It’s false humility – really self-righteousness – to go around sin-conscious. Not only that, it’s a slap in the face to the One who cried, “It is finished,” and to Paul, who said, “And you are complete in Him.” That sort of sin-consciousness, where we go around thinking, “I’m sinning. I’m always sinning. Why? Because I’m a sinner” becomes a rationale for more sinning.
To the contrary, “It is God’s will that you should be holy.” This holiness is burdensome to us only because we think “I’ve gotta do it,” when really it is Christ who is our holiness – not positionally or “in God’s mind” but actually, a present-tense, here-and-now holiness that is totally accessible to us at any time through the channel of faith. If we are tempted to unholy attitudes or actions, we can recognize our oneness with Christ – that He is living in us in an indivisible union through which everything that He IS belongs to us, and everything that we are as vessels belongs to Him.
But in order for this communication of His life to flow we let go of an independent “I” that has to perform, and we recognize that it is Christ Himself in us who is our Life. We also let go of the idea that there is an independent “I” in us that runs around and commits sin.
Righteousness is the possession and character of one Person, God, expressed in His Son, Jesus Christ, and given to us as our own possession not as a thing to be possessed but in the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, sin is the possession and character of one person – Satan. He is the originator of it; he was the one who said, “I will be my own god; I will rule myself.” Jesus said to the self righteous, “You are of your father, the devil, and his lusts you will do.” They weren’t doing their own lusts, but Satan’s.
1Jo 3:2-10 illuminates this:
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
After this passage John delineates what it looks like to live from Christ; it’s loving in deed and in truth, not just in words. But it’s really Christ loving through us. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” As we rely, believe, trust, exercise faith in the name – the power, authority, uniqueness, identity – of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we love one another. Because it is His love coming through us.
Think about it – John here flies in the face of much modern theology of “I sin because I’m a sinner.” Believe me, I used to live in that consciousness on a constant basis – the life of Romans 7. John is here showing why a believer cannot sin and feel ok about it. It’s because we are committing spiritual adultery, having a form of godliness but denying its power by saying “Jesus died to pay my sin debt” and then not relying on His indwelling Life.
When we sin, we are really allowing our humanity to be used by the devil for his sinning.
When we ‘righteous’, we are allowing Christ to live through us.
Behavior is produced by the identity we are believing in, relying on – the identity we are “giving ourselves to,” if we want to use God’s symbol of the marriage union.
As blood-bought, blood-washed believers, when we give ourselves to the sinner-identity, we are committing adultery with Satan, with the subsequent fruit of it: Sin. We are saying, “I am an independent self. I choose good and evil.” And what happens with that false identity is that Satan gets his marionette strings hooked into us and works us like puppets – from the outside in, since we’re believers. We’re committing spiritual adultery when we sin.
When we give ourselves over to the One who gave Himself for us, believing, trusting Him, relying on Him and the new Name we have been given in this marriage union – His very own Name, with all its attendant authority and power, love, security, worth, and meaning – when we give ourselves to this One, He begets righteousness through us.
That’s the essential fact on sin and righteousness. They do not originate in us. We give ourselves to one or the other in Satan or Jesus Christ, and they produce through us.
This is not dualism. God and Satan are not equal powers. Satan is under Christ’s feet. Defeated. But God wants us to appropriate that defeat at the Cross by faith – by relying on Christ. We take “a willed share in our own making,” as George MacDonald said. That willed share is Faith.