Friday, May 29, 2009

Can a Christian be set free from sin?

I don't think there is anything more near and dear to my heart personally than this misunderstanding about Christians and their ability to stop sinning. There is so much here that I believe is misunderstood mainly because of:
1. Sin nature
2. Wood, hay and stubble
3. 1 John and the message there
4. Romans 7
5. The creation account
6. Once saved always saved

I think Oswald Chambers put it in a nutshell here in one of his messages from My Utmost for His Highest:

Spontaneous Love
Love suffers long and is kind . . . —1 Corinthians 13:4

Love is not premeditated— it is spontaneous; that is, it bursts forth in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of precise certainty in Paul’s description of love. We cannot predetermine our thoughts and actions by saying, "Now I will never think any evil thoughts, and I will believe everything that Jesus would have me to believe." No, the characteristic of love is spontaneity. We don’t deliberately set the statements of Jesus before us as our standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without even realizing it. And when we look back, we are amazed at how unconcerned we have been over our emotions, which is the very evidence that real spontaneous love was there. The nature of everything involved in the life of God in us is only discerned when we have been through it and it is in our past.

The fountains from which love flows are in God, not in us. It is absurd to think that the love of God is naturally in our hearts, as a result of our own nature. His love is there only because it "has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit . . ." ( Romans 5:5 ).

If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we really don’t love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, which flows naturally from His nature within us. And when we look back, we will not be able to determine why we did certain things, but we can know that we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God exhibits itself in this spontaneous way because the fountains of His love are in the Holy Spirit.

See, what I hear you saying concerns someone who is trying to obtain righteousness by the Law instead of looking for a righteousness that is by faith in the power of God and His love (which is the fulfilling of all the Law) within our hearts. The former is a fail-fail situation. You can have an appearance of righteousness, but you will always fall short and you will be in bondage to the whole law. I have met Christians like this. They are judgmental of many things and constantly putting one more chink in the chain of laws that they must uphold. It is actually worse than the rabbinical laws because now not only do they try to uphold the Jewish law but their perception of Jesus' law. Imagine trying in your own ability never to think a wrong thought. I mean, it is virtually impossible.

What we want is the power of the Holy Spirit doing the work in us. See, Romans 14 is speaking about those who are so weak in faith that they continue to need a lot of rules to keep from sinning. We are to respect that in them. However, the real freedom from sin comes from faith in Jesus and His Spirit doing this work of righteousness in us and it is genuine, not just positional. We are led of the Spirit of God to do what is right.

People have a measure of the Spirit before salvation. God says that He is manifest in every man and that He lights every man that comes into the world. Jesus told Peter that his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak.

I think one of the major misunderstandings stems from our understanding of the creation account and in particular understanding this from a position of 6 literal 24 hour days vs. 6 time periods and the fact that we are presently in the 7th time period. If Adam didn't die on the 24 hour day that he ate the fruit, there is only one other possibility - his spirit died. However, if it was truly physical death that occurred, that means that we are still in that day and that indeed, it was physical death that occurred within this day. Eventually, this day will end and a new day will begin where there is no death and God will begin creating again. Right now, we are in the day of rest and can enter into that rest. Heb. 4 I believe that this latter explanation is what happened and that opens up our understanding of why man sins and falls short. It is a cognizant rebellion toward God and our conscience because our flesh is so weak. What God's Spirit does is to pump us full of His power within our spirit so that our flesh is no longer the driving force.

The potential for sin is still there in much the same way that Adam had the potential to sin. And yes, if we sin, we can receive forgiveness. THANK GOD! But the plan of God is for us to be free.

This is explained in 2 Timothy 3 and the problem of WHY these folks are sinning. If we aren't living in those perilous times, I will be amazed and the #1 problem that causes this is that we have a "form of godliness, but deny the power thereof." People in this day and time believe unequivocally that God is rather impotent to free them from sin because they don't believe in His power. So they conclude one of two things - they will always fail or they must uphold a stringent set of rules to keep from sinning. In that state, we are forever learning but never able to to come to the knowledge of the truth. Well, what is the truth? Is it not Jesus? Didn't He say that He is the way, the TRUTH and the life. Doesn't He tell us in Matthew 7:21 that in order to get in that we need to "know Him?" Only those that do the will of the Father know Him. This seems to be a crucial aspect of our salvation and why not everyone that says, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom.

The more we humble ourselves in our suffering, the more grace and ability we receive. James 1, 2 Cor. 12. This is another way that we receive more and more power. We humble ourselves under His will and He lifts us up and HIs power is then made perfect in our weakness. His Word is also living and active and able to help us to not sin by transforming our minds.

Romans 7 begins by saying that he is speaking to those under the Law. Phil 3, he tells us that he was blameless under the law. Luke 1:6 tells us that both Zacharias and Elisabeth were blameless. Anna and Simeon were the same. The Gentiles of Romans 2:14 have a measure of the Spirit. When the law came grace came. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: Otherwise, we would have died in our sins because the Law has a tendency to make us weaker to sin. These people were under the Law and were able to walk out the Law even though it did not impart to them a righteousness that we have by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not to mention that they still were often deceived.

I think any time you go down the rabbit trail of telling people that they have freedom to sin and be forgiven at the end of the day, you open up the can of worms that we see today. When I hear one of these excuses, my alarms go off. That is the standard quote of every single Christian we meet at these wicked evil events. "Christians sin every day and at the end of the day are forgiven." It is not one place in Scripture. They are all convinced that their righteousness is positional as opposed to actually walking it out. Unfortunately, the righteousness we need comes by an act of the will by faith. Faith without works is dead. So it is a dynamic of both.

Wood, hay and stubble is bad teaching, not sin. If Hugh Ross is wrong and the earth really was created in 6 literal days, that would be wood, hay and stubble. On the other hand, if Ken Ham and Arch Bishop Ussher are wrong, then that would be wood, hay and stubble. Both of these men, as far as I can see, walk holy with the Lord. But one of them is off in their teaching and it does lead people astray. I believe it is Ken Ham, of course. There is one thing I have noted and that is that Ken Ham is not opposed to lying about Hugh Ross and defaming his character without qualifications just to win his point of view. That, I suppose, is major wood, hay and stubble. However, I do believe he is genuinely convinced that his tirades are true as opposed to willfully lying.

1 John 5:16-18 is a significant passage of Scripture that I have meditated on: If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

He makes a distinction here between two different types of sin. One is sin unto death and the other is sin not unto death. Why not pray for sin unto death? Well, if I can judge by the way they handled certain sins, it would be because they judged such things in a very determined, firm, direct way. Doug and I have concluded that sin not unto death are things such as falling into a situation that you didn't anticipate like seeing a movie where they take God's name in vain, separating yourself from Gentiles at a tea party, perhaps using debt, getting angry when your friend wants his nephew to join the crew when the nephew has never been faithful to the cause, etc. But these things do not lead to hell's fire like fornication, drunkenness, covetousness, lying, etc. PS. I have a feeling that Paul's reaction to Mark shaped him up quick, fast, in a hurry because later he became a huge asset to the ministry. Had Paul been easy on him, I am not sure that would have happened.

Because I am trusting in God to do this work in me and not relying on myself to do it, I have confidence in Him and His Spirit that they will complete this work in me. My testing and temptations are not in the flesh but my faith at times. Hebrews 6:1 says this, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."

We are to not live in a lifestyle of sin-repent-sin-repent-sin-repent etc. We are to move beyond that into perfection or maturity. We are fully well aware of a transitional period. But that period clearly did not last for 20 odd years. I am now in a position that if I were to fall away, it would be impossible to bring me back. I know too much. Anyway, it was a fairly quick transition as is evidenced in the way that Ananias and Sapphira were judged for sin unto death.

In addition, all those warnings to the churches in Revelations indicate that each of those churches must overcome to get in.

Sinless perfection reminds me of the way some people were in the holiness/homeschool movement. There were these couples that would get up and say that they lived out the perfect day with nary a problem. We who lived in the real world were confused and discouraged because, frankly, I have never lived out the perfect day. Each day seems to carry its own suffering. Freedom from sin is no longer desiring to sin otherwise we aren't free from it. It has nothing to do with perfect lives. If I am sweating it out, I'm not free. I am no longer a slave to sin. I am dead to sin positionally and personally because of what Jesus did and because of the power of His Spirit. Where others are denying that power, I am going to shout it from the rooftops.

Many, many blessings!