While definitions are very important in understanding perfection, it may be even more important to search the Bible for realistic, practical ways of experiencing what the Bible promises. It is at this point that we need to have that faith, that complete trust in God that will believe what God says even though it sounds impossible. We know enough about our weakness and our failures. What we want to know is God's power and His promises.
Is Christ really able to keep us from sinning? Or is sin, in the final analysis, more powerful than Christ? Under inspiration, Jude says that He is able! Thus, falling is not an inevitable reality of our lives, no matter what our past experience might have been. If Christ is really able, then why don't we give Him a chance to reveal His power in our lives?
Do we really believe the promises of God? Are all things possible through Christ? Is it really true that victory over sin is possible? Note carefully that this is possible only through Christ dwelling in us by the process of justification and sanctification.
It is important to note that God will deliver only those who are looking to Him and believing His promises--whom He calls the godly. Now if we are really delivered out of temptation, this means that we have not fallen under the temptation--we have not sinned. Then it is not necessary for us to yield to temptation, because He can deliver us from temptation. He will provide a way of escape if we are willing.
God has promised that He will not allow any temptation to come to us that is too strong for us, which would make our fall inevitable. This means that a way of escape is possible for every temptation. There is not one temptation that comes to us that makes sin inevitable. God has promised that if we will trust in Him, He will show us the way out of every temptation.
Some practical ways to find that escape route can be easily done if we give some thought to it ahead of time. When temptation comes, do we pray immediately, or would we rather wait until later? Have we memorized Scripture so that we can answer Satan with "It is written" as Christ did? We can even find a way of escape by song. What is important is that we turn our thoughts away from the temptation and toward our source of power.
We know that Christ lived a life without sin, but sometimes we don't want to recognize the fact that He is also our Example, asking us to follow in His steps. Of course, this assumes that Christ was born like we are born, feeling our temptations and experiencing the pull of our desires.
If we are in Christ, we are not rebelling against Him, and sin is rebellion. If we abide in Him, we will not sin, because He does not sin in us. If Christ is abiding in us constantly, He will not be sinning in us. Thus as long as we are abiding in Him, we will not be rebelling in thought or in word or in action.
The model of overcoming is Christ, and we can overcome sin just as He overcame it. The Bible is full of these promises, and we must not ignore them in an attempt to defend some remaining sins in our lives.
This is one of the most powerful promises in the Bible. God knows that we cannot handle our inmost thoughts, and so He offers us a way of escape. If we will just give those thoughts to Christ immediately, He promises to hold them in captivity so that they cannot control us. But we must make the decision to surrender that thought to Christ rather than playing with it and dwelling upon it. If we really want to be Christians, we must be just this serious about our relationship with Christ. Every thought must be in His control, at all times. It is self-obvious that if Christ controls all of our thoughts, sin will not be happening in our lives.
If the Holy Spirit is controlling our lives, we will not succumb to the desires of our natures. The Bible is full of promises that we need not fall and fail constantly, over and over again. God promises that we can overcome and that we can gain continual victories in the battle against the flesh.
It is crucially important that we understand that overcoming is a miracle of God's grace, just as surely as Peter walking on the water. No amount of self-control will overcome the pulls of our fallen nature. This has to be a miracle of God from beginning to end. He does the cleansing, He provides the new heart, and He causes us to obey His law. If there is any hope of realizing the promises we have read, then we must take this text very seriously, and make this the constant prayer of our lives.
Additional study: A gospel which has become very popular among contemporary Christians says that once we have been justified, we remain in a justified or saved condition even though continuing sin or cherished sin keeps on recurring in the life. In this gospel, the absence of a sanctified heart does not disqualify us for heaven. One author writes, "Stumbling under grace, falling into sin, does not deprive us of justification. Neither does it bring condemnation."
It is quite evident that this idea does not harmonize with the Bible texts we have been studying in the last few lessons. Isaiah 59:2 warns, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God." Sin always separates us from God. When sin is cherished, Satan takes control of the heart, and the Spirit of God is driven out. How could we possibly think that we are in a saved condition while sinning? Self-delusion and rationalization are major components of Satan's attempts to lull us into a false sense of security. Anyone who assures you that there is safety in disobedience is teaching a false gospel, which is far more serious than a false day of worship.
Now all of this could be very discouraging for us, except for one thing--God's love. God is not looking for ways to reject us. He is the seeking God, the One who will not let us go, even when we are rebelling against Him. While He cannot save us in sin, He will continue to love us and draw us back to Him. We see this most clearly in 1 John 2:1. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Clearly God's purpose for us is that we do not sin. But immediately we see God's mercy in the very next phrase. When we fall into sin because of our carelessness, we have One who understands our weakness representing us in the heavenly courts. If we go to Him in sorrow and genuine repentance, He will take our case immediately.
We need to be clear that only when our sins are confessed, which is not while we are participating in them, are we accepted by God. When we fall into sin, there are two ways that we can deal with our sin. The human way--Satan's way--is to justify our sin and to excuse it. That is the way of separation from God, and there can be no salvation while separated from Him. The right way to deal with personal sin is to recognize it for what it is as soon as it happens within us. We see that once again we are dishonoring God and vindicating Satan, and we fall on our knees in deep repentance. There is only one thing that should scare us in this mortal life, and that is watching our hand slip out of the hand of our heavenly Father. Immediately we ask God to reach down and grasp our sinking hand and pull us to safety again. Nothing else matters--not ego or reputation or image--excepting reconnecting with God. As long as the connection is maintained, we have full assurance of salvation.
This means that we have to deal with our personal sins, and not just assume that they will go away. We need to allow God to fix the sin problem in us. "Just as soon as you commit sin, you should flee right to the throne of grace, and tell Jesus all about it." (Signs of the Times, Feb. 15, 1892) Today, let us yield our wills to Jesus and allow Him to take full possession of our lives. If we will only yield up our wills daily to Jesus, we will have power beyond our ability to explain, and we will not have to rely on a false gospel to give us a false assurance of salvation. God's way is always better than human devising.