Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Struggle With Sin

Q. What would your position be on someone who has had tremendous change in their life but can’t seem to kick a particular sin—maybe they’ve even stopped trying?

A. I would probably ask them whether they're trying to kick it in their own power, by making laws in order to help kick it, which never work (Rom. 7:7-25), or in the power of Christ? I would also ask whether or not they love Jesus more than they love that sin, because our love for Jesus is a great motivator. Whenever sin is at our door via the means of temptation (which we will always have), we know it. At that point, before we commit the sin and/or while starting to commit the sin, we know precisely what we're doing and should ask ourselves, "Do I love Jesus more than I love this sin and how it makes me feel? or do I love this sin more than I love Jesus who died for this sin and to free me from this sin?" If we are in Christ, we are dead to sin and commanded to consider this position a reality (Rom. 6 and 8). This has nothing to do with sinless perfection.

Then I would try to find out how they find themselves in this sin. If they are making plans for it and making provision for it and looking for ways in which to commit it privately (everything 1 John 3:4-10 condemns), then they might want to consider the possibility that they are not yet saved. If they are saved, it may be a matter of ignorance, in which what I shared at the beginning should help open their eyes and breathe new life into them. Regardless, they should be examining themselves in light of Scripture to see whether their profession of faith is genuine or not. We're commanded to "examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:5), "work our your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12), and "make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10). Not to mention Christ's statement in regard to denying ourselves means to "utterly deny, disown, abstain."

Romans 8:13 commands us to be sin murderers. We need to pursue the sin in our lives and put it to death. Not by laws we erect upon ourselves, but through Jesus Christ. Paul said he kept under his body lest after he preached to others, he found himself cast into hell (paraphrase). Jesus came to save us from our sins. Not merely to save us from the penalty of them, but to save us from them. "You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free" (John 8:32). "If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed" (John 8:36). Why would Paul state everything he stated in Romans 6 and 8 and all his other epistles if there was no truth to it? Can and will we struggle with the temptation for particular sins? Yes. Probably until we die. But through Christ's death we have been given the victory and given power over that sin. We are dead to it. It no longer holds power over us unless we give it the power and deliberately submit ourselves to it. Remember, we are slaves to whom we yield ourselves. Is that going to be sin, for which Jesus died on our behalf? or is that going to be God? Victory is the by-product of obedience. When we are obedient toward God, victory naturally and inevitably results.

Just because someone has had a significant amount of change in their life does not necessarily prove anything. What kind of change is it and what motivated such change? Behavioural modification can be significant change, yet it does not change the heart. The heart is still deceitful, deceiving us into thinking we have changed when all we have done is swapped one idol in our lives with another. Rather than repenting, we have just swapped our bad deeds for good deeds, deceiving ourselves into thinking our good deeds will make up for the bad and square us with God, when in fact they are a putrid stench to His nostrils and will only condemn us that much faster. Paul speaks of godly repentance versus worldly repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. Which one do we have?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tests of True Conversion

Give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10); examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5); work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
  1. 1 John 1:7 – You like hanging out and fellowshipping with other Christians - and not just on Sunday.

  2. 1 John 1:8 – You admit that you have a wretched, abominable heart. This is not a mere admission of being a sinner and committing sins, for the unsaved will admit that.

  3. 1 John 2:3 – You strive to obey God's Commandments. If you think this means the two Commandments of Love, consider the fact that these two sum up the entire ten. It is still the Ten Commandments that we are looking at, no matter how you try and dice it. Consider these verses:
    • Exodus 20:6

    • Deuteronomy 7:9; 11:26-28 (v.27)

    • Psalm 112:1; 119:47, 127

    • Ecclesiastes 12:13 (the whole duty of man)

    • Matthew 22:37-40 (the 10 summed up in 2 - the first 3 pertain to God, the last 6 pertain to our neighbour, the 4th was a shadow of things to come and is the only one not repeated in the New Testament)

    • John 14:15, 21; 15:20

    • 1 Corinthians 7:19

    • 1 John 2:3-4; 3:22, 24; 5:2-3

    • 2 John 1:6

    • Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14

  4. 1 John 2:15 – If you love the world, you are not a Christian. We are called to be set apart (separated) from the world.

  5. 1 John 2:23 – Do you know who Jesus Christ is? He is not merely the Son of God. If your Jesus is that of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, etc., you have the wrong Jesus.

  6. 1 John 3:2 – You can't wait to see God. It is your hope from day to day, expecting His return to be imminent (immediate).

  7. 1 John 3:9 – You do not habitually sin. You do not go through the same motions of sin day after day. It's not about perfection, it's about direction. God is sanctifying the believer in holiness. If you're not growing - if you walk, talk and act the same way you did before you were "converted" - you're not a Christian.

  8. 1 John 3:14 – You love your Christian brothers and sisters and it shows.

  9. 1 John 4:6 – Christians love preaching, teaching and hearing the Word. Hearing it is not boring to you and you are not ashamed to speak about it.

  10. 1 John 4:15 – You proclaim Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon said, "If you do not have a passion to see lost souls saved, you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that!" Do you go out of your way to make Jesus known, or are you in silence telling the world, "Go to hell!"?
God, Who has SAVED us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began…
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only as in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own SALVATION with fear and trembling.
And this, knowing the time, that it is now the hour to arise from sleep: for now is our SALVATION nearer than when we first believed.

These three verses of Scripture by themselves could present three drastically different messages of salvation. However, when looked at together, under the whole counsel of God, the message is singular, plain, and clear. Salvation is not a one-point-in-time decision that secures me and allows me to do whatever I please. No, that is a false gospel and Scripture condemns such thoughts on every page. Salvation is past, present and future. Justification says that I am saved. Sanctification says that I am being saved. Glorification says that I will be saved. It is a continuous motion. All of this is the work of God and all of this is present in the salvation of the true born again believer. True salvation clearly reveals the evidence of fruit in our lives and will culminate with the endurance of the true saint until the end. These are the seeds that fell among good soil. The seeds that fell among the other soils are all false converts. The rocky soil depicts those who accept the Word, follow it, but fall away revealing that they were never genuinely saved to begin with, because “those who endure until the end will be saved.” Regeneration and repentance are as much a part of the salvation process as is faith, and you will find hundreds of verses that make these statements. Not one of them can be diminished or rejected.

In the above verses, you have three different tenses of the word “salvation.” All of them true in what they have to say. We cannot limit our knowledge on a subject to a singular verse or passage or chapter or book. We must take the whole counsel of God in what He declares in every verse, every passage, every chapter and every book bearing on the subject. The truth of salvation cannot be limited to one’s understanding of Galatians only and thereby build the doctrine. That is where you get the false doctrine put forth by those who turn the grace of God into licentiousness – a license to sin, which contradicts Romans 6 and other passages of Scripture. Further, we must consider verses such as 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 6:9-10. If these people claim to be Christians but are known to be the listed practices - that is, they are known to be a liar, an adulterer, a thief, a drunkard, etc. – Scripture is clear that they will not inherit the kingdom!!! Christ declared the same statements several times throughout the gospels. Claiming to be a Christian doesn't make a person saved. It is the changed life, the Spirit living within us, directing us, bearing fruit, and conforming us to the image of Christ here on Earth, that reveals true salvation. If there is no evidence of a changed life, of hatred toward sin and love toward God, then regeneration has never taken place and the person is still dead in their sins. They are not a genuine born again believing saint. They are a false convert, as a plethora of Scriptural passages tell us - regardless of what they think or claim. That is why we never pronounce someone saved because we are giving them false assurance of salvation. If they are genuinely converted, it will work itself out in their life and there will be evidence of that fact and they will endure until the end. If they run the race hard and strong and quit half way there, they were never genuinely converted to begin with.

Dual repetition of names has great significance. "Moses, Moses." "Samuel, Samuel." "Saul, Saul." When Jesus uses "Lord, Lord," He is letting us know that these people genuinely believe themselves to have been saved, and yet He tells them, "Depart from me! you who live as though I never gave you a law to obey. I NEVER KNEW YOU!" It's not about whether we know Him (which can be mere intellectual knowledge in ascent to the facts), but about whether or not He knows us. Again, only time will tell whether we will finish the race or not. If we finish, we will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." If we fail to finish, we were never saved to begin with. That is why we need to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling," because we don't know how we are going to finish. Even Paul made reference to the same thing: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." He states that he has "fought the good fight." He has pressed toward the mark and not let up. Was his a work's based salvation? I don't think so. Works reveal your faith, as James tells us. "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." What he says and what Paul says are complementary messages. They are not contradictions, as some heathen false teachers assert.

Develop a right understanding of Who God is and what His Word teaches and walking in faithful obedience will not be difficult. The more accurate picture you have of God, the easier it becomes to submit to His authority and humble ourselves in awe before His face. Without a proper understanding of Who He is, we will live in rebellion to Him and only pave the way to our destruction. There are more verses in Scripture than those that simply state "believe." James states clearly that belief alone means absolutely nothing. Even the demons believe. We need to take the whole counsel of God. Not random verses that make us feel good about ourselves where we can apply personal opinion. What will we do with clear commands to "cleanse your hands and purify your hearts" and "renew your minds and do not be conformed to this world"? Selectively citing verses that appeal to our own personal opinion and make us feel good gives us a very shallow view of God and what He expects from us. It leaves us not knowing Who God truly is. He is not our buddy sidekick!!! He is our Creator, our Master, our Lord, our King!!! All these titles and positions demand obedience - not suggest it!

Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firms, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord MUST turn away from wickedness.’” 2 Timothy 2:19

Again, this is not a mere suggestion. It is a command to be obeyed. If we confess the name of Christ, if we claim to be Christians, then we must turn away from wickedness and walk in holiness. Failure to do so equals false conversion. Pure and simple. The whole counsel of God stands firm in its truth.

For I am NOT ashamed of the gospel of Christ: it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

He Is Not A Christian...

Paul, speaking to the Jews, told them, "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Romans 2:28-29). Matthew Henry in his commentary made an excellent like statement:
He is not a Christian that is one outwardly, nor is that baptism which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian that is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary, p. 307.
We seem to miss this crucial point in Christianity today. Everyone wants to call themselves a Christian but nobody wants to act the part. One of Satan's greatest victories was the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" campaign. Many of the cults call themselves Christians, but they are not. Jehovah's Witnesses are not Christians. Mormons are not Christians. Roman Catholics are not Christians. Oneness Pentecostals are not Christians. Seventh-Day Adventists are not Christians. There are also many false converts that call themselves Christians, which are no Christians at all. As long as all these liars call themselves "Christians," how is the world to know any different? How is the world to know what true Christianity looks like? It is no wonder they think very little of Christianity with all these hypocrites and liars claiming to be what they are not.

Very few pay any attention to anything the Scriptures have to say any more. They are either ignorant of it or ignore it. Jesus gave many hard sayings in regard to what it means to be a Christian. Rather than accept and believe what Jesus said, we tend to try and sift His words so that they are more palatable. This is where the false nonsense of a "carnal Christian" came from. It is also where the nonsense of losing one's salvation came from. We see people in the ministry for years and then all of a sudden they leave and turn their back on it and we want to say that either they are "carnal Christians" at the moment or have lost their salvation and might be able to get it back again later.

There is a Chinese proverbs that says, "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names." Let us call a spade a spade. We tend to forget, or are ignorant of, the fact that Judas served full-time in the ministry for three years at the side of Jesus. He was sent out with the other disciples to witness. He was a partaker of the miracles that were done. He was not carnal nor did he lose his salvation. Jesus Himself testifies, "those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12). All through His ministry Jesus said one of them was a devil, one of them was unclean, and one of them would betray Him. None of them suspected Judas. They all looked to themselves and asked, "It is I?" The same with Demas. Demas was one of Paul's companions, but in time Demas forsook Paul, being in love with this present world, and left him. Judas and Demas were apostates.

We need to realize that just because someone calls themselves a Christian and serves in ministry does not make them a Christian. There are many false teachers serving as shepherds and many false converts serving in ministry. Many are only serving because of the money. They have no real love for Christ or Christ's people. As soon as the money is gone, so are they. So many people come to Christ for the wrong reasons. Coming to Christ does not mean that you belong to Him. Jesus made this clear when He said, "Not everyone that saith unto Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:21). These people came to Him. They call Him Lord. But they are not His: "will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you: depart from Me" (Matthew 7:23).

We need to read our Bibles a little more often and pay greater attention to those things which are written there. We need to stop paying homage to man's ideas and accept the reality of Scripture. If Jesus repeatedly tells us "you will know them by their fruits," then we can indeed know them by their fruits. If he tells us repeatedly that "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved," then those who fall away have proven themselves not to be Christians and that they never had salvation in the first place. When Scripture repeatedly paints the Christian life as one of victory and overcoming, we need to accept it, believe it, and pursue it instead of believing the lie and living in defeat. A Christian is one who continually puts on Christ-likeness, becoming more like Him every day.

He is not a Christian that is one outwardly, nor is that baptism which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian that is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Characterized By Sin? Not A Christian!

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, not thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21
"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." Revelation 21:8
If your life is characterized by the above and you are calling yourself a Christian, please stop deceiving yourself because you are not a true, biblical, born again Christian. Despite false teachings to the contrary, there is no such thing as a "carnal Christian" (see the article Jesus' Bookend Declaration). Lewis Sperry Chafer distorted 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 into this false concept that says you can sin like the devil and yet still be a Christian. While this false notion is very popular among mainstream Christianity today and their watered down "gospels," such as the A-B-C Gospel and the Four Spiritual Laws Gospel, it is important to realize that if this were indeed true, it contradicts a very clear passage of Scripture that states quite the opposite.
"If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him. ... And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. 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. 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. 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." 1 John 2:29; 3:3-10
If you are known to be a liar, if your lifestyle is characterized by habitual lying, then you are not a Christian. If you are known to have a short fuse, if your lifestyle is characterized by habitual anger, then you are not a Christian. If you are known to be a pervert, if your lifestyle is characterized by habitual lusting and/or looking at pornography, then you are not a Christian. If you are know by any sin that you commit and your lifestyle is characterized by that sin, you can be sure that you are not a Christian.
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:24
If this is not true of you, if you are not dead to sin as Romans 6 puts forth, if you are not constantly waging war against the lusts of the flesh, the world, and the devil, then you do not belong to Christ. You are not a Christian. Jesus said it quite clearly: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14). "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). In Hebrew grammar, when a Jew wants to emphasize his point, he repeats it. It is clear that by their use of "Lord, Lord" these people believed themselves to be saved—to be "Christians." What does your "acceptance" of Christ or your "decision" for Christ mean? Absolutely nothing! "Then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:23). Remember, sin is lawlessness. Living life as though Jesus never gave you a law to obey. "For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. 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? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Hebrews 12:6-8).
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
So Jesus said that he who obeys His Father will enter into heaven (Matthew 7:21); that he who loves Him will obey His commandments (John 14:15); and if you abide in Him you are His disciple (John 8:32 - contrast with Luke 14:25-33 and Matthew 10:34-39 and those who cannot be His disciples). So how can you tell who is a true, biblical, born again Christian? Re-read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and then read this beautiful verse: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). Christians used to be characterized by those exact same lifestyles, until Jesus Christ saved them and set them free. Again, it is imperative to note this difference: a Christian falls into sin against their will; a non-Christian or a hypocrite dives into sin with/by their will. For the Christian, he is fighting it and fighting it and fighting it and he falls. For the non-Christian, it is habit. He wakes up, contemplates it, plans it, and does it. For the Christian, there is remorse after having failed. For the non-Christian, it is no big deal. They have oodles (that's the technical term) of excuses up their sleeves, such as "I'm not perfect" or "Everyone makes mistakes" or "It's not that big of a deal." They are not willing to fess up to their sin. They want to brush it off as if it is not the end of the world. If there is no fruit, then there is no root.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Believe Right!

You see a man (or woman) stumble out of a strip joint drunk as a skunk and higher than a kite. You know this person. They've attended your church and they claim to be a "Christian." You confront them about what you see and they respond, "Well, the good I want to do I don't do. You know, my old man still clings to me." Not only is that an erroneous interpretation of the text, but it is also a convenient excuse, even used by many genuine Christians.

Brothers and sisters, if you are going to live right you need to believe right. You need to stop using these convenient excuses that find no substantiation in Scripture. Remember, just because your pastor spouts it does not make it true. You need to be like the noble Bereans who searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul, an Apostle, said was true. You are commanded in Scripture to "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Every believer needs to be doing this! Just because he is your pastor does not mean he is correct in everything he says. Sometimes he speaks from pre-supposition of what he thinks the text says rather than what it truly says. Other times he may speak out of ignorance.

I have already dealt with the fact that Romans 7 is not speaking of Paul as a regenerate man nor of his everyday experience as a Christian. Otherwise Paul would be a hypocrite, nothing more than the Pharisee he used to be, because in all his letters he is telling believers what they must do and yet, if Romans 7 is his every day experience, he says emphatically that he never does good and always does bad (vv.15 & 19). Further, in the last verse, "of myself" is emphatic, which indicates going it alone in your own strength. Notice there is no mention of the Spirit anywhere in Romans 7:7-25. Romans 7:13-25 is an expansion from 7:7-12, which is an expansion from 7:5. The context and language prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Romans 7 is not speaking of a regenerate man, regardless of what certain Christians choose to believe in their error. For a fuller reading on this issue, refer to these past articles:
Some people will turn to Galatians 5:17 and claim that this verse also teaches a defeated Christian life. Brothers and sisters, anyone who tells you this is a liar, no matter how earnestly they believe it or how godly they are. Read the context of the passage beginning with verse 16 through 25. The entire passage is about victory—not defeat. Who is this passage speaking in regard to? The Spirit. In a dog fight between flesh and the Holy Spirit, who do you think is going to win? The Spirit, hands down. Bet your life on it. Notice how verse 17 begins with the conjunction "for"? It is connecting it to what was just said in verse 16: "Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." He does not say the flesh and Spirit are warring, as some Scripture twisters declare. He says they are contrary to each other, opposed to each other. Examine the Greek that ends the verse. Remember, it is relating back to verse 16. If you walk by the Spirit you will not gratify the desires of the flesh because the Spirit is opposed to the flesh "so that you do not do the things that you would do." There is no declaration about the possibility or impossibility or the ability or inability to do these things. It is a statement of fact. "The things you would do." If you did not have the Spirit, you would be doing them. This agrees with Romans 8:13: "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."

Notice what verse 24 of Galatians 5 says: "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." It is a fact. Paul says in Romans 6:11, "Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ." The Greek there is logizomai (λογιζομαι), which is used 11 times in chapter 4. He is saying that it is a fact. If you have died with Christ you are dead to sin. In verse 6 Paul says, "We know that our old man was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." This brings us to our next point. If you are in Christ Jesus, your old man is crucified. He is dead. A Christian does not possess two natures, the old man and the new man. That is false teaching in opposition to what Scripture says. Again, whoever tells you that you have two natures is a liar. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). The word "behold" means "to pay attention." Brothers and sisters, pay attention! Whenever you see the word "therefore," you need to ask, "What is it there for?" What does Paul say earlier? Let us look: "From now on we regard no one according to the flesh" (v.16). Why do you suppose he says that? Could it be because Christians are no longer of the flesh but of the Spirit? You can bet your bottom dollar on it. Look what Paul says in Romans 8:9: "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him."

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with its practices and have put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Col. 3:9-10). Notice how both statements are past tense? You have put off the old man. You have put on the new man. When Christians sin, we walk contrary to our new nature. It resembles the old man but is not the old man because the old man is crucified—dead. If the old man is crucified, how can we say that part of him remains? Where is this taught anywhere in Scripture? Paul never teaches that some or most of our old man has been crucified. He says our flesh has been crucified (Gal. 5:24). He says our old man has been crucified (Rom. 6:6). If he is dead, part of him cannot remain. It is a logical impossibility. Brothers and sisters, this is where 1 John comes in. Even though we are a new creation, a new man, we are still going to fall into sin from time to time. John says, "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" (2:1). "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:9).

Brothers and sisters, you need to believe right if you ever plan to live right. Remember, the Christian life is all about faith and "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). Remember that we "walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). You need to believe what the Bible says about you. Not having a proud arrogance as if you have already arrived, which Paul himself denied (Phil. 3:12), but having a confidence in Jesus Christ who accomplished all of this for you. We boast in Christ and His accomplishments. Romans 8 is the normal life of the regenerate Christian. Our new man is constantly in a state of renewal, being made into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ our Lord. "We are more than conquerors" (Rom. 8:37). "Put on the armour of God and stand against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). When you sin, do not try to blame it on an old man that has been crucified; confess it to the Lord and keep walking by faith. The victory is ours. Walk in the newness of life you have been given through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A True Portrait of the Christian

Many people erroneously claim that Paul's everyday experience was one of defeat where he could not do the good he wanted and always did the bad he didn't want to do. It is tragic how their flawed understanding is not supported by the Scriptures. Let me make my case...

If we study Philippians historically, we learn that Paul was in house arrest during the writing of this letter, chained to elite Roman soldiers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every six hours they rotated. If we pay attention to Paul's letters, he consistently and constantly tells believers what they should and should not be doing. Now, if Paul was unable to do what he wanted to do and always did what he did not, these Roman soldiers would have looked at him as a hypocrite—nothing more than a Pharisee, as he had been before. They would have talked about it and spread word that he tells others what to do but doesn't do it himself. But this was not the case.

In Acts 20:18 Paul reminds his readers, "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day I set foot in Asia..." In Acts 24:16 he says, "I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man." After spending one and a half years with them, he tells the Corinthians, "You have seen my life; follow me." In 1 Corinthians 4:4 he says, "I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." In 9:27 he says, "I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." In Philippians 4:9 he instructs, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - do." The Greek word here for "do" is prasso (πρασσω), which means "to perform repeatedly or habitually." At the end of his life, in 2 Timothy 4:7 he asserts, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Are these the testimonies of a man who never does what he wants and always does what he doesn't want?

There are many other proof texts of the kind of life Paul lived. Simply read Paul's letters and make note of the principles and the applications found in his writings. He gives his readers the principles, telling them what to do, teaching them right doctrine, and then you see it lived out in his life where he gives examples or reminds them and tells them to follow him. If Paul lived a defeated life, how could he tell others to watch and follow him? If Paul lived a defeated life, the demons would not have admitted, "Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?" The demons feared Paul because he lived in the power of Christ, totally submitted to His will in everything. Read your Bible some time and you will see this. Paul counted everything about his life as dung. Christ was where his eyes were perpetually focused.

In 2 Peter 1:10, Peter states, "If you practice these qualities you will never fall." The Greek word here for "practice" is poieo (ποιεω), which means "to purpose and to practice." This statement follows on the heels of what he has just told the Christian believers in verses 5 through 8: "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours (belong to you) and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians 5:22-23 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Every believer owns these things in different portions, and each of them will be increasing. If you do not own them and they are not increasing, you need to examine the genuineness of your salvation and whether you truly belong to the Lord.

When you study the language of Romans 7, it quickly becomes evident that, while Paul is writing as a Christian, what he is writing is not of him as a Christian but of him under the conviction and condemnation of the Law. First, in verse 13 he is not asking whether Christians will sin or not. Verse 14 begins with the conjunction "for," which tells us it is connected to verse 13. Second, in verse 14, the word "sold" (piprasko, π͕ιπρασκω) literally means "entirely under the control of the love of sinning" (Thayer's Greek Lexicon). What did he just finish saying in all of chapter 6? Third, in verses 15 and 19, there are the same two Greek words used in each. In verse 15, the first "do" is prasso while the second "do" is poieo. In verse 19, the first is poieo while the second is prasso. Poieo is used entirely through 1 John 3:4-10. So, in verse 15, Paul says, "I do not perform repeatedly or habitually what I want, but I purpose and practice the very thing I hate." In verse 19, Paul says, "I do not purpose or practice the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I perform repeatedly and habitually." What does 1 John 3:4-10 tell us about those who purpose and practice sinning habitually?

Fourth, in verse 22 he says, "I delight in the law of God," while in verse 25 he says, "I serve the law of God." But wait a minute. Back in 7:6 Paul said, "We serve not under the old written code." What is the old written code? It's the law of God. Read chapter 2 of Romans. Last, in verse 23 he says he is, "captive to the law of sin," and in verse 25 says, "I serve the law of sin." What did Paul just finish telling us through the entirety of chapter 6? What does he continue telling us through chapter 8? A Christian does not serve the law of sin because he is free from the law of sin. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free…from the law of sin…” (8:2). The word for "serve" here means "bondservant." A slave is similar to an employee. They come in from 8 to 5 and then they are free to go home when they are done. A bondservant has no freedom. When a Jew was set free, if he chose to serve his master, his ear was pierced through by an awl and he became that man's bondservant. We were the bondservants of sin but now we are the bondservants of Christ. He purchased us with His blood. Our entire lives belong to Him to be commanded by Him as He sees fit.

Many people erroneously interpret Romans 7 according to their experience as a Christian. However, if they're careful to examine the language closely, they'll find that their experience is nothing like what is written here. A Christian sometimes fails and falls short, but Paul here says he never does what he knows he should do. Is that the Paul we read about in all his epistles? I think not! People assume he is speaking in present tense because he says "I." However, if you study grammar, there is something called the historical present tense. That is what Paul is using here. He is talking about the law and in order to demonstrate how the law affects us, he uses an illustration from his own life. The entire context from verse 7 through 25 proves this. The Law said "Do not covet." So the good he wanted to do by obeying the law, he found he was not doing. Instead, what he did not want to do by breaking the law, he found he did continually. It all flows smoothly and makes complete sense if people would stop coming to this passage with presuppositions. The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament says this:
Paul's second elaboration of the goodness of the law is therefore nothing other than a fresh narration of his encounter with "the commandment." His affirmation of the opposition between the law and sin has not yet defined the "location" and character of sin. In exploring afresh his encounter with the commandment Paul marks that "location." Sin "dwells" in the human being (oikein; Rom. 7:17, 18; cf. Rom. 8:9, 11) and does so in such a way that it is inseparable from our person. While in the first narrative he describes the relationship between the law and sin (7:7-12), in this second narrative he describes the relation between sin and self (7:13-25).
John tells us that "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" (1 John 3:9). Peter tells us that "if you practice these qualities you will never fall" (2 Peter 1:10). Paul tells us that if we "walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). Jesus tells us that "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). Jesus continually turned up the heat on the law and put forth holiness as the righteous standard. Paul even says that Jesus condemned sin in the flesh so that "the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:4). The Christian life is one of victory and overcoming. Will the Christian fail from time to time? Yes! But we confess it, repent of it, and press forward toward the mark. John the Baptist warned the Pharisees to "bear fruit (evidence) in keeping with repentance."

Paul had a perfect balance of both principles and application. If you have application without principles, you are merely living in legalism. If you have principles without application, you merely have vain knowledge that tends to puff up. When Scripture commands something, you need to obey it joyfully and with love for Jesus Christ who purchased you with His shed blood. You need to learn the principles and then apply them. Too many people know stuff about the Bible but do not ever apply it to their lives. Have a knowledge of Jesus Christ, apply that knowledge to your life, and live life by faith. We all have the potential to be a Paul if we would but yield ourselves to God and believe correctly regarding what Scripture has to say about us. What we believe determines how we act. Let's correct our way of thinking, believe rightly, and act according to that belief, living lives pleasing unto the Lord.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do Christians Walk In Sin?

Someone in the crowd yells out, "Hey, Paul! Do Christians walk in sin?"
Paul looks directly at the man as the corners of his lips begin to curl upwards into a smile. "Well, let me tell you," he begins. "Christians are brought from death to life (6:13); they walk in newness of life (6:4); the old self is crucified (6:6); they're dead to sin (6:11); sin cannot have dominion over them (6:14); God has made them obedient from the heart (6:17); they're set free from sin (6:18); God has made them His slaves (6:16), they're good trees bearing good fruit for God (7:4); they serve in the new life of the Spirit (7:6), the Spirit of life has set them free from the law of sin (8:2); Christ came to make them law keepers (8:3-4); and by the Spirit they put to death the deeds of the flesh (8:13). Does that answer your question, sir?"

Paul asks the rhetorical question, "Can Christians continue in sin?" in Romans 6:1 and for the next 2 and a half chapters he answers that question no less than 11 different times and ways. At least 7 different times Paul says that if you continue in sin you will die (spiritual death).

Chapter 5 ends saying, "Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more." He begins chapter 6 by asking the rhetorical question that follows on the heels of where chapter 5 left off: "Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound?" After providing his strong denial to that question and giving his conclusive commentary against it, he ends in verse 14 by saying, "You are not under law but under grace." Then he begins verse 15 by asking another rhetorical question that follows hot on the heels of verse 14: "Are we to sin because we're not under law but under grace?" His conclusive commentary that follows deals with being free from sin and the law. This continues through 7:6. Immediately following is his third rhetorical question, "Is the law sin?" He denies this and gives another conclusive commentary, ending by saying the law is good. He then asks his fourth rhetorical question, "Did that which is good bring death to me?" How long does Paul take to explain the answer to his question in verse 13? Merely half a verse, while his past three questions have been rather lengthy? No. Verse 14 begins with a conjunction—"for"—which lets us know that this is not a new thought with Paul. It's a continuation of his answer to this question. He is now going to give us an example of what he has just laid out for us in verses 7-12, especially verse 9. If a man walked up to you and said, "I am of the flesh," does it sound like chapter 7 and verse 4? verse 5? or verse 6? It sounds like verse 5. Paul denies everywhere, where he talks about the flesh, that we live in the flesh. Paul continues answering his question from 6:1 all the way through to 8:13, making his case stronger, driving home his point, and enforcing his emphasis on the truth.

Paul set the historical context for us in verses 7 through 12. In these verses, is this a Christian? No! Paul continues speaking in the historical present from 7:7 through 7:25. The man in 7:14-25 is not a Christian. It is a lost man who has come under the condemnation of the law. Chapter 7 is sandwiched between chapters 6 and 8. The context flows smoothly and fluidly. Paul does not ask in verse 13 if Christians will sin from time to time. Ergo, he is not all of a sudden jumping to the subject that Christians sometimes sin, of which this passage says he never does good and always practices evil (v.19). The language of this passage is anti-Christian all the way down and violates every other passage of Scripture that talks about what a Christian is, how they live, how they behave, etc., etc. This passage contradicts Galatians 5:16-25. They are not parallel passages.

In verse 13, there are three truths presented to us.
(1) Death is present.
(2) Sin is really bad and brings death.
(3) The law is good but is powerless to prevent our death.
If Paul wants to illustrate these three truths by using an example to drive home this point, would he not use an example that would portray a man who is (1) under the sentence of death, (2) controlled by sin that's killing him, and (3) holding tightly to the law that in the end cannot deliver him? Paul didn't all of a sudden decide to jump over and talk about whether a Christian will sin or not. He is presenting a man who is faced with those three truths from verse 13. In 8:1 you see the word "therefore," and whenever you see that word you must ask, "What is it there for?" The man in 7:14-25 is condemned. Thus, Paul continues fluidly by stating, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Why? "Because you are not under the law but under grace."

Romans 5:18 says that justification equals life and condemnation equals death. Therefore, those who are justified will be brought from death to life (6:13); those who are justified will walk in newness of life (6:4); those who are justified have the old self crucified (6:6); those who are justified are dead to sin (6:11); those who are justified sin does not have dominion over them (6:14); those who are justified God has made obedient from the heart (6:17); those who are justified are set free from sin (6:18); those who are justified God has made His slaves (6:16); those who are justified are good trees bearing good fruit for God (7:4); those who are justified serve in the new life of the Spirit (7:6); those who are justified the Spirit of life has set free from the law of sin (8:2); those who are justified Christ has made law keepers (8:3-4); and those who are justified by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh (8:13). Those who are justified have lost their life for Christ's sake (Matt. 10:39); those who are justified have counted the cost of following Christ (Luke 14:27-33); those who are justified have taken up their cross and followed Him (Matt. 16:24); those who are justified abide in Him (John 15:4-7; 1 John 2:6). Wherever you see death and life contrasted, you know that those who are in the flesh receive the death and those who are in the Spirit receive the life. In John 15 Christ spoke about those who abide in Him and those who do not. Those who do not receive death. Those who do receive life. He who endures to the end shall be saved (Matt. 10:22). Salvation equals life. Therefore, the justified will endure to the end. Those who do not endure were never of the faith and are not the justified. In Matthew 7, only those who obey the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, those who are justified will obey the will of the Father.

Compare the idea that Paul is supposedly speaking as a Christian in Romans 7:14-25 with what he said to the Corinthians who were trying to judge him: "I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Corinthians 4:4) Before Felix, Paul said, "I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man" (Acts 24:16). Then to the Philippians he says, "What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - do." (Philippians 4:9). Again, to the Corinthians he said, "I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27). To Timothy he says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). These are contrary to the belief that he is describing himself as a Christian in Romans 7:14-25. Was Paul lying when he wrote to the Corinthians in 55 A.D.? and then two years later in 57 A.D. when he wrote to the Romans said he constantly struggles, never does good and always does evil? What does Paul say without hesitation in Galatians 5:24? This accords perfectly to Romans 8:13, as does this entire passage.

Believing the Romans 7 man is a Christian is extremely dangerous and harmful! You are saying you can be of the flesh, captive to sin, sold as a slave to sin, bear evil fruit, and it all leads to eternal life. Before you ever fight right, you have to think right. Before you get to 6:12, you must grasp 6:11. You only fight well when you believe well. What you believe dictates how you live (see Prov. 23:7). From 6:1 through 8:13 Paul is teaching that you must think right. Enoch walked with God (Gen. 5:24) and had the testimony that he pleased God (Heb. 11:5). How? By faith! "For we walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). The entire Christian life is about faith! It starts by faith and continues by faith. Faith is what aids in the battle. Being dead to sin means that your relationship to sin is severed. "Consider yourselves dead indeed unto sin" (Rom. 6:11). It is a fact. Believe it. Live it out. When you fall, don't beat yourself up about it. Confess it to God, repent of it and continue walking by faith. The Christian life is a life of continual sanctification, being conformed more and more to the image of Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Who Is the Man In Romans 7?

No matter what you make Romans 7 out to be, Romans 8:13 stands unequivocally. True regeneration produces people who fear God, love God, become obedient to God, and who triumph over their flesh. Too often Romans 7 is interpreted by our feelings and experiences rather than by its context.

Romans 7:19 is a very convenient excuse for those who want to live in sin.

Romans 7 is sandwiched between Romans 6 and 8, so the 2 Timothy 2:15 student of God's Word has some heavy duty context to deal with. The first problem we have begins in Romans 6:1—"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?" If Paul, in Romans 7:14-25, is speaking as a true Christian, we could justify this way: "Well, I'm saved by grace anyway, so so what if I can't kick evil. I'm saved by grace, right? There's no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, so what's the big deal? I can sin. Grace is greater than my sin." Paul answers this in verse 2: "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). What does it mean "dead to sin"? Remember the question from verse 1. The context of Romans 6 is in regard to the power of sin. "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). What is he talking about? Is he talking about whether I sin as much as I did before? He surely is. "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed" (Romans 6:17). He's talking about me having stopped sinning the way I used to sin when I was lost. "You were once slaves to sin, but have become obedient from the heart." To what? To the standard, to the Word of God. Romans 6:7 says, "For one who has died has been set free from sin." I was set free so that I become obedient from the heart. Sin shall no longer have dominion. "If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13b).

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Romans 6:22). There is a certain life lived that leads to eternal life. Don't believe that? Look at Titus 1:16: "They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works." James 2:18 says, "Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works." Ephesians 2:10 says we were "created ... for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Christians live a particular way that demonstrates they have received newness of life. Paul is asking the question from Romans 6:1 all the way through. Shall we continue to sin? He says, "Look! You can't! You're dead to sin—you've died to sin being in Christ, united in Him; just as He rose, you've risen in newness of life." That is regeneration. You cannot continue in it; God made you obedient.

"So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin" (Romans 6:11). He's hitting upon the way you think. Consider yourselves dead to sin. The word used here is the Greek logizomai (λογιζομαι), which is the same word used 11 times in Romans 4. It is the same word used to say, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted (reckoned, imputed) to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3). We are to count, reckon, consider ourselves to be so. If I consider myself to be no better than Romans 7:14-25, am I considering myself dead to sin? If I consider myself a wretched man, if I consider myself that all I can ever do is the evil that I don't want to do, am I being consistent with Romans 6:11?

Is it possible to reckon myself dead to sin while in the same thought think of myself as the man in Romans 7:19? "I do not do the good I want." He doesn't say, "Sometimes I don't do it." He says, "I don't do it." "The evil I do not want to do, that I practice." The NASB and the NKJV have correctly and rightly used the term "practice." It has that emphasis in the original Greek as well. According to 1 John 3:4-10, a person who practices evil is not a Christian. Who is your father if you practice sin? The devil. This man is practicing sin.

Paul makes a risky statement in Romans 6:14 that he knows is going to rile the Jew, and he knows that he must fully explain that statement. He realizes that he needs to explain about not being under law, so as you break into Romans 7, he picks up his discourse again about law. He uses an illustration about marriage. Death releases us from relationships. The first husband was the law, and we are now married to Christ.

"Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God" (Romans 7:4). What has happened to our relationship to the law? We have died to it. We have been freed from the law in order that we may bear fruit for God. The Galatians had gone back to the law and instead of becoming more righteous, they were becoming more fleshly. You cannot be justified or sanctified by the law. Does that mean we abandon law? Not at all. The path to righteousness is degree by degree being made into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Romans 7:4-6 are the keys to interpreting the rest of Romans 7 and on into Romans 8. Verse 4 comes off of 6:22 and is being enlarged upon. Verse 5 is a picture of a lost person because there is death. The first half of Romans 8 is about the lost man in the flesh and the saved man in the Spirit. Verse 6 is a picture of a saved man. The man in Romans 7:14-25 is of the flesh. He is not bringing forth fruits of righteousness. He is faced with the law and only seeing sinful passions spring forth. Romans 8:4 gives us a beautiful picture of the Christian life. We're talking sanctification here, not justification.

The law is good, just, holy, spiritual, but it can't sanctify us. In Romans 7, the law could never change him. It's the perfect standard, but when someone of the flesh is sold under sin, confronted by the law, all he does is evil. The law that said "Do not covet" only stirred up all sorts of covetousness (Romans 7:7-8).

God did what the law could never do (Romans 8:3). Christ condemned sin in the flesh to set us free that we might, in our lives, be those who fulfill the righteous requirement of the law (v.4). Romans 8:13 proves this. "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:8-10). What is the righteous requirement of the law? Love (v.10). Are we, as Christians, expected to keep the righteous requirements of the law? 1 John says that if you don't love the brethren, if you don't show forth love, that's the greatest evidence that you don't belong to God.

"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Romans 8:7). This is a lost person. They don't keep God's law, they cannot. A Christian is in the Spirit. They are no longer in a hostile relationship toward God and they can keep the commandments. "If you love me, obey my commandments" (John 14:15). "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar; and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).
If you believe yourself to be a wretched man, to be defeated, to be the person who cannot do the good he wants to do, you've already lost the battle. Romans 6:11 says you need to consider yourselves dead to sin. If you don't start this battle by thinking right, you'll never win it. We live according to what we believe (Prov. 23:7a).
You act the way you act because you believe the way you believe. You behave the way you behave because you think the way you think. How you believe determines what you do. Correct belief and correct thinking will result in correct action.
If you do not believe you are more than conquerors in Christ, if you do not believe that you must by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body in order to win, if you do not believe you are free and have been made obedient from the heart to God's Word, if you do not believe that sin will not have dominion over you, if you believe you're some wretched Romans 7 man, then you've lost the battle. Paul is using a "historical present" in Romans 7:14-25 (in fact, from verse 7 through verse 25), demonstrating what he just mentioned in verses 7-13 and what he was confronted with. He set the historical context for us. Paul delighted in the law as a Pharisee (see Romans 2 and Philippians 3).

In Romans 7:14, sold means "sold as a slave." Thayer's Greek Lexicon says this word means "entirely under the control of the love of sinning." He is in bondage to sin. Is the true Christian sold as a slave to sin? No. They're free. "But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death" (Romans 6:17-22). The end of those things is death. "What's killing me?" (Romans 7:13). I'm of the flesh. I'm not free from sin, I'm not a slave of righteousness; I'm a slave of sin.

Romans 6:12 and 8:13 are words to people that are going to have to fight. Will you struggle? Yes. Will you fall? Yes. Are you going to fail? Yes. But you will conquer. In the end, the practice of your life will be one of righteousness. You may lose battles, but you will win the war. You will move, you will progress forward, you will have more victories than failures, and the overall pattern of your life, if you're a true child of God, will be one where you are at war with sin; you are doing battle with it and you will put it to death. God makes you into sin-murderers. If that is not characterized of your life, you are not a Christian. Romans 8:13 is the guarantee of that.

Before you come to Romans 6:12, you must come to terms with Romans 6:11. Before you can not let sin reign in your mortal body, you need to think right. You've got to consider yourself dead to sin. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). If your life is characterized by these things, you can be sure that you are not a Christian and that you will spend eternity in hell. A true, biblical, born again Christian's life is characterized by waging war on, fighting against, and putting to death sin. Daily.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Few

Many people believe themselves to be Christians, but are deceived. They acknowledge Jesus with their lips saying, “Lord, Lord,” but deny Him by their lives and their works. They say, “I know Him,” but do not obey His commands, thereby proving themselves liars. Scripture tells us there is a “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” Many of those who profess to know Christ get defiant as soon as you mention holiness, yet it is commanded over and over again throughout the entire Bible from beginning to end. These people are professors, not possessors. They do not have Christ nor do they know Him. He is foreign to them. The Jesus they claim to know is a figment of their imagination, a god after their own creation, a dumb idol, a false Jesus. Their Jesus walks around just loving everybody into heaven without so much of an ounce of holiness involved, while the Jesus of the Bible declares that “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The Jesus of the Bible is angry at sin and awaits His Father's command so that He may return in power and in glory and crush His rebellious enemies—all those who refused to live holy lives and submit their lives to His authority. The Jesus of the Bible declared that He would say to those who do not obey the will of the Father, “Depart from Me! I never knew you!

You profess to be a Christian. Does Christ know you? “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Have you forsaken all for Christ? Christ is Lord (kurios); you are His slave (doulos). He has set you free from slavery to sin, having bought you with a price—the price paid being His blood—in order that you may become His slave. He paid the price that was on your head. Ergo, He owns you. Do you obey the will of your Master? Christ is your head, you are His body. Do you obey your head? Scripture tells us over and over again that there is a way to live that leads to life. If you do not live according to that way, you shall only see death.

You profess to be a Christian. Where is your fruit? Where is the evidence? Scripture tells us that those who are Christians will bear fruit and that the Father will purge them so that they may bear more fruit. If you have fallen astray, Scripture says that God will chastise you and discipline you, bringing you back to Himself. If there is no discipline in your life, then you are an illegitimate child and not a son. You do not belong to Him. You may have found religion and are religious, but you are not a Christian and you have not truly found Christ. Those who are Christ's are made obedient from the heart, growing in holiness through their obedience.

What is your life characterized by? Going to church on Sunday and then going clubbing throughout the rest of the week? Slumming it up with your buddies? Playing video games or watching TV for hours on end? Cursing up a storm while hanging out with your buddies? Gossiping about this and that? Trying to act like a gangster? Or do you go to church at all? If you claim to be a Christian and never attend church ever, and your entire week is marked by all these sins, you are just a liar and are deceiving yourself and have been deceived by someone else. Some of the greatest lies out there are that we are Christian because of where we are born and raised; because our parents were Christian; because we go to church; because we read our Bible; because we pray; because we walked an aisle and prayed a prayer; because we were baptized as a child. None of these makes you a Christian. “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” That makes you a Christian.
“The greatest single cause of Atheism in the world today is [professing] Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” -DC Talk
You may be sitting there reading this and at the same time calling yourself a Christian and yet you know for a fact you are not a Christian. You defiantly try to defend the concept that you're a Christian because someone pope-ishly pronounced you to be so, but there is no proof in your life whatsoever. You don't like going to church, you claim it is boring. You don't like reading the Bible. You don't like talking about God or the things of God; in fact, when it's the topic you feel uneasy. You don't like hanging out with other Christians. Everything about your life is anti-God and yet you claim yourself to be a Christian. You want the benefits of being saved—going to heaven and avoiding hell—but you want nothing to do with the Saviour and His people or His word. The fact is, you're not a Christian. You're a poser. You tell people you're a Christian and then they watched your wicked lifestyle and want nothing to do with Christianity because they've been duped by a liar.

Or maybe you do all sorts of religious stuff like wearing your three-piece suit every Sunday, or singing in the choir, or help the church run events, or look after the sound system, or whatever. But you only have enough Christianity to damn you to hell for eternity. You sit there saying "Amen" in the middle of the sermon only to leave after church and start talking with a dirty, foul mouth that we are warned about in Ephesians 4:29. As soon as church is over, you turn from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde for the rest of the week. You pursue lustful relationships built on fornication. You seek the applause of men and to please men. You live like every other heathen around you until Sunday morning comes again when you put on your mask and try to fool everyone again into believing you're a Christian. You're a fraud and a hypocrite. You sit there in church hearing the great truths of Scripture and yet you are unchanged by them. You heap up more and more of the wrath of God upon your head because you hear the teachings and do not apply them. You think you are invincible because you have religion. But your eternal abode shall be in the pit of hell.

There are even those of you who call yourselves Christians but when you walk by someone street preaching or evangelizing, you mock them or mutter things about them under your breath. You'll stand there arguing with them, forcing fake tears, telling them how evil they are for telling people God will condemn people for sin. You call yourself a Christian and argue with these people telling them your Jesus would never do such a thing because your Jesus is full of love. Your Jesus is a figment of your imagination. He doesn't exist, and what you're doing is called idolatry. Making a god to suit your image. You need to read your Bible and meet the real Jesus, the Jesus Who will judge sin and condemn sinners. You call yourself a Christian and try to defend those who commit such sins as idolatry, homosexuality, fornication, etc. You're not a Christian. You don't even know God or His word. You might want to read Romans chapter 1 and pay very close attention to what it says at the end.

The biggest fallacy that takes place in our world is the belief that you were born a religion. You are not born a Catholic. You are not born a Muslim. You are not born a Bhuddist. And you are definitely not born a Christian. The only thing you are born is a sinner. Everything you do is sin-bent. Your parents tell you not to do something or to do something, and you will try and do the opposite as soon as their eyes are turned. There are some who lie to themselves and say children are not born sinful, but they deny this reality about their children and deceive themselves as to the actions their children commit. They are willingly ignorant—dumb on purpose. They've never taught their child how to hit and their child has never seen anyone hit anybody else, but as soon as she doesn't get her own way... Bam! She hits the other child. Where did she pick that sinful habit up, mom and dad, if she is not sinful and sin-bent? Hmm?

Scripture tells us that of those who profess the name of Christ, few will enter into the kingdom of heaven. The rest will be damned to hell. Why? Because they did not submit to His will or obey His commandments. They merely had self-religion: faith in Christ + good works = acceptance by God. As D. L. Moody put it, "If you are what you were before you got saved, you've never been saved." Thomas Adams stated, "Repentance is a change of mind, and regeneration is a change of the man." If you have never experienced a change in your life, a change in desires, a change in your will, a change in your heart, then you have never been saved. Try and defend your erroneous thinking all you want, but the proof is in the pudding. Your mouth might state it, but your life will debate it.

If you are a Christian and you know people like this, you need to stop falsely encouraging them with statements like, "You're a Christian, so act like it." If they're living for and like the world, they never were nor are they Christians. Your words only feed their deception and increase the wrath that will come upon their head because they call themselves "Christian" and yet deny Christ. We don't pronounce people saved. God does a work in their life and they become saved and the evidence is seen in their life. “My sheep hear My voice...and follow Me.” Do you know the Lord of lords and the King of kings? Do you know the Jesus of the Bible? Does He know you? I can stand in front of the White House telling everyone around me that I know the President, but does the President know me? If he doesn't know me, it doesn't matter if I know him, I'm still not getting into the White House. Read 1 John and test your life against it. It was written so that we may know that we have salvation. Don't go around calling yourself something you're really not.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Few There Are That Find It

According to a Gallup poll, 80% of Americans (and we can include Canadians in this) consider themselves to be Christians. 80%! That's rather remarkable considering what Jesus Himself had to say on the subject.

The disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" Pay great attention to what Jesus said in His response: "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-30). What do you suppose the word "strive" implies? It means to make every effort. Why? Jesus gives us the answer: "Heaven has been coming violently, and the violent take it by force" (Matt. 11:12). Jesus also said, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt. 7:13-14). As if it couldn't get any more clearer, Jesus declared, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21-22). When Jesus returns to judge the world on Judgment Day, "many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord...' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

What does it mean that "the way is hard that leads to life"? Scripture says, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Jesus told us how to test the seriousness of our faith and our desire to follow Him. He said:
  • "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
  • "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27-32).
  • "Therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
To renounce all that we have is to consider everything we have loss for the gain of Christ: "I count everything as loss ... that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8). Bearing our cross is to count what it will cost us if we will follow after Jesus. What will we lose or be willing to give up so that we may have Him? If Jesus is not first in our life, if we do not love Him more than our own family and our own lives, and if we are not willing to leave them for His sake, then we are not fit to be called Christians.

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24). The word "deny" means to disown. You are to disown yourself and any right to yourself. Any rights you think you have in this world are forfeit. Like Jesus, before your accusers you are to keep your mouth silent (Acts 8:32). If they ask you to go a mile with them, you are to go two (Matt. 5:41). If they tell you to pay a certain tax, you are to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17) and to "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Rom. 13:7). Remember that "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7). In your work place, you are to "be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14) and to "work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Col. 3:23).

Praying "The Sinner's Prayer," does that sound easy or hard? It sounds easy. "Just pray this prayer and you're in the club." You know what? There are millions who have prayed that prayer and their lives bear no evidence of any changes having taken place: "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works" (Titus 1:16). They are still on the broad way. They are looking for an easy solution to escape God's wrath and their torment in hell. They do not want to give up anything, let alone surrender themselves and their desires to God. As the proverbial statement goes, "They want their cake and to eat it, too." They want to escape hell but they do not want to give up their sin or their idols. They want to indulge in all the earthly pleasures this world has to offer. They do not want to give anything up for the gain of Christ. Guess what. "The Sinner's Prayer" is a works-based salvation: "Just pray this prayer and you're in the club." How many of these people will say "Lord, Lord" only to be cast away by Jesus into eternal torment in hell?

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many will seek to enter and will not be able. Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord...' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. Therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

R-rated Church vs the Bible

The following excerpt comes from a letter I received from Grace To You:
What would you think if your pastor used four-letter words from the pulpit? How would you react if he peppered his sermons with crass locker-room humor, blasphemous innuendo, or overt pornographic imagery?
I wish those were hypothetical questions. Sadly, for many in the church today, they are not. In fact, in a growing number of churches, that kind of filth is common from the pulpit.
Just five years ago, there wouldn't have been any questions about the inappropriateness of such behavior. That it's catching on so rapidly--to the point where it's even becoming the norm--is a tragic indictment on the church at large.
And don't assume that kind of pastoral profanity and sensuality has taken root only in fringe or liberal churches--some of the most popular and influential evangelical pastors in the world are among the worst offenders. Several are household names in most Christian circles.
In fact, that kind of "R-rated" teaching has become so popular it has caught the attention of the news media. Major newspapers have run stories featuring pastors who are renowned for their filthy mouths, and some of those same pastors have been featured on news and entertainment programs.
I have been told before by one of my own family members that "Jesus died on the cross so that we can sin if we want to." Not only is that a blasphemous statement, but it also shows their ignorance of the fact why Jesus came and had to die. We were already sinning just like we wanted to, so how could Jesus' death possibly give us the ability to sin if we want to? That is sheer nonsense. Jesus Christ came to save His people from their sins. He died to set us free from the bondage of sin in which we were held captive. He took our sins upon Himself so that we might live holy and righteous lives through Him in His power.

As D. L. Moody once put it, "If you are what you were before you were saved, then you've never been saved." Sadly, the majority of my own family fit under that statement. They claim the name of Jesus but deny Him by their mouths, their actions, and their lives. Like a goodly number of professing believers in the church today, especially in North America, they have never read the Bible to see what it has to say, and if they read it at all, they merely read it like a fictional novel and never think about the words or let them settle into their thoughts. The term "scatter-brain" comes to mind. I'm simply going to provide a handful (of the many) of verses from Scripture that speak volumes about the Christian and His life and character. What you do with them is your choice.
  • "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10)
  • "We should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Titus 2:12)
  • "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12)
  • "Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity [wrong doing]" (2 Timothy 2:19)
  • "God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
  • "Every one of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honour" (1 Thessalonians 4:4)
  • "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him" (Colossians 2:6)
  • "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12)
  • "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you... Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting [see Proverbs 26:18-19]" (Ephesians 5:3-4)
  • "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" (Ephesians 4:29)
  • "We should be holy and without blame before Him" (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Paul's sufferings. (2 Corinthians 11:23-30)
  • "Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41)
  • "If you continue in my word then are you my genuine disciples" (John 8:31)
  • "He that does not count the cost of following Christ and forsake everything cannot be His disciple" (Luke 14:28-33)
  • "Whoever does not bear his own cross cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27)
  • "If a man loves anything more than he loves Me, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26)
  • "Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3)
  • "Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:8)
  • "He that shall endure until the end shall be saved" (Mark 13:13)
  • Not everyone who names the name of the Lord is a genuine believer. (Matthew 7:21-23)
  • "Lay not up treasures on Earth" (Matthew 6:19-21)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jesus' Bookend Declaration

Does the Bible ever say that God's ministers appear as, or can appear as, ministers of darkness? Ever? The answer to that question is obvious. It is a resounding "NO!" Satan's ministers can appear as ministers of light, and often do, doing good works that may be able to fool us as to whether they are genuinely saved or not, but they will never fool God (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:41-46). God's ministers, however, will never fool anybody (the church or the world) into thinking they are ministers of darkness when really they are ministers of light. Remember, tares impersonate wheat, not the other way around (Matt. 13:24-30). Wolves come in sheep's clothing, not sheep in wolves' clothing (Matt. 7:15).

When someone jettisons the faith, it is clear evidence that they were never saved to begin with: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). They are not "carnal Christians" because there is no such thing (such a term is an oxymoron; carnal means worldly—look up what the Bible has to say about worldliness, being worldly-minded, and loving the world; it all leads to spiritual death). The fact there is no such thing as a "carnal Christian" is found in the answer to the above question: Does the Bible ever say that God's ministers appear as, or can appear as, ministers of darkness? There will be no Christians in heaven who people thought were unsaved due to their ungodly, carnal lifestyle. Jesus made it abundantly clear: "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16, 20). He stated it twice for emphasis. He uses that statement as bookends, surrounding His key point:
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits."
After making this point abundantly clear, Jesus then launches into the next segment of His lesson: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" The entire New Testament contradicts the false teaching that supposed "Christians" who live ungodly, carnal lifestyles will make it into heaven. To believe such a lie is to say that God's ministers can appear as ministers of darkness. They cannot! All genuine Christians are evidenced by their lifestyle of holiness, righteousness, and obedience to the Father (Matt. 7:21b: The one who will enter heaven is "he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven"), and by bearing (showing, demonstrating) "fruits in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8; i.e., evidence you have actually repented of your sins).
"God will not justify those He does not sanctify. Christ justifies no man without also sanctifying him. God will not declare a person righteous without also making him or her righteous. Perfection is the standard; direction is the test. If your life does not reveal growth in grace and righteousness and holiness, you need to examine the reality of your faith." –John MacArthur

"If you are after you've been saved what you were before you were saved, then you've never been saved." –D. L. Moody

"There is no one who can live in sin—drinking, swearing, lying, and so on—who can truly declare that he is one of the Lord's chosen people." –John MacArthur

"If you do not have a testimony of what the grace of God has done in your life... then has the grace of God ever done anything in your life?" –Unknown

"The doctrine of grace has for its object to make us new creatures; but if we are new creatures, we are different from what we were before—if therefore we were before unholy, now we become holy." –Charles Spurgeon

"The true believer is going to bear fruit. If you are a true believer, you are going to bear fruit. You have to bear fruit because you really are a branch and you really are connected to the Vine and you cannot do anything but bear fruit. But the Father comes by and He prunes you and He disciplines you and He shapes you and He cuts you and He ties you and He does everything He has to do so that you will bear more fruit. Discipline will not make you bear fruit. You are going to bear fruit. If you are not going to bear fruit, you are not a believer!"  –Paul Washer (i.e., It is impossible for a Christian, including a babe in Christ, not to bear fruit!)

“If there is not, then, a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine. True salvation brings with it a desire to be made holy. Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. If we know nothing of holiness, we may flatter ourselves that we are Christians but we do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.” –Jerry Bridges

"There is a great deal of difference between God electing you, and your electing yourself; a vast deal of difference between God justifying you by His Spirit, and your justifying yourself by a false belief, or presumption; this is the difference: you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, have no marks of the Spirit of God; you have no evidence of genuine piety, you are not holy men and women, you can live in sin, you can walk as sinners walk, you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you call yourselves the children of God. One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates sin with a perfect hatred, and seeks to live a holy, Christ-like life." –Unknown

"If there is one fact, one doctrine, or one promise in the Bible, which has produced no practical effect upon your temper or conduct—be assured that you do not truly believe it." –Charles Spurgeon