Am I Hopeless?
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:8-9
Will I ever get sober? Am I destined to continue failing? Am I even a Christian?
If you’ve ever failed repeatedly – If you grew up with an evangelical tradition – If you believe in heaven and hell – Then you’ve probably asked questions like these. You’ve tried to change, and you truly believe in God, but you feel like there’s not a lot of evidence of authentic transformation in your life. In your repeated failure, you’ve despaired that perhaps you will never change or that maybe you’re not even a Christian as you thought.
I’ve certainly been there. In treatment for my drug addiction, I had many conversations with other addicts about the evidence – or lack thereof – for our salvation. Some of us had been to treatment multiple times and despite turning to God repeatedly, we repeatedly relapsed. All the evidence up to that point indicated that we would never find recovery – that we were hopeless.
As Paul would have described us, the evidence of our lives suggested that we were living in the flesh, acting as though we didn’t belong to God. That was disconcerting to consider. Paul began today’s passage with the comforting promise that There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). As believers in Christ, we don’t have to worry that our failures will cause us to lose our relationship with God. We’re forgiven and free. Paul went on however, to deliver the warning that goes with that promise. He said that those who have a relationship with Christ are forgiven, but also that those who are truly forgiven have something to show for it. The evidence of belonging to God is a transformed life.
I was right to ask those questions in my repeated failures. How I answered it was of eternal importance. Had I never done what it takes to abandon the old life for the new one, I’d have proved that my so-called faith was a sham. I don’t earn God’s love with my behavior, and I don’t live perfectly now, but my changed life is the evidence that I’ve actually experienced his grace and mercy.
Do I truly belong to God? It’s a question we all should ask. The answer lies in how we live.