As a Christian, I have made a covenant with God that I will not sin. (Romans 6:12-13) Now, sometime after the fact, I realize that something I did was wrong, but it’s too late, it’s already been done. Does that mean I’ve sinned?
I’ve gotten converted and decided to live for Jesus alone. I have a new mind that wants to do the good, and I am completely finished with my old sinful behaviour! All those things that I know are sin and separate me from God. Things that I knew I should never have been doing in the first place.
However, I find that I am still tempted to sin. I want to lie to get out of a sticky situation, for example. But these lusts that are a part of my human nature do not have to control me. But with God’s help I can, and do get victory over them!
But now I start to see how many times I do things that were completely unintentional, but still were against God’s will. For example, without being aware of it, I become irritated at a friend who does something that “goes against my grain,” even though my desire is to be good to everyone!
Now I get what Paul is talking about when he says, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Romans 7:15. I am not even aware that I am doing these things until they’re already done. So am I sinning without knowing it; without wanting to?
Deeds of the body
When I do something wrong, without first being consciously aware that I am being tempted to sin, it is what the Bible calls a “deed of the body.” (Romans 8:13) Everyone has lusts in the flesh, and sometimes they come out without me even being aware that they are going to. This is not the same as committing sin. There was no moment when I realized I was being tempted and needed to make a decision about whether or not I was going to agree to give in to the temptation.
Regardless of that, I walk away from a conversation and realize I was judging my friend. Or I realize that I reacted with impatience in a certain situation. I become aware that something that I’ve done was not God’s will; it wasn’t right.
Even now, I still have the opportunity to get victory over sin! I do need to acknowledge what I’ve done – if I am too proud to admit that I was wrong, then God cannot do anything with me. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6. I admit that what I did was not God’s will. My mind is to serve God, so I hate that which is not according to His will, and firmly resolve to be more awake in the future. This is getting victory in retrospect.
Then I need to move on, and not allow Satan to hold it over me and create a bad conscience. Discouragement is never an option. My will is still to do the good; that has not changed. “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me.” Romans 7:20. It happened, but now it is in the past. Now I know better and next time I am in a similar situation I will be more awake. I will know what my tendency is, and I will be prepared to recognise and resist the temptation.
Paul goes on to explain my position before God: “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 7:25; Romans 8:1. No condemnation! My mind did not agree with the “deed of the body”, and Satan has no claim on me.
We have so much hope, so much grace from God. He really wants it to succeed for us, and He gives us every opportunity to be transformed. (Romans 12:2) Read 2 Peter 1. We can be partakers of divine nature! But in order for that to happen, first we need to be free from our human nature, and we need these learning experiences to do that. We can’t know what needs to be cleansed out if we don’t see it first.
A work of transformation
When I become aware that I have judged others, even though it was not my motive, then I know that judging is a tendency of my human nature. Now I know what to work on; to root out that judgemental attitude so it can be replaced with with longsuffering.
When I look back on a situation and see that I was behaving selfishly, although that was never my intention, then I find out just how much that is a part of me. Now I can go to action and use every opportunity I see to learn to be giving and loving, rather than living for myself.
When I’ve been anxious, then I see just how much I need to learn to trust in God.
The list goes on. We’ll find that as humans we are weak, but God is strong on our behalf. He will give us everything that we need to complete this work of transformation.
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31.