Christians Struggling with Sin and 4 Lies We Believe

Everybody sins. But when we Christians do it, reactions vary. The world points to us as hypocrites—and often uses our sins as justification for their own. Other Christians tend to view our sins as reasons to suggest we aren’t even saved.

Sunrise at Carolina Beach North Carolina

(Photo by Bigroger27509. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

But the people who offer the most brutal judgment against our sins?

Very often, it’s ourselves.

That’s because Christians struggling with sin tend to believe four lies.

LIE #1: As a Christian, I should live a perfect life.

We may not admit this out loud, because it sounds extreme. But we often think it. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)?

  • Absolutely. But Jesus referred to God’s standard we should strive for. Jesus also understood the reality that we fail that standard. That’s why He died for our sins.
  • What we really tell ourselves with this lie is: “If I’m not perfect, God is angry with me.” When we listen to the lie, we confuse our freedom from sin’s penalty with our freedom from sin’s presence.

I love Chuck Swindoll’s definition of the term, justification:

Justification is the sovereign act of God whereby He declares righteous the believing sinner while he or she is still in a sinning state.

When we believe in Jesus, God doesn’t make us righteous. He declares us righteous. We’re still sinners who aren’t free from sin’s temptations. Our being made righteous won’t occur until our death or the Rapture—whichever comes first. (I’m pulling for the Rapture.)

LIE #2: I’ve tried to stop sinning, but I can’t. I must not be saved.

This lie takes the false assumption of LIE #1 a step further. Because you don’t live a perfect life like you should, that means you were never saved to begin with.

  • But think about it. Just as we couldn’t save ourselves—we needed God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9)—so we cannot live the Christian life in our own strength.
  • We still need God’s grace to provide the strength for obedience.
  • The Apostle John reminds us that we lie if we say we have no sin—and that Jesus is our atoning sacrifice for that very reason (1 John 1:8; 2:1).

You cannot out-sin the grace of God. God the Father never abandons His children. (Tweet that.)

The truth is, your struggle against sin is a huge clue that the Spirit of God is working in your life. Because the New Testament constantly gives instruction to Christians struggling with sin, we understand that it is a normal experience.

  • Scripture speaks not only to the temptations this world offers but it also reminds us of our ongoing vulnerability to those temptations (2 Corinthians 6:14).
  • The same weaknesses that bound us to sin in the old life we bring with us into the new.

LIE #3: I’ll never stop my sin, so why try?

While it’s true you’ll never be free from temptation or from the pull in your heart towards sin, you can experience victory. (Unlike a circus elephant who doesn’t know any better.)

  • Freedom of choice is part of who God made us to be as humans. God created Adam and Eve with the capacity to choose (Genesis 2:16-17). Begin to see temptation as a choice rather than as a compulsion to obey (Romans 6:12-14).
  • God delivered us from sin’s slavery in order to obey Him, not so that we would submit ourselves again to sin’s shackles (Galatians 5:1). Freedom has a purpose: obedience.

LIE #4: My sin is too great. I’m really not sure God will forgive me.

Sometimes Christians struggling with sin blow it big-time. And because we knew better—and yet did it anyway—we fall for the lie that tells us we crossed a point of no return with God.

  • Actually, this lie stems from our pride. There is no sin—NO SIN—too great for God’s forgiveness. Your sin is no exception. There may be life-long consequences, but God’s grace always offers forgiveness.
  • The Lord has given you the promise that if you have believed in Jesus who died for your sins, God has already accepted you.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” —Romans 8:1

Remember, you cannot out-sin the grace of God. God never abandons His children.

In my next post, I’ll share four strategies to help combat these four lies.

Question: What other lies do Christians struggling with sin believe? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Tom

    Thank you for this lesson. it was very helpful. As Christians we are told to repent as well. Is there a lie about not repenting. How does one truly repent if we stumble so easily. Is it the struggle itself that bears the fruit of repentance? I have remorse over my sins but feel helpless at times to resist. Does that mean my repentance is in vane?

    • Tom, you’ve really nailed essence of the struggle. The word “repent” literally means a change of mind.” We get the cart before the horse when we think that “repent” simply means to change one’s actions. No lasting change comes until the mind changes first (Rom. 12:1-2).

      While we certainly can repent in a moment—and change our mind about something—it may take time to find victory in our actions about that decision. Repentance doesn’t remove the sinful nature inside us anymore than we can repent for the nose on our face. While the changing of our minds can occur in a moment, the renewing of the mind is a daily process. It’s when you quit struggling with it that you should worry. You are running a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep running and never quit or take the path of least resistance.

      Feeling helpless to resist reminds me of the post about the elephant. You might also check out the post that follows this one; it’s about four strategies to help combat these four lies. Thanks, Tom.

      • Greg Tegman

        I know I should never lie, yet, I seem hopeless with this. Why do I do this? Is it because I have nothing good enough to say and I have to make up something to be accepted? I am a 57 year old man whom is in terror over this seemingly impossible habit. Somebody…please show me how I can overcome my fearful problem.

        • You’re far from hopeless, Greg, although I understand how habitual sin can rob you of peace of mind and joy. As I suggested to Tom, you might read the post about the elephant. I also think listening to this message may help you understand why you have such a strong fear of man. Certainly it would help you to set up for yourself some godly accountability, but the first and most important issue is to settle your relationship with Jesus Christ. Likely, you’ll never conquer your habit without His help.

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  • Ell

    This is gorgeous, brother. You’ve presented clear gospel truths, facing these major demonic lies head on, what a blessing!

    • Thank you, Ell. I’ve never thought about the truth as “gorgeous,” but you know? It is! Truth is beautiful indeed. Thanks.

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  • Logan

    This post has really helped me, but could I ask a clarifying question(s)? When the Bible comes down hard and lists “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” stuff and I find my struggles on that specific list, what does that mean for me? When Hebrews 10:26 and on talk about deliberate sin and there not being a sacrifice for that what does that mean for a Christian struggling with habitual sin? Reading the Bible sometimes seems to hinder me rather than help me. Why is it so internally inconsistent, or seemingly so? Although this is an old post, I really do hope someone responds.

    • Great questions, Logan. Any sin keeps a person from the kingdom of God, so we should be surprised if we don’t see our sins listed someplace. But the passage you speak of (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) ends with these essential words: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” In other words, Paul isn’t listing exceptions to God’s grace but testimonies to it. My struggles are on that list too, Logan, right along with yours, but Jesus died for them all—and forgives all when we believe in Him.

      The warning passages in Hebrews may, on the surface, appear contradictory, but they offer a consistent message when understood in context. Give a listen to this message I gave, called: “Are You Sure You’re Secure?” I think it addresses your very concerns.

      What seem as contradictions in the Bible really do prove, the more we study it, as limitations on our part. I address the issue generally in this post, but you might also find helpful the book called, When Critics Ask.

      I hope this helps some, Logan. You’re not alone. God bless.

  • Alan

    wats the difference between struggling with sin and a lukewarm Christian

    • Great question. It seems the primary difference comes in the effort and goals. A lukewarm believer has lost the passionate pursuit of seeking God. In some sense, he or she doesn’t really struggle against sin, but goes with it. They need to get back in the fight. But even strong believers struggle against sin. We will until we die. Thanks for asking.

  • TheDexxJ .

    So if God will never kick us out of His kingdom for our struggle with sin or sins we commit. How can a so called church of elders and pastors excommunicate a believer in Christ for a “perceived lack of repentance”? Yes this happened…

    • Not sure of your situation, Dexx, but it’s possible the church is attempting to follow the process Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-17. Even when church discipline needs to occur, its goal must always be restoration. It must be, or it’s not biblical. Fortunately, our God is a righteous judge who makes no errors in judgment. We humans fail often—even those in leadership. One who has placed his or her faith in Christ will never lose his or her place in God’s kingdom—the errors human leadership notwithstanding.

      • TheDexxJ .

        Thanks that’s very reassuring. I would like God to get the glory in all matters of life. I am VERY aware of my sins at this point in my life and sometimes being aware of my fallen nature is very discouraging. However, I understand that one day I will be without this fallen nature and I can and will enjoy God face to face. No interuptions and no seeing through a hazy mirrors.

        • I’m right there with you. It’s comforting that Paul also struggled against sin (Romans 7). It might help to reflect again on the two kinds of forgiveness. Thanks, Dexx. Just press on.

  • fredbird67

    Wayne, thank you, brother. I really needed to hear this. On your strategies you mentioned to help us in our struggles with sin, on that last one, I thought “Jonathan Edwards had struggles with sin, too?” Since he’s best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, that’s so encouraging to see that someone who so boldly, candidly, and bluntly told it like it is regarding what happens to those who die without Christ had his struggles with sin, too. This gives me great encouragement to see that the saints of old had their struggles with sin, too.

    Something else you said is something I struggle with too — the notion that I’m supposed to be perfectly sinless, and then I expect too much out of myself…and then, before I know it, I sin. How do I break myself of that mentality?

    • I would meditate deeply on the truth of Romans 8:29-30. Having believed in Jesus, you are as good as perfected in God’s eyes–all your sin notwithstanding. Also, check out this post about to think truth and quit knee-jerking to past habits or thought patterns. Finally, always, always keep in mind the end of the story.

      You mentioned Edwards. Indeed, he was only human like the rest of us. Even Paul struggled with sin, you know? (Romans 7:14-15)

      • fredbird67

        Yes, I’m well aware of that, like he said in Romans chapter 7. Also, I can’t help but wonder if Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” statement referred to a sin he struggled with, too. Besides, I often have to remind myself that if I weren’t saved, the fact that I do sin on occasion wouldn’t bother me (Hebrews 12:7-11).

        • ort

          Paul’s thorn was “a messenger of satan sent to buffet me lest I be exalted above all measure.” It was to keep Paul’s ego in check because he was the paramount of all the apostles because of his revelations from Jesus Himself.
          Therefore, Paul was whipped, beaten with rods, and stoned to death.

  • Billiewilliesillie

    I need help. I’m struggling with sin, and It’s killing me. I don’t mean that as just an expression I mean it is literally murdering me.

    • I’ll take you seriously enough to pray for you—I can’t imagine your situation. If sin endangers your life, then do whatever it takes to deal with it. Find good Christian counselor in your area and call them today.

  • mishy

    another confusing part for a christian struggling with sin is when it comes to the struggle to forgive deliberate offenders. other christians always utter judgement by advising you that if you struggle to forgive consistently then maybe you yourself have not truly experienced God’s forgiveness, because you can’t give what you don’t have

    • It’s always easy to talk about forgiveness until you have something tough to forgive. Set other Christians and their opinions aside, and just look at Scripture. There are reasons why forgiving someone is hard. I have found the greatest help in forgiving others is found in God’s sovereignty. Watch an interview I recently did on this. You might also find encouragement in my new book, Waiting on God, which has a whole chapter devoted to forgiveness and how to do it.

      • mishy

        sir, i am suprised that you would really actually take sincere time to reply. i’ll try to watch the interview this weekend and will check your book in bookstore. i hope you won’t get tired of helping us understand certain things. coz i have almost common experience with pastors and bible group leaders, that they are nice and accommodating at first, but when you push through with difficult concerns, they just want to shut you off and go on with their own lives and “ministries”. have a blessed weekend.

        • That makes sense. But remember, only Jesus is the perfect Shepherd. The rest of the pastors are doing their best with tremendous pressures, including their own struggles, families, and many other sheep to look after. Don’t give up on your pastors. In fact, see what you can do to support them. God bless.

  • Tuppence

    it was touched on a little but my personal struggle with sin is that I can’t seem to reconcile with myself that I am a sinner…not because I think I don’t stuff up because I do daily, but I feel I have failed God. I have failed being perfect for God and I can’t reconcile that with myself. If a friend told me this I would say to them that’s why Jesus needed to come for us. It’s like I think it’s OK for others to accept the grace of God but for me I need to be perfect first…and of course I fail and feel worse.

    • It seems you may be listening to voice of the enemy that tells you somehow you’re different or an exception to God’s perfect provision. It’s easy to feel that way when we are the most familiar with our own sin. If we could uncover the manhole over our hearts and look inside, we’d see a tar pit a mile deep. Of course, it’s too uncomfortable to do that, so we keep the lid on tight. But the Lord reveals our blind spots anyway—not to shame us but to give us an appreciation for his grace. How? By helping us realize He sees our mile-deep tar pit—as well as the other ten miles below it we can’t see. He sees the raw, ugly parts of our heart we never knew to look for—and yet, He loves us anyway. When He meets us in these places of our weakness, He brings His grace along.

      Because Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again, His grace reverses our focus when we come face to face with our sin. Instead of coiling in a fetal position of shame, we grow to realize the depth of His love and the extent of His grace. God’s grace makes it safe for us to see ourselves because we know that, regardless of what we find, God will never reject us. When He looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His holy Son, Jesus—all our weaknesses notwithstanding.

      • Tuppence

        Thank you Wayne, I will pray on what you have said. I guess what I am understanding is that there is good and bad in all of us so perfection is an extremely unrealistic goal to have; yet with Jesus Christ we are made whole and perfect in our Fathers eyes. This doesn’t mean there wont be stuff ups but that we are constantly being restored and made whole through Jesus Christ our saviour.
        Thank you as well for this blog. I have been wondering about this for a long time and didn’t have anyone to really ask about it. Blessings.

      • Robert Johnson

        As i read the sermon on the Mount the lord saying you think you dont need grace well here is the essentials to do it on your own …its to show us how little we can do or dont do to get to perfection

        • Great question, Robert. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ way of explaining how to enter the kingdom He has been proclaiming is at hand. God’s standard is His own holiness (Matt. 5:48), and since we cannot attain to that on our own, we need to enter through the narrow gate—which is Jesus (ch. 7). Thanks, and God bless.

  • Lance Floresca Price

    Wow even though this article is old, the message behind it will continue to give knowledge to future Christians. Its 2015, i am reading this for my spiritual health. Lemme talk to our Dad about what i learned today. Thank you brother. God bless!

    • You’re welcome, Lance. Yes, the message of God’s Word remains timeless and true. Thanks.

  • david

    Hi there. I professed Christ in the 7th grade and then fell into all kinds of sin in college including looking into other religions. I began practicing a different religion. I had a moment where I believe the Lord called me back and I really felt awful. I also started to get very bad headaches which put me on pain medicine. I believe God wanted me off the pain medicine so I went off. It’s been a very dark road and I feel as if I have fallen from grace. My mind is filled with blasphemous thoughts. And the thought of what I did in college is with me all the time. I also struggle mentally with all the withdrawal effects and my own sin. I realized how selfish I have been for years and have been crying out to God for help, but I feel alone. I believe in Jesus. I confess Him as Lord, but I have been wrecked for the last few weeks because I feel like I committed a sin too great. My heart has been so broken. I have felt such heartache. I am seeking after Him harder than ever. Will I ever feel His embrace again? I am a wicked man.

    • If we’re honest, David, we could all claim wicked hearts in our selves. But that needn’t be a reason or an excuse to accepting God’s remedy for our sin in Christ. God has given us promises for our hope and security. You cannot fall from grace, “otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Actually, the pain that God has allowed in your life is there for a good reason. It’s because He loves you, David. Your failures—no matter how bad they are—cannot negate God’s grace. Don’t listen to the lies that say otherwise. Make today a new beginning—right now.

    • Simon Frederic Marx

      Don’t take this the wrong way, David, but is it possible that you have OCD? If you’ve got an anxiety disorder, then it’s very possible that you’ve also got OCD (or even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder). Religious OCD, also known as scrupulosity, can oftentimes manifest itself as blasphemous thoughts, and it makes people experience a lot of doubt, no matter how many reassuring Bible verses they read. Maybe it’s something to look into? Hang in there!

  • Jessica Kurtz

    It is so crazy, but the way I had found this page is because I was listening to Chuck Swindoll’s sermon on Romans 8:1 called “Let’s talk about our walk.” and the question I wrote to myself was “Can you be in Christ and still sin?” That is what I decided to google and by God’s awesomeness I found this. What a great God we serve! Were you listening to this message when you wrote this?

    • No I wasn’t, Jessica, but it’s great that we’re saying the same thing! 🙂 You know, if the Bible says it, our takeaways from it ought to be the same applications. By the way, I work for Chuck at Insight for Living Ministries. Did you know? Thanks for your comment–and God bless you.

  • wft2969

    Thank you for this post. I struggle with certain sins and when I commit them, I get frustrated, beat myself up, ask for forgiveness and try not to do them again. I always fear eternal condemnation for some sins, realize my errors, know that they are wrong but continue the frustrating patterns (Romans 7:14-25). I know that Salvation requires me to change and turn from my sins and I am successful in some areas better than others. Unfortunately, I often lose my Joy and happiness getting so upset with myself when I tell myself I will not do something wrong, then go ahead and do it anyway fearing eternal separation from God.

    • We all struggle in different ways. Every one of us has dark places of doubt, discouragement, and sin. If we could uncover the manhole over our hearts and look inside, we’d see a tar pit a mile deep. Of course, it’s too uncomfortable to do that, so we keep the lid on tight. But the Lord reveals our blind spots anyway—not to shame us but to give us an appreciation for his grace. How? By helping us realize he sees our mile-deep tar pit—as well as the other ten miles below it we can’t see. He sees the raw, ugly parts of our heart we never knew to look for—and yet, he loves us anyway. When he meets us in these places of our weakness, he brings his grace along.

      Please read this carefully: the good news? You don’t have to clean up your life before God will accept you. It’s impossible to earn your way into His favor. Instead, we come to Him as a gift by His grace. We come to Him in faith that Jesus’ death on the cross has paid for all of our sins—past, present, and future. Just believe it—and you’re forgiven (Ephesians 2:8-9).

      Because Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again, his grace reverses our focus when we come face to face with our sin. Instead of coiling in a fetal position of shame, we grow to realize the depth of his love and the extent of his grace. God’s grace makes it safe for us to see ourselves because we know that, regardless of what we find, God will never reject us. When he looks at us, he sees the righteousness of his holy Son, Jesus—all our weaknesses notwithstanding.

      You cannot lose by your works what you gained by God’s grace.

      • wft2969

        Wow! Thank you.

        • You’re very welcome. God bless you as you enjoy the freedom that is yours in Christ.

  • liramk3

    Was born in a saved family and have known God since birth however I began to live in sin as I left home but always went back to God when things get harder because he is the only solution in my life 2006 I then left my birth country to the other and there I changed my name and surname and nationality all in order for me to live as a citizen of that country and not as a foreigner and it was hard bieng a foreigner 2 years later I moved overseas under the same name and nationality everyone in my family knows about this and they have never had a problem with it, am now settled and even married and have gone back to the Lord however that keeps me from growing as I feel like I am a fraud, I have no idea what to do and I feel like me having to lie about myself makes God punish me and not forgive me, I repent each and every day about this but I feel like am not forgiven can God forgive and accept me as I am or not?

    • If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that what you’ve done in your past makes you feel like a fraud today—and that past deception causes you doubt about your relationship with God. I hope you’ll hear this as if from the Lord, as I speak simply from what God has written in His Word.

      If you have accepted Jesus Christ, He has accepted you. You cannot out-sin the grace of God. When Jesus died on the cross, He died for every sin you committed—including this issue you can’t seem to get past. Look again at Lie #4 above and remember God’s promise to you: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

      Rest in the forgiveness that God offers you through Christ. It may help you also to read this post on the two types of forgiveness.

      • liramk3

        Yes the issue of me changing my identity in the past torments me, makes feel like am not who I say I am to people, as nobody else knows about this apart from my family, thank you very much Wayne for your response makes me feel better already..God bless you

        • You’re welcome. It always helps me to remember God’s grace for us in Christ is bigger than any sin we have ever done. No remorse you feel can add to what Jesus has already done for us.

  • Daniel Good

    I have been struggling with a sin for over 10 years now. I don’t want to live this way but I keep turning back to it. I have prayed for God to deliver from it and it still hasn’t happened I believe Jesus is Lord and savior and want to walk in his ways. Someone told me God will not be mocked does that mean he will not rorgive you up to a number of times in your life. How do I change and stop This sin.

    • I hear you, Daniel. I understand the frustrating nature of a besetting sin that seems to dominate your life and heart. The fact that you’re a Christian makes you a target from the enemy, but it also provides you the strength from God and others to find victory. It really is possible. I urge you to read this post about Romans 6, to make yourself accountable to a small group of men, and you may also find genuine help in this book. God bless. You’re not alone. I’m praying for you.

  • Sam Vahedi

    Thank you for this encouragement

  • Robert Johnson

    Thank you ..i have been a Christian for 33 years with a 20 yr trip in tge wilderness. Running. .wanting nothing to do with God but even tho I wasa long way off he was still father. ……i believe i was just as saved then in the desert wilderness and darkness … as i am now confessed and recommitted and still a sinner daily not perfect n the light…… just now I enjoy a unobstructed relationship. …but saved for 33 not 13 ……

    • Certainly, Robert, God’s grace is large enough to forgive us when we sin, but He has also given us the power to say no to sin. The key is to do your best and to simply confess when you fail (1 Jn. 1:9). Also accountability is essential. Thanks.

  • RUkiddingme? ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I was baptized and raised in the Catholic church, then switched to a Lutheran church after I was saved and for awhile followed the protestant teachings. Now I have moved away from those and am still struggling with legalism in my walk with God. This past year I have had two bad car accidents and a close scare with a lump in my neck that turned out to be benign. I am starting to wonder if God is warning me that if I still struggle with the same sins in my life, he will take my life next time? I am continuing to understand these incidents and now scared about what this all means. Yes, I still struggle with legalism, and it is hard to not believe that while I know God is a God of grace and mercy, he is also a God of justice and will act accordingly. I am not afraid to die, but to die because God was angry with me is pretty scary.

    • Struggling with sins is what you want to be doing—rather than giving in. Even Paul struggled (Rom. 7). God has given you the power through Christ to no longer be a slave to sin. I urge you to read The Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll. It will help clear the fog you’re in right now.

      • RUkiddingme? ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        Thank you for your response. Yes, I will check out that book.

  • Eric C

    Wayne Stiles. I appreciate your blog. I ran across it and I’m so glad I did. I’m 28 struggling with pornography. I understand the grace message and how it’s all finished. What could be wrong with me that I keep falling for the same trap?

    • So good to hear from you, Eric. You must know that you’re not alone in your struggle. At some level, all of us men fight the violent temptation to take a shortcut rather than wait on God. I believe your challenge is one of habit that needs retraining by godly habits and accountability. Let me encourage you to take a few practical steps:
      1. Get the book, The Game Plan, by Joe Dallas. It is the best book I’ve ever seen for this area of struggle. Commit to doing what the book says for the next 30 days.
      2. Get in an accountability group with other men. This is a non-negotiable if you want consistent encouragement. You are not alone.
      3. Make your personal time with God each morning another must-do. This includes reading the Bible, of course. Your propensity to reach for the forbidden fruit will diminish the closer you walk with God and read His Word.

      There’s no quick fix, but I promise you it’s not hopeless either. No matter how many times you stumble, never give up the fight. There truly is freedom waiting for you.