Tag Archives: sin

Party over! (Lost son part 5)

The party is over!

The big problem with sin, is for the most part its enjoyable!

Hebrews 11:25 “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;”

Unfortunately, for the sinner though, its pleasure doesn’t last and it always has consequences. In other words –  there is always a big price tag attached! The party is soon over!

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Severe famine

Luke 15: 14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.”

partyFor the prodigal son therefore,  this is exactly what he comes to realise, as his money soon runs out and unfortunately for him, this coincides, with severe country-wide famine! Suddenly, he finds himself alone, in need and desperate. Rashly, he joins himself to a citizen of the country who breeds pigs. All that does though, is increase his hunger, as the pigs seem to be better fed than him!

The phrase: “no one gave him anything” is particularly poignant, as at one point he had everything: including a family, food and a job. Now however, he has nothing. He is living in a graceless society; it’s survival of the fittest! Ironically, later on in the story, the elder son later accuses the Father of never giving him a goat to celebrate with his friends, insinuating the Father’s lack of generosity – go figure!

Alone and empty

pigsThe prodigal however, is learning a salutary lesson from these difficult times. The party has ended and he’s alone.

7 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”

 Now, he’s got lots of time time to think! Suddenly, he comes to the realisation that if he doesn’t do something drastic –  then he’s soon going to be in the grave: dead from starvation. In other words he going to ‘perish’ with hunger –  there’s our greek word ‘appolymi’ or ‘lost’ again!

He comes to life!

I love it though,  when it says that ‘he came to himself’. It’s as if he’s been asleep and finally he’s begun to wake up. Indeed, the dead son is coming back to life! He realises how stupid he’s been! Even the servants in his Father’s house are better fed than him! Anyway, that’s what his grumbling and empty stomach tells him. In fact, maybe these dire circumstances are a blessing in disguise? Could it be, that his Father prayed every day for his son’s return and yet God engineered a famine? Who knows!

Partly, this parable is again about repentance or a change of mind. This is what we see as the prodigal comes to his senses! This results in an action plan and a simple decision – he’s going home.

What am I going to say?

However, what is he going to say? How will his Father react? This time however, instead of demanding what’s is his from his Father, he’s going to approach with humility: confessing that he sinned against heaven (God) and also towards his Father – the angels are already holding a party!

However, although his humility is good, like the elder son, the younger son doesn’t yet really know the heart of his Father because his solution is to become a slave.  He’s playing safe and setting his expectations low. He can believe that his Father might be merciful because after all, he still family but the abundant; over the top; magnificent hyper-grace that he’s about to receive – no way.  If he’s lucky, he thinks he might be to spend a few nights bedding down in the stables?

FREE book: Christ in You!

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Further reading:

Part 4 a lost son (departure)

Part 3 a lost coin

Part 2 a lost sheep

Part 1 Lost 

Lost and found

A purpose focused church

Other Kindle Books!

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Forgiven – how do I know?
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Christ the end of law for righteousness

Christ in you – the hope of glory

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Why do I sin? Christ in You – (chapter 5)

why do I sinWhy do I sin?

In the previous chapter I made a radical statement: I said that Christ in you cannot sin.  What do I mean by that? Does it mean that a born-again believer never sins again? The Apostle John in his first epistle indeed seems to say exactly that:

The believer cannot sin?

1 John 3:9 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

1 John 5:18 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”

In point of fact he also says that if you commit sin you are of the devil! You can’t get much more black and white than that!

1 John 3:8 “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

However, we do sin

Sadly, we all know from our own experience that even after we become born-again and are filled with the Holy Spirit, even though we desire to live a holy and completely sinless life is not a reality and is probably not even possible. Indeed, the writer John, a few verses later, seems to contradict himself and confirms this by the following verses:

1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, (aorist tense, one off) we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”

So, what is John saying? Does he really mean a believer cannot commit sin?

A believer does not practice sin

Firstly, a better translation of 1 John 3:9, 1 John 5:8 and 1 John 3:8 and the phrase ‘commit sin’ would be ‘practice sin’, as translated in the ASV. This is because the tense of the verb ‘sin’ is not ‘Aorist’ (sinning in a moment of time, even once – see verse above 1 John 2:1). It is in fact,‘present active’ or sinning continually.

Therefore, John is saying that a true believer may sin in a moment of time but doesn’t sin continually – or practice sin. In fact, if they do sin continually, then there are grave doubts that they ever knew Christ in the first place!

1 John 3:6 “No one who sins (present active) has seen him or known him!”

A believer practices righteousness

However, I don’t believe that the above explanation, although technically correct, is the complete answer because John not only talks about practicing sin; he also talks about practicing righteousness. See the following scriptures:

1 John 2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of him”

1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous even as he is righteous”

1 John 3:10 “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious, anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God”

Now, this is problematic because John uses the same present active tense to describe righteousness! In other words, a believer practices righteousness – he or she doesn’t just do occasional acts of righteousness, like an unbeliever might. No, they constantly and continually do righteousness every day, at all times.

Now, we can easily cope with the idea that we occasionally sin but can we honestly say that we practice righteousness day in, day out? Well, John says if you don’t, then you’re not born again! There must be a more complete answer – and there is!

I believe, in context, the Apostle John is describing who we are in the spirit. In other words our spirit man (Christ in us) indeed practices righteousness and cannot sin.

Why do we still want to sin?

So then, if we have Christ in us and a brand new nature, why do we still want to sin as well as want to do what’s right? Do we posses two natures now: a sinful nature and a Christ-like nature that are locked in some sort of mortal combat or tug of war? Or, are we perhaps schizophrenic with some kind of weird personality disorder? For many of us that’s certainly what it sometimes feels like.

No, I don’t believe that is the case; you don’t have two natures. You have one new nature that is Christ-like. However, the scripture does indeed suggest that there are two opposing forces: the flesh and the Spirit at war inside you!

Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

The conflict of desire

Paul describes this conflict of desire in Romans 7:

Romans 7:15 “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do but I am doing the thing I hate. 

Romans 7:16 “But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do I agree with the Law confessing that it is good.”

In effect, what he is saying is that even though he doesn’t want to do bad things, he has no power to actually stop doing bad things – even if he wants to. So, becoming monk, hiding away from the world and from all temptation to sin, will not change the fact – that even in a monastery sin is with you. The war carries on regardless.

Romans 7:23 “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members”

Regrettably, even though you are born-again, you still carry around the body of death, your mortal and sinful flesh: mind, memories, emotions, will, sexual drive and so on.

Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

As Paul says in an earlier verse in Romans 7:14 that we are sold in bondage to sin:

“For we know that the Law is spiritual but I am of the flesh sold in bondage to sin”

Its not me, its this darn flesh!

However, in verses 17 and 20 of Romans 7 Paul comes to three important realisations:

Firstly, there is no good in his sinful flesh (note he is careful to say in his flesh because he knows that his spirit man is good and desires good.)

Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

Secondly, he has no power to do the good that he (his spirit man) wishes.

Thirdly, he realises that if he doesn’t want to do it, then it’s not really him doing it. In other words, it is sin in the flesh. His true identity therefore, is not in the sinful behaviour but in the new man.

Romans 7:17 “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Romans 7:20“But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me”

Example – driving your screaming kids to school!

Imagine you are driving your kids to school and they are behaving very badly in the back seat, fighting, screaming and even trying to distract other drivers. You can’t do much about it because you’re trying to keep your eyes on the road. Do you just ignore the behaviour and pretend it’s not happening? No, of course not – if you don’t deal with it soon, you’re likely to have an accident!

Sin in the flesh could similarly be likened to a big, bad dog straining at the leash. We need someone to help us and fast! Who is going to deliver us from this body of death? Who do we turn to?

Most people, of course, turn to Mr Law. Yes, he’s Mr Perfect, he knows the rules absolutely. But he’s no teacher or coach! All he does is point out that your children are misbehaving and he even finds time to comment on the inadequacies of your driving! Thankfully we are no longer married to Mr Law! The Law, religious rules, church attendance, will power, determination, self-help, education, self-discipline, self-reliance, striving, and even prayer may all help and even manage the sinful flesh for a while but they can never ultimately control it.

A positive note

The writer of Romans chapter 7, though, ends on a positive note: he maybe stuck, in need of help, under the Law, frustrated and unhappy in this struggle against sin but he has now seen the light at the end of the tunnel.  He has grasped two important positives:

Firstly, he now knows there is only one person, Jesus, or Mr Grace who can help him get free from the law of sin and death. The writer has now given up on himself and also on Mr Law!

Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” 

Secondly, he now has a clear revelation of who he is in Christ (see I MYSELF in the verse below). He understands now beyond a doubt that his sinful flesh is not his identity even though it is his responsibility.

Romans 7:25 “So, then, on the one hand I MYSELF with the mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, WITH MY FLESH, the law of sin (my capital letters and bold letters added)

To conclude therefore, how do we answer our original question: “why do we still sin?” We still sin, not because we have a sinful nature but because still we have the sinful flesh! 

Questions for discussion

1) How do we understand the contradiction in John’s First Epistle where he apparently says someone who is born-again cannot sin?

2) How do we explain that John says that a born-again believer continually does righteousness?

3) Why, even though we are born-again. do we still want to sin?

4) What are the conclusions that Paul comes to in Romans 7?

Chapter 6 is coming next week  but  why not sign up to receive email updates? 

Chapter 4

Chapter 3

Chapter 2

Chapter 1

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Freedom from sin

can a believer sinChrist in you (part 3).

If you could take a pill to be totally free of all sin would you do it right now? If you are born again then your answer would be mostly likely a resounding yes! The desperate man at the end of Romans 7 we have been discussing in the previous post, would certainly grab the chance. I mean, as believers, don’t we all long for that day when we will be in heaven where we will we never ever sin again – a glorious thought!

The God’s-pill

However, the Gospel (God’s-pill) is not just a promise of freedom from sin in the future, its freedom from law of sin and death NOW.

If you jump back a few chapters in Romans to chapter 6, it is clear that the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the means by which God had not only forgiven all you sins but has dealt with sin in the flesh. Therefore, your freedom is a done deal. It happened 2000 years ago!

Romans 6:18 “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness”

Romans 6:22 “but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome eternal life.”

When Jesus was crucified you were crucified with him

Romans 6:6 “knowing that our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”
When Jesus died you died with him

Romans 6:7 “for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ….”

When he was buried you were buried with him

Romans 6:4 “therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death”

When he was raised you were raised with him

Romans 6:4 “in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so we too might walk in newness of life”

The resurrection of Jesus therefore is the key. Life is more powerful then death. Light always overcomes darkness. Therefore, resurrection and eternal life defeats and trumps death completely.

1 Corinthians 15:54 “Death is swallowed up in victory”.

One of my favourite scriptures and the one of the best bits in the Bible (in my opinion), is Romans 8:1. It’s like a victorious fanfare of trumpets announcing the termination of the wrestling match of Romans chapter 7.

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, for law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Wow! What this amazing verse is saying and we have been saying already, is that resurrection life, christ in you, the law of the spirit of life, breaks the hold, the chains, the patterns and the habits of sin in our lives! Just like Jesus came to life and walked out of that tomb, so God is able to raise you from the dead! Similarly, as Jesus called forth Lazarus from the tomb –  so he calls your name!

No condemnation

It’s because we have been set free, that there can be NOW (this moment and at any moment), NO (zero) condemnation or future judgment and penalty for sin. Nothing you do, no sin you can commit (even right now), is going to suffer a penalty because when Jesus died you died!

In the next verse, verse 2 of Romans 8, the writers gives a bit more detail how this is possible. He explains how what the law was powerless to do (free you from the law of sin and death), God did at the cross and judged sin in the flesh. So, not just sins were dealt with and judged but the whole of your sinful flesh was judged – exhausting any possible future penalty.

Romans 8:2. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: “

This is the ‘too good to be true news’ that is the Gospel of Grace – and the legalists hate it! Without conditions, caveats and multiple hoops to jump through, they just can’t cope – indeed the original translators of the KJV even added extra text (without any authority I may add), “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Why? Because they couldn’t believe verse 1 was that good!

How can it be that good? Surely, the first thought that goes through the mind of the believer is: “yippee, lets go out on the town and sin as much as I can get away with.” Of course, that takes no account that if you are born again you actually do want to live Holy and you have a new nature. In fact, now you are a willing slave to righteousness and to God. Romans 6:18 and 6:22.

It’s a bit like thinking that if you said to your children that they could now do what they liked, that they would somehow smash your house up, drink all your beer and drive your car into a wall! No, if they really are your children and truly love you they probably won’t in fact. This however is the risk of grace and of love that God undertakes. The good news is, that God now treats us as a sons who are led by the spirit of God (Romans 8:14); the law is for immature kids who need rules.

Therefore, when Jesus said the following he wasn’t kidding:

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Let’s us therefore, learn to stand and enjoy this freedom that Christ has purchased:

Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject to a yoke of slavery”

Further articles:

Next post (Part 4)

Why do I sin (Part 2)

Christ in you (part 1)

New birth (Audio)

You must be born again

The law of christ

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Why do I still sin?

stressedChrist in you (part 2)

In the previous article  ‘Christ in you’, I made a radical statement. I said Christ in you cannot sin.  What do I mean by that? Does it mean that a born again believer never sins again? John in his first Epistle seems to indeed say that:

The believer cannot sin?

1 John 3:9 “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

1 John 5:18 “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”

Indeed, he also say that if you commit sin you are of the devil! You can’t get much more black and white than that!

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

However we do sin?

However, we all know from own experience, that even after we are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, even though we desire to live holy, a completely sinless life is not a reality and is probably not even possible. Indeed, John himself a few verses later seems to contradict himself and confirms this by the following verses:

1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, (aorist tense, one off) we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”

So, what is John saying. Does he really mean a believer cannot commit sin?

A believe does not practice sin

Firstly, a better translation of 1 John 3:9,  1 John 5:8 and 1 John 3:8 would be ‘practice sin’ as translated in the ASV. This is because the tense of the verb ‘sin’ is not ‘aorist’ (sinning in a moment of time, even once – see verse above 1 John 2:1), but ‘present active’ or sinning continually.

Therefore, John is saying that a true believer may sin in moment of time but doesn’t sin continually – or practice sin. In fact, if he or she does sin continually, then there are grave doubts that they ever knew Christ in the first place!

1 John 3:6 “No one who sins (present active)  has seen him or known him!”

A believer practices righteousness

However, I don’t believe the above explanation, although technically correct, is the complete answer because John not only talks about practicing sin, he talks about practicing righteousness. See the following scriptures:

1 John 2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of him”

1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous even as he is righteous”

1 John 3:10 “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious, anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God”

Now this is problematic, because John uses the same present active tense to describe righteousness! In other words, a believer practices righteousness –  he or she doesn’t just do occasional acts of righteousness, like an unbeliever might. No, they constantly and continually do righteousness.

Now, we can easily cope with the idea that we occasionally sin but can we honestly say that we practice righteousness day in day out? Well, John says if you don’t then you’re not born again! There must be a more complete answer – and there is!

I believe, that in context, the Apostle John is describing who we are in the spirit. In other words our spirit man (christ in us) practices righteousness and cannot sin.

So, why do we still want to sin?

So, if we have christ in us and we have a brand new nature inside of us as we believe, why do we still want to sin as well as want to do whats right? Have we got two natures now, a sinful nature and a christ like nature that are locked in some sort of mortal combat or tug of war? Or, are we schizophrenic with some kind of weird personality disorder because for many of us that’s certainly what it feels like?

No, I don’t believe that is the case. You don’t have two natures. You have one new nature. However,  the scripture does indeed suggest that there are two opposing forces – the flesh and the spirit at war inside you!

Gal 5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

The conflict of desire

Paul describes a similar conflict of desire in Romans 7:

Romans 7:15 “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do but I am doing the thing I hate. 

Romans 7:16 “But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do I agree with the Law confessing that its is good.”

In affect, what he is saying is that even though he doesn’t want to do bad things, he has no power to actually stop doing bad things – even if he wants to. So, becoming monk, hiding away from the world and from all temptation to sin, will not change the fact – that even in a monastery sin is with you. The war carries on relentless:

Romans 7:23 “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members”

Unfortunately, even though you are born again, you still carry around the body of death, your mortal flesh: mind, memories, emotions, will, sexual drive and so on.

Romans 7:24 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

As Paul says in an earlier verse: Romans 7:14, we are sold in bondage to sin:

“For we know that the Law is spiritual but I am of the flesh sold in bondage to sin”

Its not me its this darn flesh!

In verse 17 and 20 of Romans 7 though, Paul comes to three important realisations:

Firstly, there is no good in his sinful flesh (note he is careful to say in his flesh because he knows that his spirit man is good and desires good)

Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

Secondly, that he has no power to do the good that he (his spirit man) wishes.

Thirdly, he realises that if he doesn’t want to do it, then it’s not really him doing it. In other words, it’s sin in the flesh. His true identity therefore, is not in the sinful behaviour but in the new man.

Romans 7:17 “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Romans 7:20“But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me”

For example. Imagine you are driving your kids to school and they are behaving very badly in the back seat, fighting, screaming and even trying to distract other drivers. You can’t do much about it because your trying to keep your eyes on the road. Do you just ignore the behaviour and pretend it’s not happening? No, of course not, because if you don’t deal with it soon, you’re likely to have an accident!

This is very much like sin in the flesh. It’s a like big bad dog straining at the leash. We need someone to help us and fast! Who is going to deliver us from this body of death? Who do we turn to?

Most people of course turn turn to Mr Law. Yes he’s Mr Perfect, he knows the rules absolutely but he’s no teacher or coach. All he does is point out to you that your children are misbehaving, and he even finds time to comment on the inadequacies of the driving! Thankfully we are no longer married to Mr Law!

Therefore, the Law, rules, church attendance, determination, self-help, education, self-discipline, even prayer, all may help for a while and even manage the sinful flesh but they will never control it.

A positive note

Romans chapter 7 ends though on a positive note: he maybe stuck, in needs of help frustrated and unhappy in this struggle against sin but he’s seen the light at the end of the tunnel.  He has grasped two important positives:

Firstly, he knows now there is only person who can help him get free from the law of sin and death – he’s given up himself and on Mr Law!

Romans 7:25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

Secondly, he’s now has a clear revelation of who he is in Christ (I MYSELF). He understands now beyond a doubt, that his sinful flesh is not his identity even though its his responsibility.

Romans 7:25 “So, then, on the one hand I MYSELF with the mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, WITH MY FLESH, the law of sin.

To conclude therefore and to answer our original question: “why do we still sin?” We still sin because we have the sinful flesh!

Further articles:

Previous article: Christ in you

New birth (Audio)

You must be born again

The law of christ

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Can a believer sin?

can a believer sinCan a believer sin?

If you have read John’s Epistle recently you may have come across these verses and been puzzled by them:

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

So, is John saying that if you are born again you cannot sin? Well apparently so. In fact, he also says that if you sin you are of the devil!

1 John 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

A contradiction?

The immediate question in most people’s minds is: well I know I’m born again and I sinned a few times this week, so does this mean I’m no longer born again or have lost my salvation?  Even John, in the very same Epistle seems to contradict himself and admit the possibility of sin in a believer’s life as per the following verses:

1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, (aorist tense, one off) we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”

So what does he mean? What is the answer to this apparent contradiction?

A believe does not practice sin

Firstly, a better translation of 1 John 3:9,  1 John 5:8 and 1 John 3:8 would be ‘practice sin’ as translated in the ASV. This is because the tense of the verb ‘sin’ is not ‘aorist’ ( ie sinning in a moment of time, even once – see 1 John 2:1), but  ‘present active’ or sinning continually.

Therefore, John is saying that a true believer may sin but doesn’t sin continually or practice sin. In fact, if he or she does sin continually, then probably they never knew Christ in the first place!

1 John 3:6 “No one who sins (present active)  has seen him or known him!”

Incidentally, this verse proves that if your practice sin you have never known the Lord so you can’t become unborn and then born again etc and lose your salvation!

A believer practices righteousness

However, I don’t believe the above explanation, although technically correct, is the complete answer because John not only talks about practicing sin, he talks about practicing righteousness. See the following scriptures:

1 John 2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of him”

1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one who practices righteousness is righteous even as he is righteous”

1 John 3:10 “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious, anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God”

Now this is problematic, because John uses the same present active tense to describe   righteousness! In other words, a believer practices righteousness –  he or she doesn’t just do occasional acts of righteousness, like an unbeliever might. No, they constantly and continually do righteousness.

Now, we can easily cope with the idea that we occasionally sin but can we honestly say that we practice righteousness day in day out? Well, John says if you don’t then you’re not born again! There must be a more complete answer – and there is!

In the flesh

I believe, that in context, the Apostle John is talking about who we are in the spirit because that is where new birth has taken place:

John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Theologically, when we are unsaved we are described as being “ in the flesh” and cannot please God. Our spirit man is dead.

Romans 7:5 “For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.”

Romans 8:8 “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

What is “in the flesh?” It is the body and soul (mind, will and emotions) ruled in the natural man by a dead human spirit.

In the spirit

When we are born again however, our old man or spirit is put to death in Jesus and we come alive as Christ and the Holy Spirit come to live in us. This state is described as being “in the spirit.”

Romans 8:9 “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

The old man is crucified.

Therefore, because Christ is in us, our spirit is alive and we (our spirit man) CANNOT sin. Our born again nature therefore, is just like Jesus and is only capable of righteousness continually. This is called the new man. Our old man or dead spirit is crucified with Christ.

Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I (the old identity) . but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh (the physical existence)  I live by faith in the Son of God; who loved me, and gave himself for me”

Your spirit is united with christ

1 cor 6:17 “ But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit!”

We are righteous and holy as a gift

Ephesians 2:4 “And that ye put on the new man, which is after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”

Romans 5:17 “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)|”

Gods laws are written on our hearts

Through new birth, God has written or programmed his laws ( this is not the ten commandments but the commandments as John refers to them) on our hearts.

Hebrews 8:10 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God and they shall be to me a people;” Hebrews 10:16

You have a new nature

God has transformed you internally at the centre of your being. Before your nature was sin, now you are a partaker of the divine nature ( love).

2 Peter 1:4 “Wherebye are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Walking or living in the flesh

So you say, if I am born again why do I sin? The biblical terminology for this is “walking or living in the flesh”. ( Unbelievers can only walk in the flesh).  Believers however, though not in the flesh, still have the flesh ( soul and body) and have the possibility of walking either in the flesh or the spirit.

Gal 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Romans 8:13 “for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Most of us know however, because most of us have tried, that even though we desire to change because we are born again, it still takes us a while to learn that the law, even though holy – cannot help us. We cannot use rules and standards to bring the flesh into line. In fact. it just makes things worse because rather than walk in the spirit we focus on the sinful behaviour!

Galatians 3:3 “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

No, we need someone to help. Who shall deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:24). Evil is still present in us, even though we are born again we still need a saviour because our flesh is corrupt and we are weak.

No longer I – Romans 7

Romans 7:21 “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:”

Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

Take note: Paul does not say there is no good in him at all because that is not true – he is born again and therefore righteous and holy in his spirit. No, its in his flesh (mind, will, emotions and body) that there isn’t any good thing!

Therefore, sin cannot cause you to lose your salvation but you may get to heaven quicker than you anticipated! For example, Paul doesn’t downgrade sin – he disciplines the church over allowing the gross sin in their midst but he doesn’t say that the individual believer has forfeited their salvation. No, he says if he doesn’t repent (and as we find out later he did) ,he will probably foolishly lose his life as the devil is allowed full reign in his life kill and destroy.

1 Cor 5:5 “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

Therefore, Paul in Romans 7 identifies himself twice, not with his flesh and its behaviour but with his spirit man.

Romans 7:17 “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

Romans 7:20 “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

Therefore, Paul has come to the same conclusion as John, that if he sins this behaviour is not coming from who he is in christ but the sinful patterns and habits ingrained in his sinful flesh! We are not therefore schizophrenic: a bad person and a good person in one person with two separate identities. No the old criminal has been put to death in Christ and I am now a saint! That is my true identity.

This of course, doesn’t free us from the responsibility of the action of the flesh – we are to put to death the deeds of the body by the spirit. So, now you are a saint – act like it! You are now a son of the king. You are righteous. That is your identity. When you believe that truth then right behaviour will begin to flow out of this right believing.

Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Example – under new management

A couple of years ago Fran and I bought a failing ladies gym.  As the new owners we had a completely new vision and plan for the club. Of course, a few of the existing staff were not happy with our plans and standards because they preferred things the way they were. So, we had to try and help them change. Of course, some resisted but eventually most began to realise we were not going to change our plans and continue to run the club like the old owners. Likewise, some of the members didn’t like us turning the music up and actually coaching them but even though some left, most enjoyed the new regime!

Likewise,  if you are born again, this is similar to  what is now going on in your life.  You (your born again spirit man) is the new owner. Your mind, will and emotions prefers things the way they always were but the old owner is no longer in charge! Your business coach, the Holy Spirit  is there to advise and help you get these staff into line and  ‘turn this business around’!

Further  reading:

New birth, Christ in you – Paul Noble audio

You must be born again

What do you do when you sin?

Are all sins forgiven?

Graham Cooke – Our true identity

How to walk after the flesh – Paul Ellis

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What do you do when you sin?

soapWhat do you do when you sin? The advice from most evangelical believers would be to use 1 John 1:9 as a sort of spiritual bar of soap.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Apply the soap

In other words, every time you sin and are aware of the fact, then apply the soap, confess and say sorry to God and then God will forgive and cleanse you of all sin – simple!

The problem with this, if you have ever tried it, is that you just go round and round in a kind of endless spiritual washing machine spin cycle: sin, confess, sin, forgive and so on. Unfortunately, your eyes are on the sin not Jesus and instead of sin being overcome it becomes stronger.

The catholic answer

The Catholic of course, has a simple but similar answer: go visit a priest and confess your mortal sins (sins that send you hell).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortal_sin

Or, if your not that bad, just confess your venial or minor sins!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venial_sin

How does it work? First you must confess your sin to the priest and when he’s is satisfied, he absolves you, pronounces you forgiven by God and you get to say a few Hail Mary’s or some other penance – depending on the severity of the offence.

What about 1 John 1:9?

However, getting back to our bar of soap and 1 John 1:9, what does this scripture really say about “what do you do when you  sin?”  If read in context and in the flow of the previous verse, does it really say what many think it says? i.e.

“if you sin, then confess your sins to God in private prayer and you will be forgiven and cleansed”?

Let’s look at John 1:8 and 9 together, as they juxtapose two different kinds of people referred to as we but who say different things about their sin. The first kind, in verse 8, say they don’t have any sins (the belief and confession of certain gnostic heretic groups) – they remain deceived.

1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

The second kind, in verse 9, admit or confess they are sinners and are therefore forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess (‘homologeo’ and present tense) our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

What does it mean to confess?

For example, many involved in witchcraft at Ephesus believed the Gospel and confessed their sins. Everyone in the city had no doubt these people had become Christians because they didn’t just burn their proverbial boats; they burnt their magic books as well!

Acts 19:18 “And many that believed came, and confessed, (‘exomologeo’ and present tense)  and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

Now, what does the word confess ‘homologeo’ used in 1 John 1:9 mean? Basically, it means to agree together or admit. For example the same word is used several times  by John to differentiate believers from gnostic unbelievers and identify whether a spirit is from God:

  • Believers confess that Jesus is the Son Of God – 1 John 4:15
  • Believers confess both the Father and the Son 1 John 2:2
  • Believers confess that they have sin. 1 John 1:9
  • A spirit that confesses Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God 1 John 4:2
  • A spirit that doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is an antichrist. 2 John 1:7

The Apostle Paul also used the same word in the famous salvation passage:

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess (aorist) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession (present tense) is made unto salvation.”

So, should a believer confess and admit their sins? Absolutely. A believer should admit when they miss the mark and if they claim to be sinless  – just ask their wife or children what they think!

The tense of the verbs are important

However, I don’t believe that 1 John 1:9 is talking about receiving forgiveness and cleansing on an ongoing basis as a consequence of confession to God in some private prayer. What do I mean? Well if that is what the verse meant, the tenses of the verbs forgive and cleanse would also be perfect. They are not. They are aorist.

Perfect tense – a completed action that leaves lingering effects.
Aorist tense – a one-time action
Present tense – a continuous or habitual action.

In other words, even though confession is to be our continual attitude as a believer, our forgiveness and cleansing are a past, one time action, breaking the link between confession and subsequent forgiveness.

Therefore, because you have repented and confessed your sins you have been forgiven! You are cleansed of all sin! Forgiveness doesn’t depend on your continual confession.

1 John 2:12 “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven (perfect tense) you for his name’s sake.”

Acts 15:9 “And put no difference between us and them, purifying (cleansing, aorist tense) their hearts by faith.”

1 Cor 6:11 “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, (aorist) but ye are sanctified, (aorist) but ye are justified (aorist) in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God”.

You’ve been washed

In conclusion therefore, you don’t need a spiritual bar of soap to keep you clean. You have been washed. In fact, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you continually every second of the day far better than a confessional bar of soap could!

1 John 1:7 “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 (present tense) us from all sin.”

Therefore, going back to our original question: “what should a believer do when they sin?”, John the Apostle answers directly.

1 John 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin (aorist), we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation (appeasment) for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Therefore, if you sin and you’re a believer, its not what you do before God that counts, its what your advocate Jesus the righteous does! He is the one who acts on your behalf and in your interest, speaking up before the Father for you as the enemy makes his accusation. How good is that!

Reiterating this, when you sin it’s not what you do that counts but WHO you have to speak up for you! If any man sin WE HAVE and advocate with the Father. Jesus is our defence lawyer.

Does sin matter?

Does sin matter though if we are already forgiven? Yes of course. Sexual sin for example harms our own bodies.

1 Cor 6:18 “Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”

Do we need to repent when we sin? Yes of course ,we need to renew our minds as to the truth of God’s word. When we are aware of our bad behaviour,  we don’t pretend it didn’t happen we agree with God’s word that it is sin and that our advocate Jesus is already on the case and  we reckon ourselves dead to it.

Romans 6:6 “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In addition,  sinning against other people will probably result in bad consequences! So, even though we may be assured of God’s forgiveness for our sin, we need take responsibility of our actions, confess our sin and seek forgiveness from others as far as possible on our part. James 5:16 makes this very clear.

Confess (exologeo) your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

You are already forgiven

Likewise, Paul teaches us to forgive one another because we are already forgiven.

“Forbearing one another, and forgiving (present tense) one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave (aorist) you, so also do ye. Col 3:13”

So lastly, you don’t need to keep short accounts with God because you don’t have an account! He doesn’t put sin to your charge.

Romans 4:8 “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

However, people do keep accounts, so make sure you don’t hide behind your bar of soap. If you have offended and sinned against someone, go and put it right. Confess your sins and make restitution. Every good husband knows this if he wants to stay alive!

Andrew Wommack Audio on 1 John 1:9

Further Reading:

Joseph Prince on confession of sins

Excellent article Phil Drysdale on confession
Another article on confession by Phil Drysdale
Andrew Wommack on confession
Repentance its not what you think
Repentance is the key to real change
Sinning willfully
Total forgiveness

 

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