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I think sin is holding me back; I have asked for forgiveness but do not feel forgiven. I have low self esteem and have strayed but I want to come back to my Saviour.
Thank you so much for your honest question. You are clearly searching for a stability in the faith you have in Christ, and we are so glad to have the opportunity to help you along in this journey. Your question is full of so many different topics that to deal with every single one in detail would cause this answer to become a short book! Therefore I want to briefly deal one by one with the main areas of your question, and point you to the Scriptures that are ultimately our source of truth in every area of our lives. The first point you mention is your battle with sin.
You speak of sin 'holding you back', which in all honesty you shouldn't be surprised by. The Bible is clear that even those who have put their trust in Jesus will still have a struggle with sin. If anything the struggle can get harder, because we are now actually putting up a fight against sin where we once just gave in. For this issue I want to point you to 3 chapters in the book of Romans in which the Apostle Paul deals with these issues. The chapters are 6-8 and I urge you to read all of them and meditate on the truth that is there for us. However, for the sake of this answer let me just highlight a couple of verses. Firstly, in chapter 7, Paul speaks of his own struggle with sin. Though he says that he delights in the law of God in his mind, there are times in his life when he just cannot seem to do that which he wants to:
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15, 19)
I'm sure all of us can relate exactly to the experience Paul is going through here - temptation can sometimes seem so powerful, and so hard to resist. However where the verses in chapter 7 might lead us to give up hope of ever defeating our sin, the 2 chapters surrounding chapter 7 give us great hope. In chapter 6 Paul says these words:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)
The great news for us who want to be free from our sin is that God has already done all the work needed to set us free. It may not always feel like it, or seem like it in our lives, but this is where we need to simply take God at His word. The Bible is clear in numerous places that God has done such a deep work in the depths of those who trust Him that they are now a new creation - the old man is dead, and we have a new found liberty from the sin that once enslaved us. Paul indicates to us again in chapter 6 that there is a great power in simply believing this truth, even if we don't seem to be experiencing it, and so he says:
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)
My friend, whenever you feel that your sin has got the better off you, remember this truth. Look outside of yourself and look to the God who has already loosed you from the chains of your sin if you have trusted Him. Cry out to Him to help you in the temptation and you can be sure that He will help you to stand, and will continually transform you to be the person He created you to be.
Moving on, another area you touch in your question is this:
You speak of asking for forgiveness, but there does not seem to be a certainty that you have received it. This is such a vital area for Christians to understand as a doubt in our minds that God has or will forgive us will lead us into such bondage that it will render us completely ineffective in our Christian lives. Let me seek to put your mind to rest with this simple yet powerful verse from the book of 1 John:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
God says that we can have a guarantee of forgiveness if we will simply confess our sins to Him, and bring them out into the open. Nowhere does God speak of earning forgiveness from Him, but He promises that He will forgive if we will walk in the light. The Bible tells us very clearly that Jesus did not just make a part payment for our sins when He died 2000 years ago, but he paid for them in full (Hebrews 10:11-14), so we never need to love in a state of wondering whether God will forgive us.
So my friend, the question for you is this: are you hiding your sins away, trying to conceal them from God and from other people, or are you willing to confess your weakness and your need of forgiveness? If you are hiding away, then your forgiveness is much less certain, but if the latter is true of you, as one who has trusted in Christ, there is a guarantee that your sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, and you can rest assured in that knowledge.
You also speak of a low self-esteem as one of your problems. This can indeed be a big issue for us as Christians, though the answer to the problem may not be what we initially think it might be. Some might say that to repair a lack of self-esteem we need to focus on all our good qualities to build ourselves up, but if we want to be faithful to the Gospel this is not the case. You see the main problem in our lack of self-esteem is that we're focussing on ourselves far too much, not too little. We generally lack self-esteem because we're extremely concerned how the people around us see us, and because we're unhappy with the way we are we therefore think others look down on us also. What this actually is is a form of pride, where what really matters to us is how good we look to those around us. The antidote is not to think of better of ourselves but simply to think less of ourselves altogether and think primarily of God, and afterward of those around us. The Bible never tries to build up our self esteem, in fact it often does the opposite by telling us the hard truth that we are sinners who have fallen short of the standard God expects of us.
What is so thrilling about the message of the Bible is not that we are amazing people, but that despite our failings and despite our rebellion against God, He still loves us, and wants us as part of His family. God longs for us to turn from our sin and trust Him for salvation and forgiveness. When we do, He adopts us into His family, and rather than seeing us as rebellious sinners, He delights in us, and His mercy towards us never fails.
When you focus on this it sets you free from the endless worrying whether you are good enough, and allows you to rest in the acceptance you have already been given. You're self-esteem no longer is a problem because you know you're loved by God and your value is entirely based on that truth. It's only in that place of freedom from ourselves that we can look outside our own little bubble and give our lives for the good of those around us, which is what love for our neighbours is really all about.
Lastly my friend, let me deal with the recurring theme in your question of a lack of faith, doubt, or fear of the unknown. May I encourage you as we draw near the end of this answer that you stir up your faith more and more by thinking on the object of your faith: the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Firstly, you must look to the first day when He revealed Himself to you, when you were first convinced that Jesus really is the Son of God. Cling on to what God showed you that day and never let go of it.
Secondly look to the ways in which God has proved Himself to you in the past, when He's helped you, strengthened you, when he has answered your prayers. Remind yourself that if God has been there for you in the past He will be there for you in the future.
Lastly, and most importantly, you must look to the cross. It was there, as Jesus died that cruel death in your place, for your sin, that God most clearly demonstrated His love and commitment to you. God was willing not just to send an angel from heaven to rescue you, nor just to buy you back with gold and silver, but God sent His own beloved Son for you, and His Son went through the most horrific suffering in your place so that you might be forgiven. No wonder the apostle Paul says it this way:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)
As we remember the cross, we are shown in no uncertain terms that we never need to doubt the goodness of God. We truly can take Him at His word, and trust Him for all that we need. We can throw ourselves on His mercy and know that He will catch us, and will never let us go. So my friend when doubts begin to take over and try to hold you back from following Jesus, just remember Him, and make the decision to say goodbye to the doubts and to place your hope fully in God.
I do hope this answer has gone some way to helping you in your journey of faith with the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me encourage you to take your questions to the leaders of your local church if you have not done so already - I’m sure they would welcome the chance to help you in your walk with God. If you do not already attend a local church, then our church finder may well be able to help you to find one, and I encourage you to do so as the fellowship we find as part of a church is a vital part of our Christian lives:
Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Romans 6-8
- Colossians 2:6-15
- John 20:24-29
*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
*If anything in this answers affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at http://www.ucb.co.uk/prayerline
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