Several years ago I started to notice a nagging toothache. I tried to ignore it, hoping it would resolve on its own. The pain stuck around, but I kept putting off a trip to the dentist. I imagined I would need a filling—or worse, a root canal—and the thought of an uncomfortable and potentially expensive procedure was enough to avoid the issue altogether. My painful tooth was a problem I chose to ignore, and I often respond to the problem of my sin in the same way. Rather than deal with the shame of acknowledging my failures and facing the discomfort of trying to change, I turn a blind eye. But ignoring your sin is like avoiding the doctor because you’re afraid you might receive a difficult diagnosis. You might get bad news, but you also might save your life.
When God reveals our sin, it is a gift of mercy, even if it's painful. The enemy uses our sin to condemn us, but the Lord convicts us to bring sanctification, healing, and greater awareness of his love. But often, when we experience conviction from the Holy Spirit, the condemning lies of the enemy are close at hand. However, we’re not defenseless against the devil’s schemes (Eph. 6:11). We can use the truth of the gospel to combat the lies that attempt to lead us to despair, misplaced shame, and withdrawal.
Lie #1: Your Sin Defines You
Where sin is present, shame is not far behind. We desperately long for approval from others and confidence in who we are. But when we see our sin, condemnation rains down like flaming darts that threaten to consume us. You’re a failure. You’re so messed up. See what a fraud you are? Who do you think you’re fooling? You’re disgusting. Unloveable. Hopeless.
These accusations have the potential to be debilitating, but we can fight them with this gospel truth: If you’re in Christ, his righteousness defines you, not your sin. Jesus took your sin, shame, and failures upon himself and instead gave you his perfect righteousness. There is no condemnation for you, because he paid the price for your sin by dying in your place. Where you fail, Christ succeeded. You are chosen, holy, beloved, restored, and secure. You are his.
Truth to Remember: If you’re in Christ, his righteousness defines you, not your sin.
Scripture to Remember: Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:1–9
Lie #2: Sin Means You’re Not Growing Spiritually
Coming face to face with our sin can make us feel like we’re moving backward instead of forward. As Christians, we’re supposed to mature and grow, so recognizing our sin can be discouraging and perhaps even lead us to doubt that we’re really saved.
God reveals the sins of his children because he loves them. Here’s the gospel truth: God loved us enough to save us while we were in the depths of our sin, and he loves us too much to leave us unchanged. Without Christ we’re often blind to our sin, but as God aligns our hearts to his and we become more like Jesus, we grow increasingly aware of our sin and long to put it aside. So if you see more of your sin now than you did a year ago, praise God! He’s working in your heart to refine and renew you, day by day.
Truth to Remember: God loved us enough to save us while we were in the depths of our sin, and he loves us too much to leave us unchanged.
Scripture to Remember: Hebrews 12:5–11; Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8
Lie #3: You’ll Be Rejected and Unloved
Last year, the Lord revealed sin to me that had been wreaking havoc in my heart for years. I knew I needed to bring it into the light and invite others to walk alongside me (James 5:16), but the thought of confessing to others was terrifying. I imagined all kinds of negative reactions—disgust, disappointment, discrediting. Perhaps similar fears keep you from bringing your sin into community. Maybe you fear God himself will look on you with disdain. Despite my trepidation, the Holy Spirit graciously led me to share anyway. I was overwhelmed by the love and encouragement I received from fellow believers, and God did a work of transformation in my heart.
While you can’t predict how others will respond to your sin, you can be confident of this: God’s love for you is not based on what you do but on who he is. You didn’t do anything to earn his love, and there’s nothing you can do to lose it. His character is unchanging and his love is unfailing. He is not surprised by your sin. In fact, he knew it all when he called you his. You are safe in his love.
Truth to Remember: God’s love for you is not based on what you do but on who he is.
Scripture to Remember: Romans 5:8; Lamentations 3:22–23; Psalm 36:7
Lie #4: God Won’t Use You
It’s easy to believe the lie that our sin disqualifies us from serving the Lord. We may try to cover up our sin, avoid opportunities to serve, or withdraw from Christian community altogether.
Here’s the truth we must preach to our hearts: God uses the sinful and the weak to do his work. He called a childless pagan to be the father of Israel, a murderer and adulterer to rule over his people, a tax collector and a persecutor to proclaim the gospel, and he calls you and me to do work that has eternal significance. Your failures don’t disqualify you, because he’s the one who does the work.
Truth to Remember: God uses the sinful and the weak to do his work.
Scripture to Remember: 1 Corinthians 1:26–31; 2 Corinthians 12:9; John 15:5; Ephesians 2:10
Lie #5: Your Sin Isn’t That Big of a Deal
While lies about our sin can lead us to despair, some lies lure us in another direction. When we believe that our sin isn’t all that serious, we ignore it, justify it, or even nurture it. Rather than repent of our sin, we let it slide.
Sister, do not be deceived: All sin is destructive. Sin enslaves. It destroys relationships, sabotages intimacy with God, and leads us to despair rather than delight in walking with the Lord. Sin is like poison—no matter how enticing it may appear, its end is death.
Truth to Remember: All sin is destructive.
Scripture to Remember: James 1:14–15; Romans 6:16; Colossians 3:5–10
In this life, all of us will wrestle with sin. Only when Christ returns will we be totally free from its presence. In the meantime, God has broken sin’s power over us in Jesus Christ, so we can increasingly cast it aside and put on holiness in its place. Our sin is so much worse than a toothache, but it has a cure! So when you see your sin, don’t despair—press in to the truth of the gospel. The process ahead may be painful and costly, but the results are worth it. Rejoice in the love of your Father, who cares enough to give you the difficult diagnosis so you can experience incredible healing.
Meet the Author
Joanna Kimbrel serves as content coordinator for The Gospel Coalition. She is a Bible teacher and writer with a passion for sharing the beauty of God’s Word with others. She is author of The Greatest Hero: The Book of Romans. Joanna and her husband Chad have two daughters and are members of Sojourn Community Church in Woodstock, Georgia. You can follow her on Instagram.