Let’s imagine a situation in which a young man has been feeling bad about his lifestyle and while driving turns on the radio and hears a convicting gospel message. He decides to go to church the following Sunday, and confronts his sinful life for what it is, learns that the wages of sin is eternal punishment, and receives God’s gift of salvation by accepting the Lord Jesus into his life.
He believes that the blood of Jesus cleanses him from all sin and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit begins a new life in Christ. He receives real peace and joy in his new life, but after a few days, the old sinful attractions begin to draw him away from his new life and he becomes confused. “If I really received a new life and forgiveness for my sin, why am I still drawn to my old sinful practices?”
Let’s look at this situation in the light of some examples from the Bible to get God’s perspective on salvation and the believer’s new life in Christ. We will see that the believer has two natures until he passes into the Lord’s presence at death: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Gal. 5:17 NIV).
Evidence Of Regeneration
The new believer will experience joy and have a desire to live a life that pleases God: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). We are told in the Bible that seeking to live for Christ and doing good works are proofs of our salvation.
• “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:8-10).
• “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).
• “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live selfcontrolled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Ti. 2:11-12).
• “And I want to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Ti. 3:8).
• We should live out the fruit of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22).
These things should characterize a believer’s life, but it will not be as simple as saying, “Ok, now I’ve got it!” Why not?
Struggle Between Two Natures
There is an ongoing struggle between the old and the new natures. The extent of this struggle will be determined by our attitudes and practices, and will continue more or less throughout our lives. How can we avoid doing wrong?
We need to have a daily time for reading the Bible systematically throughout the year. We should also include a time for prayer in our daily devotions. This will help us maintain close fellowship with the Lord and mature as believers. He will help us develop our gifts and abilities to witness to others and serve Him.
When we allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts and minds, He will help us understand the Scriptures and know His will for every circumstance in our lives. He will empower us to overcome the temptation to follow our sin nature, and instead help us fulfill God’s purpose for our lives (Gal. 5:25). Walking in the Spirit keeps us close to the Lord and gives us victory.
Paul graphically described his struggle with the two natures: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15). Understanding the two natures prepares us for the spiritual battle that is going on as the forces of evil try to make us fall back into sin, weaken our faith and make us ineffective Christians. Paul described the Christian life as a battle: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Our struggles are not just with our own evil desires; there is also a spiritual battle going on as Satan works to make us spiritually weak and to fall into sin.
Satan, our adversary, seeks our destruction: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). He is also a liar (2 Cor. 11:3; Jn. 8:44). This is why we need the whole armor of God so we can stand firm when we come under attack (Eph. 6:13- 18). We will have this struggle all our lives. If we think we don’t need to worry about temptation any more, Satan has us exactly where he wants us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Temptation And Sin
Some people think that when Satan tempts us, there is nothing we can do about it. They say, “Satan made me do it!” This idea is totally wrong! Satan can tempt us but he cannot force us to commit sin. Believers have the Holy Spirit living in them and the Bible tells us that we can be overcomers by the Spirit’s power (Rom. 8:11- 14). It also tells us that the Spirit, “the One who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).
When we talk about sin we often think of really bad sins like murder, stealing and adultery. But sin comes in many forms that we may not even think of as sin. Here are a some ways sin shows up in our attitude toward God:
• Sin is rebellion against God and His Word (Isa. 1:2).
• Sin is doubting God and His Word (Rom. 14:23).
• Sin is making an idol – something more important than God (Ex 20:4).
• Sin is misusing God’s name (Ex. 20:7).
We need a good understanding of how insidious sin can be.
Where Does Sin Originate?
Sin is not just something external; it has its origin in our own lusts and desires. “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (Jas. 1:14- 15). Satan tempts us in many ways, but he cannot force us to sin. The example of Jesus, when He was tempted, is a great help. We see that in each of the temptations mentioned in Matthew 4:1- 11, He used Scripture as His weapon against the temptation.
Temptation in itself is not sin. It becomes sin when we give in to it (Jas. 1:14-15). Are some temptations more difficult than others? Temptations may be different for each person, but we have God’s help: “When you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
What Happens When We Sin?
It is important to understand that when we sin we don’t lose our salvation, because we are sealed by the Holy Spirit as God’s possession: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). While we don’t lose our salvation, we do lose fellowship with God and need to confess our sin in order to restore a close relationship with Him. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me” (Jn. 13:8). Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, showing us by this example that we need daily cleansing in this world. We need the constant washing of the “water of the Word” (Eph. 5:26) and confession of sin for cleansing (1 Jn. 1:9).
Sin also causes us to lose our spiritual power. After sinning, David said, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). We will have a fruitless life if our sin is unconfessed (Jn. 15:5). If we continue practicing sin we will become contentious (Ti. 3:9-11) and lose the joy of our salvation. Believers who remain out of fellowship with God because of sin will seek satisfaction by returning to worldly pleasures, rather than repenting and being restored.
Victory Over Sin
Confession restores fellowship with God. David discovered this remedy to feelings of defilement and distance from God: “I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover my iniquity. I said ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps. 32:5). And John made it very clear how to have victory over sin: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
As we act in obedience to God and His Word we will have victory over sin. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). By submitting to God’s will we obtain divine strength: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
Paul said: “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:11-13).
Victory over sin isn’t just about what we don’t do, it is also about having a desire to follow the Lord and seek to please Him in all that we do. “That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Col. 1:10-11).
After David committed a grievous sin, in Psalm 51 he gave us a perfect example of how to confess sin and be restored into good fellowship with God. First, he confessed his sin (1-4), then he asked for cleansing (7-9). This was followed by a request for God to create in him a new heart (10). Then he asked God not to take away His Spirit as He had done with Saul (11). And he begged God to restore the joy of his salvation (12). Finally, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, he was restored to God (17-19).
Just as a lead pellet will sink in water, but will float on a piece of wood, our sinful nature will constantly pressure us to sink into sin. But as we rest on the Holy Spirit’s power, we can be mature and live lives of victory and fruitfulness for the Lord.
By Ian Taylor
|When you want to …||Read|
|• Learn more about God||Psalm 24|
|• Know how to approach God…||Psalm 5|
|• Know that God is in control||Psalm 146|
|• Find comfort from God||Psalm 23|
|• Meet God intimately||Psalm 103|
|• Know why to worship God||Psalm 104|
|• Give praise to God||Psalm 145|
|• Give thanks to God||Psalm 136|
|• Please God||Psalm 15|
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org