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  • Writer's pictureAdelee Russell

Things that Keep Us from Living a Fervent Life Part 2: Unresolved Sin

Updated: May 7, 2022

I feel like I should start by defining what I mean by "unresolved sin." I personally see it as any addiction or habitual sin that we have (a) not brought to God (b) not brought to trusted brothers or sisters in Christ (c) not sought the help we need (which sometimes includes going to see a counselor or therapist).

Every human being's struggle with unresolved sin is unique because every human being's story is unique. Although I Corinthians 10:13 promises us that "no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind," (NIV) our healing journeys may look different because of our specific scars.

Experts say the cycle of grief has five stages. But the path one takes through those stages looks different for each person. One person might bounce back and forth between two of those stages for years, while another might check them off the list in a predictable orderly fashion.

The process of finding victory over unresolved sin is very similar. The cycle of healing, much like the cycle of grief, has different ups and downs for every person, but also like the grief cycle, the healing journey touches on several common areas for everyone. And in my opinion it requires action steps in three categories for all of us:

Honesty with ourselves.

Honesty with God.

Honesty with the body of believers.

Notice I use the word healing and not forgiveness in this post. That's because I believe in the total forgiveness of sins at salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that once you have asked Jesus to forgive you and you've placed your trust in Him for eternal salvation then all your sins have been forgiven--past, present, and future--and as Hebrews 10:18 says, "And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices" (NLT). But even though we've already been forgiven of unresolved sin, we still have to deal with it. We still have to heal from it. If we don't, we'll never experience the abundant, fervent life God has for us.

There is no way I could possibly address every aspect of dealing with unresolved sin for every believer in a single blog post. Nor am I a pastor or a licensed therapist. But what I can do is share three action steps that have helped me in my own struggle:

1. Honesty with ourselves. There is a single door that blocks the flow of healing. There is one locked door that can keep healing and restoration from ever entering our lives. And the only person who can open it is us.

Even Jesus respects this door. Revelations 3:20 says, "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." (NLT).

I believe we are saved by grace and not by works. However I also believe that God requires one thing and one thing only: that we choose to receive the gift He's offering us. I believe the same thing with sanctification. Although it is the power of the Holy Spirit who heals our hearts and enables us to find victory over sin, we must all choose to step out in faith and do what God is telling us to do. Christianity is about a relationship with God. And a relationship requires two active and willing participants. that is how God has designed relationships to work.

No verse sums this up as clearly, in my opinion, as Deuteronomy 30: 19-20 "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life..." (NLT).

We can never be free from unresolved sin until we learn to choose life. The abundant, powerful, victorious life Jesus talks about. This action requires that we reach a point where we are honest with ourselves. Where we admit how lost and helpless we are in our sin and we recognize our desire and need for God to work in our lives. Then we have to choose to open that door and let Him in. Which leads to our next point.

2. Honesty with God. This step will expose how we view God, how we see our own identity in light of Christ, and how we view the nature of our relationship with God and Christianity as a whole.

If we view God as an angry judge we will shy away from opening up to Him about our struggles. If we believe our salvation is not sealed we will be overwhelmed by fear and crushed by the unbearable weight of trying to keep it all together. But if we view God as our loving Heavenly Father (as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures to be) who has purchased our total forgiveness and salvation through the sacrifice of His beloved Son, then we will feel free to approach him boldly as Paul said, and “we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (NLT).

1 John 4:18 tells us, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (NLT).

It has helped me immensely to remember this truth: God convicts. Satan condemns. God may speak to your heart through the Holy Spirit and tell you that a certain behavior is harmful and you need to go in the opposite direction. Satan will show you an endless replay of your mistakes and tear you down by telling you you’re worthless; you’re a mistake, God hates you, and there’s no hope for you.

If you hear the loving voice of a Heavenly Father urging you to turn away from a harmful habit, follow His voice. But if a voice is constantly berating you, telling you you’re too far gone and you should just give up and hide, that’s Satan.

Should we feel condemned when we mess up? No. Here’s why: Romans 8:1 declares, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). In verses 33-34 it says, “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (NLT).

Aren’t we supposed to repent for the bad things we do? Yes. But contrary to popular belief, repentance doesn’t mean wallowing in guilt and paying emotional penance; rather it simply means to turn away from something and go in the opposite direction. Jesus Christ took all our shame when He offered Himself up to be crucified. Colossians 2:13-14 says, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (NLT).

Because of this we can be honest with God about our sins and addictions. We can stumble into His throne room and ask Him for help. And we will find grace and mercy. Don’t be afraid to tell Him your darkest secrets and deepest struggles. He is the ONLY one who has the power to help us find victory over sin. But we can never experience that power if we never bring our sin to Him.

3. Honesty with the body of believers. Now this doesn’t mean you must pour out your sins and addictions to every believer you meet. Even Jesus didn’t tell everything to everyone all the time. He practiced the wisdom of discretion multiple times in the Scriptures and we should too.

But the Bible also illustrates, especially in the New Testament, that we aren’t meant to live this life alone. God tells us we should meet with other brothers and sisters regularly. We should help carry each other’s burdens, encourage each other, and break bread with one another. God designed the church to act as a family unit living life together.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV).

Notice this verse says to confess our sins to one another “so that you may be healed.” Confessing our sins and struggles with the body of believers has nothing to do with finding forgiveness. We are already forgiven because of Christ and the trust we placed in Him at the moment of our salvation. The only time we are called to seek forgiveness by speaking to a human being is if we have personally offended someone by our sin. But the point of that is to bring restoration to the relationship (and remove any animosity or attitudes that might hinder our intimacy with God), not to secure our eternal salvation.

Notice also that it doesn’t say, “Confess your sins to each other so that they may reprimand you and give you a long list of things you should do to make up for your mistakes.” It doesn’t even say “So you can brainstorm together and come up with strategies to keep you from sinning again.”

No. It says “and pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

This paints a beautiful picture of brothers and sisters surrounding each other with humility, and support, and love. Taking part in spiritual warfare on each other's behalf, and lifting up one another by praying for healing and restoration that can only come from God through the power of His Holy Spirit. James understood that restoration from sin cycles lies in the power of God and not in human strategies. He illustrated that it’s not so much about stricter rules and better accountability tools than it is about deep, personal, healing of the soul by the power and grace of God.

Because of Jesus Christ, God's righteous justice was satisfied. So now when He looks at us He doesn't see a criminal to punish. He sees a child to heal. Yes, God disciplines us sometimes. But God's discipline is different than God's punishment. God's righteous punishment for all of our sins fell on the shoulders of Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross for our sake. And there, as Jesus said, "It is finished" (NIV).

Because of Jesus the point of God's discipline is no longer to make us pay for our sins, rather it's to grow us and heal us and draw our hearts closer to Him. Hebrews 12:5-6 says, "And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, 'My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his [children]'” (NIV).

"Encouraging words..." Wow. God goes so far to prove the nature of His discipline that He calls it an encouraging word. The discipline talked about in this verse flows not from a righteous judge seeking justice. Christ already accomplished that. And because of the new covenant we have through Jesus' blood the discipline we experience now is that of a loving Father guiding us toward growth and maturity with gentleness, kindness, and grace.

I pray this post encourages you on your journey. And if you find yourself in the struggle of unresolved sin, I pray you may feel secure and loved enough to open the door and bring your struggles to God, pour out your heart to Him, and find a trustworthy group of believers you can be real with about your struggles; a group that will encourage, support, and pray with you to find healing. Be encouraged, beloved, you are not alone. God is with you. And nothing can ever separate you from His love.

Romans 8:38-39, "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (NLT).

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