going sinless for 50 years

At a conference earlier this year (which I’ll not specify to protect the innocent and the guilty), I’m having a conversation about what some Christians believe with 2 other guys. We were talking about differences and nuances between some Christian sects and denominations. While most of them agree on major doctrines, most have various differences on minor practices. I know it’s confusing, especially if you have to know which of the 3,000+ denominations in the US (or 30,000+ in the world) is the right one.

So we get to talking about a particular Christian group. Person #1 described that group of Christians that believed one could attain “entire sanctification” or “sinless perfection”. Yes, Christians of that stripe believed they could go sinless for 50 years!

In my utter amazement, I commented to Person #2, “Wouldn’t you like to know the secret?” Person #2 quickly snapped back, “No, I don’t!”

The three of us roared in empathetic laughter. (And I’m kicking myself for making such a naive comment.)

We’re honest enough to know there’s that part of us that enjoys the short pleasures of sin, and Romans 7 describes how at times the best of us succumb to temptation.

I don’t think even during my most spiritual high times that I can be sinless for a week, or honestly, even a day. Call me an optimistic realist.

The question here is: how long can you actually go without sinning? Not very long, by my own personal standard, much less God’s standard.

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7 Responses

  1. iggy says:


    I was a victim of that theology for a few years. It is sad and well, a deception in self righteousness. No one is right… Paul stated that… he even stated he had not attained to his own teachings… so why should we think we are better?

    Really, since I was found by Grace, it is hard enough. To know I am totally dependant on Christ for all things, including my satisfaction and all my righteousness…

    Humility is harder to maintain than perfect…


  2. Josh R says:

    Christians these days seem to really like to eliminate the Sins of Commission, while ignoring almost entirely the sins of omission.

    We sin whenever we fail to do what God would have us to do. That happens all of the time.

    Remember the Wicked Servant in the parable of he talents kept his nose clean.

  3. Ben Pun says:

    I have also encountered this theology recently with some friends and also in seminary classes. I think what they are most concerned with is living a deeply holy life, of fully surrendering themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit. With this, I agree. But the kicker for me is that when we are so focused on our performance of “surrender”, the inevitable results is the shifting of focus from delight in God to our own performance. Also, as soon as you recognize that you have been “fully surrendered” or “sinless,” that very act is a prideful and sinful act! Those that are practicing holiness often don’t even know that they are; for example the “sheep” in Mathew 25 who had been serving Jesus didn’t even know it! Luther has been very helpful to me; he notes that Jesus called us to not concentrate on the fruit we produce, but rather if we are even a good tree — and then our focus becomes letting God “replant” our very selves and identities (Matt 12, Luke 6). Fruit will follow.

  4. love the response from the 2nd person.

    the longest I’ve gone is 8 hours— I think….. at that point, I’ve committed the sin of oversleeping.

  5. Reyes-Chow says:

    WOW! During waking hours, probably about 30-32 seconds 😉 But . . . i am sure we can all go for long periods of time without true confession and repentance.

  6. Daniel Im says:

    I used to be overconcerned with confession because someone told me once that if I hadn’t asked forgiveness for all of my sins and I died…then I would go to hell.

    Now I realize the gift that God has blessed us with from the cross and realize that he has already forgiven me. In terms of confession? Oh yeah, I always do it because I know I am sinful and that God is still renewing me, but it’s not the number one thing on my mind anymore. I’d rather spend time figuring out how I can love and serve others, rather than sitting in self-pity over how much of a sinner I am.

  7. Bethany says:

    ah, classic Wesley vs. Calvin. If you read their works, the debate is not so black and white clear (they are both well thought-out) but in practice through the ages, there has been signifiant abuse… on both sides.