Posted by: Bro. Lawrence D. | December 8, 2008

Free From Sin? Absolutely! Sin Free? Maybe!

Matthew 22:29 (KJV) “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures not the power of God.”

No matter what your denominational background may be, no matter what the beginning of your Christian experience may look like, it is probable that, like me, when you first became a Christian, you believed that you were ready to take Satan head on. All you could think about was loving Jesus, loving people, and evangelizing anybody that would listen. And even those that wouldn’t. You could feel all over that the desire for the things that you were most addicted to had vanished. You had been informed that you were totally forgiven of all your sins (or only those that you had committed up until you said the sinner’s prayer, if you were Pentecostal) and that you were a “new creature/creation in Christ”. You were told that now the Holy Spirit indwelt you and that He brought “power” with Him. But before you could “leap over walls” or “run through troops”, someone decided that they better warn you of something. What was it? You were told not to think that you could achieve sinless perfection. You were told that pursuing such a thing was mere folly. If you thought otherwise, you were thought of as having “a zeal of God but not according to knowledge.”. Yes you were saved. Yes you were indwelt by the Spirit of the Most High God. But, sin was just something that you were going to have to accept as a continuing problem in your life. Sound familiar so far?

Well the reason I put the Matthew text at the beginning was because I wonder now if this mentality (I here mean the mentality of those who warned us away from pursuing perfection) was the result of biblical teaching or Christian experience. In other words, do we disbelieve that we can go on to perfection simply because we don’t know the scriptures nor the power of God? No matter how you define perfection biblically, whether you define it as maturity, completeness, sinlessness or Christ-likeness, why if the bible teaches us to pursue it would others disuade us from it.

Bro. Lionel Woods once told me that he believed that the interpretation, by many, of Romans 7 was really the result of their own Christian experience being read back into the text versus what the text itself was actually teaching. I now believe that concerning Romans 7 and concerning the idea that it isn’t worth it to pursue this “perfection” in our lives.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me be clear. I am saying that it is a worthy pursuit. I am not saying that achieving or not achieving it as a goal is at all, nor should be, a basis for anyone’s assurance of salvation. I am also not saying that I know of anyone who has achieved it, including myself.

(As a side note I must confess, and so should you, that we wouldn’t know or be able to recognize if someone did indeed reach a level of sinless perfection, even if we saw it. It is just like asking someone if they are humble. If they say yes, then by definition they are not. And if it’s true that they are, then they can’t say no. Besides, if someone did reach sinlessness and told us, we would probably and immediately become their personal life inspector. We would be on a mission to find sin in their life so that we could discount their claim. Let’s be honest about this folks. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…..)  

 But why do I think it is a worthy pursuit? Well, let’s first look at some not-so-good reasons. 

First off, some people while thinking in pragmatic terms would say, that the better life the Christian lives, the better advertising it would be for the authenticity of the truth claims of Christianity. I mean, just listen to a debate between a Theist and an Atheist. One of the first objections that the Atheist raises is “how can there be a God” or “how can Christianity be true considering all the otrocities committed in the name of Christ/religion”. Admittedly, it would seem that better lived lives by Christians would indeed eliminate at least this objection. But that’s really subjective so far as a motivation for purer living is concerned. Face it, even if Christians were all perfect and lived so, those who want to deny the truth claims of Christianity and reject it, would do so anyway. So that can’t be the primary motivation. The power to convince does not lie in Christians and their lifestyles (thank God!) but rather in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:16, and yes I am equated salvation with convinced because you aren’t truly convinced until you’re converted, lol)

Secondly, some believe believe that it is their task to create a group of “Super Christians” who can consider themselves seperate from “regular” Christians. This is just plain unbiblical and in no way compatible with Christian pursuit. There have been many groups who have pursued such a distinction amongst themselves, even believing that they could somehow eradicate the effects of Satan in the world, thereby paving the way for the coming of Christ. Some believe that instead of the world, they must purify the Church before Christ can return. Both ideas are just plain foolish. There are two places where Christ hinted at the folly of this. One was in His prayer to the Father in John 17:15, when He said, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Christ knew what the world was like and would be like until the end. In regards to the church He says in Matthew 16:18, “…and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

Besides, He had not given His disciples the charge of purifying the world or the Church in order to make ready for His return. He had only given them the charge to “go forth and make disciples….”. Therefore, it would be foolish to pursue any level of devotedness to purity and holiness with the goal in mind of being in a higher class than other believers. One-upmanship amongst believers is just plain sinful. If you don’t believe me, just ask Paul in I Corinthians.

And finally, as I mentioned before, pursuing sinless perfection in order to be confident in our salvation is dangerous on one major level. Moral living is already convincing many that they are okay with God. Many people believe that they will survive “Judgment Day” because they consider themselves “good people”. They believe that God will let them in heaven because they help the poor, pay their taxes and vote Republican. But we know that this is far from the truth. Anyone who’s hope is not founded on the finished work of Christ on the cross, has no hope! A gospel based on works or good deeds is no gospel at all! (Galatians 1:6-9)

So the question is, does the New Testament give us any clues as to whether or not pursuing sinlessness is indeed a worthy goal? I say yes! And for me, the New Testament teaching it is the strongest incentive or motivation that we can have for persuing it. (I know this is getting long but please stay with me here!) Let me start you off where it begin for me…. (or where it start to hit home, how ever you want to look at it)

I John 2:1-2 (NASB, emphasis mine) “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that YOU MAY NOT SIN. And IF anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” 

I capitalized/highlighted the two specific sections for a reason. I get the idea that John believed that we had the power to not sin. He states the goal of not sinning as his purpose for writing. Then he uses a word that sets the stage for a possibility rather than a probability, the word IF. Now if the expectation is that we WILL sin, then it would seem that John would have said, “And WHEN anyone sins….”. But he said “IF”. Using the word “when” would have signified that John saw sinning as a probability.  Now it may seem as though I am splitting hairs but to me that is very significant. John also says….

I John 3:2-4, 6,8a, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness…No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him….the one who practices sin is of the devil;…No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” And….

I John 5:18 “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

John seems to communicate in these verses that he expects sin not to be a regular occurence for believers. He seems to expect the exact opposite, victory over sin! 

We also know that perfection was a personal pursuit of Paul’s. He wrote:

Philippians 3:12-15a “Not that I have already obtained it or become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude;…”

Now let’s look at some of the promises and imperitives of scripture concerning our attitude and action toward sin. They seem to have a lot to say about this pursuit of perfection.

Romans 6:6-7, 12-14 “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin….Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

I Corinthians 10:13-14 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

Ephesians 4:22-24 “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of  God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” 

Hebrews 12:1 “…..let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which does so easily entangle us, …”

James 1:21 “Therefore putting aside ALL filthiness and all that remains of wickedness…..” Now here all means all even if, in regards to wickedness, it is an addition to the text.  

To add to this is the many imperatives of scripture concerning the manner of our lifestyle as believers (Romans 12 alone is a life of work!). There are too many scriptures to mention here and this has already gone long enough. Suffice it to say, in order to have any success in living those things out, we have to have significant victory over sin in our lives! We have to get in a mindset where we are not afraid of being hindered by temptations. We have to see sin as something that is conquered in Christ and through His Spirit, at least, fightable.

So the next time someone tells you that you can’t be perfect just say, “Yea, but I’m striving for perfection.”

And, if you disagree with me on this, just remember the title: Free From Sin? Absolutely! Sin Free? Maybe, LOL!!!

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Responses

  1. Some very good stuff here!

    A couple of additional ideas for you all to think about:

    1. It seems to me that it would be unfair for God to create us to be unable to keep from sinning, and then blame us for sinning. So, it follows that it is possible for us to be sinless, but no one ever chooses to do this.

    2. As Brother Lawrence says, persuing perfection has nothing to do with salvation. To me, it is all about wanting to please God because we love him and he loves us.

    -Danny


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