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Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Comments (55)

How do you slay sin?

We began answering that question in our last post. Step one was to understand your true position as a Christian. You are in Christ. That means you’re free from sin’s tyranny and dead to sin’s power. It’s critical you understand that truth as you wage war against sin.

Here’s the second step in slaying sin: Weaken sinful habits and strengthen righteous behavior.

Imagine you’re facing an enemy on the battlefield who enjoyed a good night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a personal escort to the most strategic position on the battlefield. And here’s the worst part—you provided all those things! Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? What kind of lunatic makes provision for his enemies and gives them that kind of advantage?

Think about that. Isn’t it true that so often, instead of weakening sin by cutting off all provision, we strengthen and empower sin, by giving it occasion to take root and grow strong? But notice how Scripture addresses that attitude, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom. 13:14).

Did you catch that important command? Make no provision. Don’t feed and strengthen sin. Starve it out; weaken it; keep it in an anemic state. Subject it to a slow, debilitating death by removing its strength and vitality. You must cut off all support and provision for sin as if you were laying siege to a castle.

In ancient warfare, an invading army would surround a castle and cut off all supply of food, water, reinforcements…and means of escape. Then the troops would settle down and wait on the inhabitants to either surrender or die—victory by attrition. It was an effective strategy, and a great example of how you should lay siege to indwelling sin. An enemy without strength will soon be a defeated enemy.

A malnourished sinful habit will soon die. Count on it. Richard Baxter once said, “Lay siege to your sins, and starve them out, by keeping away the food and fuel which is their maintenance and life.” The idea is to wear down and weaken your sinful habits, to keep them in a perpetual state of death.

John Owen used the language of crucifixion to make that point. He compared killing sin to impaling a man on a cross:

He first struggles, and strives, and cries out with great strength and might, but, as his blood and spirits waste, his strivings are faint and seldom, his cries low and hoarse, scarce to be heard…[sin] may have sometimes a dying pang that makes an appearance of great vigor and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.

As a Christian, you have power over sin. You can weaken and kill it, and the Bible shows you how.

Search carefully and you’ll notice how some of the most practical chapters in the New Testament command you to “put off,” “lay aside,” “abstain from,” and “do away with” corrupt behavior, much like you would take off old, worn-out clothes and put on brand-new ones.

That’s the language woven throughout Ephesians 4:22-32 and Col. 3:8-17. In Colossians 3, Paul writes:

But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (vv. 8-10)

Practical and specific. Lay aside your old manner of life and adopt behavior consistent with your new nature. Put off the old and put on the new. Weaken old, sinful habits and cultivate righteous, godly behavior.

But notice how the Word of God not only tells you which sinful habits to put off in those sections, it goes further and provides righteous replacements:

  • Replace lying with truth telling.
  • Replace stealing with working.
  • Replace hatred with love.
  • Replace bitterness with forgiveness.
  • Replace pride with humility.
  • Replace harshness with gentleness.
  • Replace coldness with compassion.

If you read those sections carefully, you’ll notice how the message moves from what God has done for you in Christ, to what you have been empowered to do for Christ. The power to choose which behavior you wear rests with you, Christian.

That’s step two in slaying sin. Two more to go...

Tommy Clayton
Content Developer and Broadcast Editor


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#1  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Saturday, February 19, 2011at 4:37 PM

What can one do if one tries what you mention if I do it while living with one in the family that uses negative words or ways under the same roof. I tried praying, leaving the room, and such. Does God test us

that what he wants us to learn or what does God needs from us in order

to slay sin even in presence of the wicked. Like how Noah went though

those wicked people in those days before the flood.

#2  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Saturday, February 19, 2011at 6:37 PM

Weaken sinful habits and strengthen righteous behavior.

As I have been meditating on this particular truth the first thing that becomes obvious is this is a process, a life long process and some sins are more stubborn and harder to subdue than others. It requires patience, persistence and confidence that victory will indeed be the final outcome. Paul was confident that the One who began this good work would finish that work (Philippians 1:6 see also 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24). It is easy to become discouraged. Discouragement is a great hindrance to this battle against sin. In reality, discouragement is a form of unbelief, the greatest sin of all as it is the root of all sin.

“…a man is to be humbled for his sin, although it be never so small, but he is not to be discouraged for his sin, though it be never so great. Both the parts are true. A man is not to be discouraged under his sin, though it be never so great; because discouragement itself is a sin, and that cannot help against sin. Sin cannot help against sin. A man is to be humbled for his sin, though it be never so small, for it is a dishonor to God, and little sins make way to great sins. So, then, if you would be humbled and not discouraged, carry this rule up and down with you, and remember it upon all occasions: It is my duty, and I have reason to be humbled for my sin, although it be never so small; but I have no reason to be discouraged under my sin, though it be never so great.” Puritan William Bridge (1600-1670) quoted from “A Lifting Up For the Downcast”.

Let us fight this good fight against sin to the praise and the glory of His grace for He is worthy. –His Unworthy Slave

#3  Posted by Vanessa Forrester  |  Sunday, February 20, 2011at 12:52 AM

Yes very good. Sin is forever present and as Paul says in Romans 14-34 he wants to do good but his flesh does bad and what he wants to do he doesnt do etc... Really good scripture on the stuggle we all have with sin but Jesus has overcome and he is definately our strength in all our weakness and will always help you thru and out of it.

I hate my sin and I am very aware of it daily and one day when Jesus comes back I will not have to loath this!! But til that day I will run the good race. Trials and all, some I do not enjoy either : ) but in the end our wonderful God is glorified and we will not fully understand the whys of this world til that day. God Bless

#4  Posted by Jeff Rokusek  |  Sunday, February 20, 2011at 4:59 AM

'rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have NO confidence in the flesh.' Plip.3:3b How I thank God for my position in Christ.It's when I get my eyes off Christ,and the focus onto the battle or the sin.I head for the fall.O' For more grace to keep my eyes on the Excellent Savior.Amen.

#5  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Monday, February 21, 2011at 9:55 AM

Re: Comments #2 and 3

In Romans 7:14-25, Paul is simply describing what it is like to walk "according to the flesh", that is, to muster up enough willpower or mental energy to fight it. That is why he ends the chapter by saying that if he tries to serve the law of God, he ends up serving the law of sin. We can't serve the law of God. Do you really want to be "captive to the law of sin" (Rom 7:23)? Then continue to try live by what Paul calls the "law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2), that is, the commandments. Although holy and good, they are indeed the ministry of death and condemnation for us (2 Cor 3:7-9).

Tommy, I think your recent posts are excellent. We may not see eye-to-eye on some things, but I can find absolutely nothing to disagree with so far in your teaching on fighting sin. Those who live by the Spirit simply make no provision for the flesh. Why? Because the law is now written on our hearts, and the works of the flesh are now evident to us (Gal 5:19). We are no longer wretches, nor should we ever condemn ourselves when we fall, but instead marvel that we are already forgiven and gain courage from that fact. Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? ... Who is to condemn? (Rom 8:33-34)

There is no better catechism for me on this subject than Romans 6 through 8. I have been re-reading it daily, in some ways trembling because the meaning that I get is so radical, contrary to most respected commentaries. So I keep checking and rechecking Paul's language, cross-referencing his other writings for consistency of meaning and rhetorical style. The ending of Romans 8 is so thrilling, so mind-blowing. Let it replace in your mind all those dour Puritan writers who seem to want us to wallow in shame and humiliation. Rejoice! And thanks again for letting me interject my often contrary views. I just can't keep them to myself.

#6  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Monday, February 21, 2011at 1:11 PM

“The ending of Romans 8 is so thrilling, so mind-blowing. Let it replace in your mind all those dour Puritan writers who seem to want us to wallow in shame and humiliation. Rejoice! And thanks again for letting me interject my often contrary views. I just can't keep them to myself.”

Greg, it is obvious that you do not understand the writings of the puritans and that you misjudge them or you would not use the word “shame” in referencing them. A term that is related to humiliation is a term that would be appropriate in speaking about them, namely, humble, but don’t forget what the scriptures speak about that term. “But to this one will I look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word (see Isaiah 66:1, 2).” God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. The term “opposed” is a military term “to range in battle against”. The term “gives grace to” refers to enabling grace. This spiritual principal is vitally important to this issue of mortification of sin, without which victory over sin is impossible.

In regards to the ending of Romans 8, you must remember that those promises apply ONLY to those who “walk according to the Spirit” verse 4, “by the Spirit are putting to death the deeds of the body” verse 13, and “suffer with Him” verse 17. Paul goes on to quote from the Psalms to describe the experience of those who receive the promises: “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Paul then goes on to speak of those promises to which you refer. To claim God’s promises without submitting to God’s terms serves only to damn the soul to hell. To lead others into the same error serves only to multiply the punishment which is certain to follow. –His Unworthy Slave

#7  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Monday, February 21, 2011at 7:28 PM

"The term “gives grace to” refers to enabling grace."

Doug,

Could you please define your term "Enabling Grace"

#8  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Monday, February 21, 2011at 8:17 PM

Douglas, There is a great difference between being humble and being humiliated. We are commanded to be one and not the other. To the Puritans, perhaps those two words are interchangeable, but they do not mean the same thing in modern English. That's the danger of reading their writings too literally - changes in language bring about unintended changes in meaning.

Paul's quote from Psalms near the end of Romans 8 is not referring to our spiritual inward humiliation, but to persecution and tribulation from the outside. Humility (not humiliation) is a Christian trait. It does not mean taking on more blame from God or castigating ourselves for not measuring up to the law, but instead allowing God to lift all blame and shame from us without our earning it. It merely means not taking any credit for what God has done.

I think one of the major points of Romans 7 and 8 is that we cannot submit to God's law. It is impossible. Paul does not advocate that we do that, in fact, he warns us of the futility of even trying. The Christian way is to put to to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, not by the law (Rom 8:13). What does Paul mean by suffering with Christ in verse 17? Again, persecution and tribulation from the world ("this present time" in v. 18), not a kind of self-imposed agony.

#9  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Monday, February 21, 2011at 8:53 PM

Lk 18:9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

14 "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

#10  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Monday, February 21, 2011at 11:09 PM

Greg, (#7) I don’t think I can do justice to the term “enabling grace”. It is supernatural in that it comes only from God. It truly is a gift in that it cannot be earned but rather it is freely given by God according to His own sovereign will, for His own glory and for His own good pleasure. It supernaturally enables the believer to accomplish God’s will.

In the context of this blog, it enables believers to mortify sin and pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. To use an analogy, enabling grace is the sap which flows from the Vine to the branches enabling them to bear fruit. For a good example see post #8 in “Our Relentless War Against Sin”. I’m sure that others can give the term “enabling grace” the glory it deserves far better than I. It is rich in its meaning.

Perhaps defining what the term grace is not, will give the greater clarity of what enabling grace really is. Grace is not a free ride to heaven for a sinner “believing” the gospel. Grace also transforms the sinner into a new creation. Old things Have passed away and ALL things are becom[ing] new (2Corinthians 5:17). Without this transforming grace there is no “grace” for salvation from God’s wrath. True biblical “believing” will be followed by God’s freely bestowing His transforming grace to the believer. The truths being proclaimed in these blogs about “Killing Sin” are accomplished by this transforming, enabling grace through the indwelling Spirit of God. –His Unworthy Slave

#11  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 12:14 AM

“There is a great difference between being humble and being humiliated. We are commanded to be one and not the other. To the Puritans, perhaps those two words are interchangeable, but they do not mean the same thing in modern English. That's the danger of reading their writings too literally - changes in language bring about unintended changes in meaning.”

Greg #8, you have made numerous false charges against the puritans. You slander their names and misrepresent their doctrines. You grossly overestimate the effects of changes of language in regard to the changes of meaning. Most publishers either use footnotes to explain old terms or actually edit those words to give the reader their proper modern meaning. Slander and bearing false witness are serious sins which bring serious consequences (see proverbs 19:5, 9). The very word rendered “devil” in the Greek (diabolos) means slanderous or accusing falsely. We get the term diabolical from that word. Perhaps you are only repeating what you have heard from others. Please use more caution in making such charges. If you disagree with their doctrines then quote them accurately and fairly and disprove them by the scriptures.

Over the last few years I have read 30 and perhaps 40 books written by puritan authors and I have found no evidence of your charges. They cultivate a very high view of God and as a result they are very humbling to read. I have never felt humiliated by reading them but I have been much humbled because of them. I have had the unspeakable joy and privilege of witnessing the glory of Christ being made manifest in the life of my dear wife as she has been reading their writings these last 33 months. They are dead, yet they still speak. The Church is in dire need of their labors which have followed them. -His Unworthy Slave

#12  Posted by Vanessa Forrester  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 1:13 AM

Greg Coran I was just chatting to my husband about your comments and I think it is WONDERFUL to see a passionate Godly man who seems to be sound in what you write about regarding doctrine.

I understand that certain changes in language does totally change a meaning (in a nut shell). Making sure you are following the bible, the inspired word of God, is what we all should be doing of course reading other books can encourage us indeed.

Speaking about God and his word certainly stirs people up and I am enjoying reading peoples comments here on GTY as it gets us thinking and I believe it can help if we are in error somewhere along the line....Well.... thats all

#13  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 5:14 AM

Douglas (#11),

Your obviously angry at Greg's post on word definitions.

You accuse him of slander.

Need you be reminded that there is none righteous, no not one.

And this includes you and even the puritan writers.

Need you be reminded if anyone is angry with his brother he is a murderer.

Is this your idea of "killing sin", of mortifying the flesh?

Where is the beautiful "enabling grace" you so cherish?

Can you over look the faults of others as easily as you seem to over look your own?

#14  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 6:28 AM

Forgive me, if I am jumping in.

What Tommy is saying is the Jesus is the one responsible for slaying

our sins by dying on the cross that we would be free from it. Like

no longer put on sinful self.

Jesus is right and He did what he needed to do. By the way Jesus is

alive and death can't hold a Living God!! Awesome.

I awe Jesus cause he went to the cross without complaint and in anger.

We need to do the same one day a time to use thankfulness.

Read Psalms 141;3 and it shows we need to give confession to Jesus and it will produce a fruitful life. It's a cry out to the Lord for

mercy and his provision.

Ps. 141;3

Set a guard, OLord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the doors of

my lips.

Pr. 9;10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And knowledge

of the Holy One is understanding.

#15  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 7:16 AM

Douglas, Please do not treat the Puritan writers as anyone special, enjoying special privileges that I do not. They were only men, like you and me. They made mistakes. Calvin had a person put to death for unorthodoxy. He was a genius, and we all benefited a great deal from his insights, but he is not someone to follow, nor are the other great writers. However, I level no charges against them, but only against what they often produce: mournful Christians, still in slavery in their mental anguish over their sins. I don't know if it is the fault of the writers or of the readers, or both. But it is dreadfully wrong to live this way after salvation. We only need to die once to sin (Rom 6:4); after that, we are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom 6:11).

Enabling grace is wonderful, but it does not give us license to "descend into the abyss" of our sins (Rom 10:7), nor to live according to the commandments (Rom 10:5). I see two ways that people misuse grace. The first is most prevalent, "cheap grace", which is simply faith without understanding. It is a problem of ignorance - ignorance of sin and its consequences, and ignorance of the Gospel. It fails to appreciate what we have been saved from. The second misuse is just as bad: empowering grace, the idea that God gives us the power to do things he does not command, such as healing, being successful in life, or to live according to the law. Those who believe this cite Phil 4:13 as their proof-text, failing to understand that the context is Christian contentment and endurance.

#16  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 12:36 PM

“…lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, …be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN (Ephesians 5:22b-25a.)” “If we would be angry and not sin (says one) we must be angry at nothing but sin” -Matthew Henry

Greg #13, I am not at all angry at Greg’s post on word definitions. Aside from his (ongoing) subtle and false accusations on the character and writings of the puritans it could be said that his statements were beneficial to the readers. My anger is at the sin of slander. Lest you trivialize the seriousness of that sin, I suggest you take the time to meditate on Proverbs 19: 5, 9. In view of the fact that this is a public forum and the sin was a public sin and the accusations have been against those who are not even able to answer the charges, I spoke up. In view of the light I have been given, my silence would have accused me. “Open rebuke is better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5).” “Exhort one another daily while it is still today, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).”

Greg #15, “I don't know if it is the fault of the writers or of the readers, or both” Notice the change in your language. What you are saying is that you really don’t know if your charges against the puritans and their writings are true or not. Your new statements reflects the laying aside of falsehood and a shift towards the speaking of truth (more accurately). That is beautiful to see. Keep going! Keep killing sin. –His Unworthy Slave

#17  Posted by Greg Gallant  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 2:12 PM

Douglas,

You seem to know your Bible well enough.

While you’re looking up scripture proofs to rebuke the others, here's a few you might study as well.

Ps 34:14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 39:2: I said, “I will guard my ways from sinning with my tongue, I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, even while the wicked one stands before me.”

Ro 12:17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

And since you were so quick to sight your "pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. " in post (#10)

you might have cited the entire verse you so casually paraphrased:

Heb 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

You’re arguing incidentals with Greg which is also forbidden by the Lord, I'd take a second look at 1 Corinthians 11, James 4, Galatians 5,

And while I'm at it what are these desires of the flesh that you are to be killing?

Gal 5:19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,

20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,

21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Jer 17:5 Thus says the Lord, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord.

#18  Posted by Mark Tanner  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 2:22 PM

Regarding comment #5 and the second paragraph; "Walk in the Spirit" and you will kill the deeds of the flesh. Galatians 5:16-26". Here; God identifies the problems and gives the solutions. I was glad to see someone bring this into the discussion because if we had no other passages in Scripture, this would be enough.

Want to put sin to death, then walk in the Spirit. When it rears it's head again, then walk in the Spirit, when it happens again, then walk in the Spirit - see the theme here?

Listen to 90-34 or read it and John will exposit these passages in a very practical and biblical sense. I use this particular sermon for an outreach and listen to it often; especially when i am walking in the flesh and it reminds me that it is my pride and self-pity that carries me away from and hinders the Spirit who dwells in me. So on the knees and into the Word I go in addition to my daily bathing...sometimes one bath doesn't get all the dirt....right?!

#19  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 4:46 PM

If a bad storm comes near my house, I prepare myself for safety

and hide. Likewise one's sins must be brought to Jesus so he will

remove it so far that he will forgive and forget your sins. Means

one is free from it.

Man's words are but a breath.

God's word is enduring, like silver refined in fire. Everlasting!!

No mankind can escape the wrath of God and hide from him. In

the scriptures says we must tremble in fear of the Lord for he

is holy and good. He is without sin and hates sin.

I like the post above that says try again and again......

Yes, it's good to do it.

Tks.

#20  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 5:28 PM

I would love to pose a question. Please respond because I am trying to get as much feedback as possible. The following is a section of Tommy's blog, It reads-(((Search carefully and you’ll notice how some of the most practical chapters in the New Testament command you to “put off,” “lay aside,” “abstain from,” and “do away with” corrupt behavior, much like you would take off old, worn-out clothes and put on brand-new ones))) The question--What, that is in world can and should we partake of? Secular music & movies (are they inspired by the Holy Spirit?), I know many Christians who think it is fine to watch movies that are crude in content (Will Ferrall, Vince Vaughn, just to name a couple.) There are also Christians who listen to secular music, even so far as ACDC, Black Sabbath and some of the new stuff that has profanity in it. I greatly struggle with this compromise as we are called new creations in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17 the old things passed away all things become new. Also as Christians are we not to be different, if Christians are watching and enjoying this how is that different from non believers? Is this sin? I just finished reading The Vanishing Conscience and I am about half through the new revised Ashamed of the Gospel and what I am seeing in the Church today is a compromise to worldliness that is affecting the Church tremendousely. I have much more on my mind but I will start with what I have asked. Please be honest in what you believe in regards to these subjects I mentioned.

#21  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 7:20 PM

Greg #17 “And since you were so quick to sight your "pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” in post (#10) you might have cited the entire verse you so casually paraphrased: Heb 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

To lay a foundation for answering your question in a manner that is consistent with sound doctrine I refer you to a previous post.

Post #5 November 21st 2010 “Travis, thank you for introducing us to John Owen. He, like most of the puritans, understood the absolute necessity of holiness in the life of the believer. We are exhorted to perfect holiness in the fear of God. (See 2 Corinthians 7:1) We are also exhorted to pursue…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) A.W. Pink in his An Exposition of Hebrews warns his readers “The negative here is fearfully emphatic: “without which (namely “holiness”) no man shall see the Lord”-in the Greek it is still stronger the negative being threefold-“not, without, no man…no, no matter how orthodox his beliefs, how diligent his attendance upon the means of grace, how liberal he may be in contributing to the cause, nor how zealous in performing religious duties. How this searching word should make everyone of us quail!”

The language of the Greek attaches the “without which no man shall see the Lord” to the pursuit of holiness (sanctification) NOT the pursuit of peace with all men. In view of the fact that these recent blogs have been about the pursuit of holiness (slaying sin is a vital part of this pursuit of holiness) and the fact that my posts are notoriously long as it is, I omitted that part, but lest you think that is a fault, I would point out “But the wisdom which is from above is first pure, AFTERWARDS (in the Greek) peaceable, gentle, etc” (James 3:15-17). The wisdom which is not from above is earthly, natural (the flesh), demonic. Any peace that is obtained at the expense of Biblical truth or holiness is a peace of the devil’s making. It is not a peace which comes from above.

I say this in love. You really need to examine your heart in the presence of the Lord and ask yourself; why you are angrier with me (or anyone else for that matter) for dealing with sin than you are angry with the very sin that was being dealt with? The sin of slander and that of bearing false witness is not an incidental. It is a sin of the tongue is it not? There really is something else going on here. –His Unworthy Slave

#22  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 7:46 PM

When movies and music are not according to God then Holy Spirit

shows the person what He says what's the right thing or wrong

thing.

No movies are inspired by the Holy Spirit. They use the word they 'feel' move by God to make a movie,music, and such.

Good questions, thanks. Keep up good posts!

God bless.

#23  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 7:57 PM

Scott (#20)

I believe we should look to Philippians 4:8 as our guide for what we listen to, watch, or read. If it doesn’t rise to the standards of what is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy, it shouldn’t be something with which we choose to fill our minds.

#24  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 8:29 PM

Scott, your grieving over the worldliness of the “church” is a great encouragement and gives evidence to a genuine sensitivity to sin. When the Glory of the Lord was about to depart from the temple because of the greatness of their apostasy, Ezekiel records “And the Lord said to him, ‘go through the midst of the city, even the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst’”. All of the others were destroyed in judgment (see Ezekiel 9:4, 5). Note my earlier quote of A. W. Pink regarding the absolute necessity of holiness on the life of the believer. John put it this way, “If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

In the appendix of “Ashamed of the Gospel” on Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy it starts off with a quote from Robert Shindler that was published in The Sword and the Trowel. I quote “In proportion as the ministers seceded from the old Puritan godliness of life, and the old Calvinistic form of doctrine [doctrines of grace], they commonly became less earnest and less simple in their preaching, more speculative and less spiritual in matters of their discourses, and dwelt more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation…Corresponding results in the character and life, first of the preachers and then of the people, were only too plainly apparent.” We live in times of great apostasy. The Lord knows who are His. He is Faithful and True. –His Unworthy Slave

#25  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011at 10:01 PM

#22, #23 & #24. Thanks for your responses. The more people I speak with people the more in the minority I seem to be over this. Douglas, your response was most encouraging and thank you for sharing the passage in Ezekiel. About 5 months ago is when God confronted me and challenged my mediocre Christian walk with Him. I study the Bible and I take God at His word. What He says He means. I do watch Basketball and Auto Racing, are these of the Holy Spirit? No. However, I do like these sporting events but would these be considered of the world? Douglas you hit the nail on the head, my heart has been grieving over the worldliness of the Church and other Christians and I know the enemy has used this to try to stir up confusion over what other Christians have said to me about being to rigid and even legalistic. (I have heard the same things about John Macarthur) Obedience to God is what I live for because I love Him. My desire is to be what God has said we should be, in the world but not of the world and to be different so people will ask why that is. Thanks again.

#26  Posted by Sena Gbesemete  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 1:48 AM

@ Scott

Brother welcome to true christianity. I also lived for many years a casual kind of christianity. I accepted Jesus as saviour but had not yet come to accept him as Lord. I was zealous for him in my own way and one day after many years of preaching and struggling with sin, i actually was brought down to being poor in spirit! The immediate hunger for his Word brought about true fear for God, something which had not really existed before. He was now Lord and Saviour. Amen.

The more i read His Word, the more i came to conclusions that the church (as i had been accustomed to) was in grave danger as well. I honestly became scared to say anything because i belonged to a charismatic church and "boy" do they believe in some wrong doctrines (at least the ones i am accustomed to). These very wrong doctrines will always lessen the impact of the world on sin and many in those circles will not have convictions from the Bible to progress from righteousness to righteousness. You sound by 'grace' to be on this glorious route of redemption. Keep reading the Word of God brother and it will continue to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Your zeal seems to be well founded and so may God who begun a good work in you bring it to completion.

God bless brother scott.

#28  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 9:06 AM

Wonderful discussion! The topic of movies and TV and worldliness sort of illustrates the whole "living according to the law" debate. Not so many years ago, I started to notice the cheapening trend in popular media content. I was still hooked on a few of my favorite shows, such as Seinfeld, and I considered getting rid of my TV to prevent myself from watching those shows. Of course, my wife was not too happy with the idea. We don't watch that kind of programming any more, and haven't been to the movies in over ten years. What happened? Did I finally muster up the nerve to "lay down the law" or "mortify the flesh"? No, not that there is anything wrong with that! Sometimes that can help us to break bad habits. But I wanted to kill the inclination, not just the habit. I felt shame because I had that inclination within me. I wanted to be rid of that shame.

No, I just started reading the Bible daily by myself and aloud with my wife, talking and writing about its themes. When I discovered TULIP, I went deeply into it, listening to Piper's sermons, struggling with redefining my ideas on free will, etc. At some point, we just developed a distaste for popular TV and movies. The good drove out the bad. The Spirit did its work, because with an increase in understanding came an increase in the Spirit.

Now we watch reruns from the sixties and seventies - my favorite is "The Rockford Files" because the main character frequently has to break minor laws in order to uphold justice. He doesn't lose sight of the ultimate purpose of the law, to protect individuals from injustice, not to protect the law itself. The police and government are not the heroes, but rather shown as short-sighted, overworked, and over-regulated. They cannot always uphold justice because of this. A great metaphor (though not perfect) for law vs. grace.

To live according to the Spirit is to live with God's precepts of justice and mercy alive within us, thanks to the cross. Fan the Spirit into flame within, by seeking a clearer understanding of the Gospel. If you have already humbled yourself before God in repentance, do not allow the law to continue to work shame within you, but lay the shame at the cross. Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame (Rom 10:11).

#29  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 9:41 AM

@ sena,

Thank you so much for your reaffirmation. I ask would you pray over me as I am being led to confront our youth minister. I was at youth group last night and after most of the kids were gone he changed the music. I was completely taken back when he began playing Queen over the system. I believe it was the song titled bohemien rhapsody and I was trying not to listen to it but the word Beezelbub and devil caught my attention. This being done in the house of God seems as bad as the money changers in the temple during Jesus' ministry. I feel as you do in regards to the church being in grave danger and I can already feel the pushback from Christians over what I know to be true. Stay strong as well Sena and I ask the Lord to also give you strength in these trying times.

#30  Posted by Don Laffere  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 10:36 AM

Not all secular music is bad and here is a "news flash" not all "Christian Music" is good. As in all things in life you have to sort through it all with the Scriptures in mind. Is the Beatles song "All you need is Love" bad? Seeing it through the eyes of 1 Cor 13 I think not. But look at everything through the eyes of Christ and be discerning that way and see if it brings Him Glory! Thus the meaning of Life,,, which is Give/Bring Glory to God! But most of what comes out of Hollywood an't to good, or buyer/Christian beware. Same goes for the Music industry today.

#31  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 11:42 AM

Don,

I agree with you about not all "Christian" music is good. There are many bands who claim to be Christian but there is nothing in their lyrics that reference God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or for that matter anything Biblical. I will ask you, is the love referenced in the beatles song the love that is referenced by God in 1 Corinthians 13? You do make a great statement, "look at everything through the eyes of Christ and be discerning that way and see if it brings Him Glory!" This is what I have been doing and I keep coming back to does things of the world (music/movies) bring and give glory to God. If not then should we as Christians do away with these old things. Thanks for participating in the discussion.

#32  Posted by Aidan Clevinger  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 2:55 PM

Everyone,

I love coming to GTY, not only for the preaching on it, but also for the message boards. Rarely (if ever) do I find such encouraging and uplifting messages that are, at the same time, passionate for doctrinal purity and holiness before God (your messages in particular, Doug, make me want to be more honest and zealous in my conversations with people - it reminds me of Faithful's dealings with Talkative in Pilgrim's Progress).

I wanted to ask you all a question. I am only a young man, and I have attended the same church since Christ first called me. A few months ago, when I started to read John MacArthur's writings (especially Ashamed of the Gospel) I really resonated with what he was saying. My pastors both love God, and I know from private conversations that they have a passion for Him and His Word, but sometimes you wouldn't know it from their preaching; it is oftentimes without strength and filled with Power Points, pop culture references, and the dumbing down of important truths to make things more palatable for visitors, the "unchurched", etc. The youth services and other events are very similar.

My question is this: as people who have much more life experience than I do, do you find this to be this a common problem? I don't want to be guilty of saying "peace" when there is no peace, I hope to be a preacher someday and I want very much to be faithful to God. But I also know my own temperament; I'm the sort of person that likes to make things out to be on the brink of crisis and in need of immediate, radical change. My pride enjoys seeing myself as the last great crusader for the cause of truth and righteousness, my love of praise from others enjoys the attention I get from espousing a radical ideal. I want to be on guard against those sins, and so I don't want to be guilty of inflating the American Church's situation beyond what it really is. Is Pastor MacArthur's assessment of the Church accurate?

Thank you all, again, for the encouragement and your steadfast committment to Christ and His truth, and I welcome any and all comments on this question and how I can best respond to the situation of the Church.

Love in Christ,

Aidan

#33  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 3:59 PM

Aidan:

Thanks for your encouraging comments and questions. I’m glad you find the GTY blog to be a helpful and enriching resource.

What encourages me most about your comment is the commitment you’ve made to the local body of Christ, and your desire to love and serve your leaders—even though you don’t fully see eye to eye with them. That’s a rare quality in young Christians today and I’m encouraged by it. Don’t lose that passion for the Lord, His Church, or its leaders, brother!

You’re not the first person to read John’s books and view church ministry differently. Yes, Dr. MacArthur’s assessment of the church is accurate. He has visited and been exposed to many church environments—much more than you and I. He’s had his finger on the pulse of the church for longer than I’ve been alive. His diagnosis is accurate, and so is the remedy he prescribes. That’s what I like about John. He’s faithful and honest to explain the problem, but always helpful in providing answers.

His answer? Return to Scripture. Be faithful to God’s Word. Get the message right. Have a right view of Christ, the gospel, worship, and the church. That’s the answer. It sounds simple, but it can get messy when a church has already deviated from God’s standard—really messy.

I’m thankful you presented your question in the form of “What can I do?” rather than “Is it okay to leave?” We’ve hosted many conversations on this blog trying to tackle questions like yours. So many factors come into play—many of which can’t be adequately treated in a forum like this.

Here’s my advice:

(1) Pray about this. Open your bible and pour out your heart to the LORD. Ask for wisdom, humility, clarity, and courage. Most importantly, pray for the leadership of your church.

(2) Depending on the relationship you have with your pastors, perhaps you should consider setting up an appointment with them to express your concern. You haven’t given much information (nor would I ask for it here) about your age, relationship to your parents, whether or not they are believers. Depending on those answers, I would consider speaking to your parents about your concern and asking for counsel.

(3) Be part of the solution. How can you help with this problem? What contribution can you make to strengthen your church and youth group? Evaluate your level of involvement at this point and see what changes you could make in order to help. Let your leadership know you are not just throwing rocks and criticizing, but honestly willing to pray, talk through, and help move toward change.

I’d start there and see what happens. You’re wise to avoid radical measures. I wouldn't nail John's book to their office door and then post complaints on your facebook page ;) I hope that helps.

Blessings Aidan,

Tommy

#34  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 5:59 PM

Douglas, Re #16

In Jonathan Edwards' book, Religious Affections, he has a chapter entitled "IV. Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation". Throughout that chapter, it is evident that he is using the word humiliation interchangeably with humility. No notes in my edition (Banner of Truth) to explain this usage. In this chapter he paints with such a broad brush that he actually says that the believer has no dignity, leaving the reader to understand that as a believer, he is basically a zero. He may get around to correcting this exaggeration later on, but the reader in the meantime has to wade through this mire of self-deprecation to find it.

His writing lacked compassion, doling out assurances to the believer only very sparingly, not tempering his rhetoric. He is very admired for his eloquence, but I for one do not admire him for his lack of kindness. The New Testament, on the other hand, being inspired, shows God's kindness toward the believer in generous amounts, but balanced so as not to give false assurance to the ignorant. Ephesians ch. 2 is a great example. It teaches total depravity, but lavishes the good news for the believer after just 3 verses and continues for many more.

That is why I don't read the Puritans so much any longer. Those who feel strong in spirit and not much in need of God's kindness and comfort can read them. I may not be able to fault them technically or legally, but spiritually I think there is the potential for real harm, keeping the believer locked up in a miserable cell of self-doubt and pointless self-denial to keep him safe from sin.

#35  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 8:40 PM

Aiden,

To follow up on Tommy's post. Get the Scriptures right. Gods word is rich and is our sustenance and at times it causes us discomfort. I have read many John Macarthur books and listened to many of his sermons on gty.org and I believe that John's commitment is one to model when teaching Gods word. I am half way through Ashamed of the Gospel and it has greatly opened my eyes to the current state of Jesus' church today. I fear for the Church, but I also believe there are many of us who feel strongly about going to our leaders and sharing concerns. I learn more from John's expository style of teaching, and I would recommend that to you if you do go into ministry. It is teaching Gods word, all of Gods word. Believe in Gods word and that His word will strengthen His flock and will reach those who are lost without the use of gimmicks or a watered down version of Scriptures. I pray that God blesses you in your journey and I look forward to fellowship with you later.

Take care brother.

Scott

#36  Posted by Neda Hall  |  Wednesday, February 23, 2011at 10:57 PM

To make it very simple. As John says, in his series on "The Armour of God", if you have a problem with drinking, don't go to places where it is being served. If you have a problem with lusting (sexual, don't watch T.V. programs, movies, etc. which contain such things. If you have a problem with gossiping, don't hang around with those who do.If you have a problem with any sin, starve yourself of seeing or hearing about that sin. STARVE THE FLESH! Then...fill your mind with the Word by listening to it, reading it and meditating on it. The Word is infallible, authoratative, sufficient, complete, effective, inerrant,divine and determinative. It is a formidable weapon. The Word of God has the power of total transformation.

This really works. We can't expect the Lord to do it all and He won't!

#37  Posted by Aidan Clevinger  |  Thursday, February 24, 2011at 12:51 PM

Neda,

An excellent, concise summary of how to deal with sin. But I have to confess I'm a little worried about the last part: "We can't expect the Lord to do it all and He won't!" In reality, it is God alone who crucifies sin within us. We may be the ones who are going through the action of destroying sin, and we are certainly responsible for taking steps to kill sin, but we always have to remember that even this is the gift of God. It may be us who is doing the willing, the studying, the praying, etc. but it is the Holy Spirit who is MOVING us, EQUIPPING us, and ENABLING us to will, study, and pray. Work with all your heart, but understand at the end of it that it was God who gave you the power and the desire to work the whole time.

Love in Christ,

Aidan

#38  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Thursday, February 24, 2011at 2:31 PM

Greg, Re #34

Forgive me for taking so long to respond to your perception? or observation? and comments, I didn’t see your post until just now. I don’t think I can do justice in addressing your concerns; quite frankly, I am overwhelmed over what appears to be the tolerance of an attack on “The Gospel According to Jesus” and the substitution of a subtle form of easy believe-ism. Christ’s lambs appear to be at risk, please keep me in prayer.

If I am getting a true picture of what you are trying to address, when you read any of his diary you’ll see a lot of “the beating down of self’. Notice Edward’s observations in his edited account of the life and diary of David Brainerd concerning Brainerd’s “melancholy gloom”, “very great degree of melancholy and exceeding gloominess of mind; not through any fear of future punishment, but as being distressed with a senselessness of all good, so that the whole world appeared empty and gloomy to him.” He seems to have an almost depressing view of himself. And yet, look at the fruitfulness of his life!

Luther experienced similar periods of depression (humiliation?). So great were they that there were times he was unable to even get out of bed. You’ve probably read of the account of his wife dressing herself in mourners black. When Luther asked her who died, she responded “God!” If my memory serves me correctly, he immediately got out of bed. What a dear wife! C.H. Spurgeon also suffered great bouts of depression (humiliation?). Eventually he was able to recognize them as periods of darkness that preceded periods of great usefulness and thus was able to endure them more cheerfully. Again, look at the fruitfulness of their lives.

I’ve not read Edwards’ “Religious Affections” so I could only speculate about what he means by “evangelical humiliation”. Again, not having the context of his statement “the believer has no dignity”, speculation would be my only recourse in addressing your concern. I’ll try to get a copy or read it online if it is available that I might better understand your concerns. Until then, consider the merits of the Biblical humiliation found in James 4:8-10. Though we may not be double-minded, we still sin. Consider also, if Isaiah cried out “Woe is me…a man of unclean lips when he saw the King (see Isaiah 6:5) or the twenty-four elders falling down and casting their crowns before the throne (see Revelation 5:10), then to the degree that we walk in His presence it should have a corresponding effect on us as well.

I’ll try to address your comments about “keeping the believer locked up in a miserable cell of self-doubt and pointless self-denial to keep him safe from sin.” later. In the meantime, keep growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and please, do keep me in prayer. –His Unworthy Slave

#39  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Thursday, February 24, 2011at 4:09 PM

Greg (#34)

Jonathan Edwards wrote Religious Affections during the Great Awakening because he was concerned that some of the many claiming religious conversion were just swept up in emotionalism and not really born again. I can’t think of anything kinder than wanting to caution others that they might not really be saved and need to examine themselves. James makes a similar case for humility in James 4:8-10.

Humility is essential to our ability to resist Satan or temptations of the flesh. Our strength is not in ourselves but in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10). Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12 that if anyone thinks he is standing, he better take heed lest he fall. Peter experienced humiliation because he was not humble enough to realize that he too could succumb to the temptation to deny Christ. Both James 4:6-7 and 1 Peter 5:5-9 stress humility just prior to commanding us to resist Satan. We should live in a constant humble state, trusting not in ourselves but in the One who is able to keep us from falling.

Humility is not a dour state. We can rejoice because God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). Paul rejoiced in his humble state because it was through his humble state that he learned that God’s grace is sufficient. We are beloved children of God, but we must remember that we are nothing apart from God.

#41  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Thursday, February 24, 2011at 6:12 PM

“In Jonathan Edwards' book, Religious Affections, he has a chapter entitled "IV. Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation". Throughout that chapter, it is evident that he is using the word humiliation interchangeably with humility. No notes in my edition (Banner of Truth) to explain this usage. In this chapter he paints with such a broad brush that he actually says that the believer has no dignity, leaving the reader to understand that as a believer, he is basically a zero. He may get around to correcting this exaggeration later on, but the reader in the meantime has to wade through this mire of self-deprecation to find it.” Greg #34

Greg, I took the time to research the portion to which you referred. It can be found at the puritan library.com website. At this site it is listed under part III, chapter VI of Religious Affections.

“…the principal part of the great Christian duty of self-denial. That duty consists in two things, viz., first, in a man's denying his worldly inclinations, and in forsaking and renouncing all worldly objects and enjoyments; and, secondly, in denying his natural self-exaltation, and renouncing his own dignity and glory and in being emptied of himself; so that he does freely and from his very heart, as it were renounce himself, and annihilate himself…Many Anchorites and Recluses have abandoned (though without any true mortification) the wealth, and pleasures, and common enjoyments of the world, who were far from renouncing their own dignity and righteousness; they never denied themselves for Christ, but only sold one lust to feed another, sold a beastly lust to pamper a devilish one; and so were never the better,”

Clearly, Edwards refers to the believers “natural” dignity and glory. The only true dignity or glory that a believer has is that which has been imputed by God or imparted to them by virtue of their union with Christ, all else must be abandoned. The renunciation of self is not an option for the believer (see Matthew 16:24-26). Edwards also makes many excellent points on the distinction between “Legal” and “Evangelical” humiliation. I do find his writing to be somewhat of a tedious task to read. There is a lot of meat to digest. I hope that this has been helpful. –His Unworthy Slave

#42  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 9:03 AM

Douglas #41,

I'm probably in the minority position regarding the "dying to self" texts in the New Testament. However, my position is that the necessity to die to oneself, or as Edwards put it, "self-annihilation", is a one-time act of repentance. I use Romans 6 as the clearest text for this position, but also all of Paul's writings on the subject. I rely on Paul to clarify for me the context or the sense of many teachings of the Gospel. Paul sees baptism in Romans 6 is the symbol for this one-time death in Christ. We would think it aberrant if a church encouraged people to get re-baptized as often as they felt the need.

Edwards teaches us to have low expectations of grace in this life: "Grace and the love of God in the most eminent of saints in this world is truly very little in comparison of what it ought to be ... [it is] poor, cold, exceedingly low, not worthy to be named ..." etc. Wow! I absolutely don't see this in Scripture for the believer. This is chilly rhetoric; Scripture is warm and effusive on the subject.

I can't use Luther to clarify the position for me because he didn't write Scripture. However, it seems to me that once he broke free from the spiritual slavery of the Catholic church, he allowed himself to enjoy a fruitful life of marriage, a life that was once forbidden to him. Perhaps he continued to struggle with doubts and uncertainty. He was merely human. But I feel compassion for those who desire a more certain understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and yet feel compelled to return to more and more repentance, rather than trusting in the finished work of the cross. I am convinced that God does not require this kind of repentance for me any longer. When I am convicted of sin, I immediately give thanks that the Holy Spirit, dwelling within me, has shown it to me, and marvel at the riches of God's grace that keeps me from boasting that I myself managed in any way to stamp out this sin. I remain humble, but not humiliated; quite the opposite, I am uplifted. Paul describes this lifting up in Eph. 2. It isn't just theological theory, but a way of life.

God uses the "carrot" of his Spirit of adoption, not the "stick" of fear of punishment, once we are saved (Rom 8:15). Continuing to humiliate oneself about sin, is in my view, returning to this spirit of slavery.

We probably are in agreement about those we see in the church who are ignorant of their sin and continue in it - they need to be brought to repentance, because clearly the have not received the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9). We need more sermons to preach true repentance, together with a clear understanding of the riches of grace.

Thanks for meeting me halfway on this.

#43  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 9:56 AM

Greg,

I'm curious about your one-time-die-to-self theory. How do you understand Luke 9:23 in light of that?

There is a sense, of course, in which we "die to sin" once and for all at the moment of conversion (a moment not always known), but Romans 6 tells us that though sin has no power over us and is in fact dead, we can pick it up like a string puppet and give it life should we choose (and we often do). So though we are dead to sin, we must die to it daily.

By dying to it daily we are not acknowledging it as alive and powerful, but rather as dead and powerless--otherwise we could not die to it!

If our goal in life is to please and glorify God (and it is: 2 Cor 5:9), and if we do that primarily by being like Christ (and we do: Rom 8:29), then it follows that "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30), which requires that I die to myself daily.

#44  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 11:09 AM

Gabriel,

In Luke 9:23, for us to take up our cross daily means we identify with Jesus; we are not ashamed of the cross or his words (v 26), and willing to suffer persecution when it comes. This passage is an incomplete picture because it does not include the work of the Spirit, which had not yet come. I denied myself when I was baptized into Jesus' death. That self is now dead (Rom 6:6) -- I don't have to go on killing the old self, thanks to the Spirit (Rom 8:26-27).

Often, these short passages in the Gospel only give a partial glimpse of the total picture. That's where I rely on Paul's longer expositions to place them in their proper context and sense. The Gospel is revealed gradually, first in the O.T., then in Jesus' ministry, and finally fully revealed in Acts and the Epistles.

#45  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 1:05 PM

Greg,

I see what you're saying, but I don't think you're seeing what Jesus is saying.

Jesus doesn't say, "Die to your old self." Nor is He saying, "Identify with me." Remember, He hasn't been crucified yet, so for them to take up their cross in no way identified them with Him. The cross is the implement of death. Though Jesus had told them of his impending death it hadn't happened. According to the previous verse, he didn't even specify how He would die anyway (though that doesn't mean He hadn't at some other point and it wasn't recorded, but you would think that if the point was identification, Luke would have clarified that).

He said, "deny yourself" and "take up your cross daily." I really don't think he was referring to dying to our sin nature. There is no indication of that in the verse or context.

The point, I think, is clear. If you are a disciple of someone else, forget yourself, your will, your desires, your plans, your....

True, this passage isn't a complete picture of the issue, but I do see it as a clear example of a consistent, daily self-denial and self-mortification.

I also grant that we are not to be killing the old sin on the basis of its inherent life and power. But, we are to be killing it on the basis that we continually breath life into it. Our sin is a corpse tied to us. It weighs us down. It makes life more difficult. Every step we're carrying dead weight. We don't need to kill it because it's already dead. But we do need to cut it off, one piece at a time and free ourselves from its entanglements.

#46  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 1:17 PM

Gabriel,

One more thing. I don't want to give the impression that I immediately began "walking according to the Spirit" after my conversion. I was still ignorant of that, so I had to remind myself when I woke up each day that I was a Christian, and go through painful self-denial. I got tired of that -- it wore me out and was discouraging. I needed a Helper. I realized that I lacked knowledge, since even Moses knew that knowledge of God and his ways was essential to his presence (Ex 33:13-14). So I got serious about understanding the Gospel as clearly as possible. In a sense, I still take up the cross daily because I wake up each morning still a Christian, but the burden is now light because of the Spirit.

#47  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 1:43 PM

Greg, I'll say a hearty "Amen!" to that.

We deny ourselves under the power of the Helper. Part of the difficulty in this discussion is the terminology. Analogies and word pictures are good, but we have to be careful they don't over-define the issue.

For example, we battle against sin, but one of the main ways we do that is by putting our eyes on Christ (as Tommy as said in various ways). We fight sin by continually ceasing to practice it, laying it aside, putting it off, renewing our mind, and putting on righteousness. It's a continual process. The battle is we often fail to participate it the process and give the Adversary a foothold.

In other words, passivity is not an option, nor is merely "right thinking". Sin is an action as well as in the mind, so we must renew our mind and live rightly.

Greg, it may be that for you the Lord has given you the grace to not have life dominating sins and thus struggle with them. But as a counselor I can tell that even mature believers can have deep battles with sin and have to use all their Spirit-empowered might to fight it with a combination of defensive and offensive strategies.

#48  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Friday, February 25, 2011at 3:50 PM

Greg, #42 “We need more sermons to preach true repentance, together with a clear understanding of the riches of grace.”

On this point you are correct, however, your view of repentance is defective. I quote from Thomas Boston’s “Repentance”.

“But repentance itself is not a passing act, but an abiding grace (Zechariah 12:10); a continuing frame and disposition of the soul; a principle lying deep in the heart, disposing a man to mourn for and turn from sin on all occasions. It is not a passing work of the first days of one’s religion, as some professors take it to be; but a grace in the heart setting one to an answerable working all the days of his life. It is a spring of water of sorrow in the heart for sin, which will spring up there while sin is here, though sometimes through hardness of heart it may be stopped for a while. They that look on repentance as the first stage I the way to heaven, and looking back to the sorrowful hours which they had when the Lord first began to deal with them, reckon that they have passed the first stage, are in a dangerous condition. And whoever endeavours not to carry on their repentance, I doubt if they ever at all repented yet. …Hence initial and progressive repentance, though the former be the repentance of a sinner, the latter of a saint, are no more different kinds of repentance, than the soul’s virgin love to Christ, and their love to Him through the course of their spiritual marriage with Him; or than faith in its first, and after actings.”

Greg, you state: "Edwards teaches us to have low expectations of grace in this life: ‘Grace and the love of God in the most eminent of saints in this world is truly very little in comparison of what it ought to be ... [it is] poor, cold, exceedingly low, not worthy to be named ..." etc. Wow! I absolutely don't see this in Scripture for the believer. This is chilly rhetoric; Scripture is warm and effusive on the subject.’”

Edwards’ exceedingly high and lofty view of the mercy and grace which God has demonstrated towards us demands that he give testimony to the exceedingly pitiful response of love and obedience (grace) that we offer in return. The truth you seem to reject is stated by Paul thusly: “For I am the least of all the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Notice he never allowed himself to forget the vileness of his sins (nor His grace toward him) (see 1 Corinthians 15:9, 10). Paul goes on to describe himself as “…the very least of all the saints…in Ephesians 3:8.

I hope this helps. –His Unworthy Slave

#49  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Saturday, February 26, 2011at 6:15 AM

Gabriel,

Thank you for your thoughts. I think that sometimes we go too far in our zeal against sin - we have to carefully distinguish the sin from the sinner. If we demand that the sinner surrender his human dignity after coming to Christ, then we have robbed him of his soul. If we offer him no path to regain the dignity that he has lost through sin, but place upon him the burden of renouncing sin and being holy, but without regaining the dignity that God offers, then we have made for him an alternate prison -- "protective custody", if you will. But the Gospel promises freedom, not in a limited sense, but in the fullest sense of the word, just as God is free. God's freedom is his glory ("I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy") and he promises freedom to us ("He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives"). The Gospel sets us free from slavery to sin, but also slavery to the law, giving us the same kind of freedom that God has.

I came to Christ not only to rid myself of sin, but to regain dignity as a human being. Jesus is a man right now, so we know that our humanness is important to him.

Any doctor can rid a patient of cancer; the trick is to keep the patient alive in the process. Let's not just assume that if we get rid of sin we have eternal life. The Gospel gives us life because it preserves our dignity, engaging all our human faculties to focus on the perfect Man. We cannot be "men without chests" as C.S. Lewis described. We cannot be mere theology nerds, or even mere sin-slayers. As we slay sin, we must also live fully, love fully, act courageously and with dignity. Though we renounce our independence from God, we regain our human self-worth as Christians. I guess you would say I am a humanist, but not in the secular way. "Neo-humanist" might be a better term.

That is why I think self-denial should not be total, or the ruling principle for those who walk by the Spirit. As God gives more of his Spirit, he changes our inclination to sin, because he gives us something far better to enjoy. We need to exercise our new freedom as we lose our desire to sin. If we "quench the Spirit" then we cut ourselves off from the possibility of enjoying something better, and we will always be faced with the same sin battles.

I do have compassion for those who seem to struggle much more with sin; that is exactly why I think they need this sort of teaching. It has been a great motivation for me to change my life circumstances to enjoy greater freedom in Christ so that I am not surrounded by temptations every day. I am not immune to temptation, but I despise and avoid it to the extent that I have real human dignity. Teach a man to fight sin, but restore his dignity too, and you will have a real Christian.

#50  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Saturday, February 26, 2011at 6:46 AM

Douglas, #48 Paul was recalling his former sins in order to marvel at the grace he received, and he of course still hates any remaining inclination to sin that he has. However, he recognized and assumed his position of authority when he wrote the Epistles. He could not do that if he believed that he was still the worst of sinners, because then he would not be following Jesus' teaching to remove the log from his eye first. If he ever speaks of his great sinfulness in the present tense, I maintain it is only to emphasize the great grace he received, not as an accurate assessment of his current state.

I think the quote you offered from T. Boston reflects the typical mindset of the Puritan, not fully appreciating the effectiveness of the Spirit. When I search the Epistles, God's final and complete revelation of the Gospel, the only time I find a call to more repentance is when it is addressed to members of the church who have clearly not repented in the first place. The Puritans interpreted these passages as evidence for the need of continual repentance. I do not, because that interpretation cannot be reconciled with the clearest and most detailed expositions of life after conversion, such as in Romans 8.

Why else would God strike dead Ananias and his wife for a sin without giving him a chance to repent (Acts 5)? If the expected pattern for the new Christian was continual repentance, there was a wonderful chance to showcase this pattern. But God exposes them as only pretending to have the Spirit with the rest of the church, and kills them because they blasphemed the Spirit by their deeds. Living by the Spirit is clearly something completely different than what led up to it.

#51  Posted by Aidan Clevinger  |  Saturday, February 26, 2011at 6:18 PM

Greg,

If I might jump in...

You mentioned a desire to quote Luther on the subject of repentance. Here is what he says in his Smalcad Articles: "In Christians, this repentance continues until death. For through one's entire life, repennance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh...This gift [the ministry of the Holy Spirit] daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy".

I don't quote him as if he was a prophet, but you had expressed a desire to see his views on repentance. The Scriptures shed much more light on the subject. The guilt of our sin was, of course, entirely and totally wiped out by the cross (Rom. 5:9). But to receive this forgiveness we must continually return to the cross in faith. Why else would John write (to Christians, I might add), "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness...These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 1:9, 2:1). Though our sin was effectually delt with at the cross we must still turn away from it and put our faith in the finished work of Christ in order to grasp that forgiveness (lest anyone think I am praching a free-will/works salvation I will add that this repentance and faith are entirely the gifts of God).

Furthermore, we must still be cleansed daily of the POWER of sin. Paul, when writing about his own condition, talked much about his ongoing struggle with the evil inherent within him (Rom. 7:14-25). So while Christ has completely done away with our sin by His sacrifice on the cross, we must also acknowledge that we need a daily cleansing from sin and a restoration of God's holiness in our hearts. When Edwards talks about the ebb of grace and love being low in our hearts, he was referring to the indwelling grace that accomplishes sanctification, not the external grace that accomplishes justification. THAT sort of grace is, indeed, small even in the greatest of Christians, for all of us resist and wrestle with the Holy Spirit and committ evil of every kind.

As per your question as to why God struck Ananias and Saphira dead, I can only respond that life is in God's hands, and if He chooses to strike someone dead for their sin that is entirely His prerogative. But notice that their actions indicate that they were either: a. not Christians at all, or b. Christians that had forsaken their faith and abandoned Christ. In either case, the issue was not a continued repentance; the issue was blasphemy against the Spirit and resultant apostasy.

I hope this helps the discussion, and thank you for allowing me into it.

Love in Christ,

Aidan

#52  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Sunday, February 27, 2011at 4:50 AM

Greg,

What scripture leads you to believe that we are saved to preserve our human dignity? Perhaps it is your choice of words or my misinterpretation of your words, but I believe we are created and saved solely for the glory and pleasure of God (Isaiah 43:7, Col 1:16). Prior to salvation, we are slaves to sin and in rebellion against God’s purpose for our lives. When God brings us to spiritual understanding that He is Sovereign and Lord of all, we see our rebellion and sinfulness in the light of His glory and we fall on our knees in repentance. At that time, He gives us His Spirit in indwell us, and our sanctification process begins (though our legal justification is immediate). Sanctification is the process in which we begin to be transformed bit by bit into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18). This process is all for God’s glory and pleasure (Ephesians 1:12, Philippians 1:11, Philippians 2:13.). It seems like your wording focuses too much on us, when our focus should be on God alone. Until we are fully sanctified (in heaven with the Lord), we will fall short of fully living for God’s pleasure and glory, and that is worthy of our continued repentance.

I also don’t understand your comment that Jesus is a man right now. We do not worship a man, but God, who at a time in history, came down and took the form of a man. See Col. 2:9, John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-12.

#53  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Sunday, February 27, 2011at 8:59 AM

Just a few more short points, and I'll let anyone else have the last word on this if they like.

Aidan - You're right, I don't consider Luther a trusted authority. He was courageous in his opposition to the church but he did not go far enough. Perhaps the lifelong habit of confession to a priest was just too ingrained. He had to move a mountain and throw it into the sea, and was able to move a good chunk of it.

Also, as I said in earlier comments, I see the last half of Romans 7 as a description of Paul's attempts to live according to the law. He demonstrates the absolute futility of it. 1 John was addressing the gnostic heresy, which tried to bypass repentance altogether. I certainly believe in the "godly grief" of repentance as a requirement before coming to Christ and before we have enough faith to live according to the Spirit. But Jesus taught that we are now "completely clean" and "have no need to wash" (John 13:10). We wash each others' feet now, we don't follow the same path of repentance as before.

Mary - Yes, Jesus is a man right now. He's in heaven with a physical body. See 1 Tim 2:5, 1 Cor 15:48-49, Acts 7:56, Acts 1:11. We worship a man who is God, and a God who is a man. Not something you hear often, and I think it deserves more emphasis.

While on earth, Jesus demonstrated the dignity of being human by healing people, allowing his body to be anointed, feeding the hungry, and instructing us to take care of each others' needs. The moral teachings against every form of sexual immorality are based on the dignity of the body (1 Cor 6:18). If we don't appreciate human dignity, then those sins will continue to tempt us. The body is meant for the Lord, but also don't forget the other half, the Lord is for the body (1 Cor 6:13).

My emphasis on the human aspects of the Gospel are not meant distort it or make it man-centered, but to reclaim them from a long tradition of ignoring them. If we continue to ignore them, then we will end up driving away many people, especially those who have suffered loss of dignity through a cruel childhood, bitter divorce, or physical and emotional abuse. The Gospel properly understood can restore their loss as well as save their souls.

For a while I liked to demonize the people-pleasing preachers like Osteen, but now I see that they are simply trying to fill a gap in religious teaching. They are doing it with bad theology, though. Why don't we do it with good theology?

#54  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, February 27, 2011at 9:50 AM

I too, thought God was a man. I did'nt realized it a few yrs

back that God is a Spirit, not a man. Cause I read that we

are created in God's image, which I might have mistaken myself

thinking God is a man. Which I was wrong.

God is 3 in one. Three persons in one.

Father,the Son,and the Holy Ghost together is one living God.

Just letting you know and God bless, Greg.

#55  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Sunday, February 27, 2011at 2:15 PM

Greg Corrin wrote: "When I search the Epistles, God's final and complete revelation of the Gospel, the only time I find a call to more repentance is when it is addressed to members of the church who have clearly not repented in the first place. The Puritans interpreted these passages as evidence for the need of continual repentance. I do not, because that interpretation cannot be reconciled with the clearest and most detailed expositions of life after conversion, such as in Romans 8."

Greg, your view of repentance is wrong. Read John MacArthur's article, "Total Forgiveness and the Confession of Sin." In it he says, "True believers are habitual confessors." Please read the entire article.

A person, who does not continually repent of his sin, is a person who does not recognize he is sinning, because if he did recognize his sin, he would be in a state of perpetual repentance. We are to take every thought captive to Christ, and, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8)."

Even the Apostle Paul, after his conversion, said, "Wretched man that I am...(Rom 7:24)" Notice that it is in the present tense.. "I am."

I will have more to say about sinner vs. saint, in my next post. You seem to think we are saints exclusively, but we are still in these sinful, flesh bodies, and that is why there is such a battle-taking place.

#56  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, February 27, 2011at 5:27 PM

Jesus with human flesh on him which is 100% God, our Creator and Savior, Greg. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.

Jesus came to earth to be born in virgin Mary. Nor was Jesus

attractive and was rejected. He came to teach, heal, and preach

up to until he died on the cross. Death can't hold a living God.

God has no beginning and no end. Jesus died once to forgive our

sins.

Jesus is alive! Remember what Jesus said when in wheat field that

the disciples were eating on Sabbath, the pharisees did'nt like it

and thought it was wrong. Jesus, himself said that He is the Lord

of Sabbath. Jesus also said before Abram, I was.

#57  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Sunday, February 27, 2011at 9:48 PM

Greg,

I guess I do not understand your focus. Post resurrection, scripture focuses our attention of the supremacy of the resurrected Christ whom the Father has crowned with honor and under whose feet all things have been subjected (Hebrews 2:7-8). To say “Christ is a man right now” seems to deny, or at least shift attention away from the fact, that right now He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and “God has exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

I agree that every human life has dignity in that we were created in the image of God, but again the purpose and aim of our lives is to please and bring glory to God. We love and care for people because His Spirit bears the fruit of love in us, and because we desire to obey God and be adequate imitators of God. Whatever we do should be done for the glory of God, (1 Corinthians 10:31), and when, in our humanness, we fail to glorify or reflect Him (as will so often be the case) we should grieve and repent of grieving Him. Then we can rejoice in His love for us and find encouragement in His promise to carry on to completion the work which He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).