I spent many formative years in a “holiness church”, with a strong emphasis on perfection and outward conformity to a prescribed pattern of holiness. Modest clothing, no alcohol, no makeup, no TV, no ‘disco dancing’, no secular music, etc. I remember a dedicated Sunday school teacher, emphatically beating his arm, boasting of how he was Sanctified such that his flesh – all worldly desire – was dead. By inference, he had overcome sin. Of course I had no real knowledge of his personal life and so could never test the veracity of his claims.
What I do know is that those teachings placed a bigger burden on my psyche than I could bear, and I found myself ultimately slipping into a mild depression – wanting to be perfect but never attaining it. I thank God for eventually helping me to understand the message of Grace.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
I know that many use the doctrine of grace as an excuse to sin, but Paul clearly addresses this in his letter to the Romans.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2 NIV
I truly believe that if a person has genuinely believed in Christ and thus received the Holy Spirit as a seal of salvation, that person can never be comfortable in sin again. I didn’t say they will never sin; I said they will never be comfortable in sin.
“We know [with confidence] that anyone born of God does not habitually sin; but He (Jesus) who was born of God [carefully] keeps and protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” 1 JOHN 5:18 AMP
The Holy Spirit who Jesus sent as our companion makes sure of that. He teaches, convicts and guides such that a true believer has no choice but to obey or be utterly miserable in disobedience until the point of confession and repentance. And of course, obedience brings with it the fruit of the Spirit, which include joy and peace. See Gal 5:13-26. The good news?
“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose].” 1 JOHN 1:9 AMP
I believe that if a person is comfortable in sin, it’s a likely indicator that they have not genuinely believed in Christ.
“But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18 NKJV
I have still not attained perfection. However, God by His grace gives more revelation and wisdom as the years go by, such that I hope I am closer now than I used to be. I now believe that the journey towards perfection will continue until we see God face to face. This should never mean that we give up on the goal… to do so would probably betray the fact that our hearts never truly believed. To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to obey Him.
I have nothing to boast about in myself. Jesus died to save me. By believing in his death and resurrection, I identify with what he’s done and I am dead to this world, but alive to God’s kingdom. My life should now be centered around God, his word, his plan and the life to come. I still live in this world, but as a traveler, a citizen of the world to come. However, because I am still in my imperfect body sometimes I find that I do things I don’t want to do.
I look to the following verses – among others – for encouragement, and would invite you to do the same:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 NIV
“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14 NKJV
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word–He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” 1 CORINTHIANS 10:13 AMP
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’” Matthew 6:13 NIV
May God keep us hungry for holiness and make us more like Himself every day.