Monday, November 23, 2009
I recently witnessed a good friend being put out of fellowship from his local church for unrepentant public sin against his wife. The process was handled in accordance with Matthew Chapter 18, which starts with approaching a sinning brother, confronting him lovingly about his sin.
If he doesn’t repent, one or two others are brought in to confront the person, and if he still won’t repent, then you tell it to the church, and if he still won’t repent, then you treat him as a heathen or tax collector (that’s not a reference to the Internal Revenue Service, but another way of saying you treat him as an unbeliever, as though he were never born again at all).
Although outwardly the process appears to have been handled Scripturally and with humility, as the final disfellowshiping was announced to the congregation I heard something repeatedly that not only bothered me, but I believe actually compounds the problem of sinning in the church.
What I heard repeatedly in that meeting, both in teaching and in prayers, was the referring to all Christians as “sinners”. It was in the context of intended humility, something like, “As we gather to talk about this unrepentant friend of ours, we need to remember that we are all ‘sinners’.”
But of course it wasn’t just a theme of this meeting, but a common one. This referring to all Christians as sinners is common in the typical Bible-believing church. And I want to address it Biblically.
Are Christians sinners?
A Popular Bumper Sticker
But before I answer that question from the Scriptures, I want to introduce the topic by talking about a common bumper sticker that has been around ever since I became a Christian in 1976.
I've never liked the bumper sticker that says, "Christians Are Not Perfect -- Just Forgiven". It's true we're not perfected yet in every way, but it's not true that we're "just forgiven".
A lot more has been accomplished with our regeneration, our "new birth". We are a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.
But there is sometimes a real pride in self-abasement. How's that for an oxymoron? Colossians 2:18 says, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement...”
I have a couple friends who are so into self-abasement that they actually say that God didn't send Jesus to die for us because He loved us, but only for His own glory. Well, He certainly did it for His own glory, but how absurd to deny the very clear John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that...He gave his own begotten Son...".
One friend even claims his favorite Bible verse is in Job 42, when Job says, "I abhor myself". When it's pointed out that "abhor" is a questionable translation, translated “I retract”, for example in the NASB, he says it's still his favorite verse, but he likes “abhor”.
Of course we need to be Christ-centered. Indeed, the more Christ-centered we are, I believe the more we will be amazed at what He has done in us. And the more Christ-centered we are, the more we will walk by the Spirit.
Yet, I believe that, ironically, to deny what God has done in and to us, is a sort of unbelief that quenches the Spirit.
All Christians Are Saints
And that brings me to the main point of this message. The biblical truth is that Christians are NOT Sinners in their new identity. They are Saints.
Now someone may quickly say, “Well sure they’re Saints, whatever that means, but they’re also Sinners. And if you don’t keep calling Christians Sinners then they’ll get all high and mighty and think they’re something.”
So allow me to make two things clear.
1. First, Who should get the glory and credit for all this new creation? Well, the one who did it all, of course, and that’s the Lord. Whatever we are is by grace.
"What do you have, O man, that you did not receive?" -1 Cor. 4:7
"You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." -Rev. 4:11
2. The second thing I’d like to make clear is that I’m well aware that Christians sin. That’s not the issue.
Before we were born again, we inherited a sin nature, a sin spirit, from Adam.
It’s that sin nature that sends a person who does not believe in Jesus Christ to hell.
And if you’re not born again, you still have that sinful nature, or spirit.
But when you’re born again, the old spirit, the old nature, is put to death in Christ on the cross, and replaced by a new nature. The Bible calls the old spirit “the old man”, and the new spirit, “the new man” or “new creation”.
Do We Have Two Natures?
So then do we have two natures? Two spirits? No, the Bible says the “old man” is dead, was crucified with Christ on the Cross. So we don’t have two natures, we still have one.
But it’s new, and it loves Jesus Christ and it hates sin. It believes in Jesus. Or as we say, YOU believe in Jesus. Because that spirit is YOU, and YOU are that spirit.
Now this spirit has a soul. And for discussion purposes we might say that this soul is our mind, emotions and will. [listen to Mp3 re how our mind, emotions and will were not "born again", but our spirit was]
So this spirit has a soul, and we live in a body.
But the real you, the real me, we are spirits. We are spirit beings. And to top that off, the Bible says that we have been given the Holy Spirit of God to live in us, also. Now we aren’t the Holy Spirit and He is not us, but the Bible does teach that we became one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). That’s amazing.
O.K. So why is this even important? Who cares if we say we have one nature or two natures? Who cares if somebody says we are both a bad spirit and a good spirit? Who cares if somebody says that we are two natures, old and new, battling ourselves?
Well, aside from the value of Truth itself, it’s important because we will live out our lives based on what we think is real. We will tend to ACT like we think we ARE. If we think we are partly evil, we will think it’s “natural” to act evil.
Or to put it another way, if we think we are a Sinner in our nature, in our identity, then we will think it’s “natural” to sin. We will think that, “Hey, this is me. This is who I am. I’m just a Sinner. Of course it’s natural for me to sin.”
And the problem with that thinking is it’s not Biblical.
Is Sinning Against Our Nature As Christians?
The Biblical truth is, when we sin it goes AGAINST our nature. Our new nature. This New Man, this New Creation. Sin goes AGAINST our nature.
So when we sin, we aren’t doing what’s natural, as a believer, but we are violating our own new nature. I’m being redundant on purpose here.
Because when you know the truth that you are not a Sinner, but a Saint, a separated one, a holy one, a new creation, then that truth can help to set you free.
As a believer, you are a new creation, a new spirit, a new identity in Christ, and the more you understand this, and review it, and believe it, the more your life will reflect it.
Let’s just look a little bit at our new identity in Christ. First, we are:
Holy (Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"),
Righteous (2 Cor. 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him"),
Saint of God (Rom. 1:7, "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints"),
Blameless (Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"),
Christ as Our very Life (Col. 3:4, "Christ who is our life"),
A Son of God (Jn. 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name"),
A Citizen of Heaven (Eph. 2:19, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God"),
An Ambassador representing the Kingdom of God (2 Cor. 5:20, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God"),
Son of the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, "And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit"),
Born from Him (Rom. 8:9, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His"),
With all your Needs (not greeds) Supplied (Phil. 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus"),
Blessed with every Spiritual Blessing in Heavenly Places (Eph. 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"),
Unstopped by the obstacles of the world (Phil.4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"),
Navigating our Loving Father’s “obstacle course” designed to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren")
A New Identity
You have a new identity, not that of a Sinner, but of a Saint.
By grace the old you has died, and the new you has come. That’s why Rom. 6:6 says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."
But we have to "reckon" that. We have to "consider that true". We have to "choose to believe that". Rom. 6:11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t deny when you sin. Admit it. Confess it. But recognize that’s not your identity. That’s not who you are. That goes against who you are. You’re dead to sin and alive to God in your spirit, in your nature, through Jesus Christ.
Stop saying you’re a Sinner. “Such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” -1 Cor. 6:11
You WERE a Sinner. Now you are a Saint.
Now Rom. 6:12 makes sense. After Paul tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, Rom. 6:12 says, “THEREFORE do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”
See how that makes sense? If we were still SINNERS it wouldn’t make sense. It would be saying, “since you’re SINNERS, don’t let sin reign in your body.” That doesn’t make sense and that’s why so many Christians are confused. But if you are no LONGER a Sinner, then it makes sense to say, “don’t let sin reign in your body”. It’s not you. It’s AGAINST the new you.
Friend, accept this by faith as your true identity!
Set your mind on it!
Dwell on it!
Meditate on the truth of it!
Then, moment by moment act like it is true! Praise the Lord in all things, whatever circumstances you may encounter, acting as if Christ is expressing His Life through you.
Because He is.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
By Michele Rayburn
John Owen has wrongly stated:
"To keep our souls in a constant state of mourning and self-abasement is the most necessary part of our wisdom..." (Works, VII, p. 532)
Roman Catholics, as well as those in other religions that do not know the grace of God in salvation, in effect "flagellate" themselves in order to be made acceptable to God, through works righteousness (self-denial, creeds, liturgy, sacred vows). But why should we? We who know the Lord's grace toward us not only for our salvation but for each day of our lives?
If we have been saved by grace, why should we "flagellate" ourselves now? We have been made acceptable to God and received His righteousness. We’ve been forgiven. And He loves us with an unfailing, everlasting love.
His love is not conditioned upon us pining away over our once fallen nature. The work is already done. Jesus said as He was dying on the cross, having been "flagellated" for us, "It is finished."
It’s by grace alone, through faith alone, on the Word alone, because of Christ alone...now and always. It is by God’s grace that He has given us new life, and it is by His grace that we will continue to live this Christian life. Now let us walk in it!
This is the rest of the gospel...the rest of the good news. Now that we have been saved, we have been made new creations in Christ so that we can "walk in newness of life" by His Spirit that lives in us.
"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him...by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Christ is now living His life through us. This is something to rejoice in, not to be downtrodden about. Otherwise, we’ve missed out on the best part of being a Christian..."Christ in us, the hope of glory"!
What joy, what peace we will have as we rest in Him. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
The important thing to realize is that we have already been crucified with Christ (Gal.2:20). That is why Romans 6:11 tells us, "Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God...".
To consider it a future event keeps us from walking in that glorious truth now, and it is the truth that sets us free.
It's true that the flesh wars with the spirit, but it is the spirit which is our new nature, not our flesh. The "old man" is dead. Sin still resides in the flesh, but Paul makes it clear that that sin is not part of his new nature or spirit (Romans 7:17,20).
So, our goal is to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. And to remember that "there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". (Romans 8:1)
Resting In The New Covenant of His Grace,
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I'm sorta kidding about "big time heavy theology".
Really what I want to say in this article is quite simple.
It's just that it's so far above our way of thinking that it's...well, it's from the mind of God.
We accept it as true, even though it boggles our minds. It goes against the grain of our Earthbound logic, as we sometimes understand logic.
Logic Is Good
I'm not at all knocking logic. Logic is a wonderful gift from God.
In fact, what I'm going to lay out in a moment is actually quite logical. It's just that logic doesn't require truth, and so we rationalize untrue things all the time.
For example, look at the following syllogism:
1. All zebras are green [premise 1].
2. That animal over there is a zebra [premise 2].
3. Therefore that animal over there is green [conclusion].
That is PERFECTLY logical...really. But it's not TRUE. That was Spock's problem.
So in order to use logic rightly, we ought to begin with TRUE premises. And there are no truer premises than those that come from the Word of God RIGHTLY DIVIDED.
Sidenote: I say "rightly divided" because Scripture can be wildly taken out of context, applied "logically", and yet end in the ridiculous. Something stupid like combining "Judas hanged himself" with "Go thou and do likewise" (Humorous, but I'm only slightly exaggerating the abuses some use of this kind of "logic").
God's Ways and Thoughts
One of the most important Scriptures we should know as humans comes from Isaiah 55:8,9. Here it is:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."
Do you have a pet? Or have you ever had a pet?
We have a wiener dog. He is not the brightest dog on the Planet (we say he's nothing but love), but let's assume for a moment that he is the smartest of all dogs.
Do you think that if I tried to explain to him why we're leaving him on a Sunday morning to go to church that he would understand that? And not be so unhappy to see us leave, but rejoice that we are going to fellowship and hear the Word of God?
Ridiculous, isn't it?
Why? Because our ways are higher than his, and our thoughts are higher than his. I can't even ease his mind, because all he "knows" is that he wants us to be home with him. Well, also he "knows" we love him. And he's pretty happy with that, especially when we come back home.
Now, if you think that is an extreme illustration of God's ways and thoughts being higher than ours, you're wrong. Infinitely wrong. God's ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours that we can't even comprehend how much higher they are!
And yet He has condescended to reveal some of His ways and thoughts to us, in ways that we can actually understand and react to them.
But here's the beginning of the point of this article: Some of what God reveals to us appears to contradict itself, but yet He declares that it is true.
Which leads to our direct subject, the concept of the Antinomy.
What Is An Antinomy?
Before defining the concept of an antinomy, I want to make a rather bold statement:
Until you understand the concept of "antinomy", there is much of Scripture that will elude you or confuse you.
But when you understand the concept of "antinomy", Scriptures that you never understood will shine with truth in a way that glorifies the Lord Whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours.
Here's an informal working definition of Antinomy for our purposes here:
An Antinomy exists when we have TWO TRUTHS from Scripture that APPEAR to contradict themselves, yet BOTH ARE TRUE for the simple reason that GOD'S WORD DECLARES THEM TO BE TRUE.
We see illustrations of this in the natural world. A pan of water is water, but clouds are water. To the ignorant that would appear as a contradiction, but we know both are true.
On a psychological level, we may say Hitler was a monster of evil, yet a nephew of his may say he is a loving doting Uncle. Apparent contradiction, yet both may be true (I don't know if Hitler even had a nephew).
No illustration does justice to a biblical antinomy, however, since no level of truth rises to the level of biblical truth in it's absoluteness.
Although there are several antinomies in Scripture, I will use one as an example.
God's Love For All As An Antinomy
The question of whether God loves all men or just some has been a long-standing controversy.
And like many controversies, I believe the problem is in a lack of understanding of the concept of Antinomy.
And so the result of the controversy is almost invariably a twisting of Scriptures to fit one view or the other.
1. The "God Loves Everybody" school reasons, "John 3:16 says God loved the world, the world means everybody, and 'God is love', isn't He, and that settles it."
Well, I believe that does settle it, but this school of thought often has difficulty, then, in explaining God's wrath, eternal punishment, and hatred. They usually end up in blaming "free will", when the truth is that if every person was left to their own "free will" they would continue in their rejection of God, all the way to the Lake of Fire.
2. The "God Does NOT Love Everybody" school reasons, "God couldn't love everybody and still send them to Hell. Does not Scripture say that God hates the wicked? That God hated Esau, but loved Jacob?"
This idea has been widely spread among Reformed believers through the writings of A.W. Pink in his famous book The Sovereignty of God (a great book overall, by the way). Pink argues that John 3:16, "God so loved the world...", is referring merely to "the world of the Elect".
Pink's argument, in my opinion, is a truly pathetic piece of biblical interpretation, which begins with a premise (God simply couldn't love the wicked), and concludes with a twisting of John 3:16 which is monumental. Hardly a more simple and clear statement could be made than that God loves the world, and therefore sent His Son.
Why would Pink engage in such twisting of Scripture?
Simple. He did not "get" the concept of Antinomy. He reasoned that the hatred and wrath of God could not co-exist with His love.
But His ways and thoughts are higher than ours and we have to ask TWO honest questions:
1. Does Scripture SEEM to say that God loves everyone? I believe the answer is a clear, "Yes". God IS love. That's a reference to His essence. He could not deny His essence.
That's how in Ezekiel 33:11 we can read, "Say to them, `As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, `I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live."
If God did not love the wicked, it would make no sense for Him to NOT delight in their death.
Do you see how an understanding of Antinomy can open up your understanding of Scriptures? (This is just one of MANY examples, which space does not permit relating here).
2. Does Scripture SEEM to say that God Hates The Wicked? If we're honest, we have to say, "Yes".
But that's illogical, you cry!
No, it only SEEMS to be a contradiction, but both statements are true. Why? Because God has declared them to be true in His Word!
Puny little man, as J. Vernon McGee used to say, thinks he HAS to figure it out by his own LIMITED thoughts. He must reconcile the two truths by denying one of them, and twisting the other.
This is arrogance of the highest variety, and a denial of the pretty-darn-clear Word of God.
God's Justice And an Illustration
We might finally ask, then, "How can God send someone to the Lake of Fire if He loves them?
We have to admit we simply cannot FULLY understand this.
But that doesn't mean that we can't SOMEWHAT understand it, if we understand two seemingly unrelated concepts, Justice and Love.
When a human Judge in a court sentences someone to be hanged for a crime, he is exercising Justice. The criminal, we say, *deserves* to be hung by the neck until dead.
But suppose the criminal is the wife of the Judge, or his son or daughter, whom he loves dearly? Does the Judge abandon his LOVE...or his JUSTICE?
Neither, if He is a good Judge.
He is quite capable of sentencing his loved one to the gallows, with sobs of grief, tears in his eyes, but doing right.
How much more the infinite Creator of the Universe cannot deny Himself as the God Who is Love, who loved the whole world and whose love prompted Him to send His Son, Who in turn declared, "If ANYONE will come to Me, I will in no way cast him out", and wept over the Israelites who rejected Him.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thanks to our Pastor, William Sasser of Grace Church at Franklin, Franklin, Tennessee, preaching on seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. From the DVD "Search The Scriptures" - (John 5:39), Part II, September 27, 2009.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Curmudgeon alert (me, not Shaw)...
George Bernard Shaw, neither a theologian nor even a Christian, nevertheless made a perceptive point when he once wrote the following:
"Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization."
You've noticed, haven't you, that the audiences of media loves bad news? Well, they hate it. But they love it. Like the old Listerine commercial, where you hate it twice a day. Can't get enough bad news, it seems.
And if there isn't enough REALLY bad news today, they will inflate the PRETTY bad news to REALLY bad. And if there isn't even much PRETTY bad news today, they will imagine how bad it COULD be, and wouldn't THAT be dreadful if it came to pass!
And rather quietly (for now), in comes Jesus Christ, with the Good News that God has come to Earth as Man, and died for our sins, and was buried and rose again from the dead, and is alive now, saying, "Come to Me and I will give you rest."
And if anyone will come to Him, if anyone will believe in Him, they can not only have a new life now, forgiven of their sins, but eternity in the loving presence of the loving Lord of the Universe. They can have HIM!
Purpose...and Passion...and Promise.
That really is Good News. Worth meditating on for a lifetime and after. Worth seeking until it's found.
But, "No," say billions. "I'd rather watch the bad news, thank you. Did you see what happened TODAY?!"
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. -- Philippians 4:8