Can Christians Live Without Sinning?

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When we are converted to Christ every sin we have committed from the age of accountability forward is forgiven. We are justified or acquitted of these sins by faith in Christ who paid our sin debt on Calvary (Romans 3:24);

At the same time, a new life is established within us. That is, we are “regenerated” or born again (John 3:5-8), and we are adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15). We are created anew in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), and our body becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

At the moment of our rebirth, this glorious reality often enraptures our souls as we experience a keen sense of reconciliation with God and deliverance from a life of sinning as well. The bondage to our “unregenerate” life is in a broad sense clearly broken.

But in addition to reference to our sins committed, the Christian Scriptures also refer to sin in the singular to describe sin as a state of being in this fallen world — imprinted upon and woven into us from birth. This explains a universal corruption of the heart, a carnal mind, a bent to wrongdoing. Romans 6 refers to sin in this singular sense 17 times.

However, at the outset of the new life we discover conflict between our fallenness and the energy of the Spirit of God. This represents a kind of civil war in the Christian heart.

The fallen nature can manifest itself in unpleasant temperaments, dispositions or traits, the bondage to such addictions as pornography or substance addiction, or habits of deceptiveness or grudge-bearing. These vie to persist or return the believer to the old life.

In fact, new Christians might for a time rest in this kind of double-mindedness, leaving them too near the entry point to the new life. That was apparently the Corinthian Christians’ situation. Yet Paul refers to them as “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1Corinthians 1:2).

This means that in a primary way they were set apart to God and, through Christ, had good standing before him. Yet he writes to them as “carnal” or “fleshly” for there is “envying and strife” among them (1Corinthians 3:1-3).

To believers who have been forgiven yet still struggle with their sinful nature and habits the Apostle Paul asks: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1,2).

For the serious Christian, then, it appears that it is never necessary to sin. There is always divine grace (1 Corinthians 10:13). If sin were “necessary” we could not be held accountable for it.

But, at the same time, it is always possible to sin. So we are quick to deal with our omissions, sins of surprise, slips, or failures to do what is right in the Bible’s ordained way: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9). This is instruction for believers.

To live as a victorious Christian means to live in obedience to the indwelling Holy Spirit as he deals with us in accordance with God’s holy word, and at the same time to be alert to the need for the constant covering of the substitutionary death of Christ.

Jesus taught us always to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

 

Photo Credit: Milos Milosevic (via flicker.com)

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5 thoughts on “Can Christians Live Without Sinning?

  1. So refreshing to read a a solid, scriptural message on this important topic. Thank you. Decades ago, when pastoring a Free Methodist Church in Ontario (I now live in Australia) I had a retired minister in my congregation who was offended by my use in worship of the Lord’s Prayer. He informed me “I don’t need to ask for forgiveness; I’ve ben sanctified”. Happily Wesleyan theology has been able to move beyond notions of sinless perfection without abandoning John Wesley’s – and Scripture’s – message of a heart cleansed from sin and filled with love.

  2. ‘Can Christians live without sinning ? What a crucial,pivotal question this weeks ‘Just Call Me Pastor ‘ poses.I have learned much by careful reflecting on the topic of each ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ blog, rereading my Bible, and rereading good books .I like to think long and hard about the matter and try to put in words ,in a comment,where my thinking and reading on the weeks blog has led me.It’s been a voyage of discovery.

    Inspired by this week’s ‘Just Call Me Pastor’, I’ve reflected on repentance,forgiveness ,salvation,,the new birth,,the Fall,the image of God, redemption ,atonement ,mankind’s thoroughly corrupt nature,,such essential things that it has made me think very long and hard for more hours than has any previous ‘Just Call Me Pastor’.I still have much to think and consider.

    On thinking about Christian conversion,that most profound life experience ,I recall Jesus said :

    ‘’You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’ ‘’. John 3:7 NIV

    Many imagine that baptism and the new birth are one and the same.I believe that in the church in which I worship,the Anglican church this was commonly believed at the time John Wesley began preaching..In his sermon ‘The New Birth ‘1760,Wesley explains that baptism ,the sacrament, is an outward sign and seal ,a signifier of the inward spiritual grace of regeneration or rebirth.

    ‘’What is the inward part or thing signified ? A death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness’Nothing therefore is plainer than that ,according to the Church of England,baptism is not the new birth’’ John Wesley Sermon 1760 ‘The New Birth

    ‘’A man may possibly be’ born of water’ ,and not yet be’ born of the Spirit’ ‘’ John Wesley Sermon 1760 ‘The New Birth

    ‘’But perhaps the sinner himself ,to whom in real charity we say ,’You must be born again ‘ has been taught to say ‘I defy your new doctrine ;I need not be born again I was born again when I was baptized.What ! Would you have me deny my baptism ?’’ John Wesley Sermon 1760 ‘The New Birth

    Wesley’s answer to this is that the sinner denies his baptism by every wilful sin .

    ‘’be you baptized or unbaptized ,you must be born again .Otherwise it is not possible you should be inwardly holy ; and without inward as well as outward holiness you cannot be happy even in this world ; much less in the world to come.’’ John Wesley Sermon 1760 ‘The New Birth

    Pastor you explain what happens when we are reborn.We are converted and every sin from the age of accountability is forgiven us,our debts paid in full !

    Being born again is a surprising idea.When it happens it’s even more surprising..As you put it Pastor – in a moment the glorious reality of reconciliation and deliverance enraptures our souls.We are released from prison.Our chains of bondage to sin are broken.

    I think C.S Lewis called it ‘surprised by joy’.Another great Christian writer was surprised

    On the evening of 24th May 1738 ,while attending a meeting of the Moravians in Aldersgate Street ,London,UK, something happened to an ordained Anglican clergyman called John Wesley.He wrote in his journal :

    “In the evening I went unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

    Surely this profound experience was no less than John Wesley’s rebirth ,his being born again in Christ, what Jesus was speaking of in John 3:7. Even though Wesley had been ordained since the autumn of 1725 ,neary 13 years earlier ,he was ,in his own words an ‘almost Christian ‘ not an’ altogether Christian’ until1738.

    Wesley’s conversion was that same new birth ,freedom from sin,sin in the singular ,Adam’s sin,our sin,our fall from grace,the marring of the image of God in us .We are freed from sin.Rather we have the opportunity to be free of sin.We are freed from the necessity of sin. One battle is won yet we must continue to fight the good fight.As you describe it Pastor,civil war in the Christian heart remains.There will be new battles to win.

    Wesley’s 1738 Aldersgate conversion was another great step in the life of one who had been marked out by God to bring about something great for Him – no less than a great Revival among Christians,almost a second Reformation .A Revival to equip Christians to fight against sin by becoming ‘altogether’ Christians ,not mere ‘almost ‘Christians.From it’s early days in the Oxford Holy ClubMethodism had taken another great step forward by God’s grace.

    In December 1732,a derogatory letter appeared in in ‘Fog’s Weekly’ ,an English journal,referring to ‘this sect called Methodists’.This aroused curiosity,assuring Wesley a greater audience for his sermon at St Mary’s Oxford Janueary 1st,The Feast of the Circumcision.

    His sermon,titled ‘Circumcision of the Heart’ is a systematic outline of the Methodist doctrine of Holiness and Christian perfection.Wesley spent 60 hours preparing his sermon.With the increased public interest aroused by the Fo’s Weekly’ article,it was crucial that the ideas of Holiness in living and Chriastian perfection be clearly explained and properly understood if the Revival was to succeed in opening peoples hearts and lives to Christ.

    Christian perfection,Wesley explains ,is perfect love of God and fellow humankind,as I understand.Rooted in our perfect faith in Christ’s revelation of the power of love and His two great laws (Mark 12:30-31,Matthew22:37-39, Luke 10:27),.Original sin ,born in Adam’s disobedience ( which I believe a form of pride – thinking he knew better than God) corrupted mankind.We were made both man and woman in His image ( Imago Dei ) .Sin corrupted us so we fell from His image.There was only one way we can be restored .God’s innocent Son Christ had to attone for us on the Cross.Jesus did that for us.It was finished.Now we need only have proper faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Saviour.

    As I understand it ,Christian perfection is full participation in God through His Son.This participation can be achieved through the humility of repentance ,faith ,hope and love.By the circumcision of the herat ,as Wesley called it.

    Circumcision of the heart is being cleansed from sin ,cleansed ‘’ from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’’AV 2 Corinthians 7:1.

    Human pride deceives us into believing we are sufficient in ourselves and need nothing from God.We were deceived into believing we could be like God and have no need of Him.We were tempted into believing our eyes would be opened and we would be like God.Instead we were corrupted and fell fron the image of God into sin and death.

    We need to restore the defaced image of God in ourselves.The one thing needful,which Mary sister of Lazarus chose,is to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word.It must not be taken away from us.Jesus said so.We need to participate in God,be with Him through His son ,sit at His feet as Mary did .Stay close and heed Him.This is my understanding of Luke 10:42.

    Pastor you present our condition as Christians.It is not longer necessary to si since we are born again in Christ.Yet it is always possible to sin.We are still in the world Let us lean on God ,call on Him to deliver us from temptation.Let us be quick to repent in humility , repent every sin whether of commission or omission.He has promised that if we truly repent He will forgive our debt.

    The Spirit indwells us.

    The image of God in us ( imago Dei) was created by God.Created it was defaced.It must be restored.For this Christ died on the cross.Created – defaced – restored.This must be the human story.We must keep our eye on the prize.

    ‘’Let us ever remember we have but one end .For us while our eye is single our whole body will be full of light ,so should it ever cease to be single ,in that moment our whole body would be full of darkness’’ John Wesley Sermon 1734 ‘The One Thing Needful ‘

    We must become one God again,surely.

    ‘’Be it our one view in all in all our thoughts and words and works ,to be partakers of the divine nature ,to regain the highest measure we can of that faith which works by love ,and makes us become one spirit with God. John Wesley Sermon 1734 ‘The One Thing Needful ‘

    ‘’Ye know that the great end of religion is to renew our hearts in the image of God,to repair that total loss of righteousness and true holiness which we sustained by the sin of our first parent ……Keep to the plain old’ faith once delivered to the saints ,and delivered by the Spirit of God to your hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin therefore’ ye must be born again’ ,’born of God’.By nature ye are wholly corrupted ; by grace ye shall be wholly renewed ‘In Adam ye all died ;in the second Adam ,in Christ ye are all made alive’’ John Wesley Sermon 1759 ‘Original Sin

    Through Christ we CAN live without sinning.Rather we MUST live without sinning.For that Jesus opened his arms in love upon the cross and suffered crucifixion.

    Thankyou Pastor for a very important ‘Just Call Me Pastor’

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  4. I meant ‘we must become one with God again’ not ‘become one God again’, which doesn’t make sense..By a typo I missed out the ‘with’.

    Reading Wesley’s sermon ‘The One Thing Needful’ with your ‘Can Christians Live Without Sinning’, Pastor Don ,I believe the one thing needful to live without sinning is to become one with God in the sense of living in obedience to God the indwelling Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s Word,the Holy Bible.

    While considering this ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ I came across these powerful words of Wesley in his 1734 sermon ‘The One Thing Thing Needful’

    ”To recover our first estate, from which we are thus fallen, is the one thing now needful – to re-exchange the image of Satan for the image of God, bondage for freedom, sickness for health. Our one great business is to rase out of our souls the likeness of our destroyer, and to be born again, to be formed anew after the likeness of our Creator. It is our one concern to shake off this servile yoke and to regain our native freedom; to throw off every chain, every passion and desire that does not suit an angelical nature. The one work we have to do is to return from the gates of death to perfect soundness; to have our diseases cured, our wounds healed, and our uncleanness done away”

    What a wonderful prospect – ‘ to throw off every chain, every passion and desire that does not suit an angelical nature.’

    ‘To live as a victorious Christian’ with ‘the constant covering of the substitutionary death of Christ’ – what a wonderful prospect.

    These words are such as to keep in mind ,always to aim for.

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