Is the Christian a Saint or Sinner?


Every Christian continues to endure temptation and sinful desires… sometimes victoriously, and sometimes we indulge our sinful nature. How should we make sense of this?

Sometimes we can get the impression that once we become Christians our lives are immediately characterized by holiness and purity. But that’s just not the case. Sometimes, yes, the Lord graciously frees us from crushing temptations or addictions; but most Christians experience a more gradual and subtle growth in holiness.

I know some people who have seriously struggled with the question, “Am I really a Christian?” because of their lingering struggles with specific temptations (usually sexual ones). With this in mind, I believe Martin Luther’s theology of Christian identity as “Simultaneously Saint and Sinner” is extremely helpful. Continue reading

Why Can’t God Overlook Sin?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

The paycheck of sin is death. That is what we’ve earned. And yet, many of us struggle with the teaching that momentary sins would receive eternal death – it seems awfully extreme. It is a common question: “If God is love, why can’t God overlook sin?”

  • Johnny has disobeyed his parents all day long but expects to get rewarded with ice cream at the end of the day.
  • Suzie is hoping for a pay raise or promotion at her next review, even though she routinely ignores her boss’ instructions and does things her own way instead.
  • Bill doesn’t understand why he failed his math exam. After all, he recently discovered a whole new way of doing math that’s better than the “old way” of the past.

These simple examples reflect the justice and love of God. It would not be right or “good” for Johnny, Suzie, or for Bill to be rewarded. They have all disregarded human authority who has been rightly placed over them. And if it is good for us to receive appropriate discipline by human authority, why would God overlook our sin?


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What’s Wrong With the World?

Acts of violence and hatred have become so common we’ve become numb. Whether it’s another act of terrorism, a school shooting, or an incident of domestic violence, it has become far too easy to read the story and then move on with our lives.

I doubt anyone can look around and think, “Yeah, this is the way things should be.” No. Instead, we hear people giving their solutions to fix the problem: More education, Better laws, Tolerance of differences. We need to understand the problem before we can offer any helpful solutions.

Christians turn to Scripture to understand the world, and we know this is not the way God created the world. Sin always brings death – not immediate physical death, but death of relationships, trust, intimacy, etc. Christians throughout history have called this event “the fall,” because sin made all creation fall from holiness and shalom/peace. Where there was unity and peace, now there is division and conflict. The opening chapters of Genesis unpack the multiple relationships that have lost shalom because of the curse of sin…

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Are All Sins Equal?

We’ve heard it said many times: “Sin is sin. All sins are equal. Your sins and mine are different, but they’re the same before God.”

Like most things, this statement has the ring of truth, but it’s not entirely biblical. That also means it’s not entirely unbiblical either. The last thing I want to encourage is a hierarchy stating, “Which sins are the worst sins.” That would be unhelpful only fuel self-righteousness.

Sometimes sins are so close in nature and effect they are like comparing a red apple to a green apple. At other times it’s like comparing oranges with tomatoes. Both are rightly categorized as fruits, but the differences end there. Sin is sin. That is true.  But that does not mean they are all the same.


Here is how different kinds of sins are equal, how they are different, and why it matters.
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Christianity Without Repentance?

Imagine a man who gets married but continues to live with bachelor-priorities. He may be in love, but he’s not ready to become a husband. Marriage requires a change in priorities and in lifestyle for both husband and wife. Decisions will be made differently, money will be shared, and each person’s actions affects the other.

In the same way, no one becomes a Christian without repentance. It is not enough to hear the gospel and intellectually believe it. Faith in Christ leads to confession of sin and repentance. Sin must be confessed and repented of, or Christ will merely be viewed as the safety net to protect us from hell.

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How to Overcome Temptation

Temptation is a daily reality for every Christian. For some, it is an overwhelming lure back into sinful habits we seem unable to escape; for others, it is a nagging invitation to participate in “acceptable sins” that subtly and slowly erode one’s integrity and intimacy with God.

Much more can be said than these four simple helps, but these are offered as ways for you to be strengthened in the midst of temptation. You can read another post I’ve written that cover some of this, but mostly focuses on how temptation workschess Continue reading

Why is Temptation so Enticing (and how to overcome)


Temptation is enticing. Why else would restaurant menus use descriptions of their deserts like, “A tempting combination of rich chocolate and smooth caramel.” If sin was never tempting, we’d never do it. But there’s something that grabs us and pulls us into the promise of sin, and next thing we know we’ve given in.

If a Christian wants to overcome temptation, he or she needs to recognize how temptation works. When you understand how temptation works, then you can be better prepared for where it may be lurking to overtake you.

In many ways, this is part two of last week’s article unpacked the two types of sin: Sins of Commission (doing something you’re commanded not to do) and Sins of Omission (not doing something you’re commanded to do). If you haven’t read the other article, you may find that helpful as well.

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Two Kinds of Sin (and what is sin anyway?)

Sin is more than making mistakes. It is not an accident that causes harm to someone else. And yet, many of us have heard sin defined as such. Too often, we hold back from even saying the word “Sin” because it just seems so heavy and serious and offensive.

A while back, I wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition entitled, “Parents, Tell Your Kids They Are Sinners.” Let me tell you, there were a lot of comments both positive and negative. Some people even accused me of emotional and spiritual child-abuse, because, “How could anyone tell their children such terrible things.” But if I want my kids to become Christians, they need to know their need for Christ… which means they need to know they are sinners in need of a Savior.

The Bible talks about sin, and if we don’t then we’re holding back on God’s Word. Even worse, if we do not talk about sin, then how can we proclaim the gospel which frees us from the chains of sin and death?

But what is sin, and how does temptation work? That’s what the rest of this post explores.

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What is “Sin that Leads to Death” in 1 John 5:16-17?

question mark on sticky noteOne of my favorite features on this site
is the reader questions, because I want this site to serve you. If there is something you’ve been wondering, please submit your questions HERE. You can search some of the other reader questions.

I would like to hear your insightful comment on 1 John 5:16 – 17 regarding sin that does not bring death and sin that does bring death. I welcome your perspective and clarification.

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.” (1 John 5:16-17, ESV)

Context is King
As always, the best way to interpret Scripture is through understanding the context where the confusing passage occurs.

General Context: Faithfulness in the life of the Believer
Throughout the entire book of 1 John there is a strong emphasis on sin, confession, and faithfulness of believers. Over and over again Christians are described as those who do not sin. It’s important to realize in original languages, these verses use a grammatical structure which clearly implies a continual, ongoing habit of sinning. Some of these passages emphasizing the faithful Christian life are listed below.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (1:5)

Everyone who make a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness…. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. (3:4 & 6)

If anyone says, ‘I love god,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (4:20)

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (5:18)

Upon reading through 1 John it should be clear that it was written to a church who enduring conflict and division. The members are wandering away and arguing with each other. The fellowship is broken. John is encouraging the believers to walk in the truth by loving one another as an expression of their love for God. True Christians endure – they don’t walk in habitual sinfulness, and they don’t abandon the family of God. This is a clear and consistent call throughout the book of 1 John, and this sets the context for 1 John 5:16-17.

A photo by Cristian Newman.

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Every Christian Has Baggage

In fact, not only does every Christian have baggage… every Christian NEEDS baggage! You simply cannot be a Christian if you are unaware of the skeletons in your closet. Maybe your baggage isn’t severe, you’ve never been to jail… but every Christian need to be aware of their own sin and great need for God.

Some people say that Christianity is only for the weak. They’re right! If you think you have your act together and that you don’t need to be forgiven, you don’t need mercy or grace, and you don’t need God’s strength to make you strong… then you may call yourself what you want, but you cannot truly be a Christian.

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