Broken promises

Hi, I am plagued with fear of death and hell. It stems from reminders of times when I attempted to bargain with God to not allow me into heaven or have the blood of Jesus cleanse me if I committed a particular sin again. I know this was wrong in trying to use fear to help me overcome. I also bargained that the devil could stop me being saved if I committed a specific sin again. It sounds crazy but I got so trapped into the habit of this. I want to believe that I can still be saved and continue the walk with Jesus I started as a young child. I am now an adult and want to be free from this terrible doubt that assails my mind. The fear is that God gave me a free will and that I will be held to what I “vowed.” Thanks.

I want to assure you that your struggle against temptation and sin is not unique. The apostle Paul spoke for every Christian when he described the struggle between the old self and the new self (Romans 7:15-25). Paul lamented how, time and again, he failed to live according to God’s will. It got to the point where Paul asked, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Verse 24) The apostle answered his question in the next verse: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Like you, other Christians have made serious vows and promises to the Lord—and broke them. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus warned his disciples: “This very night you will all fall away on account of me” (Matthew 26:31). The apostle Peter promised, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). When Jesus then told Peter that he would disown him three times before the rooster crowed, Peter promised, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Matthew 26:35). Peter was not alone in making that promise—”And all the other disciples said the same” (Matthew 26:35).

Peter and his fellow disciples made a serious promise to the Lord, and they broke it. How did they recover from that failure? The message of the Bible is this: “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The risen Lord assured his disciples of their forgiveness when he said to them more than once, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)

You can address the “vows” you made in the past through confession and absolution. When you confess your wrong words and actions to the Lord, you can be sure that he hears and acts. Through the gospel in word and sacrament the Lord offers and gives you the forgiveness of sins. Through that same gospel the Lord speaks about delivering us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

When it comes to battling sin and temptation in the future, I encourage you to look to God and his promises. His promises never fail; he carries out what he has vowed. God provides strength for Christian living by means of his gospel in word and sacrament.

God bless you with the peace of forgiveness!