The other day I was thinking about why Christians sometimes continue to struggle with sinful behavior when Jesus has given us the power to overcome by His Holy Spirit living in us. I pondered writing a blog post about this topic, but wasn’t really sure what to write or what the solution was.
Then I was reading book two of The Chronicles of Brothers by Wendy Alec and came across a statement by Jether, one of the twenty-four elders of heaven (see Revelation 4:4), in response to a question from Gabriel the archangel:
“Michael . . .” [Gabriel] raised his face up to the abandoned west wing, his eyes filled with intense sorrow. “Do you think Lucifer has regret?”
“No,” a soft voice echoed.
Gabriel turned. Jether the Just, imperial angelic monarch and ruler of the twenty-four ancient kings of Yehovah, stood on the gilded steps above them, his silvered hair and beard blowing in the soft zephyrs off the sea. . . .
“If he has regret, Gabriel . . .” Jether walked toward them across the sands, the pearls covering his lime green jeweled slippers as he walked. “. . . it is regret for himself, as he realizes the consequences of his choice . . . of his fall. But true regret . . .” Jether stared upward, north of the two trees of Eden, to the colossal golden, ruby-encrusted door . . . the entrance to the throne room.
“True regret is based on repentance—grieving for the sin, not the consequence of sin. The two are quite contradictory. Completely opposed.” Jether’s pale blue eyes blazed with an uncharacteristic fervor. “And they must never be confused.”
Messiah—The First Judgment, pg. 49-50 (emphasis added).
So often I think we do confuse the two. When we regret the consequences of our sin and change our behavior as a result, we think we have repented. But the change in behavior doesn’t stick and we eventually return to our old habits and behavior.
For example, we are gluttonous and overeat, never thinking of those who have little or nothing to eat. As a consequence of our overeating, we gain weight and our clothes don’t fit. We don’t really regret the sin of gluttony, but we regret that our favorite pants won’t button.
So we go on a diet and for a while we change our eating habits. But once we lose weight and get back into those favorite clothes, we go right back to our gluttonous behavior.
It is only when we truly repent and regret the sin of gluttony itself, confessing our sin to God and asking His help to overcome, that permanent change occurs.
There are a number of other examples I could give, and it’s easy to think of the sins of others and how they struggle. It’s harder to look inward and examine whether I have true regret for my own sin. There are definitely sins in my life that God has helped me completely overcome because I have had true regret based on repentance.
Victory over sin is within the Christian’s grasp. True regret and reliance on the Holy Spirit are the answer.