To a person passing through the spiritual changes that the Bible describes as moving from death to life (John 5:24; Romans 6:13; Ephesians 5:14 ), awareness of the ugliness of one’s sin can be overwhelming. One of the reasons repentance is so difficult is the pain that comes from acknowledging sin.
Repentance involves spiritual battle. The names “Devil” and “Satan” mean accuser and adversary. When we move towards repentance and salvation, the enemy of our soul strives to transform our Holy Spirit-given consciousness of sin into despair. If he can make us so obsessed with our sin that we doubt the efficacy of Christ’s atonement and think that we must somehow atone for our sin ourselves, he will succeed.
People who are genuinely bound for hell either deny sin, explain it away, or rationalize it by comparing themselves to other people they consider worse. The first step in assuring one’s salvation from sin’s curse is acknowledging its power and influence. This step requires the humility to repent and see one’s helplessness. The next step also requires humility—a willingness to acknowledge that our sinful state is not unique. The Bible tells us that the whole human race is under the curse of sin. Everyone is too corrupt to earn salvation by his or her own efforts. We are no more or less lost than anyone else. As well as being a spiritual attack, obsessive focus on personal sin can also be an expression of a diabolically twisted pride that says, “I’m worse than other people. I’m too evil for God to redeem.” Of all sin, this pride is perhaps the most tragic.
Morbid, despairing thoughts come unbidden. If you choose to resist them in obedience to God’s Word, they will fade. But if you entertain them, their power will grow (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9).
Faith is trust in God’s love. If your parents were distant, arbitrary, or abusive, it may be difficult to view God as a loving Father. If you have been under the enemy’s power for many years, it may be difficult to believe God loves you. Spiritual and emotional growth is slow, and uphill. Trust involves carrying on without absolute emotional assurance or intellectual proof. YOU have to do it. No one else can do it for you (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Trust is willingness to live with unresolved issues, doubts, and frustrations and willingness to forego the demand that God eradicate all your problems and dispel all your fears.
Trust accepts the world as it is and moves forward. It sees the clouds as they shift and darken but is willing to wager1—on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—that behind them is glorious hope of freedom and restored life.
- Pascal’s “wager” was the challenge issued by the brilliant 17th-century French mathematician/inventor/religious philosopher Blaise Pascal. A translation of the main part of his “wager” is below.
“God is, or He is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up . . . Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose . . . But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is . . . If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
The basic meaning of his “wager” still applies today: If we live a life of faith as though the Christian God exists, we will have a better life in this world and hope for redemption and eternal life following death. On the other hand, if we live as though the Christian God doesn’t exist, we will experience increasing torment and alienation in this life, and the possibility of retribution in the life to come. Back To Article