Is It Possible Not To Sin?
Is it possible not to sin? The surprising answer is yes.
Is It Possible Not To Sin?
Over the last three weeks, we’ve been exploring what to do when our conscience condemns us of sin in our lives. We differentiated between the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin and our conscious condemning us. Conviction comes with the opportunity to change. Condemnation is used by our enemy to convince us we are no good. (1 John 3:18-20)
We considered pre-conversion sin, how God wipes our sin slate clean when we ask for His gift of salvation through our faith in Christ. We acknowledge our sin, we believe Jesus made atonement for our sin, we committed ourselves to follow Jesus and asked God to accept our faith. God in His compassion and great mercy on the account of Jesus forgives every sin we committed. (1 John 2:2)
We learned that post-conversion sin can also be forgiven (1 John 1:9). We specifically focused on habits, attachments, and addictions and how the Holy Spirit battles for us to tear down these strongholds of behaviors that are inconsistent with discipleship (2 Corinthians 10:4). We know that it is the intent of the heart that matters so much if we are to leave the village of Feeling Bad and take up residence in the village of Feeling Good.
We discovered that shame is often the cause of many of our sinful behaviors. We all develop strategies to cover and hide our shame from others (Psalm 32:5). These behaviors keep us from the intimacy God wants us to develop with Him, with others, and with our very self. Toxic thoughts must be replaced with God’s truth about you and then that truth reinforced by allowing other believers to love you.
Sin is any thought or behavior or general disposition or attitude that results in relationships being deterred, damaged, or destroyed. Everything rises and falls on relationships. When relationships are good life is good. Right relationships are key to living your life to the full.
What I want to consider today is this question: is it possible not to willfully sin? Willfully sinning is knowing what is right, knowing what God requires, but refusing to do it. There are other categories of sin, there is involuntary sin which is an offense given without the intention of doing so (Leviticus 5:17). There is a category we can call infirmities, these are offenses given because we lack knowledge of a situation, or maybe we’re feeling ill and say something we would not have if we were on top of the game, again intent is missing in our transgression (Romans 8:26 KJV). Then as we have previously looked at besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1 KJV), those habits, attachments, and addictions that we need to overcome. Now it doesn’t matter if the sin was involuntary, or due to infirmity, or besetting sin, we are to seek forgiveness when the Holy Spirit reveals we have fallen short, make restitution in hopes of repair relationships and maintaining intimacy and ask God to forgive us of our transgressions. These types of sins are currently unavoidable in this side of eternity. The only human without sin was Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). So there is no such thing as sinless perfection.
But what about willful sin, again this is our refusal to do what God has revealed to us as being in accordance with His will. We make the choice to disobey. Is it possible not to commit willful sins?
The surprising answer to this question is yes. God’s grace is sufficient and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so great that when tempted you can choose not to sin (1 John 3:1-10).
In the Church of the Nazarene, our theological heritage is something called Wesleyan Arminianism. Jacobus Arminius was a Dutch theologian in the 16th century who had some ideas that differed from the popular teachings of John Calvin. Baptists, Presbyterians, Reformed congregations all look to John Calvin for their theological framework when it comes to understanding scripture. John Wesley was a Pastor in the 18th century who adopted many of Arminius’ ideas about God, free will and salvation. The doctrinal distinctive of the Church of the Nazarene comes from this Wesleyan Arminian heritage.
That distinctive doctrine is called second blessing holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1). It’s also called entire sanctification, a label I am not all the fond of because it’s rather confusing. Sanctification refers to the process in which we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus, we become more and more like Him as we follow Him. Put the word “entire” in front and it seems to indicate a completed work as if the transformation process is complete, and it doesn’t mean that so the term is misleading when you first read it. The first blessing God bestows is salvation through faith in Christ. The second is freedom from willful sin.
In the Nazarene articles of faith which state the beliefs of the church article 10 deals with this second work of grace. The first blessing is salvation in which you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The second blessing is holiness in which you are filled with the Holy Spirit.
When God first accepted your faith in Christ so many incredible things happened to you. Your pre-conversion sins were forgiven, you became spiritually alive, the Holy Spirit indwelled you, you were adopted into God's family and made an heir with Jesus. You were empowered to live a totally new life, one in accordance with God’s intent for you.
On our website, www.hbcc.life, under the articles tab, you will find The Normative Christian Experience. This article consists of a lot of stick figure illustrations highlighting the general path of a person’s spiritual formation, the general path of growing up in the faith. There is the stage called a Child-like faith. That’s the stage you are in when you first believed. The second stage is called an Adolescent-like faith (http://www.hbcc.life/2019/08/normative-christian-experience-map-2.html). This is the time when we really battle with the conditions of our hearts. Sometimes we are right where we want to be—obedient to God’s will and His way, we are lovers, being Christ to others. But then there are other times when that’s not the case. We are selfish, doing what we want when we want regardless of the consequences. When we find that we have sinned we feel conviction, we know what we did was wrong, we repent, make restitution, maybe even go so far as being penitent. We don’t want to fall into that “whatever it was” again that made us stumble off from God’s righteous path. But it seems every time our good intentions get hijacked. We find ourselves again behaving in ways that are inconsistent with discipleship. So this Adolescent-like faith is a spiritual roller coaster, where the ups are acts of obedience and the downs are acts of disobedience. You wonder
Why can’t I be the way God wants me to be, the way I want to be?”
Why can’t I be the way God wants me to be, the way I want to be?”
The reason you are having this difficulty is that the Holy Spirit within you is in conflict with your egoism (Galatians 5:17), what the Apostle Paul called the sin nature or sinful self. The egoism is the leaning to do what you want when you want regardless of the consequences. Even after conversion when you first believed, this stubborn rebel was dethroned from running your life but still remains to influence your life. So there is an internal conflict inside you going on. There is a saboteur that remains and still has enough power to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit within you. Your egoism, that old sin nature that once had total control of your life, still exerts enough power to hijack your best intentions.
Now you’re becoming miserable. You feel like a failure when it comes to being a lover, one who loves God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not to forget loving others with the same kind of love you show yourself. When the Holy Spirit reveals this predicament to you, you may even wonder if you have a right relationship with God at all (Romans 8:12-15). It is extremely frustrating. Though not addressing this issue and therefore taken out of context with the danger of being misapplied it’s like what the Apostle Paul described when he wrote about His inability to keep the law.
Romans 7:15 (NIV)
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
There is a great Hymn, an old song sung in the Church: Oh, For A Thousand Tongues To Sing, in which the fourth verse begins: “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free.” (Romans 6:1-2 & 18) I have understood this to describe what second blessing holiness is all about. Sin was canceled in the first blessing of conversion (Romans 6:6), there was dethronement of egoism in your heart, but the power of egoism remained, that power keeps tripping you up so you can’t carry out the intentions of your heart to live for God (Galatians 5:17 NLT). It is second blessing holiness that breaks that power (Galatians 2:20).
I think you will want answers to two questions. First, how do you position yourself so that God can do this second blessing in you? Second, what are the results of receiving this second blessing?
How do you position yourself to receive this second blessing gift from God?
First, the Holy Spirit needs to reveal to you the situation. You have to see it, acknowledge it, and quite frankly hate it (Psalm 139:23-24). You must desire to be done with this spiritual conflict caused by a divided heart, divided between two loyalties, the one to God and the one to self.
Second, there must be sincere remorse; remorse not because you continually are getting sabotaged by this inner traitor of egoism, but because you are hurting your relationship with God. To get overly sentimental, because you're breaking God’s heart by not obeying His commands (1 John 5:3) that you feel remorse. It’s the kind of sorrow and remorse one feels when they hurt their dearest loved one. So you repent. You decide you must change your ways, you decide the intent, the disposition of your heart needs to change.
Third, you consecrate yourself to God. Make a vow of dedication, to serve God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. What that means is that you firmly decide that nothing is more important than your relationship with God and hearing at the end of this life and the beginning of life everlasting: “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). Consecrate means you value your intimate relationship with God above all others. Nothing will draw you away from your now first love, everything and everyone else will now be secondary.
Fourth, you put faith in the scripture promise that God can give you what you want and that is to will one thing, to have an undivided heart. You may want to memorize the following scriptures:
Psalm 86:11 “…Give me an undivided heart to fear your name…”
Please note that fear in scripture often means to hold in high reverence, not cringe and run kind of fear. It describes giving God first place, honoring Him with your obedience.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 (NLT)
And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
God wants to give you an undivided heart. The division is because of the conflict between the Spirit and egoism. When you believe that what God wants to do and can accomplish His desires in you right now: Fifthly, you ask that God give you this gift that changes the intent of your heart and destroys the power of canceled sin so that you can live a devout and holy life.
Psalm 119:58 “I sought Your favor with all my heart: be gracious to me according to your word.
You position yourself to receive this gift of second blessing holiness by Acknowledging the problem, Repenting of this continual sidetracking, Consecrate yourself to God’s will and His way, Believing the promises of this glorious freedom, and asking God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. God is faithful and will honor your sincere request and egoism with its power hijack your best intentions will be broken.
The result of living in God’s second blessing is that sin can no longer hijack your best intentions. Now when temptation comes you have the power to choose your behavior. Whereas before so often you missed the mark, now you are free to exercise your will and choose to either surrender to the temptation or to stand firm in the power and might of the Holy Spirit. The intent of your heart is to obey and you now have the power to choose to do so in every circumstance of life.
Know this: you have not spiritually arrived. Instead, you have entered into an Adult-like faith. You are empowered to engage in mature spiritual issues. You will continue to be challenged, you will continue to be tempted, you will continue to deal with frustrations, yet this time you are empowered to choose your own actions. You continue to grow, you continue to be transformed in the likeness of Jesus who is the image of God. You are fully responsible for your choices. This is the freedom of second blessing holiness which is yours in Christ if you want it. If so position yourself to receive God’s gift.
Is it possible not to willfully sin? The answer is yes.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV)
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.