Christianity 201

May 5, 2019

A Look at Fasting

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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As some missionary friends reminded me earlier, “The evening of May 5 is the start of Ram*adan, the Mus*lim month of fasting (from sunrise to sundown) and prayer.” I thought we’d look at the topic from a Christian perspective today, and if you arrived here via a search engine and are not a Christian, take a minute to get a very short glimpse as to how we interpret the practice.

We haven’t covered this subject much here at C201. Everything below, but above the double line was sourced one way or another via this page at BibleStudyTools.org. which begins by telling us that:

Fasting is essentially giving up food (or something else) for a period of time in order to focus your thoughts on God. While fasting, many people read the Bible, pray, or worship. Fasting is found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, over fifty times!

Let’s start with a longer definition from Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary:

Fast, Fasting

Abstinence from food and/or drink as an element of private or public religious devotion. Fasting is nowhere commanded in the Torah and, in fact, is never attested earlier than the time of the judges of Israel (cf. Judges 20:26 ). The fact that Jesus and the disciples sanctioned it by their own example ( Matt 4:2 ; Acts 13:2-3 ), however, is sufficient justification for its practice in biblical times and, in fact, in modern times as well…

…As a whole, however, fasting appears to be a private matter in the Bible, an expression of personal devotion linked to three major kinds of crisis in life: lamentation/penitence, mourning, and petition. Without exception it has to do with a sense of need and dependence, of abject helplessness in the face of actual or anticipated calamity. It is in examining these situations that the theological meaning and value of fasting are to be discovered.

Next, some key scriptures: (the link takes you to 40 verses)

Acts 14:23: “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”

Daniel 10:3: “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”

Esther 4:16: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Exodus 34:28: “Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

Joel 2:12: “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Luke 2:37: “and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

Luke 4:2-4[Referring to Jesus] “where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

In his article, What Christians Need to Know about Fasting, Sam Storms talks about the different ways Christians fast from food or drink:

There is a regular fast which consists of abstaining from all food and drink except for water (Matthew 4:2–3; Luke 4:2). Apart from supernatural enablement, the body can function only three days without water.

partial fast is when one abstains from some particular kind of food as in the case of Daniel while in Babylon (Daniel 10:3; cf. 1:8, 12).

As noted above, a liquid fast means that you abstain only from solid foods. Again, most who choose this path are sustained by fruit juices and the like.

A complete or absolute fast that entails no food or liquid of any kind (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9) should only be for a very short period of time. For anything longer than three to five days, seek medical advice.

There is also what can only be called a supernatural fast, as in the case of Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9), who abstained from both food and water for forty days (enabled to do so only by a miraculous enabling from God).

You may also wish to fast from all food for only a particular meal each day. In other words, you may choose to skip lunch for a day or two or a week, or dinner, or even breakfast. All such forms of partial fasting are entirely appropriate.

There are also different types of fasts. This may be determined by a length of time, or a fast which is intermittent, for example, on a particular day of the week.



There’s a particular passage that is worth a longer look today:

This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

You might recognize that as KJV English, the words are from Matthew 17 and the story is repeated in Mark 9. But some translations recognize that Matthew 17:21 isn’t found in earlier manuscripts and the Mark 9 passage is usually rendered without the words ‘and fasting.’

Rather than toss out the passage entirely, back in the day when Bible commentaries were based on the KJV (because there were fewer other options, and earlier manuscripts had not been found) some, like Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, contained words similar to what follows. The principle certainly applies.

—The words imply degrees in the intensity of the forms of evil ascribed to demons amounting to a generic difference. Some might yield before the energy of a human will, and the power of the divine Name, and the prayers even of a weak faith. Some, like that which comes before us here, required a greater intensity of the spiritual life, to be gained by the “prayer and fasting” of which our Lord speaks. The circumstances of the case render it probable that our Lord himself had vouchsafed to fulfil both the conditions. The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer.



We only really covered fasting here once, and it was half of an article on Devotional Poetry. That article contained a link to a passage from Isaiah 58, which we’ll include here for the first time, since we didn’t quote it at the time.

1 Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
“Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
    and oppress all your workers.
You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
    you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
    if you want to make your voice heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
9a Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”

 

January 22, 2017

Who Do You Follow?

It was exactly a year ago that I first introduced readers here to Russell Young’s writing. When I first met him, he was already very prolific and I felt that offering him an already-existing outlet for his thoughts would be good for him and a good fit for us. I am so appreciative of his contribution and the quality and consistency of his writing.  ~PW


by Russell Young

The issue of following is just as relevant in the church today as it was in Paul’s day. All confessing Christians would affirm that they follow Christ but it isn’t that simple.  Many take their instruction from others–pastors, teachers, or well-known authors. In fact, research shows that most do.

Paul ran into the dilemma concerning believers selecting teachers when addressing the Corinthian church and castigated them for their attitudes.  He wrote, “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” (1 Cor 3:4 NIV) On looking back at that church, it is easy to be critical of their thinking, but the very same practice is rampant today.  Many in Bible teaching can readily state the names of their favorite authors or speakers and take their instruction from them. The doctrinal positions within a church often reflect by proxy, the position of a favorite teacher. Paul found a problem with this and so should we.

It was not Paul or Apollos who was to be the source of truth. Paul confessed to his readers that he had “planted the seed,” while Apollos watered and that each had been given his own task by God. The problem that exists, of course, is the discernment of the task given each person by God and how dedicated are they to it. Perhaps, the issue of discernment is the greatest challenge facing today’s church.  There are a myriad of churches teaching a myriad of understandings; however, there is only one truth. The isolation of that truth is eternally important to each of us and Satan has been trying to confuse it from the beginning.

To whom do you attribute the possession of truth?  It is easier to accept the understanding of another than it is to ferret it out for ourselves.  It has become common to avoid the challenges of study, meditation, and prayer and to assume the teachings and beliefs of another.  Christianity Today published a study concluding “that while 90 percent ‘desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do, ’only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day.’” Another poll stated that 57% of people who claimed the Christian faith only read their Bibles 4 times a year or less. (Caleb Bell in Religious News Service, April 4, 2013)

If the Word is not being personally read and studied, those who claim the name of Christ, must be accepting as their truths the teachings of another.  This practice can be dangerous. A number of years ago, a pastor told me, “We teach what we have been taught.” Is it no wonder that the church is weakening? “Believers” are not putting sufficient investment into establishing their own faith system.

Pastors, teachers, and parishioners must be more discerning and more ready to challenge teachings that are in dissonance with their own reading of the Scriptures.  Those who are being taught should not be intimidated by their instructors, regardless of their credentials. Believers in the twenty-first century are working with scriptures that have been translated many times and which have been placed in imperfect minds. The Lord still informs people, they need not rest the truths of faith in another.

1 Kings 13 relates the story of “a man of God” who had been sent to prophesy to evil king Jeroboam concerning his impending fate.  The man of God had been told by God not to eat or drink in that place and to leave on a different route than taken upon arrival. Having given his message to the king the man of God left. Another man who claimed to be a prophet persuaded the man of God, since they were both prophets, to dine with him and although this was a lie he claimed that God had sent him.  The man of God returned to the prophet’s house and enjoyed a good meal, whereupon the prophet relayed the death sentence that rested on the man of God for his disobedience.

When God speaks, his words are to be obeyed.  He is the authority that is to be accepted.  The man of God felt that he had been released from his command because the other was a prophet.  God is God and he will not excuse our disobedience because of spiritual confusion even though manifested through someone esteemed and whose opinion might be highly valued. We are to be led by the Word and by the Spirit. Christ said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and I will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Jn 14:26 NIV)

In the last days, many will be deceived. Consider this warning by Paul: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7-8 NIV) How well does this passage conform to your understanding? What questions does it raise that need answering?

There are many erroneous teachings in the Christian community as the presence of many denominations testifies. Christ said that he would teach you and remind you of his truths. This does not mean that pastors and teachers intentionally mislead; it means that we are to study and to let God teach us truth and righteous practices. If reliance is placed upon another, true discernment concerning the truth of his or her teaching should take place.  Your eternal hope may very well rest in your diligence of study, meditation, and prayer. To default to another may reap destruction to your soul.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a weekly contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US

 

May 29, 2012

Good Old Fashioned Bible Study

I can remember in my younger days attending a youth Bible study in a friend’s basement where we literally wore out our Bibles looking up one scripture, and then another, and answering questions. Some of the study series from Navigators and Inter-Varsity are still like that today; but with modern technology, we get to wear out our mouse buttons instead of our Bibles. (If you missed out on this type of Bible study, today is your day!)

Perry Noble has been doing a series on his blog titled 5 Days in the Word based on the core values of their church. This was actually the final one which deals with the church, but you might want to complete all of them; you might especially like the 4th one which deals with spiritual formation.  (Click through to locate all five parts of this excellent series.)

I Can’t Do Life Alone

#1 – Read Hebrews 10:19-25 and answer the following…

  • Count the number of times the words “us” and “we” are used…with this in mind do you think God intended Christianity to be a solo or a team sport?
  • According to Hebrews 10:25…does God want His people meeting together on a consistant basis?

#2 – Some would argue that church is just not that big of a deal, with that in mind let’s work through the following verses…

  • Read Matthew 16:18…who did Jesus say the church belonged to?  (Follow up…if something belongs to Him is it important?)
  • Read Ephesians 1:22–who is the Head of the Church?  (Follow up…would Jesus really sit at the head of something that is unimportant?)
  • Read Ephesians 3:10–does Jesus want the church to “contain” or “proclaim” His message?
  • Read Ephesians 3:20-21–does Jesus have small or great plans for His church?
  • Read Colossians 1:18–once again, who is the Head of the church?
  • Read Revelation 22:16-21–what is the ONE ORGANIZATION that is still standing when everything else on earth has been destroyed (hint…the answer is in verse 16!)

#3 – In regards to taking this to a personal level…not only do we need church but we need godly men and women in our lives, Christian community, to take a deeper look at this look at the following verses…

  • Read John 13:34-35–how did Jesus say that His followers would be identified?
  • Read Romans 12:10–are we supposed to turn our backs on each other?  (Remember, this was written to people IN THE CHURCH!)
  • Read Ephesians 4:2–how are we supposed to treat one another?  (Once again, this was written to people IN THE CHURCH!)
  • Read Colossians 3:13–how are we supposed to treat others who have sinned against us?
  • Read I Thessalonians 5:11–who comes to mind when you read this verse…and what can you do today to follow through on what this verse commands?
  • Read James 5:16–is there anyone in your life that you feel you could do this with?

#4 – Read Matthew 26:36-39 and answer the following…

  • Did Jesus try to do life alone…or was He honest & vulnerable with those closest to Him?
  • As His followers are we called to do the same?

March 6, 2012

Recollections

A couple of short re-posts today from one year ago here at Christianity 201 for all our new readers. If that’s not you, check out what follows after the two short articles.


Promise Box Theology

I’ve decided on some benchmarks that I think moving into deeper Christian living should contain:

  • getting away from prayer lists and focusing in on intensive prayer for God to something specific for an individual in a unique situation;
  • getting away from “promise box theology” and reading entire chapters or even 3-4 chapters at a time;
  • getting away from devotionals that begin with quick stories, and instead considering a topic or an idea and thinking about how that would play out in the life story of someone you know;
  • being consciously aware of ways for improvement in terms of manifesting the fruit of the Spirit;
  • being aware of things that are sin even though you didn’t consider them sin a few months earlier;
  • becoming genuinely excited about evangelism both in terms of personal involvement and hearing stories where “it’s working;”
  • finding yourself more deeply part of the picture as you read a New Testament narrative;
  • understanding your own brokenness and the brokenness of others, and how it draws us closer to God;
  • increasingly becoming an agent of grace and being drawn to others who are
  • feeling more and more “at home” with both personal Bible study and spending time in God’s house.

I’ve left many other possibilities out, I’m sure. Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

~Paul Wilkinson


Before You Pray “Our Father…”

This was part of our [recent] worship time… My wife adapted this from something one of our team members sent.

If my religion and my life have no room for others and their joys and needs,

…I cannot pray “Our”

If I do not live as a child, beloved and learning,

…I cannot pray “Father”

If all my interests and pursuits are earthly things

…I cannot pray “Who art in Heaven”

If I — called to be holy as he is — am not holy

…I cannot pray “Hallowed be thy name”

If he is not King in my own life,

…I cannot pray “Thy Kingdom come”

If I will not listen for and obey his voice on Earth

…I cannot pray “On Earth as it is in Heaven”

If I will not make an honest effort, or if I ignore the immediate needs of others

…I cannot pray “Give us this day our daily bread”

If I choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted

…I cannot pray “Lead us not into temptation”

If I am not prepared to fight the spiritual fight with faith and truth and love

…I cannot pray “Deliver us from evil”

If I insist on my own rights and my own way

…I cannot pray “Thine is the Kingdom”

If I live according to what my neighbors and friends may say or do

…I cannot pray “Thine is the Power”

If I’m controlled by anxiety about every day’s problems and promises

…I cannot pray “Forever”

If I cannot honestly say ‘Cost what it may, this is my prayer’

…I cannot pray “Amen”


The last part of today’s multi-part post is a listing of web addresses for sermon video from some of the largest churches in the U.S. Many of you read both blogs, but I wanted to make sure nobody missed this. These are all fairly large churches, because they have the budget to do the video thing with technical excellence. But little churches can have great sermons online, too. Also, remember this was written for the broader audience at the other blog. Those of you who dig deeper have favorites that aren’t listed here.  Feel free to use the comments section to recommend things to others.


Andy Stanley

Considered one of the finest communicators in North America. Live feed from North Point Community Church in north Atlanta on Sunday at 9 and 11 AM, 2 PM, 6PM and 10PM includes worship and baptisms.

http://northpointonline.tv/ — streaming live at times as noted above
http://www.northpoint.org/messages — video server of recent series

Steven Furtick

Another young communicator whose church has really taken off in Charlotte, NC in the past five years. The reference to Sundays at 12:00, 4:00 and 8:00, refers to streaming Sunday services, because Elevation Network goes 24/7. Author of Sun Stand Still.

http://elevationnetwork.com/

Bruxy Cavey

Our first of three Canadian entries. The long-haired rock ‘n roll preacher of The Meeting House in Oakville has messages going back to 2000, though some are just audio. The media player is a small on-screen window and takes longer to buffer. Great teaching, though; you want to start at part one of a series that interests you, such as the recent 5-part series Jesus by John. Fastest growing church movement in all of Canada.

http://www.themeetinghouse.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=121&Itemid=3

Charles Price

Our second Canadian entry. The British-born pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto is an excellent Bible teacher, as seen on CTV on Sunday mornings. Deep thoughts, straight-forward teaching, but not afraid to be controversial.

http://www.livingtruthmedia.com/index2.php — most recent sermon; previous messages available on audio

Jon Thompson

Now we’re three-for-three for Canada. The very focused pastor of C4, a large church in Toronto’s eastern suburbs; site uses video player.

http://www.c4church.com/media.php?pageID=5

Kyle Idleman

The host of the H20 video series and author of Not a Fan. Teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Very straight-forward, easy to follow teaching. Video server available anytime.

http://www.southeastchristian.org/default.aspx?page=4140 (Indiana campus, different series)
http://www.southeastchristian.org/default.aspx?page=3476&project=123478&program=553660 (main campus)

Bill Hybels

The guy whose ‘seeker sensitive’ and contemporary services changed the way we approach church today. Bill doesn’t preach every Sunday anymore, but all their teachers are really high standard. This is a video server, with lots to choose from. “Weekend Services” are more like what Andy does, “Midweek Services” go a bit deeper.

http://media.willowcreek.org/

Greg Boyd

A Princeton theological education combined with large doses of Pentecostalism produced an always interesting and sometimes controversial pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis.

http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon-series

Pete Wilson

The super-casual Nashville pastor preaches several times at his area campuses but then on Sunday night does this thing in a downtown Music City club called Rocketown where he repeats his sermon from the morning, but then takes live chat questions after. Author of Plan B, and blogger at Without Wax.

http://campus.316networks.com/crosspoint.tv — Sunday night at 6:00 Central, 7:00 Eastern; but often starts a bit late
http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/media/ — past sermon series; video player

Craig Groeshel

Pastor of the church in the U.S. with the most satellite locations, in fact the name of the church is the name of the website, lifechurch.tv — the part of the site linked below uses a video server so you can start anytime. This links to the current series and then you select week one to start.

http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/samson-2012/1

Rick Warren

Pastor of the 2nd largest church in the U.S. and author of Purpose Driven Church, this church streams its teaching at least ten times every single day!

http://saddleback.com/internetcampus/aboutus/servicetimes/index.html — schedule, then you go to the media player.

http://saddleback.com/mediacenter/home/default.aspx — media player

David Platt

Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Author of Radical and originator of Secret Church (which sadly, you can’t see online, but you possibly wouldn’t want to, because each sermon is six hours long.) Video server available anytime. Very laid-back, soft-spoken teaching from a Reformed perspective.

http://www.brookhills.org/media

January 6, 2012

Christianity 201: A Review

This is the first of two posts today; it’s always helpful to review the basics.

Christianity 101:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 3:18 NIV.

Two growth areas:

  • Grow in grace
  • Grow in knowledge

Christianity 201

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Col 1 9-12 NIV

Nine growth areas:

  • Grow in knowledge of God’s will
  • Grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • Live a worthy life
  • Please God in every way
  • Bear fruit
  • Grow in knowledge of God
  • Be strengthened with power
  • Reflect great endurance and patience and joy
  • Be thankful

August 11, 2011

Andy Stanley on God’s Grace

While we were away this week, we got to catch a few segments of Canada’s daily Christian television talk show, 100 Huntley Street.  For the month of August, they are featuring North Point Community Church (Atlanta, GA) pastor and author Andy Stanley in a series of mini-teachings that form part of an ongoing series they do called “Truth to Go.”

I loved this comment,

You can no more earn God’s grace than you can throw yourself a surprise party.

Here are some samples:



You can find more “Truth to Go” segments with Andy Stanley and others at this page at 100Huntley.com

July 19, 2010

Christianity 201

Christianity 101:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 3:18 NIV.

Two growth areas:

  • Grow in grace
  • Grow in knowledge

Christianity 201

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Col 1 9-12 NIV

Nine growth areas:

  • Grow in knowledge of God’s will
  • Grow in spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • Live a worthy life
  • Please God in every way
  • Bear fruit
  • Grow in knowledge of God
  • Be strengthened with power
  • Reflect great endurance and patience and joy
  • Be thankful

June 5, 2010

Can One Sin Separate Us From God?

Martinez calls himself “The Seeking Disciple” and blogs here.   This is the second section of a June 3rd post:

…My question is how much sin can a person get away with before they fall away? The carnal Christian teaching of some has created three types of people. Lost, Saved, and Carnal. For example, Charles Swindoll teaches that the truth of the carnal Christian is the one truth that he wishes people in the world could understand. The carnal Christian explains how people who claim to follow Christ can commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, murder, lust, etc. Others, such as John MacArthur, point out that the carnal Christian teaching is an insult to the cross and to God’s grace that teaches us to deny sin (Titus 2:12).

And yet MacArthur believes that believers do fall into sin and commit horrible acts. He does believe that believers should pursue holiness but he also teaches that the sinful nature still indwells the believer along with the Spirit of God and that often the sinful nature wins the conflicts (Galatians 5:16-17). Many Bible teachers (and not just Calvinists) teach that we do sin (sometimes daily) and that we can sin willfully and grossly.

Can we? Some Arminians such as Daniel Corner teach that one sin can separate us from God. He defines sin as willful and unwillful sins. He points out that the Law of Moses allowed sacrifices for both types of sin (Leviticus 5:14-6:7). Corner asks the question, “How many times must a man sleep with another woman before he officially becomes an adulterer? How many times must a person steal something before they become a thief? How many lies must a person tell before they become a liar?”

I would point out that Jesus said that sin is not just an issue outwardly but inwardly in Matthew 5. Jesus also said that sin begins in the heart (Mark 7:20-23). When a person comitts adultery, it is a heart issue. Calvinist John Piper says that the issue of sin, at its very root, is unbelief in God and His authority (Hebrews 3:12, 14). Piper in fact preached a series of sermons entitled, “The Unbelief of Sin” with titles such as “The Unbelief of Adultery” and “The Unbelief of Lying.”

My answer is that only God knows a person’s heart. We can judge by His Word (John 7:24) and we are called to judge in the Church those living in sin even putting them out of fellowship if necessary (see 1 Corinthians 5). Jesus spoke about brothers sinning against brothers and how to deal with that in Matthew 18:15-20. I do believe that we need to heed 1 Corinthians 10:12 and abide by 2 Corinthians 13:5 and make sure that we are in the faith. We are to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11) by striving for holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). When we sin, we should confess that sin to the Father (1 John 1:9). If need be, we should confess that sin to a brother or sister in the Lord (James 5:16). If we see a brother or sister in sin, we should warn them that no unrighteous person will inherit the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:3-10). We should warn them to forsake their sins lest they become ensnared by sin (2 Peter 2:20-22).