You Don’t Have to Punish Yourself: Learning to “Leave It”

In Christ, you are free from sin.

Overanalysis can be paralyzing. Living in guilt and worry can be, too. Unfortunately,  along those lines, my favorite activity can be wallowing in my guilt and shame—that is, the pain—of my ever-fallen and sinful self and behaviors.

Throughout my life, I have believed that I was somehow “more holy” if I constantly beat myself up for the horrible person that I was. Isn’t that what sin deserves? And, besides, why shouldn’t I despair? Isn’t sin what separated me from God? Isn’t sin what He hates?  How can He love me when I did this sin, or (gasp and shudder) that sin? Why shouldn’t I punish myself with despair, constant guilt, and hanging my head? Wasn’t I supposed to acknowledge the terrible nature of my sin and its just punishment?

And that’s when the heresy crept in, as it so often does. The despair led me to speak and often accept a lie: the worry that God could no longer love me, that Jesus could no longer save me. In this worry (against Jesus’ command in Matthew 6:34), I tottered into the territory of trusting my own efforts for righteousness. This idea was the signal of heresy, for only Jesus can save; I cannot save myself and saying I can and not trusting His promise of forgiveness through the cross is the exact opposite of saving faith in Jesus (John 14:6; Romans 3:21-28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:8-9).

Seeing me suffer so and sin so, my loved ones reminded me (sometimes very firmly) of the heresy I was speaking, and often I would come around and stop wallowing—for a time. I remembered, after some loving coaching, that I needed to learn to acknowledge my sin, ask for forgiveness, repent, and then move on. I needed to “leave it.”

But a recent explanation from my Sunday school teacher helped me understand “leaving it” in a deeper way. Because Christ suffered on the cross, through faith in Him and His sacrifice, I no longer need to be in—nor purposely put myself through—constant suffering on this earth for my sin. That debt—that suffering punishment—has been paid on the cross in Jesus’ suffering (Romans 5:6-11; 6:23; 1 Peter 2:24). In Jesus, I am being made new, His righteousness imputed onto me—turning this depraved, renegade sinner into a child of God by grace through faith (Romans 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:17, 21).

In this knowledge, I can better learn to “leave it”—to repent from my sin and move on in my new life in Jesus (Galatians 2:20). I need to “leave it” at the foot of the cross, where it was nailed into my Savior’s hands (Romans 6:6-8). My sin is washed away and so is any permanent shame or punishment. Without continuous guilt, I walk in new life with Jesus because I leave my old one with Him (Ephesians 4:17-24).


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