Have you every heard it said, "I thought Christians were suppose to be perfect and not sin ever?" If a Christian knows their scripture, they should reply by saying we are saved by "faith" and not by our "works".
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
- Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV
But once in a while, you will have people go to the book of James chapter 2, expressly verse 26 where it states
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
- James 2:26 KJV
Many people interpret these verses together as you must have faith, but not without working for it. They might say that you have to prove your faith by your works. There are a few cults that translate it this way. However, it's really a sort of twisting what is actually being said concerning salvation and our expected behavior. Our true understanding is embedded in the word "repent", as well as grasping the nature of our cursed condition from the fall of creation.
Let us definitely start with acknowledging we are for sure ONLY saved by our faith in Jesus Christ. There are no works we can do to either earn, or destroy our salvation. It is a free gift from God to anyone who wants it, which can never be earned by anyone. Rejecting Jesus Christ is really the only way to reject/lose salvation. The prophet Isaiah states
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; … "
- Isaiah 64:6 KJV
Additionally, Paul states in the book of Romans
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: … there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
- Romans 3:10, 12 KJV
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, all of creation, including humans, fell under the curse of sin, being spiritually destroyed and separated from God. Because of this, none of us can be something we are not. We are intertwined with sin and can never be righteous by ourselves. "We are not broken because we sin... we sin because we are broken" - Pastor Chuck Smith. Any attempt at being "a good person", or "perfect", even after being saved, is really rather pointless. Although, in God's mercy, when we are born again, God proclaims us as righteous, holy, and blameless for our "belief" only. But this really is NOT DESERVED at all! Instead this unearned title is given only as a free gift to us. This is what's meant by "God's grace". We are proclaimed holy even though we are not. How is this possible? When you accept the work Jesus Christ did in your place, the work that you could never do yourself, God looks to HIS work and accredits it to YOU!
Does this mean you will never sin moving forward? NO. Again, you cannot be something you are not; and of course God knows this. This was the purpose of the death of Christ. THAT was the holy work that it took to overcome the curse of sin.
Think of the work of Jesus Christ this way. Let's say you went to your job, but when you got there your boss said you can go home because they found someone else to do your job for you; making the business quota you could never reach no matter how hard you tried. Your boss also says you will be paid for the work of the substitute as a free gift to you! WOW! Now, you COULD chose to say, "No, I will keep working myself, I don't need His help." I doubt ANYONE would actually say that. I think nearly everyone would instead go home, not only relieved they didn't have to work that impossible job, but also feel grateful that they would be paid an amount they themselves could never earn on their own. THAT is amazing, my friends!
So how about the verse "... faith without works is dead..."? How does that apply? Well, simply put, just because our salvation is no longer determined by our works, doesn't mean we should give up entirely. It also doesn't mean that we then have the freedom to do whatever we want. Paul tells us
"All things are lawful for me, but all things are NOT expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify NOT."
- 1 Corinthians 10:23 KJV
So what do we do then? We "repent". Well, what does that mean exactly, if it doesn't mean to never sin again? Repentance really only means to agree with God when He describes what sin is. Literally speaking, it means to change your mind about sin, agreeing that it's seriously bad. All actions start in the heart and mind. If you change your heart and mind about sin, agreeing with God that it is what He says it is, by natural reaction you should start to act differently about it. For instance, if God says sex outside of marriage is sin, then "repenting" would be to AGREE with God, which should in turn start to change your actions. Now here is the million dollar question... is everyone able to get this perfect? Absolutely not, because we are living in a body, and a world, broken by sin. BUT, in repentance, we do our best. And I believe that is all God really expects from us.
When a Christian sins, always agreeing with God that what He says is sin, we do not carry it around with us either. Christians continually gain forgiveness by constantly bringing our mistakes to our Lord at the foot of the cross and being cleansed repeatedly; asking for more strength to keep doing better next time.
In summary, Christians struggle with the same sins and curse as everyone else. The only difference is if a Christian truly repents, agreeing with God that sin is sin, and try their hardest to navigate their way through this broken world, in their broken bodies, God will ALWAYS forgive and call us perfect, holy, and blameless anyway. Because Jesus Christ already accomplished the perfect work for us. So don't put the pressure of perfection on yourself if you are a new Christian, just keep doing your absolute best that you can and LOVE GOD! And for those of you who have been hesitant to become a Christian because of the myth of having to be perfect, or having the need to become perfect BEFORE you come to God asking for forgiveness... I would tell you, bring your sins to God so that HE can clean them up for you, instead of you trying to do that impossible task yourself.
I will leave you with a great statement by Jim Caviezel.
"Just because we are forgiven doesn't mean we have the freedom to do what we want, but rather to have the freedom to do the things we OUGHT."
- Jim Caviezel
Written by: Joshua Berry