In Pastor Babij’s Sunday sermon, he mentioned that we Christians preach the amazing mystery of Christ in believers (Col 1:27). This reality means that true Christians are transformed to become increasingly holy since Jesus indwells them by the Spirit. Pastor Babij also mentioned the corresponding scriptural truth: if Christ has not changed you, then he is not in you, which means that you are not a true believer (cf. James 2:17; Rom 6:16; Mat 7:21-23).
These truths from the sermon made me think this week about a certain situation that I’ve encountered more than once in Christ’s church: when a Christian struggling with sin agonizes over whether he is saved or not.
The professing believer in such a situation often feels paralyzing confusion. On the one hand, the professing believer feels he must not be a true Christian because he keeps returning to the same sin habit, whether the sin is lust, anger, or something else. Not being a real Christian seems to be a logical explanation as to why there hasn’t been victory over sin. Furthermore, the solution for such a situation is clear: I need to get saved for real!
On the other hand, the professing believer often feels that he cannot trust that any new attempt to turn to Jesus is sincere. After all, the professing believer thought he was saved before but apparently wasn’t, so who’s to say that his latest expression of faith really has saved him? This question becomes exacerbated when the struggling soul has prayed and “gotten saved” multiple times but still hasn’t experienced victory over sin. Without Christ in him, the professing believer knows that he doesn’t have the power to overcome the sin (cf. Eph 3:16-21). Yet how does that professing believer know that Jesus really does indwell him and has given him strength to change?
Thus, the soul struggling with sin is stuck in the torturous place of not knowing whether he needs to become a Christian or simply strive to be obedient by Christ’s power. And how can one ever become sure of the right answer?
Yet there is a sword that can cut through this Gordian knot: the remedy for enslaving sin is always repentance and faith in Christ, whether a person is already saved or not.
You see, true Christians do not repent and believe once at the beginning and then move on with the rest of their lives; rather, their lives become characterized by a lifestyle of faith and repentance. This does not mean that a believer gets re-saved many times but that the gospel that saves is also the gospel that sanctifies. As sins sometimes plant footholds in our lives as believers, we must respond with the same radical change of mind and action as we did when we first believed (Eph 4:17-24; Rom 6:12-14). Furthermore, the resurrection power of the Spirit that we embrace in the gospel is the same power we embrace by faith every time we resolve to put a besetting sin to death (Rom 6:4-7).
Therefore, there is no need for paralysis by analysis when it comes to life-dominating sins: the call to all from Scripture is “repent and believe,” trusting that the Lord does indeed provide his power for all who look to him (Mark 1:15; Isa 45:22; Rev 3:19). This is not to say that, in Christ, overcoming sin suddenly becomes a piece of cake; no indeed, you will need to strive in an all-out fashion (1 Tim 1:18-19; 4:7-10; 6:11-12) and enlist the help of your brethren (Eph 4:15-16; 1 Thess 5:14; Heb 3:12-14) to find consistent victory. But those who are serious disciples of Jesus will indeed overcome, not to become perfect, but to walk in increasing holiness (Rev 21:7-8). Ultimately, as Pastor Babij preached, the proof of true repentance and faith is a transformed life.
For more on the subject of repentance, what it is and how you know it’s real, please see the sermon I preached called What Is Repentance?.
Colossians 1:21-23, And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
Questions to Consider:
1. If a person will not strive to put off sin, what does he testify about himself?
2. How should a Christian respond to the feeling that he cannot escape a certain sin or that he lacks the power to change?
3. What areas of your life call for repentance and faith, even the putting off of sin and putting on of righteousness?