Struggling With Sin

Overcoming Sin NatureLast week we talked about our sin nature. We said it is a defect in character which prevents us from being consistently righteous. We said everybody has a sin nature – including Christians. So that means ALL Christians still struggle with sin – even after becoming believers. Let’s look at 1 John 1:8-10.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

In Chapter 6 of Romans Paul said that the power of the sin nature is broken when a person becomes a believer. He said believers have “died to sin” and they are no longer “slaves to sin”.

So, this raises a question. Why do Christians continue to sin in view of these changes?

Well, to answer that question, we need to review the meaning of the expressions — “died to sin” and “slaves to sin”. “Died to sin” means that the power or control of the sin nature has been broken, which is why Paul said the believer is no longer a “slave to sin”. OK, so what does that mean?

Well, before a person became a believer, the sin nature was in total, control. The person would do whatever the sin nature suggested – usually without any hesitation. Paul called that condition, “slavery to sin” (meaning slavery to the sin nature). However, when a person became a believer, Paul says God broke that control. However, God does not REMOVE the sin nature. It’s still there. So, the urge to sin is still present. That hasn’t changed, but the compulsion to sin has changed. The sin nature has lost its power.

To fully understand the implications of that — we need to know what else happens when a person becomes a believer. What happens is called regeneration – regeneration simply means being made new.

OK, so what’s new? Well, God gives the believer a new nature. He calls it a new heart, and this new heart gives the believer a desire to pursue God and His righteousness. At the same time God gives Christ’s righteousness to the new believer. So, the believer is now holy, unspotted and unblemished in God’s sight.

These are major changes, but they are spiritual changes only. God does not change the physical side of the believer, and that’s where the sin nature is located. Since the sin nature is still there, it continues to act as it always has.

However, this gives the believer a choice – which he didn’t have before. He can choose to follow his new nature or he can choose to still follow his sin nature. The sin nature still makes the same suggestions to sin – just as it did before, but the new nature makes suggestions for righteous living. So, the believer can which one he wants to follow. Sometime he chooses to follow his sin nature.

Paul did that occasionally. One of his biggest sins was pride. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about being taken into heaven where he received special revelations from God. This was a special privilege, and it could have made him proud. Apparently, he had a predisposition to pride. But God had a plan to deal with his pride. Let’s look at the story.

7 …….. so to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT

OK, so what does this all mean? It means that — as believers – we will still be tempted to sin. However, we can so “no” and decide to follow our new nature which wants us to be righteous.

However, we need power to do that. Fortunately, we have it through the presence of the Holy Spirit. So, at the point of temptation, we can say to the Holy Spirit, “Please help me follow my new nature”.

That’s it, you may ask? Yes, that’s it!!!!

See you next time….

Dealing With Sin Nature

Overcoming Sin NatureIn Romans 6:14 Paul said,

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”

The law that Paul is talking about is the law of Moses handed down by God on Mount Sanai. He is talking to believers, and he says they don’t have to live under the law today, because they have the freedom of God’s grace.

Paul explains what this means in Romans 7:4-5.

4 So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God.
5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.

I know this explanation might sound confusing – so let’s see if we can make some sense of it.

Paul says believers are freed from the “power of the law” – Why? — Because they “died with Christ”.

So, what is the “power of the law”? In verse 5 Paul tells us. He says “when we were controlled by our old sin nature, sinful desires were at work within us”. He said the law aroused these sinful desires, and they produced sinful deeds – which resulted in death. That’s “the power of the law”.

The law causes our sin nature to act. Our sin nature is a character defect that we all have. It becomes operative when we are faced with one of God’s commandments. For example, when the Law says “don’t get involved with sexual sin” the sin nature says, “sexual sin feels good, so I am going to do it anyway”. That’s pure rebellion, which is the definition of sin against God.

OK, so what does Paul mean when he says that believers have “died with Christ”?

Well, it simply means accepting Jesus death’ as payment for our sins. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all sin, and Paul says when we accept His payment –we have “died with Christ”.

Now, when we have “died with Christ”, God makes some significant changes in us. The first change God makes is breaking the control that our sin natures have over us. That means for the first time we can say “no” to the evil suggestions of our sin nature. The second change is a heart transplant. God puts a new heart in us that motivates us to follow Him. And the final change is the Holy Spirit. God sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and empower us so that we can make our “no” stick.

In verse 4 Paul says these changes unite us with Christ and give us what we need to live a victorious life. He says these changes allow us to pursue a harvest of good deeds for God.

Now, does this mean that believers will never sin again? No. Even though the power of the sin nature is broken, believers will still listen to it from time to time. It still makes the same evil suggestions that it did before we accepted Jesus’ payment for sin. And these suggestions are still very attractive, and sometimes believers will succumb to them.

However, we have to remember that all sins are paid for by Jesus – even the ones committed after salvation. So, when believers sin, they must immediately confess it to God. He promises to forgive and cleanse them. This is described in 1 John 1:8-9.

8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

So, this is how to live the Christian life. Let’s recap.

1. Don’t try to meet the righteous requirements of the Law on our own power.
2. Say “no” to the suggestions made by the sin nature.
3. Depend on the holy Spirit to provide the power to make the “no” stick.

That’s it!

Now I know there will be times when we won’t follow this procedure perfectly. Sometimes we will fall and commit sin. But, when we do, we must confess it to God immediately, and He will cleanse us – so we can keep going – until the next time. This will become a life long process. The good news is the frequency of sinning will decrease over time.

Ok, that’s it for now…. See you next time.