Last week we began a new feature at Riverview that encourages members and attenders to engage the sermon content via email. If you have a question from a sermon or from a certain text that has been preached on, send your comment or question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Many times as a believer I have been confused as to whether Christians can and do sin. Do Christians still sin after they have been saved?
Yes. John states this rather clearly in 1 John 1.8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Christians still sin. And even if we could consciously eliminate all sin from our lives (which we can’t), we still deal with sins of omission – those sins that we commit and of which we aren’t even aware.
Furthermore, we have the testimony of scripture, and that of saints who have gone before us who simultaneously served God, yet sinned. Moses comes to mind, as does David. David struggled with sin long after he became king. And yet God described him as a man after his own heart (Acts 13.22). New Testament examples include Peter (Galatians 2.11-14), and even Paul (Romans 7.15).
The question is not “Do Christians sin?” but rather “How do Christians respond to their sin?” John would have us know that Christians who are following Jesus flee from their sin as soon as they recognize it, and not wallow in it or continue in it. This, John says, is a sign of true salvation.
2. Can a Christian walk in darkness for a prolonged period of time? That is, can they be in bondage to a particular sin and remain a Christian?
This is a tricky question that requires both a “yes” and “no” answer. In one sense, the Bible does not put a time limit on how long a person can be in sin, and then is revealed to not be a believer. So we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, need to be slow when leveling judgment against one another for sin. It may take some people a long time to realize their sin and come out of it. Additionally, as people grow in holiness, they may come to realize that some part of their life that has been normal for a long time is actually sinful. It can take Christians a long time to come out of these patterns that were regular parts of life before their conversion. And we, as their brothers and sisters, need to be quick to extend grace and mercy to them.
On the other hand, John clearly says that Christians – real believers – do not “walk” or live in sin. The main point here is that when a believer realizes he is in sin, he desires to get out of it as fast as possible, and move back to the light. In this sense, the answer to the question above is “No. Christians cannot walk in darkness for a prolonged period of time.” But the reason they can’t is that their regenerate heart won’t allow them to. A Christian who understands sin, righteousness, and holiness, has no desire to walk in darkness for any time, let alone a prolonged period. This is one reason why John says that it’s not possible to know Christ but walk in darkness. If you’re walking in darkness and you’re OK with it, there’s a good likelihood that you don’t know Christ.
3. To whom must I confess my sins? To God or others? Both?
The Catholic church views confession of sin as a sacrament. That is, a means of grace – that God gives grace to a believer through this action. When a believer sins, he or she is out of the grace of God, and confession regains God’s grace in his or her life.
As protestants, we reject this notion of confession, and the notion that sin separates us from God and his grace is regained through confession. Christians do not fall out of the grace of God because of sin, but are eternally secure in Christ.
The point John is trying to make in 1 John 1.9 is that confession of sin naturally flows out of a realization of sin. In other words, someone who doesn’t think they have sinned will not see a need for confession of sin. But Christians who know that they have sinned, and know that they need to be saved from their sin, will see that confession of sin is a natural part of the Christian life. This confession necessarily includes confession of sin to God – admitting our sinfulness to him and asking for his grace of forgiveness and power to pursue holiness and obedience. If someone doesn’t confess his or her sin, it’s probably because that person thinks he or she is innocent of sin. And if you think you’re innocent of sin, you’re not walking in the light.
Furthermore, James says that we are to confess our sins to one another, as sometimes certain sins may be causing physical or relational difficulties in our lives, the cause of which we may be blind (James 5.16). Confessing sins to one another helps us work through these issues, and puts a fresh set of eyes on the circumstances of our lives that can lead to difficulty. Other believers who care about us can help us see sin areas to which we are blind and need help. So, as James says, “Therefore, confess y our sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”