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If I struggle with a habitual sin, does that mean I am not saved?

translate habitual sin not saved

On this side of heaven, every Christian will struggle with sin. The apostle John writes to believers of every generation: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8, NLT, see also 1 John 1:10). If Christians were destined never to wrestle with sin, then Jesus would not have taught His followers to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT). The good news is that, even though we still sin, we can confess our sins to the Lord, receive His forgiveness and cleansing, and remain in fellowship with God (see 1 John 1:9).

The Bible clearly shows that, after salvation, Christians continue to sin. No one is perfect. James writes, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2, NLT; see also Philippians 3:12; James 3:8; 4:17). The author of Hebrews describes the believer’s battle with habitual sin and the need to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT). In Romans 7:14–25, the apostle Paul writes openly and honestly of his struggle with sin: “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (verses 14–15, NLT).

Habitual sin won’t cause us to lose our salvation or keep us out of heaven, but it can hinder our fellowship with God if we don’t humbly confess and continually seek restoration. As we grapple with sin in our Christian walk, we must never give up the fight or give in to our sinful desires. If we are to be adequately armed for the battle, it helps to understand what happens to us when we are saved. As soon as we place our faith in Jesus Christ and receive His salvation, we become new creations in Jesus Christ. Our old life of sin is dead and gone, and a new life begins (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4). At the same time, we are just starting a spiritual growth process called sanctification.

At the moment of salvation, God gives us the Holy Spirit to initiate an internal work of conforming us into the image of His Son (see Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). He starts making us more and more like Jesus, and He continues the work over our lifetime (Philippians 1:6). It is a slow progression of “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The process will not be complete until we see Jesus face-to-face (1 John 3:2). Only then will our struggle with sin cease.

God does the work, but we must submit ourselves into His hands and cooperate with Him. (Matthew 26:41; Luke 12:15; 1 Peter 5:6–11; James 4:7). Paul encourages all believers to “press on toward the goal” of Christian maturity (Philippians 3:12–14). Pursuing a lifestyle of habitual sin will impede our ability to live in the light, grace, and freedom that Jesus Christ intended for us (see Romans 6:11–14; 13:12–14). We can’t let guilt over sin take us out of the fight (Romans 8:1–17), nor should we allow God’s gracious willingness to forgive our sins to lull us into callous apathy, feeling like we can go on sinning (Romans 6:1–14).

John urges, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 John 2:1–2, NLT).

God has given us Jesus Christ to advocate for us. Even when we do our best not to sin, we fall short sometimes. When we fail, we must remember that all is not lost. Jesus stands before the Father, pleading our case. He “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NLT). We can come to Jesus and find mercy and grace to help us with our struggle against habitual sin (see Hebrews 4:16). He paid the price and the penalty for our sins, including those committed after we were saved (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:25; Colossians 2:13–14; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24).

Scripture teaches us to be honest with ourselves and God about our struggle against sin, recognizing that we are incapable of overcoming the battle in our own strength and power. We can only be victorious by relying on the power of God’s Holy Spirit, letting the Spirit guide our lives (Galatians 5:16), walking and living by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), trying not to stifle the Spirit’s work (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30) but seeking instead to be filled with the Spirit, surrendering entirely to His control (Ephesians 5:15–20).

We can ask the Lord to discipline us in whatever way necessary to overcome any habitual sins in our lives. We can be smart and on guard in our struggle with sin (2 Peter 3:17; Romans 6:12–14), resisting temptations (Hebrews 12:4; James 4:7), avoiding enticements (1 Thessalonians 5:22), standing on God’s Word (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16), and seeking the way of escape that God provides (1 Corinthians 10:13). It may take a lifetime, but by God’s grace, we will experience continuing, growing victory over sin.

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If I struggle with a habitual sin, does that mean I am not saved?
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This page last updated: December 18, 2023