Have you ever wondered about sin and why we so often cannot escape it? It is commonly heard that we will never stop sinning, however, the gospel taught in the Bible tells us that we should cease from sin through faith in Jesus. This articles is not meant to make an argument for this fact. Ceasing from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit in us is one of the central themes of KindlingTruth, so there are other articles you can read if you’re interested in that.
Today, I’m thinking about myself. Today, I’m asking the Lord, “why can’t I stop sinning?” As someone who believes that Jesus came to forgive us and to heal us also, I often become frustrated by lingering sin. I’m sure most Christians feel this way also, even if they have been taught that they will always be a sinner. So, I want to share some simple thoughts that might help us get out of a place of stagnant growth.
First, what is the gospel?
To understand the concept of being freed from sin, we first have to understand the fullness of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. This is something I want to write about in-depth, but this is a long-going process because I want to do this well in order to show the fullness of the gospel in a clear way. For now, in very basic terms, the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is that by faith in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus we will be forgiven of our sins and freed from death. What is sin if not death?
Why is it called the gospel of the kingdom of heaven? That is because this faith leads us towards a change of heart so that we are no longer slaves to the kingdom of this world (the kingdom of sin and death), but instead, we are present-day living within the kingdom of heaven. With the Holy Spirit working in us, we have the power to overcome sin in a tangible way as the Lord conforms our inner-self to his image. Of course, it is also a promise to live forever in the kingdom of heaven to come, however, we have to be faithful servants of the kingdom during our present lives first. Many parables of the kingdom show this.
What about grace? The grace of the Lord is a gracious forgiveness, but, it is also the gracious giving of the laws of the kingdom which are written in our hearts. That is why legalistic Christianity does not always work so good. Grace is not an excuse for living in sin. It is freedom from it. Anyhow, I can see myself going off on this subject, so I will reign things back in. 🙂 For further reading, check out:
Jesus is the Remedy for Sin and Death
Avoiding the Legalistic Faith Trap
Understanding Saved by Grace Through Faith
How do we enter the kingdom of heaven?
With an understanding that the gospel of the kingdom of heaven has a present-day application that promises freedom from the snares of this world and sin, what might be hindering our ability to lay hold of the kingdom? Think about that time Jesus was with his disciples and there were little children gathered around him. What did Jesus say?
Read Matthew 18 and Mark 10. Here are passages from both:
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Mark 10: 13-15
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
We have to be converted, which means, to change. We have to change our minds about our sinful natures and know that if we continue therein without Jesus, we will die. Most Christians I think understand this.
We must be humble. That is very important. If we are proud and arrogant, too busy looking at the sins of others instead of our own, or start to see ourselves as something great in the kingdom, we are not humble. Why is humility so important? That’s something I plan to write about in depth later, but for now think about it. If we cannot see how much we need Jesus and how far separated from God our sin makes us, how will we receive him? Does God want prideful people in his kingdom? Consider the downfalls of Satan. Pride leads to rebellion, among other serious sins.
We should not go around offending the little ones who believe in Jesus. Being a Christian is a journey, and we are all in differing stages of growth. If we are too harsh, critical, self-righteous, or otherwise demeaning or oppressive towards believers who might be weaker in the faith, we are at risk of causing their faith to become frail or to fail. Another thought is this:
What about the little ones who believe that by faith they will be freed from all sin? Should we offend them? Most of Christianity today does. Will they enter the kingdom of heaven? Are they being freed from sin in a tangible way, or is their hard heats, lack of faith, pride, and the stumbling blocks they throw at the “little ones” getting in the way? Something to think about.
So, what can we learn from this about our failure to be freed from sin? What can I consider about myself? Do we have a child-like faith that understands that Jesus can and will free us from sin? Are we justifying our sin, or have we converted and repented? Are we truly humble before God, or are we puffed up in our knowledge, wordly wisdom and popularity, vanities, or other prideful tendencies? Are we hateful towards the brethren and risk harming their faith? Do we submit to God as obedient children?
If we are lacking in any of these areas, then there are things keeping us from entering the kingdom of heaven. There are things keeping us from being freed from sin because our hearts are not fully given over to the Lord, Jesus. I hope that makes sense.
What does it mean, you must be born again?
There is another important thing to consider. The only way we can enter the kingdom of heaven and be freed from sin in this present life is Jesus. Through him, we are “born again,” right? What does this mean? We have to be born of the Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that our natures are changed in the first place. Read John Chapter 3. Below is an excerpt. You can also learn about the Holy Spirit in John Chapters 14-16.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
If we have real faith in Jesus, repent from our sin, and ask to be filled with his Holy Spirit, then when the Lord deems the time is right he will give us his Spirit. I believe we can have differing experiences in this with some reflecting what we see in the book of Acts. However, I also know that any who sincerely believe that Jesus is the Son of God in the flesh has the Holy Spirit speaking to them.
In any case, there is always more we can seek from the Holy Spirit, and we need that seed of the divine nature within our hearts. This is a well of living water that will spring forth into life everlasting, causing us to bring forth fruit of the kingdom. If you’re a new believer or for some other reason are confused about this terminology, feel free to email me or comment below.
The take away here is this: We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven on our own. We cannot forgive ourselves and absolve the wages of sin which is death. We also cannot change our fleshly natures so that we cease from sin by our own ability. All things pertaining to the faith and our salvation are given from God, so if you have faith and struggle with sin, take comfort in this. You are the workmanship of God, and He will cause you to bring forth fruit for the kingdom of heaven.
Forgive and be Forgiven
As Christians, we know that forgiveness of our sins is fundamental. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, we would all be condemned to death because of our sin. However, there is something else here that I don’t hear many teach or talk about. If we want that forgiveness imputed to us fully, we too have to forgive. Why? Hypocrites do not enter the kingdom of heaven, and to be unforgiving is the greatest form of hypocrisy.
I’ve written about this in an article entitled, “The Unforgiving Branch.” Since this is a long article, I will not get into that here. I understand this might cause some confusion, however, so please read this article when you can, and if you still have questions, email me or comment below.
Do Not Be Discouraged
On another note, don’t be discouraged if you are not made free from sin right away. All things are controlled by God, and He will free us according to His perfect will and timing so that He is best glorified and His purposes for other people in your life are fulfilled. There are teachings in the Bible that speak of this. If we seek Jesus, we will find him. If we seek healing, we will get it. We have to be diligent and continue on throughout the course of our lives.
Being free from sin is not a single-moment event—and yet it is. The moment you sincerely submit your life to Jesus, you are free in his eyes. You are forgiven and redeemed. You have the righteousness of the Lord imputed to you so that you can approach God directly through the Son.
However, being made free from sin in a tangible way so we are fruitful for the kingdom of heaven is the lifelong pursuit of a Christian. I don’t expect any of us to be fully perfect until we are raised from the dead and enter into our spiritual bodies. Even so, the way we view sin, grace, and the sacrifice of Jesus is very important.
Real faith in Jesus means we believe in what his sacrifice brings and what Jesus stands for. Real faith brings forth fruit. The unfruitful are cut off from everlasting life regardless of how much God is honored with legalistic obedience or false professions of faith. Only the faith of Abraham is imputed. If that confuses you, comment below or email me.
Why do we struggle to stop sinning? First of all, do we believe that through the ability of Jesus in us we can? Do we understand that we are unable to fight sin alone, and our imputed righteousness means the battle is won and He who is in us is stronger than the world?
Do we want to be free? Do we see the severity of our sin and repent from it instead of taking advantage of the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness by continuing in sin and acting like it is no big deal?
Are we humble? Do we love our brethren? Do we sincerely submit ourselves to the Lord? If we do these things and ask Jesus to heal our hearts so that we can turn from sin, he will send his Holy Spirit. He will lead us on a path of transformation. However, if along they way, we become hardened by pride, unforgivness, and unrepentant sin, we have to repent again or else we might find ourselves in a place of stagnant growth.
In any case, all things pertaining to our salvation are given by grace through faith. If we get down and discouraged because of sin, we have to remember that no sinner is too far gone for an all merciful God. God hates sin, but He loves righteousness. And as a righteous God, He is very patient with us and He will lead us onward and upward in the things of the kingdom of heaven.
What about myself? Do I have pride? Hatefulness that might cause others to stumble in the faith? Unforgiveness? Sadly, yes. These things are still in my heart, so I need to continue seeking Jesus to free me. With these dark things growing inside me, the fruits of the Spirit will not flourish as abundantly.
The great news is that Jesus can heal us from all dead things if we have even an ounce of faith, reverence for God, and willingness to submit to Him. So, if your heart is not fit for the kingdom of heaven because of pride, lack of faith, unforgivness, and the deceitfulness of sin, seek Jesus in this first. He alone can prepare our hearts to receive the healing freedom of salvation.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
What is keeping your heart from flourishing in the knowledge of the Lord, Jesus? Today is the day of salvation. Seek the Lord and be free indeed!
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Amen, it is very comforting to know all things concerning our faith and salvation come from God. Thank you, it gives me peace remembering this. As we endure, struggle, fail and overcome, the Lord is in control teaching us and bringing us to His Kingdom even now.
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It is awesome to think about how even our struggles and failures are part of his plan to raise us up, and while we yet struggle, it is our faith and the grace of God that allows us to reside in the kingdom. How merciful and gracious the Lord is!
When the 6th century BCE neo-Babylonian Exiles were able to enforce Monotheism, they inadvertently introduced the need to address Theodicy. The Book of Job ensued.
This concern over Evil blossomed later in 1 Enoch and in the Book of Jubilees with the creation of evil spirit beings (Beliar, Mastema, Satan, etc., with their subversives). Doing so, enabled them to lay the blame for the source of evil away from Yahweh.
Augustine addressed the issue of human depravity by inventing “Original Sin”. Tertullian too played a role.
The subjects are well documented in books such as “Sin: the early history of an idea”, by Paula Fredriksen, and “Original Sin: Origins, Developments, and Contemporary Meanings” by Tatha Wiley.
The “original sin” idea is something I recently discussed with a new believer, and I’m not convinced of they way this is commonly taught. I usually disagree with the way many Christians approach the concept of evil and sin in general. This particular matter of “original sin” is something I’m currently thinking about and might do a writing on. If I have time, I might look up some of those writings you mentioned. Do you have thoughts you want to share? It would also help me if I know whether or not you’re approaching this subject as a believer in Jesus Christ.
I have uploaded for you some material I compiled on “Original Sin” to:
Click to access THE_REVOLUTION_OF_ORIGINAL_SIN.pdf
In it, I have provided you with my email address in case you would like to see my complete study – absolutely free with no strings.
My approach is as an amateur historian, seeking to understand and empathise with the people and their situations at the time a document was written and redacted, as well as the ongoing evolutions and revolutions in their thinking.
The term “believer in Jesus” is highly subjective, and as you will have discovered, it has had different meanings at different stages of Christianity. The first century CE was distinctly Jewish, then Augustine’s views reigned for 1000 years until we encounter minds such as Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Grosseteste, Luther, Calvin, etc.
Thanks. I’ll take a look as soon as I can. Looking forward to it! I agree that “believer in Jesus” can have differing meanings. I mean to say, do you consider yourself a Christian? Even that can have different meanings, but that’s not a can of worms I want to open right now. One thing at a time is best for me. 🙂
You ask me about me: I do not consider myself to be religious any longer.
For me, this gives me the freedom to allow others to enjoy and experience their beliefs without condemnation or criticism from me. I want others to have the ability to express themselves to the same degree that I ask for me.
Each of us is an individual with unique life experiences. No two individuals are identical, so mutual respect is required, Whatever I say is what I currently believe and I hope that what I say makes others think. We can disagree but that is no reason to be disagreeable. We can each enjoy the thrill of unearthing our own discoveries.
There is no reason to denigrate, persecute or kill a person because they have a different view of life, as so often happens with those who promote their own religious views.
For me: “believe in Jesus” needs to be thought through intelligently, not emotionally. Is the Greek word “pistis” to be understood objectively or subjectively? (“Faith in Christ” or “The faith of Christ”). Does “pistis” mean “faith” or does it actually mean allegiance? Is a person saved because of their faith or because of Jesus’ faithfulness? If a person’s faith “saves”, then why did Jesus need to die? Who or what died at Calvary?
Which soteriological model is followed – Augustine’s or Anselm’s or … ? Does it matter?
Such are issues I can pursue with freedom
Great to chat,
I don’t disagree that we should respect others. I’m not one for shoving my beliefs onto others. I believe in treating others the way I’d want to be treated. As a Christian, I do not think I have to get away from my faith in order to treat people with respect. So, I’m trying to understand where you are coming from, but I don’t really. Except many Christians come off to strongly and harshly towards those with differing beliefs. If we follow the teachings of Christ, we will not act that way. I would never personally persecute or kill someone for their different views.
As far as belief in Jesus, this is not an intellectual pursuit. It is a spiritual pursuit, and the things of God often go against man’s intelligence. There is some degree to which we can come to belief with logic, however, it’s best an experiential kind of belief. I believe in Jesus because I see how he is working in my life. As for faith, I have no problem with the meaning of the word being allegiance. Jesus teaches that those who love him will keep his word and in return the Father will love them and Jesus will make his abode with us by his Spirit. it is by His Spirit that we know him, not our intellect.
You have the freedom to pursue these matters however you like. However, you don’t have to absolve yourself from the tile of Christian to do so, in-fact you might be hindered in any real spiritual growth if you deny the name of Jesus as the only way to God. You are free to disagree.
Your initial presentation highlights passages from Gospels attributed to Matthew and to John.
While the texts that each group provides is useful, great insight is obtained by seeking out the writers. Who were they? When did they write? What were their circumstances? What motivated them? Who were they writing to and for? Who were they countering? Where did they get their source information? What were their opponents saying?
The Matthew group and the Johannine community had little in common. The former were strongly Jewish, almost fundamentalist Jews, whereas the Johannines were expelled from the synagogue because of their high Christology.
Such understanding gives color and feel to what they wrote.
The passages I mentioned are centered around a teaching of Jesus, so I believe it is more beneficial to understand Jesus than the authors. I get what you are saying though, and in general this approach will help us understand the Bible better. Even so, the idea is that without humility, faith, and obedience we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. I think that is fairly straight-forward without getting into the backgrounds of Matthew ad Mark. We might debate what humility, faith, and obedience means. That understanding is best gained through the Holy Spirit, which again comes from knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus is the best way to gain real understanding. How can I say that with all certainty? Because I have experienced learning from the Lord myself, and I know what it is like to go from total confusion to clarity and peace when I lean on him and his understanding instead of my own.
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I like the gentle manner that you use to express your thoughts.
An extract of your last post to Doug reads, “Even so, the idea is that without humility, faith, and obedience we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
Those words can apply to genuine followers or practitioners of other religions. Do you think that access to the kingdom of heaven applies only to faithful Christians? There are those who believe that salvation is through God’s grace.
There are many scriptural passages that suggest universal salvation; I can cite them if you’re interested?
Peace and love to all,
Hi, and thanks for the comment and for reading. However, I do not agree that my statement can apply to to other religions. Let me explain where I’m coming from better.
Humility, to me, means submission to Jesus Christ with an understanding of how wretched we are without him. Faith, of course, is faith in Jesus as the Son of God and only way of salvation. Obedience to the Lord is required, not obedience to gods of other religions.
As far as your question, “do you think that access to the kingdom of heaven applies only to faithful Christians,” it depends on what you mean by “access to.” I believe there is a difference between ruling and residing within the kingdom of God and being subjects (I speak of the millennial rein). During this time, I believe the whole world will walk in the knowledge of the Lord (in the sense of knowing that Jesus is Lord), even those who were not Christians beforehand, but were found to be righteous in the eyes of God. However, only faithful Christians will live and rule with Christ during that thousand years. The faithful during the final rebellion (after the thousand years expire) will live forever — some of which might be those who convert during that thousand-year period.
As for living after the present-day kingdom of heaven, being a Christian is the only way. We are to walk therein by the Spirit presently. The faithful within the present-day kingdom that lives in our hearts will be among those who rule with the Lord after he returns and overthrows the False Prophet.
I also believe that salvation is by grace. It is given by God by and through Jesus only, not our abilities because we cannot be good enough to warrant living forever, nor can we escape the wages for sin which is death.
I am not a univerasalist. I’m some-what familiar with that argument, but you are welcome to discuss this further and cite passages.
Jesus was not a Christian. Paul was not a Christian. The term was not in general use until the 3rd century CE.
To effectively say, “My way or the highway” is pure arrogance. This sanctimonious attitude results in religious factions where Christians fight and disagree with other Christians, where Muslims fight and kill other Muslims, where Muslims kill Christians, and Christians kill Muslims.
The “others” are demonised, and I mean that literally. It gives the religious the apparent right to exterminate the “others”.
Is the “saving grace” limited to only Jews and Christians? Is that what God is like?
The idea of the “Imminent Divine Intervention” sees its roots in the latter part of Second Temple Judaism, notably in the Books of Watchers, Enoch, and Jubilees. In EVERY single time since then, people have preached that “the End is Nigh”. At every stage. Learn the message that history teaches.
Doug, I appreciate much of what you say. I feel as if we are splitting hairs over terminology. However, please be careful in jumping to conclusions. I do not say that it is my way or the highway. My ways are not good. However, I do say that it is God’s way, and there is none who can escape His will, whether Christian or not. I am grieved over all the fighting in this world over religion, especially that within the Christian faith. If we had the mind of Christ, we would not continue doing things Jesus and his apostles spoke against. We would not “strain out the gnat and swallow the camel” or allow “doubtful disputations” to cause division. One of the final prayers of the Lord is that we should be one and Jesus and the Father are one. Obviously, we are not, and I believe to a great degree that is because we neglect the spirit of the matter and focus on the outer things.
Like the term Christian, for example. If we get hung up on the origin of the word instead of the meaning, what is the point? I do not care when our how the term came into being, I care about what it means. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died, rose, and ascended into heaven as the atonement for the sins of man, and I believe in who Jesus was, what he taught, and what he stands for which is life. Again, if Christians took Jesus seriously, we would not see all the fighting.
Much is wrong with systemic Christianity, but to deny Jesus because the system is sick is a sad thing that I see happen very often. I sympathize with those who have trouble believing in Jesus because of the way Christians live. However, I will not deny my faith on their behalf. God will deal with all the corruption. It is my job to help Christians come out of the false systems to avoid their destruction, however, that does not mean they should stop calling themselves Christian.
Saving grace is just what it is. It is grace, meaning something that God gives. It is not something we can manufacture. The whole world is under His grace just by having life. Not one living soul deserves the life they have, much less everlasting life. God is good to all in allowing life, He is just more gracious to those He is raising up to live with Him and serve Him forever. Just because some do not like this, they want to say God is not just. If He were Just, no man would live. Even so, the only way to everlasting life is Jesus. That is how God determined it would be, and who am I, I mere creature, to argue with the one who made me? We need to understand our place in this world with the proper perspective and reverence for the Creator. We are but clay.
As far as your academic arguments, they make no difference to me. Many academics, Christian and non, are “ever learning but unable to come to knowledge of the truth.” Knowledge in this world is vanity. Knowledge of the righteousness of the kingdom of God is life, and that is what I’m most interested in. That is the wisdom that will cause all to bow and worship Jesus when he returns and shows this world the foolishness of their ways — ways, that as you point out, lead to much bloodshed.