This post is a follow up of yesterday’s post, “Lessons from a Pitching Coach”. This follow up is a great example of why we need Godly, knowledgeable, wise men in our life. After posting yesterday I received a text from a dear friend, street evangelist, church planter, preacher, pastor, and all-around amazing man of God – he said to call him when I am able.
When I called him he said, “the post was right on in a 1John sort of way”. What he was saying was, yes, the information was correct, and like 1John it is very black and white. 1John makes very stark contrasts as to whether someone is a child of God or a child of the devil.
1John 3:7-10 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
My friend’s concern was that people will be discouraged if they sin, essentially, he was saying that this may seem as though I am suggesting sinless perfection. If you have read my posts over the years you know, when I write I am preaching to myself. To collect my thoughts in writing as I study God’s Word is edifying to me. I post my writing in hopes that someone else might be edified or encouraged. That being said, yesterday’s post was pointed right at me – I have been in an up and down struggle with obedience.
My friend was concerned that some reading the article may not know that, as Christians, we will struggle. He pointed out that Paul talks about this struggle in Romans 7:
Romans 7:15-20 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
I remember having lengthy discussions years ago about Romans 7, “Is the Romans 7 man a Christian?” I landed on, “Yes, he is a Christian, after all, a non-Christian does not have the ability to desire the things of God and clearly the Romans 7 man wants to do God’s will.”
But now, as I am writing this, and reading Romans 7 again – I am not so sure again – help me Lord!
I now have my doubts about the Romans 7 man being a Christian because Romans 7:17b says, “not the ability to carry it out”. How do I reconcile that with 2Peter 1:3:
2Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
If “His divine power has granted to” the Christian “all things that pertain to life and godliness” why would Paul say he has “not the ability to carry it out”?
In Romans 7 Paul goes on to say, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Romans 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Is Paul talking about his pre-saved condition OR his current condition; after all, obviously Paul is a Christian. If Paul is talking about his current condition, this obviously brings much hope and encouragement for the Christian struggling with obedience.
A couple other verses that bring much hope to the struggling Christian is found in the same “black and white” book of 1John:
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
How do we reconcile all this? – doesn’t it seem to be a contradiction? – what is it, can I sin or not sin? – after all, if I can sin, I want to go on sinning, yet, not go to hell!?!?
If this is our attitude, we are in trouble. In fact, Paul addresses this very attitude in Romans 6:
Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:15-16 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
This can get your head spinning, right? Let’s be honest, “head spinning” is just another way to say a person lacks peace and assurance. Let’s break down very simply what we have looked at:
Should a Christian sin? No, they are striving to please their King and hate that they sin against Him
Does a Christian sin? Yes, we are of the flesh, not completely sanctified. If we do not remain silent, if we confess our sins to our Lord, we can be forgiven and cleansed – we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One
Every morning I catch up on my Twitter feed and this mornings post by those posting Charles Spurgeon quotes sums it up very well:
If any man isn't sure that he is in Christ, he ought not to be easy one moment until he is sure. Friend, without the fullest confidence as to your saved condition, you have no right to be at ease and I pray you may never be so. This is a matter too important to be left undecided.
One very common quote regarding the Christian walk when the debate of sinless perfection comes up is, “We are not talking perfection, we are talking direction.”
As I write, read, and consider these things this morning a graphic came to my mind of a Christian walking and veering off into sin, yet coming back, and how the veering off becomes less frequent and less severe – this seems Biblical, after all, we are being changed in to the likeness of Christ, we should be more and more like Him as we grow, which means stumbling should be less and less:
The “direction” as it relates to the graphic is, are we moving horizontal or vertical? If we move vertical, are we quickly getting back to horizontal? We must continue moving to the right (pun intended), not up and down. The movement on the graphic of up or down, never to return to “yellow” reminds me of anther text from 1John:
1John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
The reality is, we must examine ourselves to see whether we are of the faith, we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Paul talks about walking in “newness of life”; if we are in Christ we will be different, the old you will be dead.
2Corinthains 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.