For many years I struggled with what to do with my sin.
In an effort to not implicate my teachers entirely, I will at least say that what I heard was that my sin should largely be ignored.
Yeah, you shouldn’t sin, but if you do, move on.
I believed that my old, sin nature has to sin, there’s nothing you can do about it. My new nature can occasionally do good, but any effort to do good was bordering on, or crossing over into, legalism.
I believed that my old nature sins but can’t confess, because the flesh can’t do anything good. My new nature, which can talk to God and could potentially confess, has nothing to confess because my new nature doesn’t sin.
Therefore, sin should be avoided as long as I don’t apply any effort. Effort might just be the flesh doing self-righteous works that are actually bad. When I did sin, I should forget it, claim grace, and move on without guilt or remorse.
I believed that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” meant that I shouldn’t feel guilt.
The problem that always crept up though is that I did feel guilt for my sin! Then, since I wasn’t supposed to feel guilt, I then felt guilty about feeling guilt!
I was left in a constant state of tension:
1) I knew I wasn’t supposed to sin, but I also knew I wasn’t supposed to do anything to stop my sin for fear of being legalistic.
2) When I did sin I felt guilty, which I wasn’t supposed to do because of grace, which made me feel more guilty.
Again, I don’t know if this is what I was taught, or if this is just what I believed I heard, but it’s where I was for many years.
It was not fulfilling. It was annoying, confusing, and frustrating. It also prevented any sort of sanctification, growth, or victory over sin. It merely left me feeling helpless, pointless, and defeated.
Then I decided to drop my understanding and start over.
I decided that if I sinned I would confess. I decided that if I were tempted I should do things to resist the devil and stand in the armor of God. I even began fasting to bring my body under subjection.
Guess what? It’s working! It also helped me feel better about the whole situation and set me free from many fears I had invented.
There was a clarity and it led to growth. I looked at the verses that talked about the Gospel’s power at work in me, about the Spirit’s provision, and the crucifixion of the flesh.
I didn’t approach this through legalism or trying to impress God. I approached it as a guy who was tired of sin, guilt, confusion, and turmoil.
I’m not perfect. I can say with Paul, “I have not yet apprehended.” But I am growing and I am overcoming many sins that have long tripped me up.
By no means is battling sin easy. There’s never a time where it’s automatic. But there is patience, experience, and hope that increases through the years.
This is my personal experience and should not be taken as authoritative, infallible advice from on high. But my approach is based on Scripture and seems to be working.
So I shall continue to fight the fight!