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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

How Can I Turn to God if There Is Sin in My Heart?

Do Not Enter on everystockphoto by kevinzim

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?

God’s Holiness

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?

Good News

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.

Questions?  Comments?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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Category: Being Forgiven by God

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29 Responses

  1. Ash says:

    Thank you for this post, Steve. Me and a friend used it to fuel our devotions this morning and were very helped.

  2. Shawn Cox says:

    Thanks for this post. Often when we sin, we turn away from God. But we need to turn to God by faith. We need to have faith that God will help us to turn from sin.

  3. Julia Ndou says:

    Hi there

    I am subscribed to this wonderful site. I have been struggling with sin in my heart for quite some time now. But after reading this I am fully confident that my faith will stand firm in the lord and do have to do goood to be accepted by God.

    Thanks keeping sending the good news helps me and I am able to help others as well.

  4. Ted Alford says:

    Hi Steven,
    Some how I unsubscribed from your site. Sure nice to be back. I am a sinner and I know it but with your support I can see my way out of it. I see your dad at least once a week at our local prayer and praise group gathering. He is a very special man. May God’s blessings continue to be with you.
    Ted Alford

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Ted,

      It’s a joy to hear from you again, and I am glad you made it back.

      Are you resubscribed now?

      And I agree that my father is a very special man. I am deeply thankful for him, and am glad that the two of you can encourage each other in the faith.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  5. Jeff says:

    Thanks for this Steven! I think we all need a reminder from time-to-time of the enormity of God’s grace. I know I do. Fortunately, His grace is sufficient for all of our sin. If it wasn’t, then Jesus died in vain. I appreciate you spelling it out so clearly here. You are a blessing man!

  6. Kai says:

    This is a blessing this morning. I sometimes don’t know how to apply these truths in my life. And its nice to be given a step by step guide. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts.

  7. JR says:

    What if I don’t have any faith at all? What if indwelling or unrepentant sin has choked any remaining hope of forgiveness? Can a hardened heart be soften by grace again? Has anyone ever been there, hopeless, stuck and bound by sins’s grip?

    I am in a terrible state of despair, it seems as if nothing that I am trying to do is working or anything will……sad thing is I remember what being “normal” or “in grace” felt like…..help

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi JR,

      Here are a couple blog posts that might help you.

      One is on how to strengthen your faith —
      http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2012/01/18/how-to-strengthen-your-faith/

      And there is a 3-part series on how you can know you are saved. Here’s part one —
      http://livingbyfaithblog.com/2012/04/26/how-can-i-know-that-i-am-saved/

      I would urge you to turn to Jesus Christ just as you are. Pray and ask him to give you more faith (Mark 9:24). Then, since faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom 10:17), I’d prayerfully read Scriptures, especially those that focus on who Jesus Christ is and what he has and will do for us.

      Don’t let your sinfulness discourage you, because Jesus came to save us from sin. Turn to him, look to him to love you and forgive you through the Cross. Trust him to change you and satisfy you. As you look to him, trusting him, and admitting that you have no righteousness of your own to recommend you to him, he will help you. He promises.

      Let me know what other questions this raises.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  8. K says:

    Oh wow, I am so familiar with what JR is asking, and your response does bring up further questions. “Turn to him, look to him to love you and forgive you through the Cross. Trust him to change you and satisfy you. As you look to him, trusting him, and admitting that you have no righteousness of your own to recommend you to him, he will help you. He promises.” What if I feel like my sin is pride that says I don’t want to trust him? That I want my own righteousness? Yet I KNOW this is foolish, and want these thoughts out of my mind, but it feels like they keep me from turning and looking and trusting so that I can be free? Please help me with your advise here. Is it enough to say, “help, I feel like I’m absolutely eaten by these prideful thoughts and cannot turn my eyes to you in faith! I feel foolish and like I don’t feel my need; please come and turn my eyes!” Or is that just useless words without faith? I’ve prayed it before and still seem so stuck.

  9. K says:

    Also, like I sinfully cannot see how I could ever love God because I wish universalism was true. Like that trumps the trump card of the gospel. But that’s foolishness; how do I get that out of my heart and deal with what’s REAL and turn from that pride that makes me think I’m more kind than God? I’m afraid I have this wicked desire to justify my thoughts and flesh that will keep me from Jesus; how do I take that to him when my mind constantly says I don’t want to? How do you deal with sins of wrong desires?

  10. K says:

    …”Jesus came to save us from sin. Turn to him, look to him to love you and forgive you through the Cross. Trust him to change you and satisfy you.”

    How do I do this when my mind says I don’t want to be changed,? But I do! Or I at least want to want to! What a foolish thought! But it feels so real and like it keeps me from doing this! Please advise me when you have a chance.

  11. K says:

    How do I trust Jesus to change me and satisfy me FOR salvation? Is the list you’ve given only for those already in Christ? Can I trust him to change areas of unrepentance, or just I repent to be saved?

  12. K says:

    I’m sorry to be so persistent, but I have some quiet time while my kids are sleeping and need some direction if you’re able. How do I turn to Jesus over the pride that devours me and says I don’t want to/am offended/that my sin shouldn’t be punished? I know it doesn’t matter how I feel, my sin WILL be punished. Some I feel panicked that I seem stuck in this foolishness and pride and unable to do anything because God resists the proud.

  13. K says:

    Can I ask the Spirit to come and strengthen my faith that God is the source of all good and love and make Him my greatest desire and cause me to rightly fear, or can I not expect anything because of pride and doubt?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Kathryn,

      Yes, you can definitely ask God to do this in your heart.

      When I pray I often discover pride, impure motives, and ugliness in my heart.

      At those times I confess these as sin, ask God to cleanse me and change me, and seek to stir up good and holy motives by faith in Christ.

      I think all of our prayers this side of heaven are tinged with some sin. And so the only reason any of our prayers can be heard is because we are praying in Christ, trusting his death to forgive our guilt, and his righteousness to cover our remaining sin.

      So – yes – pray and ask God to strengthen your faith and change your heart. And look to Jesus Christ, trusting him to do everything you need, not because you deserve it, but because he delights in mercy.

      I hope that helps some

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  14. K says:

    “And look to Jesus Christ, trusting him to do everything you need” thanks so much Steve. Can I start by saying, “I can’t seem to trust you. Please help me!”? Or is that the one thing I must do?

  15. K says:

    “And so the only reason any of our prayers can be heard is because we are praying in Christ, trusting his death to forgive our guilt, and his righteousness to cover our remaining sin.” and this–can I say, “I want to pray this in faith, but my mind sabotages me! Please help me!”

  16. K says:

    SO sorry, last post. Feel free to delete all of this. What if my sin is that I’m too proud to look to Jesus, but that’s exactly what I want the Spirit to crush in me?!! How do I look to/trust Him over this pride SO THAT he crush it for me?

  17. K says:

    In other words, I want the Spirit to crush my pride and bring trust and joy in Christ, but how can He if I feel I cannot trust Christ because my pride says I’m offended and don’t want to and can’t?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      The reason he can crush your pride, even though you don’t deserve it, is because Jesus Christ received all the punishment we deserve for our sin.

      That’s why, even though there is still pride and unbelief in your heart, if you want to be saved, and will look to him and trust him to save you, he will.

      He will forgive your pride and unbelief, he will strengthen your faith, he will change your heart, and he will satisfy you in himself – not because your faith was so strong, or your heart was so pure, but because of his mercy and grace alone.

      Be encouraged, and keep looking to Christ by faith.

  18. hanan says:

    Thank you so much,i have always wanted to turn to God but didn’t know how everytime i wanna do that something inside me stops me from even going to church i haven’t gone to church in year and 2 months and i have sinned so many times that i get so afraid and ashamed of coming to God but today when i read what you wrote my heart feels free and i feel God is inside me!thank you lord and thanks to you too for am in Christ and cleansed from my sins please everyone pray for me here’s my email hannisco85@yahoo.com anyone can write to me and keep praying for me i wanna know jesus Christ and let him into my heart and life!my life is full of loneliness,hatred,sadness,anger,and full of sins please everyone i need your help you can add me on Facebook too at Ashley Deen i am from south Sudan but i live in Uganda both in east Africa thank you all

  19. Kay says:

    Dear Mr Fuller,

    I live a continent away but I want to turn to God. I am sinful and feel bad. How do I turn my life around? I want God in my life.

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