Am I Really Saved if I Struggle with Habitual Sin?
Does repetitive or habitual sin mean that we aren’t saved? Should a Christian who is struggling with sin or with certain addictions begin to doubt his salvation?
The truth is that we are all sinners who have sinned against God. Romans 3:23 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
As long as we are on this Earth and living in a fallen world, every individual and Christian will continue to face temptation and struggle with sin.
The Bible clearly reveals that, after salvation, Christians will continue to wrestle with sin.
As long as we live in an imperfect body under an imperfect environment and surrounded by the fallen systems of this world, the struggle with sin will continue until we are with our Lord in Heaven.
The Bible does not tell us there is a limit to how many times we can ask for forgiveness. Furthermore, the Bible does not tell us that we can lose our salvation after we have repeatedly committed a certain number of habitual sins.
If anything, we’re told that God’s love for us is truly great and God is gracious towards those who seek after Him.
Psalm 103:10-12 NLT says: He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the Christian’s past, present and future sins are all forgiven because of their faith in Jesus Christ who paid the debt for sin. So all the sins of the Christian believer were totally paid for at the cross and by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul Struggled with Sin
In the Bible, the apostle Paul testifies of his own personal internal struggle with sin in his life.
In Romans 7:15-25 NLT, Paul says: “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. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 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. 19 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. 20 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.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Every Christian believer can identify with Paul’s candid confession. As Christians we struggle internally with sin after our salvation. Even when we desire to do good, we find ourselves doing the very thing that we hate. We despise our sin and we desire to overcome it – but sometimes we find ourselves falling short again and again.
However, straight after confessing his internal struggles with sin, in Romans 8:1-2 NLT Paul then says: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death”
So if we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are not condemned to hell. Habitual or repetitive sin will not cause us to enter hell because our salvation is a free gift from God which is received by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Our salvation is not dependent on how little we sin nor our personal good works, but salvation exists because of the finished work that Jesus did on the cross when He was crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.
How Should I Respond to Habitual Sin?
Even if we sometimes lose the battles with our sin, the very fact that we’re fighting against them is evidence that we’re saved because unsaved people are apathetic about their sins.
Paul was saved, that’s why he confessed his frustration in continuing to lose the battle against his flesh in his letter to the Romans.
(1) Understand that sanctification is a process. You are still God’s work in progress. Your battle with sin will end in the afterlife.
Philippians 1:6 says: And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Whatever sins we’re losing the battle with now, we will most likely win later. For example, a Christian may struggle with pornography or drug addiction for months or years, until he finally conquers it. We just need to be patient, we need to trust Jesus to help us overcome our sins.
(2) Your sins have been atoned for by Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven past, present and future.
In 1 John 2:1-2 NLT John urges, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world”
(3) Continue to hate your sin and continue to fight your sin. If you still find yourself sorrowful after you have sinned then it is a good sign that your conscience has not been seared and your heart has not been hardened. Continue to prayerfully yield to God and desire to live obediently to Him. However, whenever you sin, God is just and faithful to forgive you if you are sincere.
1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(4) Beware not to use God’s forgiving and gracious nature as a license to sin
Avoid the temptation to take an antinomian approach as you struggle to overcome your sin (Romans 6:1). Grace is not a license to sin.
Titus 1:11-14 says that the true grace of God trains us to forsake immoral living and instead pursue a life of righteous godly living where we become zealous for good works. So the more we appreciate the grace of God, the less we will desire to sin.
Titus 2:11-14 says: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. [Emphasis Added]
It can take weeks, months or even years to overcome various sins and indeed God will always be gracious and patient with us. However, learn to hate your sin and to express godly sorrow over your sin (2 Corinthians 7:10).
So always be sincere with God about your weakness and about your willingness to overcome your sin.
1 Corinthians 13:10 says: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The Christian life is not always an easy life. It is sometimes full of struggles, pain and wrestling.
The Bible reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
In a fallen world, we wrestle against sin, the devil and the systems of this world. You are a work in progress. Your sanctification is a process.
Sometimes we will fall, but it does not mean we will lose our salvation. Our salvation is secure and eternal in Jesus Christ.
The moment we receive Jesus Christ and have placed our faith in Him, then our sins are eternally forgiven.