Willful Sin

Legalism depends on loopholes. Without loopholes, no one could stand the fear and oppression of the law. The Jewish teachers of Jesus’ time were masters of loopholes and Jesus challenged them on it. Because they compromised the law with their additions and loopholes, Jesus said that they didn’t keep the law at all. This in spite of the fact that they claimed to uphold the law in all things.

I have recently been in a somewhat challenging conversation where the person claims that he/she never sins “willingly.” That’s an interesting statement. In my mind, there is no other way to sin.

Oh, I know that it is possible to transgress the law accidentally. The Old Testament has some teaching about this and provisions for it. But for a Christian to claim that he never sins willingly seems very strange.

Frankly, this smells dishonest. You and I sin and we sin willingly. That means that we choose to sin. No one makes us do it. There is no evil force within us controlling our actions. Sin continues to have its appeal to our flesh and we continue to choose it. As we learn to walk according to the Spirit, we don’t need to sin and we will sin less. Yet, when we do sin, we do it because we choose to do it.

Those who have to live with people who think they never sin willingly must struggle. He is angry and lashes out in his anger, but he is not responsible because he really didn’t want to do it. She mistreats others, but you shouldn’t get upset because she doesn’t choose to do those things. Maybe it was the devil or maybe a sin nature or maybe some schizophrenic facet of themselves, but they can’t be held accountable because they did these terrible things under duress.

As long as I am being catty, I also notice that they rarely give others the same loophole. Their sin is only involuntary but they rail against others whose sin is always a choice. Mr. Churchleader accidently lusts after a young lady at church who purposely wears provocative clothes. She is culpable, but he is not. Nice.

But not honest. Why not just admit that sin is a choice? If it were not a choice, would God hold us accountable?

Here’s the rub: those who admit to sinning on purpose have to deal with Hebrews 10:26,

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins

Ouch! Whatever that means, it can’t be good. So, if I admit that I choose sin, then I no longer have access to the price Jesus paid for my sins. Some of these poor folks believe that. They can lose their salvation simply by a bad choice. (And I get challenged when I suggest that legalists live in fear!)

Obviously, this is a difficult verse. But every difficult verse of Scripture has a context. I have said many times that we must always proceed from what we know into what we don’t know. We know that God loves us. We know that we are broken creatures without Him, incapable of living right. We know that we need a Savior. We know that the Savior has done all that we need for life and godliness.

This verse has a context. Just a few verses before, we read this:

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14
Notice the past tense. He “has perfected” us by the one offering on the cross. Notice the passive voice. We “are being sanctified.” This is something He has done for us and is doing in us. The Lord does all of this in us and for us.

I just read where someone said that the law was given for sanctification. The writer agrees that we are justified by grace, but believes that we are sanctified by the law. So we are given salvation as a gift, but we have to work to be sanctified. The only problem with that is that there is no salvation without sanctification. To be sanctified means to be set apart by and for the Lord. Who could be saved without belonging to the Lord?

This passage from Hebrews that is so often quoted to keep believers under the law does not refer to individual sins we do as we walk through a difficult life. It refers to those who have been part of the fellowship and have rejected Christ. Hebrews mentions this several times. There were those who were part of the church, part of the fellowship and informed about the truth, who were still not in Christ. They walked away, for whatever reasons, and left behind their only hope. Because there is no other offering for sin, those who walk away from Jesus lose what they thought they had.

But that isn’t about you and me. We hate sin and its consequences. We wish our transformation was faster. Yet, there are times when we choose to do that which used to feel good and still offers the false hope of satisfaction or pleasure.

Those who belong to Jesus are under grace—even when we sin. And we do sin willingly. The choice before us, every moment, is to walk according to the flesh or walk according to the Spirit. One way is full of trouble, the other is full of joy. But the Christian who walks according to the flesh can and will see the limitations of the flesh, the futility of doing things the way he/she did before coming to Jesus, and will be drawn to the Spirit. There is growth and progress, but there is not rejection.

The bottom line: I choose the sin I commit and I am deeply grateful for a Savior whose love is greater than my wandering heart. I am not proud of my choice, nor do I flaunt it. I simply admit the truth. And the whole truth is that I completely depend on Jesus. Apart from Him, there is no hope.


Filed under Freedom, grace, Legalism, Relationship, Theology and mystery

8 responses to “Willful Sin

  1. Kathy

    Oh, boy. Ouch. I do sin willingly — and, what’s worse, I sin willingly and am aware of it as I’m in the very act! How many times I’ve said “Oops. I was NOT going to gossip about that same incident AGAIN, but here I am doing it! It’s a new audience and it fits the conversation” all the while knowing that it is WRONG and I’m just trying to justify my own sin…. again.
    Then I hide from God.
    Then, once again, He is merciful and reminds me that He knew all along I would do it again, say it again, and that that sin is also covered by the blood.
    Not to say that it’s okay to go on sinning because everything is covered, but I do get comfort from knowing that He loved me BEFORE I did it again while knowing that I would do it again, and He hasn’t changed.
    Clear as mud??

  2. Rochelle

    Kingdom Greetings,

    I attempted to send correspondence to the PO Box, but the mail was returned. Is there another mailing address? Thank you

    • Rochelle, I will check into that. Sorry. My mail through the po box is being forwarded, but it should still go through. If you write to me directly, I will give you another address. I don’t put my personal address online for obvious reasons. You can reach me at dave(at)gracefortheheart(dot)org. Thanks!

  3. Forrest

    Excellent article. While we live here we will continue to have this war going on within us. We don’t need Satan to lead us into sin. We are perfectly capable of sinning all by ourselves. I am looking forward to that day when The Lord will call us home and free us of these bodies of sin.

  4. Susan

    If one were not to sin willingly, then one wouldn’t grieve over said sin. And therefore, no repentance over same. Not grieving over sin would make me question if the individual is truly born again. I don’t go around looking for others’ fruit to see if they’re saved, but if someone is brazen enough to say s/he does not sin willingly, it would give me pause for thought.

  5. Kathy

    Susan, it is pretty brazen, isn’t? LOL
    And the word “sin” — well, it’s pretty generic. What if that person got really specific? That person would be saying “Well, I don’t lie willingly” and “I don’t steal willingly” and “I don’t covet willingly.” LOL!!!
    I guess when that person sins it’s completely out of his/her control.
    No one can tame the tongue!
    But I guess those sinful words just jumped out of his/her mouth of their own accord. Those rogue sins!

  6. jennifer

    I agree with this completely. However, I’m attending a christain based program for partners of sexual addicts. In this program they address the sin but they also discuss the altered brain chemistry of an addict. Suggesting that continued exposure to addictions ie: drugs, alcohol, internet porn, ect..changes the brains chemistry and these people “can’t stop”…I’m struggling with this deeply. I’ve watched as my husband has sought counseling, 12 step groups, church groups ect…and still CHOSES to lie and protect certain aspects of his addiction in which he will not surrender. Seems to me that now this falls under the scripture above Hebrews 10:26 because he’s been given the knowledge and still he CHOSES sin. This is not really what’s being taught us wives…but it’s what I can not get out of my head..& heart… I pray constantly for the holy spirts conviction upon his life. The bible says love rejoices when the truth wins out. So, is addiction and the sinful choices attached to it a brain chemistry problem or a willful sin problem? The best answer I can come up with is YES to both. Willful sin altered my husband. His brain, his heart, his soul. So he must willfully surrender in order for the holy spirit to heal the damage in which willful sin has caused in his life & the lives of his family. Prayerfully brokenhearted…but still confused. Am I missing something? Thoughts?

    • UnForsaken

      Jennifer, you are logical. And you are probably right. The only thing I see to disagree with is that they probably don’t know anything about Ns. Addiction is a deeply ingrained habit. Not all addicts are Narcissists. So they are right, but only halfway. Ns should be addressed in every path of life. And you are right, but you have a bigger picture!

      Hug! 🙂

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