I recently got this question from a subscriber…
“A question I have now is when all people are born into this world we are born with sin nature which we inherited from Adam which he inherited from Satan so everyones has Satan as a father, Jesus told the Pharisees that during his ministry that your father is the Devil, but the good news is everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved and not only that we get a new nature which is from God so now he looks on us as perfect because we are his Sons in Christ we are new creatures! As I think about these great truths a few questions have arisen in my heart as christians what part of us sins? How do you understand walking in the flesh because if the old man or old nature is dead and Paul in his epistles wrote about us being dead in Christ, what is it that causes us to sin as christians?”
– Regards John O’ Leary in Ireland
This is a GREAT question and I’m sure everyone asks it when they hear me or someone else proclaim — “You’re a saint — NOT a sinner!”
So what part of us sins if we’re actually saints, Christians?
Today, I’m going to give you the “just the fact’s ma’am” version of how we are perfect in Christ, new creations… SAINTS… and yet we still sin. What I’m going to discuss today can actually be studied very in depth as it’s quite fascinating…
Let’s start at the beginning. First off, we are humans. How were humans created? God said he made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). What type of being is God? A TRINITY — the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. Three persons in one — this is the trichotomy of God.
So if we were made in the image of God, what then is the trichotomy of man? This is the best way I’ve ever heard it explained: We are spirits, that have a soul, that live in a body. Those are the three parts of man: Spirit, Soul and Body.
When Adam ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said he would die right? But did adam die physically? No… but God is no liar… Adam died SPIRITUALLY at that very moment he disobeyed God. So, in the beginning you were born into the line of Adam’s SPIRIT. That’s why you were (spiritually) dead in your sins the moment you were born. It’s why you need Christ, because you need a new life, a new SPIRIT.
You ARE a new creation, perfect in Christ…
So when you accepted Christ, you were spiritually born again, which means you experienced it all with Christ, both his death (which was your death to sin, spiritually) and his resurrection (your new life in Christ). Now you are perfect, redeemed, set apart, sanctified, perfected, a SAINT — you are no longer a sinner! Period. End of story. You have been justified by Christ’s life inside you. (I John 3:1, Romans 6:11, I Corinthians 1:30)
That is your spiritual nature. DEEP down inside, it’s who you really are. That’s why you don’t feel good when you sin… it’s why you feel guilty when the devil hits you with those guilt trips about not “pleasing God enough” because your TRUE nature now is a part of God, a child of God, wanting to please the father.
So if this is true, why do we still sin?
As I said before, you have a new Spirit, but this new spirit has a soul, and it’s all inside your body.
Let’s define the soul: All your intellect, emotions and will are stored here. Your intelligence, your emotions, and your self-will. So how did you develop this part of yourself? It started at birth — you found ways to get your needs met. You didn’t feel loved, you cried to get attention… this grew into getting attention as an adult by playing the role of victim. Or you were always praised for how well you did in school, then high school, then college, so you became a type A personality driven by the praise of others… there are a million different versions of people’s personalities and emotional dynamics that determine both how we SEE the world and the events that unfold both around us and happen to us… and our RESPONSE to them. (A GREAT book that goes deep into how people develop this part of their flesh is the first half of Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham, the whole book is good, but the first half is all about this — AMAZING read)
So it’s the soul area of your body that your “battles” are fought.
Whenever you hear Paul of any of the new testament saints talking about becoming more sanctified, or working out their salvation, they’re not actually talking about doing any work that hasn’t already been done yet. You’re already sanctified, it’s continually choosing day by day, moment by moment to surrender to your real identity in Christ — instead of the identity you’ve created for yourself, that resides in your mind (your soul).
Paul explains this whole thing pretty clearly, and laments over his personal soul struggle here in Romans 7:14-25… and then gives the answer to how we can win this struggle (The Message, emphasis and comments mine):
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.
This is just like the guy who emailed me… “I know God SAYS I’m spiritual, but I’m obviously not, because I keep sinning… I want to do good, but then I do the opposite. It’s the confusion that comes from us trying to understand a spiritual, divine matter, with our finite intelligence (the mind, a part of our soul) compounded by the fact that all of us have a different personality and world view.
So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
I like the fact that Paul once again makes the point that, YES, this struggle is here… and yes, we keep failing because we’re humans after all. But is the answer religion? Is the answer to have MORE of God’s commands to keep us on track… NO — Paul says, “I need something MORE”. Then he goes on to define the soul struggle more, and give the answer — the only thing that can keep us from sin.
21-23It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
Here’s the struggle defined clearly again. I, my soul, who I REALLY am delights in God’s commands. Delights in pleasing God, my relationship with Him… but it’s pretty obvious not ALL of me joins in that delight. I still have this flesh, this personality, this soul, that keeps rebelling against my true desire…
24I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
This is great. This is what writers have called, “the end of self”, “brokenness”, I called it “hitting rock bottom” in my book CHRIST THROUGH ME… The years of trying to be “a better Christian”… As Steve McVey says, the “motivation, condemnation, rededication cycle” that eventually leads to burn out and brokenness…
25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
And that’s the answer. Not our flesh, not our intelligence, not our “self-effort” or will, not our gritting of teeth… not our “buckling down and doing something for God”… none of that works. The Apostle Paul couldn’t make it work, and neither can we. Only Christ can win that soul battle.
So we’ve seen we are made in the image of God, three parts, Spirit, Soul and Body. Our Spirit is righteous… our soul is our personality, mind, will and emotions which battles our true nature of righteousness… and our Body is mortal. And we’ve seen the reason why we sin is because of this battle between the soul (called “Self” or “flesh”) and the spirit, who we really are.
This is the answer to, “If all Christians are Saints, why do we still sin?”
Also, you’ve seen that the answer to overcoming sin and actually living out who we REALLY are, is the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul continues in Romans, to tell how to do this… it’s by basically IGNORING our self-effort, and focusing instead on Christ, follow along here in Romans 8:5-14 (the message emphasis mine)…
5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
So the good news: your only job is NOT to live a righteous life, but to surrender to the life of Christ inside you to live it for you, through you, “co-laborers in Christ”.
The bad news: I think Christ is the only person who ever did this… let the Holy Spirit live through Him… moment-by-moment each day without ever slipping up.
All of us were born into sin… spent some time developing a set of habits, a personality that got our flesh needs met APART from God… before we received Christ’s life. So we still have those old “patterns” laying around. In my humble opinion, Christ had a unique connection to God from the very beginning so he always instinctively knew how to live out of the Spirit (I’m just guessing at this because of Bible stories like how He was hanging out in synagogues asking deep questions and whatnot at such a young age). Though that’s not to say He wasn’t fully human and didn’t suffer through the same temptations we did. He most certainly did. He just always chose correctly to live out of His spirit and not give in to those temptations.
I think I explained this well enough for a “just the facts ma’am”… any questions, comments, etc are welcome… just post em’ in the comments section.