“Our High Priest (Jesus) offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time … For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”
—Hebrews 10: 12 … 14. (NLT)
Isn’t it strange that even though we’re Christians we still sin?
Especially when the Bible says things like how we have “died to sin” (Romans 6:2), or how anyone born of God doesn’t continue to sin (1 John 5:18). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read verses like these and then I look at my life and I think…well, did I miss something here? Is my salvation flawed in some way? Or am I the one flawed in some way?
And this isn’t made any easier when the church and/or other believers and/or unbelievers sometimes condemn us for every mistake we make. Sometimes, we are the ones who put that weight of condemnation on ourselves.
“If I’m really saved, then how come I mess up so often?” you may ask. “Is Jesus proud of me? Can He even tolerate me?”
But here’s the interesting thing: according to the Bible, we Christians are both “perfect” and “being made holy”.
For by that one offering [Jesus] forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
At first these two things sound contradictory. How can something that is perfect still need work? And how can we be anything close to perfect when we keep screwing up?
To answer that, let’s look at the choice of words the Bible uses in that verse.
Firstly, it says we’ve been made perfect. Made. Human wisdom would have you believe perfection is something that is attained. The Bible tells us perfection is something that is gifted. We didn’t work for it. It was given to us once we believed.
By the offering of His life on that cross, Jesus Christ wiped away the stain of sin forever. He took our dirty selves and made us white as snow. This is what He meant when He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
But in the second part of Hebrews 10:14, the Bible tells us we’re being made holy. Being made. This means it is something that has not yet been attained.
This, I believe, refers to our lifelong pursuit of learning to throw off the habits and bondages of sin and the corruption of this world. Learning to live in a way that is pleasing to our Heavenly Father, even when it runs counter to everything the world tells us.
So how can this be? If we’re made perfect in the image of the Son of God, then how come we still struggle with the things we used to do before we were born again?
Take a look at a couple verses down in Hebrews 10:
“This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
—Hebrews 10:16 (NLT)
Did you catch that? God puts His laws in our hearts, and writes them on our minds. What doesn’t He mention here?
Our bodies are the part of us that the redeeming work of Christ on the cross does not touch and does not change.
That’s how come you are the same height as you were before you were born again. That’s how come anyone who knew you before you accepted Jesus sees you now and your face is the same.
And it is from our physical bodies that the struggle with sin as believers springs from. Things like the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16), as well as the list of vices mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 (adultery, fornication, hatred, envy, etc.).
And this never goes away. It never ceases. As long as we are on this earth, we are stuck with our old, sin-loving bodies. And these bodies will continue to want to do the wrong thing.
And sometimes, we’ll lose the battle. Sometimes we will slip up and give in to those desires. It’s inevitable.
This may sound kind of discouraging, but I don’t mean it to. And certainly the Bible gives us no cause for despair either. Or have you not read that “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”? (Romans 8:1)
So don’t despair when you slip up in your Christian life. Do not start to question your salvation, and do not condemn yourself.
If God doesn’t condemn you, why should you condemn yourself? Why should you let anybody condemn you? Next time someone looks at your mistakes and tries to cast doubt on your faith, show them Hebrews 10:14.
There’s also hope in the Bible. We may battle sin as long as we live, but we will not battle sin forever. If we hold fast to our faith and our God, there will come a time when our flawed bodies are stripped away and replaced with a new one. One promised us by the Father Himself. Bodies that will no longer struggle against the law of our God or desire to do wrong:
“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us.”
—Romans 8:23 (NLT)
Glory to God!
Now of course, the purpose of this post is not to give you carte blanche to go and sin freely because after all, it’s ingrained in your body. God forbid. As believers, we are called to fight sin. And we do have a role to play in that work. It can be found in Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. That is not a promise. It is a command. It is our responsibility.
So how do we do this?
Firstly, by studying the Word of God. This cannot be emphasized enough. Most of us don’t study our Bibles nearly as much as we should. (Some of us don’t do it at all.)
But without knowing the standard the Bible sets for us, we will not know what our minds are supposed to be transformed to. If we don’t know where we are meant to be going, how will we ever hope to get there?
Secondly, we need to build a personal relationship with Jesus. Get to know the Lord for yourself. How can you become like someone you don’t know? You can’t.
(I don’t want to give specific rules or steps here because that process is unique for everybody, but a good starting point is to pray and ask the Lord to draw you close to Him, and then buckle your seatbelt and get ready for one heck of a ride.)
These things are, of course, neither straightforward nor quick-fixes. They are lifelong processes. But if you commit to them, something will change in you.
We will never get these earthly bodies to stop desiring sin, but by the power of the Spirit and the renewing of our minds, we will be able to subdue those impulses in the service of a greater desire: the promise of Life eternal.
“Because it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy.”
—1 Peter 1:16
On the cross of Calvary Jesus said, “It is finished.” And that is true, because Jesus does not lie. But as long as we are on this Earth the work is never done.
As Christians, God has finished the most magnificent work in our spirit. We are new creations. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).
But God is also crafting us into the best versions of ourselves we can be. Every day. Every hour. Every minute. We may struggle with sin now, but a time is coming when that struggle will be no more.
We are a work of Divine Art. But we are also a work-in-progress.
We are made perfect. But we are also being made holy.
Now isn’t that good news?