While I had the head knowledge of salvation, I lived as if I did not have that assurance. I began to relive the guilt which had consumed me for years as if I were still living in sin. I knew 1 John 1:7 by heart, and I was indeed walking in the light at that time. I should not have questioned God’s promise to completely expunge the record of my past. Because of this doubt, I became more and more distant from God.
This also led to uneasiness with my new brothers and sisters in Christ. Though none of them gave me any cause to doubt their sincere care for me, I felt out of place. I had this false notion that they were somehow above temptation and therefore could not possibly sympathize with my past indiscretions. All these feelings set the stage for my eventual collapse inside of three years from the time of my conversion. The absolute trust I had in the Lord the day of my conversion had been replaced with the feeling of guilt and the nonsensical idea that God and His people could not understand me. Without that trust in Him, it was only a matter of time until the lure of the tempter got the better of me, and I was right back in the world. This began a vicious cycle of guilt, leading to a greater sense I did not belong, leading to more sin and guilt, etc.
After a period of roughly seven years wandering in the wilderness of sin again, I finally came to my senses and returned to the Lord. Since then I have learned to better embrace His marvelous atonement for the mind-bending reality that it is: undeserved but freely given. I had a tough time accepting God’s amazing grace, and this led to my turning from Him. It is a fine line we must walk between accepting God’s grace and turning it into license to sin (cf. Jude 4; Rom. 6:1-18). Due to the attitude of some trying to use God’s grace as an excuse to go on sinning, others of us have overreacted and nearly eliminated the assurance we have of God’s merciful dealings with us. It was the latter thought process which caused me to abandon the Lord and return to a life of sin. What is the answer for those who feel like no one understands?
Enter Hebrews 4:14-16 with its grand declaration of our compassionate High Priest, Jesus the Son of God. I finally laid hold of this teaching after my collapse and recovery, and it has been a source of strength ever since. In it, I learned that the Lord fully understands my predicament. He was tempted by all the same temptations we face (cf. Mt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-13), but in never succumbing to them, He became the spotless lamb of God who alone can deliver us from our sin (cf. 1 Pt. 1:17-21). As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Because He faced down the tempters arrows, He can sympathize with our weaknesses and serve as our High Priest. It is up to us to approach the throne of grace for the help we need in time of temptation. We must make sure all Christians know that God understands them and so do we.