We are going to consider the reasons why we fall into sin, and why we need not fall. I am sure this is going to be a very relevant study for you.

We considered in our last study that grace could keep us from being mastered by sin. Man’s greatest problem is that he is mastered by sin. God has made a way through Jesus Christ not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for delivering us from sin’s power. This is the good news of the Gospel – we can be delivered from the power of sin. You know there is a difference between being forgiven and being saved. Many people wouldn’t be able to explain the difference between the two. Let me use an illustration to explain it.

Let us suppose that the people from the corporation or municipality have dug up the road in front of my house and they have made a deep pit there. If I have a little child at home, I will tell him “well, son, don’t go near that pit, you may fall and you may hurt yourself.” But you know how little children are; they don’t pay attention to their parents. Let’s say he goes near the pit and he falls into it, and, from within the pit, he cries out: Daddy! Daddy! Help me. I hear that voice and I go running and I say, ‘son, what happened?’ He replies, ‘Daddy, I’m sorry, I disobeyed you, and I have fallen here in this pit.’ Let us say that pit is eight feet deep, and I say, ‘well that’s ok son, I forgive you, goodbye’ and if I leave him there, and go, have I forgiven him for his disobedience? I certainly have. But have I saved him? No, I have not.

You understand the difference now between being forgiven and being saved? David said, ‘‘Bless the Lord, o my soul, who forgives all your inequities.’’ But David could not be saved from the power of sin. It was the same with every person in the Old Testament. But when we turn to the pages of the New Testament, on the very first page, we come to this verse: ‘‘You shall call His name Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins’’ (Mt. 1:21); not just forgive their sins. He will save His people not in their sins but from their sins. If the Gospel message is only that Jesus can forgive me but cannot save me, I would say it is good news, but it is not as good a news as it should be. It would be like telling the woman caught in adultery, that we read in John 8, you remember what Jesus asked her: ‘‘Has no man condemned you?’’ She replied, ‘no man Lord.’ Jesus then said two things: ‘‘I don’t condemn you, from now don’t sin anymore’’ (Jn.  8:11). That is the twofold message of the Gospel – I do not condemn you. Go and don’t sin again.

Now if there was only one part to it – I don’t condemn you, then you know you may go and fall into sin again; you may again live in adultery. That wouldn’t be very much of a Gospel. The Gospel’s message has two sides to the coin and, if one side is missing, it is an incomplete Gospel. People often talk about the full Gospel. Here it is in John 8:11: I don’t condemn you, and don’t sin again; mercy and grace; forgiveness and victory. They only had forgiveness under the law. Now we have both – forgiveness and victory. There will not be any mastery over our life of sin anymore.

Now, if that be the case, does it mean that we will never sin again? No, it doesn’t mean that. God says that He is going to change our nature and give us the nature of God Himself; His own divine nature. When I have that nature and I allow that nature to gradually control my life, I will become more and more free from sin, and I wouldn’t want to sin anymore. How do you know the difference between a pig and the cat? We can’t say that a pig will always fall into dirty water and a cat will never fall into dirty water, because cats can fall into dirty water too. But the difference, we can say, when both these animals fall into the dirty water, one relishes the experience and the other jumps out immediately. Not only the cat jumps out immediately, but it also licks itself and makes itself clean.

Now this, we could say, illustrates the difference between an unconverted person and a person who is born again. We cannot say that the born-again person will not sin. It is very evident that born again people do, both in the Bible and in our experience – you do and I do. But there is a difference, and the difference is a difference of nature. You know whether you are born again or not by your attitude towards that fall, when you fall into sin. If it is one of remorse, and you want to get up and want to be clean; you want to break away from it; well, that proves that God has done His work in your heart. But if you are happy that nobody saw it, and you enjoy yourself, and you don’t want to give it up; well that would prove that you are only religious, you haven’t changed within.

Then, why do Christians fall? Is it possible for us to overcome in such a way that we don’t have to keep on falling into the same old sins again and again? The Christian life is a life of growth. It is not one where we keep on being defeated by, let’s say, anger, for 25 years; or we keep on getting defeated by dirty thoughts for 25 years, or by jealousy or bitterness or anything. No, there has to be progress. The Bible speaks about growing in grace. And we could compare this with the growth of a child in a school.

You know, a child goes to school and, as years pass by, it goes from one standard to the next. It learns things in one standard which it did not learn in the previous standard. We can say it overcomes certain problems, let’s say, mathematical problems in one year that it could not overcome in the previous years. Let’s say a child does not know how to add. But then, after a year, it knows how to add but it doesn’t know how to subtract. Then, after a year, perhaps, it learns how to subtract, but it doesn’t know how to multiply. Then after another year it learns how to multiply. Then it learns how to divide and how to get square roots and so on. So, this is growth.

Here is an example of how it should be in our Christian life too. Growth is where we overcome area after area in our life, where once upon a time we were defeated. Just like that child overcame area after area in a whole realm of mathematics, where once upon a time it was totally ignorant. This is growth in grace. Then, what shall we say about a child who is repeatedly failing in the first standard? Is that God’s perfect will? – Certainly not. We will never be sinlessly perfect here on this earth. But we are to press on to perfection, just like a child starting in the kindergarten class presses all the way hoping for, perhaps, a PhD one day. But there is a pressing on to something higher each year.

The Bible says that ‘‘The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that becomes brighter and brighter as the day progresses until it reaches the perfect noonday position’’ (Prov. 4:18); Brighter and brighter, just like the sun, from dawn to midday position. There is never a time when the sun goes down and becomes darker. It gets brighter and brighter and brighter and brighter, and that is God’s perfect will for us. Just like for a child in school that, if it is in first standard this year, we expect it to go to second standard next year. It won’t reach tenth standard for another nine years. But we expect it to reach the second standard next year, the third standard next year, and so on.

God’s will, my friend, for you is that, you should go from one degree of glory to another; progress in overcoming. You are not to be defeated by the same sins year after year. You have to be an overcomer. Then why is it that some students fail and fail and fail and fail repeatedly in the same class? Well, there could be many reasons. I think one of the fundamental reasons is the lack of the fear of God. In the Book of Proverbs it says that ‘‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’’ (Prov. 9:10). In other words, it is the first lesson in the school of wisdom; it is like learning the alphabet. You know, when you go to school, or a child goes to school, the first thing it learns is the alphabet. What is the alphabet of wisdom? It is to fear the Lord. Again it says in Proverbs 8:13 that ‘‘To fear the Lord is to hate evil.’’ We hate evil because God hates evil. When we hear that God has called us to be holy because He is holy, and we are gripped by it, we begin to hate sin.

Let me ask you a question: why is that you find, when some other believer is nearby, you don’t fall into some sins which you fall into when you are all by yourself? When you are alone in a room all by yourself, there is nobody around, why is it that you fall into certain sins? And if at that moment, a believer walked into the room; knocked at your door and came in; you wouldn’t think of or dream of committing that sin. I will tell you the reason – Because you fear that man’s opinion. That man’s opinion means more to you than God’s. When you are alone, only God is in the room and when that person comes in, that man is in the room. If that person’s presence can prevent you from committing a particular sin, and when that person is away and only God is there, you commit that sin, it would indicate that you do not fear God. You fear man more than you fear God.

One of the first things to do, dear friend, is to pray to God and say, ‘Lord, please help me to fear You. Please help me to mourn when I fail, when I come short.’ Now let me give you this as a challenge: if you are willing to mourn every single time you fail, and you say, ‘Lord, I slipped up. Forgive me. Help me to fear You. I want to recognize Your presence. I want to live before Your face,’ you will discover that those who mourn are strengthened, and you can be an overcomer.

This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen.  You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.