Since we preach so hard against sin, invariably I am asked the question a student addressed to me at Indiana
University, "Aren't you a sinner?"
"No, I am a saint. All Christians are saints," I replied.
"A saint! Well, just who made you a saint?" he asked.
"Jesus Christ," I answered.
"You mean you don't sin everyday?" he insisted.
"No! Do you?" I replied.
"Everybody, including Christian sins daily in thought, word and deed," he said.
"You mean you cannot go a day without sinning?" I asked.
"No!" he said.
"A half day?" I asked.
"No!" he repeated.
"An hour? Do you suppose you could go for just one hour without sinning?" I asked.
"I don't see how," he replied.
"Five minutes, could you live five minutes without sinning?" I asked.
"I doubt it," he admitted.
"One minute, could you pass just one minute without sinning?" I asked.
"Oh, I suppose," he reluctantly responded.
"Aha! If you can go one minute without sinning, then you should be able to go five minutes. If you can pass five minutes, then you should be able to pass an hour. If you can experience an hour without sin, then you should be able to experience a day; if a day, then a week, if a week, then a month; if a month, a year. Finally friend, if you can live a year without sin then by the Spirit of God you can live above sin the rest of your life."
Angrily he responded, "Well, if you don't sin every day I don't see how you can call yourself a Christian." He turned and stomped off.
The student's problem was bad theology. He lacked knowledge of what the Bible teaches on holiness.
Romans 6:11 commands, "Reckon yourself to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The young man did not reckon or believe it so. We cannot experience beyond what our faith allows. The Word says, "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." As long as a man thinks of himself as a sinner, he will sin because his thoughts become his actions. All of his struggles against sin are doomed for failure until he believes it possible to live holy by the power of the Spirit of God.
Regrettably, this man's attitude dominates modern "fundamental Christianity" today. It reflects what I call bumper sticker religion, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."
Yet Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
Does God command the impossible? If He did, that would make Him a despot, a tyrant. But God is the Benevolent Moral Governor of the Universe. When He gives us a command, He provides a promise or the means to enable us to fulfill the command. Hebrews 10:14 give us the means to perfection, "For by one offering (blood sacrifice) He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." When one repents (forsakes sin) and puts his faith in the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses from all sin, he is morally perfect.
Understand, our Lord commanded a moral ethical perfection, not an absolute perfection. Only God is absolutely perfect. We are not perfect in knowledge and understanding. Therefore, we are susceptible to making mistakes. However, a mistake is not a sin. Sin is intentional transgression of the law; a mistake is an unintentional deviation from the truth or right conduct. If I intentionally misquoted a scripture to win an argument, it would be sinful. If I did it unintentionally because of my imperfect memory, it would be a mistake.
A Christian may have faults. For example, he may worry; but only if his worries or fears prevented him from doing the will of God, has he sinned. Moral perfection is a purity of motives and intentions. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
Christian perfection is loving God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. This is all that God requires of us. God has given us the Bible that we might be "perfect" (I Timothy 3:17).
"These things write I unto you that you sin not" (I John 2:1), is another example of this truth.
"His name shall be called Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), we are told in God's Word.
If a man still practices sin after claiming salvation, from what does he think he has been saved? Certainly not sin. Jesus did not come to save us in our sins but "from our sins."
When a man is saved, he will stop sinning. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more." He did not say, "Go, sin a little bit every day." Nor did He say, "Of course I know you will sin, because my law is so hard and unreasonable, I don't really expect anyone to always obey."
SIN NO MORE! A Christian is one who has stopped sinning. A Christian obeys God. Listen to His Word: "And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected" (I John 2:3-5). A Christian walks in the light he has with a right intention of heart.
"Whatsoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed (God's Word) remaineth in Him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (I John 3:9), is another example of this truth.
The born again man cannot sin. Studying the context of the verse above, we understand it to mean that the Christian is able not to sin. Not that he is unable to sin. The honest man can steal but if he steals he is no longer an honest man. The truthful man can lie but if he lies he is no longer a truthful man. The pure man can lust but if he lusts he is no longer a pure man. The Christian can sin but if he does he no longer has Biblical grounds to consider himself a Christian.
It is like George Washington saying to his father, "Father, I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree." What was George saying? "Father, I am your son. I can't lie. There is the family name to consider." So it is with the Christian. We are sons of God. God is our Father. We are called Christians. We have the family name to consider. How can we call ourselves Christians and lie, steal, cheat, lust or be intemperate, etc. God forbid that we should sin! We refuse to sin. We hate sin. We love God. We love His law.
Sin is a result of a lack of love for God and our neighbors. It is choosing to put self ahead of God and our fellows, "Loving God means doing what He tells us to do, and really, that isn't hard at all" (I John 5:3 T.L.B.). Sin is the result of lack of faith in God to deliver us from evil.
We are taught in the Word: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).
One is tempted to lie. What is the way of escape? Simply tell the truth. You are tempted to cheat. Be honest. You are tempted to lust. Think about what is pure and holy. The battleground is the mind. Temptation only becomes sin if you should submit your will to the evil thought. "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Do not make your sin greater than God.
Hearing this truth, the hypocrite, in desperation, appeals to the Word of God to justify his sin. "What about I John 1:8? `If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.'" Certainly, this verse taken out of context would contradict the teaching of Christian perfection.
Therefore, let us consider verse eight in the context of the book. Remember John's purpose in writing I John: "These things write I unto you that you sin not" (I John 2:1). If it is impossible not to sin, then John's purpose is vain. Look at verse six of chapter one. "If we say that we have fellowship with Jesus Christ, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." Verses six and eight are both talking about liars, people who say they are Christians (have fellowship) yet continue to sin (walk in darkness), are liars because they don't obey (do) the truth. "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin (I John 1:7).
Christianity is a walk; the new birth is merely the first step. At the new birth we step out of Satan's kingdom into God's Kingdom. We step out of darkness (sin) into the light (righteousness). "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). If we do the truth, or are doers and not just hearers of the Word, then we shall be free. Free from what? Sin! "Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). Praise God! He has set us free from sin. "Being then made free from sin, we have become the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:18).
"He that committeth sin is of the devil" (I John 3:8).
A Christian serves God and righteousness. An unbeliever serves sin and Satan. No man can serve two masters. You are either a saint or a sinner.
Now we are prepared to understand verse eight. The verse that the self-righteous love to claim is: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." There are many professing Christians who say that they have no sin for which God will hold them accountable; that their sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. Yet, by their own testimony, they sin daily in thought, word and deed. They are deceived. They say God does not see their sin. "All God sees is the blood. All God sees is Jesus in our hearts," they say. What, do they think that the precious blood is ineffectual; that there is no power in the blood? The blood of bulls and goats only covered sin, but "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin," not some, not most, but all sin. God does not leave behind a few secret sins for man to indulge.
Oh! the lengths that man will go to excuse their sins. God is not blind; He will judge sin. Sin always condemns even if the sinner professes to believe in Jesus. The truth is not in these hypocrites. Their own words witness against them. If the truth were in them, they would obey the commandments of the Lord, they would obey His Word, they would walk as Jesus walked (I John 2:4-5).
Verse nine says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Notice the big little word if. Biblical confession of sins always implies repentance which means forsaking the sin. When God forgives, He cleanses. The two go hand in hand. If there is no cleansing, there has been no forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness, it is because there has been no true confession (repentance). "Ye know that Jesus was manifested to take away our sin (I John 3:6). You cannot hold onto your sins and hold onto the SAVIOUR.
Verse 10 says, "If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." Hearken unto the tense--past tense. "All have sinned" (Romans 3:23). Make sure your sins are in the past. We Christians know that "whosoever is born of God, sinneth not" (I John 5:15). Continue in His Word, not in sin. "Walk in the spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
"We know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him" (John 2:29). These are religious liars who claim they can continue to sin and be His disciples. But, His Word is in us and it keeps us holy. Sin NO MORE.
Gainsayers will cry, "You are preaching salvation through works, instead of by grace."
Salvation is by grace through faith. Grace is the cause of our salvation, faith is the means by which we obtain grace and works of obedience which are the effect or evidence of our salvation. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12). The same grace that pardons our sin, delivers us from sin and keeps us from sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).
Reader, if sin still has control over you "causing" you to sin daily then you are not under grace but have a legalistic relationship with God. If you are under grace then this power has freed you from sin to become a servant of righteousness. "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? GOD FORBID" (Romans 6:15). Never use grace to excuse your sin. Christian liberty is not the freedom to do as we please but to do as we ought--obey God. By God's grace through faith we are now free to obey God and to not sin anymore. Grace will always produce works of righteousness. When there is no obedience there has been no work of grace.
There is much confusion on the subject of perfection because of a failure to make a proper distinction between purity and maturity. Perfection refers to purity. When a man is born again he is as perfect as he is ever going to be but certainly he is not mature. The rosebud is just as perfect as the full-blown rose. There is a definite sense in which we are being sanctified or growing in grace (maturing). I make no claims to be a full-blown rose yet; neither am I still a rosebud!
Perfection, sanctification and holiness (these terms are generally used interchangeably in the Scriptures) are not a gradual putting off of sin because forsaking all sin is a condition to being born again. Christian perfection is total submission to all light we possess at a given moment. As the Holy Spirit progressively reveals the character of God and our moral obligation, the Christian is responsible to conform to this greater understanding. There may be occasional transgressions or brief lapses into sin in the life of a saint but as he grows in grace and knowledge such incidents will be less likely. He will reach a point where sin virtually does not take place in his life and he will have become a father of the faith.
"And the God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:23).
The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. Daniel 11:32
For more study on this topic read Romans 6,7&8 and I John and order Bro. Jed's book: Walking In The Spirit