Recently driving home whilst vaguely listening to Christian radio, my ears pricked up as a well known ministry began to share. The lady teaching on this popular radio program, spoke of how she would often feel guilty after getting angry at her children for miss behaving, but then remembering that she has a sinful nature and so is able you use this as an excuse to justify her reaction (I'm pretty sure she said she also asks God and her children for forgiveness after the fact). The problem with this teaching is that it distorts our identity and confirms the saying we have only come to know to well throughout our church circles:...."I'm just a sinner, saved by grace". (By the way, I do have much respect for the ministry on the radio that day, they have brought some awesome truths in the past).
But what if I told you that what she said on that particular day was not true.....that you are no longer a sinner, and that it is possible and accessible to never sin again.
Lets start with Nicodemus. In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus a teacher of the religious law decides to search out Jesus and ask him a few questions in all sincerity. Jesus responds to his misinterpretation about being born again, teaching him that it is a spiritual birth that takes place, and proceeds with these words: Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3 NIV). And: "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5).
My point is this: When we are born again (spiritual birth), a heavenly realm reality called the kingdom of God suddenly becomes available and accessible, our eyes are opened up to this ever present spiritual dimension. Romans 14:17 tells us: that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Meaning this: the kingdom of God is not of this natural world, not something perishable or made by human hands, but that it is three specific things, in something in particular (the Holy Spirit). This tells me that righteousness, peace and joy are not something I can have/achieve on my own, but that they are a spiritual dimension I enter in to.
Lets focus on righteousness, as this deals directly with the topic of: sinless nature? For the record, righteousness is not a sliding scale, you cannot be 67% or even 98% righteous, you are either righteous or you are not (this will be confirmed further on).
"You were born into sin, but born again into righteousness".
-Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps 51:5 NIV).
-Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eh 2:3 NASB).
-Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. (Col 3:9-10 NLT).
-Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God--truly righteous and holy. (Eh 3:21-24 NLT).
These scriptures clearly show how our default setting has changed since being born again. We used to be prone to sin, but now we are prone to righteousness.
When Jesus came to earth, lived as a man and then died for us, it was more than one-dimensional, let me show you just a few reasons why he came.
-He came to show us what humanity looks like in right relationship with the Father.
-He became love, to show us how to love.
-He fulfilled the law, because we never could (I'll touch more on this shortly).
-He didn’t just come to forgive us of our sin, but to completely free us from sin.
In regards to the final point above, if Jesus only came to forgive us of sin, then we become trapped on this merry-go-round: sin / repent / be forgiven / sin / repent / be forgiven and so on. No, he came so sin could have no hold on us whatsoever. Think about someone who is addicted to cigarettes, to the extent that they smoke a pack a day, and when they are not smoking they are thinking about smoking or at least when their next break is so they can have a puff. That person is controlled by this addiction, it has a strong hold over there life, they are trapped in a cycle. Now imagine that that person has literally died and is laying there on the floor, next moment someone walks over to them and sits down a pack of their favourite smokes beside them. What power does this temptation now have over them? NONE!, they are dead, and so it is with sin. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11 NIV).
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Gal 2:19-21).
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here. (2 Cor 5:14-17 NIV).
Now back to the law, in the old testament there were 613 laws (a whole lot of do's and dont's). Their is no way anyone could fulfil these laws and become righteous, it's totally impossible to achieve on our own. Paul even writes in Romans 7, that when he reads the law (what to do and what not to do) it actually arouses sin and awakens sinful desires (though the law in itself is not bad). When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. God’s Law Reveals Our Sin. Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. (Romans 7:5-8 NLT).
"Christ fulfilled the law for us, because we never could".
-Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Mat 5:17 NIV).
-Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4 NIV).
Are we getting the picture?.......we are righteous now and have been since the time of our conversion, its just that we are now learning to appropriate what has always been. I understand, how do you live something out you didn't know existed?....I was there myself.
This is where is gets even more awesome.....check out what John writes here:
Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. (1 John 3:6 NLT). Did you get that?.....how incredible, John actually tells us that he who lives (abides) in Him will not sin.
Here's another another one to rock you:
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. (1 John 3:9 NIV). We were never created to/for sin, sin became our default setting through the fall of Adam, but was nullified through the cross of Christ. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor 15:45 NIV).
But the good news doesn't stop there......just as we weren't created to/for sin, the same goes for condemnation. I hear you asking/saying: "well what if I sin & I still sin" or "my born again experience doesn't match up to this revelation". Let's see what the bible has to say:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV).
It's better news, ok so you sin....but note what John writes "if" we sin and not "when" we sin, that we have an advocate that goes to the father on our behalf (Jesus paid the price). This is not a licence to sin either, grace doesn't give you permission, it elevates you to a place where sin is not even on your radar.
There are two main disagreements (which i'll bust in a moment) I receive when I teach this revelation, they are:
-"Experience shows us we still sin, therefore we are still sinners and all this is doing is promoting false hope".
First of all we are called to live by faith and not by what we see, and secondly the word of God is to be our level, not our experience...we need to stop bringing the word down to our level of experience and start bringing our life up to level of His word.
-"All this teaching will do is make people prideful, and have them think of themselves to be better than others".
First of all Paul confronts the church in Corinth by telling them to stop acting like mere humans, and secondly if you believe you have a sinless nature and are walking in pride, than you are contradicting the very thing you believe.
So how do I walk this sinless life out?......here's the key:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18 NIV). Look to Jesus, stay focussed on him, yield/rest/abide in him.
Here's an analogy: Most days when I ride my bicycle to work, I attempt to see how long I can ride continuously on the white line on the side of the road. Lets imagine that that white line is the law (the do's and don'ts.....what make you righteous), and to keep the law you must stay on that line. Either side of the line is sin and death, and as soon as you detour from the line, that's where you end up (in sin and death). How do you stay on the line?....by looking at it? (you would think so), but just like when Paul writes regarding the law, the more I look at it, the more I deviate from it. So the trick to riding the white line is to set your eyes on a single point in front and ride towards it. When you take your focus off of the line, and put in onto an object in front, you can ride that line as long as it is straight. It's the same to fulfilling the law, you focus on Jesus and he propels you forward with his all empowering grace.
To close...in Acts 28, Paul tells the story of being shipwrecked on the island of Malta (from what he gather this is the first time he has ever been there). Paul writes how the natives of the island start a fire to help warm everyone who has washed ashore. As Paul is nearing the fire a serpent driven out by the heat latches itself onto his arm. Next we read the natives pointing at Paul, and calling him a murderer saying "he escaped the sea, but justice will not permit him to live". During this accusation Paul shakes the snake back off into the fire, as the natives are now waiting for him to drop dead. After a while of waiting the natives change their mind, and now call Paul a god (little g). Paul is unharmed and eventually taken to the chief of the island, where miracles begin to break out. Here's my point: who was Paul before he was Paul? (Saul) and who was Saul? (a murderer), the enemy wants to bring your past (your life as a sinner) to your present so he can have influence over your future. In that moment Paul could have crumbled to the accusation of the enemy, but he stood in his new identity and instead of the enemy reminding Paul of his past, Paul chose to remind the enemy of his future (snake thrown back into the fire....devil thrown into the lake of fire for eternity). A wise friend of mine (Ps Joel Shaw), once said "just because the devil is talking to you, doesn't mean in your in a bad place".......Jesus endured 40 days of this in the wilderness. By Paul standing in his identity, the islanders now labeled him a god. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. (1 John 4:17 ESB).
So it's settled....you are a new creation (a new species not seen on the earth before the cross) with a sinless nature, who's identity is founded in the righteousness of God.
Blessings Jason Harrison.