Question: It’s hard to explain, but when I imagine myself coming face to face with Christ, I feel fear and dread rather than joy. I feel guilt and shame. That I have disappointed him. That I haven’t done enough for him. I know in my head that this is wrong because the whole point of salvation is that I can’t earn it, and that my sins have been forgiven. But I guess I struggle with accepting this truth in my heart. I always feel like I need to do more to please God. The passages that cause me concern are Matthew 7:21-23 – “I never knew you” and 1 John 3:4-10 – “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.” Of course I try to do what is right, but I mess up a lot, too. Does that mean I truly don’t know Jesus? I would love any insight on how I can work past these issues and have assurance in my faith.
Let me just say that if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and truly meant it, praying in line with Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation,” you really can be assured of your salvation in Christ.
The question is whether or not you are certain of how good God actually is and will be to someone like “you”. Right? Like, “God is good, but I’m not that great so He’s not able or not willing to be that good to me.” But this kind of stuff is a lie of the devil. God is so pleased by our day in and day out faithfulness. And when you’re tempted to condemn yourself for not being or doing enough, you’ve got to tell the devil, “no!” You remind yourself and the devil of this, that you have a relationship with God in Christ, believe in Jesus, and have asked for your sins to be forgiven. That you do try to spend time with the Lord somehow each day and to be involved in your local church body. Then you remind yourself that you are part of God’s family who He loves and protects.
I think we can all relate to this idea that it’s hard to imagine coming face to face with Christ, because we KNOW every area we have fallen short in. We KNOW our own stuff so well. Reverential fear is normal—like I know I’m not behaving or thinking as good as I could be and I don’t want to bring shame to the Lord or disappoint Him somehow. Our hearts should always be that, “I haven’t done enough for Him” because we have such a reverence for Him that we want to show Him that and serve Him with our whole heart.
The question here is not really about whether or not you’re saved and will be with the Lord eternally. You know that is true. And you’re not even really questioning whether or not you’ve done enough to get to heaven because you know it’s not about works. The battle you’re in is one in your mind because the devil wants to put the veil back up between you and God. This struggle with accepting this truth in your heart and all the doubts that creep in are the things we must contend with.
The passages that cause you concern like Matthew 7:21-23 – “I never knew you” and 1 John 3:4-10 – “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning,” remember we must understand them in context. Matthew 7 is about not simply putting on the show, but instead truly loving the Lord in your heart. It’s a warning not to be showy with your “faith” actions and religious methods that everyone outside sees your greatness but there’s no real relationship with the Lord. Some of us will look less put together in our daily actions but our hearts are in love with Jesus and God sees us as His sons and daughters who aren’t perfect, realize it, but trust He loves us anyways. It’s like your child… would you ever refuse him/her to come to you because they had a mess in their room or maybe cried over a moment things didn’t go their way, or didn’t share their toys when they should have or disobeyed you when you said it was time for bed…. You get my point. God loves you as you love your own children… but even more! The Bible tells us this in Matthew 7:11.
As for 1 John 3, especially where it says, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning,” the idea here is that we are no longer ok with sin. We love the Lord and that makes us want to stop sinning. When we do sin (which God knew we would do) we no longer feel satisfied by that, but our hearts hurt because we have sinned against God. These sorts of thoughts are healthy Christian behaviors. But, the key here is balance. The balance is this, you feel like you’re not good enough”….. but, Jesus! He was and is good enough!!! You think who would ever want me when I think like this?…. but here’s the balance, our Father wanted us! Just as we want our children, despite their failures, and we want them to know our love for them unconditionally!
Yes, we try not to sin, but we will, and that, God already knows. The balance says, my heart hurts to sin against God so I’m going to try not to. And trying not to has to be enough for us. It’s enough for Him!
I hope this helps!