Christianity 201

April 20, 2017

How Easter Cures Our Religion Addiction

by Clarke Dixon

We can become addicted to religion. Behind this there can be a sense of “if I do the right things, and say the wright words, God will have to love me and be good to me.” Religion has “me” as its focus. What I do. What I say. What I think I deserve. When we are addicted to religion we put ourselves, rather than God, at the centre.

The Christians in Colossae were being pressured into becoming more religious. Some scholars think that the pressure was coming from Jews who thought you needed to practice the Jewish religion to be a Christian. Other scholars think that it was an early form of the religious philosophy “gnosticism” that was the source of the pressure. Either way, in his letter to the Colossians the apostle Paul wants to set the record straight. In chapter two Paul lays out clearly our part in being Christian, but also what we cannot accomplish. Let’s take a look.

First out part:

Colossians 2:6-19 (NRSV) As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Notice, first off, that Paul’s encouragement is not “since you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, now get very religious, doing the right religious looking observances, saying the right religious sounding words.” That would actually be too easy, for you can do that kind of thing on your spare time. What is called for is something far more profound; “live your lives in him.” The requirement is not in doing religion, but living life. It is an every moment thing. The focus is not the religion, but the Person of Jesus. It is a relationship thing.

Sceptics like to say that religion is a man made thing. Paul would agree:

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

Paul is not speaking against philosophy as an academic endeavour here. Philosophy, like all the arts and sciences are worthy pursuits. Paul is warning against, more literally “the philosophy”, that is, a particular way of thinking being foisted on the Christians at Colossae. He is arguing against becoming too religious “according to human tradition.” Rather than pursuing man-made religion, we are to pursue Christ himself.

We could sum up Paul’s line of thought here with “live your lives in him rather than practice religion.” That is our part. Next Paul points us to God’s part. Religion highlights the things we do. In the following passage I have highlighted [in darker type] the things God has done.

9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

The focus is on God’s activity. As Paul warns the Christians at Colossae against false religion, he puts the focus on what God has done in Christ. While religion points us to our activity, relationship with God as revealed in the Bible has always been first about what God has done. He created. He Made a covenant with Noah. He called Abraham with his promise of blessing that would touch the world. He rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. He gave His chosen people the law at Sinai. He gave them the promised land. He called the prophets and gave them the words to speak. He came to us incarnate in Jesus. He, God the Father, raised Jesus, God the Son, from the dead. While religion has what we can do as its focus, Christianity has as its focus, something we could never do, that is, raise the dead.

Because Jesus is risen, we do not practice Christianity as a religion, we relate to Jesus as a living Person. We serve Him, we worship Him, we adore Him, we learn from Him. This may give the appearance of being religious as prayer, the Bible, and church become expressions of that. These religious looking things are not the practice of religion, but rather part of how we live our lives in Christ. Living our lives in Christ goes way deeper than doing “religious duties,” it goes to walking with the Spirit and being transformed from the inside out: “. . .the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Compared to character transformation, being merely religious would be far too easy!

Paul continues his argument against being religious:

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Religion fills us with pride as we point to what we have done. The events of Easter fill us with humility as they point to what we have done. We committed a reprehensible crime when we crucified Jesus. We fell short of the glory of God. The events of Easter also point to what God has done. He has reconciled us to Himself. Our part is to live in Christ, “holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.” Are you addicted to religion? God has done for you through the events at Easter what religion never could. Why dedicate yourself to religion, when you can dedicate yourself to the One Who loves you?

(Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

Read more at Clarke’s blog Sundays Shrunk Sermon

July 31, 2016

Many Live as Enemies of the Cross of Christ

•••by Russell Young

Paul disclosed to believers in Philippi his observation that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Phil 3:18-19, NIV) His epistle had previously addressed his personal goal for righteous living in order that he might become like Christ in his death and “so, somehow to attain to the resurrection.” (Phil 3:11, NIV) The “destiny” of those who live as enemies of the cross, according to his understanding, will be “destruction.” (v 19) In this passage he is not addressing those who have not confessed faith.

His teaching poses a very real issue for each of us and for doctrinal teachings that are being presented in many churches.  Doctrines that allow and teachings that provide allowance for believers to live as enemies of the cross need to be examined; otherwise, many may end up with their eternal hope destroyed.

What does it mean to live as an enemy of the cross?  An enemy is a person who is an adversary, or hostile to, or tries to defeat another or that one’s purposes.  He or she undermines or acts in opposition.  The writer of Hebrews has stated that Christ died to set people free from the sins committed “under the first covenant.” (9:15, NIV) His sacrifice has provided cleansing from the sins that would have brought death. Peter has admonished his readers by saying that those who act in opposition to the work of the cross make it ineffective, thwart the value of the Lord’s sacrifice, and render it meaningless.  (2 Peter 2: 20)

Paul’s teaching is not uniquely expressed in his letter to the Philippians or by Paul himself. The writer of Hebrews has also recorded, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26-27, NIV) Peter spoke of “those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature” (2 Pet 2:10, NIV) and stated that “blackest darkness is reserved for them.” (v 17) Paul also addressed the issue in his letter to the Galatians: “Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” (Gal 6:7-8, NIV)

These truths from the Word should cause teachers and pastors to examine what they are teaching, and what they should be teaching.  Their understanding of “grace” and “freedom” should perhaps be re-visited. Those who allow that the “believer’s” eternal salvation was assured and settled (eternal security) at the point of his or her confession need to recognize that the teachings presented by Paul and others allow opportunity for a person to reap destruction following their confession of faith.  Those who permit that eternal redemption occurred at the time of confession of faith need to examine the Scriptures more fully.  The manner in which a person lives his or her life has eternal consequence.  “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6, NIV)

The writer of Hebrews spoke of Christian maturity (Heb 5: 13- 6;3) and of the need for believers to train themselves to distinguish good from evil and to accept teachings about righteousness.

Enemies of the CrossWho are the enemies of the cross?  Of course it is all of those who make ineffective the work of the cross and who treat it with disdain.  In this passage Paul is addressing those who have joined the fellowship and he is concerned about their walk.  They were taking the Lord’s sacrifice for granted and living on their own terms.  They do not appreciate the depth of their need or the preciousness of his love offering for them.

It is easy to assume and to accept love and the promises of love if they cost nothing of the recipient.  And, it is important for believers to understand exactly the accomplishments and the limitations of God’s tolerance and love-yes, the limitation of his love. The Lord said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” (Jn 15:10, NIV) The promise of his love rests in keeping his commands.  In a parable referencing himself the Lord concluded with, “but those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me.” (Lk 19:27, NIV) The enemies of the Lord are those who do not submit to his rule of their lives.  This includes those who do not follow his leadership, who have been deceived by the misrepresentation of his enduring patience, forgiveness and love when such allowance is gained through a twisted presentations of his Word.

There is a limit to his patience, forgiveness, and love. When confessors revel in the freedom that they suppose they have and live apart from the Spirit’s leadership, and when they deliberately continue to sin, they are treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them and have become enemies of the cross of Christ.

Believers must submit to the rule of the Spirit.  This requires a conscientious effort (working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), and a donning of the armor of God. The person led by Christ must learn to reject the interests of the flesh and the attractions of the world. “For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2:16, NIV)

The evil one is quite ready to give permissions that Christ does not.  The deceiver might be closer than you think and his persuasions more powerful than you know.  The believer must fight the battle with the help of Christ.  He must engage the enemy of his soul. Christ came to defeat the works of the devil and in no place does he give permission for sin to prevail.

It is easy to live with an unrighteous attitude and to proclaim love for Christ.  It is probably true that those whom about Paul is talking do not even appreciate that they are walking as enemies of the cross.  When freedom and security are promised it is easy to waiver in vigilance. The Lord said, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13-14, NIV)


To read other posts here by Russell Young, click this link.

June 19, 2016

Being “In Christ”

•••by Russell Young

Being “in Christ” is the designation given to a position of comfort through confidence in a person’s eternal hope.  Being in Christ also means that all of the attributes of Christ are accessible to the believer; he is the believer’s means of being kept and of being delivered.

Being in Christ does not mean that the believer is in the body of Christ but that he or she has a connection through relationship with Christ from which they can take on the personality and heart of Christ through his enlightenment, leading and divine power.  The believer is so linked with him through the Spirit, that Christ is his or her life. After all, through baptism he or she has declared themselves to have died to all nourishment outside of him and of all interests outside of his.

Those privileged to be in Christ should not assume it to be their fixed place of residence, however.  Before his crucifixion, Christ said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (Jn 15:1-2, NIV) Vines can become wild and fruitless and of little value.  Further to this teaching, Christ has revealed understanding about the nature of a person’s relationship with him.  “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” (Jn 15:4, NIV) “If a man remains in me and I in him he will produce much fruit.” (Jn 15:5) And, “If you obey my commands, you remain in my love, just as I have obeyed the Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10, NIV) The Lord used the conditional word “if” in these statements implying that the permanence of remaining in him rested on the believer doing or obeying his commands.  In fact, he directly taught that a person’s position in his family was dependent upon the manner in which he or she dealt with sin, and according to their practice of obedience (Heb 5:9) “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son [one who obeys, Rom 8:14, 6:16], belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV)

God is faithful to those who remain faithful to him.  It is written: “The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chr 15:2, NIV) He will, however, forsake the unfaithful.

Abiding in ChristThose in him get all that is needed through him, and in turn produce the fruit for which the root grows and provides nourishment.  Christ who is the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal 5:22) Those who do not produce these will be “cut off.”

It is just as important to consider who is not in Christ. The person who claimed through profession of faith that Jesus is his or her Lord and who is living or walking in spiritual darkness has no fellowship with God. “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness.  But if we are living in the light [obeying his commandments or being led] as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6, NIV) This is another conditional statement concerning fellowship and cleansing.

John summed up his portrayal of who is “in Christ” and who is not.  “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) And, “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:5-6, NIV)

A person’s position in Christ depends upon his or her willingness to allow Christ to live through him or her by practicing obedience to the Spirit.  When someone looks at a person in Christ, they should see Christ.  The Lord did not sin while in the flesh and those in him will not sin.  When sin is practiced, that person is not in him on that occasion but has taken nourishment from Adam or Eve, his or her sinful nature.  When a person reverts to their old nature they once again become subject to destruction. “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. (Gal 6:5, NIV)

Whether or not a person remains “in Christ” depends upon his or her will.  It is a person’s doing or their walk that reveals his or her position and will determine their eternal outcome.   Christ told His disciples, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21, NIV) A person’s “doing” is important to his or her eternal state and to their remaining in Christ.  Many promises are made to those in Christ, including the promise of freedom from condemnation (Rom 8:1) and of resurrection. (1 Thess 4:16)

July 21, 2014

Our Free Will with Respect to Sin

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The questions of free will, election, predestination, etc., are very confusing to some and very divisive to others. Not every article posted at Christianity 201 agrees with my position, and sometimes in the same month, there are articles posted by writers who would disagree with each other.

In many respects, this does not concern me at all. I believe that as we immerse ourselves in the scripture, we end up better able to formulate our own views on such matters, and better equipped to clearly articulate those views to others. Even if you’ve already reached your own conclusions, it is good to stay exposed to the writings of others.

I have a great deal of respect for R. T. Kendall. In writing what follows, which was posted back in April, he noted that some people simply assumed that he was in one particular camp on this issue, and wanted to state for the record what he believed.  To read the article at source, click the title below.  To look up the scriptures in today’s article, copy and paste the references below at the top of the page at Bible Hub.

The Sovereignty of God

Does man have a free will? Answer: yes and no. Martin Luther (1483-1546) said “No” in his book The Bondage of the Will. Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) said “Yes” in his book Freedom of the Will. But Edwards’s thesis is that, whereas man is free to do what he wants to do, what is it he invariably wants to do? Answer: by nature he always has a proneness to evil. We love darkness rather than light because our deeds are evil (John 3:18). So Luther and Edwards came to the same conclusion: man is not free after all.

We must bring St Augustine (354-430) into the mix. His famous “four stages” of man are very relevant:

Stage One: man was born posse pecarre  – able to sin.

Stage Two: after the fall man is non posse non pecarre – not able not to sin.

Stage Three: after conversion man is posse non pecarre – able not to sin.

Stage Four: after glorification – non posse pecarre – not able to sin.

It is Augustine’s second stage that we should be mainly concerned with: the state of humankind after the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is granted that Adam and Eve had free will when they were first created but that was before their Fall. Everything changed after the Fall. So what of their seed – as in Able, Cain, Seth – and all of us? The answer: we are all born unable not to sin.

So is man free? Before the Fall, yes. After the Fall, no.

Does this teaching upset you?

Paul says were born “dead” in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1). A dead man can do nothing unless infused with life from the Sovereign Redeemer. Try speaking to a dead man! He cannot answer because he cannot hear.

Paul also says we were born “blind” (2 Cor.4:4). A blind man cannot see unless given sight by the Sovereign Redeemer. Try trying to get a blind man to see! He cannot see because he is blind.

The issue regarding the free will of man is: are people born as Adam was before the Fall? No. We are all born in sin. I was shaped in iniquity, in sin did my mother conceive me (Psa.51:5). We were born speaking lies from our mother’s womb (Psa.58:3). This is why you don’t need to teach a child to do wrong. You do have to teach him or her to do what is right.

The only way we come to faith is for God Himself to impart faith.

Question: does one believe before he is regenerated? If regeneration means being “born again”, it means one must be given life before he or she can believe. It is not believing that precipitates the new birth; it is the new birth that enables one to believe and repent.

After Adam and Eve sinned they were ejected from the Garden of Eden. The cherubim were placed their to keep them out (Gen.3:24). We have been kept out ever since. Only God can bring one to faith.

But does God bring everybody to faith? Apparently not. Not all people believe, not all have faith. Who has it and who doesn’t have it? Those who have faith are given it by the gracious hand of a Sovereign God. A man can receive nothing unless it is given him from Heaven (John 3:27). “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (Jas.1:18 – ESV).

Does this surprise you? Does this offend you? And yet it is clearly what Jesus taught. No one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). The Son lives life to whom He will (John 5:21). No one knows the Son except those to whom the Son “chooses” to reveal Him (Matt.11:27). According to Luke, those who were “ordained” (KJV) or “appointed” (NIV) to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).  Some think that Luke meant that those who believe were ordained to eternal life. Had Luke said that it would have been true. But that is not what he said. He said that those who were appointed to eternal life believed.

I pointed Acts 13:48 out to a Greek professor at my Seminary many years ago. He insisted that all who believe are appointed to eternal life. But I pointed out that Luke said only those who were “appointed” believed. He replied: “I know, but I don’t agree with Luke”.

The question is: will you believe the plain reading of Holy Scripture? Or do we read in what we want to believe into Holy Scripture?

You will ask: If God makes the choice, why does He not choose everybody? You tell me. The nearest you get to the answer to that question is Jesus’ own response to this: it was the Father’s will – it seemed “good” in His sight (Matt.11:26-27).

Don’t try to figure this out! Do you understand the Trinity? No. But do you not believe that God is in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit? I hope you do.

Dr. J. I. Packer (one of my mentors at Oxford University) called all this an “antinomy” in his classic little book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. An antinomy is parallel principles that seem irreconcilable but both being true. For example, is Jesus 50% God and 50% man or 100% God and 100% man? The answer is: Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. So too with the sovereignty of God and man’s moral responsibility: God is 100% the Author of salvation, and yet man is 100% responsible for his or her condition.

Whosoever will may come. Whoever is thirsty comes. But who makes a person thirsty? God. Who disdains the way of salvation? Those who refuse to believe.

As for the popular idea that man is a “free moral agent”, I would point out: (1) man is not free; he is in dominion to sin. (2) He is not moral; the heart is deceitful above all things and incurably wicked (Jer.l7:9). And (3) man is not the agent; the Holy Spirit is the agent (John 6:63).

If we get to Heaven, it will be by the sheer grace of God. If we refuse the Gospel we are to blame – not God. It is an antinomy.

I have written this blog partly because it has come to me of late that many of those who read my tweets and blogs have not been aware of my views of the sovereignty of God. Perhaps this should not have surprised me, but it did.

Now you know. After delivering His “hard sayings”, Jesus asked, “Do you take offense at this?” (John 6:61). Many of His followers did.  “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66).
 

RT Kendall

July 29, 2013

If We Claim to be Without Sin

If We Claim to be Without Sin

The phrase that forms the title of today’s thoughts is part of the first chapter of John’s first epistle.  Here’s are some thoughts from other online writers…


Because a biblically-managed life depends on maintaining an eternal perspective while living in a temporal world, we must consistently examine our lives…

Dealing With My Sin

As a believer, the penalty of sin is gone but the propensity to sin remains. We will sin in word, thought, and deed. But the great truth is this: When we confess our sins, He forgives us. We need to confess our sins daily to the Lord.

Read the following passages and then list those sins that seem to continually raise their ugly heads in your life. Confess them to God and experience His forgiveness based on the promises of His Word.

For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Psalm 32:4-5

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9

~Ron Moore at The Journey


Part of the sickness we can observe in our culture is the need to be good, or to seem innocent where guilt should be admitted.  As long as no one catches us, we tell ourselves we really haven’t done anything bad.  As long as we can find some problem in our background to explain our pain, we act as though we’re not responsible for our lives of addiction and irresponsibility.  As long as some lawyer can find a reasonable judge or a technicality that can get us off, we think we don’t have to worry about the cheating, stealing and assaulting that we’ve committed.  If we deny we do bad things, we suffer on the inside even if our reputation seems to hold together for a while on the outside.  God clearly tells us that one of the great gifts of true goodness is the cleansing we feel after we’ve admitted our faults and our sins.

 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9 NIV)

Keeping the rules and checking the “balance sheet” is another favorite method of tricking ourselves into thinking we are good people.  We follow the rules but push and shove anyone who gets in our way while we do it.  We use all the times we’ve done the right thing to excuse ourselves from taking responsibility for the rules we break.  We do good things for others and tell ourselves we are “pretty good people” even though we know we have bad attitudes and hidden resentments.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between doing good things and goodness as a character quality.  Jesus taught His follower,

“Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.”  (Luke 18:19 NIV)

In spite of the challenges and ethical confusion, as followers of Jesus, we are taught to do good.  Also we are told that one of the signs that God lives in us is that our lives demonstrate “goodness.”   God has created us for good work, flowing from a good heart.  The challenging question for us is:  Are we just “looking good” or are we really good?

~from the blog Partners In Hope Today

“I’m wrong.”

It is hard for these words to roll off the tongue.

Pride doesn’t want to admit it. Fear won’t allow us to admit it.

Our pride tells us we are basically good people. Admitting that we are wrong might sully that good reputation.

Our fear doesn’t want to deal with the “potential” consequences.

Neither is of the Lord.

God calls us to walk in truth. Often times that means admitting we are wrong. The Bible calls this confession. It is simply agreeing with God.

Knowing that Jesus loves us puts our fleshly pride and fear in their place. Trust Him. Walk in truth. Go ahead and say those dreaded words, “I’m wrong.”

It will work together for good, just as He promised.

~Bob Christopher at Basic Gospel


“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:

Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognized, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:

Take time to acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

~Soaring Eagle at the blog Softly Spoke the River

 

November 13, 2012

To Whom Did Paul Say, “For What I Want to Do I Do not Do”?

While we recognize that Romans 7 is New Testament, we often over-Christianize it and miss out on the Old Testament world that shaped the times of the apostles. Scott Lencke at the blog The Prodigal Thought works through this thought, you’re encouraged to read this at source where it appeared (sans soundtrack) as De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.

Everyone know The Police song, De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da? If not, you can have a listen and watch here.

Now Romans 7 is difficult enough just on its own terms. But add in the distraction of Sting belting out one of his great hits, well, it’s simply all over (especially after watching the video!).

Why Romans 7 and The Police?

Romans 7 is that chapter where Paul uses the word do so many times. Yes, that chapter! I count 20 times in vs15-20! There we find the famed words,

‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

Actually, did you know Romans 7 causes difficulty? Not because of The Police, but rather because people have been debating for a very long time whether Paul is describing the normal life of a Christian or non-Christian.

The popular belief today, at least amongst evangelicals, is that Paul is describing a Christian. For starters, it is argued, if Paul says, ‘For in my inner being I delight in God’s law,’ this cannot be reality for an unregenerate, depraved human. Not only that, but what I think happens even more is that we look at our own lives, evaluate our daily living, and concur that vs15 and vs19 speak very truly about us – ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

Now, while some might loathe the idea of utilizing our experience to understand Scripture, I wouldn’t say it’s completely terrible. I’m an advocate of something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral that recognizes we have more than Scripture alone in helping us understand God’s revelation. Rather this perspective takes a more holistic approach, identifying a) Scripture, b) tradition (there is such things as good tradition), c) reason (not ‘objective rationalism’) and d) experience as important in grasping the revelation of God.

So, my point is that understanding Scripture is not completely devoid of our human experience and encounter with God and his truth.

Thus, having said that, those 2 well-known verses (Rom 7:15, 19) might parallel something going on in our own lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was given to describe our situation. You see, this banter about whether Paul is describing the Christian or non-Christian life, I think it might just bring us on an adventure of missing the point. Well, I would concede it’s part of the point. But I don’t believe it’s the greater point of Paul in what is our ch.7 (you know Paul didn’t have chapter and verse divides in his letter).

What I think happens is that we gloss over a vital statement. And I suppose we miss the larger context of the letter and the sweeping thought of chapters 6-8. So maybe we start there.

What in the world is going on in Rome? For this letter was written to a particular church in Rome.

Paul is writing to a church that is extremely divided. Why?

Some 6 to 8 years before Paul wrote to the church, the emperor Claudius had expelled all Jews from the area of Italy (see Acts 18:1-2). Thus, the church became strongly Gentile. But the successor to Claudius, emperor Nero, allowed the Jews to make their way back into this area of the Roman empire. So we have a church situation that has become mainly Gentile over a number of years, which means you have a strong group of people mainly disconnected from the Abrahamic faith of Israel. Mix in a strong group of Jews desiring to see their great heritage fall to the wayside and you’ve got a bit of a challenge.

So here is a man with wisdom and pastoral compassion trying to help both Jews and Gentiles. You can sense it right throughout the letter.

But what about the difficulty of Romans 7? How does this fit into the Roman context?

Well, we could work through chs.6 and 8, but let’s come back to that. This is where 7:1 becomes all-important.

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives?

Who is Paul speaking to?

Jews! Those who know the law.

Yes, Paul does tell us early on in the letter that even those who do not have the Jewish Torah have a law for themselves (see Rom 2:14-15). But, looking at this statement in 7:1, I think it quite clear Paul is speaking to those who know Yahweh’s Torah, as summed up in the Law of Moses.

When you realize that Paul is mainly speaking to Jews, in this little interlude between chapters 6 and 8, I believe it opens up the passage quite a lot.

It’s not so much about whether Paul is describing a Christian or non-Christian, though we can talk about that, and I will. Rather it’s primarily about one who is trying to live under the law.

And so I do believe we can ascribe to a Jew, a good Jew in the context of the first century, these words of Paul: For in my inner being I delight in God’s law (7:22).

Paul’s not really caught up in our debates about prevenient or irresistible grace. He is describing a good Jew like himself based right in the tension of the first century as things were strongly evolving into the light of the new covenant in Christ. For someone who delights in the law but tries to live under the reign of the law, that person is going to find herself or himself in quite a pickle. Such a Jew might end up arguing with themselves, like Gollum and Smeagol, as seen here. Such a major internal war!

This is why the preceding words of chapter 6 become extremely important. Especially statements like these: For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).

The one joined to Christ has been freed from the reign of both sin and law. Law + sin = a jumbled mixture of problems in a Jew. But living under the reign of grace, as seen and expressed in the faithfulness of Jesus, releases one to ‘serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code’ (Rom 7:6). And Paul reminds us of the delivery that takes place in Jesus Christ (7:24-25). Not only that, but ‘through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ (8:2).

‘Ok, then. But what about 7:25, part b,’ one may ask?! It says: So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Yes, a good Jew will want to be a slave (or obedient) to the torah-law. But that person living in light of their sinful nature, the flesh, will become a slave to the law of sin. It’s reality for Paul, for any Jew. Again, Law + sin = a jumbled mixture of problems in a Jew. This is why Paul could give his list of achievements for being best Jew of the century, but at the same time list his persecution of Christians (see Phil 3:4-6). Living under the reign and lordship of the law is ludicrous, even making one proud of their accomplishments that are contrary to the will of God (and for Paul, that was watching Christians be murdered!). A proper Jew needs releasing from such a view, being drown in the reign of the grace of God in the faithfulness of Jesus.

Now, there is no doubt we could think about the application of chapter 7 for us, Gentiles, some 2000 years later. Though let me remark that I don’t think it completely possible to think like a Jew, even more a Jew from some 2000 years ago like Paul. Still, we can consider the ease of making our own law (not in a Rom. 2 sense, but from an extreme moralistic framework). And, thus, we try and live an overly controlled life under this law, which really ends up wrecking our own hearts and lives, as well as others’. We have to grapple with the practicalities of living under the reign of law rather than the reign of grace.

But Paul is talking about those who know the law, the Mosaic torah. In this extremely divided Roman church, he is taking time to address his brothers and sisters in the fleshly heritage.

And, so, in a sense, Paul is creating a before and after situation. Jews would have once been driven by their commitment to the precious rule of the law (or maybe they still were). But now it was time to live under the reign of grace, under the new way of the Spirit, under the rule of Christ Jesus. That was the glories of which Paul was proclaiming.

This is what Romans 7 is all about, tucked into the middle of a letter to the church in Rome, tucked in between two very telling chapters, that being chapters 6 and 8. I think if we remember this, it will help us continue to understand what God has done for us and in us through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And it will release us to live more and more under the reign of grace, the Jew first and also the Gentile.

~Scott Lencke

July 19, 2012

A Study on Sin

After a longer post yesterday, I was looking for something shorter today, but then remembered having this in my files and wanting to share it sooner than later.

Blogger Jeff Mikels wrote this following the arrest of a local pastor, so while it deals with the sin problem as faced by all of us, he wrote in within the context of sin impacting church leaders.  As always, you are strongly encouraged to read C201 posts at their source; this is a great encouragement to the writers and you may find other articles on their blogs you would enjoy.  Here’s the link to where this appeared as Reflections on Sin.

This past week, a number of stories came out in my local newspaper reporting on and analyzing the arrest of a local pastor. He has been accused of placing and monitoring video equipment in the female bathrooms at the church. If you haven’t read the articles, don’t worry about not knowing the details. I’m not going to address the specifics of that story, but it has burdened my heart so much that I feel a need to reflect here in my semi-public space what these moral failures reveal about God, humanity, and the state of the church.

The story is all too common

Including this story, a total of three significant church leaders have been arrested for sexual misconduct of some kind in Lafayette in just the past three years. People are well aware of these stories happening all over the place. These stories happen in the Catholic Church. They happen in Protestant churches. They happen in small towns and in large cities. They happen with local pastors and national figures. The stories are all too common especially when we consider that the Bible says this about those who would be leaders in a church.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.1 Timothy 3:2-4

and also

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.James 3:1

As an individual and as a pastor, I am sickened when I hear that another leader has failed in this way not only because behavior like this is clearly prohibited in the Bible but also because these failures are easily preventable. I literally feel it in my gut when I think about some church leader violating God’s Word and the trust of the people.

At the same time, I admit that I’m freaked out by it. As one pastor after another falls to this and to other temptations, I seriously begin to worry about myself. What can I possibly do to prevent falling prey to the same temptations? Am I prone to falling in the same way? Am I prone to falling in a different way? Is it from a prideful heart that I want to judge other leaders who do fall to those temptations?

It shouldn’t be common among us at all

The sad reality is that sin happens, no one is immune, every one needs grace, but the wonderful promise of the Bible is that living a life of integrity is not only a calling but also a privilege, a gift for all believers.

Consider these two verses from 1 John:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.1 John 1:5-10

There are three things to note here. First of all, no one has the right to claim to be without sin. Those who do are fooling themselves. Secondly, all sin, regardless of what it is, can be and will be forgiven for anyone who will confess those sins. Thirdly, and this is the most relevant part for our conversation, those who walk in the light are they who enjoy both fellowship with people and cleansing from sin.

John is writing to make sure that everyone knows that no one is perfect. However, he clearly says that God’s work is more than forgiveness. God’s work is purification. In other words, God is at work to gradually eliminate sin from your life, and those who walk in the light are the ones who receive that gradual purification.

Going a little deeper, John says in chapter 3:

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.1 John 3:3-10

Even though we can’t say we are free from sin, we can’t claim to belong to God if we continue in sin. Periodic sins are to be expected, but habitual sin, particularly the kind of sin that reveals an unloving heart, is proof of the devil’s work in that person. Therefore, if some pastor, church leader, or in fact any other human being has a habitual sin that displays an unloving heart (as almost all sexual sin does), John would conclude that the devil had been at work in him.

That’s scary.

The bottom line is that even though sin is everywhere, those who claim to be followers of Jesus (regardless of position in the church!) are expected to live lives of love and purity, and if you claim to be a follower of Jesus yet have any habitual sin in your life, you need to get it under control or you will be just as guilty in God’s eyes as anyone who’s ever been arrested for any of these sins.

So why does it happen?

I can’t tell you specifically why any sin ever happens, but the Bible leads us to understand how any sin develops in a person’s life. It comes from the heart.

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come‚—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.Mark 7:21-22

also

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. — James 1:13-15

Sin crouches in the soul, in the heart waiting to come out at an opportune time, and there’s one thing that lets sin stay there, under the surface of our lives until it gets an opportunity. What is that one thing? Darkness.

Remember what John said in chapter 1 verse 7?

if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.

The antidote to the problem of the heart, to the problem of sin, and even to relationship problems is walking in the light! Therefore, I conclude that if someone has a sin problem or a relationship problem, it’s because of walking in darkness, but if we want to walk in the light, it requires not only that I myself live in an environment of light (especially the relationships I maintain), but it also requires that I allow the light to shine on me. The antidote to sin is to let the light shine on me and to walk with others who likewise let the light shine on them.

If that’s the case, then there are two simple reasons why people fall into sin. They keep their hearts in the dark, and they keep their friends in the dark.

Let me explore those thoughts with you for a moment.

A darkened heart

Simply put, a darkened heart means that a person has gone for a long time without meditating on the Word of God. David would say in the Psalms:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. — Psalm 119:11

and he would also say:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.Psalm 119:105

A heart that is not filled with the Word of God is a darkened heart. Now, that doesn’t mean I think pastor Bob or any of these other leaders were not reading their Bible. I’m sure they were actually spending a great deal of time in the Bible, but it’s one thing to read, and it’s quite a different thing to absorb it. Two more passages are relevant to this:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.James 1:23-24

and this:

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:26-27

When sin comes to the surface, it’s because the penetrating light of God’s Word wasn’t allowed to shine where the sin was hiding. Those who block a part of their heart from the light of God’s Word are creating a sin incubator inside themselves.

Darkened friendships

The Bible speaks of two different kind of “darkened” friendships–friends who choose lives of darkness and friends I choose to keep in the dark.

Regarding the first group of “friends” the Bible teaches that people who hang out with wicked people will themselves fall into destruction:

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither‚ whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.Psalm 1:1-6

In our world today, this can happen outside the context of “friendships” and in the context of entertainment. With technology, it is possible today to enjoy the “company of mockers” while being completely alone. The values of the world can seep into a person’s life simply by osmosis. If a person is hanging out with wicked people, watching wicked shows, or otherwise regularly soaking in a godless culture, that person will be corrupted by it.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. — Proverbs 13:20

or

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”1 Corinthians 15:33

However, a person can have the greatest, most godly friends in the world, but still have darkened friendships by simply choosing to deceive, lie, or otherwise keep them in the dark. A person can have darkened friendships by simply never opening up and confessing to them his sins, temptations, and struggles. By avoiding the vulnerability of confession, he never reaches the point of growth that is supposed to come when godly people are with each other.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17

or

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16

Therefore, we can say that a great deal of sin is simply the result of a darkened heart living with darkened relationships. What then, shall we do to move from darkness into light?

Moving from darkness to light

Paul gives the people of Ephesus a severe challenge in his letter to them:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person‚–such a person is an idolater‚–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible‚ and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live‚–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.Ephesians 5:1-16

Paul attacks sexual immorality, impurity, and greed (three things rampant in our culture even among church leaders), but he attacks them from the standpoint of light and darkness. He tells us that those who belong to God are “children of light” and should work to “expose” the darkness wherever it may be found. In other words, Paul’s charge to followers of Jesus is that they live in the light.

So before we ever address the specific questions raised by any specific scandal, I want to turn the questions to you and to me. Let’s ask these self-evaluating questions:

  1. Is there any area of my heart where the light of the Word of God is not currently shining? Is there any area where I am knowingly avoiding the light of God’s Word?
  2. Are there any regular relationships I maintain (with people, Internet, or other media) where there is no light?
  3. Is there any area of my heart that is in the dark from other people? That is, for each attitude, behavior, temptation, and thought that’s true of me, is there at least one person who knows me well enough to know about it and to call me on it when they see it?

If you have darkness in your heart or darkness in your relationships, you are likely to fall to temptation. Deal with it now before it’s too late!

~Jeff Mikels

There are two additional (shorter) parts to this.  You need to click the link and scroll to the bottom to read

  • Some questions for times of scandal
  • Final thoughts

Jeff’s writing was previously featured here in February, with two Q&A posts:  Part One and Part Two.

April 25, 2011

Spiritual Relapse

Today’s post first appeared at Thinking Out Loud under the title Spiritual Recidivism.

I remember the first time I heard the term recidivism, it was in the context of American federal prisons, as the word can be used to describe the situation where, after serving time, prisoners re-offend and are re-incarcerated. It’s a term I would image Chuck Colson‘s Prison Fellowship ministry discusses frequently.

Not being an expert, I can only guess at a few sample reasons why people might follow their previous paths and end up back in jail:

  • Crime is the only life they know; they haven’t been placed in a new direction or given enough new life skills, and they simply return to what they know.
  • They actually “learn” crime in prison from listening to other inmates; or they idolize other prisoners and see their exploits as something worth trying.
  • They fall back among former friends — people who didn’t do hard time — and get caught up in their lifestyle of illegal activities.
  • They either consciously or subconsciously miss the security and routine of prison life and/or feel “lost” in the outside world and are simply either expecting or hoping to get caught again.

Those are just some sample ideas, I’m sure there are more.

But I am equally guilty of recidivism.

I sin, and then I sense God dealing with me about it, and I repent and I abstain from that sin for a season, but then that temptation might call out to me. I’m not thinking of anything recent here, but it’s a pattern that most Christ-followers — including the Apostle Paul — are familiar with. I’m told that some sects — particularly the Catholic church’s earliest concepts of confession, and certain aspects of Mormon doctrine — teach that once confessed, you really shouldn’t sin the same sin twice.

So why do we?

Let’s see if we can follow the pattern above and get some insights:

  • A lifestyle of sin is deeply ingrained. This is where Charismatics and Pentecostals (among others) would say there is a need for something that goes beyond confession: Deliverance.
  • We actually “learn” sin from hanging around with other Christians who, instead of lifting us up, bring us down. Or, freed from one area of temptation, we don’t realize that without God filling the emotional or spiritual voids that exist, we are leaving ourselves open for other types of sin or distraction.
  • We go back to the people we knew before we determined to live a life of intentional spiritual formation. This includes people in the church who are simply not committed. It can also include media influences.
  • If we get deeply enough entrenched in a sinful lifestyle, we can become numbed to guilt, and our sin feels comfortable and enjoyable. Momentarily, the pleasures of sin outweigh the joy and satisfaction found in letting God direct our paths.

Here’s the full text from Paul I alluded to earlier:

NIV Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

To amend George Santayana’s well known quotation: “Those who fail to learn the lessons of their personal history are doomed to repeat them. “

Do you find yourself running down the same sin rabbit trails? Just as spring is bringing new life to the northern hemisphere, allow God to help you break free and enjoy spiritual new life.

…If a search engine brought you to this post, maybe God is trying to tell you something. Click here to watch a brief presentation on giving Him control of your life.

October 21, 2010

Wiping Sin off the Face of the Earth

Today’s reading is from Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; as it appeared October 17 in the Our Journey devotional book:


In Genesis Chapter 6 we see that sin’s influence continued to spread across the earth.  As people multiplied, sin also multiplied, and things deteriorated to such an alarming degree that God decided to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

Noah, along with his wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law, were to be the only exceptions.   They started building an ark that would save them from a flood that would reduce the world’s populaton to just eight people!

Fast forward a few years.  The ark is built, Noah’s family is all inside, and the rain starts.   The waters rise, and the world perishes.  It rains for forty days, and it takes nearly a year before the waters have safely subsided.   Noah and his family step out of the ark and into a whole new world completely clean of sin.  But it doesn’t take long for Noah to pollute it.

“Noah…planted a vineyard.  He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.”  (Gen. 9: 20-21).  Just a few verses after being brought into a sinless environment, we find Noah drunk, passed out, and naked!   This isn’t the image of Noah most of us grew up with, but it’s true nonetheless.   It also shows us that sin was still with mankind.   Sin survived the flood because it was stowed away in the hearts of those were stowed in the ark.  It wasn’t just “out there,” it was also “in there.”

We can fall under the subtle spell of thinking that sin is somehow “out there,” embedded in our culture, environment, or circumstances.  It isn’t.  The problem is hidden deep insde of us, and not even the greatest disaster this world has ever seeen can destroy it.

~Bob Coy(emphasis added)

 

 

About the picture:   This is a picture I hunted for to go with this article after seeing it a few days ago as a jigsaw puzzle.   It’s actually part of a set of four by artist Tom DuBois called the Noah’s Ark Collection, with this piece aptly titled:  The Commission.    Tom is currently offering a $4,000 set of the pictures for only $2,900 at his website.

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).