Q&A: Seventy Times Seven and God

Seventy Times Seven and God

Question

I cannot make myself quit sinning. I am ernestly sorry after I sin, and I am sincere when I ask for forgivness, help and guidance from the Lord. I know that without his help I am powerless to overcome any of the worlds temptations. If I know all this, and I really do believe it, then how come I can't do it?

The Lord is not pleased with me, and I am starting to worry about my salvation. A true Christian shouldn't ever worry about that, right? I know Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven, but does that apply to doing the same thing over and over, knowing better the whole time? I don't want to be a "weekend Christian," and I don't believe that you can live in sin and have Christ Jesus living in your heart. I feel that Romans 7:14-25 pertains to me, but I don't understand it. Will you explain this to me?

Answer

Welcome to the Christian life!

You should know that you are in good company - Paul had the same kinds of struggles (e.g. Rom. 7:14-25; see my detailed answer on that passage for more info. In fact, many (perhaps all) of us stuggle like this, though some of us may not know or admit our sin. The fact of the matter is that although we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and enabled to do good works, our flesh is still indwelt by sin and we are in many ways still under its control (cf. Gal. 5:17ff.). Sin cannot condemn us (Rom. 8:1), and the Holy Spirit can cause us to resist sin, but it is a constant battle, and we are certain to lose at many turns. Only when our corruptible bodies perish will we be free from this (at times overwhelming) influence. God does not promise us total victory over sin in this life - that is one reason we need Jesus to come back! Jesus has only started the work of redeeming us; he has yet to complete it.

Now, this does not mean that you have no hope of resisting sin - you are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and empowered to live righteously in many ways. As a believer, your spirit now fights against your flesh, giving you a fighting chance to resist sin. And when you lose a skirmish, you can be forgiven and cleansed, no matter how many times you commit the same sin. The Bible gives us no guarantee that we will become less and less susceptible to sin, or that we will conquer our "besetting sins," during this life. It only guarantees that we will be forgiven and that we will triumph in the end (i.e. when we are glorified).

It is also important to remember that you yourself cannot resist sin any more now than you could before you were saved. Your will power is no stronger. If you try to resist sin in this way, you will fail. Only the Holy Spirit can help you - God's power can resist sin, yours cannot. How does that work in real life? Well, it means you ask him to keep you from sinning, and you obey him as much as you can when he leads you away from sin. You can also rely on practical wisdom to reduce your sins - occupy yourself with things that will not allow you the opportunity to sin, and find ways to redirect your desires and energies. Other believers can be helpful in this regard too, and even unbelievers - surround yourself with people who can keep an eye on you, etc.

As far as doubting your salvation goes, true believers certainly can doubt that, and for different reasons. For one thing, a person can doubt his salvation if his theology is in error. Another way is that one can have an experiential lack of conviction of his salvation (that is probably where you are). Such a lack of faith is not a loss of saving faith, it is simply human weakness (cf. Mark 9:34). A true believer ought to have assurance of salvation, but this does not mean that he necessarily will have such assurance.

Lastly, there are a number of misconceptions that people have about what the Bible does and does not condemn. If it causes you this much distress, it is worth figuring out if it really is a sin so that you do not wrongly condemn yourself.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.