Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Roger will respond in as timely a manner as possible. Due to the large volume of questions, patience is requested. When questions involve mental health issues, no part of any response to an “Ask Roger” question should be interpreted as a substitute for seeking professional counseling from a licensed mental health professional. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My pastor told me that I never have to sin again. How can that be true?
The problem is a misunderstanding of what really happened at our new birth: something is alive and something is not. Christ is alive and our old sin nature is not.
Let me illustrate this for you by the story of Samson in Judges 14:5-8.
While the strongman was walking through a vineyard a young lion attacked him. Samson killed it as easily as he might kill a small goat. He left it by the side of the road. Several days later he passed by and noticed that bees had built a hive in the lion carcass. So, he made up a riddle and bet the Philistines that they could not solve it: “Out of the eater comes something to eat. Out of the strong comes something sweet (Judges 14:14).
In essence the answer is that honey comes out of the dead lion’s carcass. When we are born again a new life springs forth (honey). Nothing can be done to fix or improve the old dead carcass (our sin nature).
At the moment of our conversion, new birth occurs and simultaneously our old sin nature is crucified with Jesus:
I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live; but Christ lives in me. – Galatians 2:20
So, why do I still sin?
Many wonder: “I expected that the new birth would make everything right in my life. I expected that by this inward change my evil nature would be transformed into a good and holy one. I still struggle with sin just as much as before. What is wrong with me?”
Unfortunately, after conversion, many Christians endure endless pain trying to improve the dead lion – to morally disinfect the sin nature, to make it more bearable to a decent and religious society – but the dead lion is still a dead lion, no matter how we dress him up.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. – Romans 6:6-7
The misunderstanding is that we can do something to empower the victory. The old nature is dead. We look to Christ to grow and empower the new nature.
Why did Paul call our old nature the body of death?
I remember reading that near Tarsus, where Paul was born, lived a tribe that inflicted a most gruesome punishment upon a convicted murderer. They fastened the body of the victim to that of the killer, tying shoulder to shoulder, back to back, arm to arm, and then drove the killer from the community.
The bonds were so tight that he could not free himself, and after a few days the decay in the dead body transferred itself to the living flesh of the murderer. Paul might have had that ghastly punishment in mind in expressing his desire to be rid of the sin that clung to his flesh. Let’s look at 5 ways you can set yourself free from the bondage of sin:
1. Remember that sin isn’t in charge of you.
In Romans 6-7 Paul isn’t saying that sin has been eradicated. We might say it this way: the old sin nature is deprived of its strength. It is deprived of its controlling influence. Paul defines exactly what he means in the next phrase, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. That’s the issue. The old nature is rendered inoperative as the sovereign of our lives.
The old sin nature does not lose its influence altogether, it loses its controlling influence, its sovereign influence, its mastery, its dominion. He’s not saying there won’t be sin; he saying that sin isn’t in charge anymore. The tyranny of sin is broken.
2. Stop struggling.
I was swimming at the gym, but couldn’t kick my legs properly. I had a leg injury. I struggled to get to the side of the pool. Suddenly, I was underwater and couldn’t stand up. I thrashed around as I fought to get to the side; but I went under and couldn’t find my way out. I panicked. I remembered thinking, “So this is how you drown...”
Then I remembered what a lifeguard does.
He waits until the victim stops struggling. Then he can get him back to shore. So I stopped swimming and started floating.
The same is true for us. We will never find victory over our sins until we learn that struggling means sinking. Then and only then will we look for deliverance in the Deliverer.
What a wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord – Romans 7:24-25
3. Choose freedom.
God is not expecting us to improve man in the flesh, or looking for goodness in him of any kind. The dead lion is not our source of victory. Now that are our old sin nature has been crucified with Christ, we have the choice to choose to live the resurrected life of Jesus Christ.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.– Romans 6:6-7
Before salvation we were controlled and dominated by the old man, old nature, sin nature. We were slaves to sin.
Because the sin nature is crucified, we are now free to choose whether or not to sin.
Imagine you are a disarmed soldier captured by your enemy. A machine gun is aimed directly at your face.
That was our condition before Christ died for us. Our former self had the gun and we were the prisoner.
Now, imagine that out of the corner of our eye we see a soldier friend creep up and shoot our enemy. Our enemy falls dead. This is our present position in Christ. The old self is dead. We don’t have to serve him any longer. We have our lives to live again!
Why would we ever be so stupid as to prop up our enemy’s gun in his dead hands and obey whatever he tells us to do?
If a Christian sins, it is only because he/she wants to.
4. Position and condition.
Sanctification is God’s making us on earth what we already are in heaven. Our position is what God sees us to be as if we already were in heaven. Our position in Christ is perfect. Everything that belongs to Christ is ours! Everything that is true of Christ is true of us.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:6
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ. – Colossians 2:9-10
Our condition is where we are in our Christian walk. Our condition has to do with the imperfect state of our Christian lives on earth. By the way, the smaller the gap between our position and condition, the more likely we are to look and behave like Jesus.
Let me demonstrate the difference between position and condition in the church life of the Corinthians.
Their position was wonderful. They were saved, sanctified, and holy (1 Corinthians 1:2). On the other hand, their condition was dastardly deficient.
My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. – 1 Corinthians 1:1.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you...A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief. – 1 Corinthians 5:1
As we dwell upon our position there will be a drastic change in our condition. The power that sin seems to have over us will be broken. Now we are free to enter into the resurrection life of Christ!
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory. – Colossians 3:1-5
5. Live free.
Some will find it relatively easy to overcome their sinning. Others will find it takes quite a while to make basic changes. But, over time, our sinning should become less and less.
The country of England was taxing the American colonies mercilessly in the 1700s. Finally, the American colonies rose up against England and thus began the American Revolutionary war. The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, which declared that the new United States was free from the power of England. But the war continued until 1783 when the British were beaten at the Battle of Yorktown.
Our declaration of independence from sin was signed in 32 AD at the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Now the battle for freedom begins.
While the crucifixion of the old nature sets us free from having to sin, we must still make the choice not to.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. – Colossians 3:15
Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12
Let me give you a scenario: A man is stopped at a stoplight when a gorgeous woman steps onto the crosswalk. Before Christ, his old nature didn’t help him at all. He fell right into lust. After Christ He can say, “I don’t have to do that anymore. I am dead to that. I can live by the Spirit.”
Instead of lusting, he can begin praying for her to have a life in Christ, for things to go well at work, for needs in her family.
Here’s another scenario: One woman has been hurt by another. She’s tempted to spread rumors about the one who hurt her. She’s going to get even. She’s bitter and angry. With the old nature alive, fighting back was the most natural thing in the world. But now with the old nature dead, she has a choice.
Instead of yielding to the old sin nature, she should follow Jesus’ advice and pray for her enemies, those who hurt her.
We don’t ever have to sin again. Let’s live in the power of Jesus’ new life in us.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. – Galatians 6:14
Well Katie, I hope I have answered your question well. Let me know if you have more questions.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
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