Sinning After Salvation
For Christians, it can feel like sinning is not a matter of if but when. Regardless of how much we try we sometimes fall short. Why do we still sin if we are saved? How can we break the cycle?
The answer is a bit complex.
Firstly, it is important to note that even though we are saved we still have free will. God doesn't turn us into mindless obedient minions! By allowing us to have free will means we must take the responsibility of choosing daily (and even moment to moment) to act in God's will. What is God's will for our lives? In general, it is to love God and love one another (Matthew 23:36-40). Despite knowing His will, we can still head in the opposite direction.
So why are we still inclined to sin? Doesn't 2 Corinthians 5: 17 state that "...if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"? Wouldn't our sinful nature go away the moment we are saved?
While we are justified (that is to say saved) the moment we accept Jesus as our Lord and savior, we are in the process of being sanctified. GotQuestions.org explains that, "It is the same as growing in the Lord (2 Peter 3:18) or spiritual maturity. God started the work of making us like Christ, and He is continuing it." ¹
Our growth comes from obedience from an humbled heart. When we are "born again" in Christ we are spiritual babies needing direction, correction and knowledge to mature. Philippians 1:6 says, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Being spiritually mature is a lifelong commitment of which we will be fully glorified (glorification) or completely sanctified in Christ when He returns. (You can read more about glorification here.)
Hebrews 12:1-3 wonderfully summarizes our plight,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
God has not left us alone in this quest. He has provided us the Bible and the Holy Spirit in order to discern the righteous path. GotQuestions.org explains how crucial it is to lean on the Holy Spirit by stating the following:
"The degree to which we allow the Holy Spirit access to every area of our lives is the degree to which we live as God intended us to live." ²
This is a call to action. We must not shut ourselves off from God, our life sustainer. Instead, we should invite Him in, especially when our hearts grow dark when we are the most vulnerable to sin.
As the expression goes, old habits die hard.
By invitiving the the Holy Spirit daily, He can help us with self-discipline. Discipline, although seen as having a negative connotation, is simply correcting. Like a moral earthly father, God corrects in order to help His children grow. It is important to note that this is a loving act from God and different from the natural consequences of sin.
The law points out our sin which draws our attention but the it doesn't give us a method to alleviate it.³ To correct our sinful nature we need a change of focus. When someone tells you to not think of a polar bear, no matter how determined you are, you're still going to imagine a polar bear! The same applies to sin. When we focus on not sinning, we become fixated on it. When that happens we need to shift our focus to God. We cannot stop sinning own strength. We need God's. Godly strength comes from intimately knowing/believing the truth and having peace in God (joy) alongside prayer.
So what about habitual sin? These are sins a Christian can be drawn or addicted to. It can be a mental addiction, like lust, or a physical addition, like food. Firstly, we must repent. This means recognizing our sin and changing our course back to God. God is faithful to forgive. Secondly, as GotQuestions.org notes, "We simply must make every effort to run from the things that tempt us to sin." ⁴ This means cutting off anything, anyone or any situation which would tempt us. Thirdly, it is important to maintain fellowship as it can help keep the believer accountable. Without a doubt, we must not let the sin which is habitual to take residence in our lives.
In conclusion, when we change our focus from sin to becoming filled with God's joy and spirit, then it leaves little to no room for it to grab a hold of us. When we fully believe that we God's adopted children, we will walk in that truth. Salvation was just the first step on our life-long journey of being continuously made into His image.
Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me to turn back to you. We all stray away but you are a faithful Shepherd and will come searching for us. I repent of my rebellious way, namely, believing that I can function without you. Leaning on my own strength exhausts me greatly, but you are all-powerful. I am forever thankful for your love which humbles me back into your arms. May those who read my post also be reinvigorated to fall back to you.
In Jesus's name I pray, amen.