There is a question that should hang over every Christian’s head. Everyone who professes to be born of God must surely struggle with this issue.
Why do Christians sin?
This is a question too deep for me to answer satisfactorily within one post, within 15 minutes. Instead, I’ll explain where I’m coming from with this question.
We all have our pet sins. The ones we can’t give up. The ones that seem to cling steadfastly to us more than we cling to Christ. When we are saved, we see how abhorrent our sins are before God, and out of love for Him who laid down His life to save us from this very horror, we resolutely set our hearts on fighting these pet sins. For a season or two, we do not succumb to these sins. But then, just as we think we are gaining mastery over them, they stab us in the back. Before we know it, we have sinned, and our minds and hearts flood with guilt and regret and sorrow. And we ask, why, oh why, am I so weak?
I have a few things I wish to share with those who find themselves in such a pit.
Every Christian struggles in this fight
John writes in his first epistle, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) Paul himself struggles with this, so much so that he calls it a law: So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. (Romans 7:21)
The question that should linger on the minds of those born of God is this: If I sin, how do I know whether I am truly saved?
Thankfully, the apostles themselves answer this question. John writes: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9) Paul writes: For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:22-23)
The difference between a Christian and an unregenerate sinner is this. The Christian at his worst is aware of the filth that is his sin. He knows that it cost God His only Son, the Son He loved and delighted in from all eternity. He does not make a practice of sinning, because he does not want to crucify the Son of God again and again. He delights in the law of God, and is aware of the fight.
The unregenerate sinner at his best does not see sin as an offense to God. There might be a natural law written on his heart of the goodness and evilness of certain moral acts, such that he refrains from most evil things. But if God is to remove the moral restraints of His common grace, the unregenerate sinner will certainly make a practice of sinning. He has no real delight in the law of God. He has no qualms about crucifying the Son of God. There is no fight. All things are permissible for him.
If you are aware of this fight, if you do not make a practice of sinning, if your delight ultimately rests in the Son of God who love you and gave Himself up for you, then take heart: you are born of God. Otherwise, flee to the cross of Christ. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Every Christian knows how to win the fight
The problem is we forget. We forget all too quickly. And herein lies that dastardly sin, the sin that prompts us to forget all that Christ has accomplished for us. For sin’s only effective tactic is this: suppress the truth of the crucified Christ and all that His blood has purchased for those who will put their trust in Him. The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil, and they are truly destroyed. They have no power over us if we remember this very truth. But the world, the flesh and the devil will not give up. They will suppress the truth of their defeat. For this is the only way they can assert authority over us, by falsely claiming that there is no conqueror that has defeated them once and for all.
We know how to win the fight. Because once upon a time, we fled to the cross of Christ. In our most lucid moment, we felt the weight of our sin and looked to the sufficiency of the crucified Christ. And there, in that most mysterious exchange that comes by faith alone, a miracle happened. The ungodly are declared just. The filthy are called clean. The guilty are set free. That same power that saved you from the penalty of your past sin, is more than strong enough to save you from the present power of sin. You only need to flee to the cross of Christ yet again.
And flee you must!
The only way to defeat sin is to know this: you can never defeat sin. Not you. For the Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil. Not you. The Son on God died that He might destroy the one who holds the power of death. Not you. The Son of God alone was perfectly righteous. Not you. The Son of God alone was without sin. Not you. The Son of God alone is the perfect lamb, without blemish, who can bear your blame. Not you. The Son of God alone can pay the ransom for your sin. Not you. The Son of God alone can raise a dead man to life. Not you. The Son of God alone can send the Spirit, to lead us in paths of truth. Not you.
Not you, but Christ. This is what it means to flee to the cross of Christ. It is to realise that you are utterly devoid of the resources to fight this battle. It is to increasingly recognise how worthless you are, and how sufficient Christ is. Some may call this self-degradation, but this is true humility.
Not you, but Christ in you. Don’t think for a moment you don’t have to lift a finger. Flee you must! That requires us to run as fast and as hard as we can. Flee from the deceitfulness and dangers of sin to the cross of Christ where forgiveness and love and power can be found. To fight sin, the Christian must opt for flight. And may Christ grant us the grace to flee with all our might, that we may fight the good fight.