by Matt Slick
Just because we are Christians, it does not mean we don't commit sins. We still struggle with our old sinful ways. That is part of the manifestation of regeneration, the change in us that is made by God when we become Christians (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christians struggle against their sins. They don't abide in them or seek to walk in them. This is why 1 John 2:4 says, "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." John the apostle told us that we need to abide in Christ and not sin. We need to keep the commandments of Christ, to love God (Matt. 22:37), love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39), etc. But, before we get to those commandments take note of what John said a little bit earlier in his epistle...
1 John 1:7-9, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
John the apostle included himself in the "we." He is not teaching us that we have to be perfect and keep the law in order to be saved. He's telling us that if we are to follow Christ, then we are to follow the commandments of Christ. In other words, if you say you follow Christ but don't do what he says, how can you call yourself a Christian (1 John 2:4)? The commandments Jesus tells us to do are...
- Love God "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," (Matthew 22:37).
- Love your neighbor "...You shall love your neighbor as yourself," (Matthew 22:39).
- Love one another “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another," (John 13:34).
- Make Disciples "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,'" (Matt 28:18-20).
Loving God is the first and foremost commandment. God is the proper object and beginning of the moral standard of right and wrong. It then follows that if we're going to love God, then we are going to love our neighbor and one another as well. But, one of the requirements of loving your neighbors is to tell them about Jesus. That is why Jesus told us to make disciples.
So, being a Christian does not mean we don't sin. It means we struggle against our sins. Even Paul the apostle struggled with his sin.
Romans 7:14-25, "For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
You can quickly see in the underlined verses that Paul was struggling with his sinfulness, but no one would say Paul the apostle wasn't actually a Christian. If Paul struggled with his sin, and yet he was a Christian, then we who struggle against ourselves can also claim to be Christians.
However, we must make it clear that it is not okay to sin. We should not use our weakness in the flesh as a justification or excuse to do that which is against God. We are made new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), and as such we have been bought with a great price -- the blood of God (Acts 20:28) -- and we should act in a manner consistent with our redemption. We're not to abide in sin or seek it, but when we do sin we have someone we can turn to who will cleanse us.
- "but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin," (1 John 1:7).
- "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," (1 John 1:9).
- "for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus," (Romans 3:26).