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How can I be sure that all my sins are forgiven? How can I stop sinning in my daily life? I can't stop spending money and I'm in debt. What can I do?
Thank you for your questions. These are essential issues that as Christians we need to both ask and be sure of their answer.
Jesus was clear on this first issue when he said "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3)
Being born again is the bench mark for salvation. It is an instantaneous irreversible miracle made possible at the point of true repentance because of the work of Christ on the Cross. That experience differs between people: for some it is an unmistakable moment of revelation and for others it is a gentle movement of the Holy Spirit where someone who was previously dead in sin is awakened to the things of God.
Whatever form that moment took and what follows is the same for all. Things that we used to love we begin to hate and things that we used to fear we begin to love. We no longer want that life we had but this life that Christ calls us to. Our desires are transformed as we begin to hate sin and love righteousness. We will not be sinless, but the pattern of this life will be decreasing sin and increasing righteousness.
As the hymn writer puts it,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Sometimes we can feel that we're actually going backwards or that the habitual sin in our lives as you mentioned is not decreasing. But often it's the case that as we become increasingly conformed to the image of Christ by God (Romans 8:29), that we become more aware of our sin. Our sin becomes more offensive to us, we see more and more how holy and perfect God is and how utterly sinful sin is.
It's important to press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14) but it's also important to reflect on how far you've come and be encouraged by that.
Doubt is an inescapable part the Christian life as we live with the corruption of the flesh and we have an enemy who works against us.
That's why Paul said that we need to examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
If you're climbing up a hill and someone takes a 50 kilo sack off your back you will notice the difference. Sometimes though, we can begin to lose sight of the burden we once carried and that is why we need to test ourselves to see if we are indeed in the faith being mindful of both how far we have to go and how far we've come.
The Christian life is both about obedience and daily repentance. Our goal is increasing obedience to the word of God and repentance when we fall short of that standard. If you're not convinced that you "are in the faith", the fact that you are asking this question shows the call of God in your life. Do what you already know you need to do; repent and trust in Christ alone for your salvation. The sinner's prayer isn't just a onetime deal, repenting at the foot of the cross, brought to our knees because of our failures, resting in the truth that Christ bore our cross so that we could wear his crown, is the whole foundation of the Christian life.
This is how we know our salvation is genuine, when our lives show the evidence of a renewed heart, that we are not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2)
God gave us his scripture for this sole purpose, that we are able to know the God who came down from heaven to save us.
How do we know that all our sins are forgiven, our souls secure and our salvation sure? Because the God of all creation has told us so!
When Jesus hung on the Cross he took every sin that had ever and would ever be committed on himself, bore our punishment for that sin and declared with his final breaths "It is finished!" (John 19:30)
There's nothing we can add to or take away from that. We are not saved on the basis of anything we have done or can do but entirely on the basis of what Christ has already done for us.
Christ lived a sinless life and that is what God's perfect standard demands. The only way we as unrighteousness sinners can stand before God is if we are dressed in the righteousness of Christ, no longer being judged by our sin but on the basis of what Christ did for us. The redeemed don't even stand before God as forgiven sinners but as white as snow as though we have never sinned because it is the righteousness of Christ that now dwells in us.
That's why Martin Luther the great reformer wrote
Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say...Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what you were not so that I might become what I was not.
Rest in this truth, that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Being born again, being "justified" is an irreversible miracle at the point of salvation described by Peter this way for you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
What does that mean exactly? Paul qualifies this, declaring that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39)
Once that instantaneous act of justification has occurred though, the life-long process of sanctification begins. Habitual sin is something that absolutely should deeply concern us and sanctification is how those problems are dealt with in the life of a believer.
Paul said and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
In all of this God is totally sovereign. Salvation is from God (Ephesians 2:8) and through God (Romans 8:28) and for the glory of God (1 Peter 2:9). That truth should be an enormous encouragement to us.
If God's grace is sufficient to save you it will be sufficient to sustain you through every trial and temptation. In all our struggles the answer lies with God.
In this we see two truths working simultaneously in scripture, we are responsible for our obedience to the word of God but in that same breath God is sovereign power reigns over everything (Ephesians 1:11)
Paul tells us that believers must be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. (Titus 3:8) but also that no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
We have to live our lives according to this dual truth. God expects obedience and we are responsible for our commitment to that, but we must also rest in the fact that Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
With the particular issue you mentioned in terms on money, this I would say is a challenge for most western Christians. We have to strike a balance between seeing God's blessing and provision in our lives whilst not using that as an excuse to ignore the plight of our brothers and sisters. In terms of your own situation you’ve rightly acknowledged that for your own sake you need to get this under control. Perhaps if you consider this perspective on the issue of wealth it would help you to challenge yourself with greater discipline.
When Jesus was asked "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)
When we spend and accumulate wealth the first question we should ask ourselves is are we glorifying, worshipping and loving God in the way we are using our money?
Secondly in this world of need, if we can’t find anything other to spend our money on than passing luxuries, are we really loving our neighbour as ourselves?
The early Christians understood the issue of wealth this way. If you have two coats and see your brother freezing, you’re not just denying him your kindness by keeping the coat but literally stealing a coat from him. I think that’s a most helpful challenge to us all.
There are many verses and much more to say on this issue but in short Jesus put it this way:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
"The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" (Matthew 25:34-41)
We should always be mindful of this clear biblical principle Jesus gave. If we are "storing up treasure on Earth", we don’t only deny our Brother's needs but we without doubt are affecting the storing up for ourselves of "treasure in Heaven". (Matthew 6:19-21, Mark 10:28-31)
In all these things when we feel temptation, when we can't shake the habitual sin that grips our lives we have to press into God, bring this to him in repentance and prayer asking for strength and wisdom. Keep your mind set on things above (Colossians 3:2) seeking truth in God's word, commit to reading the bible regularly, daily if you can because when we draw near to God, he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts (James 4:8).
Rest in the promises of God taking every thought captive, "learn to know Christ crucified" so that when that sin temps you we consider what Christ endured to save and free us from that sin.
I hope these verses will be a source of encouragement and growth to you. I pray you keep hold of them, study them and let their truth be absorbed into your heart. Press into God's scripture because the bible is the most valuable possession you will ever have. If you have any more questions at all please get back in touch with us but in the mean time I'd like to leave you with Romans 8:28-39. This is God's answer in his own words to these worries that trouble you.
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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