If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:10
For centuries the debate has raged as to whether Jesus was "able to not sin, or not able to sin." This is the "Impeccability of Christ" debate. Theologians tend to come down on the latter side, but this is a debate whose winner will not be known until we all get to heaven. But what about us? Well, we don't even have this debate about us for we know our proclivity.
When we come to faith in Christ, we understand (and rightly so) that not only are we freed from the penalty due us for our sins (Christ having born in his body that penalty for us), but we are free from the reign and rule of sin. In Romans chapter 6 the apostle Paul addresses this suggesting that should consider ourselves now "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (v.11). Our own experience – and I have yet to run into someone who has not had this same experience – is that sin(s) tends to hang on to us…plague us…bother us…pull us back and pull us down. It is for this reason that when Bible readers get to Romans chapter 7 and there read about an inner conflict brought on by doing the things we don't want to do and not doing the things we should, there is an almost universal "Amen! I know what THAT is about!"
So is sin really still our destiny? Did Jesus die to save us but, in fact, leave us to battle and seemingly never really find victory in this life? I don't believe so.
In his book, Grace Awakening, author and pastor Charles Swindoll bemoans how often people are brought to an understanding and embracing of the gospel of Jesus Christ but then almost immediately warned that they are still going to sin. So they are told that when they sin they will need to find some comfort in 1 John 1:9 ("If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.") But then Swindoll adds the most strange comment. Suggesting that the above warning and advice misses the mark he suggests a more encouraging word to the new believer, something like this…
"You know what? You no longer have to serve sin. You can actually live several days without it, perhaps a week or more…" (p. 134, Grace Awakening). I thought when I read that, "Even that doesn't sound very encouraging. Is that the word of encouragement I would say to a drunk? 'Oh, come to Christ, and then you may be able to go several days…perhaps a week or more without getting drunk'? That is to say, it is as if Swindoll, in rightly trying to sound more encouraging than what most people hear upon conversion, still gives the repentant sinner little hope for a sin free life.
Jesus said that he came to set people FREE, not almost free. I believe we need to stop selling the power of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit short by suggesting that they while they offer hope they are not really a cure.
Am I advocating "sinless perfection"? Not in the way that people often use it. But with John Wesley, I believe we SHOULD be able to lie down upon our beds at night and honestly, and before God, in review of the previous day say, "God, thank you for keeping me from any blatant sin." Any pride that might come with such a successful day is, of course, itself sin. So I don't see any of us being totally free from sin's reach. But I do believe we can and should be walking in victory. God's Holy Spirit can lead us in that way. Let us walk in His way!