What does it really mean to “live free from sin?”
When an individual gets saved, the scripture is clear that there is power to live without sinning. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9). When people discuss the issue of sin, it is important to establish and understand the definitions.
The New Testament gives four primary definitions of sin—those things which separate man from fellowship with God. A true child of God lives without violating these scriptures.
“All unrighteousness is sin” (I John 5:17).
“Sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4).
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
For even more clarity, the Mosaic Law was “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Mankind under the law was not able to maintain a life of victory without sinning. Consider David who committed adultery and Abraham who lied. Their hearts were to serve God, but they did not have power to maintain a life without sin; so they were dependent upon animal sacrifice according to the law of God to be forgiven. Under the New Covenant, there is power in the blood not only to be forgiven but to “go and sin no more.” The Law was given by God to reveal sin so we might understand it and know we cannot live without sinning in our own ability. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
In the New Testament, sin is an issue of the heart and is rebellion against God and His way, for through Christ we CAN live without breaking the law. It is noteworthy that when Paul and John speak of those who will not go to Heaven, they spell out some specific things—idolatry, fornication, adultery, lying, stealing, drunkenness, etc. These things are MORAL violations that separate one from God. These are sins.
Does living a victorious life free from sin mean that I will never make a mistake or have a failure?
This is a very pertinent question for the topic at hand. I have yet to meet a Christian who is saved and full of the Holy Spirit who has never had a failure or made a mistake. However, there is a difference between sin and falling short of the perfection of grace. Christians must love God above all else and their purpose and desire should be to be like Christ. This does not mean that we are humanly perfect. We do not commit the moral violations that separate from God, but there are areas in which we are to grow. If we need to grow, it means there are lacks. Those lacks are often revealed through mistakes and failures.
For example, a Christian might not respond with the fullness of joy or patience in a frustrating situation. This is a failure or a mistake. The true Christian will not excuse it but will seek the Lord to grow in that area of life. A child of God is not then defined by their failures but by their victories. That thing could become sin if the person decides they will accept the failure as their spiritual identity and settle for less than grace.
2 Peter 3:18 teaches us to, “grow in grace” and 2 Peter 1:5 instructs us to “add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge….” There is growth in the Christian experience, and the longer we serve the Lord, the more like Christ we should become. The ministry was placed in the body for the “perfecting of the saints” (Ephesians 4:12). Hence, a Christian has areas in which to grow and to be perfected in Christ.
The children of Israel were faced with many battles in Canaan. As they yielded to God, they won mighty victories. There were still giants and walled cities in the land, but they had victory through the power of God as they were obedient.