IS right. That’s the power of God in our lives.
I love this passage from James Bryan Smith’s book Embracing the Love of God, in the chapter “Forgiving Ourselves”:
[We need to learn] to see ourselves as we truly are. We need to develop a proper identity if we are to forgive ourselves. In today’s world, we are prone to viewing ourselves primarily as righteous people who are capable of doing sinful things, as opposed to being sinful people who are capable of doing righteous things. The difference in perspective is monumental.
If I see myself as a righteous person, I expect very little failure. Doing good is what comes naturally to a good person. God, too, I reason, must expect a lot of success from me. Failure, sin, and error occur only when I lose focus, only when I am lazy. If I work hard enough, I can live flawlessly. God is not particularly pleased when I do something good, some act of kindness or courage, because that is what he expected in the first place.
But if I see myself as a weak and broken person, I am not shocked by failure. It does not throw me out of kilter. I certainly do not hope for it, expect it, or easily excuse it, but I am not startled by it. Failure, sin and error do not happen because I get lazy; they are a part of being a fallen person in a fallen world. God is not shocked by my sin; he knows that I am dust (Ps. 103:14). When I do something courageous, or self-sacrificing, God is pleased. Given all that is against me, a kind act is a thing of awe in God’s eyes.
God expects more failure from us than we do from ourselves because God knows who we are. We are not the righteous person who occasionally sins, we are the sinful person who occasionally—by God’s grace—gets it right. When we start from this perspective we are released from the bondage of perfectionism and are able to forgive ourselves once and for all. We are to take our cue from him. We may be disappointed with ourselves, but God is not. We may feel like condemning ourselves, but God does not.
Let me encourage you to accept yourself as the flawed but beloved person you are, simply because GOD accepts you fully and completely as the flawed but beloved person you are! He loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay there. That’s what sanctification does: it makes messy, broken people over into the image of Jesus. That’s the power of Jesus’ work on earth . . . that’s the power of His love.
Hope you find this helpful in making the decision to accept the grace of God and give it to yourself.
© 2011 Probe Ministries