The Biblical Response of a Believer to Sin

Does it matter whether or not someone who considers himself a believer deals with sin his life? What should we think of someone who considers himself to be a Christian but has a flippant attitude toward his own personal sin? How should believers respond to sin in their lives?

John wrote his first epistle with a definite purpose in view—“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). John wanted the believers he addressed to have a strong assurance of their salvation in Jesus Christ. This controlling purpose was motivated by false teaching that attacked the foundations of Christianity (cf. 2:26). Without fundamental Christian doctrine there can be no salvation and no assurance of eternal life. John deals with such false teaching throughout his letter so that the recipients would be able to experience the joys of salvation in Christ (1:4) and assurance of salvation (5:13).

The wrong doctrine and practices that the false teachers were promoting included:

  • Some form of perfectionism, 1:8, 10
  • Disobedience to the Word and a resultant sinful lifestyle, 2:4; 3:4-10
  • No love for brothers in Christ, 2:9, 11
  • Avoiding assembling with believers, 2:19
  • Believing that Jesus was not the Christ, 2:22-23
  • Believing that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh, 4:2

Our opinion regarding those who refuse to deal with sin in their lives should be formed and guided by Scripture—not their profession, personality, or our relationship with them. In this letter John addresses a situation among believers where there were those who refused to deal with sin in their lives. What does John say about this?

First, John says that the proof of salvation is a holy life“God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:5-7).

The only standard by which we are measured is our holy God. God’s nature and character are absolutely pure, completely free from any stain of sin—He is “Light.”

Those whose lives are characterized (defined) by sin are not truly saved—Christ has not cleansed their sin for they refuse to repent of it. Those who are truly God’s children will live lives that are characterized (defined) by their Father’s holiness—their lives are lived in the sphere of God’s holiness (2:3-4; 3:4-10).

Furthermore, true believers who live in this sphere will seek and enjoy fellowship with others in that same sphere. There is a like-mindedness among believers—they enjoy the things of the Lord, and want to be with others who desire the same.

False teachers would never agree that their lives were characterized by sinfulness—they would claim that they were living godly lives and were true believers, all the while practicing deeds of darkness. They sound mixed up and deceived!

Second, John says that to deny personal sin is to be without salvation“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1:8-10).

True believers don’t respond to their own sin by ignoring or denying it; instead, they confess it to God, admitting and forsaking it.

Those who ignore and deny sin do not have their sin cleansed; those who admit and forsake their sin are continually cleansed by Christ.

When someone denies their own sin they are lying to themselves and setting themselves up to fall into greater, more grievous sin that will in turn be denied, resulting in further self-deception. Those who claim to be Christians but whose lives bear no resemblance to Christ’s are mixed up and deceived! In fact, they deceive themselves (1:8)!

The fact of the matter is that denying personal sin is proof that God’s truth has not been accepted (“the truth is not in us”), for the proper response to God’s truth is repentance from everything that is false. That which is true and false cannot coexist together.

To deny personal sin while maintaining to be a Christian turns God into a liar (v. 10), for God’s message is that he sent his Son to die for man’s sin. To call oneself a Christian and deny one has sin is to call God a liar, for He has said that all men are sinners.

The real evidence someone is a believer is continual, life-long response to sin with confession—having God’s opinion and reaction toward sin. The one whose life is characterized by such habitual turning from sin shows himself to be a genuine believer, one whose sins are cleansed through Christ’s blood.

When the Lord makes a believer aware of sin in his life, the response that genuine believer will have toward that sin is repentance, confession, admission, and forsaking it.

How does God make you aware of sin in your life? The Spirit convicts you of such through the Word. As you are brought face to face with Who God is and how He wants you to live, if you are a believer the Holy Spirit will help you see such sin and agree with Him about it’s true character.

How are you responding to sin in your life now?

Study these other passages on how true believers respond to sin in their lives: Psa 32:3-5; 38:18; Prov 28:13

Pastor Greenfield preached this message Wednesday evening, March 28, 2007

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