Have you ever heard statements like: ‘if he is a Christian then I don’t want to be one’ or ‘why do they do that if they are Christian’? Or you may have heard nice-sounding statements like ‘Christians are not perfect just forgiven’ or ‘Christians are only human’.
The Bible provides clarity: so you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus1. We are no longer under the law but under grace2, and must not continue to sin.
Under the Old Testament covenant mankind failed to stop sinning because they were weak through the flesh3. But in the New Testament this has changed. The problem that some so-called ‘Christian’ teachings face when confronted with the Bible directive to cease from sin is that the ability to carry this out has been denied.
If we take Australia as an example, in 2001 68 per cent of the Australian population called themselves Christian. This means that as Bible believers we should expect at least 68 per cent of the Australian population to have ceased from sin. Otherwise, if Christians are not to continue sinning then how has being weak through the flesh changed under the New Testament?
The answer lies in the difference between a nominal ‘Christian’ identification and the complete experience described in the Bible. The Bible anointing of someone as a Christian4 occurs at the receiving of the Holy Spirit5, the experience Jesus said would bring power6 to the receiver.
The Bible-defined Christian has received the Holy Spirit with the accompanying power and capability to mortify (bring into subjection) the deeds of the flesh7 and cease from sin. The power of the Holy Spirit is tangible to a Spirit-filled person (Christian). Without the Holy Spirit one remains subject to the weakness of the flesh or natural ability. It is no wonder that Christ demonstrated His love for mankind by providing access to and emphasising the importance of receiving the Holy Spirit.
It is important as a Christian not to disappoint people and fail God by continuing to sin or by explaining away the need to receive the Holy Spirit. It is wrong to promote a New Testament philosophy that does not make available to people the Holy Spirit and accompanying power to live righteously. As Christians, God’s ways are to be in our mind and be our intent8.
It is up to us to desire righteousness. Christians have been given the ability to follow the righteous example of Christ so that others can see the effect of the Holy Spirit working in their lives9. This means that Christians should have, and continue in, a real relationship with God.
Having the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them, Christians can consider the decisions they need to make and have their thoughts established by God10. As they recognise that sin has no dominion over them and pursue God’s way they find that they can show a consistent righteous example to others by the power of the Holy Spirit within them.
It is exciting and comforting to realise that we are not expected to not sin by our own ability. Rather Christ has provided the strength and power to live righteously through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is encouraging to understand that we have access to the One who is able to keep each and every one of us from falling and to present us faultless at his return11.
Modified from an article first appearing in the Voice of Revival, March 2003
[ 1] Romans 6:11 ESV
[ 2] Romans 6:14
[ 3] Romans 8:1-4
[ 4] 1 John 2:27
[ 5] Acts 2:4
[ 6] Acts 1:8
[ 7] Romans 8:13
[ 8] Hebrews 8:10
[ 9] 1 Peter 2:15-21
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