When many people become born again Christians, there are some who wonder why they can’t stop sinning as Christians.
Why do Christians continue to sin if they have genuinely received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour? Will Christians ever stop sinning?
We find that even the apostle Paul struggled with sin as a Christian. At times he would find himself doing the very things that he hated to do simply because internally there was a struggle between himself and his sinful nature.
Paul says the following in Romans 7:15-20 (NLT)
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
In Romans 7:15-20 Paul is speaking about the battle that occurs inside of us between our spiritual mind and our carnal mind. This is why scriptures such as Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:22-23 encourage us to renew our mind in Christ.
Ephesians 4:22-23 (ESV) – to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds
The Christian does not become perfect the moment he/she is born again. The Christian’s mind must be renewed daily through the word of God and through fellowship with God.
However, in order to answer the question of why Christians continue to sin after becoming born again, it’s important to understand the process of what happens to the Christian from the time he is saved to the time he enters Heaven.
It’s therefore important for the Christian to understand the meaning of justification, sanctification and glorification.
From Salvation to Glorification
From the time a person gets saved there are 3 things that will happen in the life of the genuine Christian. The Christian becomes justified, sanctified and glorified.
Remember, salvation is not as a result of our own good deeds or personal ability (Titus 3:5).
Our salvation does not depend on how much or how little we sin. It does not depend on how much or how little we do good deeds. Our salvation is entirely the result of God’s grace and it is received freely through faith in Christ.
It’s also important to realize that our salvation is immediate. The moment you made a decision become a born again Christian through faith is the moment your eternal life in Christ began.
Justification, Sanctification & Glorification
Every genuine Christian who has been saved through Christ will experience the following: Justification, Sanctification and Glorification.
Romans 8:29-30 (ESV) “For those whom he foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.”
From the moment we are saved – we become justified in Christ. To be justified means to be declared righteous and innocent in God’s eyes.
Justification is God’s eternal declaration of those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ as Lord and Saviour.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) – For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Our righteousness comes from placing our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Christ for our sins on the Cross covers our sin which then allows God to see us as righteous and unblemished on account of Christ’s finished work.
Therefore, because we are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3) – God no longer sees our sin but instead He sees Christ and His righteous work which He completed on the Cross.
We have been justified and become the “righteousness of God” in Christ not because of our own deeds but because of the deeds of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 (ESV): Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ
Romans 3:28 (NKJV): Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
While justification (which occurs upon salvation) is immediate, sanctification is a process.
Sanctification is the process by which those who are in Christ are gradually transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Jesus Christ. This means that from the moment you become saved, the Holy Spirit begins the work of changing your character; your thoughts; your desires; your values; your purpose; your deeds and your motives so that you become more like Jesus Christ.
The genuine Christian is a person who is transforming into the image of Christ. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit implements this transformation and renewal.
2 Corinthians 4:16 (NKJV): Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day
Philippians 1:6 (NIV): Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:29 (NKJV): For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Therefore sanctification is a spiritual and progressive process where God is renewing us and conforming us into the image and nature of Jesus Christ.
However as this renewal or sanctification is taking place we will make mistakes along the way. This means that as long as we are in this fallen world, as Christians we will continue to battle with sin, opposition and temptation. The major difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that the Christian can defeat temptation and sin through the power of Christ. The Christian is constantly equipped in Christ to defeat sin as long as he submits to Christ during temptation.
Our physical bodies are also still subject to sickness, disease, pain and the like.
Therefore sanctification happens progressively throughout our lifetime and we are not immune to temptation or sickness or problems.
However, in comparison to the time before he became a Christian, it is certain that the genuine Christian will sin less the more he matures in Christ, and he will be more aware and conscientious of sin.
Romans 8:30 speaks of the Christian becoming glorified. Glorification speaks of the moment when every Christian believer will be physically and spiritually changed to the extent that sin is removed from the presence of all the saints. Through glorification, the Christian will have a new body; the Christian will no longer be capable of sinning; the Christian will no longer become sick or old. Through glorification, the Christian will be just like Christ. We become immortal and without the hindrance and presence of sin.
Glorification will occur when we die and are with Christ or when the rapture occurs.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV): And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:53 (ESV): For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV): For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison