There is another question that plagues the people of the Lord: What about the sins I still do? Let’s be honest. None of us has stopped sinning. Oh, we have maybe changed the sins we do, or we have reduced the frequency of them. Maybe we have stopped doing the really bad things and are able to hide most of the other things. But we have not stopped sinning.
Do those sins affect my salvation? What if I do something terrible? What if I have a certain sin that I just can’t seem to get rid of? How can those sins be washed away?
These questions have led believers to all kinds of interesting answers. Some have suggested that our sins break the bond between ourselves and the Lord and we have to be saved again and again. Others have gone so far as to assert that Christians cannot sin, that a real Christian will never sin again, and those who sin are simply not real Christians. Still others say that our sins after salvation can be forgiven as long as we confess them to the Lord and repent. If we don’t, they suggest; then we are not forgiven.
Well, let’s take a little time with this. I know that we won’t cover all aspects of the question, but there are some things we can learn. First, do real Christians continue to sin? Well, let’s just say that those who tell you they no longer do things that God considers sin are probably lying about other things too. Yes, real Christians sin. I do not believe there is sin on any believer’s account with God, but we still do things He has considered sinful. There are Christians who have been taught that they should not call themselves or consider themselves sinners. Actually, I agree with that, but it doesn’t mean that sinful actions have stopped. It just means that God no longer sees us as sinners, separated from Him. So, yes, real Christians do sin. All you have to do is spend some time around us and you will find that to be true. Either that or you and I don’t know any real Christians.
But don’t we have to repent of our sins? Most of us were taught that we have to confess our sins in order to get them forgiven. For some, that means that they have to make a recommitment of some kind, maybe even go forward again when the call is given.
But let’s stop right there and remind ourselves about grace. You see, you and I were not saved by our commitment to Jesus. We were not saved by saying a prayer or making a decision. We were saved by the grace of God in the person and work of Jesus. Our sins were not forgiven by our confession or even by our repentance. Our sins were forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It was God, reaching down from His majesty and glory to us in our unworthiness and need, who saved us and forgave us. He did it because He loved us, not because we jumped through the right hoops.
The sinner, the unsaved person, is called to repentance. He or she is called to confess sin and turn to Jesus for salvation. That’s true. But those actions do not save anyone. That is simply a change of heart that opens the door to receive what Jesus does. So the Scripture certainly does call everyone to confess and repent, but once you have done that—once you have come to Jesus for salvation—you should understand that He is not only the One who saved you but He is the One who keeps you saved.
I hope you don’t mind if I play with this a little. Do you realize that a fair number of us will die in the middle of committing some sin? Some of us will died without being able to confess and repent of our final sins. But does that mean we will go to hell?
Before you make your decision remember that there is no room for sin in Heaven. No one with sin on his or her account will be in Heaven. It is either all or none. Either all sin is forgiven or we are just as guilty as if none of our sins were forgiven. If the final action of a believer is an unrepented sin, will that person go to Hell?
What if you are late to church some morning and you break the law by speeding and then die in a car accident? What if you go out to eat after church and stuff yourself at the local buffet and die of a heart attack? What if you disagree with something in the sermon and you begin to get angry about it and die of a stroke? Certainly any of these could happen to a believer, right? Yet there is no opportunity for final repentance, no chance to go down the aisle one more time. Would you spend eternity apart from the Lord?
No! The answer is no and here’s why: the cleansing grace of the Lord continues throughout the earthly life of the believer. There is never any stain of sin on a believer.
We talked about the important doctrine of regeneration in the life of the believer, that wonderful ultimate cleansing that happens at the point of salvation. There is another important doctrine that enters in here, the doctrine of sanctification. If you study the idea of the cleansing grace of the Lord you will notice that being washed and being sanctified are often referred to at the same time. To be sanctified means to be made holy or to be made acceptable to God. This is part of His cleansing grace.
It seems to me that this illustrates what the Lord has done in the life of the believer. Sin just doesn’t stick! That isn’t to suggest that we never sin, of course we do. Nor is it to suggest that our sin will have no consequences. We know better. But when it comes to our spiritual state, our eternal life, there will never be sin on our account again. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians?
(1 Cor 6:11 NKJV) And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
I want you to notice the parallels here. Paul lists some sins and he says, “such were some of you.” Now the rest of that statement could be, “but you are not that now.” Right? Then he says, “you were washed. . . you were sanctified,” and he means, “that’s what you are now.”
We are washed. We are sanctified. We are justified. Each of those is an eternal present. This is what we are now, because of the grace of the Lord. How much of the sin of our lives was forgiven in Christ? Was it just the 25% we committed before we came to Christ? After all, we have certainly sinned a lot more in the years since. How much has been forgiven? What did John write?
(1 John 1:7 NKJV) . . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
How much sin? All! All our sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. Not just the sin we committed before salvation but all our sin. That’s the Word of God.
There are just a couple more things I want to be sure to say. First, this is not what has been called “sinless perfection”. This is the teaching that true Christians will eventually reach the state of sinlessness in this life. I have not said that nor do I believe it. Without question both experience and Scripture assert that believers will continue to transgress the laws of God. We will sin. We will also pay an earthly penalty for our sin. If we lie, we will find certain consequences in our lives from that lie. If we steal, we may be caught and judged just like any other person.
Second, sin is not something we should take lightly. We forget that there are many reasons not to sin. We should certainly not sin because we are saved and sin no longer controls our lives. We don’t have to sin and therefore we should not. But there are other reasons.
I have often asked people why God hates sin. Usually I get an answer about obedience or God’s holiness. But we disobey all the time and He still loves us. And God is just as holy whether we sin or not. No, the main reason God hates sin is because sin hurts us. He loves us and the things He has warned us about are dangerous and damaging to us. He doesn’t want us to be hurt. Our sin hurts others and He loves them too. And we pass the way of sin down to our children so they are hurt. He knows the pain sin causes and He would spare us that.
There are many reasons for believers not to sin, serious reasons. We do not have to suggest that those who sin will lose their salvation.