QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FROM THE QUESTION FORUM
Group Number 109
DIALOG ON THE OBJECTION TO THE STATEMENT
" . . . FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN RECONCILED TO GOD,
SIN IS THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE, NOT THE RULE . . . "
Correspondent, Wayne McDaniel
Wayne McDaniel: "Denial is not an invention of psychology, but an observation of that discipline A clear example of denial is the reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus in John 8, when they reply, ‘We are Abraham's seed, and have never yet been in bondage to any man.’ Yet the Exodus was the centerpiece of their history, and the Romans were then garrisoned in Antonia, within Jerusalem's walls."
Given O. Blakely: First, as used in our time, "deny" DOES represent a psychological observation, NOT a Scriptural affirmation. As commonly used it means "to refuse to admit or acknowledge" – and even that is a technically secondary meaning of the English word. In Scripture, the word means to contradict, disavow, reject, and refuse. It is more aggressive than simply ignoring a fact, or refusing to admit something is true or existent. For example, to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts" is not to pretend they are not present, but to reject them, refusing to allow them to control us (Tit 2:12). To "deny" God is to reject Him (Tit 1:16), refusing to yield to Him. Denying Christ, we are told, will result in Him denying us (2 Tim 2:12). He will certainly not pretend that such people do not exist, but will reject them. "Denying the power" that characterizes true godliness is not acting as though it did not exist. It is rather rejecting it, refusing to appropriate it (2 Tim 3:5). To "deny the faith" is to repudiate it, not refuse to acknowledge it (1 Tim 5:8). This is rather rudimentary, but is the consistent representation of denial in Scripture. This is not the manner in which the word is used by professed experts in human behavior.
Wayne McDaniel:"Those who want the last in their lives to be the best must face the worst first…We finally see the very being we dreaded to discover. At last we find out who we are. The cross brings us out of hiding. It breaks our denial, but only in the very instant that it shows us the possibility of forgiveness. It shows us our corruption, but in the same breath it tells us the price has been paid… Perhaps best of all, in the light of what we have looked at earlier, repentance reverses denial. We no longer hide from the truth, or need to. And it isn't just that truth is inescapable: it's liberating. But it is at the point of repentance that we see that denial is not an invention of psychology. At its deepest, it is the diabolical face of sin. Long before psychology, the Bible said that sin means that we "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (See Romans 1:18)… But repentance is not just a once-and-for-all experience of a moment. For those who come to know God, it's a way of life. It has to be, because sin and self are not easily displaced at the center of our lives… The cross will always be confronting us, the central reality of history before which no fiction can endure." - Rebecca Manley Pippert, from the revised edition of "Hope Has Its Reasons", c.2001, Intervarsity Press, 182 pages.
Given O. Blakely: This book is a gross distortion of the truth from every point of view. If it is addressing the unbeliever, or the person who is not in Christ, it is wrong in speaking as though getting hold of their life is the fundamental thing, or than managing sin is God’s issue with them. For the unbeliever, it is reconciliation to God that is primary, and being delivered from the power of darkness. They must be born again, and created anew. For those who are alienated from the life of God (Eph 4:18), overcoming sin is not the issue, but reconciliation to God. The problem is that they are alienated from God, enemies of God, and on the broad road that leads to destruction. They need forgiveness, justification, and Divine acceptance. The writer speaks in the jargon of the world: "see who we are . . . brings us out of hiding . . . possibility of forgiveness . . . reverses denial . . . sin and self are not easily displaced." All of this leaves the impression that sin has really lost no strength when a person is in Christ. The blessings accompanying salvation are thrown unto the realm of philosophy, and ultimate reality is associated with sin, corruption, and self-seeking. The erroneous postulate is that sin was really not been dealt a death blow at all. Men are thus depicted as continually being overcome by it, repenting from it, and obtaining forgiveness.
The author makes a valiant effort to divorce her postulate from mere psychology, but she is bound up with the chords of that false science, like Samson was when he was asleep.
It appears to me that the book is rather addressed to professing Christians, and joins the plethora of books being offered to them concerning managing their lives – lives that tend to be wayward. In this regard it is flawed to the core, and seriously misrepresents the lives of those who are in Christ Jesus. It fails to address the fact that for those who have been reconciled to God, sin is the exception, not the rule – and that is a most serious omission. Believers are truthfully reminded "IF any man sins . . . " (1 John 2:1), not WHEN everyone sins.
Considering that this book is written for Christians, and has no proper point for those who are alienated from Christ and outside of His fold, it presents a view of Christian introspection that reflects an unparalleled level of ignorance. "We finally see the very being we dreaded to discover. At last we find out who we are. The cross brings us out of hiding." This is written just as though nothing really happened when the person was born again. This is a wholly erroneous approach to sin within the Christian. When certain in Corinth had swerved from the path of righteousness, Paul addressed them candidly. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but YE ARE washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:9-11). First, the people were reminded that those who are guilt of deviate behavior are summarily excluded from the privilege of inheriting the Kingdom. There is no need to account for the sin, prove into its cause, and enter a program that will assist them in recovering from it. The problem is that they had lost sight of the facts in the case. They were responsible for NOT being deceived about sin: those who live in sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That persuasion alone will cause the people in question to immediately cease to allow sin to erupt. Secondly, however, they are reminded of who they are in Christ, not who they are in nature. He does not tell them what was done for them at the cross – although that is also an imperative message. Rather, he tells them what occurred when they became a new creation in Christ. Jesus Himself did much the same when He spoke the church in Ephesus, who had "left" (not lost) their "first love." "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev 2:5). While it was necessary to confront their sin, it is the recollection of what they had experienced in Christ that would enable their recover. However, recovery programs, such as the one chronicled above, do not accent this fact. There is a reason for this. Such an approach appeals to faith, not discipline – to trust, not trying.
Where is the matter of being conformed to the image of the Son of God (Rom 8:29), or being changed into the image of Christ from one increasing stage of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). What about being made "partakers of Christ" (Heb 3:14), or being made "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). What about adding comely qualities to our lives, with the guarantee that with them we will "never fall" (1 Pet 1:5-10). What leads a teacher – any teacher – to represent life in Christ as a continual struggle with sin rather than growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). What is really primary – getting sin out, or being "filled with all the fulness of God" (Eph 3:19). Sin must go, to be sure, but being rid of it is the means to an end, and not the end of itself. Oh, no believer will dare to affirm they "have no sin." However, for those with faith, sin is not the manner of their life, and thuerefire repentance is not their "way of life." However, if repentance is "a way of life," as this book alleges, that postulates sinning is also a way of life. If that is really the case, then a number of questions must be answered.
1. When does the devil cease to flee from those who resist him – or does he flee at all? (James 4:7). Peter reminds us that this resistance takes place when we are "steadfast in the faith, not when we repent" (1 Pet 5:7-8). Precisely when is this resistance ineffective? – or can a person actually sin without submitting to the devil? And if the professed believer does not resist the devil, shouldn’t that failure be an issue?
2. When does Jesus cease to give men grace to help in the time of need – at the time of temptation? (Heb 4:15-16). The fact that this text reveals that Jesus is touched with the "feeling of our infirmities," or "weaknesses," confirms He is dealing with temptation, and not the guilt of sin itself, for Jesus had no sin. He was, however, "tempted" in all the broad points in which we are tempted. He can therefore show us the way of escape that accompanies every temptation (1 Cor 10:13). Should not repentance include the acknowledgment that we failed to appropriate grace to help in the time of need? And will such an confession fail to bring corresponding strength to resist the devil in the very area in which the failure occurred?
3. Are there occasions when Jesus forgives sins that are confessed, yet fails to cleanse the one who confessed of all unrighteousness? (1 John 1:9). If sin is remitted, yet maintains its power over us so that we are thrown into a state of continual repentance, precisely in what sense have we been cleansed, or made pure?
4. Does cross bearing have to do with continually recovering from sin, or with dying to it, and suffering for righteousness sake? Why is it stated that "he who has died has been freed from sin" (Rom 6:7) if that is not what actually takes place. And if this freedom does take place, then why doesn’t the writer place the emphasis on dying to sin rather than on repentance, which takes place after sin is committed, being a way of life?
5. Why are we admonished to move away from continual teaching about "repentance from dead works," if repentance is a way of life? (Heb 6:1-3). In view of this poignant text, what justifies a person saying repentance is a "way of life." Are we to walk "in the newness of life" or in repentance? Or can we actually walk in the newness of life, yet live in such a manner as requires continual repentance?
6. In what sense are we delivered from the power of darkness, if provision is made for continually being overcome by it? Is the person in Christ still enslaved to sin, even though he has been delivered from the powers that promote it (Col 1:13)? If a person is going to write a book about believers living above sin, should not the emphasis be that they are not obligated to sin – "we are debtors; not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh" (Rom 8:12). What justifies any teaching that obscures this fact?
7. When is faith ineffective to overcome the world? We have this word from God, and it seems to me that it ought to be continually affirmed to the saints. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world; our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5). Exactly what is the rationale behind leading a person to believe that sinning is natural for believers, and that they ought to expect it to happen? If the one who believers Jesus is the Son of God "overcomes the world" as this text affirms, should not the stress be placed upon believing rather than recovering?
8. Exactly how are we "free indeed" if we continually have need of repentance? Jesus said, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). If repentance is "a way of life" for the believers, then what is the sense in which they are "free indeed"? Why would the Son of God say such a thing if it was not so? Or is that saying nothing more than a hyperbole?
9. Why are we told to consider ourselves to be dead indeed to sin and alive unto God, if that is not really our status in Christ? This is the manner in which we are to reckon, think, or consider – and it is based upon a very real condition. "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Rom 6:11-12).
10. When is the grace of God ineffective in teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts? We are told that the same grace that brings salvation is "teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:11-13). Can men really give heed to that teaching and yet continually yield to sin? And, is it serious when grace is given to teach, but men refuse to be taught?
11. When is the Holy Spirit ineffective in leading us to mortify the deeds of the body? It is written of this marvelous work of the Spirit, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom 8:13-14). It seems to me that this statement contracts the postulate that, for the believer, repentance is "a way of life."
12. When does walking in the newness of life allow men to commit sin? The objective of being buried with Christ by baptism into death is that God might raise us up with Christ "so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). Is the experience of "newness of life" one in which we are continually recovering from sin, or one in which we are being changed more and more into the image of Christ?
13. How is it possible for a person to be a new creation in Christ, yet old things not pass away and all things not become new? It is written, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor 5:17). Is that true or not? And, if it is true, is it not accompanied with Divine power, like every other word of God (Lk 4:32)?
14. When is it all right to allow an evil heart of unbelief to enter us, compelling us to depart from the living God? Is it not true that committing sin proceeds from unbelief, and involves a departure from God? Or, can a person sin, while they are believing, transgressing when they are willingly and knowingly in the presence of the Lord? Why are we warned, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:12-13)?
15. In Christ, sin is the exception, not the rule. "If any man . . ." – not "when any man sins"(1 John 2:1). If we do sin, the Divine remedy is provided: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). But this is not the kind of thing accented in the quote you sent to me. In it sin is depicted as being natural, and our real self. Also, there was no mention of this remedy, which presupposes the sensitivity of the believer, and an awakening to the fact they had been deceived.
16. At the root of the view espoused by the writer in question is a wholly erroneous view of sin. The writer is talking about things committed, and has made no correlation of deviate behavior with one’s view of Jesus Christ. Jesus affirmed that when the Holy Spirit came, He would convict the world of sin. "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin . . . of sin, because they do not believe in Me" (John 16:8-9). Sin is not simply doing what is wrong or inappropriate. That is a branch, not the root of the matter. Now that Jesus has taken away the sin of the world, all sin is traced back to a lack of belief in Christ – and the Holy Spirit makes that association in those He convicts. In order to sin, one must forget about Jesus. He must fail to see Him as a Savior from sin, One who died for sin, and the One through whom the believer is freed from enslavement to sin. If the sinner fails to make this association, repentance is not the kind that leads to salvation – for salvation is in Christ, not in repentance.
17. I also was chagrined by the manner in which the writer dealt with Romans 1:18, as though it was written to explain why saints sin. ‘Long before psychology, the Bible said that sin means that we "suppress the truth in unrighteousness’ (See Romans 1:18)." This is a rather clumsy statement, for sin does not mean that we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. That is an effect of sin, not a definition of it. Sin "is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). The Romans text was written to affirm that God will eventually confront all of the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. At that time He will unleash His wrath against the ungodly, and there will be no exception to the rule. This is revealed in the Gospel because the wrath of God was unleashed against the Son when the iniquities of us all were laid upon Him. Being "made sin for us," He endured the curse of the Almighty, "having become a curse for us" (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13). Unlike us, Jesus was able to recover from this curse, for in laying down His life, and through God condemning sin in His flesh (Rom 8:3), sin was actually removed. In that grand act, sin lost its power over every person who believes. In that Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed, not only in the fact of His judgment of sin, but in His imputation of righteousness to those who believe.
There is no such thing as a salvation that does not free men from the guilt and power of sin. Where men continue to be enslaved to sin, they are in the grip of unbelief. Their recovery, if it is realized at all, will come through their faith in Christ – believing that He is the Son of God, as John says (1 John 5:10-11). Until that time, the truth that is made known in the Gospel has no effect upon them – it is held back. Their unrighteousness, or wickedness, suppresses the truth.
I have written long on this matter because it is one that particularly concerns me. I consider the wave of professed religious advisors concerning the lives of Christians, to be a flood of opportunists who are exploiting the condition of professed believers. This circumstance of the people targeted for help has been brought on by the ignorance of God and His great salvation. The advisors are people who have carved out careers for themselves that required people to remain in a flawed spiritual condition. They would all be put out of business over night if professing Christians were apprised of, and heartily believed, who they are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, and what is the staggering power that is devoted to them. Further, these self-help gurus are fond of leading people to believe that a flawed moral condition in believers is normal, and they really have no alternative, but to deal with sin after it is committed. In so doing, they have ripped the heart out of redemption, representing salvation as a management system for the weak. I confess that I have a disdain for those who prey on the people with weak faith, offering solutions that do not require Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, or an acute awareness of and longing for the coming of the Lord. I cannot respect those who place the highest priority on life in this world. I question the integrity of those who come in the name of Jesus with a message that deals with managing sin rather than abstaining from it. I realize that everyone professing to be helpers of God’s people does not fall into this category. However, it appears that the number who do is unimaginably large.
"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). Here is an admonition to speak, or teach, the things that are becoming of "sound doctrine." This has much to do with the tone of teaching, and how it relates to "the doctrine of Christ." In particular, it relates to the manner of life that is to be lived by the believer. At no point does the truth of God allow for the separation of living from faith. How we conduct our lives is, in fact, directly related to whether or not we are maintaining the fellowship of the Son into which we have been called (1 Cor 1:9). In our time this is understanding is particularly vital. There has been an outburst of teaching that is borrowed from the psychiatric field. It majors in methodologies that deal with recovery from unacceptable behavior. Great care is taken to make it appear as though the believer is helplessly dominated by certain habits, and there is a disciplined effort to avoid the use of such terms as "sin," "transgression," "sin wilfully," "depart from the faith," and "fall from your steadfastness." With these Divine perspectives of human behavior hidden neatly under the blanket of human wisdom, extended teaching is given on how to correct flawed lives. The seriousness of "drawing back" from the Lord has no place in this strain of teaching. We must see the stark difference between that kind of approach to life and this text. Here there is a summons to conduct ones life in keeping with the doctrine of Christ. No methodology is provided for getting into position where this can be accomplished. Rather, the hearers are admonished to address life in the strength of faith. If there is some moral or spiritual deficiency in them, they are too address it like a lame person who has been commanded to pick up his bed and walk, of a blind man who has been told to go to a pool and wash. Faith is a grand enabler, fully equal to any circumstance requiring correction. To speak in any other manner is unbecoming of sound doctrine, bringing reproach dishonor to the Son of God.
Wayne McDaniel: "I am saying that John's words indicate those whom he wrote to knew each other well enough to see sin in each other's lives, and that they could, and should, ask the Lordfor each other. It is noteworthy that James concludes his letter with a similar charge of concern and effort toward each other. Paul expresses the same type of concern in Gal. 6:1-2. In light of Acts 20:29-30, this is not surprising. In view of James 3:2 and 3:8, and 1 John 1:8-9 it is not suprising. Those who first heard the words of James and John (1 John 5), understood that repeated corrections were needed in the life of everyone. They understood there was no "spiritual hierarchy" in the church, no one was above correction.
Paul wrote that elders that sinned should publicly be rebuked (1 Tim 5:20).
"For in many things we all stumble." should not be hard to admit for anyone."
I do not think you are saying that a person in Christ cannot sin. I am saying that both James and John included themselves among those who continue to fall short of the glory of God, and because of their words, we should not leave the impression with ours, that sin is no longer a part of our experience as well."
Given O. Blakely: Your statement that John wrote to believers who "knew each other well enough to see sin in each other's lives" is precisely the point against which I am contending. That is not at all what John is saying. Nowhere does the Spirit of God urge believers to know one another in such a manner. In fact, true spiritual life does not even allow for such an acquaintance. "And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more" (2 Cor 5:15-16). It is only as we consider one another in association with Christ that we are able to detect conduct that is out of harmony with with "newness of life." It is not personal acquaintance that brings this holy aptitude. John the Baptist did not need to be personally acquainted with Herod to perceive his unacceptable conduct (Matt 14:4). Peter did not need to know Simon the sorcerer (someone who believed and was baptized, Acts 8:13) to recognize his transgression (Acts 8:21). Paul had never been to Colossae (Col 2:1), and yet he was able to assess what was taking place there (Col 2:20-22). It was not his personal knowledge of the fornicator in Corinth that move him to write as he did in the fifth chapter of First Corinthians.
While we are to assist each other by bearing one another’s burdens by restoring one who is overtaken in a fault, it is not our personal closeness to him that causes this to take place. In fact, such a closeness actually constitutes jeopardy. That is why Paul wrote, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal 6:1). When it comes to personal flaws, each believer is to work out their own salvation "with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12). Paul also makes this clear in the Galatian text when he says, "But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden" (Gal 6:4-5). The involvement of brethren in the sins of others is when it has erupted, which means a lot has taken placde within the person prior to that
As to the James text, he is not speaking of sin in the ordinary sense, but of offending with the tongue – and he makes that quite clear. There is a vast difference between infirmity in speech and one in moral conduct. Further, this is not the kind of sin that John is addressing First John 5:16. The very fact that James says "in many things we offend all" confirms that this was something that was personally known, and did not require the assessment of another. Those who live by faith and walk in the Spirit are able to detect such things, confessing them to the Lord and obtaining forgiveness. Public rebukes, such as with elders and others, do not concern sins of which there has already been conviction and confession. That is why they must be rebuked – but all sins do not fall into this category. That us why "seeing" a brother sin reveals a serious condition, for sin has brought forth fruit.
There is a vast difference between acknowledging we are not perfect and requiring the assessment of our peers. The normal manner of dealing with sin is not through the brethren, and there is no suggestion in Scripture that this is the standard mode. This is necessary when the provisions of redemption have been ignored.
Even then, however, restoration does not come by means of a procedure or analyzing why the transgression occurred. Neither, indeed can sin be avoided by following a routine of making oneself accountable to the brethren. Sin is avoided in the same manner in which we forgiveness is appropriated – by coming to Christ. In the case of temptation, we come to find grace to help in the time of need.
Wayne McDaniel: Because of the computer programs, I was not able to copy and paste your pages into a new document to facilitate an easier-to-follow reply. I will follow the numbering of your paragraphs, but cannot include all you wrote because I cannot paste it into this document.
The words of the Pharisees in John 8 are a clear example of human behavior that is now known as denial. We imagine that such behavior has vanished from the earth.
You began by saying that Pippert's book is a gross distortion of truth from every point of view. That kind statement about a book you have not read is a mistake. Rubel Shelly and many others have a different estimation of the book, but your pronouncement sounds as though you hear no other voice. The book was written to help both believers and unbelievers to see that we practice the self-deception that am different from others. When we begin to share God's life thru repentance and trust in Jesus to cover our life with his, our sinful flesh does not cease to exist, but an internal struggle with it begins, because we receive the Spirit of Christ as an advocate within us, and for us.
At the top of the 2nd page you wrote, "sin is the exception, not the rule--" I realise that is what you believe, but please consider these words, recently written: "As I reflect on this command, I must confess that I regularly break it in many ways. Loving God with an undivided heart includes always seeking his glory. Too often my pride intrudes and I try to make myself look good instead. Loving God with all one's soul surely means finding the greatest satisfaction and highest pleasure in his company. Divided in soul, I seek pleasure by satisfying transitory physical appetites. Loving God with the whole mind means meditating on his matchless attributes and gracious deeds -- yet I constantly find my mind occupied with distractlons clearly competitive and sometimes sinful. Even if I keep 612 commandments, I am convicted as a law-breaker. What is worse, I am breaking the big one. I thank God for Jesus the Savior! " - Edward Fudge, gracemail of 8/10/08 Edward's words contradict yours. The experience of other believers also contradicts what you wrote.
In the paragraph before the numbered ones, you ask where is being conformed to the image of the Son of God. The answer is the way we are changed is by seeing that we continue to fall short of the glory of God - Rom. 3:23. The present tense of the verb there points to ongoing action. The humbling of confessing our sins works to conform us to be like Jesus who was humble and without sin.
As I begin to address your numbered questions I will keep in mind that they are worded toward your view that, "sin is the exception, not the rule."
Questions can be worded as assertions, assuming the point to be proved. (eg.,"Are you still beating your wife?")
1. Can a person sin without submitting to the devil? Peter sinned thru the weakness of the flesh when he denied Jesus. Years later he sinned by withdrawing from Gentile brethren when certain men came from James. Peter's failures are examples of the weakness of the flesh. They clearly were sin.
2. Jesus does not fail to give us grace, but we often fail to ask for it. We are inclined to speak to others first, before we speak to God."Pray without ceasing", is instruction that we fail to follow perfectly. If we prayed more, we would be filled more with Jesus' love. His compassion in us would be so clear and compelling that others would be eager to hear us, like people were to hear him. "And the common people heard him gladly."- Mk. 12:37b
3. The weakness of the flesh does not vanish when a person is reborn. Rather the Spirit comes to reside within the believer so a struggle begins to resist disobeying God. "All... fall short of the glory of God." "In many things we all stumble." "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves..."
4. I understand Rom. 6:7 to refer to being free from the condemnation of sin. 6:14 expresses a similar truth.
5. "Repentance from dead works" refers to works, even when accomplished, that cannot give God's life. To walk in newness of life does not mean we claim we have no sin. To walk in newness of life is relying on Jesus to continue to share his life to cover ours, leading us to,"go about doing good", like him, A.10:38.
6. We prove that we are not still enslaved to sin by confessing it -- not by implying we have none. "In many things we all stumble."
7. "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world..." "the world" to refer to the majority of people, and their influence to disregard God, who refuse to have God in their knowledge. Faith keeps God before the believer's heart and mind. Faith does not ignore the weakness of the flesh, but struggles against it.
8. Those who rely upon Jesus to cover our lives with his, are free from the tryanny of denying reality, as the Pharisees did in John 8. Reality is: "But in many things we all stumble." , "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
9. We agree that we are to reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. This reckoning takes place in our minds, but it does not contradict what Paul went on to write in Rom.7:25. None of us are more holy than Paul.
10. The grace of God is certainly not ineffective in teaching us, but it does not contradict the words of Rom.3:23, James 3:2 and 1 John 1:8-10.
11. The Holy Spirit is never ineffective in leading believers to put to death the deeds of the body. The meaning of the present tense indicates this is an ongoing process. Though justification occurs at a point in time, sanctification is ongoing.
12. We are changed by admitting our need to be changed. If we see no present failure in ourselves, how will we be further changed? We may come to think condescendingly like those who said, "But this multitude that knows not the law are accursed."John 7:49, or the Pharisee in the parable who said, "God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men...", or those who lied and said, "We are Abraham's seed, and have never yet been in bondage to any man." Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say, "we see", your sin remains." - John 9:41.
13. Being a new creature in Christ means we live unto Jesus, who for our sakes died and rose again. But this is not a claim of present sinlessness, for we see Peter sinned by drawing back from the Gentiles. "In many things we all stumble." "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,...".
14. Of course it is never right to have an evil heart of unbelief. But the danger for each believer is in failing to see his own failures. Our flesh is always eager to point out the mote in another's eye, while being oblivious to a beam in our own. Saying that is not to say we should never point out another's sin, for we recall Paul's words, Gal. 6:1-2, James' words, 5:19-20, and John's words, 1 John 5:16.
15. "In Christ, sin is the exception, not the rule." Those are your words, but they are not scripture. By emphasizing "if", and interjecting, "not, when...", you are suggesting a concept of contrast that John was not trying to create. That concept is contradictory with what he had just written in 1:8-10. The way to be further changed toward Jesus is to confess our sins.
16. In the last half of paragraph 16, you wrote, "In order to sin, one must forget about Jesus." That statement overlooks the reality of Peter's denial of Jesus three times in the courtyard. Peter's words were, "I know not the man." - Mt. 26:72. Peter had not forgotten Jesus, but his weakness led him to lie.
17. Pippert's words were not written to "explain why saints sin". She wrote to show that what psychology calls "denial", Paul had long before described in Rom.1:18. The Gk. word translated suppress is a simple compound that means, "hold down". Our flesh is always inclined to hold down the truth, the reality, about ourselves and others. Pippert did not mean "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" is a definition of sin, but a description of what psychology now calls denial.
I realise this reply will not likely persuade you about the difference we have about this.
I see your position as leading toward failing to see remaining sin in ourselves.
I see the words of Paul, James and John as definitive about sin and ourselves.
The confession of failing to love God perfectly by a saint like Edward Fudge is contemporary evidence to be considered by everyone.
Finally, these words about prayer:
"Prayer, after all, involves exposing our weaknesses and our hurts and our sins, before the Lord and each other. It involves risk and surrender, it involves facing up to sins that we cherish, and letting go of securities that we lean upon. It involves intimacy, vulnerability. Its hard to protect yourself, or hide your sin when you pray regularly and fervently with another person, especially your wife or husband. And its hard to protect yourself from God. As I see more clearly now, I had allowed Satan to erect a stronghold in that realm of my life."
– Leonard Allen, May 1994, closing lecture at Pepperdine U.
Sincerely, Wayne McDaniel, Nov. 13, 2008
Given O. Blakely: It is clear that you do not have the faintest idea what I am saying. However, because of your honest and good heart, I have every confidence that the day will dawn for you as God has promised (2 Pet 1:19).
It was disconcerting to read you question that sin is the exception to the rule of spiritual life, particularly in view of John’s clear statements concerning sin (1 John 3:8-10; 5:18). Also, Jesus said the person who commits sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34). Those statements trump any explanatory arguments given by men. They also indicate that there is more to salvation than you have suggested. You really need to think on this matter in a more sober manner, giving heed to what God has said on the subject, instead of the clumsy statements of men.
I am speaking of the EMPHASIS of the New Covenant, affirming that God is "able to keep you from, falling" (Jude 1:24). That is accomplished in the environment of fellowship with the Son, into which we have been called (1 Cor 1:9). In that fellowship, we are apprised, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh," (Gal 5:16). Further, when attention is given to adding graces that are available to us, we are promised "you shall never fall" (2 Pet 1:10) I am affirming that this is what is to be emphasized to the saints, and that when it is not, the advantage will be given to the devil.
Your analysis of James words (James 3:2) must not be applied to the expression of iniquity. He was speaking of words that were offensive. There is no indication that he was speaking about lying, misrepresentation, and erroneous doctrine, and falsification. He, like Solomon, sought for "acceptable words" (Eccl 12:10), or the very best way of saying things.
I am saying there is nothing about salvation that contributes to sin, and that when sin occurs, it is because men have not availed themselves of the thorough resources that have been provided in Christ (2 Pet 1:3). I am not saying believers cannot sin, but that they are obliged to acknowledge why they did – that is something involved in the confession of sin. They did not sin because the devil is stronger than the Spirit, for it is categorically stated, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Men do not sin because lust is really stronger than grace, or because the old man is really stronger than the new man. Further, the secret to recovering from sin is forgiveness and the appropriation of those resources.
Also, for the believer, continuing to fall short does not insinuate extended involvement in sin, but the fact that we have not yet apprehended that for which we have been apprehended (Phil 3:13). It has to do with growing up into Christ in all things (Eph 4:15). That growth requires the rejection of ungodliness and worldly lusts, in order that we might live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world – something that the grace of God that brings salvation effedctively6 teaches us to do (Tit 2:11-12). I am chagrined by any word that remotely suggests this is not true.
Additionally, how absurd it is to say that the statement that truth is held down by unrighteousness means that sin is being denied. The "truth" of reference is not the sinful condition of men but the truth of God which, as in Isaiah’s day, falls in the street and fails because iniquity prevails (Isa 59:14-15). This has to do with God giving men over to their lusts because of their commitment to sin, as the verse that follow confirm (Rom 1:19-28).
Your statement, "The way to be further changed toward Jesus is to confess our sins" could not possibly be more wrong. That falls in the category of saying, "Let us do good that evil may come" (Rom 3:8), and suggesting that through sinning grace is caused to abound (Rom 6:1). Of course, these statements would be true is we are "further changed toward Jesus" by the confession of our sins – the more confession there is, the more change is experienced. That is foolishness gone to seed. God has spoken about this matter. "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:18). Even our initial conversion was the result of exposure to Divine glory, as attested in 2 Corinthians 4:6. This is even what will happen at the return of the Lord, when we shall be like Him "for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-2). John goes on to say that every person who has this hope in Christ "purifies Himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). The confession of sin gets us back to the position where this change can be done. Judas confessed his sin, but he certainly was not changed.
There is no further need to correspond on this matter. You have stated your case, and I have stated mine, and will continue to elaborate on it in my writing. I will simply say it as Paul did, confident that the time will come when these things will be seen plainly. "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained" (Phil 3:13-16, NASB).
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