Nearing Easter

We are nearing the end of what is often referred to as Holy Week in the Church. This was the most climactic week of Jesus’ life, without doubt. The crowds already know who he is, and many of them are still hyped because of the miracle they had witnessed not far from Jerusalem – a man who had been dead for four days was walking and talking again, healthy and alive. So a few days later when Jesus stages his “grand entry” into Jerusalem, naturally the crowds are enthusiastic. They are waving palm branches and hailing the arrival of their king. They are celebrating. He is teaching in the temple or outside Jerusalem every day. The people can’t get enough of him.

And four days later they are calling for his death. After being falsely accused of sedition and experiencing a mockery of a trial, and scorned by the rulers of the day, he is finally taken to be scourged and killed in the most painful and humiliating way the Romans could imagine.

They missed it. Their king had come to them, although they were looking for someone else. Someone who would overthrow their oppressors and deliver their nation back to them. Although, if they had been paying attention…

The Messiah was presented to them on the 10th day of the month, just before the Passover, when the sacrificial lamb was selected. The lamb had to be without blemish, and after its selection it was to be out for all to see until the time of sacrifice. And then, on the 14th day of the month the Messiah was put to death at the same time as the Passover lamb, according to John. So on Sunday the Messiah appeared to the people, and on Thursday they killed him.

He spent three days and nights in the tomb, and sometime Saturday night he was resurrected. When women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, he was already gone.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the two pivotal points in history upon which all else hangs. Jesus bore our sins on the cross (it was not technically a payment for our sin, which I’ve mentioned in the past but that’s a topic for another time). He was the sacrifice for our sin, our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the last sacrifice that would ever be required (Heb 10:10-12). Because of this sacrifice, we can be justified before God. We can be forgiven and be spared the wrath of God. We die with him, to use Paul’s terminology, and so we live with him. We are set free from sin and made free to live holy lives, since we have been cleansed of all sin.

But his death would not have meant as much without the resurrection. Indeed, had it not happened, we would be the most pitiable of people. For all that, we would still be doomed to die, because even God would not have been able to conquer death. If he cannot, what hope do we have? If he is not raised, we are all still in our sins. We are all the same way we were when we came to God, and He has done nothing to help us. Thanks be to God that death was defeated that day! We do have hope. We are assured the victory, because it is God who works in us and equips us every day.

Too radical?

A few weeks ago, I attended a church small group based on a recommendation from someone at another church back in Clemson. Since I was still looking for a church at the time, I decided to check it out, hoping to find like-minded believers to fellowship with. What interested me at the time was that this group was going to read through and discuss David Platt’s book Radical. Now, I have not read this book yet, although several who know me say I should, but my sister has offered to let me read her copy, so odds are in a couple weeks I’ll have the chance to read the book for myself.

So I won’t mention the contents of the book right now. It’s difficult to talk about what one has not read.
Anyway, the first week of discussion, the group leader wanted to talk about what it meant to be totally devoted to God. Yes! That is a wonderful topic of discussion, and one that Christians need to be reminded of, whether to exhort or encourage. As in any group discussion, several ideas were tossed around, such as praying and reading the Bible, or doing what God wills, or living a life of obedience to God. Sure, these might qualify as “Sunday School answers,” but they’re accurate enough. They are all good things to do. The gist of the discussion was that we needed to be devoted to God.

Most of you know me well enough to guess what I brought up rather quickly. While we’re on the topic of being radical, of encouraging one another to be totally devoted to God, why not live every day in perfect obedience to God? Perfect obedience is a product of perfect love, which will please Him. Despite our day-to-day life in this mortal body, complete with its weaknesses, why not determine to be pleasing to God at all times, and live a life that never fails?

Apparently this is a little too radical. Talk about devotion is wonderful, but once that concept is presented… well, that’s a little too devoted. We can’t do that, because we still have a flesh and blood body that has desires, and we still have our sinful nature that we’re constantly fighting against. And sometimes we will fall, although we repent immediately afterward and are restored in our relationship with God.

It’s too hard, in other words. The deck is stacked against us. Sooner or later (sooner in the eyes of most), we’re going to mess up and sin against God. It’s just part of being imperfect humans. Praise God that He does not see our failings, because He forgives us and sees Jesus instead! We are spotless in His eyes!
It sounds wonderful except for the fact that it’s totally wrong.

I am not denying that we still have a flesh that still has desires. To deny that would be to speak absurdity. What is wrong, however, is to go ahead and decide that we will always struggle against our sinful flesh.

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When Paul says our old man is crucified with Him (that is Christ), he does not mean our bodies are done away with, along with all the desires that go with them. What he does mean is that our old way of life is gone. A lying habit, the desire to steal, to commit sexual sin, a proud heart… all of that and more is what used to define us, but defines us no longer. All these sins that used to hold us in bondage no longer have dominion over us.

We are finally free to tell temptation, “NO!” We are finally free to choose to obey. This is why Paul tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin. It is not that we are unable to sin (we always will be), but that this attitude no longer defines us. Whenever temptation comes our way, or our pasts try to haunt us, we can refuse them.

If we have this freedom, why squander it? Why go ahead and assume that every once in a while you will tell God that you would rather serve the world and your passions than Him? I thought we loved God. Are we going to – even occasionally – act as though we hate Him?

God forbid!

Why even entertain the thought? Let’s actually try something radical. Let’s determine to live our lives in a way that shows our love for Him, every hour of every day! Who cares if the world and the rest of the church says it’s impossible? God doesn’t tell us it’s impossible. In fact, He tells us He’ll give us everything to make it possible! Our old ways died when He made us a new creation, He has indwelt us with His Holy Spirit, and He’s already promised to provide a way of escape from temptation.

That makes it even better. We don’t have to rely on ourselves to live for Him all the time. If we did, then we probably would fail eventually, and often. But we are not asked to rely on ourselves. We are asked to rely on Him.

How about it?

95 Theses to the Evangelical Church, by Greg Gordon

A friend told me about these theses, and while I do not agree with all of them, I so fervently agree with so many that I am willing to provide them here.

From SermonIndex.net

95 Theses To The Evangelical Church
by Greg Gordon

I submit these to the evangelical church of our day and pray that God would allow anything of truth in these pages to bend and change men’s hearts back to God.” – Greg Gordon – http://www.sermonindex.net

**

“It is useless for large companies of believers to spend long hours begging God to send revival. Unless we intend to reform we may as well not pray. Unless praying men have the insight and faith to amend their whole way of life to conform to the New Testament pattern there can be no true revival.” – A.W. Tozer

**

Thesis 1 – The evangelical church at large has forgotten that the chief end of man is to glorify God.
(Romans 16:27, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Mathew 6:9).

Thesis 2 – Evangelicals ignore most of the methods, practices and principles found in Acts chapter 2.
(Acts 2:42,44, Acts 2:46, Acts 2:38).

Thesis 3 – We meet for one hour a week and consider that apostolic church. Many evangelicals treat church like any other social club or sports event that they attend.
(Acts 2:46, Hebrews 10:25, Acts 1:14).

Thesis 4 – We have made Christianity about the individual rather then a community of believers.
(1 John 2:19, 2 Timothy 4:16, Jude 19).

Thesis 5 – In evangelical churches the priesthood of all believers is not acknowledged and the role of pastor is abused. The biblical view of a plurality of elders is practiced by very few.
(1 Peter 2:9, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 4:11-13).

Thesis 6 – The evangelical church as a whole has lost the concept of their being engrafted into the promises given to Israel.
(Romans 11:17-18,20, Romans 11:25, Romans 11:15).

Thesis 7 – There needs to be a recovery back to teaching through the whole counsel of God expositionally.
(Acts 20:27, 1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 2:15).

Thesis 8 – We take it too lightly, the blessing and honor of having God’s Scriptures in our possession.
(Psalm 119:16, Acts 13:44, Nehemiah 8:9).

Thesis 9 – There has never been more access to the word of God yet so little reading of it.
(1 Timothy 4:13, Nehemiah 8:1-3, Psalm 119:59).

Thesis 10 – Some read the Scriptures to attain knowledge and do not practice what they read.
(James 1:22, Matthew 7:21, 3 John 4).

Thesis 11 – Worship has become an idol in many churches. The music resembles the world more than anything else.
(Amos 5:23, Philippians 4:8, 1 John 5:21).

Thesis 12 – The world is shaping the views of the evangelical church more than the church shaping the views of the world.
(Romans 12:2, Matthew 5:13, 1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

Thesis 13 – The evangelical church spends more money on dog food then missions.
(2 Corinthians 9:6, Luke 21:2, Acts 4:34-35).

Thesis 14 – We take lightly the cost of discipleship laid out by Jesus Christ and consider following Him a sort of jovial thing rather then it truly costing us our actual entire lives.
(Luke 14:33, Luke 14:26-27, Matthew 8:19-20).

Thesis 15 – There is a lack of true discipleship and making others to be obedient disciples.
(Matthew 28:20, 2 Timothy 2:2, 2 Timothy 2:14).

Thesis 16 – The modern day evangelical believes the error that parts of life are to be spiritual while other parts are to be worldly and secular. Rather than our entire life’s being spiritual and our walk with God.
(1 Peter 4:2, Colossians 3:3, 1 John 2:6).

Thesis 17 – The modern day evangelical finds Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent.
(Philippians 2:21, James 3:16, Romans 12:1-2).

Thesis 18 – Self disciplines in the Christian life such as fasting, praying, suffering are considered legalistic.
(2 Timothy 2:21, 2 Timothy 1:8, Matthew 6:17).

Thesis 19 – Little thought and contemplation is put towards the lostness of men, the seriousness of the gospel, and the sacrifice of the call of Christ.
(Philippians 3:8, Galatians 2:20, Hebrews 10:34).

Thesis 20 – We are living with an epidemic of cheap grace in the Church. Flippant confession, shallow consecration, superficial surrender.
(Luke 14:28-30, Luke 14:26, James 4:8).

Thesis 21 – Since the inception of the Church, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached with the requirements of repentance and discipleship.
(Acts 2:38, Luke 14:26, John 8:31).

Thesis 22 – Presently, the “High-Calling in Christ Jesus,” has never been offered at such a low level. Forgiveness without repentance, discipleship without obedience, salvation without sanctity, confession without consecration.
(Hebrews 10:29, Hebrews 4:11, Luke 13:24).

Thesis 23 – Such terms as: Introspection, counting the cost, godly sorrow over sin, repentance from dead works, are all foreign to this church age of cheap grace.
(Acts 2:37, Psalm 119:9, Hebrews 6:1-2).

Thesis 24 – The modern evangelical church loves itself more than its neighbor.
(1 Corinthians 3:3, Galatians 5:13, Philippians 2:3).

Thesis 25 – The church must repent of its idolization of personality and business principles.
(2 Corinthians 2:17, 1 Corinthians 3:5, 1 Corinthians 12:23).

Thesis 26 – The elders and pastors of the church, as ministers of the gospel, are charged by Jesus to feed the sheep. But sadly many are fleecing the flock to supply their wants.
(John 10:12-13, 1 Peter 5:2-3, Revelation 2:15).

Thesis 27 – The qualities most in demand in today’s pastorate are frequently foreign to the qualities which are made most important in Scripture.
(1 Timothy 3:2-3, 1 Timothy 3:5, 1 Timothy 1:5-7).

Thesis 28 – The professionalization of the pastorate is a sin and needs to be repented of.
(2 Corinthians 11:13, Galatians 3:1, Galatians 2:6).

Thesis 29 – There must be repentance for the ambitious desire and idolization of the celebrity pastorate.
(3 John 9, Jeremiah 17:5, 1 Corinthians 12:22).

Thesis 30 – The evangelical pastor must trust the Spirit, not statistics.
(2 Samuel 24:1, 1 Corinthians 1:25, Romans 8:14).

Thesis 31 – Modern day prophets are being stoned by criticism and neglect.
(2 Timothy 4:3-4, Galatians 1:10, Jeremiah 1:7-8).

Thesis 32 – God’s prophets are ill treated and shunned by most evangelicals and considered too extreme or harsh.
(Jeremiah 6:10, Isaiah 6:9-10, Galatians 4:16).

Thesis 33 – An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And my people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?
(Matthew 24:4,11-12, 1 Corinthians 1:19, Jude 8).

Thesis 34 – There are many false gospels being preached from pulpits. God has no interest and is not required to honor a gospel that is false.
(2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:8-9, Jude 16).

Thesis 35 – There is an epidemic of a sort of “mock” salvation being preached from many pulpits today. It is a gospel message that is not authentic. It is correct in doctrine but false in reality.
(2 Corinthians 3:6, 1 John 5:11-12, Romans 8:9).

Thesis 36 – What is this “mock” salvation that is being spoken of? Simply defined it is a salvation that does not make men holy.
(Jude 4, Romans 8:1, Romans 6:17-18).

Thesis 37 – No other evangelical phraseology has caused more damage to true gospel preaching then this simple coined phrase: “we are all just sinners saved by grace.”
(Ephesians 1:1, Hebrews 6:11-12, Hebrews 10:26-27).

Thesis 38 – There is a gospel message that keeps men sinners and never allows them to change and become saints in actual experience.
(1 John 2:29, Colossians 3:5-8, Titus 3:8).

Thesis 39 – The warning of Christ is against this gospel where professors of religion are forbidding people to be a part of the holy body of Christ.
(Matthew 23:13, Psalm 119:1-2, 2 Peter 1:3-4).

Thesis 40 – Preaching has become all about the happiness of man and not the glory of God.
(John 6:26, Romans 4:20, 1 Peter 4:11).

Thesis 41 – Preachers give smooth words to entice men, yet very few give any words of correction or rebuke.
(Jeremiah 6:14, Proverbs 1:23, 1 Timothy 5:20).

Thesis 42 – Run from gospels that focus on your success and prosperity. From those that use the name of Jesus Christ only for personal gain.
(John 2:16, Acts 20:33, Jeremiah 6:13).

Thesis 43 – Run from gospels that focus only on self-improvement.
(1 Timothy 6:5, Hebrews 12:14, James 4:14).

Thesis 44 – Run from churches where men and not Christ are glorified.
(Colossians 1:18, Jude 25, John 16:14).

Thesis 45 – Run from churches where there is no Bible, no cross, no searching Word, no repentance from sin, no mention of the blood of Christ.
(1 Peter 1:18-19, Ephesians 3:13, Revelation 1:5).

Thesis 46 – Run from churches where the worship leaves you cold, where there’s no sense of God’s presence.
(1 Corinthians 5:4, Psalm 80:14-15, Jeremiah 12:11).

Thesis 47 – Run from churches where you’re comfortable in your sin.
(1 Corinthians 14:25, Hebrews 10:30-31, Hebrews 4:13).

Thesis 48 – Run from churches that use the pulpit of God for a personal agenda.
(Jude 10-11, Jude 19, 3 John 9).

Thesis 49 – Run from those who preach division between races and cultures.
(James 2:4, Galatians 3:28, Revelation 5:9).

Thesis 50 – Run from ungodly, spasmodic movements and endless empty prophesying.
(Jeremiah 5:13, 1 Corinthians 14:33, 1 John 2:16).

Thesis 51 – Run from preachers who tell only stories and jokes.
(Ephesians 5:4, Titus 1:8, Titus 2:12).

Thesis 52 – Run from those that are only after money and they use one gimmick after another to get your money.
(2 Peter 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:14, 1 Corinthians 9:18).

Thesis 53 – The phrase “accept Jesus as your personal Saviour.” Is not found in the Scriptures.
(Romans 10:9-10, Colossians 1:13, Acts 26:20).

Thesis 54 – Evidence of true conversion is something that does not seem important to modern day evangelicals.
(1 John 2:6, 1 John 4:17, Matthew 7:20).

Thesis 55 – In result thousands of sinners think of God having only one attribute, love! which has allowed multitudes to sit at ease with their sins.
(Romans 1:18, Acts 5:11, Psalm 2:12).

Thesis 56 – God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life has caused much confusion in evangelism to the lost.
(Romans 3:19, Acts 26:18, Philippians 3:18-21).

Thesis 57 – A Gospel of love and grace only without the law of God is being preached. Martin Luther called this gospel a doctrine of Satan.
(2 Timothy 4:3-4, Romans 2:4-5, Romans 3:19).

Thesis 58 – We have inherited a system of evangelistic preaching which is unbiblical. This has clearly arisen from the careless mixture of 20th century reasoning with God’s revelation.
(Colossians 2:8, Romans 1:25, Galatians 1:6).

Thesis 59 – Decisionism and the sinners prayer has been the major cause of false conversions in the evangelical church.
(2 Peter 2:1-2, Ephesians 2:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

Thesis 60 – Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the deluded with a perverted gospel! Many who have made decisions in churches have been told in the inquiry rooms their sins have been forgiven will be surprised to hear “I never knew you depart from me.”
(Matthew 7:22-23, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21).

Thesis 61 – Men have taken the place of the Holy Spirit of God in confirming men in their supposed salvation.
(1 John 2:3-5, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, Galatians 6:12-15).

Thesis 62 – The doctrine of hell and eternal suffering is something little grasped by most evangelicals.
(Matthew 13:42, James 5:1, Psalms 9:17).

Thesis 63 – The judgment seat of Christ is perhaps one of the most neglected topics in the modern evangelical pulpit.
(2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10, 1 Corinthians 3:13).

Thesis 64 – The second coming of Jesus Christ needs to be re-instated as the general thrust and burden of the church.
(1 John 3:2-3, Colossians 3:4-6, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).

Thesis 65 – The evangelical church has lost the fear of God and has over emphasized the love of God.
(Hebrews 12:28-29, Luke 12:5, Hebrews 10:31).

Thesis 66 – The church has left evangelism to a few trained professionals rather than simply obeying the Scriptures call to personally evangelize themselves.
(Acts 8:1,4, Acts 4:29, Romans 10:14).

Thesis 67 – Repentance is considered a one-time act in modern evangelism rather than a way of life.
(Revelation 3:19, Hebrews 12:17, 2 Peter 3:9).

Thesis 68 – The Lordship of Jesus Christ is something that is not imposed on sinners initially and creates half-saved people who have a Saviour but not a Lord.
(Acts 2:36, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Romans 6:18).

Thesis 69 – We are not open to correction, discipline or rebuke. And most would rather just move to another evangelical church somewhere down the road.
(1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, Hebrews 12:7-9).

Thesis 70 – There is a great deal of preaching that amounts to a mere believing of the different theories about salvation, instead of persuading men to come to Christ and be saved.
(John 5:40, Colossians 1:28, 2 Corinthians 4:5).

Thesis 71 – There has been a loss of the fullness and majesty of the gospel.
(1 Timothy 1:11, Jude 25, Romans 15:29).

Thesis 72 – There is little mention of sin or the depravity of man from evangelical pulpits.
(John 3:20, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:5).

Thesis 73 – Covetousness, consumerism, and coddling the world’s goods is something that does not appear wrong to evangelicals.
(Jeremiah 22:17, 1 John 2:15-16, 1 Timothy 3:3).

Thesis 74 – Little is made of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in churches or in evangelism. Yet it was one of the major themes and glories of the apostolic church.
(1 Corinthians 15:14-15, Acts 4:10, Acts 4:33).

Thesis 75 – The evangelical church has relied more on technology then God.
(Zechariah 4:6, 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Corinthians 2:4).

Thesis 76 – The prayer meeting is considered in the evangelical church one of the least important meetings. The idea of meeting for an entire day together seems ridiculous and a waste of time.
(1 Timothy 2:1, Acts 4:31, Philippians 4:6).

Thesis 77 – Pastors have never prayed less than they do in the evangelical church in our day.
(Jeremiah 10:21, Philippians 2:21, Ephesians 6:18-19).

Thesis 78 – Very few are waiting on God for His direction and purpose for the church.
(Ephesians 1:11, Psalm 37:7, Isaiah 40:31).

Thesis 79 – The evangelical church has many organizers but few agonizers.
(Philippians 3:18-19, Romans 9:1-3, Jeremiah 9:1).

Thesis 80 – We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the Church. The one gift we need the most is the gift of prophecy.
(2 Timothy 4:2, 1 Corinthians 14:39, 1 Corinthians 12:31).

Thesis 81 – The evangelical church at large has never been more frivolous about the things of God. A serious, sober, self-controlled Christianity is very seldom found or preached.
(2 Peter 3: 11, 1 Peter 4:7, Jude 3).

Thesis 82 – The evangelical church at large has forgotten how to pray.
(1 John 3:22, Acts 6:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Thesis 83 – Churches are more dependent on tradition rather than on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
(Mark 7:13, Acts 16:6, Acts 13:2).

Thesis 84 – It might seem strange to say that ministers of religion are “pleading for impurity and sin.” Yet this is exactly what multitudes of professors preach and teach that you cannot be free from sin. That you must sin!
(Romans 16:18, Romans 6:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1).

Thesis 85 – The Apostles and Christ always preached from the vantage point of the possibility to walk holy and free from sin.
(Titus 2:11-12, 1 Peter 1:14-16, Romans 6:19).

Thesis 86 – Sinners are not saved to sin but rather saved to holiness and good works.
(Romans 6:13, Ephesians 2:10, 2 Peter 3:14).

Thesis 87 – Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the church.
(2 Timothy 2:19, 1 Peter 4:17-18, 2 Timothy 3:12).

Thesis 88 – A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living is the crying need of our day.
(1 Timothy 6:3, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

Thesis 89 – Most in the Church are utterly confused about the practical godliness, obedience, and good works which the Scriptures readily mentions.
(Titus 3:8, John 10:32, Revelation 3:15).

Thesis 90 – Little or no emphasis is put in evangelical churches on the plan of God to make us like Jesus Christ, conforming us to His image.
(1 Peter 1:14-16, 1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 4:1).

Thesis 91 – Christ did not die on the cross to obtain a worldly Church or for worldly Saints but for a “glorious Church.”
(Ephesians 5:27, Titus 2:14, Colossians 4:12).

Thesis 92 – Christ does not come into our unregenerate, sickly, impure hearts as many contemporary theologians say. He gives us a new heart to dwell in wherein is found holiness and righteousness.
(2 Corinthians 5:17, Matthew 5:8, Ezekiel 18:31).

Thesis 93 – A holy Church is God’s blessing to the world; an unholy Church is God’s judgment upon the world.
(Matthew 5:14,16, Ephesians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:12).

Thesis 94 – If Christianity is to make any headway in the present time, it must be proved to be more then a theory.
(2 Thessalonians 3:6-7, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Thesis 95 – Unbelief has us captive; the evangelical church is gagged and bound as risen Lazarus, it needs release in this final hour!
(Hebrews 3:12-14, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, Hebrews 11:6).

Peace on Earth?

Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is given to covetousness;
And from the prophet even to the priest,
Everyone deals falsely.
They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?
No! They were not at all ashamed;
Nor did they know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time I punish them,
They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.

Thus God spoke through Jeremiah to a rebellious Judah, what was left of the tribes of Israel. By this point in Judah’s history, they had experienced revival through Hezekiah and Josiah; however, the reforms did not penetrate the souls of the people. Instead, they covered the surface and ignored the deeper problem: a heart in rebellion against God.

But what was true then rings just as painfully true in these modern times. The Church, commanded by God to be a light in the world, has allowed itself to sink into darkness and chains. No more do they claim the victory over sin in their lives, though they may speak of it. No more do they blaze with the light of love and truth to a world lost to lies and self-centered indulgence. No more are they representatives of Christ in a dying world. Instead, they flaunt the cold ashes of defeat while living in a never-ending cycle of sin and despair. The love of the Church has faded into nothingness. It is not a powerful force to change the hearts of man, it is a petty institution derided by the world.

Instead of listening to the few who bleed to see the Church restored to God, they choose instructors who tickle their ears with comforting words of failure. Don’t be upset when you sin, they tell the prisoners who lap up their every word. Everyone does it, even me. All you have to do is tell God you’re sorry. He loves you and He wants to forgive you. And when you mess up again (because we all will), God will be waiting for you to run into His arms again. They proclaim peace and life, but the fruit is turmoil and eternal death.

This is the lie that has been fed to the Church, and the lie that the Church now widely accepts as the gospel truth. The lie is all the more insidious because it contains some elements of the truth. God does want mankind to repent, and He forgives all who come to Him with a contrite heart. But the lie propagates the false doctrine that a Christian can never hope to escape from the shackles of sin and failure in this life.

After an idea steeps for a while, its effects begin to show. After listening to a socially acceptable gospel that tells them they will sin for the rest of their lives, multitudes of professing believers will sin. And they will not be bothered. They are not ashamed. Why should they be, if the blood of Christ covers them, and God only sees Jesus and not the sins of His followers? They go to church on Sunday morning and commit idolatry on Monday, confident in their false hopes. Is God blind? For millions, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” They have become like the harlot Israel. They have forgotten how to blush.

When you look at it too long, the picture could start to look hopeless. The world drowns in sin, and the Church called to proclaim the way out of it has instead joined the death march. Yes, we weep, we cry out to God. But we, the followers of Christ, must not give in to despair.

Two millennia ago, God Himself took the form of a man and came to dwell with His rebellious creation, wanting to rescue them and bring them into His family. He did this by humbling Himself, being born to the lowliest of estates in an unflattering location. He lived among His people and suffered and died at their hands, and three days later He resurrected Himself from the dead. All those who believe in Him will not perish.

We must proclaim this wonderful news. We must be a light in the darkness, showing the way to the lost. Let our lives glorify God every second of every day, and may our hearts burn with passion to reach the lost. Though the world opposes us and tries to shut us down, they will never be able to silence the truth that rings across the land.

Praise be to God.

1 John — Alleged Contradiction

(I’m moving this blog entry from the Coyote for Christ page.)

A few weeks back, a friend asked me to write a post on the topic of 1 John 1:8 and 3:9.

There are two verses in 1 John that sometimes cause confusion. When taken out of context, the verses appear to contradict each other. Do they? Well, that is the purpose of this post. My claim is that they do not, and I will seek to show this.

The verses are as follows:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)

and

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)

Probably the most important rule to remember when interpreting Scripture is context. It is entirely possible to rip just one verse out of a passage and make it mean the opposite of what it truly means – or at least misuse the verse to support one’s preconceived notions of what Scripture says. (Matthew 7:1 and 1 John 1:8 are frequent victims of out-of-context quoting.)
To get a better understanding of the two verses, let’s look at them in a broader context. I will still be limited in what verses I can include, but I will seek to be faithful to Scripture in all my efforts.

To better understand 1 John 1:8, we need to look at verses 5 to 10.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Verse 8 is most commonly used to support the notion that Christians sin, indeed that they must sin. This interpretation is false.

Verses 5-10 are a condensed version of the Gospel message. While many would immediately object to this claim on the basis that John is speaking only to Christians, bear with me for a time and you will see the reasoning behind my statement.

John begins by saying that God is light and there is no darkness in Him. There should be no reason to further explain this statement. It should be evident to all who profess Christ that God is good and only good. Professing Christians claim to trust God, and it would be absurd for them to trust in a being that could act against them just because it felt like being cruel.

John then continues with a series of if-then statements. He uses “we” the entire time, but it will become evident that there are two distinct groups of people in “we.”

First, he says if “we” claim to have fellowship with God (that is, to be saved) and walk in the darkness, “we” lie. Since God is light, someone who walks in the darkness cannot be His.

What is the darkness? “Darkness” is often used in the Scriptures to refer to sin (See John 1 and 3:19-21). Men, it says, preferred the darkness to the light, because then their evil deeds could remain hidden. But the light God brings exposes their wickedness.

The next set of “we” walks in the light. This is the first clue that the same group of people is not being talked about. How can a person walk in the light and the darkness simultaneously? The answer is, they can’t. Furthermore, the person who walks in the light, as God is in the light, is cleansed of all sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.

This talk about “we” continues in verses 8-10:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

John just finished saying in verse 7 that believers have been cleansed of all sin. Shall we attempt to introduce another contradiction, in which John says that believers are cleansed of all sin, but if they claim to be cleansed of all sin, they are self-deceived and not having truth? Quite simply, that is absurd. If a person has been cleansed of all sin, as verse 7 states, it is natural and proper for him to proclaim that God has removed all sin from him, and that none remains.

In verse 8, he is referring to the other group of people within “we,” the ones who walk in the darkness. If they say they have no sin, they deceive themselves. They are not saved, so they are still sinning. In fact, by saying they do not sin, they make God a liar, because God says they do sin (see Romans 3:23).

But for those who insist upon the sinning Christian doctrine, a question. What if a time frame were introduced, say, five seconds? Does the statement “I can go five seconds without sin” violate the principle they claim in 1:8? If so, what about a smaller increment. A second? A millisecond? If these don’t, then why assume that longer time periods such as weeks, years, or even decades violate the verse? And if the small increments do, what then? Shall we state that there is not a single moment in time in which the Christian does not sin? This would come into conflict with their “continued sin” idea in chapter three.

However, if these sinners confess their sin, then God is faithful and just to forgive their sins and to cleanse them of all unrighteousness. This cleansing of all unrighteousness and all sin is a one-time act. Yes, it was written in the present tense. No, that does not denote a continued action. John was providing us with a series of hypothetical statements.

Now, how is this the Gospel message? Simple. Those who walk in darkness, who sin, do not have the truth, and they need to be saved. The way to do this is to believe (which is implied) and confess their sins, after which God will forgive them and cleanse them of all sin. Then they become those who walk in the light.

The next verse is 1 John 3:9. Just as with 1:8, the verse makes sense when viewed alongside the verses around it, beginning with verse 4:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

(It is unfortunate that the NASB decided to use the word “practice” instead of “does,” since that creates a loophole.)

The situation here is similar to that of the 1 John 1 passage. In chapter 1, we were presented with two groups of people: one walks in the light and the other walks in darkness. Once again John is contrasting two different types of individuals, this time to set up a test.

The two types are evident: one practices (does) sin, and the other practices (does) righteousness. Because these are presented as opposites, we are shown that sin is the opposite of righteousness (or of righteous behavior). This indicates that sinlessness and righteousness are synonyms of each other. More on this in a moment.

In this passage, John states without reservation that true believers do not sin. Believers abide in God, and there is no sin in God. Also, John makes it simpler by saying that those who abide in God do not sin. In fact, those who do sin are of the devil. He even says that those who sin do not know God, nor have they known God.

Why is this important? John is establishing a test so that the readers can know whether or not they (or anyone else) are saved. He does this by contrasting children of the devil and children of God. One sins and the other does not.

A common interpretation of this passage forces the words “continue to” do sin, claiming the tense denotes a continuous present. This is wrong on at least two counts (only two will be mentioned here). The first is that the tense is not continuous present, it is gnomic present. It serves to state a truth for all time.

How do I know it is gnomic? Let’s illustrate with an example:

“Fish don’t say English words.”

This is gnomic. This is a principle, something that most people would agree to without need of proof. However, you might come across someone who says that the sentence means that fish don’t often say English words, or they do not continually say them. In order to understand what is meant, we need to look at the rest of the paragraph:

“If a creature says English words, it is not a fish.”

This proves the first sentence was gnomic, because the author was establishing a test based on a principle. This is exactly what John did. He said that those who are born of God do not do sin, and those who do sin are not born of God. If John was not using gnomic present, and if he were not assuming a universal truth, then he would not be able to establish the test. It would make no sense. The test would have too many exceptions to be valid.

And besides, even if “continue to do sin” or “do sin continually” were correct, what should we make of it? How many sins does it take for “continue to do sin” to describe someone? Ten a day? One hundred? Once? Even here, the interpretation destroys itself. If a person sinned even once after supposedly surrendering to Christ, then they “continue[d] to do sin.”

Secondly, John says that the children of the devil and children of God are obvious. If sin is permitted, the “obvious” qualifier becomes meaningless. Will we allow for the occasional sin? I touched on this above, but it is worth asking again. What is the sin:righteousness ratio that distinguishes a sinner from a saint? More than half? Three-quarters? To draw the line anywhere using this line of thinking, the distinction becomes purely arbitrary.

But no, the difference must be obvious. The only line that makes any sense in relationship to that verse is obedience one hundred percent of the time. With even one sin, the “saint” is acting like the sinner.

1 John 1:8 is a portion of the condensed gospel message. It is a warning to sinners, telling them that if they claim they are not sinners, they are liars and not of the truth. Verse 3:9 is a condition of a test to determine whether or not someone is a true believer. So we can see that 1 John 1:8 and 3:9 in no way contradict each other. Both affirm true Christians won’t sin.

Christians and Sin

A while back, there was some disagreement in a chat room regarding whether or not Christians could be fully obedient to God. It is my stance that they can be, and in fact are. Nevertheless, one person wrote something attempting to show how my beliefs were in error. This is a reply:

But what about the other type of failure? What about the failures of sin? First of all, I want to address a heresy that was recently brought up and hotly discussed. It is the belief of some that Christians do not sin. This is bunk.

I want to admit that I cut out the first half of the sermon, since it wasn’t relevant to what I was hoping to discuss. My opponent was quick to use the term “heresy,” though. And he has already placed his opinion out in the open. That makes it easier to address. Needless to say I disagree with his claim.

Some will even go so far as to say that it is the body which sins, but the spirit remains innocent. This is the belief of the Cathars, who are among the worst heretics of all time, claiming that the God of the Old Testament is evil.

I agree that these claims are ridiculous.

The bible is full of proof that God’s people sin, whether adherents of Judaism in the Old Testament or Christians in the new.

First John reminds us that we do sin, and that we need to daily confess our sin to God to maintain our relationship with Him. It also says that if we calim NOT to have any sin, we are lying and calling God a liar. This is NOT written to unbeievers, it is written to Christians. John says in chapter 2 that “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”. Does Jesus represent those who are not His? No. Jesus is OUR advocate, standing by our side as OUR advocate when WE sin. He then goes on to talk about how those he is speaking to know the truth, how they have overcome the evil one, and that they know God. If Christians cannot sin, why is John talking to Christians about the need to confess? God’s people can sin, and some of them have committed doozies.

I will get to this in a moment, but first, “sin” needs to be defined. I have often seen the definition “to miss the mark.” While this is what the word translated “sin” does literally mean, it’s not useful until the mark is known. What the mark is can be discussed another time, but for now let it be sufficient to say that sin is the willful violation of God’s commands. (God’s commands can be summed up in this verse: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Also, to love our neighbor.)

It may take some time to unravel the incorrect, but common, interpretation presented here. My opponent is first referencing 1 John 1:5-10. All of this must be viewed as one thought, beginning with the first verse.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:1-10)

Beginning in verse 5, John is trying to explain how one can have eternal life (or fellowship with God). He starts out by saying that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. In the following verses he goes on to say that those who claim to have eternal life but walk in darkness are lying, but those who do walk in the Light have eternal life and have been cleansed from all sin. This is an important distinction to make. Without it, we are left with the conclusion that those who walk in darkness are also cleansed from sin, which is supported by no Scripture.

My opponent’s main issue lies with verse 8: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” My opponent claims that this verse proves Christians do sin.

One is immediately struck by two important clauses in verses 7 and 9. Verse 7 tells us that “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Verse 9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” These clauses cannot be ignored in understanding verse 8.

If we are to take my opponent’s interpretation of 1 John 1:8 as valid, then John contradicted himself. If he is correct, in the middle of two phrases declaring that Jesus has cleansed believers of all unrighteousness (sin), we are told that believers sin. Put yet again, people who have been cleansed from all sin still sin. But how is it possible for someone who has been cleansed from all unrighteousness to sin? Perhaps Jesus didn’t do a good job? Because it is an indisputable fact that those who sin are not righteous. Yet believers are righteous.

This insistence on verse 8 declaring sinful Christians also runs into a problem in regards to time frame. If I may be permitted to speak from experience, I have been called a liar by claiming to have not sinned in several months, using verse 8 as a defense. Let’s adjust the claim slightly: “I have not sinned in five seconds.” Everything in the claim is identical except for the time frame. Most will permit a sinless five seconds, and the few that don’t will not be addressed here. (These are the ones who are not satisfied with one microsecond.) Now, if one instance is permitted, what makes the other a lie? They are the exact same condition, only with a different time frame.

Looking at verse 10 aids the understanding of this passage. It says, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” In light of the clear promise that believers are cleansed from all unrighteousness and all sin, it is most reasonable to conclude that the ones who claim to have not sinned are unbelievers. If they claim to have not sinned, they do not consider themselves to be in need of salvation. This is what makes God out to be a liar, because He says they have sinned.

It should be clear by now that the “we” in 1 John 1 does not mean “we Christians.” There are two groups of people in “we”: those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light. Those who walk in the darkness are not saved, and they must confess their sins. Those who walk in the light are believers and have been cleansed from sin.

My opponent continues his incorrect assumption when reading 1 John 2. He automatically assumes that it is a Christian who is sinning in the first verses. A closer look at the pronouns used will reveal this is not the case. In verse 1, John states that he writes these things to his readers so that “you” may not sin. In the next sentence he immediately switches gears, saying “if anyone sins.” That is a flag that John is not talking about the same group of people anymore. Otherwise, he would have said, “if you sin.” But he didn’t.

He does correctly state that unbelievers do not have our Advocate, but he errs after this by forcing the notion that Christians sin on the verse. Here is a better interpretation: Sinners do not have an Advocate; Christians do. The Christian’s duty is to share our Advocate by proclaiming the message of the Gospel, so that the sinners may become believers.

But that alone is not enough to provide evidence for my claim. It comes from the next four verses:

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

In this passage John tells the audience how to know if someone knows God. It should be obvious that, in light of chapter one, to know God is to be a believer. Therefore, we see that those who keep God’s commandments are the true believers, and those who do not keep His commandments are not believers at all. The Christian, then, is recognized by his obedience.

If, as John says, the true believers are the ones who keep God’s commandments, then the statement that Jesus stands as our Advocate when we sin has no scriptural basis.

I find it interesting that Oren admits John’s audience has overcome the evil one, then falls back on this and says that the overcomers need to know God. Nowhere in the text can this assumption (that the overcomers need to know God) be made. In fact, it is because they know God that they have overcome the wicked one.

Adam and Eve were the first. Their sin had an almost unfathomable cost. It broke their communion with nature, with the animals, and most importantly, with God. All people forever afterward would be cursed because of what they did. Cain was the first murderer, and was cursed to wander the Earth for his crime. Moses failed to glorify God when he struck the rock to make it produce water, and for that, he was cursed to never enter the promised land. David had an affair and covered it up by having her husband murdered. He was cursed with the promise that trouble would never leave his house. Peter publicly renounced Jesus three times. His curse was self-imposed. He never forgave himself for the rest of his life.

And all the examples given are of unregenerate men (and before the giving of the Holy Spirit), so it neither helps nor hinders either argument.

Have you ever broken your favorite cup? You know that if you try to repair it, it’s never going to be the same. Sometimes it breaks in such a way that it can still be used as a cup. It just doesn’t look as good. More often, though, it is no longer good for holding liquids, and is retired to life as a pencil can. But you know what? Even if it becomes useless as a drinking vessel, it does not cease to be a cup. And the fact that you took the time to glue it back together testifies to the fact that you still treasure it.
Adam’s days of walking with God in the garden of Eden were over, but He still loved God. He and Eve thanked God for giving them Seth, and they taught him about God. Cain was placed under God’s protection. God placed his mark on Cain and vowed vengance upon anyone who would dare to kill him. Moses was taken to paradise after viewing the promised land, and he DID in fact set foot there when he spoke to Jesus during the transfiguration. David was commended as being a man after God’s own heart, save in the matter of Uriah, and was promised that his dynasty would endure forever. Peter was restored to fellowship by Jesus who confirmed his love three times. Peter is now one of Heaven’s 24 elders. Now Peter did sin later in his life, as Paul attests when he chews Peter out in Acts for snubbing the gentile brothers. This didn’t make him any less of a Christian. All of these people broke when they sinned. Some were still useful for their original purpose. Some were not. And while I can’t say for sure about Adam, Eve or Cain, I know that David, Moses and Peter are among God’s most precious friends to this day.

Interesting illustration, but I have no idea where he is going with it so I will ignore it until it can be clarified. All but Peter were not regenerate, so that does not help him. Now for Peter.

My opponent is pointing to Paul’s rebuke of Peter in the book of Galatians. Admittedly this is a more difficult passage, but I will attempt to show that the accusation being made here is not valid.

It would be wrong to try to force an interpretation in which Peter in the right in this passage, so that will not be done. We need to let Scripture interpret Scripture.

In order to say that Peter sinned, my objector must actually prove that Peter sinned. Most likely this will come from the use of the word “hypocrisy” in the passage, so we will focus on that.

The word “hypocrisy” is transliterated from the Greek, but it does not follow that we must translate the word used as “hypocrisy.” That is fallacious. Literally, the word used means “to play or act out a part,” and it can be good or bad. In light of the fact that the word has come to mean a bad acting that is always a sin, it is best to remove that term until we know what kind of acting Paul was talking about. We know that Peter would act as a Gentile around the Gentiles and as a Jew around Jews. So did Paul:

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23)

Peter was doing what Paul had taught, so that was not the problem. What Paul needed to do, though, is tell Peter that his method was wrong. By acting like the Jews and withdrawing from the Gentiles, he was preaching an inconsistency.

But one cannot immediately call that a sin, unless one can prove that Peter knew better. There is, however, no evidence for that claim.

What we are left with is Paul showing the Gentiles that adherence to the Law is not a requirement of salvation. Paul does not accuse Peter of sin, and he definitely doesn’t say all Christians sin.

But since this passage is unclear, it is best to not struggle with it and interpret the passage in the light of one that is clear, namely the passages from 1 John. Since 1 John is adamant that Christians do not sin, it is best to conclude that Peter did not in fact sin.

If you sin, and make no mistake, you will, You do not cease to be a Christian. You are forgiven. You were already forgiven back in 33 AD. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but it does make it survivable. You may have done something extremely wicked. You may even have to serve an extremely severe punishment here on Earth. You may go so far as to do irreperable damage to your testimony. Many have. There are far too many people who were once bright lights for God but through sin and scandal have made themselves practically useless. These unfortunately self-destructive saints have brought shame to the name of Christ. But they are still saints. God is a father who loves His children. A good father loves his children even when they are bad. He hates the bad things they do, but he does not hate his children. He punishes them because he loves them. The bible says that God chastens us because He loves us, and if He did not do so, we would be as illegitimate offspring.

In the first sentence, he negates the promise of God (1 Corinthians 10:13). He also makes a blunder about forgiveness, but that is a topic for another day (No one is forgiven until he or she repents.) And I must say that his “don’t be afraid when you sin” attitude is dangerous. Hebrews 10:26-29 says,

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

That alone should give pause to those who say that sinning Christians are still saved (if they ever were).

It appears he thinks that chastening and sinning go hand-in-hand, but he doesn’t provide his reasons for that. So I will withhold my opinion on that subject until a later date, should he choose to engage in a discussion on the topic.