Can We Stop Sinning?

Q.  I was thinking today about agency, which is freedom of choice right? It has become apparent to me, through experience and through being told so, that we cannot avoid sinning,. If we can’t avoid sinning, is that a lack of agency, since if some of us could choose it, we wouldn’t sin?

Thank you so much for all your understanding in all these topics, and may God continue to bless you with profound wisdom!

A. The whole idea behind the Victorious Christian Life is recognizing how our power of choice, or agency, works. When the Bible speaks of the battle between the Spirit and the Flesh, it’s talking about our power to choose good over evil in our behavior.

We can choose not to sin. But that doesn’t mean we can stop being sinners. In Matt. 5:21-30 Jesus gave examples of this. Because we don’t go around killing people, we can think of ourselves as keeping the commandment against murder. But are we ever angry? If so we’ve broken the commandment.

And we can restrain ourselves from committing adultery, but do we ever look at someone and experience a moment of lust? Again, we’re guilty of breaking the commandment.  He could also have said that while we don’t steal our neighbor’s possessions, we sometimes envy him for having some of them.   And on it goes.

Our honest answers to these questions show that we have a sin nature, that is if we allow ourselves to express our true intentions, they will always be toward evil not good. And as the Lord explained, it’s our intentions that condemn us.

And so as far as our intentions go, we have no choice. But do we have the choice of whether or not to act on them? Yes. In Romans 7:7-25 Paul wrote that the harder he tried to stop thinking about sinning the more he wanted to sin. He could control his behavior but he couldn’t control his desire to misbehave. It’s because he had a sin nature, and that’s why he needed a savior. So it is with us.

When we stand before the Lord and give account for the things we did with our lives, He will expose the hidden motives of our hearts and we’ll be astonished to learn how often even our good works were really motivated by selfish or even evil intentions. (1 Cor. 4:5) At that time we’ll learn just how deeply rooted our sin nature really was.

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