How many of us fell to sin this week? Without even asking, I know we all have. Because sin is not only what you’ve blatantly done wrong. It is sinful even if you don’t give glory to God every millisecond of your life.
So if you found yourself not thinking about God for even a millisecond, you’ve sinned. Then the logical conclusion is that it’s impossible not to fall to sin! And that’s correct. That’s the point. That’s why we needed Jesus to die for us. And that’s why we need Jesus even after we’ve been saved.
Fully Justified and Yet Sinful
In his letter to the Romans, Paul said that the law, although good, only revealed even more our sinful nature and utter hopelessness in our flesh.
I’d like to reflect a little bit today on the effect of this sin in us and I want to argue that even though we are in Christ Jesus and now have no condemnation, evil lies close at hand. And although we are free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, we still do not do what I want. And although we are children of God, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, we still do the very thing that I hate. And the one truth we need to accept is that we are completely justified and at the same time still sinful.
But you might say that this doesn’t make sense. How can we be completely and fully justified and still be sinful? If we have salvation and Jesus accepts us and loves us and has made us a new creation and given us a new spirit, aren’t we saints? Aren’t we holy? We have no condemnation. We are free from the law of sin and death. We are children of God! The short answer is yes and yes. But that’s not all.
On a previous post on sanctification, I share about the issue of our desires. And that we needed to cultivate this desire because desires are based on our emotions and emotions are unstable and fickle. And that even though we are free in Christ, we can still live like we’re slaves. Because sin and death still remain around us.
People are still sinning, we are still sinning, people are still dying, and we are still dying. And so, to cultivate our desires, we need to set our minds on the things of the Spirit. Set it on the Word of God as the anchor of our faith. This cultivating and effort is not what enables us to be holy and righteous. This cultivating and effort is enabled because we have been justified by faith and made holy and righteous by God!
Martin Luther, the great reformer and founding father of protestant Christianity is famously known for saying, “simul justus et peccator.”
This statement summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation.
- Simul meaning simultaneously. Or, ‘at the same time.’
- Justus meaning just or righteous.
- Et meaning “and”.
- Peccator meaning sinner.
That we are both justified as righteous by faith and yet, still a sinner at the same time. It is not that our old self is battling our new self. We have become a completely new creation. We have been given a new spirit. That’s why just as Paul writes, he can desire to do what is right even if he fails and that’s why he can delight in the law of God but also struggle.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.Romans 7:18,22
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
A non-believer, a non-Christian, would never be able to have desires for God or delight in the law of God.
Inside Paul, there is not an old Saul and a new Paul battling for control over the flesh. It is only the new Paul who has a new spirit, but sin remains. And sin will remain in this world until the last day.
17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.Romans 7:17
All Work, No Work, No Matter
If we think that once we receive salvation, we just need enough faith to live out this new identity, we are sadly mistaken. This leads people to different heresies and believe in a false gospel. This is the reason why Paul and the other apostles wrote so many letters, to clarify the gospel of Christ and attack the lies of the enemy.
Three main heresies of the day were:
- Legalism – works based righteousness, earning salvation. Judiaizers.
- Antinomianism – faith alone, not by works so we don’t care about works and no consequence to our sins and failures.
- Gnosticism – natural world is not real and/or evil, so we must disconnect from the natural world and only focus on the spiritual. Levels of spirituality only attained by special revelation.
And we see these heresies are alive even today, working themselves into the fabric of mainstream Christianity. This is especially true when there is a culture, even within Christianity, that doesn’t want to compromise in the areas of individualism, self-reliance and relativism. It culminates with the phrases, my truth is my truth and your truth is your truth. No, brothers and sisters, there is only one Truth and it is the Word of God.
The important truth is, when we come to Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, it does not mean that we automatically become completely perfect and holy. Not only is this something you experience in your daily life, it is biblical for us to understand this.
There are heretical teachers who preach that we just need a stronger faith to live holier lives and that there are people with extra anointing and power. Be wary of those who say they have special and secret knowledge. Be wary of those who say theirs is a special anointing.
We need Jesus today as much as we did when he saved us. It is only by His grace we are saved and it is only by His Spirit we continue to walk in His ways.
We see this beautifully written in Galatians 5 and 6. And we’ll leave off meditating upon it.
Christ Has Set Us Free
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slaver
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Keep in Step with the Spirit
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Bear One Another’s Burdens
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Final Warning and Benediction
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.Galatians 5 and 6