First of all, thank you for joining connect! I hope that you find your time here enriching .
I thank you for your deeply sincere question. The Christian lifestyle is full of challenges that often times make us wonder where we stand with God. So here are a couple things I would love for us to think through.
What saves us?
One of the things that I love most about Christianity is that salvation is never based off of our own works or efforts. This is important, because if it is based off of our works, how do we ever know if we have been good enough? Further, how many good deeds do we need to do to have done enough to earn God’s acceptance? How many bad deeds are too much? There are no numbers given out in Christianity that say if you do 5,000 good deeds, you will go to heaven. And I’m grateful for that because I certainly haven’t kept a tally on how many good things I’ve done or how many bad things I’ve done! But more importantly, I wouldn’t really want to serve a God that only likes me because of the things I did well. That is a God who only offers conditional love and not unconditional. And ideally, even your parents love you unconditionally as infants when you can’t earn it. How could God be good and love you less than your own parents? You will encounter this struggle for acceptance the most when speaking to Muslims. They are always living in fear as to whether or not they have done enough to earn God’s acceptance. It’s one of the things that leads many of them to find Christianity beautiful. In Christianity, they can know for sure whether God is pleased with them.
The Bible is very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 8:9-10, that it is by grace that we have been saved through faith, or putting our trust in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and identity, and not due to any works that we were able to do ourselves.
What does it mean to be unsaved?
So then, what does being unsaved mean? Well, those verses help us understand that it’s the non-acceptance of Jesus Himself! Since salvation is based off of your acceptance of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection and identity, then rejection of Him severs that relationship. It is not the actions that you do. Someone who is not a Christian is someone who rejects Jesus’ divinity, life and purpose.
Why do we deal with struggles?
But here’s the thing, Jesus saves us from the eternal consequences of our sin which have left us in a broken relationship with God. He doesn’t save us from our current physical bodies, life experiences and temptations. We still struggle in these bodies to live the way that Christ lived when he was on earth. This is why it’s truly remarkable that Jesus lived a sinless life. Granted, he was God and could not sin, but He was still faced with all the temptations that we face as well. Yet every time he was able to make the right decision and say no. However, for the Christian, the idea is that we grow over time to be more more like Christ. That does not happen overnight in every area of our life, although it may happen overnight for some in a specific area(s). But we struggle with ourselves and our own desires. We know the right thing to do, but don’t always do it because it’s not necessarily what we want to do. So many attractions of the world draws on us daily. So no, once you become a Christian we do not live a life without sin, but we live a life where we are aware of our sin because we are aware of who God is and His standard for us. And so when we sin we actually ask for forgiveness and turn away from our sin- something that before we were Christian’s we did not necessarily do. So know, that when we become a Christian, we will sin again. We won’t live perfect in this life, which is why we always do need Jesus and his gift of salvation.
What does God think of us?
I would encourage you to read a few books by a man named Brennan Manning. Brennan was a Christian speaker, author, teacher and he struggled with alcoholism. Eventually the alcoholism killed him, but he was a man who had to learn to receive God’s forgiveness over and over again because of his constant struggle. He was a man who received the grace of God even though he didn’t deserve it, for none of us do. Brennan disappointed himself each time he sinned, but he always reached out to a grace that offered him salvation, even as a failure.
“My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace… A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request– ‘Please, remember me’-- and assures him, ‘You bet!’ A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine… Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.” -Brennan Manning “All is Grace” p. 192-194
What I love about Brennan is how he helps us to see what God thinks of us even when we fail. So often we count ourselves out of heaven. We feel that we have gone beyond forgiveness. But Brennan shows us that there’s a pursuer of us even when we’re running away in our shame and regret. And when I mess up, it’s that picture that I like to think of.
We should daily be fervently striving to live as Christ wants us to live. We should be resisting temptation, fleeing from dangerous situations where we are vulnerable, and seeking after things that are pleasing to God. Having an accountability friend who can ask how you are doing is helpful for some. Avoiding vulnerable situations is also helpful. Additionally, changing what music we listen to, what TV shows we watch, what articles we read etc. all change what we are feeding into our minds. When you fill your mind with other things, then those previous attractions look less and less attractive. But either way, when failing happens, we ask for forgiveness and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading inside of us that warns us of dangerous situations and actions so that we can avoid doing those same sins in the future. Sin should always grieve us. Knowing that we are hurting God should never make us feel happy with ourselves. And knowing that is great motivation to live as He calls us.
I hope that helps. Blessings to you, Delia!