When a person genuinely trusts in Jesus Christ as his Savior, he becomes a child of God (John 1:12). The Holy Spirit regenerates his life and he becomes a new spiritual creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He is baptized (identified) into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). If that is true, then why does he still sin? Why can’t he just do things right?
Those are legitimate questions. God has a plan that is sometimes difficult to understand, but you can study what Scripture says and accept by faith what God has planned to happen. Sometimes, it is helpful to back up a few steps and then get a running start. It is helpful to go back to the moment you were physically born.
When you were physically born, you were born physically alive, but spiritually dead. You have physical life, evidenced by breathing and crying, but you were also spiritually dead, that is, you were separated from God. Paul described the person spiritually, before salvation. He wrote regarding the unregenerate person,
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph. 2:1-3 NKJ)
The reason, you were dead in your “trespasses and sins,” was because you had a sin nature. A sin nature is something you inherited from Adam and comes through your father. Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—“ (Rom. 5:12 NKJ) That is why Jesus did not have a sin nature; he did not have a physical father.
When you are born again, you still have that sin nature. The apostle Paul was one of the wisest and most mature men in Christendom, yet he struggled with his sin nature. He declared,
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.
16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Rom. 7:15-19 NKJ)
And he added,
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 will deliver me from this body of death?
25 I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom. 7:23-25 NKJ)
If Paul struggled with his sin nature, you will too. Every Christian does, whether they admit it or not and whether they are humbly submitted to the Lord or not.
While you are physically alive, you will struggle with your sin nature. As long as you are alive, you will battle with your sin nature and likely cry out like Paul, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” At the point of death, God gives you a new resurrection body, which does not have a sin nature. Paul wrote,
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:1-8 NKJ)
The new resurrection body or “building from God” is sin–free, because it is not made or derived by humans. God gave “us the Spirit as a guarantee” that one day Christians would be free from sin. It just will not be true until after death.
When you are tempted by sin, you must not let it rule your flesh. God instructed Cain on this in Genesis four. When God accepted (or respected) Abel’s blood offering, but did not accept Cain’s non-blood offering, Cain was upset. He grumbled in his heart and was mad that God would not accept his offering. As he kept ruminating on it, he became angrier and angrier. God told Cain,
6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it. (Gen. 4:6-7 NKJ)
God warned Cain he must rule his sin. Cain found out very quickly that he could not. Instead, he took matters into his own hands and got rid of the competition, ‘Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” (Gen. 4:8 NKJ) So instead of humbling himself and depending on God for strength to do the right thing, he killed his brother. After all, if there is no little brother, then surely God has to accept him! The presence of sin is no excuse for sin. God attempted to teach Cain that Cain could not control sin, but he must humbly submit to God and by dependence on God’s power, he could control sin. There is no other way.
While you are alive, you must grow spiritually to learn how to control sin. Spiritual growth is called sanctification. Sanctification refers to the process of being set apart for God’s purposes in Christian maturity according to God’s Word. It is related to the word holiness. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17 NKJ). In fact, Paul wrote,
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given1 us His Holy Spirit. (1 Thes. 4:3-8 NKJ)
Christians can encourage each other in sanctification. Paul wrote, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (Rom. 15:14 NKJ) Admonish, here, means to “put into the mind.” Christians can help put God’s Word into each other’s mind to help them become separated for God’s purposes.
Why do you still sin? You were born with a sin nature and you will have that sin nature until God gives you a new resurrection body. Your goal is to be focused on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith in dependency on the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are, then you will not sin. When you sin, you took your eyes off Jesus and were not dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit. Confess your sin and depend again on the Holy Spirit to lead you.