Just off the grassy trail, I sat in an opening between tall weeds and white wildflowers. With my Bible on my lap, I gazed at the still water before me. Ants crawled across my legs while a biting fly swarmed my head, a picture of the thoughts harassing my mind. After just one sinful thought—a temptation I didn’t even ponder—I found myself in a sea of unbelief.
Why does it feel like I’m the only Christian who struggles with this? What is wrong with me? What if I’m not truly saved?
Have you ever met a chronic navel-gazer? Well, if you haven't before, you have now. Hi, my name is Brittany. Nice to meet you.
For years I spent my Christian life spiraling into hopelessness over my shortcomings. Whether they were fleeting thoughts, sinful words, or hurtful actions, they weighed me down into ineffectiveness. They stole away the joy of my salvation, replacing it with fear. Instead of looking to Christ, I had my eyes fixed on me.
How Not to Grow as a Christian
In all my hopeless spirals, I was never drawn to Jesus. I hid in ditches of my not-enoughness rather than letting my faults lead me down the road to the cross. My Savior sought to cover me with his white robe, but I clothed myself in black despair. He gently called out, “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” and “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Gal. 5:1b; Matt. 11:30). But I said, “No, Lord. I’m too sinful. You don’t want me.”
If your goal is to not grow as a Christian, all you need to do is stare at your sin and never let it push you into the open arms of Jesus, your only hope. When you hear Jesus say, “I have set you free,” simply brush his words aside and cling to your chains instead. Focus on your sin and title yourself sinner—never saint.
Sister, this is a life of bondage! Ask me how I know. Jesus eradicated our sin before the Father, but so many of us still wallow in it, trying to pay our own way to heaven with guilt as our currency. We sit stuck in a pit. But grace beckons us to look up.
How to Grow as a Christian
I spent many years fearful that if I didn’t read my Bible, forgot to pray, or missed Bible study at church, I would cease to grow in Christlikeness. Immersing ourselves in Scripture, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians is important, but I began to believe it was what was keeping me in the faith. When I became a mom, my hour-long morning Bible study was obliterated, along with my identity. I graded my faithfulness as a Christian by my time spent doing “Christian things,” and I was failing my own class.
Growth in godliness comes not from staring at ourselves but by fixing our eyes on the source, Jesus Christ. It’s looking to Jesus and pondering his goodness and grace that changes hearts. If we keep our eyes on ourselves, it only breeds frustration and despair; fixing our eyes on Jesus and his perfect life applied to us orients our hearts toward him. As we behold him, we will grow more like him (2 Cor. 3:18).
Fix Your Eyes on Christ
Just before Paul gives the church at Colossae a list of sinful behaviors to put off and a list of godly behaviors to put on, he writes these freeing words: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1–4). We can only live out the list of imperatives that come after these words by fixing our eyes on Christ and all he has done and by finding our identity in him.
If we try to put off sinful behaviors without resting in Jesus’ perfection, which has already been applied to our account, we will only be discouraged by our own imperfection. We will always come up short, but Christ’s grace covers all our failures (John 1:16). We often jump to the put-offs and put-ons but forget to first bask in the finished work of Christ. To thrive toward sanctification, we must first believe in the truth of our justification.
Confirming Our Election
The Bible calls us to examine our fruit, and we should do all we can to keep with repentance (Matt. 3:8). Peter encourages believers to diligently “confirm [our] calling and election” (2 Pet. 1:5–11). However, we might mistakenly think this means sanctification happens by looking within our own hearts to weed out sin.
We must remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and quickly repent when convicted. But as children of God, we don’t need to live in constant fear of coming up short. Our heavenly Father won’t cast us out. Jesus promises to keep us until the end (1 Cor. 1:8). Jesus said that it is the will of our Father that none shall slip through Jesus’ fingers (John 6:39). His grasp on us is firm. Our salvation is secure in him because he justified us.
We are free to rejoice in this great salvation and enjoy all its benefits. The more we love and enjoy our Savior, the more we will reflect him. When we look for fruit in our lives, we must do so with a firm grasp on the gospel.
Grow in Remembering the Gospel
“Brittany, are you a sinner?” my friend asked me one morning over homemade iced coffee.
“Who did Jesus come to save? Sinners,” she said.
It was so simple. It was the gospel my heart had forgotten. God used her words to lift me from my self-inflicted pit and release the heaviness in my chest. Grace. I had lost sight of God’s unending grace.
Our sin should always lead us to the only hope for sin: Jesus Christ. If we always gaze at ourselves, never shifting our eyes toward him, we will remain restless. If we look to Christ, our souls will find true rest. We will flourish when we fix our eyes on the right prize: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Meet the Author
Brittany is a follower of Christ, wife to James, and mama to Theodore, William, and three babies lost through miscarriage. She longs to encourage women to think and live biblically, making Christ their ultimate Treasure. You can find more of her writing at brittleeallen.com or follow her on Instagram @brittanyleeallen.