I'll just come right out and say it: I haven't gone to church even once in the past two years. It's not like I started out thinking I would quit—I just skipped a Sunday here, a Sunday there. Well one thing turned into another and you can see where that got me. While I know I don't need to go to church to be saved the guilt from not going is nearly overpowering. Now I find myself avoiding my Christian friends and instead going out with other, less positive influences. My social life isn't exactly something I want to talk about on Sunday mornings anyway. When I let myself think about my faith I'm filled with fear. Have I lost my salvation? Does God still love me even though I'm doing everything wrong? And where do I go from here? I don't know what to do.
Although we are declared not guilty before a holy God by faith in Jesus' substitutionary death for us, and even though we have God's Spirit indwelling us, believers may yield to temptation and sin (Galatians 5:17). Not only might we sin, we may continue in that failure and sinful behaviour for some time.
Continually yielding to temptation does not revoke our salvation or our heavenly inheritance. But, as long as we stay in that situation we will break our fellowship with the Father, become spiritually unhealthy, and forfeit our rewards for a life that pleases God (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
- God loves us with an everlasting love and desires that we have an abundant life of fellowship with Him (John 3:16).
- Christ came to give us this abundant life in fellowship with the Father (John 10:10). He died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6).
- God placed us in Christ who was punished for all our sin thereby paying our penalty. As far as God is concerned, we died with Christ.
- We are now dead to sin (Romans 6:2). Sin's power over us is broken and we do not need to sin.
- Having been forever united to Christ, nothing can separate us from God's love (Romans 8:31-39). We are His children forever.
- The Holy Spirit indwells us to empower us to resist temptation rooted in indwelling sin (Galatians 5:16).
- Holy transformation of our lives takes place as we renew our minds with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit makes it real in our actions (Romans 12:1-3).
- If we do sin, God tells us that when we confess and repent, He will forgive us our sin and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). There is no sin too bad for God to forgive. Failure is not final.
The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 provides a pattern for returning, restoration and reconciliation after spiritual failure:
- Become aware of and sensitive to your sinful thoughts, inclinations, actions, patterns and situation (v. 17). The Holy Spirit does this by convicting us of our sin.
- Remember, a “bad” day with the Father is better than a “good” day in sin (v.17).
- Acknowledge your personal responsibility and sin against God and others (v. 18).
- Realize God's heart toward His sinning children is one of compassion and grace (vs. 19, 20).
- Confess your sin to your heavenly Father (v.21).
- Receive the Father's forgiveness, acceptance, and restoration back into fellowship (vs. 22-24).
- Rejoice and walk in restored fellowship (v. 24).
Final note: Rather than judging those who have experienced spiritual failure and returned, those who have continued to walk with the Lord need to be thankful that apart from God's grace they too could fall. They also need to understand the Father's compassionate heart and rejoice with Him over those who return to Him (vs. 28-32).