FAITH AND SIN
By Michael McPherson
God in you. You in God
Imagine a leaf that grows from a branch of a tree. The leaf receives life giving water and nutrients from the trunk and roots of the tree. Therefore, the life force of the tree is “in the leaf.” The leaf, by its stem, is attached to the tree so the leaf is also “in the tree,” it is part of the tree. There are many leaves in the tree, all of different shapes and sizes. But in all the leaves is the same flow that comes from the roots of the tree.
In the same manner, the life-giving Spirit of Christ is in the born-again believer. This same Spirit is in all true believers. The believer, through faith, is in Christ, he is connected to the true vine. (John 15:1). Faith is the stem, so to speak, that connects the believer to Christ. Without faith the believer would fall away from Christ, like a leaf whose stem was separated from the vine.
Growth in faith
Just as a leaf grows when nourished from the tree, so is the life of a believer. However, if you tied a string tightly around the stem of the leaf, you would block the flow of life to that leaf.
For every believer there are obstacles which hinder or slow their growth in faith. These hindrances prevent fruit from blossoming in the believer. And the greatest hindrance is sin.
The snare (trap) of sin
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Once saved, the believer can easily be ensnared in sin. Sin abounds in his flesh, around every corner and in every aspect of life on earth. Sin encircles the believer who desperately seeks to advance and run the race of faith set before him.
When the believer was saved the seed of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, was placed in him. However, it was a seed, thus we were children, infants in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1) Our faith was weak; it had the strength of an infant and not the strength of an adult.
Sin comes from the heart
To become strong in faith, the believer had to do something. Not only did he have to grow in knowledge of Christ, and experience trials to learn trust in God, he had to purify himself. (James 4:8, Isaiah 1:16) Purification in the New Testament never means fasting, abstaining from alcohol, sex, smoking, or whipping the body (as some religions do). For the Lord stated what defiles a man is what comes from his heart. (Matthew 15:18) The believer was commanded to eschew bitterness, anger, prejudice, hate, envy, condemnation, disdain, pride, conceit, cheating, covetousness, and selfish ambition.
When the believer was born-again, all these lusts of the flesh (the desires of the sin nature), lusts of the eye (covetousness) and pride of life (self-centeredness) did not automatically go away - they lingered in the body.
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 7:18
Sin in the Church
The person who harbored prejudice in his heart, now used the Bible to condemn others. The person who was covetous now used religion to seek profit. The person with pride in his heart now sought position and recognition in the church. The man who was selfish or had worldly ambitions sought God for blessings.
You did not easily forgive as you had been forgiven. You did not love your enemies and forgo bitterness and resentment. You resented some in the church, were suspicious of your brethren, and engaged in division without compromise.
Free will, but not free to live in sin
After receiving the salvation of the Lord and the Spirit of Christ, every believer still has free will. While he has free will he is not free, however, to live in sin; for the Lord has decreed you will be holy. Therefore, the Lord disciplines all those in the household of God. (Revelation 3:19)
I know when I first came to the Lord, my heart was tender and I was engulfed in the love of God. Almost every week for 12 months I was in tears as the revelation of God and his love flooded my heart. Yet, I was still covetous and pursued gain. I sought to take the knowledge of God as a platform to satisfy my greed. I did not trust in the Lord to satisfy all my needs.
The Lord in one way or another declared he would rip this sin out of me. I either would come to trust him or he would lay me low until I had no other option but to give up my sins.
God hates sin
The Lord hates sin. Let me repeat this, the Lord God hates sin; whether it comes from a born-again believer or the vilest sinner. (Proverbs 8:6, Ezekiel 18:20) The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ had to go to the cross is a demonstration of how much God hates sin. For nothing could have atoned for your sin and my sin except Jesus Christ on the cross.
Call to holiness
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15)
Thus, the call to holiness and for purification is call to something and a call from something. It is a call to grow-up into Christ, to bear the likeness of the Son of God. And a call to rid yourself of sin which encircles and so easily hinders you from abiding in Christ.
To accomplish this purpose the Lord said he will chastise those he loves. He will burn the desire and inclination to sin from your life, even if means breaking every bone in your body and taking away everything you treasure which is not of God.
Those who profess Christ and are not put through the refining fire of God are not his. They are illegitimate professors of faith, for the Lord will not touch or discipline the children of the Devil.
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines (as in to instruct and train a child so he reaches his full development) the one he loves, and chastises (severely punishes or disciplines – as one who is strapped to a pole and flogged with a whip) every son whom he receives (accepts as his child – a genuine believer in Christ).”
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:5-8)
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Discipline leads to holiness
As a result of holiness and increasing knowledge of God, we conform to the image of Christ and grow in the faith. And that faith, as we have said, must be perfected or strengthened to draw on the full power of the Spirit. In other words, weak faith does not fully avail itself of the Spirit, and the Spirit cannot fully empower those weak in the faith.
The Scriptures never state the sin nature of man is eliminated when we are regenerated or born again. The Scriptures state that sin will no longer have dominion over the believer. (Romans 6:14) In other words, there will be ongoing battles. Battles between the new man led by the Spirit, and the old man born of the Devil. (See Adam & Eve in Book section of LLG website)
However, the believer now has the power within to overcome sin, the Devil and the world. And it is faith in Christ, faith that is perfected (mature and complete), which gains victory for the believer. Thus, the one who is faithful simply calls on the Lord to lead him away from temptation and to deliver him from evil. Then he stands and is still, awaiting the Lord – your refuge, shelter and stronghold. (Psalm 46:10, 62:8)