Most testimonies that you hear go like this, “Before Jesus, I was x, y, and z. I struggled with a, b, and c. Then Jesus saved me, and now I’m no longer x, y, and z. I no longer struggle with a, b, and c.” When I hear testimonies like this, I’m thankful that Jesus saved this person, however, I also get discouraged. When people say that they no longer struggle with those certain sins, sins they struggled with before Jesus, I get confused. I really do believe that Jesus washes us white as snow when He saves us and I believe that when we are saved, sin no longer has dominion over us. I believe that God takes the heart of stone, and gives us a heart of flesh. I believe that we are new creations in Christ. However, just because all of these things take place, does not mean sin goes away. Even though I have a new heart, I still live in my sinful, fleshly body.
Paul, in Romans 7, says this: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (v. 15) A few verses later he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (v. 18-19) Even though Paul is a new creation, and has been saved, sin still lingers. Many people argue whether this section of Scripture that Paul wrote was before his conversion or if he was writing in the present tense. Read it for yourself, I believe and many others believe that Paul wrote this section as his current situation, not before his conversion. Maybe even the sins he struggled with before being converted were the same ones he struggled with after being converted. Paul gives us our only hope at the end of chapter 7, “Wretched man that I AM! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 24-25a)
Before I continue on, I want to make something clear. I am not saying that just because sin will be with us until we die, that that gives us a license to do whatever we want to do. I believe that we should strive for holiness, and obey God’s Word. I am not saying to continue in sin like it is no big deal. Like Paul says in Romans 6, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (v. 1) What I am saying is that we need to have a realistic understanding of our nature, and not to believe that once we are saved, then we will no longer sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…….If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8,10) Martin Luther called Christians, “simultaneously saint and sinner”. Luther also added this, “The saints are sinners, too, but they are forgiven and absolved.”
As Christians, in the fallen world we live in, will continue to have some type of sin in our life, until the day we die and are glorified with Christ. In our life here on earth, the Holy Spirit does something in us to make us more like Christ. What the Holy Spirit does is called sanctification. An article from my study bible says this about sanctification, “It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to make us saints. He consecrates us. The Holy Spirit fulfills the role of the sanctifier. To be sanctified is to be made holy, or righteous. Sanctification is a process that begins the moment we become Christians. The process continues until death when the believer is made finally, fully, and forevermore righteous.” Paul says this in his letter to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring is to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:6) Sanctification is a cooperative thing we do with the Holy Spirit. Just to be clear again, I believe before we start the sanctification process, we first must be regenerated by God and then come to faith, which is a gift from God. Regeneration and faith are given and done by God, we do not play a part in that. Sanctification is a process that will take our whole life, we will not achieve perfection in this life. However, with the Holy Spirit working in us and us obeying, we will be made more and more like Christ every day. Paul says this later in Philippians, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (2:12-13)
Maybe testimonies should go like this, “Before Jesus, I was x, y, and z. I struggled with a, b, and c. Then Jesus found me and saved me. After Jesus, I hate my sin. But, just because I hate my sin, does not mean my sin will go away. I will still have sin in my life. I will still have struggles in my life because of my actions before Jesus. But thanks be to Jesus Christ who saved my wretched soul. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit who is helping me with my sanctification. And thanks be to God who began a good work in me and will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ. So I will continue to confess and repent of my sins, knowing that God is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins.” ( 1 John 1:9)