I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12-17 NIV)
Think with me about a couple of situations that followers of Christ fall into. Just to make it sound more personal, I’ll use first names, but I assure you that these names refer to no specific individuals.
Tim led a very wild life. He was notorious for swearing and drunkenness. He used to mock Christians. He first heard the gospel from someone at work when about thirty-five years old. After two years of friendship and faithful witness from this friend, by grace he believed in the Lord Jesus and was saved. For the first couple months after his salvation, he rejoiced. But recently he has begun to struggle with doubts about whether he is really saved. He is glad that his drunken behavior is behind him and feels good about being forgiven for that. However, he often asks himself, “How could God forgive someone who as swore I did? The way I used to misuse the Lord’s name makes tremble! I try to take part in the Lord’s Supper but I remember those horrible words I said. God could never love someone who said those things about him.”
Melinda was brought up in a “good Christian home”. She trusted in Christ when she was nine during Sunday School. During her teen years, she had a vibrant testimony. She attended a Christian college and became romantically involved with a young man she later married. But prior to marriage, their relationship became sexual. She asked God to forgive her, but now ten years later, she still feels guilty. Her guilt feelings hinder her present physical relationship with her husband. To make matters worse, she often finds herself fantasizing about another man at the office where she works. She wonders, “Can I be a Christian? Will God forgive my sin? How can a person like me serve the Lord. I want to live for the Lord, but there is the problem I have with ‘this one sin’.”
Both of these people have a problem with regret—the regret about “that one sin”. There are many sins that could be mentioned, perhaps some if mentioned would make some feel rather disgusted. You might wonder if such a person has ever believed in the Lord. But when you ask them to explain the gospel, they give all the right answers! They will testify that they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. But they are never really happy, though they try to appear that way. They always analyze, scrutinize and then condemn themselves because of “that one sin”. Regardless of how much some may want to think that Christians can’t have problems like this and should just “be happy because they made a decision” and “praise God anyhow”, it is a serious spiritual problem. Examining the struggles of the true believer with regret about sin will help all of us understand the gospel better, and hopefully, help anyone who “just might” be struggling in this area.
What is the real trouble of those who struggle about “that one sin”? Though every sin is serious, their problem is not simply caused by “that one sin”. Let us examine five causes, and in doing so, arrive at a remedy for those who struggle in this way.
Grace and peace, David