Q: #509. Can a Christian find pleasure or enjoyment in sin?
By: Steve Shirley
A: In a recent Bible study, the comment was made, "Once a person becomes a Christian, they can't enjoy sin anymore." This comment gave me pause for a moment, but after briefly thinking about it, I disagreed. However, I was VERY intrigued, and decided to spend some more time studying this. (I actually lost some sleep contemplating this .) I was curious to know what other Christians thought about this, so I put the following question out to followers of this website on social media: "Once a person is a Christian, can they ever find pleasure in sinning again (even if for a brief moment)? Why yes or no?" 75% said they believed that a Christian could find pleasure in sin, and both sides explained their viewpoint. Let me explain why I am with the 75%.
This question came up in relation to a discussion on "the flesh" in the Bible, specifically the "works of the flesh" vs the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians Chapter 5. I write on what the Bible says about "the flesh" (and that chapter in Galatians) in the previous question, so I won't go into detail here. However, in short, one of the many definitions of "flesh" in the Bible is that all humans are called "flesh" (Gal 2:16,20)(Mt 24:22)(Isa 40:5)(Rom 3:20)(Deut 5:26), and as "flesh," we are called sinful (Rom 8:3)(Rom 7:18). Because all humans sin, "the flesh" is tied to sin over and over in the Bible. In fact, the Bible talks about constantly being "at war" with our "flesh" and sin, and the only way to win this war is through the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16-18)(Gal 6:8)(Rom 8:4-7,9,12-13)(Rom 7:5-6)(Jn 6:63)(2 Cor 10:2-3).
To me, a "war" implies a struggle. If there is no allure in sin, why would we "struggle" against it? We are told that our flesh has "passions and desires" (Gal 5:24)(Eph 2:3), "sinful passions" (Rom 7:5), and "lusts" (Rom 13:14)(Eph 2:3)(2 Pet 2:10,18)(1 Jn 2:16). Look at a few verses on "lust."
(James 1:14-15) but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and is enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
(1 Jn 2:16-17) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
(1 Pet 2:11) Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
(Rom 13:14) But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
A good definition for "lust" is "a strong desire or preoccupation with obtaining something that you want so badly that you cannot be happy unless you get it." We want to be "happy," and sometimes we look to the things of this world to find that happiness. But, "all that is in the world (the lusts).... is not of the Father." These "fleshly lusts war against the soul." As we said above, in this "war" or "struggle," Christians have the power of the Holy Spirit to win and overcome, but sometimes we don't rely on, or follow the Holy Spirit, and we give into our sinful passions and lusts. We sin.
This leads to our question "do Christians ever find pleasure or enjoyment in their sin once they are saved?" I believe they certainly can, and they do. If there is no pleasure or enjoyment in sin, why would a Christian ever purposely do it? If a Christian doesn't expect that pursuing sin will give them pleasure (at least briefly), why would they do it? If a Christian doesn't think it would help, why would they sometimes turn to the "things of this world" to find comfort, ease pain, or relieve stress? Let me share some examples.
Let's begin with sexual sins. Do Christians commit them? Of course they do! Is there pleasure in the midst of them? Of course there is! Thousands of Christians (more men than women) struggle with pornography. They know it is a sin, but they do it anyway. Why?? There are a number of reasons, which we won't go into here, but amongst those reasons is that there is a "high" that goes along with it. This "high" is enjoyable, pleasurable, and can be stress relieving (but the "high" doesn't last).
Christians commit adultery (one of the "works of the flesh:" Gal 5:19). Do those who commit this sin find any pleasure or enjoyment in it? Of course they do! If they didn't, why would they do it? They are committing this sin because in some way they are unsatisfied with, or unhappy with their spouse. (There is a God relationship problem too.) A person in an affair finds "more" pleasure and enjoyment with their lover than with their spouse. In addition, they obviously find pleasure in the sex, or they would not achieve sexual gratification (i.e. orgasm or ejaculation) while doing it. The same thing can be said for the sexual sin of fornication (another "work of the flesh"), which is any sex outside of marriage.
What about Christians who take illegal drugs? Don't they usually do so to in some way "feel better?" What about Christians who gamble, or play the lottery? Clearly there is great pleasure when they win. What about Christians who enjoy partying at times, and with that celebration "like" to drink too much ("drunkenness" - another "work of the flesh")? What about the sin of gluttony? Doesn't the glutton generally find some measure of comfort and pleasure in eating? As I write this, it is the 4th of July. Setting off personal fireworks is illegal (in most places). We are told in the Bible to obey the laws of the land (Rom 13:1-7)(1 Pet 2:13-14). Christians will be setting off fireworks. They will enjoy doing it. Therefore, aren't they enjoying sin?
Looking at examples like these (and you can probably think of several others), I just don't see how anyone can say that a Christian cannot find pleasure in, or enjoy sin once they are saved. However, I now need to add several BIG caveats.
First, it is impossible for a Christian to sin and not feel conviction in the midst of their sin. One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit, who lives in all Christians (Eph 1:13-14)(Titus 3:5-6)(Rom 8:9)(Acts 2:38), is to convict us of sin (Jn 16:8). If a person is not convicted when committing their sin, they cannot have the Holy Spirit in them, and therefore they are not saved.
Second, a person cannot "practice" sin and be a Christian (1 Jn 3:9). Yes, all Christians will sin, but when we sin, we are sorry for it, and we want to turn from it. If a person can continue in sin, with no sorrow or desire to turn from it, they don't have a relationship with Christ. (A Christian cannot take "pride" in their sins: i.e. "gay pride.")
Third, while a Christian may occasionally lose the "war," and give into their "lusts" and "sinful desires," they will hate that they have done so. While the Christian porn watcher, adulterer, fornicator, gambler, partier, glutton, law breaker, etc.. may experience a brief high; conviction, sorrow, and repentance will follow. A Christian will always "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Mt 22:37)(Mk 28:30)(Lk 10:27), and will first and foremost desire to do what is pleasing in His eyes.
In (Heb 11:25), it says the "pleasures (Gr. "apolausis" = "enjoyment / pleasure") of sin are fleeting" ("for a season" - KJV) (also see: Job 20:5). Yes, a Christian may find "brief" pleasure and enjoyment in sin, but it will not last. Their sin will only separate them from a close walk with the Lord (1 Pet 3:12)(Jn 9:31)(Isa 59:2)(Prov 15:29)(Isa 1:15). Ultimately, only the Lord can truly and permanently give the "lasting" joy (Ps 16:11)(Neh 8:10)(Isa 51:11)(Rom 15:13), peace (Phil 4:7)(Jn 14:27)(Jn 16:33)(2 Tim 2:22), and love (Rom 5:8)(Rom 8:35-39)(Eph 3:17-19)(1 Jn 3:1) that a person is seeking.
***Note: Paul discusses his personal war with sin in (Rom 7:14-24).