Q. There is a believer I know who will behave with great respect for God’s word and direction most of the time. He’s prayed for remarkable things and has seen astounding works of the Lord in his own, and others’ lives, but once in a great while he will go off into willful sin, without any excuse. He knows Jesus is the son of God, and he knows when he asks for forgiveness he receives it. After 30 years of doing this, he thinks sinning and then asking for forgiveness and then just repeating the process, is making a mockery of the Lord’s work. Now he thinks God is so mad at him he is losing the will to live. Could you offer insight?
A. From what you say it sounds like your friend believes he is saved. Therefore I would say his discouragement comes from the guilt he feels due to his behavior. He needs to be reminded that God didn’t save him because of his behavior but because of His belief. Jesus said the work God requires of us is to believe in the one He sent (John 6:28-29) and that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life (John 6:40). All our sins were in the future when Jesus died for us, and He took them all to the cross and forgave them there (Colossians 2:13-14). God has now made peace with us through His blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20). Therefore, He is not mad at your friend.
Many people who place too strong an emphasis on their behavior wind up feeling like this. In Romans 7:7-24 Paul explained that knowing God’s standards actually makes us more aware of our inability to meet them. He confessed that even he was unable to make his behavior conform to these standards. He called himself a wretched man because of this. But then he made the remarkable statement that God is able to distinguish between the believer and the behavior and attributes our sinful behavior to the sin that lives in us. That means He doesn’t count our sins against us. Otherwise He couldn’t see us as being perfect forever as Hebrews 10:12-14 requires.
I encourage you to review this with your friend and then recall with him the basis for his salvation, that Jesus died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-4). That belief saves us and guarantees that we’ll have a place in God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 1:13-14).