Why I struggle with sin every day, even though I am sure I got salvation?
To die to sin then means, first of all, to die to its legal or penal reign and, secondly, as a necessary result, to die to its dominion over us. … There is no such thing as salvation from sin’s penalty without an accompanying deliverance from sin’s dominion. This obviously does not mean we no longer sin, but that sin no longer reigns in our lives.
How did we die to sin? We have already noted that we died to sin through our union with Christ. Paul said in Romans 6:10 that Christ died to sin, and in verse 8 he said we died with Christ. That Christ died to sin is a rather startling but wonderful statement. Christ did not die to the dominion of sin, as He was never under it. However, when He was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21)–that is, when He was charged with our sin–He did come under its legal reign and was made subject to its penalty.
When Jesus died, He died to the legal reign of sin. Through our federal union with Him in His death, we, too, died to the legal reign of sin. But because the legal reign and the practical dominion of sin in our lives are inseparable, we died not only to its legal reign but also to its corrupting dominion over us. Hallelujah! What a Savior we have who was able to not only free us from sin’s penalty but also from its dominion.
The question arises, however, “If we died to sin’s dominion, why do we still struggle with sin in our daily lives?” When Paul wrote, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” he was referring, not to the activity of committing sins, but to continuing to live under the dominion of sin. The word live means to continue in or abide in. It connotes a settled course of life. To use Paul’s words from Romans 8:7, “The sinful mind [one under sin’s dominion] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” But the believer who has died to sin’s reign and dominion delights in God’s law. The believer approves of it as holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12), even though he or she may struggle to obey it.
We must distinguish between the activity of sin, which is true in all believers, and the dominion of sin, which is true of all unbelievers. Sinclair Ferguson has written, “Sin is not primarily an activity of man’s will so much as a captivity which man suffers, as an alien power grips his soul. It is an axiom for [John] Owen [whose teaching Ferguson is summarizing] that while the presence of sin can never be abolished in this life, nor the influence of sin altered (its tendency is always the same), its dominion can, indeed, must be destroyed if a man is to be a Christian.
Therefore a believer cannot continue in sin. We no longer live in the realm of sin, under its reign and practical dominion. We have, to use Paul’s words, died to sin. We indeed do sin and even our best deeds are stained with sin, but our attitude toward it is essentially different from that of an unbeliever. We succumb to temptations, either from our own evil desires (James 1:13), or from the world or the Devil (Ephesians 2:1-3), but this is different from a settled disposition. Further, to paraphrase from Ferguson on John Owen, our sin is a burden that afflicts us rather than a pleasure that delights us.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve raised a thorny problem. It involves controversial theological subjects like “eternal security” and the doctrine of election or predestination. It raises questions about the pros and cons of Calvinism and Arminianism. It touches upon the mysterious relationship between God’s sovereignty and human free will. Christians from different faith traditions don’t always agree about the best way to answer these questions. For this reason we tend to steer clear of them here at Focus on the Family. Nevertheless, we can see that you’re really struggling in this area. Rather than leave you dangling, we’re going to take a stab at addressing your concerns.
First, we recommend that you get some help from a real, flesh-and-blood human being. Look for a mature fellow believer, preferably a pastor, church elder, or qualified Christian counselor, who can come alongside you in a tangible way. This is probably the best advice we can offer without more detailed information. If the problem you’re dealing with involves a serious addiction of some kind, you may not be able to gain victory over it without psychological or medical treatment. That’s why you need to find someone with whom you can talk openly and honestly about your recurring temptations.
With this in mind, we want to invite you to contact our Counseling department. Our counselors are all licensed Christian therapists, and they would love to discuss your situation with you over the phone. They can also provide you with a list of qualified professionals practicing in your area.
That said, we’d like to add a few thoughts from a purely biblical and theological perspective. And the first thing we want to say is that every Christian in the world wrestles with sin every single day of his or her life. Even the apostle Paul complained, “The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:20). None of us is conformed to the image of Christ overnight. Sanctification is a moment-by-moment challenge. It’s a process that will not be complete until we leave this world and see the Lord face to face. In the meantime, our assignment is to trust God and keep on “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).
Because of the sin nature that dwells within us, there’s a very real sense in which we often sin against our own wills (Romans 7). But we shouldn’t take this idea too far. It’s equally true that every sin is a “willful sin.” If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be responsible. And if we’re not responsible for our own actions, a sin can’t be a sin at all. As James says, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14, 15).
This is an important point. Why? Because if every sin is a willful sin, it doesn’t make any sense to say that “willful sin” causes us to lose our salvation. The apostle John says something quite different: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9). Again, it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment process.
What about Hebrews 10:26-31? This is probably the passage your friend had in mind when he said that God will “reject” those who go on sinning willfully. There are many believers who share his point of view. But we’d suggest that it’s possible to look at this portion of Scripture from a different angle. As we see it, there’s good reason to suppose that the “willful sin” of verse 26 is the same as the “unpardonable sin” that Jesus mentions in Matthew 12:31. To be specific, it’s the sin of rejecting Christ altogether (otherwise known as “the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”).
We could also call this the sin of persistent self-hardening. It’s the process by which an individual sears his conscience and stiffens his neck against God. If it goes on long enough, the person eventually reaches the point where genuine repentance is an impossibility. The fact that you’re wrestling with doubts and fears about your standing with God leads us to suppose that you cannot be guilty of this sin. If you were, you wouldn’t be concerned about it.
If our assumptions are correct, it’s possible to argue that Hebrews 10:26-31 doesn’t refer to struggling Christians like yourself at all. This passage may be aimed at hardened, bitter people who only seem to be Christians.
Look at it this way. If an individual insists on living an unchristian life even after “receiving the knowledge of the truth,” we might be led to suspect that he never really accepted Christ in the first place. If he willfully persists in committing the same sin over and over again without remorse and without showing any evidence of a genuine desire to change, we would have every reason to doubt the sincerity of his faith. Such a person is like the demons mentioned in James 2:19: they “believe” the truth but refuse to grant it their personal allegiance. In a case like this, it is absolutely true to say that “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” since Jesus Himself is that sacrifice. “But we are confident of better things concerning you” (Hebrews 6:9)
When we first repented to God and received Jesus Christ as our Savior, we were forgiven of all our sins. What peace flooded our hearts! And God’s Word assures us that our salvation is for all eternity and can never be undone.
But although we’re saved, we know from our personal experience we’re not immune to sin. We still sin after salvation, despite our good intentions and efforts to avoid failure. What should we do when we sin after being saved? The Word of God tells us that we should confess our sins to the Lord.
Confessing to God the sins that we commit after we’re saved is absolutely critical for our life as a Christian. In this post, we’ll cover why we need to confess our sins, what it means to confess, how to confess, and the results of confessing.
Why we need to confess—sin breaks our fellowship with the Lord
Our God is a God of love, but He is also holy and righteous. God cannot tolerate sin, so the sins we commit create a barrier between Him and us and interrupts our fellowship with Him.
Even in our human relationships, we can see how this can be. Let’s say you offend your friend by saying something hurtful, and you never apologize. You both feel a rift between you, but until you clear the air by apologizing, you simply can’t be at ease in each other’s presence.
This is even truer in our relationship with the Lord. When we commit a sin, our conscience lets us know we’ve offended the Lord. The ease and sweetness of our relationship is broken. We’ve trespassed against Him, and that sin is now a barrier between us, disrupting our fellowship with the Lord.
So the reason we need to confess our sins to the Lord is because, though our salvation is unchangeable, our sins break our fellowship with the Lord.
Now, this poses a problem for many people. On the one hand we have the born again soul that wants to do good, and on the other we have the flesh which wants to sin. Are we schizophrenic? Does this mean we are double minded?
Paul said, in Galatians, that the two are at war with each other. So we can not do what we really want to do. We are “stuck” between the mind of the flesh and the mind of the spirit. Yes, the flesh has a mind of its own.
Romans 7:15, 18-19, and 21-24
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Wow, it looks like Paul was having a hard time. In case anyone thinks he is talking about a time before he became a Christian I encourage you to take note that he is speaking in the present tense. Paul is CURRENTLY dealing with this issue even after being born again.
Also, take note that Paul is saying that he does evil! He, a born again Christian, does evil! How can this be?! If Paul was truly born again and walking with God then doesn’t that mean he would never sin?
1 John 3:8-10
6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
OK, surely there is something we are missing here! If Paul does evil then he can not be born of God, according to these scriptures. But, ALL men sin, including Christians. Paul says this himself in Romans. We also see this in other scriptures throughout the Bible. It certainly sounds like being double minded. But, it isn’t!
The simple fact of the matter is that even though we are born again in the spirit, we still have to deal with the desires of the flesh.
Paul came to the end of Romans 1-5 with the most radical emphasis possible on justification by grace through faith, apart from works of the law. He taught (in Romans 5:18) that “as through one transgression [of Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [of Christ] there resulted justification of life to all men.” In other words, our union with Adam brought us condemnation because of his disobedience; and our union with Christ brings us justification because of his obedience. This is extreme grace: Christ’s obedience, not ours, is the ground of our justification. God reckons us righteous, and accepts us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness (Titus 3:5), but because of deeds done by Christ in righteousness (Romans 5:18). The whole point of bringing Adam into the picture here at the end of Romans 1-5 is to make this radically gracious way of justification dangerously clear. We are condemned in Adam as his sin is credited to us; we are justified in Christ as his righteousness is credited to us.
Now what? Why do I say that this teaching about Adam and Christ makes justification by grace “dangerously” clear? Because of what people may do with it – the way they may distort it, the way they draw implications from it that seem right, but are dead wrong. Paul knows the way his radical teaching on justification by grace through faith apart from works (Romans 3:28) is most often distorted. So he brings it up.
He plays his own worst adversary in Romans 6:1. He has just said in Romans 5:20, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Now he asks, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Here is the great objection to justification by grace through faith apart from works of the law. It seems to open the door to rampant sinning. In fact, it seems to invite more sinning because if grace is God’s act to forgive and accept sinners on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, not ours, then would not that grace shine all the brighter if we kept on sinning? The more sin there is, the more forgiveness there is. And the more sinning there is, the greater must be the righteousness of Christ to compensate for it. So doesn’t Paul’s radical teaching on justification open the door to careless living and indifference to holiness?
That is the question Romans 6 (indeed 6-8) is meant to answer. Here is his answer: Verse 2: “May it never be!”