Feb 7, 2014
Sin in My Heart
I am in the midst of a trial, struggling to believe that “the Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease” (Lamentations 3:22).
Since I am struggling to believe, that means there is some amount of sin in my heart, since unbelief is sin (Heb 3:12).
So, if I have sin in my heart, how can I turn to God?
The problem with turning to God while there is sin in my heart, is that God is holy, which means that the perfections of his being set him infinitely apart from everything else. And because he is holy, perfect, and flawless, he cannot look upon sin with favor (Habakkuk 1:13).
So if that is true, how can I turn to God while there’s sin in my heart, and have him look upon me with favor?
That question causes many people to try to make themselves acceptable to God before they turn to him — either by seeking to overcome their sin, or by doing something good to make up for their sin.
But this itself is sin, because it means thinking that we, by our own efforts, can make ourselves good enough to deserve God’s favor.
So what can I do? Is it possible for me to turn to God when there is sin in my heart?
The answer is Yes, because of what happened on the Cross 2,000 years ago. Here’s how Paul explains it —
[God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
When you first turn to Christ and trust him as your Savior, Lord, and Treasure, two exchanges take place.
One is that all your sin was put upon him on the Cross, and he was punished for your sin.
The other is that his perfect righteousness is given to you as a gift, and you are accepted because of his righteousness.
This great exchange happens by faith alone — by looking to Christ and trusting him.
But What about Right Now?
If I have sin in my heart right now, how can I turn to God and expect him to welcome me, love me, and help me?
There is only one way. Not by first overcoming my sin. Not by first making up for my sin. But by faith alone.
If I will turn to God right now with genuine faith in Christ, then God is running toward me with joy like the father ran toward the prodigal son (Luke 15:20).
How can he do that? It’s because, by faith alone in Christ alone, my sin of unbelief is completely forgiven through Christ’s death and perfectly covered by Christ’s righteousness.
So even though I am feeling my sinful unbelief, I can be assured that as I look to God by faith, he sees me as completely forgiven, and clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness.
Which means he is running towards me with as much joy as if I was perfectly righteous, because in Christ I am.
Faith, Unbelief, and Sin
But this raises a question: if there is UNBELIEF in my heart, how can I look to Christ with WITH FAITH?
I think the answer is found in the fact that faith does not mean being free from all unbelief. Faith means trusting that even though I have sinful unbelief in me, yet through Christ’s blood and righteousness God will forgive me, cleanse me from unbelief, and satisfy my heart in himself.
I see that in Acts 15:9, where Peter describes what God did in saving Gentiles —
… he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
Think about what it means that God cleansed their hearts by faith. That implies three truths —
One — their hearts needed cleansing from sin and unbelief.
Two — even though their hearts needed cleansing from sin and unbelief, they were still able to have genuine faith.
Three — by that faith God cleansed their hearts from sin and unbelief
So genuine faith does not mean being free from all sin and unbelief. But then what does it mean?
If I long to be freed from my sinful unbelief, and want God to strengthen my faith, then even though there are aspects of my faith that are weak, my faith is still genuine. And I can be assured that, as I turn to God, my unbelief is forgiven and covered with Christ’s righteousness, and God is running to me with joy.
But if I am clinging to my sinful unbelief, and don’t want God to strengthen my faith, then my faith is not genuine. And I cannot be assured that, as I turn to God, my unbelief is forgiven and covered with Christ’s righteousness, and God is running to me with joy.
Turn to God
This means that at those times when we see unbelief in our hearts, there is good news.
If we want to be cleansed from that unbelief, then we can turn to God just as we are. Even though he is perfectly holy, we are completely forgiven and clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness by faith alone in Christ alone.
And we can be assured that as we turn to God with faith, he is running toward us with love, and joy, and everything we need to be cleansed by him, and satisfied in him.
I’m turning to him right now.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- What Happened When You Believed and What Difference It Makes (4-min video)
- Why Do I Feel Far from God? (4-min video)
- No Matter How Burdened, God Can Change Your Heart
- What Is the Holiness of God?
(Picture is from everystockphoto and is by kevinzim.)