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? You can leave a comment by clicking 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?

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      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.

        • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

          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!

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      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.

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      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

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      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…

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      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.

        • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

          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?

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      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).