Crossing
Your
Jordan Ministries
Embracing God's Promise of Abundance When Hardship Endures
Struggling with Sin is a Sign of Sainthood
by Jenny on March 15th, 2018

"Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they are children of God." 1 John 3:9

Eight years ago my husband and I cancelled our cable television service. We do, however, still manage to receive a few local channels (like five?) through an antenna, and there are a few evening shows we view together as a family. Watching public television creates opportunity for us to discuss different world views with our children.

After watching a particular show one evening our family began to discuss if people who struggle with sin will one day enter into Heaven. Because my opinion on this matter is void and useless, I turned to the Bible for an answer.

Ephesians 2:8-9 state, "God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it."

We are saved, meaning we are spared the punishment of our sin and allowed to enter into and spend eternity with the presence of God, by grace through faith in Christ. Salvation is not  based on what we do or don't do.

Period.

However, elsewhere Scripture gives us ways to evaluate, to self-diagnose, if we have been saved by faith. The apostle John explains,

"So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth." 1 John 1:6

(Note: if you're like me and as you read these verses you can't help but chant "liar, liar pants on fire," try replacing "liar" with "deceived")

"And we can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments. If someone claims, 'I know God,' but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth." 1 John 2:3-4

"Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. . . . Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God." 1 John 3:7-10

Whew. At first glance, John makes it seem like NONE are saved! I don't know about you but I continue to sin, to fall short of God's desire for me daily! But a glance at Paul's word in Romans 7 gives us a bit more clarity on John's message.

Paul writes, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." Romans 7:18-19

Paul struggled with sin. But according to theologian J.I. Packer, "Paul wasn’t struggling with sin because he was such a sinner. Paul was struggling because he was such a saint."

Notice a key phrase in Paul's message: "I have the desire to do what is good." THAT is the difference between the saved soul and the lost soul. The DESIRE to do what is good.

As the psalmist explains in Psalm 53:2-3, "God looks down from Heaven on the entire human race; He looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!"

Left to our own devises, no one does good. However, once a person makes a profession of faith in the cleansing work of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God takes up permanent residence in that person (Ephesians 1:13). One work of God's Spirit is to convict us of sin (John 16:8). Notice I did not say "condemn" us of sin but convict us of sin. Jesus explained in John 14:26 that the Spirit would teach us of all things and remind us of what Jesus said. God's Spirit gives us the desire to do what is good.

Does the Spirit of God leave us?

In the Old Testament, God empowered people with His Spirit as He saw fit. Sometimes God removed His Spirit, as in the case of King Saul. In a few cases God seemed to permanently indwell His Spirit, such as in David. However, one key difference between Old Testament believers and New Testament believers is that God promised to send His Spirit upon all believers permanently after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

Ephesians 1:13 tells us that when we believe in Jesus, God "seals" us by His Spirit. The Greek word used for "seal" in Ephesians 1:13 is the same word used in Matthew 27:66 when the guards placed a Roman "seal" on Jesus' tomb.

An article on Blueletterbible.org explains, "The seal was sign of authentication that the tomb was occupied and the power and authority of Rome stood behind the seal. Anyone found breaking the Roman seal would suffer the punishment of an unpleasant death." (Don Stewart, What Precautions Were Taken to Keep the Tomb of Jesus Secure?, accessed 3/13/2018) No one could remove the seal or open the tomb except the one who sealed it.

How do we know God won't change His mind and remove His Spirit from us? God does not change His mind (Numbers 23:19). He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Scripture explains that we can grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30), and we can quench, or suppress, or put-out the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:9), but we can not rid ourselves of God's Spirit. David writes in Psalm 139:7, "I can never escape from your Spirit!I can never get away from your presence!"

So, my friend . . . do you struggle with sin? Awesome. Because I believe our struggle with sin is a sign that the Spirit of God is at work IN us. Author and research professor Wayne Grudem writes, "True Christians may have deep struggles with sin at different times in their lives. But what it does mean is that those struggles will actually be struggles." (Christian Beliefs, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005, p104)

I am not implying that it is okay for us to continue in sin. John says believers will not make a "practice" of sinning. Along with the wisdom not to sin, God's Spirit also gives us the power to overcome sin!

As a follow-up to writing about his own struggle with sin, Paul writes in Romans 8, "And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (v2) You are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to Him at all.) (v9)

Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that, "God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation [to sin] to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted He will show you a way out so that you can endure."

God gives us the desire to do what is right and the power to do what is right. It is up to us, through the power of God's Spirit in us, to choose God's way. Will we always choose correctly? Doubtful. Because of our fallen nature, some of us--many of us--will struggle with sin until the day we pass from this life into life eternal with God. But, like Paul, while on earth God's Spirit in us will give us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13).

If struggling with sin is a sign of sainthood, what about those who live in perfect peace with sin? It is those who claim that sin is okay whom I urge to evaluate their relationship with Christ.

Perhaps that person indeed has a relationship with God through Christ but they have soooo quenched the Spirit that they simply no longer hear or sense the Spirit's nudging. But we're talking about the Spirit of God. I think perhaps more likely is the type of situation John addresses in his epistles. There is a person who is deceived. A person who lives with false assurance. A person who believes that sin is okay because God forgives sin. God absolutely forgives sin. God forgave all sin on the cross. But the Spirit of God in us does not, can not allow us to continue in sin without convicting us of the wrongness of sin. Conviction of sin leads, maybe not to perfection, but at least to repentance, a recognition that sin is wrong.

Jesus explained during His sermon on the mount, “Not everyone who calls out to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. . . . I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’" (Matthew 7:21, 23)

At a glance it may seem as though salvation is based on works, because only those who "do" the will of the Father will be saved. But when a crowd of people asked Jesus what they must do, Jesus replied, "This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one He has sent.” (John 6:29)

When we believe, we receive God's Spirit. God's Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).

No conviction? No Spirit. No Spirit? No salvation.

Struggle with sin? A sign of the Spirit. A sign of salvation. A sign of . . . sainthood.


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Crossing Your Jordan

I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling, Bible-teaching mom of six, and wife to my college sweetheart. I believe everyone can live a life of abundance through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and radical obedience to His Word.

Do you have a relationship with God through Christ? If not, I would consider it pure joy to tell you about God, why you need Him, and how to be reconciled to Him through Christ.

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Visit the following link to read or search through Jenny's posts dating prior to August 2014. www.jennyhander.blogspot.com