Living Apart From Sin
Doesn’t Mean You’re Above It
Personal Evangelism is paramount. Of all the things Christians do, this is the most important.
It is the reason we do anything at all.
You could say that Personal Evangelism is to Christian living what scoring is to football.
Football has many facets and every detail is carefully measured and monitored during training. Running speed, balance, toughness, reflexes, vision, discipline, upper body strength, and lower body strength to name just a few.
Offensive linemen are even tested for right-left eye dominance and attitude is an important factor for every member on the team.
But none of these details matter if the end result is not attained: points on the board.
How important a player is to the team has little to do with his raw ability and a great deal to do with how much he contributes to the team’s ability to score points.
To complete the analogy, winning souls in the Christian life is like scoring points in a football game.
The Bible clearly teaches that Christians will receive rewards in heaven and some people see that as a negative. They suggest we’ll be called out for doing sinful things. I don’t see it that way. I’ll share more about specific rewards just now but first a little perspective…
Let’s start with a fact. You will never change your basic nature. You will never be anything other than a sinner. There is no such thing as a sinless saint.
But that observation provokes a question. If no Christian will ever cease to be a sinner, why is clean living a worthy goal? If I can’t elevate myself spiritually why bother?
That question applies to everyone. Even the likes of Mother Theresa in her most spiritually sacrificial moments still grappled with a sinful nature.
The reality is you may find ways to live apart from sin but you’ll never be above it.
So, what’s the point? Why do we bother at all? That question has a two-part answer.
- First, there are practical reasons for wholesome lifestyle choices.
Healthy lifestyle choices enable you to live longer, be healthier, be happier, enjoy better relationships, and be more secure. You will be better off even if you won’t be any better spiritually. Better off is a desirable goal and possible.
Your disciplines may cause you to seem more spiritual but the appearance masks the reality. You are a sinner. You will always be a sinner and you’re never far away from your next sinful deed.
According to Jesus, it doesn’t take much to fail. Adultery is no more than a thought away and that really makes you think.
James said we are drawn away and enticed by our own wrong desires. Those desires come from the heart, not God or circumstances. People aren’t adulterers because they commit adultery. They commit adultery because they are adulterers.
This brings us back to the original question. If a person will always be a sinner, if we can never really improve on our basic nature, why bother living the Christian lifestyle? It’s simple. I’m better off for doing so even if I’m not better.
- The second reason we try to live cleanly is to be a testimony.
We are trying to share the Gospel. We desire to win souls but if we don’t at least try to live by a new rule, we’ll never be heard.
If we live as badly as the people around us, why would they be interested? Christianity offers a new heart and with it, a new hope.
The best Christians are the ones who can relate to sinful people without being entrapped by their sin. We accept the person without indulging their lifestyle choices.
Why Will Christians Be Judged
The Bible makes a very curious statement about judgment for Christians. Following is the Amplified version.
For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives—the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. (2 Corinthians 5:10 – Amplified)
If what I said about always being a sinner is true, why all the fuss about judgment? It’s a good question. The way some interpret this it sounds like we are now going to pay for our sins. Can that be true?
One idea that is often forgotten when reading this verse is the fact that Jesus already died for sins. Not some of your sins but all of them.
Another fact we forget is that you and I are completely incapable of paying for sin.
The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
That is not saying that the wages of sin before you get saved is death but the wages of sin after you get saved is a hiding in heaven.
For us to now think that the above-mentioned judgment is a reckoning for sins we’ve committed is more than illogical, it’s almost blasphemous. Jesus died for your sins. The question is will you live sufficiently apart from your sin to model His grace and mercy for others.
That is really the point. What are we doing to win others to Christ? It’s not just how good you’re being. Good people may come across as self-righteous. They won’t win very many to Christ.
Are you making an obvious effort to avoid sinful living and being honest about it when you miss the mark.
Crowns, Crowns, And More Crowns
Comnfusing the issue is the number of different crowns Christians are working to win. There are five in all:
- The incorruptible crown for those who live a disciplined life (1 Corinthians 9:25)
- The crown of life for those who patiently endure trials and testings (James 1:12)
- The crown of glory for those who faithfully care for the flock (1 Peter 5:2-4)
- The crown of righteousness for those who love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8)
- The crown of rejoicing for all who are faithful soul-winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
If we can never be anything other than sinners saved by grace, then why all the crowns? The question is a good one because motive is important. Do we obey the rules to BE good or to DO good? Are we trying to be better than everyone else or are we trying to model the ability to live apart from sin even while in the presence of sin?
The question is where are we going with the crowns?
To answer that question, we have to ask why for each one. Why, for example, do we live a disciplined life, the first crown? I touched on this earlier. Discipline enhances my life experience which makes me better off and that’s great but there’s an added benefit. The better off I seem the more believable I’ll sound when I share the Gospel with unbelievers.
You can follow that same line of reasoning with each of the crowns. We endure trials and testings, faithfully care for the flock, and love His appearing to keep us focused on the ultimate prize, the salvation of souls.
Peter plainly says that’s why we endure trials and testings.
Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake…do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (I Peter 3:14-15)
The people Peter spoke to were being wrongfully accused and abused. That still happens today but it was more likely then than now. In our day we have recourse. In biblical times, they didn’t.
But enduring the situation provokes questions. There are, of course, many other types of trials and tests. Whatever they are, enduring them puts us in position to share the Gospel. And that is the point.
In every case, for every crown, winning souls is the aim.
If you wish to be good for the sake of being good, forget it. Your basic nature will never change.
If you wish to win souls, be as good as you possibly can be and honest about it when you struggle.