Remaining sin has got to be one of the most difficult realities facing the Christian and all humanity. Understanding God’s wisdom in binding all humanity to disobedience is unfathomable (Romans 11:32) and facing the fact that sin still remains after the Lord Jesus personally made payment for our sin is equally mind boggling. We can only say that his infinite patience with our sin and mysterious purpose for our sin must demand all our worship.
Yet will we worship Christ even as Christian sinners? Why the unbelieving laugh at even the concept of one claiming to be Christian who also sins. Yet that is what we are, Christian sinners! The painful reality of our remaining sin may just as easily turn us to denial, brazenness, or hopelessness. Rather than believe that Jesus loves sinners like us, we may simply deny that we do sin or deny that our sin is sin. Rather than believe that Jesus loves sinners like us, we may harden our conscience and simply give ourselves over to sin. Rather than believe that Jesus loves sinners like us, we may despair... even to the depths of suicide.
There is a better solution than a final vindictive strike against God by killing ourselves. Why not find ourselves already crucified with Christ? It is better to believe we are already dead so that Christ can live in us! If God has made you willing to live in this way Paul, John, Luke, and Jesus have some excellent counsel about the sin that remains in us.
Paul says that Christians can sin.
You of course know the difference between 'can' and 'may.' 'Can' means that we have the 'ability to,' while 'may' means that we have 'permission to.' And so Paul teaches that Christians have the 'ability to' sin. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn't fall" (I Corinthians 10:12 WEB). When we became Christians God did not take away our ability to sin. Christians are capable of every sin, except the blasphemy of the Spirit. Christians can murder, lie, steal, commit adultery, and even speak words against Christ. So if you have done or are tempted to do these things do not lose hope or think that Christians can’t sin. True Christians can sin and Jesus loves sinners like us!
John says that Christians do sin.
You of course know the difference between theory and practice. While we may discuss the sinfulness of man in theory, John says that our hands are stained with the practice of sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8 WEB). When we became Christians Jesus paid for all our sin, but he did not take away our every practice of sin. Christians sin in thought or action every day. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we do not need to look further than our own hands to see our crimes. So even though we do sin we should not lose hope or think that we need to become a Christian again if we sin. True Christians do sin and Jesus loves sinners like us!
Luke says that Christians may sin.
You of course know the difference between 'can' and 'may' already explained above. Luke records the conclusion of the Jerusalem Counsel in the books of Acts which gives Christians permission to sin. "Therefore my judgment is that we don't trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God" (Acts 15:19 WEB). Under the New Covenant God wants absolutely no veil of hypocrisy standing between us and him as under the Old Covenant. And so since we are sinners he gives us permission to sin and still be part of the Christian family. This is why the believing members of the Jerusalem Counsel cried out that the Law of Moses was a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. Hypocrisy is Christianity’s biggest threat. We secretly and not so secretly give ourselves permission to sin, yet hypocritically do not afford this grace to others! But the bold truth of Jesus Christ is that we need only repent of one sin to become a Christian. We need to cease justifying ourselves and instead be justified by Christ. So even though we willingly sin, do not lose hope or think that Christians are better than that. True Christians may sin and Jesus loves sinners like us!
Finally, Jesus says that Christians must hate sin.
"He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life" (John 12:25 WEB). Jesus is not talking about hating the good things in mankind, such as his very image designed in us. Rather we must hate the corruption of his image in us and our sin. The thing that we should hate the most about sin is our love of it! And though we have been confronted with the ugliness of our love of sin, we are filled with the wonderful hope of the final and permanent removal of sin for God’s people in eternity.
Frankly, Christians would not even be able to pass a sanity test by the psychologists of this world. We are living contradictions hating our own lives, yet filled with unconquerable hope for future glory! So even though we can, do, and may sin we must also hate sin. These four ingredients are the rocket fuel to propel a sinner to love God and love others. And The love of Jesus will hold us on course because of his infinite patience with our sin, his grand purpose for our sin, and his certain promise of eternity with him and his people in a place without sin.
Hold us Jesus!