Why Am I Still Sinning?

Christian Womanhood

In this episode we talk about what sin is, why we struggle with it, and what the Bible says about overcoming it. We learn the difference between the indwelling of the Spirit and the “filling” of the Spirit and how to walk in the freedom Christ offers.

 

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Transcription

Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here and I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian. 

Hello, friends, and welcome back to Verity podcast. We are in the 4th episode of the beginner believer series. And this week, we’re going to talk about a question I think all of us have asked after we came to faith in Christ. Why have I not stopped sinning? What do I do when I’m struggling with sin after salvation? I think a lot of us come to Christ maybe thinking that by coming to Christ, becoming a Christian, we’re just never going to struggle with sin ever again. And while Christ does call us to holiness and he does expect us to grow in holiness, that process is not overnight.

 But what’s really crazy is that in some cases, you might hear a testimony where someone says, I was delivered out of this sin overnight swearing or drinking or pornography or something like that, and yet you’re over here and you haven’t been immediately delivered from whatever your besetting sin struggle is. And so that can lead to a lot of questions and second guessing and doubt about your salvation, and, hopefully, this episode can help clear some of that up as we go to scripture and find out what it says about sin. 

So first, let’s define what sin is. The word for sin in the Bible literally means to miss the mark, to miss the mark. Well, what is the mark? What’s the mark we’re aiming for? Well, the thing that we’re trying to hit, the target, is God’s holiness. And when we try to achieve God’s holiness on our own, we can’t do it because we are born into broken flawed bodies in a broken and flawed world. We can go back to Genesis 3 to see where this all began.

Now, there are different views on what Adam and Eve’s sin in Genesis 3 did to the rest of humanity. Some theological perspectives take the view that we inherited the guilt of Adam and Eve. So Adam’s sin is our sin. We inherited his guilt and we need to be reconnected to God and have that sin removed from us. Other theological perspectives take the view that what Adam and Eve did in Eden, the guilt of it was their responsibility. But because perfection can’t come from imperfection, all of their children are born with a bent towards sin. So they aren’t born guilty because they didn’t commit Adam and Eve’s sin. God judges individuals based on their personal choices.

So each of their children are born with a predisposition towards sin, but they are not separated from God until they act on that predisposition. So they’re not separated by nature, they’re separated by guilt, by actually acting on their bent. And, of course, I’m sure there are other variations of that view as well, but the term for these is original sin. So in both cases, we when we say original sin, we’re talking about Adam and Eve’s sin passed down to humanity, whether they’re passing down guilt or passing down a predisposition. And in either case, eventually, you end up in the same position, you need salvation. You need to be reconciled to god. So if sin is keeping us from God, we know this. We talked about this in the episode on the gospel. What do we do now? How do we how do we become reconciled to God? Well, that’s the good news. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, took the punishment that we should have received. He became the second Adam. He redeemed what Adam did, and he bought salvation for all who call on the name of the Lord. And at salvation, there’s 2 steps or 2 parts of that process. 

The first is justification, the chain of identity. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we are justified before God. We are seen as righteous. We are covered by Christ’s blood and title. We are in his family. And the justification is by faith through grace. So we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We give him our allegiance. He is our king. We say, I want to follow you and Christ imparts his holiness to us. He makes us holy in our standing, and that removes that original sin. It removes the condemnation of that, the separation of that, and unites us to god. So our identity has shifted in salvation. We’re totally new. We’re a new creation. We’re adopted. But now what? 

Well, the second part of the process is sanctification. And this is when we walk out that identity. So in justification, you have a change of identity. You receive the Holy Spirit. And in sanctification, you walk out the identity and you walk by the Spirit. So justification is like a one time deliverance. It’s like the Exodus, where you’re being brought out of slavery and completely set free. But now you actually have to walk as a free person. And Galatians 6 says, do not go back to a yoke of slavery. What was Paul talking about? He was saying, you were set free from slavery and bondage, so don’t go back and submit to it as if that’s still who you are. So in the sanctification process as Christians, we are delivered from condemnation and separation, but we’re also in the process of deliverance.

Christ is freeing us from all of the sin that entangles us and holds us back from walking in a mature Christian life, and that’s a process. I don’t know about you, but when I was a new Christian, I felt like I had to work on everything at once. Like, I’d read the fruits of the spirit or I’d read the lists of Christian behaviors in Romans and I would try to memorize them and then I would go to work and I would try to, like, white knuckle it. I thought that was the Christian life. I’m a Christian now, so now I just I’m patient, I’m kind, I’m loving, I’m joyful. I make myself do these things, and that is not what the Christian life is about. And because I was trying to do it in my own strength after salvation, I was super confused when temptations were still coming and when I was still failing and I was still struggling in different areas of my life. Now certain areas, I definitely got freedom, but in other areas, I didn’t.

And so what do I do or how do I think about temptations when they come to me? Well, the first thing to remember is that temptations do not identify you. Your identity is not in your temptation. Your identity is in Christ. So what Christ did in the justification process, he justified you, saved you, adopted you, you are part of Christ’s family and inheritance, that is unchangeable. So regardless of what you’re tempted by, the temptations don’t have any authority over your identity in Christ. They come and they go and your response to them reflects how much you actually believe the identity that Christ has given you, but we will get to that in a second. My first question was, what is sin? The second is, what happens at salvation? The third is, why should I overcome sin at all? Why not just accept that I’m sinful? Like, I’m a sinful person, I’m a sinner, and so this is just how life is gonna be. Well, in Romans 61, the Apostle Paul says, should we sin more because we’re under grace? Should we sin more so that God’s grace can be made much of and can glorify Him? And He says, may it never be so.

He’s saying we definitely should not be sinning more or taking sin lightly because we think somehow it glorifies God’s grace. That is abusing grace. That is being dismissive of the holiness that God requires. And 1 Peter 116 says, to be holy as he is holy, which is a quote from the Old Testament where God said the same thing. I love this quote by John Wesley. Here’s what he says, “I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates an authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.” What John Wesley is saying here is that if there was a revival of holiness and dedication to pursuing holiness, we would also be more missional, we would have more authentic church communities, we would be more empowered by the spirit, and we would fulfill God’s mission.

That’s what holiness allows us to do. Think about it. If we are not pursuing holiness and we’re dismissing our sin, what’s the first thing that happens? You’re confused about your mission because you’re mainly thinking about yourself and about sin management. You can’t have authentic community because everyone is pursuing his own desires. So you aren’t willing to be sanctified in love, patience, joy, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, all of the things that make relationships possible in a Christian community. You can’t be empowered by the spirit because you are walking in the flesh and in your own desires, and you definitely can’t fulfill God’s goals and intentions for the world because you’re only interested in fulfilling your own. Sin always bends towards self. Holiness bends toward God and it blesses our bodies, our communities, and our world by becoming more like Christ.

So that’s why you should want to overcome sin. That’s why you should not accept that you’re just a “sinful” person because you’re not. You’re a saint. Your identity is holy. That is who God made you to be, and now you simply have to walk that out. So practically speaking, how do we actually walk that out? How do we overcome sin? We’re gonna look at a couple passages about this because the Bible has a lot to say, and we’re going to start with one of the most famous passages, which is in Galatians 5. 

And in Galatians 5, it talks about the freedom that Christ has given. I’m gonna read Galatians 5:1. It says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This is what I was quoting earlier. So in this verse, he’s saying, you were set free so that you could actually be free from the consequences and the condemnation of sin. At salvation, you are set free from the condemnation of sin. You are no longer separated from God by sin. Your salvation is secure. However, if we continue to pursue sin, God will allow us to experience the consequences of sin, even if our salvation is not in question.

So, for example, let’s say you continue to drink alcohol to excess and that you know the Bible says drunkenness is a sin, but you continue to drink it to excess, and you get a DUI, and you go to jail, that is a consequence of your sin that God is not saving you from. But he has saved you from the condemnation of that sin, which means that Christ still covers you. You are still His. But, yes, because God’s a loving father, he’s allowing you to be disciplined by the consequences of your actions. What does this mean? This means that God wants freedom for you from sin, but you are still going to face temptations in a broken world and you are still learning to walk in your new identity and that is what grace is for. The grace of God is the empowerment of God to become holy. He’s going to continue to help you grow into his image. So let’s go a little further down in Galatians 5.

It talks about life in the spirit. Verse 13. He says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh. Rather serve one another in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Let’s pause there.

He just gave you the answer to overcoming sin. If you want to overcome sin and you do not want to gratify the desires of the flesh, you walk by the spirit. What’s that mean? That means that you take every step of every day by listening to the spirit, remaining in Christ, talking to him, communicating with him. Lord, what’s the attitude you want from me in this moment? Lord, I’m struggling with these thoughts. I’m feeling so angry right now. Give me your spirit. Lead me on steady ground. What am I to say in this moment? Ask him for wisdom and then obey.

And if you need to go and get the word out and look for what it says about the issue you’re facing, then that’s what you do. You don’t take a step without the Holy Spirit guiding you, and when you do that, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Let’s go on to verse 17, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want, but if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.” So when he refers to the law here, he’s referring to the letter of the law, so obeying rules to earn God’s favor or to prove yourself to God. And in context, he’s been addressing this issue throughout the entire book of Galatians, where he’s talking about legalism and obeying the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. So what he’s saying here is that when you are following the spirit, you will actually walk into holiness.

That is what the law is trying to do. You are accomplishing the law by walking by the Spirit. You cannot walk by the Spirit and also fulfill your fleshly desires, and you also can’t prevent fleshly desires with more rules. The only way to walk into holiness and to overcome sin is to walk by the Holy Spirit’s leading and listening to Him. Then in verse 19, he begins to describe what the acts of the flesh are, in case we didn’t know. “Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Let’s pause there.

For those of you who are Christians and who have come to faith recently, this phrase can be really scary. It says those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. So you might think, okay, I’ve made a mistake. I I know that I have selfish ambition in my life. Am I not going to inherit the kingdom of God? Well, here’s a question for you. Does this characterize your life? Is this the primary driving factor in your life? Or are you aware of it, moving away from it, confessing it, asking the Lord for help with it, listening to the Spirit, growing in emotional maturity and spiritual maturity so that you stop it? If so, it’s not your character, and you know it’s not your Christian identity. What he’s saying here is that people whose lives are built around these things, they’re built around hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, sexual immorality. If this is the continued pattern of their life, we are absolutely within rights to question their salvation.

To question if they’re like, I’m a Christian, absolutely, but they are characterized by this behavior. It is not the life of someone who’s led by the spirit. That is different than someone who has fallen and gets back up and repents and moves toward holiness, gets accountability, takes steps in keeping with repentance. There’s a difference between those two things. One is unrepentant, content to live in this state, and one is actively fighting back and choosing to walk more and more towards holiness. And the person who’s choosing to walk towards holiness, that’s the one who’s walking by the Spirit. That’s the difference. So you don’t have to fall into a spiral of doubt when you struggle with idolatry or envy, even sexual immorality, but you better be walking away from it.

If you are not walking away from it, then there is some serious, serious trouble here. And that is when we need to be thinking about the passage that talks about quenching the voice of the spirit. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul tells us not to quench the Holy Spirit of God. And a few verses later, he says to hold on to what is good and reject every kind of evil. And that God would sanctify us through and through, that our whole spirit, soul, and body would be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord. What’s he talking about? What that means is that it’s possible for you to begin to numb yourself to the voice of God. To begin to be so consumed with sin that you are no longer listening to the Spirit’s voice, and you are not listening to what he’s saying. You are like the ground where the seed was thrown and the thorns are growing up, choking out the truth of God’s word.

Scripture repeatedly warns us to stay close to God’s truth and stay close to God’s person because quenching the spirit is a possibility. However, as I said before, this is not necessarily grounds to spiral into a doubt about your salvation. Go back and listen to the episode right before this one in the beginner believer series where I talk about doubting your salvation, that God does not want you to be in a spiral of constant doubt. That’s not His will for you. But it’s also not His will for you to live in sin. So only you can answer this question. Is your lifestyle leading you into doubt? Because if you are living in a place of unrepentant sin or in a place where there is stubborn sin. You’re not inviting people to pray for you.

You’re not inviting people to speak conviction to you. You’re not being transparent that you need accountability and that you need growth in an area and you’re just living in bondage and and nothing is changing, that will contribute to doubt about your salvation. Because the enemy loves to use sin to entrap us, to make us question, to make us doubt our salvation, to cast doubt on the goodness of God, to cast out on the love of God. Knowing this about the enemy, you can fight back, not by questioning your salvation every time you sin, but by choosing holiness. You are empowered by the Holy Spirit to choose holiness. It is your identity. Holy is your identity. And so you choose actions that align with your existing identity.

Let’s go back to Galatians 5. Now that we know what the fruit of the flesh is, choosing to live in these behaviors, let’s look at the fruit of the spirit, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Okay.

So in this section, Paul describes the life in the spirit, and this describes what true freedom looks like. When you are walking by the spirit, the Holy Spirit will naturally grow these behaviors on you. Notice it’s called fruit. You can’t force fruit to grow. You can’t hang fruit on a tree. It will die. It will rot. You must allow it to grow on you and the only way for that fruit to naturally grow on you is if you are attached to Christ.

If you are constantly walking with Christ, it will naturally grow on you. You can’t force it. Your one job is to abide in Christ, to remain attached to Him in His word and prayer and community. This is where you are growing, and even as you fail, you will get back up again. Proverbs says, the righteous fall 7 times and rise again. And so if you fall, you can get back up again and walk in that righteous identity that Christ gave you without condemnation simply by repenting and walking in the reality of Christ’s sacrifice. So the fruit of the spirit will grow on you as you continue to abide in Christ. Now let’s look at what the Holy Spirit does to overcome sin in our lives.

In Ephesians 5, it’s talking about that identity that we have. And in verse 8, it says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. So this is what Galatians was saying. Live as children of light. This is who you are. So it doesn’t make sense for you to live in darkness because you are light in the Lord. If we skip forward to verse 17, it says, therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the spirit, speaking to one another with Psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit. He’s creating a contrast here. He’s contrasting drunkenness being filled with a substance that removes your inhibitions, that changes your personality, to being filled with the spirit, which also strengthens your inhibitions, strengthens your virtues, strengthens your character, strengthens your integrity, and changes your personality, but it changes you more into the image of Christ. So he’s making a contrast between two kinds of fillings. You can either be filled with wine or you can be filled with the spirit. You can’t be both at the same time. But this leads us to a question that leads us to a question of what he means about being filled.

So we’re gonna get a little theological here. At salvation, you received the indwelling Holy Spirit. That means that the Holy Spirit, who in the Old Testament came upon followers of God for periods of time to equip them for a specific task, instead indwelt you, and your body became a temple of the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit of God lives within you. Now that doesn’t mean you are divine, you’re not, but that the Holy Spirit of God is available to you every second of every day to help you choose holiness. He indwells you. However, while there’s only one indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there are many fillings. What does that mean? A filling of the Holy Spirit is a specific empowering for a specific task.

So indwelling is once for all at salvation, a filling of the Holy Spirit, or some call it an anointing, is repeated for specific tasks. So perhaps I am asked to speak at a speaking engagement, and I have the indwelling spirit all the time and I communicate with him about what to say and how to say it, but I ask the lord, I am asking for more of your spirit, a filling of your spirit specific to this task, completely cover what I am doing. I need your strength. So to be filled as in to come under the Spirit’s authority and be in submission to him and particularly equipped for the task. I actually prefer, instead of the word filling or filled or anointing, to say that you are always indwelt by the Spirit, but we are not always fully submitted to what he’s trying to do. Our effectiveness is limited and our freedom is not fully realized when we don’t submit to the Holy Spirit that we’ve been given, when we don’t remain conscious of what he’s trying to teach us or lead us in. We just assume, you know, hey, I’m saved, and now I just go about my life, and I don’t really talk to God except during a little, like, prayer time in the morning, and that’s that. And then we wonder why we’re not experiencing more freedom, or why don’t I see prayers answered the way that person does, or how come that person seems to hear from the Lord more while they’re talking to him more? They believe that He will speak to them more.

They are conscious of Him more. They listen to the Spirit throughout the day more, and you are able to do that too. The spirit is always at work. His indwelling is available to all Christians. It is in all true Christians, but we also must submit our desires to Him and abide in Him, rest in Him, remain attached to Him. He is always available to be attached to, but we don’t often act on His offer. This is why Jesus even had to say, remain in me, and I in you, and you will bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. He wouldn’t have had to say it if we weren’t tempted not to do it.

So for you as someone who is trying to understand what’s the role of the Holy Spirit, know this. You have the Holy Spirit. He comes upon salvation. He indwells you. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. But for you to actually walk into freedom and to overcome sin, you must submit to the Spirit within you. You need His strength every day. You need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so He transforms your personality.

That is what the Holy Spirit will do for you. The last thing I wanna mention for overcoming sin is James 5:16, which says confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed. This is not just talking about physical healing. It’s also talking about spiritual healing. And oftentimes when Jesus would heal people, he would first say, your sins have been forgiven you. He first dealt with the spiritual reality then with the physical reality. The prayer of God’s people is a vehicle of his holy spirit, and it helps free us from sin. God has chosen to use the prayers of his people as one of the ways he chooses to free us from sin and part of that is confession, which breaks our pride.

Our pride wants to isolate, keep things secret, not admit what we’re struggling with, not walk up front, ask for prayer from someone, not tell our pastor or elders or small group or whoever, hey. I need prayer for this area. And because of that, we can stay in the dark, and we can remain in bondage. But he leads us out of bondage to freedom, away from that yoke of slavery, and one of the ways he does that is through the prayers of the church. And that’s in James 5 16. 

So in summary, how do I overcome sin? Well, first, be aware that there’s nothing wrong with you. If you are struggling with sin, this is a long term process. Sanctification is the process of walking out the identity God gave you. We should want to overcome sin because God said we’re to be holy as he is holy, and we can overcome sin. He said it’s possible to overcome sin, to become more holy. And the wonderful thing is that God is gracious. He brings things up to us slowly. He works on different areas. So in the past, there have been areas of my life, an erotica addiction, which is like pornography in book form, that the Lord eradicated from my life slowly over years. And now I can confidently say, I have to be aware of that, but I am generally not struggling with that. So I’m still conscious of media and books and things, but I can skip that content, and I can be discerning with it.

But now there are other areas the Lord is working on. Fear of man is something that I’m always having to bring to him and say, god, set me free from being afraid of people’s opinions, and may I only fear you, only revere you. So you will have different areas of your life God is slowly working on because he’s patient and he’s gracious, but at the same time, we must be conscious that this is a process and it won’t all happen at once. So how do we move forward? How do we overcome? Number 1, be in the word. Be in the word so the truth can can impact you and it can expose the areas where you need conviction. 

Secondly, be in prayer. This is the attachment, the abiding. This is how you communicate with God, how you hear his voice speaking to you. 

Three, be in fellowship. Be with other Christians so that they can help you and they can guide you and they can speak to you. 

And lastly, be in confession. Now we don’t confess our sins to, prevent losing salvation. It’s not like, well, if I don’t confess my sin and I go and I’m in a car crash tomorrow, I’m going to hell. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Confession keeps us in open communication with God. He already knows, but he wants you to come to him as his child. He wants to commune with you and comfort you by his spirit, and his spirit is the one making you holy. So you don’t just ignore your sin and move on as if it didn’t happen. You have a conversation with God about it and then you continue to move forward in the identity he’s given you. 

I I hope this episode was helpful to you and I hope that it comforted you and strengthened you and gave you a little bit more confidence in the hope that we have to overcome sin and to walk into more and more holiness as time goes on. I’ll be back next week with episode 5 in the beginner believers series. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian as a ministry in a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s word and the heart of Jesus Christ.

 

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