Thursday, June 4, 2009

Can We Be Sinless?

My good friend e-mailed me a comment on yesterday's review/post. I demands a closure followup.

"...As we’ve discussed previously, I still do not believe we are capable of reaching a sanctified state of being “sinless” because of our depraved position this side of glory. I sensed you were leaning in that direction during your review but perhaps my view was biased because of our previous talks & my reading your work.

I would love to hear RC comment on your review & I may send him an email directly to encourage that...."

To which I replied, "That sinless state is only good as long as the old man stays down. It is a moment-by-moment discipline that is gracefully headed by the promptings of the Holy Spirit and conscience. Where folks get bogged down is this:

If the old man is still there, the potential for the flesh arising is still imminent, then can we therefore conclude that we are A) still sinners, or; B) unable to be truly in a sinless state?

One way to answer that is:

As we truly have the indwelling Holy Spirit, AND we know that the Lord Jesus Christ never sinned, nor was capable of sin (though He was tempted in all ways as we are), we can therefore conclude that when we are filled with the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, having put on the Lord Jesus Christ, IN HIM we cannot and do not sin. But immediately the old man arises, we are no longer walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. Lust overtakes and ends in sin. All the while the Holy Spirit says, “Stop before it’s too late.” If we don’t heed, then His next words will be, “Confess and repent.”

Now with further insight, here's the end of the point:

One may argue that as long as we still have that sin nature, that old man, that flesh, AND even though we may be filled with the Spirit, AND even though we obey Romans 6:11 to be dead indeed to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ, we still have the potential to sin. We all experience this reality. Seemingly out of nowhere comes a wicked thought. We apparently did nothing to retrieve it. There was no visible or audible temptation to respond to. It just popped up.

We know where it came from. Jesus says in Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:" The heart is the seat of that old man, flesh, sin nature. As long as we are physically alive and our hearts beat, that potential to sin is always there.

Now retreat with me for a moment to the time before you were saved. I believe that God created man perfect, in His image. When Adam sinned, the sin nature fell upon all mankind through his seed. At that moment, the perfect image of humankind (our spirit) died. Solely through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ were we saved from our sins and spiritually brought back to life. All further arguments hinge upon this reality.

We also know from Ephesians 2:8-9 that our salvation is solely of grace, not of self works.

Now we also know that to continue to live our lives in Christ, we cannot do it in the flesh. That's what the first three chapters of Galatians are all about. So I am not arguing that to achieve the sinless state that any such works of the flesh are required. Nor are any such works required of us while walking in the Spirit to maintain that state. That state is still, just as it was at salvation, so it is now at every moment, utterly dependent upon the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is a fact that He died once and rose again from the dead once for all sins for all time for all mankind. He need not die and rise again. That's what Hebrews 10 is all about.

Again, what did we do at salvation to get saved? Nothing. All the things that people attribute to man's actions in salvation are all responses to the work of Jesus Christ and the election of God. We do not have to pray to get saved. Neither do we have to confess, repent, or do anything at all to get saved. All these things are responses to the act of salvation already done. Remember, before salvation we were dead in trespasses and sins. A dead man can do NOTHING. He cannot confess, repent, or pray. But immediately he is alive, he responds to the first prompting of the Holy Spirit within him to give glory to God. This response can be in many forms, though none are required or prescribed by Scripture.

So here's the point (almost): If we still have the potential to sin within us, are we still sinners? No. We are saints alive, new creatures in Christ. (II Corinthians 5:17) What are we then when we sin? Wicked. The point is now a different question however. It is no longer, "Who am I?" Now the question is, "Why?"

Why go through these gyrations of sin and repentance? If Jesus really indwells us with His Holy Spirit and we really can be sinless for some time, why doesn't He just make it forever right now? Why not make us perfect right now? No more sin!

Why did God save us in the first place? So that He and His Son would be glorified through the atonement which saves us from our sins. Why does He keep us saved? Same reason. Why does He make us do the hard work of this discipline to maintain a holy life?

It is not hard work. Neither is it works. It is still Jesus.

But it sure seems like work. Hard work. Why do I struggle so with sin?

Because now you are learning just how depraved you are, just how wicked and deceitful your heart really is, just how infinitely large was the magnitude of what Jesus did for you when He died for your sins on the cross and then rose again victorious over sin. For now, our victor is imperfect. "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (I Corinthians 15:51-58)

Wherein we were utterly unable to turn to God from our sins prior to salvation (for we were dead in sin) now we are able to turn to Him by His goodness (Romans 2:4) through the gift of repentance. Is this a stuggle? It may seem so for a time. But at that moment when you forsake all and die to sin, you find it the simplest, easiest thing because you realize that it is Christ in you that did it and enabled you. All the work and stuggle you perceive is just the flesh fighting to stay alive.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness for you have been set free indeed!

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