The Believer And Sin

As Christians we may become discouraged at the seeming disconnect between our new spiritual life and our struggle with sin, but we find the grace of God sufficient to enable us to walk in holiness.



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In our previous meetings together we have covered topics that have tended to relate to one another, and today’s topic will continue this trend. We first covered various facets of the Gospel and discussed how these truths affect our daily lives. Next we highlighted Sanctification and how we are initially sanctified at our conversion and then progressively sanctified as God grows us in grace. After that we addressed our Union with Christ, that we are united with Him in His death and resurrection and that this reality has implications for our Christian walk. One such implication is our relationship to sin, now that we are believers. Our union with Christ has implications for what is true of us regarding sin, and how we deal with the ongoing reality of sin. That is what we are going to consider this morning, with the topic: The Believer and Sin.  We will ask and seek to answer the following three questions: What is the believer’s relationship to sin? Why do we still sin? How should we be dealing with sin?

 

Let’s begin with acknowledging the fact that we are sinners. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We have sinned, and we need forgiveness. We need God’s forgiveness for breaking His commands and offending His holiness. For those of us who by His saving grace have trusted Christ, we have God’s forgiveness. Because of the perfect sacrifice of His Son. We will never have to pay for our sin because Jesus paid it all. He took our punishment upon Himself. II Cor. 5:21 He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.

 

There are glorious verses of Scripture that we can read regarding God’s work of salvation from sin.

 

Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”

II Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

We read these verses and we hear that we have been washed. That we have been made new. And this is wonderful. But then we say, Wait. I still sin. In fact, the more we grow in Christ, the more we realize our sinfulness, especially in light of God’s perfect holiness. We become more and more sensitive to sin and notice it in even our motives and inner desires. We recognize habits of sin in our lives, sins that we may be more prone to than other sins. Sins that we see ourselves struggling with and confessing over and over again, day after day. We may ask, why? Why is it like this? God has given us a new heart that desires to obey Him. We are His people and we love Him. We are seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. But so many times we stumble. We do get back up again. But still, we may become discouraged by the seeming disconnect between our “newness of life” and our struggle with sin. Let’s look at truth from God’s Word for clarity and help with this very real, day-to-day issue of sin and the also very real, present and future bestowment of grace.

 

There is such good news for us in all of this because of Jesus. May we understand these truths today and be helped in our walk with Him.

 

Let’s consider together our first question:

 

1.What is the believer’s relationship to sin?

 

Let’s read Romans 6:1-5. “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? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

 

Paul is arguing here that one ought not to think that we are to continue in sin so that grace may abound. He says we are not to continue in sin. He says, how could we even continue in it, how can we still live in sin--because we have died to sin!

 

When Paul says that we have “died to sin”, he is referencing the fact that when Jesus died on the cross, it is as if we died with him there. When did we die to sin? In a historical sense, because of the infinite Sovereign knowledge of God and because He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), when Jesus died on the cross, it is as if we died there too with Him. In an experiential sense, we were united to Christ in his death through faith when we were converted. That’s what Paul says here in verse 3:

 

He says that we who were baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. That phrase “baptized into Christ” means that we were immersed into Christ, or united with Christ through faith. We were placed into Him. And we who were united with Him were “baptized into his death.” This means that we were so closely joined to him, so closely identified with Him that his death counted as our death. Verses 3-5 go on to say, that we who have been united with Christ were united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection, to the end that we may walk in newness of life.

 

Now let’s go on reading in Romans to understand more of what Paul means about our dying to sin.

 

Romans 6:6-11  6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

So beginning back at verse 6, Paul writes that our old self was crucified with Christ--so that, the body of sin might be brought to nothing. That phrase “body of sin” refers not to our physical bodies but to our old self that Paul says was crucified with Christ so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Our old nature has been done away with, so sin does not rule over us any longer. When we were converted, our old nature died and we were resurrected with a new nature, with a brand new heart that loves righteousness. We were raised to newness of life. We are a new creation. Sin no longer has power over us. We are not enslaved to sin anymore.

 

In verse 7 we see that we are set free from sin because we have died to it with Christ. Jesus died to sin in two senses: One, He paid for sin’s penalty-God’s wrath and our eternal death, and two, He conquered sin’s power--He broke sin’s power over those who are His people. This is what it means when Scripture says that our old self has died, or our body of sin has been brought to nothing, or that we have put off the old self and have put on the new self--these metaphors picture the fact that we are no longer under sin’s reign because we have a new nature that serves Christ instead of sin.

 

In verses 8-9 we see that since we died with Christ, we also will live with Christ, because we know that He was raised from the dead never to die again. In the same way, we are raised to new life now and eternal life to come with Jesus. We are, verse 11, considered dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. Because we are in Christ, or united with Christ, we are dead to sin’s power, and we now love and obey God and live by His grace for His glory.  

 

So, here is the answer to our first question, what is true of believers regarding sin?

 

Answer: Having been united with Christ through faith, we have died to sin’s penalty and power and have been raised to newness of life.

 

This is very good news. But if we are free from sin’s power because we died to sin, then why do we still sin? Which is our next question to answer:

 

2. Why do we still sin?

 

While it is true that we are no longer under the penalty or the power of sin, we still have the presence of sin. It is no longer our master. It is no longer ruling. But it’s still hanging around... for now. We don’t have to obey it. But sometimes we do succumb to it.

 

Paul tells us why in Romans 7:17-25  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Paul is saying that it is not his new, redeemed self that sins but his flesh that still presently remains in him. What is our “flesh”? Sometimes the term “flesh” in Scripture refers to our physical body. But here, the flesh is our sinful lusts and desires that stem from our fallen not-yet-glorified state. Our old nature is gone--remember, it died with Christ and we now have a new nature that we will continue to have in glory, a nature that only has righteous desires. But as long as we remain in our earthly bodies, we still have our flesh that remains in us. We still have sinful thinking and desires in us. Now, we are not in the flesh (Romans 8:9)--that is to say, we are not controlled by our flesh, like someone who is unregenerate. But our flesh still remains in us until we are glorified in the eternal state. So we have this battle now as believers, between our new nature and our residing flesh. Before our conversion, our old nature got along really well with our flesh. But our old nature is gone and our new nature does not get along with our flesh and so there is a war within us. Our new heart desires to do good but our flesh tempts us to sin. We don’t have to give in to our fleshly desires but we often do.  

 

If we look back to verses 1 and 2 of Romans 6, we see that when Paul references sin, he uses the terms “continue in” sin and “live in” sin. And he says that we can’t do that because we have died to sin. This “continuing in” and “living in” sin is not describing the way a believer struggles with and stumbles into sin. This is describing a habitual way of life, a general direction of life. I John 3:9 tells us that believers’ lives are not characterized by this continuing in sin. It says: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. There is a difference between having a pattern of sin in your life and having sin be THE characterizing pattern of your life. Here in Romans 6, Paul says that because our old nature has died we cannot live with sin as our controlling, habitual pattern and direction. But he does not say that we will not sin at all anymore. We have died to sin’s penalty and power, but we still have its presence.

 

So here is the answer to our question, Why do we still sin?

 

Answer: Although we have been given a new nature, our flesh presently remains in us and wars against our new nature.

 

So we have because of our residing flesh this reality of sin. What are we to do about it? Which leads us to our third question:

 

3. How should we be dealing with sin?

 

Let's return to Romans 6 and read verses 12-14: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

Paul says here that, because we have died to sin and are raised with Christ, because we are dead to sin’s power and alive unto God, we therefore are not to let sin reign in our bodies. Sin now has no rightful reign over us, though we sometimes allow it to rule by giving into temptations and desires. Paul says we are to not choose to use our bodies and our minds for sin but for righteousness unto God, as those who have been brought from death to life!  Sin will not have dominion over us because we are under grace. We are truly able to pursue righteousness because of God’s work of grace and because of what Jesus has done, because of his death and resurrection. We are raised with Christ, and we must think and act like those who are raised with Him. Colossians 3:1-5 also reminds us of this truth: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.

 

Sin is not compatible with who we are in Christ, and so it must go. We have been raised to walk in newness of life. Our new nature is the “real us.” It’s more of the “real us” than the sinful tendencies of our flesh. We have been made new. Our identity is in Christ, and the Father looks at us and sees His righteous Son. We need to believe this, and live this!

Notice Colossians 3:5 says that because we have died with Christ and have been raised with him, that we are to put to death what is earthly in us...and the passage goes on to list actions and desires of our flesh that we are to put to death. Sin, although a defeated foe because of Jesus, is a deadly and deceptive foe that is still present in us in our earthly bodies and able to do profound damage. We must not excuse it or tolerate it or make provision for it to flourish. We don’t passively wait for it to go away. We must do away with it.  We must show it no pity and no mercy. We must starve it. We have to kill it or it will seek to kill us.

How do we kill sin? How do we put to death what is earthly in us, those desires and deeds of our flesh? How we do do this? And the answer is: by the Spirit of God. Only He can do this. Perhaps we ourselves could try to muster up outer reform, but we cannot kill sin at its root by our own strength. In Romans 8:13 Paul writes: but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  As believers we can and must and will put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.

How do we put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit? Romans 8:5: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” We put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit...by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.

And how do we set our minds on the things of the Spirit? We set our minds on His Word. The Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, our weapon that God provides for this spiritual battle. We must set our minds upon Scripture, thinking on it and believing it and loving it. Trusting God’s promises and seeing the whispers of temptation for what they are as empty promises. The battle is in our mind and our heart. In our thinking and our affections, from which our outward actions flow. By grace we can resist temptation to sin when we are love God’s Word and believe it to be true. When we have faith that we don’t need something else other than God to make us happy. When we have faith that God is in control of all things. When we believe that His intentions toward us are loving and kind and for our good. When we have faith that the seeming inconveniences we have to deal with each day are from his hand. When we have faith that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to future glory. When we believe that Jesus is better than anything this world could offer. 

So the answer to our question, how should we be dealing with sin? is:

Answer: We must be putting to death the desires and deeds of our flesh by the Spirit, by setting our minds on Scripture and believing God’s Word in faith.

Now I’ve made a list of some things for us to remember as we seek to walk in faith and to be faithful in the daily spiritual battle:

 

  1. Remember who you are (Think back to where we were in Romans 6:11 Paul wrote to the Roman believers: So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.) You are not to sin because that is not who you are anymore. You must remember the truth of who you are in Christ and what he has done with sin’s penalty and power. When you feel powerless in the face of temptation, remember the truth. That sin has so rightful power over you. That Jesus has died and risen again, and that you are united with Him. JUDSON ILLUSTRATION: My youngest child, Judson, is very good at remembering who he is. When I tell him that he is so cute, he responds by saying, “No I’m Judson.” When I tell him that he is such a big boy, he replies, “No, I’m Judson.” When I ask him if he is my baby, he answers, “No, I’m Judson.” He confidently and consistently remembers and repeats the truth of who he is. May we do the same. May we remember that we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection.

  2. Remember that temptation has a hidden trap. What appears to be glittery and golden, carefully crafted by the Deceiver, has beneath it a carefully concealed trap waiting to catch you once you step into it. Don’t be deceived by Satan’s lies. Believe God. See sin for what it is and that it leads to death. (James 1:14-15  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.) Look at the temptation for what it is. Tell yourself the truth about it and believe that Jesus is better and that true, lasting joy is in him. With humble clinging to Christ for help, walk away from that which seeks to tempt you. Walk in faith, in obedience to God’s Word.

  3. Remember what it cost Jesus. When you are tempted to sin, remember that he suffered on account of your sin. (Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.) (I Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.) Jesus died to pay for your sins. He gave His life for you. He took your sins upon Himself. Love your Savior. Remember that he paid your punishment for sin. Do not tolerate in your life what your beloved Savior had to die for. He is the one you depend on. He is the one you sing to. Do not sin against him. Love Him...and hate sin. And when you do sin, marvel all the more at such amazing love and mercy and grace shown to you by God in Christ.

  4. Remember God’s goodness. (Psalm 31:19a “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you.” Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”) When you’re tempted to disbelieve God’s goodness when He withholds something from you or you are desiring something you can't have, believe the truth. His character is unchanging, and His Word is true, and His commandments are right. He does what is best and His motives toward you are only kind. Trust Him.

 

So these things we can seek to remember. And when we do sin, we repent. We turn from it and to God. We don’t ask for His forgiveness to somehow gain His favor. We ask it because we already do have His favor in Christ who has secured our forgiveness by His Work.

 

Rather than ignoring sin or excusing sin or just trying to forget about it, we should bring the sin into the light and see it for what it is. Hate it, and love our Savior instead. Confess the sin. Repent sincerely. And go on in faith, believing God’s Word.

 

Just like salvation, so it is with sanctification. We turn from sin and to God. We hear God’s truth and we accept it. We repent and believe. We forsake sin and go on in faith. This is Christianity. And this is only possible because of Jesus. Because he was delivered up for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. He gets all the glory, and in Him is all our hope because he died and rose again. Romans 6:22-23 “ But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

What good news for those of us who are in Christ. We have complete forgiveness of sin. And one day we will have complete freedom from sin. There is ever-present grace for this path. And there is everlasting grace in glory! Oh that day when freed from sinning, we shall see His lovely face, Full arrayed in blood-washed linen, How we’ll sing His sovereign grace!

 

For now, until that glorious day, we must continue this path fraught with temptation and hidden traps. We walk forward in faith. When we keep in mind the reality of the spiritual battle…we realize that we come needily and readily to God’s Word, to prayer, to corporate worship, to shared fellowship, to the Lord’s Table. We’ve been on duty. We’ve been in battle. We come hungry and thirsty and worn, and we lap up God’s rich means of grace. And we seek to encourage our beloved sisters and brothers who are also on this path with us. We drink up together the grace and join our voices together in praise. We believe God’s Word in faith which He has given us, and we persevere because it is He who holds us fast. And when we stumble again and again, we keep looking to Jesus our Savior who made an end of all our sin.

 

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Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

 

I Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

 

Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.