Why Do We Sin When the Power of Sin Is Broken?
NOTE: As with anything that is proposed in the PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE of TPM, this article is our best attempt in explaining things. You are not required to agree on all points, but only asked to consider what is being proposed. The only requirement in the training is that you follow exact protocol in the PROCESS if you are calling what you are doing in ministry, Transformation Prayer Ministry. Your comments are always welcomed. We will respond to each as we are able.
Walking under a cloud
We all know the poor fellow who struggles spiritually and many times behaves inappropriately. He is continually walking under a low-hanging cloud of negative emotions. He simply cannot get it together in general, and is typically assumed to be impeded by one of two things. One, he lacks faith and harbors unbelief; two, he has some manner of sin in his life of which he has not repented.
The go-to solution for these two assumed root causes is commonly the same: repent, confess, adjust behavior, and perform—that is, rededicate yourself to Christ and try harder. To bad that trying harder to believe and focusing on overcoming sin both have very low success rates. Obviously, some people do better than others, but all fall short of real and lasting success. Most of us do well in our chosen field of “holy” behaviors, but we each struggle in hidden places where making progress is more difficult.
Belief Issue or Heart Issue
Some people propose that all sin is a heart issue; I do not. I believe that my heart is where the Holy Spirit of God dwells. We are “Saints” (Greek N.T. is hagios or holy ones) who still choose to sin, even though we have been set free of the power of sin. This is a problem with which we must contend. To make the problem our heart raises all manner of theological issues for me. However, to consider the possibility that our belief plays an important role in our sinful choosing not only makes sense, it is something that we can purposefully and intentionally address with predictable success. There is an undeniable kinship between sin and belief. For example, what sin did you ever commit that you did not give some measure of thought about? All thoughts are grounded in belief. If my heart is the problem then what can I do? I cannot change my heart. However, if my belief is at least a portion of the problem, there is hope in having my mind renewed and transformation to follow (Rom. 12:2)
Belief—that is, heart or core belief—is the very seat of our emotion. Because we believe that which we do, we feel badly, and when we feel badly, we look for a way to make that feeling go away. In our endeavor to accomplish this we are easily drawn to sin. I am not suggesting that our lie-based pain is the root of all sin, but I cannot deny the relationship between what we feel and what we do. When a person is all stirred up in his lie-based pain, you can be certain that “sin is crouching at the door…” (Gen. 4:1-7).
Remember how Cain’s countenance had “fallen” in his anger. Cain, as all of us, believed something, felt something and then did something. God encouraged him by saying, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7). How are we to master sin? God said, “Do well.” What can this mean? Try harder, strive against it, or does it have to do with understanding why sin might be “crouching at the door” in the first place? There is a reason why sin is ever near by. Sin typically follows emotion and emotion is stirred by belief.
Remember the process; we believe, we feel, then we do. Our first step is to figure out why we feel what we feel; our belief. God’s questions to Cain suggest this strategy. “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” These two questions are similar to some of the TPM questions we ask when looking for lie-based belief. God asks Cain to look inside and determine what he believed that had him in the emotional state he was in. If he could do this and “do well” then his countenance would be lifted (his emotions would be changed by the truth) and transformation could follow. However, if not, his emotions would continue to stew and sinful behavior would predictably follow.
Think about the last time that you were tempted to sin, and see if you remember feeling something in that moment. You probably were not feeling anything positive. That is, unless you were feeling the pleasurable feelings brought forth by the thought of engaging in the sin itself. However, back things up a little and look for the negative emotion that this pleasure was attempting to mask. Look for emotions such as feeling sad, worthless, bored, anxious, stressed, out of control, worried, lost, or dejected. It is these types of emotions which we recoil from and seek to avoid. Sin is often the default solution for suppressing them.
In 1 Pet. 5:8, Satan is described as “…a roaring lion looking for someone to devour…”. This was written in the context of a suffering church. When life becomes difficult, whatever is inside (belief) will come out. We will feel whatever we believe. This is where the enemy shows up with his offer of shortsighted solutions for the lie-based emotions that manifest. The only remedy for lie-based pain is the truth, but we typically look for the quick-fix solutions such as food, sex, entertainment, alcohol, and even religious service. For example, a person may feel lonely and rejected so they join a Bible study group. A person feels guilty over past sins so they volunteer in ministries that focus on the same issues. These behaviors may anesthetize the pain for a time, but they will not resolve the core issue.
Lack of Faith and doubt
The other explanation for why we struggle in our Christian life is a lack of faith, or doubting. Doubting is not the absence of belief, but rather the outcome of our holding a belief that is contrary to the truth. It is because we believe something contrary to the truth in our hearts that it is impossible to believe the truth and that doubt is present. Doubt is not a problem to overcome, but rather an outcome of our belief —or that is, belief that runs contrary to the truth. Doubt cannot be overcome by simply trying harder to believe. Doubt is “overcome” when the lies we harbor are replaced with the truth.
As I have said before, we cannot hold two or more opposing heart beliefs or two or more opposing intellectual beliefs at the same time. However, we can simultaneously hold a heart belief and an intellectual belief which conflict. This is a state of double mindedness. For example, we can believe with our intellect the Bible verse that says, “I am with you always…” (Matt. 28:29), and also believe with our heart that God has abandoned us and feel all alone. However, we cannot hold two opposing beliefs in our hearts at the same time. One will cancel out the other and truth will always prevail. For example, I cannot believe in my heart that God is with me, and at the same time believe in my heart that He has abandoned me.
So then the solution to this doubt and double mindedness is not in trying harder to believe, but rather in identifying the heart belief that is contrary to the truth. Then, when we bring our lie-based belief into the presence of His light, God grants us the truth in our hearts, and the lie departs. Light and darkness cannot abide in the same space. Darkness will always retreat and light will remain.
If Sin is the Problem, Then What Did Jesus Accomplish?
There is a glaring theological problem when we make sin the reason for all our troubles. The Bible declares that sin was taken care of through the finished work of Christ. Just a glance at what the Scriptures declare reveals the following:
- The Power of Sin Was Broken: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2).
- The Debt of Sin Was Canceled Out: “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross” (Col. 2:14 NIV).
- Christ Propitiated Our Sins: “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 NIV).
- We Were Redeemed; The Price of Our Sin Was Paid: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3) “…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
- We Gained Freedom From Sin. “For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:6-10).
- Christ Redeemed Us From the Curse of the Law: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13).
- The Law was Fulfilled Through Christ in Us: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us…” (Rom. 8:3).
- We Became the Very Righteousness of God: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
- We Were Made New Creations: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
If sin is a problem to overcome, then what are we to do with these scriptural truths that say otherwise? The Bible says we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). How can you be more than a conqueror? This is the Scripture saying “We are more than more.” Our victory is not something we strive toward, but rather a state of being we already possess. True victory and ongoing battle cannot coexist. You are either victorious or in the fight. John the apostle could have not said it any clearer when he said, “whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 Jo. 5:4). Faith (believing the truth in our hearts with absolute certainty), and not struggle, is our victory. This is why we are more than conquerors!
I cannot deny that we have a problem with sin and we struggle in it. However, I challenge the belief that says the answer lies in somehow overcoming it. Which one of us has reached, or even had any measure of long-term success in doing this? I think that there are other issues afoot, and for those issues a different solution needs to be applied.
An Obvious Issue Overlooked
What if sin was not a problem to overcome, but rather a symptom of something deeper? Someone may be quick to say, “The deeper issue is that we have evil hearts.” If indeed my sin problem is a heart problem, then I suggest there is no cure for it. How can we fix an evil heart? I believe, however, that when I came to Christ, He gave me a new heart and He replaced my “heart of stone with a heart of flesh” ( Ez. 36:26). I am a new man in Christ and a partaker of His very nature. According to the Scriptures, sin has been taken care of through the death of Christ. As John the Baptist declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who TAKES AWAY the sins of the world!” (Jo. 1:29)
I think there is another explanation for why we sin other than saying it is just because of an evil heart. What we believe plays a very important role in how we explain our sin problem. If it were possible to suddenly have all of our lies and unbelief completely eradicated leaving us with nothing but truth in our hearts and minds, do you think that our sin problem would change. Without any doubt. The belief/sin correlation may be an obvious problem that has been overlooked in our attempt to overcome sin.
If my heart is the problem, when do I get to claim real victory? Does this mean I have two hearts, one evil and one good? Do I just deny my evil heart and choose only to acknowledge my good one? This viewpoint is a difficult one to support. Where in this is my victory? According to the Scriptures, our triumph is secure and complete since [God] “always leads us in triumph in Christ…” (2 Cor. 2:14).
Someone might quote Jesus who said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19) to support the position that the heart is wicked and evil. Without question, the unbeliever’s unredeemed heart is just that; fallen, depraved, and lost. However, Jesus clarified the difference between an unredeemed heart and the new heart when He said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matt. 12:33-35).
So do we possess two trees (hearts) from which we produce both good and evil fruit, or just one? Without going into a long discussion about the two hearts, we will simply say that the new heart replaced the old one. God did not insert the new heart alongside of the old one. When we died with Christ our old self was crucified with Him and we were brought to life as a new man in Christ. It was the exchange of an old self for a new self, an old heart for a new heart. We are not spiritual schizophrenics.
There is just one man inside the believer, and he is the new creation. However, this new man indwells a fallen “tent” or “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6) whose DNA can be traced all the way back to Adam. This “body of sin” is governed by a mind that is filled with lies. There is much work cut out for this new heart, but it is not involved with overcoming the old nature, but rather, coming into the reality of who he is in Christ. There is an established truth that needs no explanation, “…our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Rom. 6:7) (boldface is mine).
Sin is Often the Solution Rather than the Problem.
Would you consider the possibility that at least part of the problem we have with sin is related to belief and not limited to evil intentions? Maybe I can simplify this idea by asking, “Did you ever commit a sin that you did not first think about?” The very thoughts that passed through your mind were directly related to your belief. So then, what came first, what you believed or the evilness of your heart’s intent?
I believe that, more often than not, sinful behavior is actually an attempt at solving a perceived problem. In this context, sin would be the solution rather than the problem. For example, when a person looks in the refrigerator for something to eat when he is not even hungry, one might say that his eating problem is a sin issue. Eating when not hungry may in and of itself be a sin, but I do not believe the eating is the fundamental problem. If we try to help someone stop this “sinful” behavior, we will probably not have much success. We can lock the refrigerator, put them in a support group, wire together their jaws, or place them in an induced coma, but as soon as they wake up they will still be drawn to eat when not hungry. The question is why?
Some will say it’s the sin of overindulgence. What if their overindulgence is not the primary problem, but rather their way of solving what they perceive to be a greater problem? I think that eating when not hungry is a solution for a deeper issue. Again, if we focus on taking away a person’s solution without addressing the real problem, then we will encounter resistance and minimal success.
Sin is, more often than not, a vain attempt to deal with emotional pain rooted in lie-based belief. If we were to ask the person why he is eating when not hungry, and if he could honestly tell us, he might say that eating made him feel good, or reduced his bad feelings. This would, in fact, be true to a degree, since our minds are not designed to fully focus on pleasure and pain at the same time. Therefore, while he is eating and enjoying the pleasure of tasting the food, his bad feelings are suppressed. So his “eating” solution will work as long as he can keep pleasuring himself. However, his bad feelings will return once he can no longer continue eating. If we are able to identify the real cause of our emotional pain—which is a primary motivation behind much of our sinful behavior—and allow the Lord to successfully resolve it, freedom can follow. However, if we make the sin the problem and fail to address the belief issue, we may find ourselves in a perpetual loop trying to overcome sin which no one has yet mastered.
If my sin is my solution to my pain and you take away my solution, the perceived problem remains and I will just do something else in an attempt to resolve it. For example, if drinking (which is my solution) numbs my emotional pain caused by a deeper root, and you take away my drink, then you put me in a bad place. Now I have my problem—the bad feelings—with no way to make them go away. No one stays in this painful place for very long before coming up with another solution—perhaps anger or pornography. This is because God did not design us to do well in negative emotional pain. Negative emotion is a God-created warning system that something is wrong. The warning system is not the problem; it is designed to point out the problem. Such pain was designed to motivate us to look to Him for His solution.
There is no question that sin is, in and of itself, a problem and does foster more problems, but belief precedes every sin ever committed. Before the choice to sin can be made, belief has to be accessed and applied. All thinking is connected to and an expression of belief, and all sin is only committed after thinking about it. Again, I ask you, “What sin did you ever commit that you did not first give thought to?” Someone might say, “My spouse’s rage erupts almost without warning!” The truth is, you may be caught off guard by their raging, but it was his or her thinking that lead to their feelings and actions. We always have thoughts before we feel emotion and act it out.
Belief has preceded every sin that has ever been committed, from Adam down to you and me. In fact, without belief, we are incapable of even sinning. It was because of belief that Eve initially chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Sin was the consequence of her choosing, but belief determined her choices. She had to pass through a series of thoughts, rationalizations and conclusions before she put the fruit into her mouth. Sin was the last thing she did. “…When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate…” (Gen. 3:6).
Belief is the Focus of TPM
Belief is the main focus of Transformation Prayer Ministry, and the reason for doing it. TPM is a tool for cooperating with God and participating in what He is doing, as He refines our belief, or faith. Faith refinement is the most fundamental aspect of the believer’s life. When we have been born again, redeemed, and made to become a new creation, new self, or new man, then all that remains to be done for us is the renewing of the mind, or the refining of our faith. Faith is the core belief by which we live life and the lens through which we will interpret what lies ahead.
When our faith is pure—matches God’s perspective—we view and understand life from God’s frame of reference. A refined faith transforms us and enables us to walk in effortless victory and thereby experience the spontaneous outpouring of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Our belief shapes the way we view and interpret life; it creates our reality. But God’s perspective is the only true reality. Unless our reality matches His, then our perceived reality is false and self-created. Our reality will change and become more like God’s to the degree that He refines our faith.
Our beliefs are the reason we feel what we feel. They are the very seat of our emotions, and whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are governed to a great extent by these beliefs. The very fact that we have to resist and deny our feelings proves this is so. Our painful emotions are controlling us by requiring that we deny and suppress them. If our painful emotions did not have any power over us, there would be no need for us to try to control them.
Our belief is the driving motivation behind all that we do. Because we believe, we feel, and because we feel, we do. It is also the first step we take whenever we sin. Belief is the root of our defeat, but it is also the means of our victory. When we know and believe the truth with the heart, everything changes; freedom follows and transformation is an expected outcome. Heart belief is the very essence of our faith. It is how we got saved! (Rom. 10:10). Our belief is the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen…” (Heb. 11:1), keeping in mind that there is a major difference between knowledge of something and belief in something. I can have great knowledge of the Scriptures and remain defeated and unchanged. However, when I believe them in my heart, I am saved and continually transformed. Heart belief is faith, and this faith is our victory (1 Jo. 5:4).
Belief is not something we muster up, make happen, or discipline ourselves to achieve. We cannot believe simply because we want to, and put in the effort. Belief is a gift from God. As the Apostle Paul prayed, may the “… Father of glory … give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him … [may] … the eyes of your heart … be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling…” (Eph. 1:17-18) NASB.