- July 13, 2017
- Jared Odenbeck
Sometimes I wonder why I sin. I wonder why I continually rebel against my God. I wonder why I do “what I do not want to do” as Paul says in Romans 7. Will I go on in sin forever? Can I have a hope in transformation this side of heaven?
This internal dialogue prompted me to search Scripture for truth. I often remind myself that if my own opinion disagrees with the Word, then I am wrong and I need to be changed to conform to the supreme truth of the Gospel.
First, we must establish who sins. 1 John 1:8-9 reads, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This Scripture establishes what we know to be undeniable, that we all have sin (Romans 3:23).
Verse 10 elaborates, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” We make him a liar because he came to die for the sins of the world so that we might be restored to right relationship and standing before him. If we deny our sin, we deny our need for him – an utter dependence that cannot be filled in any other manner.
Now that we understand both our sin problem and our solution, we can proceed to an examination of God’s purpose in writing this text. John continues on. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only ours, but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2).
The goal of John’s writing is to keep us from sin. Notice that he strayed from writing “when you sin”. The Holy Spirit wrote “if.” This is of utmost importance and should radically transform our view of our oft-labeled “hopeless” sinful nature. We are a new creation in Christ. The Gospel completely transforms us. CS Lewis says in Mere Christianity that “God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man”. The old man has sinful nature. The new man is a son of God, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Yes, the Bible really says this!
As sons or daughters, we have access to the Father around the clock, in season and out of season, rain or shine. But do we know him? John qualifies our knowledge and relationship with him. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). If you know him, you keep his commandments and you don’t sin!
Now, I know that this will be met with many objections, which I will readily address. I have included some that I found arising in my own mind. Perhaps you will have others.
Objection: You’re saying you’ll never mess up?
Answer: I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that. The alternative is to continue to sin – against your own body, against others, and against God. Why would you want to do that? The “I’m always going to sin” narrative seems like a foolish mentality to hold, as it will merely breed sin in greater measure.
For example, a self-proclaimed alcoholic who identifies himself with his behavior will always drink to excess unless he accepts his condition for the sake of seeking help in order to restore his true self. He will not make any attempt to allow himself to be transformed from that position because he’s given up on any possibility for change and identified himself with that behavior. His drinking problem has become his identity in the same way that so much of the church’s sin problem has become our identity.
Objection: So you’re saying you’re perfect?
Answer: That would mean I was without sin. I have sinned, but that does not mandate that I must in the future. We are commanded to be perfect. That’s what Jesus calls us to in Matthew 5:48. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (The Greek word for perfect here is τέλειος – mature, complete). It is actually a command to take on the fullness of our new value in Christ and to be a son or a daughter in his likeness. He is perfect, and we are called to “be imitators of Christ” (Ephesians 5:1).
Objection: But if we are perfect then we don’t need Him?
Answer: No – quite the opposite. “Apart from him we can do nothing” (John 15:5) and on our own we are mere dust. We need him because we have sinned in the past and have guilt, condemnation, and iniquity to deal with. We need him because only he himself and his Spirit can halt our sin problem.
If we do sin, we can take heart and repent with confidence that stems from knowing he is the propitiation for our sins – that he foresaw them from the foundation of the world and still chose us for himself (1 John 2, John 15). He is the lifter of our souls and our bowed heads.
In Romans 6:1-2, Paul explains our newfound standing towards sin. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
You and I are also perfect in Christ. Lacking in nothing, because the fullness of God is inside of us (Colossians 2:9-10). Culture has an issue with people who claim perfection, and rightfully so. Our only claim to being in right standing before God and pressing on to holiness rests in knowing he’s perfect and we’re in him and he’s inside of us. Only dying the daily death of putting off the old self and stepping into the new allows us to live with renewed minds (Romans 12:2) and in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
I’m not there yet, but I’m on the road to the narrow gate. Come join me.