When we become Christians, we choose that God should become the total boss of our lives. This means that we agree to obey what He tells us to do in every way. There are some new things that we have to start doing as Christians, like sharing our faith. There are also some things that we may have been doing, that God asks us to stop doing.
In our faith the most important thing is to make sure our hearts are acceptable to God, and that our motives are pure before Him. The New Testament makes it clear that our acceptance before God is not dependent on doing the right things or avoiding the wrong things. This is because we are saved by grace, which is a free gift from God; the Bible makes it clear that we do not earn our salvation by what we do, or what we don’t do.
All the same God still asks us to live lives which are pure and holy before Him. To do this we need to turn away from our sins.
Sins are destructive things that God dislikes that He asks us to stop doing, or things that God otherwise tells us not to do in the Bible because He tells us that they are wrong.
How do we know what might be a sin? The chief way to know is to read the Bible. There many things are specifically laid out for us in codes of conduct, such as the Ten Commandments.
Sometimes the Bible will identify as sins things that are quite clearly wrong, like murder. However, the Bible might sometimes identify as sins things that we have been happily doing our entire lives, without realising that they were wrong. Some of these things might not feel bad or wrong at all. Putting God first means that we submit to the teaching of the Bible, and we turn away from everything that the Bible calls wrong, whether we feel like it or not.
As Christians, we also need to aspire to be filled with the Spirit of God. This is because there are some things which the Bible does not specifically talk about. However they still go against the nature of God. If we are filled with the Spirit of God then it will be easier for us to work out, or discern, what could count as sinful behaviour, and what might be acceptable.
Because the most important consideration in all of this is our hearts, dealing with sin is not a matter of sitting down and working out what we can get away with. Rather it is a matter of bringing our hearts to God, surrendering them completely before Him, and asking His empowerment to live lives of holiness before Him. It is about asking Him for the desire to live by His truth, so that when our hearts are truly filled with the desire for God we will want to turn away from everything that displeases Him.
That said, even as Christians we will continue to sin. In the Bible 1 John 1v8 tells us that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. Romans 3v23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. With this second verse, this is the way it is usually translated, however in the Greek it actually says that all of us continue to fall short of the glory of God. That is, it is not that some people sinned a while back, before they were Christians, but have now attained sinless perfection. Rather, as Christians we will only become perfect in Heaven. While we remain down here on earth we will continue to wage war against our sinful natures. On the whole this is a war that we have been empowered to win. However, we might sometimes lose small skirmishes or battles. However, as Christians we are not to dwell in our sin or get overwhelmed by guilt. Rather we are to apologise quickly to God, apologise to other people quickly as necessary, turn away from the sins (called repentance), and quickly get back up and continue fighting.
Sometimes we will find that we have particular areas of weakness that we cannot easily turn away from, even after becoming Christians. Sometimes, even after becoming Christians we might form sinful habits. As Christians, we are never to consider ourselves defeated by any particular sins. Rather we are to pray for God’s empowerment to overcome our sins, we are to fill our hearts with the truth of the Bible until we have won decisively.
Fighting against our sins can sometimes seem like a lot of effort. Sometimes it can be tempting to resist all this effort by rationalising our sins, that is, finding a way to argue around them to make them acceptable, or somehow not sinful. God is not impressed by this. In my experience this is deeply entrenched in the church, and in my opinion it is the reason why so often churches fail to represent radical shining lights in their communities, or the city that is set on a hill, to use the analogy given by Christ Himself in Matthew 5v14. As Christians we are supposed to be radically and visibly different from the world around us. However, as individual Christians, very often we fail to pursue Christ with all our hearts, and we are content with our sins. So even when we meet together as churches we do not present any visible differences to the world outside.
Image of U-turn graphic from Pixabay