Almost everything in life is a process. Our physical growth is a process occurring over decades. Education is a process spanning years and years. In the same way, spiritual development is a process. It takes time to purge the bad habits and develop new, godly habits. Sometimes we become impatient with ourselves and with others when progress doesn’t come fast enough. We want to be perfect now. We expect perfection in others as soon as they become a Christian.
But it doesn’t work that way.
A hurry up approach to Christian growth is often deadly. Rushing the process almost never works.
Sins Are Forgiven but Habits Remain
The Bible teaches that our sins are paid for at baptism (Acts 2:38). All our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11). It is the blood of Jesus that removes the sin (1 John 1:7). The beautiful gospel message is that every sin can be forgiven. No matter how terrible or embarrassing, all sin can be washed away.
But just because the sin vanishes it doesn’t mean that our bad habits disappear as quickly. Indeed we all struggle. Consider the man who has lived most of his life without Jesus. His language is filthy and his words harsh. Would you imagine that it will take time to change his language?
The Lord envisions the struggle and provides for our needs. Notice 1 John 1:7:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
This wonderful passage envisions someone who is in fellowship with Jesus but who still sins! But that sin is constantly being forgiven by the blood of Jesus! As the bad habits are fading, the Lord is still providing cleansing if we are walking in the light or in fellowship with Jesus.
Evil is Always Near
I have been intrigued lately with Romans 7:15– Romans 8:11. Paul declares himself a wretched man because he cannot escape his own sinfulness. He tries, but fails to live perfectly. He realizes that sin is never far from him and even lies close by when he is striving to do good (Romans 7:21).
Do we not suffer in the same way? Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you try, sin still seems near? Sin arises from within us and from within our own desires (James 1:13-15) so it is never far away.
The very struggle that Paul faced we face. It is the same struggle that new Christians face and it takes time to overcome.
There is Hope
Go back to the Romans passage. After wrestling with his own sin a defects he suddenly declares “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1). How can that be? How can it be that in spite of bad habits, sin and lurking evil there is no condemnation? It is because we are no longer of the flesh but of the spirit. We walk in Christ and live in him. Our desire is for Christ and our goal is to walk daily worthy of our calling in him (Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).
Rejoice in your salvation and seek each day be transformed more and more into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2).
There is Also Danger
This salvation found in Christ must never be used as an excuse for sin. We must never deliberately sin while counting on the blood of Jesus to save us anyway (1 Peter 2:16).
Remember, the blood of Jesus washes us while we walk in the light. When we step out of the light and live in a worldly, fleshly way, we have no sacrifice on which to depend (1 John 1:6; Hebrews 6:4-6).
As the Christian grows and develops the blood of Jesus will keep right on cleansing him. It may be that the type of sin changes but sin is never far away. Yet, for the one striving to love his Lord and to be obedient to him, there is no condemnation.
Walk in inexpressible joy and never venture from the light!