Why do Christians still sin?

I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with an answer to this question. It is not so much that I can’t see that it does happen. I know I sin and am still in need of repentence. StillI, I’d say Christians go through growth as Christians through the process of sanctification where we become more mature as Christians and learn how to turn away from sin and do more good if we have been truly transformed. The question is, really, if we have gone through a spiritual rebirth as Christians, if we have been “born again” why do some Christians end up doing terrible things, sometimes even in the name of Christ?

Please help me understand this…

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@Jesse_Means_God_Exists Great question :slight_smile: My Grandfather was a preacher and he always said it this way in regard to sin in the life of the believer: in Jesus we are free from sin’s power and penalty, but we are not yet free from its presence. Only when we are with Christ are we free from the struggle against sin. As we grow in maturity, we do learn to live more and more in obedience to Christ, but that battle is a part of life in this world and we certainly stumble along that journey. I’ve included some more resources below on dealing with sin in our own life.

Now, when it comes to people who say they are Christian and do terrible things—especially when gross habitual sins are uncovered—we need to keep a few things in mind:

  • those who take on leadership positions in God’s Church will be held more accountable (James 3)
  • Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. If the fruit is bad, the root is not good. It really is that simple.
  • we should not assume that they were truly walking with Jesus. It is so frustrating to me when people equate Christian culture with Christ. Jesus condemned many of the religious leaders of his own day for their hypocrisy and we should not assume that simply because someone is a religious leader they know the Lord.
  • people can suffer from mental illness, which could cause irrational behavior and for which people may not be held accountable.
  • it is not our job to decide another person’s eternal destiny

One example of a leader / theologian who lived a duplicitous life is Karl Barth. He not only had a mistress for much of his life, but invited her to stay in his house with his wife and kids. His mother asked the question he should have asked himself, “What is the most brilliant theology good for, if it is to be shipwrecked in one’s own house?”

My old Pastor just preached a sermon on Samuel that explored the consequences of sin in the life of a spiritual leader of Israel—Eli. Eli allowed his sons to commit debauchery in the temple and received a just reward. I really think this sermon is helpful when considering the seriousness of God’s call to be a leader and when evaluating sin in the life of a leader.

God can forgive, restore, and heal anyone, but we must never take sin less seriously than Jesus did or forget that to receive God’s grace is to accept a call to holiness.

Prayer, Holiness, & Calling: Three Lessons from 1 Samuel 1-3, a sermon from Ingleside Baptist’s Pastor Tim McCoy

Sin in Our Own Lives

C. S. Lewis has said that “God does not love us because we are good - He makes us good because He loves us”. That process of being made good is a lifelong one. As Christians, we are free from the penalty and the power of sin, but not yet from its presence. We must crucify our flesh daily and learn to walk in the Spirit as we grow from babes in Christ to mature adults. Still, we are never perfect until the day we see Him face to face.

When it comes to dealing with sin in our own lives, here are a few things to to keep in mind:

  • we confess that sin (I John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.)
  • we turn towards righteousness and seek to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16 - So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh) through worship of God for His love for us even though we are so unworthy
  • we remember that God loved us when we had nothing to give - we remember and take comfort in the Gospel (Romans 5:8 - But God proves His own love for us in this - while we were still sinners, He gave His Son for us)
  • we commit to fight against sin by the power of the Spirit with all of our heart, mind and strength - we are warriors of Christ committed to crucifying our flesh (Galatians 5:24 - Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.)
  • we ask some self-diagnostic questions - why did I curse this person out? What is a more constructive way I can handle my emotions? Understanding our own heart is important to the journey of overcoming sin.

I used to see kids out learning to skateboard. You know what is amazing - they never give up. No matter how many times they fall and no matter how many times they slam against the ground, they keep fighting to learn every new trick. And then, one day, they get it. Now, as Christians it is God’s Spirit that enables us, but I think we need that same attitude towards sin. Yes, we will fall, but we are going to pursue righteousness - we will get back up after we fall, confess our sin, run to the arms of the Father and fight the good fight.

Even the apostle Paul admits he is not perfect, but with all his might he will strive after Christ.

Philippians 3:12-14 - Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

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Hi @SeanO, thanks for your post.

I feel a little awkward to say this, but I am really trying to understand what is the purpose of Christians sinning is rather than just knowing that it happens. I know it happens, as I talked about having to repent myself even though I am saved. Still, I want to know WHY we still sin. Why do we sin as Christians theologically speaking? That would be a better way to ask the question I think.

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Hello Jesse, in regards to your question could I say in my words what I believe you want an answer for?
Why do we continue to sin in light of this passage?

Romans 6:1‭-‬14 NKJV
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Does this passage help me better understand your question?
If we are dead to sin why do we still commit sin?

Hope I am on the right track?
Mike

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Yes, @mgaplus4, I believe you are on the right track. We are not supposed to sin, but we do, why? My ONLY answer is that it illuminates that when God glorifies us we will be truly glorified thereby no longer living in an earthly body, but this rings a bit hollow to me. It is the question that is asked by this state asking, “Can God glorify us while on earth? If not, why not?” Then we have instances of Jesus being transformed on a number of occasions (baptism, transfiguation, walking on water, ect.) The question is why were these transformations unique to Him? And in larger part, why CAN’T we do this? Jesus was fully man - fully made of flesh. What about His earthly body was different then us? Or was there anything different about His earthly body?

I leave you with this confusing paragraph. It is likely one of the most challenging paragraphs in all of scripture, IMO:

Rom. 3:5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? God is not unrighteous to inflict wrath, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) 6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if by my lie the truth of God abounds to His glory, why am I still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil, so that good may come”—just as we are being slandered and as some claim that we say. Their condemnation is deserved!

That defence Paul presented of God being a righteous Judge in light of our sinful life yet still a loving and caring God.

Elsewhere it says should we continue to sin so grace can abound. I think not says Paul.

I think Paul hit the nail on the head with Roman’s 7:13-25 in explaining your why?

I am a sinner saved by grace, do I commit sin yes I break the law. Do I continue in sin try not but repent if I do. Still pressing on.
Thanks Jesse.
Mike

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Great illustration with the skateboard - I will definitely use that one!

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@Jesse_Means_God_Exists For a theological understanding, check out both Romans 6-8 and Galatians 5. Galatians 5, in my opinion, is a condensed version of Romans 6-8. The relevant points are:

  • Christians are free from the law’s condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)
  • Christians still have two forces pulling at them—the flesh and the Spirit, which is why we still struggle with sin—this is the theological answer
  • Christians do not think/live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:9, 12-13, Gal 5:25)—we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24)

Galatians 5:13-26 - You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

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Thanks guys, really appreciate the “big hitters” coming out to answer my question (and I mean that as a compliment).

The question I still have is, “What is the purpose that we still sin as believers?” In light of the passage in Rom. 3 I quoted, it seems this implies that we CAN sin to the glory of God as Paul later says, “None is righteous, no, not one” (paraphrase). So it actually is that we bring glory to God even in our sin. That makes the question I originally asked have a bit more context, but doesn’t actually answer WHY as to purpose. I belive God made it this way, on purpose as I truly believe in God’s sovereignty (but I also believe in free will. I work towards a Molinist approach here), so there must be an actual reason for it. Come to think of it, there might be answers for this in Genisis, but not sure where (thinking about original sin).

Thanks again to all who answered. You are all great minds.

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@Jesse_Means_God_Exists

James 1:14-15 says every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

So - The discussion of sin is also a discussion of death and a discussion about temptation.

Early in James chapter 1 James explains that temptation, (although not being a good thing per se) is something that stress tests us and enables character and wisdom to be built in a way that showers of goodness and blessing cannot afford.

… let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1 again)
Does that answer it? Or are you taking it deeper than that and saying how is it that evil deeds can fall out in such a way that God’s purposes are fulfilled and he is ultimately honored in the end?

Thanks for your post @timotto

I think it would be an interesting discussion on why death is necessary in this life even as we are saved. I realize that we die because of sin, but… If God is good and evil is not a part of God, then I can only assume that though sin is not a part of God’s character, it is still a kind of necessity, or, at least a fruition out of which God’s plan is done. I reflect on Isaiah 45:7 as it has to do with Genisis 1:1-5 and Isaiah 45:9 as it has to do with Romans 9:19-23 and in larger context the rebuke God had for Job, but I still need to look into what it means when it says, “Job did not sin with his lips.”

Death wouldn’t have been necessary if Adam and Eve wouldn’t have sinned and gotten kicked out of the garden of Eden. Don’t forget that there were actually 2 trees in the midst of the garden: One was the tree of knowledge of good and evil (which God said in the day they ate of it they would die) but the other one was the tree of life: which, had they remained in the garden to have access to it, could have perpetuated their lives forward in their sinful, terminal, and carnally oriented state (after they sinned).
So, it would have been improper for them to stay in the garden after receiving the death sentence (because they had eaten the forbidden fruit) and then to also eat of the tree of life in their carnally oriented terminal condition. (God explains this in Genesis 3:22).
I think it’s pretty clear that, that is the logistics behind why death became “necessary”, and God’s reasoning for why it was necessary.
… But I wonder if you’re pondering more of the question that would ask "Are there any metaphysical, situational, or psychological advantages (for lack of a better word) to the situation having fallen out that way? (seeing that God accomplishes his purposes in very profound ways)…

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Here’s a different perspective, which may well be more “rationalization” than Scriptural. But, i cannot honestly deny my experience.

I was not able, of myself, to “crucify the flesh”, “strive continually to obey the Spirit”, “imitate Christ”, etc, though i thought that it was up to me to do so.

What i see instead, is that Christ has been patiently teaching me that He is doing the real “work” in transforming my life, and my best efforts to “help Him” are like a young kid trying to help his dad fix the car engine.

I don’t mean to contradict those who, like Paul, strongly encourage people to be righteous, but he also said that he himself “hadn’t yet attained to perfection”, didn’t he… (Phil 3:12) Still, he “pressed on”.

It seems to me that a lot of my being allowed to fall into sin (yet again, and again), was to help teach me that i am not the one who sanctifies myself – only He is qualified.

Yes, i have a part to play. But it is mch more a part of growing in reliance on Him living His Life through me, rather than my cleaning up my act for Him.

But our self-reliance is too subtle, and too pervasive, for some of us “slow learners” to see clearly (let alone understand), why it is not what He wants.

Isn’t there a verse (i’m pretty sure there is…) that indicates it is Christ who is working our salvation/sanctification into us, and through us, and we get to help work it out by cooperating with His guidance and empowerment?

What then, should we continue in sin in order to glorify His ability and willingness to save us to the uttermost? Nah, He often inspires us to “try harder” and yet “relax more into Him” at the same time.

So He gets all the credit from my perspective, if i get any better, and i get the benefit. Then, when He gives me a “crown” some day, i will most gladly, in fact joyfully, lay it at His feet, since He deserves it, actually.

Thus, i will be, as will we all be if we are His, a living monument to His persistence and supreme skill at saving the seemingly unsavable. Does that offer a partial answer to the topic’s question, or just an excuse?

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I don’t think I understand the question clearly. For in my mind, what you are asking seems like this (not the best of analogies): Hypothetically, conjoined twins who grew together and who were inefficient and had imbalance in their movement due to their condition truly wanted to be separated and went to the doctor. The doctor did an instantaneous surgery and they were separated. But for a considerable period, they still were inefficient and had imbalances as they tried to lean on the amputed part. What is the purpose of the ‘imbalance’ now? There is no purpose, but the process of becoming better would require a learning phase as the mind learns that the amputed part is not existent now and should create new muscular activations to ensure that the motor skills are achieved to the best of the ability. We too are redeemed the moment we believe, but sanctification or growing to the likeness of Christ is a process.

In the process of learning to walk, a child does not necessarily have to fall (at least not for human babies) it is not that our physical bodies NEED to fall to be able to learn to walk. But the process of learning includes the process of falling. (Of course, as others have mentioned, God can use our falls also for His glory. But it is not a necessity. According to me, it doesn’t have an inherent purpose.)

I like how Ravi Zac says - Redemption is followed by Sanctification, worship and service. If there should not be any sin immediately after redemption, according to me there are three options. (i) Die instantly, (ii) Remove free will of the person, (iii) Instantaneously glorify the person with a new sinless glorified body. I’m sure you don’t agree with option (i) and (ii).
However, instantaneous glorification doesn’t fit with several Biblical verses. The process of sanctification will teach us humility (for even Jesus learnt obedience as a man, and when He suffered), perseverance (James passage) and so on. We would miss that (or I am unsure how that can be fulfilled) when one is instantly glorified. For, due to the fall, we are all to die once and then the judgment.

I’ve heard from someone that one of the ways to understand what it means that we will be sinless in heaven is that God would CONFIRM to us holiness. In 2 Cor 1:21,22 - Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Eph 4:30 says we are sealed for the day of redemption. Matt 24:13 says that ’ He that endures till the end shall be saved’. I like SeanO’s answer: in Jesus we are free from sin’s power and penalty, but we are not yet free from its presence. I believe that with the grace of God, those who endure till the end - to obey God, to repent when fallen, who with the Spirit’s help learn to put to death their flesh and its desire will enter the kingdom of God.

So I guess, the purpose that we are ALLOWED to sin, is so that we can exercise the choice to not sin (because we are free from the power of sin). But I don’t believe that ‘sin’ or a Christian’s sin has an inherent purpose in and of itself.

[I don’t understand what you mean by the physical transformation of Jesus during baptism. I have heard of a missionary testimony where people have in faith walked on water (when there was a flood in a remote tribal area). As for transfiguration, I believe it is God’s glory revealed in the Son of God so that the disciples can believe and also for other reasons unknown to us.]

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Thank you so much for giving me such a thoughtful response @ChristinaGraceDanny

I would say you are absolutely 100% right if it was not for one thing… The verses I have quoted in this thread alone cast a huge confusion over the ‘problem of evil’ for me and how my question relates to that…

Free will is a great explanation. Unfortunately with verses like Romans 9:19-23 it shows that we must know something of God before we can act in the first place. And the knowledge of God shows that He ordains all things as it says in Isaiah 45:7 (with Genisis 1:1-5 as accompaniment). What else? “None is righteous, no, not one” How then can we serve?

These are all questions I have regarding evil, God’s soverienty, and free will. We cannot simplify the matter into 2/3 to come to a correct conclusion. I have faith the answer will come, but I do not believe we have it yet.

True… Questions about God’s sovereignty and free will should not be simplified… All the best in your journey. :slight_smile:

Hi Sean. I’ve been going back to this. In my mind, this is what we do in response to sin rather than it being the reason we sin.

So far the best answer I have gotten on this question is that we do it to glorify the Son who is glorifying the Father by pure obidience (of dying on the corss). I do not know if this answer covers everything. The natural answer is that all we do is to glorify God, but sin itself doesn’t actually glorify God, or does it? I think of sin as a lacking of goodness and generaly, the fundamental characteristic of God, that being His Holiness which is perfect and not just “good”. So we are NOT holy, we are made (עָשָׂה, ποιέω) Holy through the son. The problem is I have a hard time with accepting that our purpose is to sin so we can be redeemed. Is that all our purpose is? If so that is a hard pill to shallow.

@Jesse_Means_God_Exists I think you are conflating the result of our sin with why God allowed us to sin. Yes, God receives glory if we broken sinners accept His grace, but that is not why God gave us the capacity to disobey.

I would say the most common reason given for why God allows us to sin is that we cannot truly love God if we do not have free will, but free will comes with a price—we can choose to disobey. Sin is disobedience to God’s will.

Another thing to consider is that sin does not glorify God at all. Rather, God’s mercy on sinners brings glory to God. So if someone does not receive God’s mercy and rejects God altogether, then their sin does not bring God glory.

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@SeanO,

I get you. I personally believe in more of God’s sovereignty therefore all we do has a purpose, but if you have a different view, I understand. This answer doesn’t satisfy some things for me though.

Difference of perspective here I think.

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@Jesse_Means_God_Exists I can understand that perspective :slight_smile: I think that view (1) below does present some very serious philosophical problems that are not easy to resolve. I would probably fall somewhere between 3-4.

  1. God determines everything
  2. God does not determine everything, but does redeem everything
  3. God does not determine everything, but can redeem things in the lives of those who choose to follow Him
  4. God does not determine everything and some bad things just happen and did not have a specific purpose, though the weight of glory in eternity will outweigh any suffering we experience here
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