No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3, verse 6 .
Awhile back, I had an online discussion with some people who said we are no longer sinners. Their contention was that, once we are redeemed by Christ, our very nature is changed. They said that everything about us changes when Christ converts our hearts. It’s as if we no longer have a taste for a food we used to enjoy, and so we are no longer sinners from that point on. I don’t know what their basis for that statement was, but I suspect it could have come from this verse.
There’s something incomplete with that concept, though, because we are sinners and we do keep on sinning even as our spiritual nature has been changed. During our discussion, I said that, if you even think an impure thought, you’re in sin. Sin is in our nature as human beings just as blood is in our bodies. It’s why we constantly need to grasp the forgiveness of Christ. Christ didn’t need to redeem sinless people, but sinners very much need Him throughout the rest of our flawed lives.
Here’s the kicker: both positions are correct.
Both are correct because Christ changes our very nature once we get to know Him. When He crashes into our lives, He looks to change everything about us from our inmost thoughts to our most disturbing behaviors. Whatever keeps us from living fully through Him, Jesus looks to break away and restore us to living purely. When we cling to Him, nothing, not even the most delicious pet sins of our past, can rip us away. It’s as if we lose taste for a bad food we used to enjoy.
What we can do is renounce Him, reject what He does in favor of our own choices. God allows us 100% free choice in all facets of our lives. I think that’s why the second part of the verse says what it does, because it’s possible to experience Christ and still return to sin, or indeed to never really leave it. Don’t believe me? Think Judas Iscariot, who was in Jesus’ inner circle and yet betrayed Him.
Sin will always tempt us, and God doesn’t promise that we will be removed from those temptations either. Indeed, when the Lord’s Prayer says “lead us not into temptation,” it’s for good reason (and those words came from Christ Himself). Just because He changes our inclination doesn’t mean He changes everything around us. How we stand up for Him and live in Him matters even more with every decision we make.
Lord, I’m a sinner who You made sinless. You cleaned me up even as I bear the scars of my dirt. Strengthen and help me to remain in You, to grow in You, and to share You with my friends who need You too.