By Aimee Byrd
If we are growing in our faith, does this mean we sin less? The answer is both yes and no.
If we really are growing in the faith, shouldn’t we be sinning less? What does it mean to be a mature Christian? After all, since we are being sanctified and transformed into Christ’s likeness, I would expect that at thirty-seven I would not be struggling with sin like I was at seventeen. Well, I have a yes and a no to this answer.
Looking back to my seventeen-year-old self certainly makes me feel holier. Many of the sins that I committed on a regular basis back then are not even desirable to me anymore. For that I am very thankful. And in the twenty years that have passed, God has given me better desires. Compared to Aimee at seventeen, they are much deeper. I see the fruit of righteousness being cultivated in my life. And yet my barometer of holiness is not to be compared to a younger version of myself; it is to be compared to the holy God.
Here I am at thirty-seven, torn up over my sin on a regular basis. If God has been faithful in my sanctification, why am I still struggling so much with my sin? As you probably know from experience yourself, in his grace God progressively reveals our sin to us as we grow in holiness. It’s not so much that we’re developing new sins as Christians; rather it’s that our sins have been developing, and now God is going to reveal them to us as he prepares us to face them. As we grow in our love for the Lord, we also hate our sin more. As we meditate on the cross, we are exposed.
With growth comes a mature awareness of our sin. I would like to think that I am sinning less as a thirty-seven-year-old, but a growing understanding of the severe depth of my sinfulness also assures me of the processes of sanctification. At seventeen, I was well aware of a list of sins that I was committing. I even knew that some of them were pretty bad. But I had the immature idea that as I grew, I would knock off those sins one by one and then be a mature Christian. I was completely deceived about the gravity of my sinfulness. Repentance has become much more dear to me as I have grown in holiness.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can know that we are no longer dead in our sins but alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1, 5). Because we are forgiven and have the work of his Spirit applying Christ’s accomplishment on our behalf, we can push forward toward holiness. Our unity in Christ gives us a growing longing and desire to know him and be like him. And because of our union with Christ, we truly are being sanctified. Only God knows the number of our sins, but every one of them was paid for by Christ’s blood.
Yes, we are saved by grace, but that grace is expensive. Therefore we abhor sin, hold fast to God’s promises in Christ, and, by his Spirit, we are now able to mortify sin and truly grow toward our assured goal of glorification with him. “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)..