I sat on the edge of my seat, listening to the youth conference speaker describe the new Christian life. The night before, while the band played an emotional song about trusting Jesus, the speaker had invited students to come forward to “give their lives to Jesus.” This morning, in a room full of sweaty teens who had barely slept the night before, the speaker attempted to lay a foundation for those who had given their lives so they would know their next steps.
I had my Bible open on my lap to absorb every word. My life felt listless and riddled with struggles with sin, and I wanted to live a life that was on fire for Christ and victorious.
“When you become a Christian, everything changes,” he said. “The things you used to struggle with, you won’t struggle with anymore. The sins that overcame you, they won’t have victory anymore. You’ll be a completely different person—people may not even recognize you!”
Those words felt like a blow to my stomach. I sat back. A heavy weight rested on my chest.
The things you used to struggle with, you won’t struggle with anymore.
I looked down at my hands. I did still struggle with the same sins that I did before. Did that mean I wasn’t saved?
Years later, I would still wrestle with that same question as the same sin struggles continued to come up in my life. I doubted my salvation for years on a regular basis. If I still struggle with sin, many of the same sins, how can I be a Christian? Perhaps you’ve wondered that too. Maybe you look around at your fellow siblings in Christ and see yourself as a failure in comparison. If that’s the case, let’s turn to Scripture and find assurance.
New Creations Who Still Struggle with Sin
When I brought my doubts and fears to others, well-meaning people would direct me to 1 John and instruct me to use it like one of those BuzzFeed quizzes to determine if I was truly saved. Each time, it seemed 1 John declared in bold letters: unsaved. As I laid in bed at night, I felt caught between two dark paths looming before me: one declared me unsaved, and the other declared me unlovable by God for my continual struggle with sin.
J. Gresham Machen explored this very subject in his famous book Christianity and Liberalism. He asked if Christians are really new creations. “It certainly does not seem so,” he wrote. “They are subject to the same old conditions of life to which they were subject before; if you look upon them you cannot notice any very obvious change. They have the same weaknesses, and, unfortunately, they have sometimes the same sins.”1
How did he answer this objection? He turned to Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” He emphasized that Christians live by faith rather than sight. We live in this already-but-not-yet state where Christ’s righteousness covers us, but we aren’t completely free from the battle with sin. “In principle the Christian is already free from the present evil world, but in practice freedom must still be attained. Thus the Christian life is not a life of idleness, but a battle.”2 Though our salvation is a single moment, our sanctification is a process.
Perhaps you’ve faced fears and questions. Am I still a Christian even though I go to battle daily with the same sins?
If you believe in Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection for you, then yes, you are! Does God love you less because you still struggle? No, because this is the very life he has laid out for you. You are a newborn, not a full-grown adult yet. Just as you expect a child to learn obedience to authority and how to treat others with kindness, so God expects that your sanctification will be a slow journey.
Never Alone in the Battle with Sin
In this battle, God doesn’t sit on the sidelines to cheer you on. Rather, through the Holy Spirit, he is actively involved in growing you from sin to righteousness (2 Cor. 3:18). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are not fruits of the believer but fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). He grows those things in you. Machen goes on to define faith as something that receives, not something that works. As we receive the means of grace, such as God’s Word and the sacraments of baptism and communion, the Spirit works to produce fruit in our lives. As Paul wrote in Galatians, we still experience life in the flesh, but we experience new life by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:20).
Will you struggle with the same sin struggles? Yes, most likely. You’re still the same person, with the same dispositions, the same flesh, and the same past. But you will grow, and you’ll no longer have to steel your face and do it all on your own. You’ll have the Spirit working inside you, Christ advocating for you, and the Father loving and disciplining you. Day by day, you will be renewed into the likeness of Christ. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Won’t that be a glorious day? All the dead will be raised, and every follower of Christ will be carried into eternal life, where we will be glorified and sin will be no more. Come, Lord Jesus.
Meet the Author
Lara d’Entremont is a wife and mom to three from Nova Scotia, Canada. Lara is a writer and learner at heart—always trying to find time to scribble down some words or read a book. Her desire in writing is to help women develop solid theology they can put into practice—in the mundane, the rugged terrain, and joyful moments. You can find more of her writing at laradentremont.com.