Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3:8 ESV
When one accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, they receive a new nature. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:4 ESV). Nicodemus was a bit confused by this statement and wondered out loud about just how ridiculous and impossible it sounded. But Jesus responded, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6 ESV). Jesus was letting Nicodemus in on the exciting news that men were going to be able to receive new natures – spiritual natures – made possible when His atoning work on the cross had been completed. To drive home his point, Jesus used an event from the history of the Israelites. Having sinned and rebelled against God, the people of God found themselves under His wrath. They were being attacked by serpents and many were dying as a result. God instructed Moses to create a bronze serpent, put it on a staff and command the people to look at it – when they did, they would be healed. In essence, they had to look at their sin and their punishment in order to receive healing. And Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 ESV). This statement is followed by the familiar words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world,i that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). When an individual looks on the crucified Christ, bearing his sins on the cross and suffering the punishment for his rebellion against God, and believes that His sacrifice satisfied God, he is born again. He receives new life and a new nature. At that point he becomes a child of God. He not only receives healing from and forgiveness for his sins, he receives the righteousness of Christ. His new nature is a sinless nature. But the problem is that he also maintains his old nature – his sin nature. These two natures are at war within us. But the apostle Paul gives us the key to “making our sinless nature our dominant nature. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17 ESV). Walk by the Spirit. John tells us the very same thing. “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him” (1 John 2:27 ESV). We not only have new natures, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. And the key to sinning less is abiding more.
John reminds us that we are children of God – NOW! It is who we are. And as children of God, we have been given the very nature of God that allows us to live righteously and rightly. But the key is abiding or remaining in Him. We must walk in the light. We must stay attached to and dependent upon the source of our righteousness. Jesus’ analogy of the vine and the branches teaches us the undeniable necessity of living constantly attached to and reliant upon Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Our sin nature sins. That is what it does. But our sinless nature, the one we inherited from Christ, cannot sin. John puts it this way: “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning” (1 John 3:5-6 ESV). Jesus died so that we might become righteous, as He is righteous. But we must remain or abide in Him. We must become increasingly more dependent upon the Spirit of God within us if we want to sin less. Every time we sin, it is a reminder that we are living according to our sin nature. We are not abiding. That should drive us back to the cross where our old nature was crucified with Christ. “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6 NLT). We can sin less, but only if we abide in Him more. Sinlessness is not the result of sinning less. It is the other way around. We sin less because our new nature is sinless. Paul tells us, “Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God” (Romans 6:13 NLT). We have new life and a new nature. We have a new capacity to sin less because our new nature is from God and is sinless. We sin when we give in to our old nature. We sin when we stop abiding in and relying on the Spirit within us. We are children of God and we can live like children of God. But we must rely on the power of God.