Sin and the Christian

When was the last time you sinned? Don’t say, “Probably today,” or “Definitely sometime today,” or any other vague non-answer. Seriously, when was the last time you sinned?

If you are a Christian living the way you should to the best of your knowledge and ability, I believe that question will be difficult for you to answer, or at least it should be.

My dad asked me that question on Saturday during a discussion about a recent discussion on the Fellowship Hall. We had a user stating that a true Christian cannot sin, and we had other people stating what amounted to, Christians will sin and most likely will do so often.

But is that necessarily the case? What is sin, anyway?

“Sin is lawlessness,” says 1 John 3:4 (MKJV). We sin when we break God’s law, and I can show you that law very easily:

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40, NASB

Lying, stealing, adultery (even lust!), murder (even hate!), covetousness, and other sins are what we could call obvious sins, but what about sins of omission that aren’t specifically listed in the Bible but which are summed up not only in what Jesus said in the passage from Matthew, but also by James: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, NASB).

Think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Think of those you have seen who were in immediate need. If you know to do good, you should. You should let your love be an expressive love. When I fail to do that, I sin.

How far do we take that, though? If we define it strictly, we are constantly sinning; there is always something more we could be doing at any particular moment, if we really wanted to be strict about it. We’re not all gifted with Paul’s amazing perseverance for preaching, after all; to raise the bar that high for all of us would create an atmosphere of crushing failure within the church!

But God wants us to be holy. He beckons to us to be as He is. He asks us to be willingly to give our lives over to Him to be made holy. Yes, we will sin, but why talk about it as if it is something which will happen every few minutes? Imagine having a loving relationship with the Father knowing that you are in a right position with Him, and that your mistakes are fewer and farther between than ever before! Imagine the fruits of the Spirit that would be pouring forth from you! What joy that would bring to know that we aren’t upsetting our Father every few steps we make! What peace we would have knowing there is no impediments to our relationship with our Abba!

Let me address two popular verses on this subject quickly:

1 John 1:8, NASB: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This verse does not teach that we sin constantly, but it does teach that we will not be totally free from sin in this lifetime. Sin will happen, and if we say that it does not, we deceive ourselves.

1 John 2:1, NASB: “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” See that? Paul is writing to show us that we can live a life that is not characterized by sin! We can be “holy as God is holy” probably a majority of the time, if that is where our desires are. But if we sin (and we will), we have an Advocate with the Father. Our defense is being made by He who can never fail: Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Oh what a wonderful God that has delivered us from the power of sin! We are at liberty to live a life of righteousness!

Thanks, Dad, for helping me to realize this.

8 thoughts on “Sin and the Christian”

  1. Excellent post. I love how you juxtaposed those two verses and created a tension between the two extremes of “Christians can’t sin” and “It’ll happen anyway, so why try to stop.” Great post.

  2. Nice post! I like the way that you expressed ‘He asks us to be willingly to give our lives over to Him to be made holy’. This is the heart of the matter…Romans 12:1-2. The idea that the christian will not sin or rather will be totally free from sin…is foolish. I think that we need to ask ourselves whether we find that lingering hunger for God. Somewhere in Matt. 5 we read, ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.’ This is the life experience of those who truly know God. As they hunger for Christ, they will present themselves as living sacrifices to God constantly. They will be constantly staring into the portals of His Heart by his Word. They will actually hear Him speak, enjoy his presence and yearn for it. This will lead to a life of sinlessness (as the true Christian life actually is), where the christian will sin less and less. This lifestyle is born out of relationship, rather than the focused attempt to ‘fight’ against sin. It took a long time to realize this.


  3. I’ve got to disagree with ‘there is always something more we could be doing at a particular moment’. James 4:17 is something which is in the practical very simple, by applying every hypothetical to it is an impossibility that causes constant sin.

    Its got to be applied only to things which you are aware you can do and which is in you’re power to do. Everyone must take time to rest, thats a moral law, and they must see to their immediate responsibilities, and just from that point most of peoples time is spent doing exactly what they should do and can be required of no more. To apply this properly we have to say that if there is something right before you that you know you can do to help and ignore it you sin. Don’t be a Jonah, to that end this is an uncommon cause for Christians to sin rather than a common one. A sin of omission must be one of active negligence rather than a vague ‘I probably could have done more’, the latter feeling can’t be considered any more than the devil trying to bring false guilt.

    The idea that we always could be doing something more is not an objective one, and it does create a feeling of failure in the people that embrace it.

  4. Quite right, Jair; had I written this piece today, I probably would have realized that. Keep reading my older posts, and you’re bound to find plenty to disagree on — and I appreciate every person who points out such things… Some of ’em, I may not have realized or grown out of yet. :)

  5. I’m glad to help if I can, I object here because thinking like that wearies the soul. Its in my personality to take on more than I can handle and still feel like I could do more, this was a lesson I learned the hard way. Through some rather severe pruning over the course of a few years I learned to do my best and be at peace with the rest, so I would rather that others learned it through theory rather than by application.

    Was it something from the book Finding an Unseen God that made you say that if you wrote the post today you would have realized that? That sounds like a very interesting work.

  6. If anything, Finding an Unseen God helped me better understand atheist seekers. I’ve never had a strictly atheistic period in my life, having always believed in something.

    I don’t think I could credit any particular work with the change in my belief regarding the above post, but instead simply cite a few years’ of growth. :)

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