There are many things, negative and positive, that motivate us to try to change: guilt, fear, anger, pride, a desire to be healthy or to improve at something, etc. Operating under those motivations may work for awhile, but sooner or later we’ll burn out and give up. Think of how many New Years Resolutions last less than a year.
On the other hand, once we’ve experienced Christ’s unconditional love for us–accepting us as we are and being willing to forgive and help us–we are motivated by a desire to please Him. When I am motivated by my love for Christ and my desire to be close to Him (and I know I can’t feel close to Him if I’m feeling guilty), then I sincerely call upon His power and strength to help me accomplish my goal or resist temptation. If I’m mad at myself for being a certain way, the change doesn’t last long. But when I realize how much God loves me and desires to give me victory over my weaknesses, then I respond in gratitude and thanksgiving and humility–realizing I’m unable to change myself, but thankful that God’s ready, able, and eager to do it. All He needs from me is my love and cooperation.
It isn’t enough just to intellectually know the love of Christ. We must experience it. We must learn to be honest and vulnerable with God, with ourselves, and with others. We need to face our sins and confess them to God and trustworthy people. The only way we can experience unconditional love is when we see someone accept us as we are–with all our flaws. But people can’t express that love to us until we’re willing to reveal our weaknesses–those sins that cause our pride to feel embarrassed, or fearful of rejection. It’s ironic that we can’t experience genuine acceptance until we’re willing to stick our necks out and risk rejection. That’s where faith comes in: believing God won’t hand us more than we can bear.
We do need to exercise wisdom in who we choose to open up with. They should be people who have proven themselves trustworthy in keeping private information confidential. But even the best humans are not perfect, and they may fail us, so we must also be willing to forgive them when they do. I praise God for Jesus, who is always faithful, and He understands me better than I understand myself! I love the tender way He reveals my sins to me. I am thankful because I know He is only doing it to help me, not to hurt me. I know He still accepts me and honestly forgives me, and He isn’t even disappointed because He already knows every sin I’ll ever commit. I’m the one who gets disappointed in myself because my pride keeps thinking I’m doing better than I am, and it’s surprised, hurt and embarrassed when I fall flat on my face.
When someone is confessing a sin, we should just listen. We shouldn’t make any value judgments about whether it’s a “big” or a “little” sin. If it bothers their conscience, it is a sin for them, even if we don’t see it as a big deal. We just need to encourage them to get right with God through confession and repentance, and pray with them and for them. We are all called to be holy because God is holy. Thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. If we have given our lives to Christ, we have His Holy Spirit to guide and empower us. Hallelujah!