Do Christians ever sin? If one does sin, is that one “lost”?
First answer this question. What is a Christian? Does joining a church make one a Christian? Does saying, “I accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior”, make one a Christian?
Let’s get the Bible definition Romans 8:6-9 (New King James Version throughout). You will read, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind (fleshly mind) is enmity (hostile) against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those that are in the flesh (fleshly minded) cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His”
A Christian then, is one who has received, and in whose mind dwells, the Holy Spirit of God. Otherwise we are not Christ’s – not Christians.
How do we receive the Spirit of God?
On the day the Church of God was started, the Apostle Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy spirit (Acts 2:38).
Repent of what? Of sin. And what is sin? “Sin is lawlessness (transgression of the law)” (1 John 3:4). What law? The law that the carnal mind, hostile to God, is not subject to – the Law of God (Romans 8:7). Again we read of “—the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32).
There are two conditions to receiving God’s gift of the Holy Spirit: repentance and faith. Being baptized is the outward manifestation of the inner faith in Christ. Repentance is not merely being sorry for something one has done (or even many such sins). It is real repentance of what one is and has been (of one’s whole past attitude and life apart from God). It is a total change of mind and heart and direction of life. It is a change to a new way of life. It is a turning from the self-centered way of vanity, selfishness, greed, hostility to authority, envy, jealousy and unconcern for the good and welfare of others. It is turning to the God-centered way of obedience, submission to authority, and love toward God more that love of self. It is love and concern for other humans equal to self-concern.
Love is fulfilling of God’s Law (Romans 13:10). God’s Law is a spiritual law (Romans 7:14) and can be fulfilled only by “—the love of God (that) has been poured out in our hearts (minds) by the Holy Spirit—“(Romans 5:5).
The Holy Spirit will open one’s mind to understand God’s instruction on how to live, but it will not force one to live God’s way. It will not pull or push one. Each Christian must take his/her own initiative. God’s Spirit will give help, faith and power. “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
So a Christian, then, is one who has received God’s Spirit, which is dwelling in one, leading one, and that one is following God’s way of life. A Christian has forsaken the former habitual way of life (one’s selfish way unconcerned with God). Now one lives in the habitual way of God’s word (in the light of the Word of God).
But suppose, like an 8 or 10 month old baby trying to learn to walk, as one walks this new way, one stumbles, falls down as it were, and sins. Is this one then condemned, lost, and no longer a Christian?
Now notice and understand what the Apostle John was inspired to write for us. “That which was from the beginning— which was with the Father and was manifested to us; that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).
The true Christian has been reconciled to God through Christ. And, having God’s Spirit, we enjoy actual fellowship with the Father and the Son Jesus Christ. And even fellowship with fellow Christians is through God and Christ. The Christian is joined to them as the different branches are joined to a grape vine and joined together through and by the vine. Compare Jesus’ analogy in John 15:1-7. Christians are actually walking with Christ and two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement (Amos 3:3).
Now continue (1 John 1:5-6): “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” That is, the living Christ is walking in the light as if on a brilliantly lighted path. But if we are walking in darkness, we are walking on a different path altogether where it’s dark. Therefore we are not walking with Him at all and if we say we are, we are lying.
But suppose while walking with Him (in the light) one of us stumbles and falls down, this is not a case of having turned away from Him and the path He is treading, to a different and darkened path. If we say, “Oh, I’m sorry”, would He not give us a hand and help us get up and continue on the lighted path with Him? Would He become angry and say, “Get off my path, go walk down a darkened path”?
In still other words, the true Christian has turned from his former life of habitual sin and from his former attitude of selfishness and self-seeking. But when one has turned from one’s former way, one’s life, in general, is now the habitual way of the Christian life.
But the true Christian is not perfect the minute one is converted and receives God’s Spirit. One must grow spiritually, in grace and the knowledge of Christ as Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:18. Humans are creatures of habit, and all old former habits do not just automatically leave us without any effort on our part to overcome the old habits. We must learn to overcome sin. It is inevitable that we will be caught off guard and make a mistake.
If we walk in the light, even though we may stumble occasionally, it is now only an occasional slip. It is not turning our back on God’s way, not turning back to a habitual and constant way of sin.
Do you begin to understand the difference? The true Christian intends to live God’s way — wants to live God’s way — tries to live God’s way. In general, it now actually is one’s habitual new way of life. The occasional slip, or sin, does not mean that in the mind and heart one has rejected God and God’s way.
“—as He is in the light—“ if that is now our goal and purpose and habitual way of life, then “we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us (us who are Christians) from all sin. If we (Christians) say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1John 1:7-8).
If we, now Christians, say that we are already perfect, that we never slip and make a mistake or commit a sin, we are deceiving ourselves. A woman once claimed to be above sin, she claimed she never sinned. Although she was what most people call a good woman, she actually was committing the biggest sin of all, spiritual pride and vanity. She gloried in her “sinless” state. She lacked Christian humility.
But if, while walking down this lighted path with God, one stumbles and falls down, does God kick that person aside?
“If we (we who are Christians –it is not addressing the unconverted) confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).
So notice the “if”, “If we confess our sins.” When we stumble, we must admit it, we must repent of it, we must ask forgiveness. If we deny it or blame it on somebody else, we shall not be forgiven. We must confess it—to God.
“If we say that we (as Christians) have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1John 1:10). The context continues right on into the second chapter: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” In other words, we should not sin—we must strive to avoid any sin. God gives us no license to sin. But, “—if anyone sins, we (we Christians) have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the whole world” (1John 2:1-2). He is the propitiation (conciliation) for the sins of the unconverted in the world only when they come to real repentance and faith in Christ.
God looks on the heart – the attitude – the intent.
As long as we, in the heart, have a real desire to walk God’s way with Him (we are deeply sorry and repent when we commit the occasional sin) and we are seeking to overcome sin and to make God’s way our habitual way of life, we will be forgiven. We will stumble on occasion, but if we confess it and repent, we will be forgiven. If we are diligent in this Christian life, our occasional stumbling will become less and less. We will be making good progress, overcoming, growing spiritually and in righteous godly character.
What is your attitude? When you have sinned, have you been carelessly indifferent about it? You are on dangerous ground. Do you justify it, feel others are to blame? That will never justify your sins. Do you still desire to go God’s way? Then it is not too late. Turn from sins, confess your sins to God. Repent. Pick yourself up, with Christ’s helping hand, and go on overcoming and growing spiritually.
And once you know you have repented and been forgiven, don’t repeat it — forget it. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “—forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press forward toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:13-14).