I believe that it wasn’t my acts of sin that I needed redemption from because they were only a symptom of a spiritual brokenness that was passed down all the way from Adam to me. I needed redemption from the inside out, from my spirit to my actions.
The law is good for two things, for making the symptom, sin, all the more evident and secondly for revealing the life we were meant to live before Adam’s rebellion. We were created for perfection but none of us since Adam have any idea of what that might look like. The law helps fill in this gap by showing us what perfection looks like (obviously Jesus revealed this even further in His person). The law was never given the power to free us from sin. It was only given the power to reveal sin to us.
So then, Christ arrives born of a virgin, the first man since Adam to have a spirit unmarred by the sin of his father, he meets all the temptations known to man and falls for none of them. (When I considered what this meant, 33 years of being constantly bombarded with temptations and never giving in, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the suffering of Christ.) I now have two options, to live in Adam or in Christ. In Adam I am aware that I was created for holiness but I can never attain it because I can never overcome the heritage of brokenness/law of sin that I was born into. (The fact that I was born into sin through Adam does not by any means lessen my own personal guilt.)
In Adam I was a proud, idol worshiping, blasphemous, covetous, lying, murderous, thief, whose heart was deceitful and wicked. Even if by the Law of Moses I missed becoming a few of these, Jesus says to break one part of the law is to break the whole law and thinking impurely is just as bad as the action. In short, I was doomed and I was gross in spite of the fact that the whole world would have said that I was an exceptionally good person.
However, in Christ I am a totally new creation. My former history literally is no longer attached to me because that person died and a totally new one without sin was born. It’s not just that I have a new identity for the future; I also have a new past. Eternity does not stretch only into the future it stretches to the past as well and I now have eternal life in Christ. In Christ, I am pure, holy, beloved, and righteous, my heart is pure, my spirit and the Holy Spirit are one, I have the mind of Christ, I have the wisdom of God, I lack nothing that Christ currently has sitting at the right hand of the Father.
I am no longer a slave to sin, I am a slave to righteousness. I know longer have the desire or the bent towards sin that I previously had. On the contrary I desire to act in accordance with my new holy nature. It is still possible for me to commit an act of sin but it is no longer probable or normal for me.
The confusion comes when my present life/actions don’t seem to add up to what God says that I have in Christ. It doesn’t feel like I’m any holier, and God knows it may or may not look like it at any given moment. This is where the process of becoming what I already am comes into play. My spirit is totally free, totally new, totally one with Christ as I already mentioned, but my body and my brain (this includes mind, will, and emotions) are used to my old habits. My spirit has been born new but I am stuck with the same brain I had before. It is a lot like being born into a new culture, the culture suits me, I was made for it, it is my culture, but I haven’t grown up in it, I don’t understand and haven’t even experienced those things that I like best. Thus, the renewal of my mind to think in accordance with my new nature takes time and will never be completed until my body dies and I get a new one.
This is how sanctification can be both completed and in process at the same time. I am very truly in a very concrete sense, totally perfect. But I will also be more perfect tomorrow. I like to think of the way a baby grows. Everyone loves to say that a new born baby is perfect, and so it is, but at the same time, if it stopped changing and growing, if the baby never became a child, and in turn an adult, something would be terribly wrong.
This also takes away all opportunity for either pride or shame because God is not judging my actions. He judges only the fact that I was born into the family of Christ and I can take no credit for that. This is what it means to be free. I am free to act sinfully or to act righteously but most of all I am free from the fear that any of my actions will either save me or ruin me.
So then my actions, whether sin or not are reduced to their true importance. What suits me? The law again comes into play here. Because I have the life of Christ, obeying the law suits me. Literally it is pleasurable for me to obey the law. The law is now written in my spirit and I rejoice to act in accordance with it. It is also profitable, for me and for those around me.
The only power Satan (or sin) still has over me are his words and they only have power if I believe them. If I sin with this new nature it is because my mind, will, or emotions (usually a combo of the three) still believes his lie that this sin will please me better than the law of God. God has freed me from a number of habitual sins simply by feeding them to me until I woke up one day and realized they weren't giving me pleasure.
I believe it is a common ploy of Satan to keep us trying to act better. If I focus on my actions I will never be freed of them. If you tell someone not to think of purple elephants you have just insured that they will be thinking of purple elephants and Satan loves using this trick on us. In fact it is often preached from pulpits. “Do not sin! You know what sin you fall for, plan carefully not to fall for it again!” Translated, focus on your sin, think about your sin, consume yourself with your sin but do not act out the very thing you have been meditating on. This method will insure the continuance of habitual sin.
The cure for sin is Jesus. First we need His life in us and second our minds must be trained to think on His righteousness. This is the only way the Church collectively or a person individually will ever be free from the actions of sin they are fighting and planning so hard to change.