You Can Never Fail Again
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2
In trying to find lasting recovery several years ago, I realized I was facing a daunting task. Every time I’d relapsed, the destruction had gotten worse. So, the challenge was to figure out how to never use drugs again – ever. Just think about that. Contemplate your greatest life struggle – overeating, cursing, smoking, or whatever it is – and imagine that you’ll lose everything if you ever do it again.
I once used that kind of thinking to work myself into failure. I’d try to get sober and then I’d realize how impossible it was to live perfectly for the rest of my life. I’d throw my hands up in despair and relapse. Why even try? Then once I’d used, that was my excuse to keep using. Well, I’ve failed. I might as well keep going. God will forgive me anyway. I used the impossibility of perfection as an excuse to fall and then once I was on the ground, it was just easier to stay there.
John addressed this kind of thinking in today’s passage. In it, he said that, as Christians, the expectation is that we don’t sin. That is our goal. Just a few verses previously though, he acknowledged that everyone does sin. But, he said, when we fail there’s always forgiveness in Christ. Failure though, is not meant to be our normal condition.
My problem is that I look at that and go to one of two extremes. I get frustrated that I’ll never be perfect and throw my hands up in futility. Or I decide that since God is forgiving, I can just do whatever I want. Either way, I’m justifying my will, not God’s.
This was my problem in my drug use and it’s still my problem today. I’ve still got things that I tolerate in my life because I know I’ll never be perfect. John though, said that this isn’t to be the case. I’m not to tolerate sin in my life. In realizing that though, I get frustrated and do whatever I want because God will forgive me anyway. The challenge is to hold both truths in my head at the same time. Yes, there is always forgiveness in Christ when I fail, but following him means working on those failures. I’ll never be perfect, but I can keep growing, daily becoming more like who I was made to be.