Can I Call Myself A Christian But Still Live In Sin?

[This article is part of the Can I Call Myself A Christian? series]

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

– 1 John 3:9

Let us first define Sin and what it means to be a Christian.

Sin is any thought, word or action that is contrary to the character or law of God (1 John 3:4).

We all have sinned (Romans 3:23, James 2:10) and even what we consider as good works are often tainted by selfish motives and pride (Isaiah 64:6). Sure, we can discretely or deliberately deny that we are sinners by either comparing our sins to the “bigger” sins of others or by balancing out our sins with our self-righteousness. But we cannot deny the truth as told in 1 John 1:8: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

We are sinners. We sin not only because of what we do but because of what we fail to do as well. On our own, it is impossible to please God or to be free from sin (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:10).

The penalty of sin is death (Hebrews 9:27) and eternal damnation (Revelations 21:8). God’s wrath, out of his love and fairness, is in proportion to our sinfulness. Romans 2:5 says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Christian is from the Greek word “Christianos” which means “follower of Christ”.

Given this original definition of being a Christian, we can already take note of three important points:

  1. Knowing Jesus does not automatically equate to being a Christian. One may know Jesus (out of tradition, culture, religion or His popularity) but that does not mean he follows Him.
  2. Living up to high moral values, going to church or giving money to feed the poor does not automatically equate to being a Christian as well. One can believe in moral righteousness but that does not mean he follows Jesus.
  3. A Christian is someone who does not only believe in Jesus including His death on the cross as the only payment for all sins and His resurrection but also, out of that belief:
    • admits his sins and inability to save himself (Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8-9),
    • asks for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9),
    • accepts Jesus as His personal Savior (John 14:6),
    • acknowledges that Jesus is the only assurance of forgiveness and eternal life (1 John 5:12),
    • abandons his sins (2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 10:26),
    • abides in Jesus (1 John 2:4, Ephesians 5:1-2), and
    • agrees to His Lordship (Romans 10:9).

Therefore, it is impossible for a Christian to continuously sin in the presence of the One whom he claims to honor or to deliberately sin against the One who crucified sin once and for all (1 Peter 3:18).

In defense, however, many justify sinful thoughts, words, actions and motives with human imperfection and weaknesses.

It is true that we cannot claim to be without sin because we will constantly experience temptation from the evil one (John 10:10) and battle against the desires of our sinful nature (Galatians 5:16). But even though a Christian would struggle or stumble in sin, he will not live in it. Christians will sorrow over sin (2 Corinthians 7:10) and admit it before the Lord — standing firm in order to not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

A true Christian will not use 1 John 1:9 or the ‘But God unconditionally loves me anyway’ card as a license to sin. Instead, he will hold on to it as a reminder of the undeserved mercy that God faithfully gives to those who believe.

A person who believes and receives Jesus in his life acknowledges that Jesus nailed all sins on the cross with His precious blood in order to snatch us away from the eternal damnation we deserve (Revelations 21:8) yet cannot save ourselves from (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As a result of such understanding, that person will not justify, hide, ignore, belittle, tolerate, defend or enjoy sins in his life. Instead, he will repent of it and leave every single one of it behind — battling it through the strength of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:9), the leading of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-9) and the victory of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthian 15:57) — no matter how seemingly costly it is for himself.

As Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

Why do pigs go back to the mud? It is because they are pigs. That is what pigs do. We can wash pigs and get them cleaned, and then ensure they stay in their pens. But pigs will deliberately run after the dirt and the mud. Pigs enjoy the mud because again they are pigs.

Christians are not pigs. God made every professing believers of Jesus a new creation — holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22). He has washed away our sins with the precious blood of Christ and even marked us with eternal life. Christians will not deliberately run after sin again and enjoy it.

If a Christian keeps coming back to sin and enjoys living in it, we may assume that he is not a Christian to begin with.

If a person insists to live in sin even after “receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Hebrews 10:26), we may suspect that he never really accepted Christ in the first place. If he willfully persists in committing the same sin repeatedly without remorse or any evidence of a genuine desire to change, we would have every reason to doubt the sincerity of his faith.

It is possible to live a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:16) because Jesus, out of His love and being, made us holy. Out of His love and holiness, pinned within those who have believed and received Him, Christians see sin for what it really is — deadly (Romans 6:23).

Are you a professing Christian who is deliberately living in sin? Do you desire to leave behind your hypocritical state of faith in Jesus? Are you uncertain if your heart condition and life reflect Who you have believed and received? Do you want to genuinely accept Jesus as Lord of your life? Do you desire to turn away from your sins and turn to God instead?

If you have answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, I would like to encourage you with this: We can all come to Jesus, accept Him by faith and repent of our sins right now.

Many think that repentance* is a word of weakness but the truth is, it is a word of power and action. It breaks the chains of captive sinners and sets heaven to singing as said in Luke 15:7: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

*Repentance is different from Remorse. Many people feel remorse for their sin but never truly repent. Remorse is being sorry; repentance is being sorry enough to not do it again.

Today when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:7,15).

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