If you’ve read I Can’t Help It! then you know that many Christians believe the myth that a sinless character is impossible to attain. It’s definitely easier, less stressful, and more convenient to believe that. But that’s the case with all low expectations. Although this is hardest goal you could hope to achieve, I hope that you’ll: 1) appreciate that it’s biblical, 2) be inspired to pursue it.
Jesus Is Our Example
Even though it’s difficult for us to comprehend how Jesus could simultaneously be fully God and fully man, to assume otherwise would mean that victory over sin is impossible. In other words, Jesus’ accomplishments would have been based on the fact that He was special. He wasn’t really like us because His divinity gave Him an unfair advantage. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. More importantly, if Jesus couldn’t do it without ‘cheating’ then there’s no hope for the rest of us!
- Jesus was born with sinful flesh
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:3)
“But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)
- Jesus did not sin
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
If Jesus was able to live a sinless life in sinful flesh, then that gives us hope!
Sinlessness is Attainable
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” – people often use this saying to illustrate the importance of understanding the process, not just the outcome. It would be pointless for Jesus to have lived a sinless life (and thus qualify to die for our sins), but fail to teach us how to do the same. He died for us whilst we were sinners (Romans 5:8), but it was never His intention for us to stay that way. Christ modelled the key to victory over sin: obedience to God.
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
Christ desperately wanted to get out of dying on the cross because He knew that it would mean separation from God. Even though he had the option of going against God’s will, to do so would have been sinful.
“It is written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10)
In this passage Jesus responds to each of the Devil’s temptations with scripture.
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:6-9, NKJV)
The versions below help to clarify the meaning of “does not”/”cannot” sin.
“No one who abides in Him [who remains united in fellowship with Him—deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin…. The one who practices sin [separating himself from God, and offending Him by acts of disobedience, indifference, or rebellion] is of the devil [and takes his inner character and moral values from him, not God]…. No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, because God’s seed [His principle of life, the essence of His righteous character] remains [permanently] in him [who is born again—who is reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose]; and he [who is born again] cannot habitually [live a life characterised by] sin, because he is born of God and longs to please Him.” (AMP)
“Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is… When people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning…. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.” (NLT)
Hopefully you can see that this passage is not saying that your ability to sin somehow vanishes, as that would remove your free will and make you a robot (albeit a good one). Rather, it is suggesting that your desire to sin decreases as a result of your obedience to God.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless….” (Jude 1:24, NKJV)
This verse is very clear in terms of God’s intentions. The only thing in question is your belief in His ability to perform.
To prevent Himself from sinning, Jesus demonstrated the utmost reliance and obedience to God. Likewise, if we follow His example we can also live a sinless life.
- Temptation is not sin
In the examples above Jesus shows us how temptations should be handled: with prayer and scripture. If you find yourself struggling to overcome a particular sin, try to encourage yourself with scripture. Lately, I’ve found that scripture songs* have really helped me.
See: Ephesians 4:26; Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 5:8
- Sinlessness is intentional
If you really want to experience victory over sin, you have to avoid it at all costs. When I reflect on sins that I have committed knowingly, I can always see exactly how I ended up in that situation.
See: Romans 7:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; James 1:13-14, 4:7-8
- Consistency is imperative
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve felt like I’m going in cycles of the same sins (another one of my favourite Jonathan McReynolds songs)… but does that stop me from trying to stop? No! Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Therefore, I will continue to strive for the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).
See: Proverbs 13:4, 24:16; 1 Corinthians 9:27
Don’t settle for a life of habitual sins because you’ve resigned yourself to the idea that that’s how it will always be. Just because that’s how it has always been, doesn’t mean that’s how it will always be. God is always ready to forgive (Psalm 103:11-14; 1 John 1:9), but don’t use this as an excuse to keep sinning.
* ‘Create in Me’, ‘Tug of War’, and ‘Is It Possible?’ from Scripture Says are amazing scripture songs that encapsulate this blog post perfectly. Their albums are on constant replay! Make sure you have a listen when you can