I’ve always found the New Testament vague about sin in the lives of the saved. The bible gives us a few key verses regarding sin. The first one that comes to mind is Romans 7:18-20:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Here Paul seems to be saying that sin still pulls at him although he has found Christ because a few sentences later he is rejoicing in his salvation. Next he says one of my favorite verses in Romans (8:1):
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The second bible verse that stands out regarding the inevitable sin we must contend with is 1 John 1:8:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
This verse clearly states that as saved Christians we can still sin. I think this may be a relief to most people. I’ve heard people say and some denominations of Christianity hold that the saved do not sin. While this may sound logical it is actually absurd. The only person who was ever without sin was Christ Jesus. Because Christ was without sin he is as a cloak to those with sin. He is our clothing of righteousness. Without Him we are sinners out of luck.
Since we still sin and Christ forgives our sin are we permitted to sin as much as we want? Certainly not! I don’t think that Christ’s gift is an invitation to make a mockery of Him by increasing in our sin.
Paul gives comment to this in Romans 6. Essentially, he states that once we are baptized and saved we are no longer "slaves to sin." This means that we are no longer powerless in our struggle against sin. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can please the Father. We can say no to the sinful lifestyle and "yes" to Christ. This does not mean that we always will. Humans are imperfect — even after they are saved. Paul alludes to the idea several times in the New Testament that we are a work in progress. In Hebrews 10:14 he says:
because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
In Philippians 3:12 he says:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
If the Apostle Paul and author of the most books in the New Testament can say that he’s imperfect those of us who haven’t written books of the bible probably shouldn’t try to claim perfection. Since we are "being made" holy we should expect some margin of error. Yes, the saved do sin.
However, if the saved continue to sin with blatant disregard for what Christ has done for them it does a great disservice to their relationship with Him. If a Christian perpetually and willfully goes out of their way by working against the Holy Spirit sinning they may want to question whether or not their heart is truly connected with their chosen identity. If your heart is being pulled in two directions on a daily basis with one particular choice and you consistently choose to work against Christ by committing the same sin it may be time to sit down and decide what’s more important. By continuing to sin you continue to put off your relationship with Christ — maybe not intentionally but you will feel distanced further from Him every time you do it.
With this being said, it is important to understand that there are some sinful behaviors that take a while for the Holy Spirit to work out of us. As works in progress it takes time for our hearts to be made perfect. We are constantly being refined and shaped by the work of the Holy Spirit. If you are stuck in a particular sin that you feel threatens your relationship with Christ keep praying. Keep praying for deliverance and be vigilant and ready to receive relief when it comes.
As humans we are constantly struggling with addictions and maladaptive behavior. The things that our bodies and minds have learned by repetition over decades sometimes take years to unlearn. While some people may be able to stop an addiction immediately, most people find that deep wounds take longer to heal. Maladaptive behavior takes practice and the work of the Holy Spirit to unlearn.
Don’t let that be your excuse to give up or to put off for tomorrow what you can stop today. Listen to Christ’s voice. His message is one of love and acceptance. He meets you where you are. A repentant heart is always pleasing to the Lord. If you have sinned, ask forgiveness sincerely. Sincere repentance includes conviction and the determination not to make the same mistake again. If your heart says, "I feel separated from God and I wish never to feel this again," rest assured that you are truly repentant. This doesn’t mean that you will be condemned if you sin again. Christ says to forgive our neighbor seven times seventy-seven even if it’s for the same sin (Luke 17:4). But don’t invite hardship into your life by giving in to something that you have the power to say no to.
I received a message in the Spirit a while back that I needed to ask forgiveness every time I sinned. I think the reason this message was so important is that it showed me the gravity of sin. Each sin we commit is a new wound that Christ bears for us. Sin moves us away from and is hurtful to God. Still, we need to love our neighbor AND our God. We can’t judge those who sin because everyone sins — including us. Remember, "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Trust that those who are stuck in sin will be delivered with the work of the Spirit and give it time to happen. Meanwhile, we should keep our eyes on our own walk so that we will not fall into another pit Christ has to dig us out of.