Why do we struggle with sin after we get born again? Christians sin against God, daily! Some Christians say they cannot sin. Of course they incorrectly interpret 1 John 5:18.
The King James rendition of 1 John 5:18 can lead to such wrong interpretation. (The chapter itself is a major discourse among theologs. You need theological versatility to understand it): “We know whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself…” (1 John 5:18). But we know Apostle John is not saying Christians can’t sin because of 1 John 1:8-10: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense.
On the other hand if we admit our sins, he’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrong doing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God – make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God” (I John 1:8-10 MSG).
The Amplified Bible translation of 1 John 5:18 gives us insight into what Apostle John was really saying: “We know absolutely that anyone born of God does not deliberately and knowingly practice committing sin…”
The Living Bible translation states: “We know God’s children do not make a practice of sinning…” Why? Grace! “For God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them.”
So why do we continue to sin after we get born again? To answer the question I must intimate you on spiritual anatomy. Man is made up of three parts. He is spirit, he has a soul and he’s cased in a body tent. (I Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Corinthians 5:4). Man is a spirit because he is made in the image and likeness of God. God is a Spirit. He created man after his kind. The soul is the seat of emotions. It’s where imagination resides, as well as the will of man and the mind of man. The body is important because without it we can’t make physical contact with the world. But the real you, the primary you, is your spirit. When you get born again, it is the spirit that is regenerated. That leaves the soul.
Your mind thus needs renewal. The mind is like a computer. It stores data. And so your mind is full of legacy data from your past life. And viruses. The programme is corrupt with sin. That’s because your mind inherited the psychological state of fallen Adam. It’s the operating system. The Bible says you should renew your mind. It’s the key to behavioural transformation. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).
You renew your mind by reading the word of God and meditating on it daily (Cf Joshua 1:8). If you don’t keep overwriting the legacy code your old nature will keep dominating your thought and behaviour. You inherited that sinful nature from Mr. Adam. He’s your primogenitor. The forbidden fruit he ate in disobedience messed up his system. We know for example that he became paranoid. He went into hiding and started accusing others (God and Eve) for the consequences of his actions.
The virus is progressive and incurable. It goes for genetic code. It’s wormed its way into our DNA. By Adam’s next generation it had so messed up the human psyche that the first murder was recorded. Cain slew Abel. And it’s been a downward spiral since then. Murder is now so common. According to the Global Homicide Report 2013 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, nearly 500,000 people were intentionally murdered in 2012 alone. This has nothing to do with armed conflict. And so the major challenge you face as a Christian is the workings of your imagination and your mind.
The Bible calls man’s unregenerated mind “carnal mind”. It appellates the psychology of our sinful nature “the flesh”. In Romans 8:5 the Bible says, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” But it goes on to state that you’re not under the control of your sinful nature, you’re under the control of the Spirit (Romans 5:9). “Therefore dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do” Romans 8:12. So it’s a function of which thoughts you allow to dominate your mind daily.
Our dominant thoughts determine our character. God does not want us to live by rules and regulations like under the Old Testament. The operating principle of the New Testament is “Dynamic Responsiveness” (DR). In fact that’s actually what that most maligned scripture – “Working out your salvation with fear and trembling” says. Philippians 2:12 is NOT saying you need to work to get saved. Salvation is by grace and it’s a gift. Jesus did the work. The language of the King James Bible is what is confusing many people. It’s 17th century English! Let’s read a modern translation to get a sense of what Paul is saying: “Dear friends, you always followed my instruction when I was with you. And now that I’m away it is more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear” (Philippians 2:12 NLT).
The Message Translation of the passage is even clearer: “What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in RESPONSIVE OBEDIENCE. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.” So when the King James Bible says, “Work out your salvation” it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with eternal salvation.
Don’t let the devil put condemnation on you. There is no condemnation for a child of God (Romans 8:1). You have the Spirit of God inside you. He will guide you, direct you, teach you, speak to you (John 14:26). Live in dynamic responsiveness to the Spirit of God (Philippians 2:12 MSG). When you sin, tell God you’re sorry. He not only forgives, he forgets. In Isaiah 43:25 God says: “I am the one who takes care of your sins – that’s what I do. I DON’T KEEP A LIST OF YOUR SINS.” The Amplified reads: “I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions and I will not remember your sins.” Galatians 5:1 MSG: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand!
Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Romans 12:2 NLT: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org