The Frustrating Work of Helping Sinners Not Sin

THEM: I’m not growing any fruit, what should I do?

ME: Pray. Stop sinning, Pursue holiness.

THEM: What else ya got?



This was a real conversation I had with a guy. Through our entire relationship he was adamant that good works were not necessary, and that sin wasn’t that bad because Jesus had forgiven him. Yet I’ve never met anyone so burdened with guilt. He was constantly beating himself up and depressed.

“How come I don’t have any spiritual fruit? Why doesn’t sin just stop?” he asked.

“Because you don’t think sin is that bad and you don’t think good works are that good.”

“Yeah, my good works are just filthy rags and all my sin has been dealt with in Christ. But I just don’t understand why I’m not growing.”

“You should do good things. Paul says in Titus to do good works so you are not unfruitful.”

“Yeah, well, there you go slipping into legalism again.”

We got nowhere. He later left the church.

People are suckers for get rich quick schemes. We all want the shortcut to success. This is just as true spiritually as it is monetarily.

I think most Christians admire Jesus Christ and would be cool with being more like Him. I really think most Christians have a desire to be better people. In fact, most people desire that.

The problem is defining what “better” means and then doing the hard work of getting there.

There is a notion in Christianity that getting saved will make doing good simple. If not that, then there’s some sort of experience, a second blessing, a moment of crisis or some such, that will once and for all deliver you from the struggle with sin.

Paul seems to say that salvation brings you into a battle. I don’t see him, or any other Bible writer, promising easy-breezy holiness.

Sin tempts you at every turn. It’s not going anywhere, nor is it getting tired. It hammers away constantly in an amazing tenacious display. We get worn down. Our willpower drains. Our spiritual mindedness gets distracted by earthly concerns. We fall.

Yes, we‘re tired of the struggle. I would do just about anything to make the temptations stop and certainly to make my falling stop.

Everything except resist temptation anyway. “You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin,” says Hebrews 12:4.

We have spiritual armor. We’re told to fight the fight of faith. To run the race with patience. To war a good warfare as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

That sounds awful hard!

What else ya got?

The only way to defeat sin is to battle it. To be sober, watch, and pray. We’re to guard every footstep by walking circumspectly. We’re to flee from all appearance of evil and flee youthful lusts. This requires attention and energy.

People want sin to go away and temptation to cease existing. A shortcut that delivers us into an unfallen world, which would be the only possible cure.

A righteous world is precisely what the Bible offers and promises to the Believer, but that world will not be enjoyed until our time is up in this world. In this world you will have tribulation.

When people want to know how to overcome sin and prevail against temptation, the answers are there. Pray. Read and apply the Word. Fight. Do good. Think about others not yourself. Bring your body under subjection. All of these help, but also require energy, time, and other things we’re not willing to do, and furthermore, you’re a legalist for suggesting such answers.

People don’t want to fight and they don’t want the Word. They want a get spiritual quick scheme, a one-time event that ends the struggle. Dream on! Eternity will be that, but right now we fight and run with patience the race set before us. It aint easy, but it does work and the eternal reward will make the struggle completely worth it.



Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
–1 John 3:7

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