Can A Christian Continue To Sin?
This week I received an email from someone in regards to Sunday’s message. I thought that the questions asked were so good I wanted to respond to them on my blog. Feel free to jump into the conversation! Here’s the questions:
“One of the scriptures you mentioned near the end of your sermon really grabbed me: ‘the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.’ I would love to hear you teach on this, because until recently, I really thought that once I was saved, that was all that was required. Yes, I wanted to do good works as a Christian, but it never sunk in that God requires us to obey him. Some scriptures even say that if we are not following his commands, he does not hear our prayers. Or if we don’t forgive someone, he will not forgive us.
Maybe there’s more to it than just asking Jesus to come into our hearts, and then he remembers our sins no more. What about the Christian who willfully sins, such as living with someone out of wedlock, or even someone who lies and cheats on his taxes; are they still going to heaven? Does a God who wants us to follow him, live by his spirit and obey his precepts, put up with a carnal Christian who is complacent because he’s ‘saved?’
Or maybe they are still going to heaven but because they are living in the flesh instead of in the spirit, they are not obeying God and therefore He is not answering their prayers. Maybe the consequence of their disobedience is not having the power of God available to them.
I really am struggling with this issue, and would love to hear your advice.”
The first thing I want to say in response to this is that the Christian life is all about taking our Next Steps of faith with Jesus. One of the things we talk about all the time at Connection is that salvation is the beginning of a journey not the end of one! It is entering into a new life, not just letting go of an old one! Scripture actually has a lot to say about the fact that we shouldn’t come to Jesus, trust Him for salvation and then curl up in the fetal position and wait to die! There are a few points and a few scriptures I would like to point out in response to these questions. As you read this remember each point builds on the next.
- Jesus invited people to follow Him. One example of this is when Jesus called the first disciples, Simon and Andrew, into His service. (Matthew 4:18-20) Jesus never said come to me and I’ll give you a “get out of Hell free card”. He called us to follow Him. Salvation comes when Jesus is the Lord of our lives and that means He directs our steps, not us!
- Following Jesus always cost people something. We have to realize that Jesus called Simon and Andrew away from their family and the family business in the same scripture in which Jesus called them to follow Him. We cannot follow Jesus and follow our own plans at the same time. That includes sin! Think about the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-24. It is very likely that following Jesus cost Him more than He was willing to pay! How about you? People who are saved by Jesus have to count the cost to follow Him. (Luke 14:25-30)
- When you say yes to follow Jesus He gives you new life by making you a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17) The way this happens is through the work of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus promised, those who trust in Him receive the Holy Spirit (God), within them to empower them for ministry, and create them more and more into the image of Jesus. This process is called regeneration. It is when we, as prophesied in Ezekiel 36:16-38, receive a new heart and a new spirit. It is a heart and a spirit that desire God and desire to honor Him with our life more than anything else! If you are saved your desires change! You desire to please God! You begin to love the things God loves and hate the things that God hates (sin)!
- When you have committed to follow Jesus you cannot continue in sin if you are a follower of Jesus. Jesus and sin are incompatible. It’s like oil and water, the two simply do not go together! Because of that you cannot hold onto sin and pursue Jesus. They take you in completely opposite directions. Before anyone fires back that “no one is perfect”, let me explain. I agree with you. People, even the most dedicated followers of Jesus, sin and make mistakes. Where people who are saved are different is in our response to sin. The Holy Spirit that lives inside of us and gives us new life is in direct conflict with sin! (Romans 5:17) Because of this we may sin, but it will not be comfortable! We may turn the wrong direction but we WILL know we cannot, and do not even want to continue on that path! This is what 1 John 3:9 tells us. John is not saying that we will NEVER sin again. He is saying that, because we have been born of God through the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us, we will not continue in that sin. Bottom line…if you can continue in habitual sin without being convicted by it or having a desire to change you don’t know Jesus, nor does His Spirit dwell in you!
In summary, my answer to the question, “What about the Christian who willfully sins, such as living with someone out of wedlock, or even someone who lies and cheats on his taxes; are they still going to heaven?” Either people follow Jesus, which means continually turning from sin (repentance) and not walking in it, or they aren’t saved. (Please understand that I say that with a remorseful heart not with pride or arrogance.)
This is the way I understand it according to scripture. I have tried to remove my opinions and let scripture speak for itself. Thanks for the great questions. They are timely and they are questions that everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord, including myself, need to ask ourselves!
Heart and Soul!