Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Overcoming Sin

The Vain Pursuit of Sinless Perfection

Very early on in my Christian life I reasoned (along with other brothers) that since God has called us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) that this must mean that we are able to not sin (1 John 2:1).  I reasoned that if we sin, we are not truly following Christ as the Bible says that we are not to sin if we know Him (1 John 3:6-9).  I read where Paul the Apostle said to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34) and where Paul said that we are to not be mastered by sin (Romans 6:11-23).

All of this lead me to conclude that we are to pursue sinless perfection.  While I had never met anyone who was sinless, I reasoned that it was possible.  I read John Wesley’s book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection and I reasoned that one could have an experience with God that would take you to a place of absolute holiness.  I pleaded with God to give me this experience of “entire sanctification” and I earnestly wanted to be holy.

All to no avail.  I have always struggled with sin.  Alwasys will.

I reasoned that there were categories of sin and that some sins were worst than others.  For example, Jesus said that Judas had committed the greater sin (John 19:11) since he had betrayed the Lord of glory.  I reasoned from the law of Moses that since God required different sacrifices for sins of omission and sins of commission then God must view our sins as different if we commit them willfully versus by mistakes or lack.  For instance, none of us pray enough since the Bible calls us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and thus while prayerlessness is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23), prayerlessness is not the same sin as sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and while prayerlessness is horrible, prayerlessness is not listed among the sins that keep us from the kingdom in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8.

In this way, I was able to tell someone that I had not sinned that day.  I could say that while I didn’t love God perfectly or pray enough or share the gospel or give to the poor, nonetheless I hadn’t committed any willful sins.  In this way, I thought of myself as holy and pure.  I though very highly of myself.

I now see it all as nothing but vanity.  I now sit here a broken man.  I see that my pride was horrible.  I see that God opposes the proud.  Oh I would have gladly claimed the grace of God for my salvation and I would have boasted that it was the grace of God that enabled me to holiness (Titus 2:11-12) but the reality is that I was proud.  I was arrogant.  I was not holy.  I was full of flesh.

I have never ceased to need Jesus.  I never have and I never will.  My good days are still nothing before a holy God.  He is not pleased with my self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).  My works play no part in my salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Salvation is the gracious work of God by His grace and by His Spirit through His Word.  I lay aside all boasting right now and I confess that Jesus is my salvation and He alone is my hope before a holy God (Hebrews 7:25).  My salvation is complete in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I am saved not by what I do but through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29).

While it is true that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) the reality is that we will always need Jesus and His grace.  Thankfully through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are holy in Him (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  Jesus and His blood makes us holy (Ephesians 1:4-7).  We are called to forsake sin and turn from sin but the promise of God is that while we are not called to sin, we have One who prays for us before the holy Father (1 John 2:1-2).  Through the Lord Jesus I am able to approach the throne of a holy God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire focus of the New Testament is upon the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He is my salvation and my hope.  Not my works (Titus 3:5-7).

I don’t want to wonder into sloppy grace (Romans 6:1-4).  Having been set free by the grace of God, why would I want to go back to a life of sin?  Yet I do struggle with sin.  I hate my sins.  I really do.  I want to be holy and pure and praise God, in Christ, I am holy.  The Spirit of God is working in me to help me to hate sin and to turn from sin.  I admit that I struggle with sin and I always will but the promise of God is to complete this work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).

If you struggle with sin, I assure you that you are loved by God.  I need to hear that too.  God gave His Son for our sins (John 3:16) and He demonstrates His love (Romans 5:8-9).  This love from God is not mere words but actions.  The Father has sent His holy Son to die for our wicked sins.  God has reconciled us through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  My favorite verse in the Bible is 1 Timothy 1:15.  It reads beautifully in the KJV:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Christ Jesus came to save sinners.  Luke 19:10 says:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Jesus came to save us (Matthew 1:21).  He came as the suffering servant from Isaiah 53 who would die for our sins.  He came to bring us peace with God (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20).  Jesus shed His blood on the cross for our sins and it by His grace, through His blood that we are saved from the wrath of God against our sins.

Romans 3:23-25 (KJV) reads wonderfully:

23 for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.

This salvation is freely given in Christ (Acts 16:30-31) and He is our propitiation through faith in His blood.  This is the goodness of our God.  Our God reaches down to us and save us by His grace.

Now in conclusion I don’t want to sound like an antinomian.  I am not advocating sinning. I hate my sins.  I want to be holy.  Yet I believe there is balance.  The balance is not to see Jesus as our means unto holiness but He is our holiness.  The focus of salvation from beginning to end is Jesus Christ.  It is not Jesus plus our works that saves us.  It is not Jesus plus our works that makes us holy.  It is Jesus and His work alone that saves us.  Our eyes must be on Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1-2 is powerful in that regard:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Looking unto Jesus is the key.  Jesus has sat down at the Father’s side.  Sitting represents completion.  Jesus has sat down because He has completed  the work of atonement.  Jesus is now our faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 2:17-18).

No doubt I will sin.  I hate my sins even now.  Yet I know that before the Father is One who prays for me.  He is my defense.  I use to believe that when I sinned, I need to compensate God and His wrath somehow.  I would pray more.  I would read my Bible a little more.  I would go out and witness to someone.  I wanted to make up for my sins.  The reality is that God sees my wicked heart at all times.  He knows me perfectly.  The beauty of the cross is that it demonstrates God’s love toward sinners still in their sins (Romans 5:8).  God loved me while I was a sinner even under His wrath but now He loves me as His child through faith in His Son (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).  If God loved me while a wicked sinner who sinned without thinking of God, how much does He still love this sinner now?

I am tired of sinless perfection seeking.  I only want to know that I have peace with God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1).  Jesus is my salvation both now and forevermore.

“Lord help me to not sin this day but forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who trespass against me.”

And That’s Why I Need Jesus

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15

I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins.  I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9).  There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins.  There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.

Psalm 32:15-18 reads:

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it!  I really do!  It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am.  Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Notice verse 10.  The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness.  Amazing!

Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins.  I don’t need to.  The point is not about me.  The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well.  If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18).  I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh.  They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins.  I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.  Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin.  Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you.  Let’s face it, we like sinning.  No, we love sinning.  That is why Jesus had to die for us.  Because we enjoy sin.

And that is why I need Jesus.  I like sinning.  I don’t want to like it.  In fact, I want to hate it.  Yet I find that I enjoy sinning.  I have sinned in many ways.  I have let many people down over the years.  Those who know me best know I am not perfect.  I never confess to be.  Oh there was a time I thought I was all that.  Not anymore.  I see my sins.  I know my sins.  I hate my sins.

It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect.  I have yet to meet a perfect Christian.  I have met arrogant Christians.  I have met prideful Christians.  I have been those myself.  Yet I have never met a perfect saint.  Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him.  They knew it.  I knew it.  Jesus knows it.  Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh.  They hate it.  I hate it.  Jesus still saves them.

So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning.  I can’t sleep.  I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  Yet I still struggle with sin.  I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification.  I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy.  I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus.  Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  So how can I be holy?  His reply:  look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him.  He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.

So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner.  You know that I sin.  Yet that is why I need Jesus.  I am not perfect.  I am not a perfect father.  I am not a perfect worker.  I am not a perfect saint.  I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me).  I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I thank God for sending such a Savior.  I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5).  My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That is me.

Interceding For The End of Abortion

Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973 with the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.  Since that time, literally millions of babies have been slaughtered in the womb.  While people want to argue about which lives matter, babies everyday are being killed for the simple reason that they exist.  The untold slaughter of the unborn in the United States and around the world is a stench to a holy God who cannot tolerate such evil.  We see the effects of Romans 1 in the United States and abortion is a fruit of this.

How can one make an impact for the Lord against abortion?  I could talk on about voting pro-life and I do and I believe all true disciples must.  How can one vote for a pro-murder politician is beyond me.  I could talk on about the need for true disciples of Jesus to run for political office to make an impact for the pro-life cause.  I could talk about the need for Christians to go to your local murder mills to protest and to preach and to plead with women and men not to kill their babies.  I could talk about the need for the churches to stop being silent about abortion.  Preach on abortion, talk about the need to end abortion, pray for sinners to repent and believe the gospel and turn from their wicked sins.

For all of us, I point to the biblical truth of praying for the end of abortion.  I do pray that we would pray, plead, preach, and protest but above all pray!  Pray for the Lord to end abortion.   Pray for Him to save the staff and “doctors” involved in murdering unborn babies.  Pray for pro-life groups to be strong, to preach the gospel, to help women who have become pregnant to see that murder should not be an option.  Pray for the Lord to raise up preachers of the gospel who will preach against abortion and turn women (and men) from the murdering of babies.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 is my bases for all this:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

We are winning the war over the pro-murder groups.  The pro-life movement in the United States is strong.  Granted, the federal government (especially under the pro-murder Democrats) has provided billions of dollars toward pro-murdering groups but the Lord is on our side.  The Lord is for life.  He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and we seek to murder babies who likewise are created in His image.   The pro-life movement must preach the gospel realizing that the hope for those involved in murdering babies is that Jesus saves from sin (Luke 19:10).  So many in the pro-life movement go and protest with an eye on earning merit from God (Isaiah 64:6).  I remind you again that our “works of righteousness” do not save (Titus 3:5-7).  We must preach the gospel that Jesus saves sinners and we are chief (1 Timothy 1:15).

For now, let us pray earnestly for the Lord to end abortion.  I do pray we preach, plead, and protest but oh that we would pray for sinners to be saved (Romans 10:1), that the Lord would raise up laborers for His harvest fields (Matthew 9:37-38) and that we would pray for the end to abortion.

Oh Lord grant this for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/22/2015 at 5:16 PM

Don’t Be Holy In Theory Only

I think that most disciples of Christ acknowledge that God calls His people to holiness.  1 Peter 1:15-16 is clear enough that we understand that God calls me to holiness.  Psalm 24:3-4 is also clear that the only one that can approach the holy throne of God is those who have clean hands and a pure heart.  Jesus blessed those who are pure in heart by saying that they would see God (Matthew 5:8).  The Bible also calls us to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and His example was one of perfection (1 Peter 2:21-22).  Paul said wrote that the Corinthians were to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So in theory we know that God calls to holiness.  We know that the people of God are to flee from sin (Romans 6).  We know that we are to set our affections on Christ above (Colossians 3:1-4).  We are to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).  We read passages such as 1 Peter 2:11-12 and agree that they are good and right.

Yet theory is not practice.  To simply hold to a theory of holiness is not enough.  Strange how I have met “holiness” people who are not holy.  I have met people who ascribed to a theology of holiness yet were not living holy lives.  They looked, acted, loved, adored, and were striving for the same things as the worldly-minded church.  They wanted to sip their latte and shake their head to some “worship” music but they didn’t want to be holy.  They wanted to read their study Bible but never practice what the Bible says.  They wanted to “share their testimony” with the lost but didn’t even have the strength to exhort sinners to flee the wrath to come.  They want to have a theory of holiness in which they say that Christ is their holiness and He is their salvation without actually repenting of their sins and being holy themselves.  They talk about holiness in some circles but then they sit at their computer screen or movie screen and fill their minds with filth, compromise, and worldliness.

Oh to be holy!  Oh for a people of holiness to rise up and preach the gospel!  Oh for saints to truly be saints (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  I am so thankful for Jesus shedding His blood for my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I rejoice in Isaiah 53:11, that I am justified before God because of the work of the Lord Jesus.  Nothing can take from His work and nothing can add to His work (Galatians 1:6-9).  Truly Jesus is my salvation (John 19:30; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

However, this doesn’t negate holiness.  Holiness is still required.  Just as God called His people to holiness in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44-45), so He calls His people to holiness in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The blessing of the gospel is that holiness is now accomplished not by my keeping the laws of the Old Testament but by keeping the law of Christ (Galatians 5:24-25).  We now are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:16-17) to be holy.  We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20; 6:14).  We are to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).  The wages of sin remains death (Romans 6:23) and we are to flee from sin (Galatians 6:7-8).  The one who lives for their flesh will die (Romans 8:12-13).

The call then must be repent of our sins!  We must bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).  We must turn from our wicked ways (Ezekiel 18:30-31).  We must call sinners to repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31).  We must reveal to sinners the greatness of God in His giving of His Son for our sins (Romans 2:4).  We must call sinners to repent and take up their cross and follow Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  We must call the people of God back to holiness not just in theory but in practice.  Theory is useless with the practice of holiness (1 John 2:3-6).  We must warn the saints of God to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and to be holy (1 John 3:6-10).

I pray to God that He would empower us to holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Oh for holiness to be preached in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Where is the Call to Holiness?

Very few people who claim to be true Christians live holy lives.  In many ways, many live their lives just like the people of this world.  They love the things in the world and pursue the world despite the call of John the Apostle in 1 John 2:15-17.  People are content to believe that God loves them enough to save them through His Son (John 3:16) but are content to live in the world and not flee from sin that first sent the Son of God to the cross (Isaiah 53:4-6).  People want to be “His people” but do not want to be completely saved from “their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The call of God is to holiness (Hebrews 12:14).  The Bible tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Paul the Apostle prayed often for believers to be holy and blameless before God (see 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Paul called the Church to holiness (Philippians 2:14-15).  Paul wanted the Church to forsake sin (1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).  John the Beloved likewise called the Church to holiness (1 John 2:1-2).  In Romans 6, Paul the Apostle tells the disciples in Rome that Jesus not only has set us from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin!

So where is the call to holiness?  I fear that in our day we have many people who even preach against sin but live shameful lives when no one is looking.  God knows.  He sees al things even what is going on in secret (Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24).  He sees that man who preaches one thing but secretly is looking at pornography on the Internet.  He sees that woman who claims to be holy but she is gossiping about others.  God knows all things.  We cannot hide from Him and we must give an account for our lives before Him (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The power of holiness begins with the gospel.  In Galatians 2:20 Paul preaches what you and I must preach and live as well; that we died with Christ on the cross and are raised to walk in the newness of life by His power.  The power for holy living comes through faith in the resurrected Christ who lives to make intercession before God on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25).  How can the disciple of Christ fail when we have the Son of God praying at God’s right hand for us and the Holy Spirit praying for us as well (Romans 8:26-27)?  The Lord Jesus knows our struggles (Hebrews 4:14-16) and He is more than able to help us overcome sin by His grace (1 Corinthians 10:13; Titus 2:13).

What sin is more powerful than Christ?  What sin can He not rescue us from?  He is able to rescue us from all sin.  He is able to empower us to live holy lives.  He is able to deliver us from us and He is able to help us not to be hypocrites when no one else is watching.  He is able to purify our minds as we set them upon Him (Philippians 4:8-9).  He is able to purify us from all sin (1 John 1:9).

This is an ongoing struggle.  Sin is not defeated by one prayer meeting or by one experience.  Sin must be fought with all the time.  The only hope we have is to daily walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Daily I must look to Christ alone to help me.  I look to Him by prayer.  I look to Him in His Word.  I daily do these things.  Discipline alone is good but discipline with a focus on Christ is the true way to victory (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Christ has secured our salvation and He also has secured our sanctification (John 17:17-20).  He cleanses our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9).  As we look to Christ alone to save us both from the wrath of God and from present sin (1 Thessalonians 1:10), we find that He is sufficient to help us in all our struggles with sin.

What final point.  The attitude I see today among some is that we just rest in Christ and don’t worry about fighting against our sins.  They believe that they are “once saved, always saved” and thus they don’t have to battle against sin.  They reason that God only sees them in Christ (imputed righteousness) and they don’t need to be personally righteous.  This incorrect thinking has led some to fall into great sins.  The Bible calls believers to forsake sin and to pursue holiness.  No where does the Bible tell us just to rest in Christ and not fight.  In 1 Corinthians 6:18 Paul told the corrupt Corinthian church to flee immorality.  In wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:9 that his aim was to please Christ in light of the judgment seat of Christ in verse 10.  In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul wrote that we are to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ”

Adam Clarke wrote on 2 Corinthians 7:1:

“These are things in which both body and soul must consent. But still withholding the eye, the ear, the hand, and the body in general, from sights, reports, and acts of evil, will not purify a fallen spirit; it is the grace and Spirit of Christ alone, powerfully applied for this very purpose, that can purify the conscience and the heart from all dead works. But if we do not withhold the food by which the man of sin is nourished and supported, we cannot expect God to purify our hearts. While we are striving against sin, we may expect the Spirit of God to purify us by his inspiration from all unrighteousness, that we may perfectly love and magnify our Maker. How can those expect God to purify their hearts who are continually indulging their eyes, ears, and hands in what is forbidden, and in what tends to increase and bring into action all the evil propensities of the soul?”

I ask the same.  How can we claim holiness while living in sin?  How can we expect to be holy while indulging our sinfulness all the while claiming to be in Christ by faith and resting in His work?  We deceive ourselves into thinking that God does not see us anymore now that we are in Christ.  Yet the Lord said in Revelation 2:2 to the church in Ephesus: “I know your works.”  How can this be if He only sees the work of Christ?

The reality is that God does see us.  He always see us.  For the disciple who truly loves Christ and is pursuing holiness, this is not a fearful thing (Psalm 121:4).  The knowledge that God always sees me brings both fear and such comfort that words can not describe.  God is able to deliver us from all sin.  It is in His power to do so.

My prayer is that the Church would pursue holiness.  Ephesians 5:27 says that Christ will have a bride without blemish.  He is sanctifying His bride even now.  I rejoice that the Lord is faithful to sanctify us.  I long for His touch.

Confessions of a Perfectionist

Note: This post is not intended to teach that we can abide in sin.  This is not my point.  I want to make that clear before I start.  The Bible is clear that we should forsake our sins (1 John 2:1).  Paul told the Corinthians to “stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).  In 2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5, Paul the Apostle rebukes those in the Corinthian church who have not repented of their past sinning.  In fact, the New Testament is clear that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14), to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), to be slaves of righteousness and not slaves to sin (Romans 6:1-23) and that to be slaves of sin shows we are not Christ’s (John 8:34-35).  John the Beloved wrote in 1 John 3:7 that he who practices righteousness is righteous.  It is not merely enough to claim “imputed righteousness” and go on sinning.  I don’t deny that we are righteous in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21) but I do deny that this gives us a license to abuse God’s grace and continue in a life of sin (Jude 4; cf. Hebrews 10:26-31).

Perfectionism is a dangerous thing.  I once aimed with all that was in me for perfection.  I strove to overcome sin by my power and I thought it was merely a choice of my will to overcome sin.  I paid little attention to abiding in Christ and strove in my strength to overcome sin.  And the more I strove, the more I struggled with sin.  I would overcome one sin only to find another sin had taken its place.

The true danger of perfectionism is pride.  I had pride in me.  Oh I would have claimed Christ and would have said that I was seeking to overcome sin because of Christ and His victory on the cross but I was only paying lip service to Him.  After all, what Christian would deny that Jesus was really the One that they were striving to obey?  In reality, I was nothing more than a hypocrite and a Pharisee all at the same time.  I was nothing more than a white washed tomb (Matthew 23:27-28).  Around others I could act so holy and pure but inwardly, I was tormented by my sins.  I hated my flesh.  I despised what I knew about me when none were around yet I continued to play the hypocrite and act like I was living in complete victory.

I see now the errors of my ways.  It was not seeking Christ that was a sin.  It was not seeking to overcome my sins that was a sin.  It was my faith in me, my pride in thinking that could gain the victory by the sheer power of my own will.  Yet my will is tainted by my flesh.  My will wants to honor me above Christ.  My will wants to live for the glory of me above the glory of Christ.  My will wants to exalt me and not turn others toward Christ.

I rejoice now though for the gospel.  The gospel is not about what I do to obtain His forgiveness.  The gospel is not about what I do to overcome sin.  The gospel is not about how I can now, by the power of my will, live free from sin.  The gospel in fact informs me that I am saved by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).  No doubt His grace teaches me to say no to sin (Titus 2:12) but my focus now is on Christ and Christ alone (Titus 2:13).  I know now that through the gospel, I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  I know now that through Christ, though I was once dead in my sins, I am now alive in Him (Ephesians 2:1-6).  I recognize that my passion is to glorify Christ in all that I say and do and not because of my own striving, my own will power, but in light of the gospel that saves me (1 Corinthians 15:10).  I see now that Christ came into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and Paul the Apostle understood that before a holy and pure God, he was sinful and lost (1 Timothy 1:15).  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ and not on our works!  Good works flow from a redeemed life (James 2:14-26; cf. Ephesians 2:10).  The love of God grabs us and empowers us (John 14:15, 23-24).

Our part is to consistently submit to the Lordship of Christ.  This is the key to overcome sin.  It is not by making “sin lists” or by striving merely in our own power to overcome sin.  This has never worked.  The key is to focus on the Lordship of Christ, be saturated in His Word (John 17:17), and to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  To follow the flesh only spells doom (Galatians 6:7-9; James 5:19-20).  2 Peter 2:20-22 warns us against returning to the flesh while thinking we are forgiven.  We must repent of our sins but we do this by the power of the gospel and not by merely creating resolutions.

Here then is the balance.  We adore the gospel that saves us.  We acknowledge that we are saved by the grace of God alone and that Christ is our salvation.  We rejoice in the Lord for His forgiveness and for setting us free from the power of sin (Colossians 1:13-14).  We praise God for the gospel truth that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus alone (1 Peter 1:18-19) and not by our works (Titus 3:5-7).  We confess that without Christ, we would be lost sinners, hell-bound.  We celebrate the biblical fact that we are holy before God through Christ (Hebrews 10:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

This gospel truth then produces a joy in longing to serve the Lord.  I want to be holy as He is holy not because of legalism and perfectionism but because of what He has done in saving me!  I want to strive to be like Jesus and set my mind on things above and not on this world (Colossians 3:1-4) because of the work of Christ.  I rejoice that I am justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1).  I rejoice that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  This leads me toward holiness.  This gospel leads me to want to pray, to worship, to share the gospel with the lost, to seek to be pure and blameless (Philippians 2:12-15).  I want to press on (Philippians 3:12-16).  I want to forsake my sins in the light of His forgiveness of my sins (1 John 1:9) but I do not deceive myself into thinking that I have overcome sin by my power for I cannot (1 John 1:10).

So I rejoice in Christ.  I praise the Father for the gift of His Son and that I am saved, redeemed, forgiven in Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Yet I also long to be holy, to be pure, to be blameless but I know that I can only obtain holiness by God’s grace working in me.

We Never Cease to Need the Gospel

I have written before on sinning every day.  Do we sin everyday?  Can we stop sinning?  These are all for another post and another debate.  Many disciples feel that we cannot but sin every single day of our lives.  They believe that we sin in word, thought, or deed each and every day.  For them, they often mean that they don’t love God like they should (Matthew 22:37) nor do they love their neighbor as they love themselves (Matthew 22:39) and therefore they sin every day.  They would also assert that they do not pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) nor do they evangelize at all times (Matthew 28:19) nor do they give to the poor at all times (Matthew 6:2) nor do they study the Bible at all times (Psalm 119:11).  Simply put: they do not love God enough nor as worthy as He deserves.

I can see their point.  But sadly, this view is often taken to further extremes and these sins of omission are often channeled into sins of commission as well.  In other words, the lack of loving God perfectly is seen as the same sin as viewing pornography.  After all, sin is sin!  I can’t help but sin since this is all I can do.  At my best, my righteousness is still filthy before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6) so why strive for righteousness when I can’t obtain it in the first place.  My best efforts are meaningless before a holy and righteous God.  And so I am just stuck with sinfulness.  It is who I am.  It is what I do.

And that view leads to an antinomian view of the Christian life in which sin dominates and the Lordship of Christ is reduced to Him submitting even to our sins.  Even the precious blood of Jesus (while certainly able to wash away our sins) is not able to conquer our sins.  I mean a few do get “victory” over some sins but they still sin in word, thought, and deed every single day.  Before God, they still are sinners whether they are living in adultery or failing to study their Bibles like they should.

Perhaps in the future I will take a look at these false teachings about our sinfulness and about sanctification.  I fully believe that Jesus is able to deliver His saints.  Matthew 1:21 promises that His very name would mean “the Lord saves” and He will save His people from their sins.  While I fully acknowledge that His blood is sufficient to wash away our sins (Matthew 26:28), I would go further and say that His blood empowers us to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The gospel always leads first to forgiveness of our sins and then toward holiness in this process of biblical sanctification (2 Corinthians 7:1).  Hebrews 10:14 is clear on this:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is sufficient to fully save the sinner (Romans 10:4, 13) but this is just the beginning.  The Lord also sanctifies His people as Hebrews 10:14 promises.

But none of us, not one of us ever comes to a place where we don’t need the gospel.  Some think that the gospel is only for the sinners.  No!  It is for the child of God as well.  We need the gospel.  The precious truths of 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; etc. are true for the child of God.  The truth of Hebrews 4:14-16 is a truth I often pray.  I need the work of Christ always to be saved.  I need His intercession to remain saved (Hebrews 7:25).  I need the blood of Jesus to continue to cleanse me from sin (1 John 1:7).  I fall nowhere close to the holy perfection that God demands (Romans 3:23) and thus I need the work of Christ to stand before a holy God (Romans 3:24-27).  I never cease to need the gospel.  I need to preach the gospel to myself always.

At the end of the day, I need the work of Christ.  I know that the world needs to hear the gospel (Romans 10:14-17) but I need to hear the truth of the gospel as well (Romans 1:16-17).  I need to be reminded that I have not arrived, that I always need the grace of God to overcome.  My pride likes to think that I have arrived but I have not.  I am still seeking.  Still hungry to know this God who saved me.  I am still longing to be like Jesus in that I say or do (Colossians 3:17; 1 John 2:6).  I despise sin but the gospel shows me that my sins are forgiven and that I can overcome sin by the grace of God (Titus 2:11-12).  The gospel shows me that Christ is faithful, sufficient, and He is my victory, my holiness, my salvation, my power to overcome.  Christ is the one that I need to focus on and not myself or my works.  They are full of holes but Christ is perfect and He is my gospel.

In every area of my life I need the gospel.  I need the gospel over my marriage, how I raise my children, how I spend my money.  I need the gospel over my home, over my job, and over my reading.  I need the gospel in my habits.  I need the gospel in my talks with the lost.  I need the gospel for forgiveness of my sins.  I need the gospel when I am driving my truck.  I never cease to need the precious truths of the gospel.  Never.

I pray that you, my reader, hunger to know the gospel as well.   The gospel is not abstract.  It is not rules.  The gospel is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, the living One (Revelation 1:17-18).  The gospel is not memorizing steps to peace.  The gospel is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is my longing, to know Christ (Philippians 3:8-11).  I pray that I make my boast in the cross of Christ alone (Galatians 6:14).  His cross is my cross.  His death is my death.  His resurrection is my resurrection.  I need Him every hour!

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