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Practicing Sin or Righteousness?

Bruce Cooper

If someone were to ask me what I considered as one of the most misunderstood aspects of following Jesus, my answer would have to include how we view and deal with our sin nature that still resides within us. And if perchance, there are some who would deny that we who believe and trust in Jesus, still have a sin nature, I would draw your attention to 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 NASB, which reads as follows: “Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I am telling you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Emphasis is mine. And why are we perishable and mortal while in these bodies of flesh and blood? Because the sin that resides within us is still present, but the spiritual consequences of sin (condemnation) has been dealt with by Jesus, on the cross. Because Jesus lives, we also shall live. We are now justified (while in these bodies of flesh and blood) in the sight of God our Father, because our justification is in our faith and trust in what Jesus accomplished for us on our behalf, in accordance with God the Father’s will.

However, the question still remains, what in the interim, takes place within us when we are born again and God’s Holy Spirit inhabits our spirit

I would put forward that the following Scripture verse (among others), comes into play.

1 John 3:7-9 NASB reads as follows:
“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God.” Emphasis is mine.

The ESV puts is this way: “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

The Greek word for practises is ποιῶν (poiōn)
Verb – Present Participle Active – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4160: (a) I make, manufacture, construct, (b) I do, act, cause. Apparently a prolonged form of an obsolete primary; to make or do.

Typically we hear this articulated as habitual sin, that which an individual consistently does or practises. Prior to becoming Christians (born again), we collectively followed the desires and objectives of our sinful nature. I could go into examples but I’m pretty sure you know full well what some of those desires and objectives were. And, I am also sure you recognize that this sinful nature not only included what we did but also what we thought. The essence of our being was focused on fulfilling our own will and our own desires.

But when we become born again, the essence of our hearts change and those things that used to control us and attract us, lose their power and we progressively are drawn towards following the will of God, versus our own will and fulfilling His desires versus our own. This is the sanctification process where we are progressively changed into His image. I am of the opinion that this process never stops while we are here in these bodies of flesh and blood and our completion in Jesus is only realized when we see Jesus face to face. “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

But how does this relate to what we practise?

Notice the direction of the arrows in the picture above. Following our own sinful nature takes us away from God, while abandoning our previous sinful nature takes us closer to God. We cannot go in both directions consistently at the same time. We can indeed try, but it will not work.  Sooner or later, if we are truly desiring to follow Jesus, we will, of necessity, become more and more conformed to who He is, versus who we are. If our rebirth is a valid rebirth, and not just a momentary mental agreement, that we quickly forget and carry on as if nothing significant happened, those changes on a variety of levels, progressively will continue. I call it the “onion effect” because there are multiple levels of awarenesses involved and we rarely comprehend the size of the onion within us that God is dealing with. 

I’ve spoken before of the ramifications that we experience when we falter, fail or fall short at times, and I personally know of no one who has not or does not experience these realities. No one that I am aware of is holy like God is holy 24/7. Jesus was holy, 24/7 but I as of yet, have not been brought to completion in Him, nor will I be until I see Him face to face. He and He alone is the originator and the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

This is NOT a post that is advocating in any way, shape or form, about using grace as an excuse to continue sinning. You can try it (like I and many others have) if you want to, but I surely don’t advocate it, because when we do so, we are heading in the wrong direction. “Feel distant from God? Who moved?”

The “practising” aspect that I am advocating is the continuing on aspect. Acknowledgement (confession), repentance (turning away from), and seeking forgiveness aspect. We have this spelled out for us in 1 John 2:1-2, which reads: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

And 1 John 1:9 NASB which reads: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Emphasis is mine.

Also in 1 John 2:28-29 NASB which reads: “Now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not draw back from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him.” Emphasis is mine.

It’s what you practise that counts with God. It’s basically our way or His way. Practise righteousness, don’t practise sin or lawlessness. Get up when you fall or falter, keep on enduring. Keep on pressings towards the goal like the Apostle Paul admonishes us to do. 

Philippines 3:12-16 NASB: “Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature, let’s have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that to you as well; however, let’s keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

Author: Narrow Path Ministries

Non-denominational, Independent, Bible believing Church

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