Why do well-meaning and zealous Christians still believe that they are sinners? They, and I, have said only Jesus was without sin. But is that God’s goal for those who respond to Christ’s call? We agree that God is not calling us to be sinners but we can’t help it, it seems. Why, even Paul said it best in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … Look more carefully at Paul’s statement about our condition in Romans 3: “All have sinned …” That reads like the past tense. Does that describe your future? Later in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Is this our reality as we follow Christ? Perhaps you’re like me and you use this as a crutch to make ourselves feel better for not living as Christ did. But God has given us the tools to overcome sin.
When we Christians are confronted with this truth, our response is typically these two verses out of Romans. But they are taken out of context. Earlier in Romans 6 we find, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” 6:17-18. Righteousness. Not a partial righteousness, but one who sins no more. The Holy Spirit is our perfect teacher, but he cannot teach what is wrong. God cannot accept sin in his presence. But God is expecting us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Phillippians 2:12-16.
What are the tools that God has given us to live a life of righteousness? If we accept Jesus as our example, what did Jesus do when he was tempted in the desert? He used the same tools that are available to us: He quoted Scripture, which is God’s Word. It appears he didn’t have his scrolls with him, but he knew them. In Psalms 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” And it’s recorded in John that Jesus spoke them out loud to Satan. He was after all, physically alone. We’re given this opportunity to keep the sin from returning.
Let’s see what Scripture says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
If you’re like me, you’ve read this verse often enough that each of the items mentioned may have lost their meaning. The helmet of Salvation, for instance, can be found in Phillipians 2:12-16. It’s required, but it’s also something that has to be constantly worked on, as the verse states.
The shield of Faith is explained in John 14:12 as the amount of Scripture that we can speak out loud from heart. As mentioned earlier in this post, God’s Word, hidden in our hearts, is the only defense, our shield, against the sin from returning.
The sword of the Sprit is clearly referenced in Hebrews 4:12-13. Again, it is God’s Word that does the work. We only can wield it.
All of this is so that we can “stand firm, holding our ground” and not falling back, or slipping. As we hide more of God’s Word in our hearts, speaking it out loud when temptation comes, “then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching …” Ephesians 4:14a
So what is the lie about sin? The lie is that we who are saved are sinners and that we’re going to be sinners until we leave this earth. It is so prevalent in our churches that we are stuck being sinners and that we’re never going to be as sinless as Jesus was on Earth. One could almost get the impression that we’re to pity those who have fallen to the point that we commiserate with them as they wallow in their brokenness. That’s not to say that we aren’t broken, or that we shouldn’t weep when our brothers and sisters fall down. But are we doing any favors if we fail to show that God, and Jesus, has shown us how to get up and mature as we work out our salvation?
In other posts, we’ll look at more practical spiritual applications to become more like Christ on Earth. Comment below for more questions and answers.