Paul's Passing Thoughts

Holy Schmoly…Who Needs Holiness When You Have Authority?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 5, 2017

afshin-ziafatAfshin Ziafat holds the title of “lead” pastor and “elder” of Providence Church in Frisco, TX. He was part of a panel discussion along with Conrad Mbewe, John Folmar, and moderated by Kevin DeYoung at the 2016 Cross Conference in Indianapolis, IN. The clip below is an excerpt from that discussion. It happens pretty early on. There are several examples I could have used, but this particular exchange really caught my attention.

Here is a transcript of the above video clip.

KEVIN DEYOUNG: So let’s talk about some of these terms that are often given to describe church. This is sort of Ecclesiology, the study of Church 101. So sometimes there is a reference made to the four attributes of the church. One, holy, catholic, apostolic church. So just jump in who wants to just, 30 seconds, what does it mean, “one church”?

JOHN FOLMAR: Unified in the gospel. United to Christ by the power of the Spirit, and thus united to one another.

DEYOUNG: Okay. So Ephesians 4, there is one spirit, one body, one Lord, one baptism. What about “holy”? Afshin?

AFSHIN ZIAFAT: Um, I’m not sure exactly what you’re wanting from that.

STOP RIGHT THERE! HUH?

I’m not the smartest person in the world, and granted, as I go back and read the transcript, DeYoung doesn’t do a very good job at articulating what he’s asking, but even I understand the question. DeYoung wants to know what it means when we say the church is holy.

Yet here is a man who is supposed to have an academic and theological pedigree which supposedly qualifies him to sit on this panel of “experts”.  Here is a man who is supposedly responsible for the “sheperding” of hundreds if not thousands of people every week.  Here is a man to whom a room full of young people are looking for guidance and direction, a man whom people are supposed to submit to his “authority”.  And yet Ziafat says he’s not sure what DeYoung is wanting?  Does he mean he does not know what it means to say the church is “holy”, or does he not even know the definition of holy?  I am beyond incredulous!

Like I said, I am not the smartest person in the world- I didn’t go to seminary, and I am not the pastor of a church of thousands. I did however give a session on the definition of holiness back at the 2014 TANC conference. Perhaps Mr. Ziafat might find it useful. Here are the links to those sessions.

TANC 2014 – Andy Young, Session 1
TANC 2014 – Andy Young, Session 2
TANC 2014 – Andy Young, Session 3

Now let’s look at the remainder of the transcript:

(ZIAFAT CONTINUING) But I would say just, you know, the fact that, if I may couple with what [FOLMAR] just said, the need for you to be in the church to be shepherded, because, as I see, you know, one catholic church, but yet there’s a need for the local church that you are involved in actually being cared for. Because from the very beginning God is known as a shepherd and His people the sheep of His pasture and Jesus taught His disciples how to shepherd and Peter tells fellow elders that you are to shepherd the flock of God among you. So all that to say, I would tell [the audience] that if they are not in a local church, that’s God’s setup for how He as the shepherd is gonna shepherd them through under-shepherds. And so I think that they need to be in that local church.

Ziafat never answers the question with respect to holiness. Instead he does what politicians do when there is a question they don’t want to answer. They try to distract you by rambling on and on over talking points that you would want to hear, hoping to impress you with their verbosity, all the while saying nothing of any substance. (Donald Trump did this very effectively during the last election campaign.)

But notice what he does choose to talk about: the authority of the church in the lives of Christians. “…the need for you to be in the church to be shepherded…”, “…need for…actually being cared for…”, a local church is how God is “gonna shepherd them through under-shepherds…”, “…they need to be in that local church.” Authority, authority, authority.

I am not the only one who notices that Ziafat doesn’t answer the question. DeYoung realized it too. But rather than put him on the spot, he bails him out by actually answering the question for him. I mean, these guys have to stick together, right?

DEYOUNG: Right, for the accountability, for, you know, if the leaders of the church are accountable before God for their people you need to have some kind of membership, or to whom or for whom are they accountable, and that holy aspect is called out ones out from the world into this fellowship, shepherded, guided…

This is just one example of how these guys perceive themselves and you. You need to be shepherded for your own good. I am reminded once again of what John Immel said at the 2012 TANC conference regarding the metaphysical assumptions of reformed theology – man is fundamentally incompetent to be able to comprehend truth and know good; he therefore needs have good dictated to him; that dictated good is accomplished by the institutional church through divine mediators who presume to stand in God’s stead. And this is all done under the pretense of being done for your own good, since you poor schlubs don’t know any better.

This was the tenor of this entire panel discussion, that we should just be so thankful that we have these “godly” men to guide us poor incompetent masses though our ignorance, and we should just listen to them so that we don’t screw up our lives. I find such arrogance and condescension appalling, especially since these men are such intellectual pinheads who couldn’t come up with an original thought among the four of them to save their lives. They are simply regurgitating what they themselves have been taught. That much is obvious from this example.

~ Andy

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Sanctification Transformation

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 5, 2016

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” ~ Romans 12:2

The word “conformed” that Paul uses with the Romans is the Greek word συσχηματιζω (soo-skay-ma-tid-zoh). You should be able to recognize the word “schema” from which we get words like “schematic”. Engineers would be familiar with a “schematic” diagram. It is a pattern to follow. The word here literally means to be patterned-together with.

Now the people of Rome would certainly be familiar with patterns. In the textile industry or clothing industry, one works with patterns for making clothes. And when one thinks of patterns for clothes, uniforms come to mind; uniforms of Roman soldiers, perhaps; something else people in that culture would be very familiar with.

What a perfect illustration Paul uses to make his point! Do not let yourself be patterned together with this world. Do not let the world put you into its uniform. Instead, Paul refers to the “renewing of the mind.” This is an expression referring to the new birth. When someone is born again, his mind has been renewed – he is a new creature! That new mind should cause a transformation in the way that person conducts his life.   He should not be just like everyone else in the world. He should be different and distinct.

More than that, he has been set free from the condemnation of the law so that he may show love to God and to others. The rest of Romans 12 talks about that very thing. This is the process of Sanctification!

Andy

TANC 2015, Andy Young – Session 3: The Believer’s Identity

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 3, 2015

This is session 3.  We’ve been challenging presuppositions regarding a believer’s identity, especially this notion that believers are sinners.  That’s what we hear most often in just about every Christian circle, in just about every church you go to around the world.  The emphasis that we are sinners.  That because we are sinners we still need a savior.  And of course this particular emphasis flows right out of the reformation.  This was taught by Calvin and Luther, this idea that believers don’t change, that they are still under law, that they are still in need of daily salvation.  We have a term for that, it’s called progressive justification.  And whether people want to admit it or not, anyone who echoes these kinds of sentiments – and this is just one indication of the kind of theological ignorance that exists among believers, they are actually espousing a progressive justification viewpoint with these kinds of statements.

So we’re trying to reverse the damage that has been done to the spiritual psyche of the believer as a result of years and years of having this mantra constantly pounded into our heads.  You are a sinner, you are a sinner, you are not perfect, you are totally depraved, your righteousness is filthy rags.  We need to stop telling ourselves these things, and we need to change the narrative and look at what the Bible actually has to say in this regard.

Session 1 was devoted to our identity with respect to the new birth.  What that actually means to be born again, and why that is important.  And then in session 2 we explored the contrast between the old and the new, and we saw how that the “New Man” is actually a reference to the one spiritual body that was made up of people from every nation and status in the world.  How we are no longer identified as either Jew or Greek, etc…and we become part of this New Man, the Body of Christ.

So now in this last session on the believer’s identity, I want to take a look at a few more ways that the scriptures refer to believers.  And these won’t spend as long as we did on the first two, so we should be able to run through these rather quickly, but that doesn’t make them any less important.  Each one of these is a critical part of our identity as believers.

So the Bible says the believer is born again, he is a new creature, he is part of the New Man, the Body of Christ.  What else is he?

A saint

How is that for a title?  Did you know you’re a saint?  Now here is a word that couldn’t be any farther opposite from sinner!  Do you know how many times believers are referred to as sinners?  I could probably point to no more than maybe 5 at most.  And even in those instances it is always in the past tense. Do you realize the frequency that believers are referred to as saints?  62 times in the NT, believers are referred to as saints.  62 times!  I’m not going to show you all of them, but here are a few select.  You’ll see that in just about every epistle the believers are addressed as saints in the salutation.

Romans 1:7  “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1Corinthians 1:2  “Unto the assembly of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:”

Ephesians 1:1  “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:”

Romans 15:25-26  “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.  26  For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.”

Ephesians 4:12  “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”

And we could go on and on and on.  Believers are saints.  Now, as if that wasn’t exciting enough, take a look at this word in the Greek.  Do you know what the word saint is in the Greek?

αγιος (hag-ee-oss) – “Holy”

Look at that.  Holy.  In each of the 62 instances it is this word for holy.  That means you could go through each instance, 62 times in the NT, and replace the word saint with holy, or holy ones.  The Bible calls believers “holy ones”.  You are holy.  Did you know that?  You are not a sinner, you are holy!  You are a holy one.

Now if any of you watching online now or maybe later on when this is archived, if you tuned in last year for the conference you will remember I talked about Sanctification.  And in my first session last year I walked us through scripture and we were able to derive a truly biblical, meaningful definition of this word holy?  Does anyone remember what we came up with?  If you don’t remember or if you didn’t tune in for that session, here is the definition we came up with for holy.

Holy – a place or thing which is distinct from that which is common, ordinary, or just like everything else.  (profane)

And as we worked through our understanding of this word we discovered that the opposite of holiness was not sinfulness, but profane.  And profane in the Biblical sense has to do with this idea of being common, or ordinary, or just like everything else.  So, while it is true that believers are not sinners – we’ve already established that through the new birth – we have a special status.  We are holy.  We are distinct from that which is profane.  We are not common, we are not just like everybody else.  Some people like to use the term “set apart” as a means of understanding our sanctification, and that’s a good way to look at it because it encompasses this notion of being distinct.  Setting something apart makes it distinct.

So this takes us back to the sanctification issue that I talked about last year.  And I think it begs the question, if we are saints, if we are holy, if we are distinct, ought we to not act like it?  And I don’t mean we go around casting judgment on others and act like we are better than everyone else.  But if we are in fact holy, don’t you think our behavior should reflect that holiness?  See, we don’t let our behavior define who we are, but rather I think it’s the other way around, who we are should manifest itself in our behavior.  And you can think back to our last session on the New Man, were we had this contrast between behaviors that characterized the old man, like lying and arguing and licentiousness, and behaviors that characterize the New Man, loving each other, caring for each other, and so on.   And you see the motivation for this is love.  This has to do with love for the law and keeping the law.  Not for justification, but because we love our Father and we love others, so we use the law in this way, we keep the law out of a motivation of love.  And this is the reality of what it means to be a saint; to be a holy one.

So believer’s are saints.  What else are we?  How does the Bible refer to believers?

Oh I love this one.

A child of God

I know I have a lot of references here, but can we just take the time to read through these.  It’s such a good reminder, and it’s such a blessing!

Romans 8:14  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Romans 8:16-17  “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  17  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Romans 9:26  “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:18  “And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Galatians 3:26  “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 4:6  “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (daddy reference)

Ephesians 1:5  “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”

Ephesians 5:1  “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

1 Thessalonians 5:5  “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”

1 John 3:1-2  “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…  2  Beloved, now are we the sons of God…”

And of course this goes right back to all the things we talked about in session 1.  How is it that we are children of God?  We are children by virtue of the new birth.  Do you see how significant the new birth is?

Being born again, being born of the spirit is being born of God.  Where God is your Father, and you are His child.  If you deny the new birth, you deny your identity as a child of God and you forfeit all the rights that go with that as being sons.

Now there’s a lot more that can be said about the significance of being a child of God.  You saw the reference about being an adopted child.  Now an adopted child is what, one who was not born to the parents who have legal custody of him, right?  So I don’t want us to misunderstand when Paul uses this terms referring to adopted children.  The new birth is a reality.  We are born of God in every sense of that word.  The new birth is an actual birth.  It is not something that we have already that God then accepts as His own and reforms it.

What Paul is referring to here to the Ephesians has to do with the relationship to Israel.  There was always this distinction between promises made to Israel that will be fulfilled with Israel, and how Israel would always have a claim to the promises and covenants that God made to her children.  And since the Gentiles were not part of Israel, what happens when a Gentile believes is that he is then made part of Israel, adopted in that sense, and so he then has access to those same promises by rights as an adopted child.  He said this also in Galatians that those who come to faith in Christ are considered the children of Abraham, adopted into the promises made to Israel.   And he elaborates on this even further in Romans.  So I want you to understand that this notion of adoption is a reference to being included with Israel in the promises and does not contradict the reality of the new birth.

There is another significance to being a child of God.  Let me ask you something.  Those of you who have children, when your children disobey you, do they stop being your children?  When your child fails somehow, does he stop being your child?  Or when your child grows up and starts his own family, even though he is no longer under your roof, does he stop being your child?  Does your child ever stop being your child?  No, and so from this we begin to understand this doctrine of eternal security.  You want to know why you can never lose your salvation?  Because you are a child of God.  God never disowns you.  You can’t be unborn into His family.

Now of course we know of instances where our children may not want to be a part of our family.  They may run off and not act like our child.  But they are still our child.  There is some aspect of this to be found in the parable of the prodigal son.   Now I understand that the main purpose of that parable was to draw a contrast between the Pharisees and the other religious leaders and the remainder of Israel, and that Israel was like a lost son who had run away from his Father.  Jesus said he came to save the lost children of Israel.  And so there is this picture of God calling out to his lost children to come home to him.  But if you notice something else in that story, the prodigal son never stopped being a son.  The Father looked for him every day to come home.  He was ready to bestow upon him the riches that were there for him.  And so in that sense there are sometimes believers who wander away and don’t act like sons, but they never stop being sons.

And I kind of touched on another point there; this thing about being a child has other significance too that I will get to in a moment.  But before we get to that, along with being a child of God is this next point.

A brother of Christ

This one might be a little controversial because it’s not something that you here brought up much if at all.  But I think it is a reality that is taught in scripture.  Scripture doesn’t say much about Christ being our brother, but there are a few passages that reference it.  Let’s start with this.

Matthew 12:46-50

“While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.  47  Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.  48  But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  49  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!  50  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Alright, so what exactly is Jesus saying here?  Let’s first understand that when we read the word “disciples” in any of the synoptic gospels that it’s not just a reference to the 12 disciples.  It is clear if you read the gospels that Jesus had a lot more disciples or learners that just Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the rest.  Whenever the writer wants to make this distinction he usually refers to them as “the twelve”.   But whenever we see the generic reference “disciples” that’s a reference to all of them.  And this was a number that reached into the hundreds at times.

So among these disciples following Jesus, are any of them his mother?  No.  So it’s easy to assume that when Jesus makes this statement in verse 49 that it is not a literal reference to his physical earthly family.   Not only that, but Jesus Himself states very plainly what he means by his statement.  He explains it.  Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.  We all have people in our lives that we regard as family who are not literally a part of our family.  I have a very good relationship with my wife’s parents, and I regard them as my mother and father ever though they did not give birth to me.  I even call them Mom and Dad.  That’s the kind of relationship we have.  That is how close we are.  You may have a best friend who you think of more as a brother or sister than simply a friend.  And of course this has to do with the nature of your relationship with them.

So the point Jesus is making in this statement has to do with how He views His relationship with those who do the will of the Father.  He views them as family.  Now by extension, we can take this one step further.  When we consider the reality of the new birth, that those who do the will of the Father are those who are born again, then in reality, we are then literally part of God’s family, including the Son, Jesus.  So as far as God’s family is concerned, we are all brothers and sisters, and that would include Jesus.  We can be considered as brothers and sisters of Christ.  And I believe in this passage here in Matthew, that is exactly what Jesus is talking about.  But what else does scripture have to say about this family relationship we have with Jesus?

Romans 8:29

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

I’ve underlined the key phrase in that verse.  If you study the grammatical structure of that verse, “firstborn among many brethren” is speaking of the Son.  And the preposition “among” is inclusive.  It indicates inclusiveness.  If you are among something you are part of it.  If you are among the crowd you are included in the crowd.  What Paul says here is that there are many brethren, and Jesus is one of them, more than that, he’s the oldest.  He is the firstborn.  And if we think back to our study of the Body of Christ, the New Man, His right as firstborn makes Him the Head.  How is it that Jesus is firstborn?  He was the first resurrected following the ending of the law.  And as such, each believer, by virtue of the new birth is resurrected just like Christ, we are born anew, as new creature that is not under law.  A new creature that is also a child of God.  And if we are a child of God, and Jesus is the Son of God, that makes Jesus our brother.  Our oldest brother, our firstborn brother.  We see this same idea expressed here as well.

Colossians 1:18

“And he is the head of the body, the assembly: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence”

Here again is that reference to Jesus being the firstborn, and His right as firstborn to be the Head of the Body.  If any of you out there are an only child and have always wanted a brother or a sister, think about what a wonderful reality it is to know that you are now part of a family full of brothers and sisters, and the God of Heaven is your Father.  And because of that, Jesus, the King of Kings, is your brother!

Now we’re talking about brothers and sisters and families, and I want to jump back to another point I alluded to earlier when we were talking about being a child of God.  I mentioned how that being a child of God has another significance to it.  As the Son of God, Jesus was entitled to certain privileges.  As the firstborn, He is made Head of the Body.  We have certain privileges as well, since we are also children of God because of the new birth.

Because of the new birth, the believer is an heir to the Kingdom of God.

An heir to the Kingdom

And this is the last point I have about a believer’s identity.  An heir to the Kingdom!  Take a look at some of these passages

Romans 8:17

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  Here’s another reference that alludes to Jesus being our brother.  We are joint heirs with Christ.

Galatians 3:29

“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Being born again makes us part of Abraham’s children and eligible to participate in the promises and covenants made to Israel.

Titus 3:7

“That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

James 2:5

“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”

Of course when you talk about being an heir to something that means that there is an inheritance waiting for you.

Inheritance

Ephesians 1:14

“Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

This is talking about the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is an earnest payment.  Like a down payment.  A good faith payment that there will be a full payment coming at a later time.  The Holy Spirit is a part of our inheritance given to us now as an indication of a promise of more that is to come later.

Ephesians 1:18

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,”

Colossians 1:12

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:”

Colossians 3:24

“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

1 Peter 1:3-4

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,”

And there are several things that are in view here with regard to inheritance, eternal life not the least of them.  An incorruptible body, eternal fellowship with the Father.  We don’t really know what we will be doing for eternity, but we know for certain that there is a Kingdom that awaits us.  This is what Jesus came to earth to offer.  You may have heard pastors say, what did Jesus preach?  What was His message?  And they’ll say He preached the gospel.  We need to preach the gospel.  Well what gospel?  The word for gospel simply means a good message.  Any good message is the gospel.  The word for evangelist is literally “good messager”  To evangelize means to “good message” someone.  To deliver a good message.  To deliver the gospel.  But what gospel?

When you go back and read through the NT, if you study carefully, what you will notice consistently is that when a reference is made to the gospel, it is consistently referred to as the gospel of the Kingdom.  When Jesus is introduced in the gospels, when His ministry first starts, it says he was preaching the gospel of the Kingdom.  The apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom.  This is what we have to offer people when we tell them about Christ.  He came to offer a Kingdom.  And your ticket into the Kingdom is the new birth through faith in Christ.  The new birth makes you a child of God.  As His child you have an inheritance waiting for you.  You have the right to everything that the Father owns.  He bestows it upon you.

One day, this old heaven and earth are going to melt away with a fervent heat.  And in their place will be a new heaven and a new earth.  And the City of God, the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and come down upon this new earth.  And God will make His tabernacle with man.  God will dwell with man forever and ever.  This is the city that Abraham looked for.  A city not made with hands, whose builder and maker is God.  And we will dwell there with the Father.  This is what we have to look forward to!  This is our inheritance as believers.

I hope that at the end of this study you have a better understanding of just who we are.  We are not sinners.  We are not totally depraved, unrighteous, wretched people.  We are new creatures.  We are born again.  We are part of the New Man with Christ as the Head.  We are God’s children.  Son’s and Daughters of the heavenly Father.  We a part of God’s family with Jesus as our brother, joint heirs with Him in a heavenly inheritance that awaits us.  This is the blessed hope that Paul spoke of.  Not hope as in a wishful thinking.  This is a hope that is a joyful anticipation of something that is assured.  As believers, this is the way we need to be thinking.  We need to be aware of just who we are.  This is knowledge that empowers us and affects everything we do in life.  We go into the world armed with this knowledge, think of how much more effective our witness and our testimony is to those we’re trying to reach with the gospel.  Think of how much better our own lives will be.  We focus on the good instead of evil.  We don’t rejoice in iniquity.

And I could go on and on here, but I hope you get the point. And I think that might be a good way to wrap up this session, by opening things up to you out there, and let me ask you, how do you apply this to your life?  What does this mean for you personally?  How does this affect you?  What ways does this make you think differently?  I leave you with these questions, so please feel free to answer and share with us any thoughts you might have.

Podcast link: listen or download audio file. 

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SBC Expose: Roger A Moran’s Address to the 2010 MBC Worldview Conference

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 28, 2015

My Assignment for today was to share with you some thoughts I shared in a another conference earlier this year about the topics of Biblical authority and holiness –

…which are foundational to the issue of developing an authentically Biblical Worldview.

I want to start by going back about 1900 years ago —  early in the second century.  The year was about 125AD and there was a philosopher in the city of Athens by the name of Aristides.  And Aristides wrote a letter to the king – whose name was Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antoninus.  And in that letter, he laid out what he viewed as the obvious errors of the religious beliefs of his day.  But the Christians, he defended.

What follows is just a small portion of what he saw in those early 2nd century Christians – which he contrasted to the perversions of the culture in which he lived.  This is just a little bit of what he wrote:

But the Christians, O King… have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations.

For they know and trust in God… from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come.

Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly…

[A]nd their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world…

Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly.  And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting…

And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free.

And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.

They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them.

Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him…

And they do not proclaim in the ears of the multitude the kind deeds they do, but are careful that no one should notice them; and they conceal their giving just as he who finds a treasure and conceals it.

And they strive to be righteous as those who expect to behold their Messiah, and to receive from Him with great glory the promises made concerning them.

It is enough for us to have shortly informed your Majesty concerning the conduct and the truth of the Christians… [V]erily, this is a new people, and there is something divine (lit: “a divine admixture”) in the midst of them.

This was the testimony of the early church as seen through the eyes of a philosopher from Athens.

These were Christians whose love for Christ; whose commitment to the authority of God’s Word, and whose passion for holiness caused them to honor Christ not only with their lips, but with their lives.

But the testimony of the church today – the 21st century church – in contemporary America — is significantly different.

In fact, despite our hard fought battle for the Bible as Southern Baptists and all of our conservative theological rhetoric, we are increasingly looking more and more like the world than like our savior.

And if this is true – then the real question that we need to address is WHY….

That’s what I want to talk to you about today.

In authentic Biblical Christianity, Biblical authority and holiness are literally inseparable.

  • They are intrinsically woven together.

But tragically, they can be separated and in the Southern Baptist Convention, I would argue that we are becoming experts at doing just that.

But this is nothing new – Scripture is full of such examples.

Christ Himself quoted Isaiah when He addressed what He called the “vain worship” of the Pharisees:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”  Matt 15:7-9,     Isaiah 29:13

The Apostle Paul spoke of those having a form of godliness – but no power. (2 Tim 3:5)

Jesus spoke of those who were preaching and teaching and casting out devils and doing many wonderful works in His name —  but then declared “I never knew you.”

As Southern Baptists, we have developed an array of conservative, theological rhetoric around the topics of “Biblical Authority” and inerrancy.

And we have learned very well how to look Christian, act Christian and talk Christian.

We have boldly declared that we are “inerrantists,” and our slogans have been:

  • “We are a people of the book.”
  • And for us, “the Bible is our final ‘authority’ in all matters.”

But our love and commitment to the Bible is increasingly being clouded by a hyper-shallow – superficial form of Christianity that is losing its ability to distinguish the difference between the ways of the Lord and the ways of the world.

In recent years, we have witnessed in both the Missouri and Southern Baptist Conventions a growing infatuation for the things of this world and a growing carnality — which has produced a growing inability to discern the difference between the wisdom from above and the “wisdom” of the world.

And over the last few years we have also seen ample evidence pointing to the fact that there are two distinctly different groups of inerrantists within the conservative ranks of the SBC.

And these two distinctly different groups have distinctly different visions about the direction this denomination needs to go.

In 1979, conservative, Bible-believing Southern Baptists were universally united in our battles for the Bible.

The same was true in 1998 here in the Missouri Baptist Convention as we fought the battle against the liberalism of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

We believed that the Truth of God’s Word mattered supremely – because it did.

We understood with absolute clarity that theological liberalism could not take us to the place of authentic Biblical Christianity.

  • We understood that theological liberalism could not produce an authentically Biblical worldview – nor could it produce that kind of Christianity marked by a passion for holiness where the power of God would be upon His people.

But as we fought and won the battle for the Bible in the SBC, something significant happened:

We began to place so much confidence in our new theologically conservative leadership that for many of our people, “inerrancy” became virtually the only criteria for pastoral and denominational leadership.

We naively thought that right believing would automatically produce right living

  • that sound doctrine and holiness were inseparable — that orthodoxy & orthopraxy would automatically advance together.

But now, our conservative resurgence is behind us, and we have discovered the disappointing reality that our passion and commitment to “inerrancy” did not automatically produce all we had hoped that it would.

After twenty plus years of conservative domination at the SBC level and nearly a decade of conservative domination at the MBC level, we find ourselves still in spiritual disarray.

In fact, recent events in both the Southern Baptist and Missouri Baptist Conventions has left many of us as disillusioned and divided as we were during the days of our battle over the rank liberalism of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The new liberalism: “Cultural Liberalism”

And rightly so.

In recent years, Missouri Baptists have been confronted and challenged with a new liberalism – they call it “cultural liberalism.”

But unlike the moral, social and theological liberalism of the CBF, this new liberalism is said to be SBC-friendly,

  • Why – because its advocates are said to be “inerrantists” just like us,
    • and its advocates, they say, have a passion for Evangelism and for planting new churches – just like us.

But this “new liberalism” (once it was discovered) quickly became the battleground and the dividing line between those two distinctly different groups of conservative, Southern Baptist inerrantists.

And now, the battle that so deeply divided the Missouri Baptist Convention has exploded at the SBC level.

Mark Driscoll and Acts 29

At the heart of this latest battle is the once obscure organization called the Acts 29 Church Planting Network…

  • This group was not only at the center of Missouri’s controversy,
  • …but its leader, pastor Mark Driscoll, personifies the spirit of this new liberalism that has spread across the entire SBC like a cancer.

Driscoll popularized the odd combination of being “theologically conservative” and “culturally liberal”…

  • …which also made him an icon among a multitude of young evangelicals.

(See Driscoll’s books: Confessions of a Reformission Rev., pg. 46 and Radical Reformission, pg. 22 as two examples)

(According to Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, which hosted a conference with Driscoll in February, 2010  —   Driscoll’s church logged 4.4 million downloads of his sermons last year worldwide.) 

  • Driscoll’s fame and notoriety can be traced directly back to his pulpit antics, which first and foremost, earned him the title “the cussing pastor.”
  • His vulgarity in the pulpit and his self-professed R rated sermons on sex has brought him mountains of criticism…
  • In early 2009, one of the largest Christian broadcasters in the country banned any programming that featured Driscoll.
  • And at the 2009 SBC annual meeting numerous motions focused on Driscoll and growing concerns that some of our SBC leaders were encouraging Southern Baptists to embrace Driscoll’s “culturally liberal” approach to ministry.

SBC leaders like LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer and Southeastern Seminary president Danny Akin have been among Driscoll’s strongest advocates.

  • Stetzer has served as an Acts 29 board member and refers to Acts 29 as the “inerrantist wing of the Emerging Church;”
  • Danny Akin has gone so far as to bring Driscoll to the seminary as a recruiter for potential new seminary students.
    • And earlier this year, he brought in Acts 29 vice president Darrin Patrick for three days as chapel speaker.
  • More recently, Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler has jumped on the bandwagon and is singing the praises of Act 29, referring to them as “the hope of the future.”
  • And just prior to the 2010 SBC annual meeting, SBC president Johnny Hunt was a featured speaker at an Acts 29 Boot camp meeting called “Contextualizing the Gospel in the South.”
  • There’s not enough time to deal with Lifeway and the North American Mission Board’s involvement with this movement.

Apparently, if you can draw a crowd and call yourself an “inerrantist,” then all these other issues are just secondary and tertiary issues that we have to ignore  or learn to tolerate, like…

  • Their obsession with alcohol
  • Their fascination with sex and the use of vulgarity in the pulpit
  • The use of secular R rated films on “film night” (some which were rated R for the repeated use of the F word)
  • Church sponsored secular rock concerts for under aged kids
  • “Men’s Bible and Brew nights” and “Men’s Poker night” ministries and so on…

All these things have been thoroughly documented and are available for anyone who wants to investigate for themselves.   (www.mbla.org)

But let’s not think that this “cancer” hasn’t affected our Missouri Baptist churches for it most certainly has:

In my own association, one of our largest conservative churches —  pastored by a prominent inerrantist —  recently had a minister of music who was introducing some of the kids in the youth department to an overtly demonic form of music called “Death Metal Music.”

He eventually left the church, but only because of serious financial improprieties.

At about that same time – at the same church, the youth minister wrote an article in the church newsletter promoting a “Bible study” on “the subjects of hotness and sexiness” for the younger girls in the youth department.  He wrote:

“Some might call it a study on modesty, but I just like to call it a study on HOTNESS!!”  (Oct. 7, 2009 Troy First Baptist Church newsletter)

At about that same time – and at the same church, the wife of one of the deacon’s attended a lunch with a group of ladies – several from her church.

Several of the ladies from her church ordered alcoholic drinks with their meal.

Some months later, that deacon left the church when some of the other deacons brought a motion to change the church policy on alcohol from abstinence to moderation.

And it’s not just SBC churches:

  • In the same town – a new church called the Journey – – whose pastor thinks we need more pastor’s like Mark Driscoll, has now hosted two “no limit” poker tournaments for the community —  $30 buy in.

Every Sunday night this church plays host to a poker night for church members and potential new members.

  • Also in the same town, the Methodist Church recently advertized a new Sunday School class called “Tongue Pierced.”

The promotional materials showed a guy with a pierced tongue and flames tattooed down both side of his tongue — with this statement:  “This ain’t your momma’s type Sunday School Class.”

While I could go on and on about the various “ministries” and “outreach” events both inside and outside the SBC, here’s the issue:

  • The Apostle Paul warned against those “who think that we live by the standards of this world.” 2 Cor 10:2
  • In James 4: the Bible say: “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
  • The Book of James also tells us that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless” includes “keep[ing] oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
  • The Bible warns us in Col 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
  • The Bible commands us in I John 2:15-16

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

  • The Apostle John warned of the false prophets and the “spirit of falsehood” when he wrote: “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” 1 John 4:5
  • And then Jesus encouraged those who were serious about the Christian life when He said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

John 15:18-19

But the world doesn’t hate this kind of “culturally liberal” Christianity.  No… They are fascinated by it.

They can drink, smoke, cuss, watch their secular “R” rated movies, hang out in the bars and hang out in the casinos, get some tattoos and body piercings – and still get the “good Christian” seal of approval.

But here is the problem:  The more the church looks like the world –

…the more the church acts like the world –

…the more the church talks like the world –

…the less the church has to offer the world —- But be assured:  the world loves it this way.

And here’s why  –  The offense of the gospel isn’t just in the preaching of “sound doctrine,” but in the convicting power of holy living.

“Culturally Relevant,” “Contexualization” and “Missional”

But some of our SBC leaders are now telling us that if we really want to “win people to Jesus,”  —  if we really want to grow big churches, we need to be open to this kind of stuff…

…we need to be “culturally relevant” —  as defined by the Acts 29 – emerging church-type inerrantists.

We need to look a little more like the world, act a little more like the world and talk a little more like the world — in order to win the world to Jesus.

But let’s be clear:  The calls for the church to be “culturally relevant” is nothing more than our latest attempt to soften the gospel and…

…to make it appear a little less offensive and a little less foolish to those who are perishing.

…and if our theologically conservative preaching makes them a little uncomfortable —  it will be OK, because our “culturally liberal” living will make them feel better.

What we are actually doing is stripping the gospel of its transforming power by legitimizing the very kind of carnal Christianity that is plaguing our churches.

But we’re also being told that we now need to “Contextualize the Gospel.”

Well, I would argue that God has provided us with all the context that is needed.

We have the 66 books of the old and New Testament canons – which we call the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Throughout the history of Biblical Christianity, the Bible has provided all the “context” necessary for the conversion of the unregenerate soul and for the making of authentic disciples. 

But there’s more:  Once you master the modern evangelistic methodologies of being “culturally relevant” and “contextualizing the gospel,” then you qualify to be a “missional” Christian and your church can become a missional church.

In February, 2010, the Great Commission Resurgence Taskforce made their presentation to the SBC Executive Committee.  In that presentation, the taskforce chairman called on Southern Baptists to become a “missional movement” and to embrace a “missional vision” and to develop a “missional strategy.”

But you see, the problem with the word “missional” is that it is an intentionally vague term.

It is used by everybody from the Unitarian Universalist Association to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The far-left wing of the emerging church movement (Emergent Village – Brian McLaren’s group) —  they state in their materials that:

Emergent Village is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”

Acts 29, the so-called “inerrantist-wing of the emerging church movement” states that they are a “trans-denominational peer to peer network of missional church planting churches.”

Mark Driscoll’s new school of theology (called The Resurgence Training Center) states that it’s purpose is to “train missional leaders.”

I think it is also significant to point out that Driscoll’s professors at his new school include:

LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer

Southern Seminary professor Bruce Ware and

Southern Seminary professor Gregg Allison

These things concern me… And I am of the opinion that they should concern every one of us…

But I have said all this to provide something of a backdrop – or a context – to make the point that an authentically Biblical Worldview must have as its foundation both a commitment to Sound Doctrine and a passion for holiness.   

When Sound Doctrine and Holiness do not advance together,

Back to my point:

When a commitment to sound doctrine and a passion for holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the end results are spiritually devastating.

The end results are Bible believing Christians who honor Christ with their lips but their hearts are somewhere else.

  • The end results are Bible-believing —   yet carnal – Christians infatuated with the things of this world

But let’s be honest:  living an authentic Christian life is difficult for everyone who professes the name of Christ because is it contrary to everything the flesh, the world and the devil wants me to embrace.

And it is far easier to fake the Christian life than it is to live it  —  because then, I don’t have to deal with what I really am.

Let me also say:  Holiness is not about perfection, but rather our passion to know Christ, to honor Him in all we do and in all that we are.

Six Consequences:

Beware:  When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the spiritual consequences to the body of Christ are significant:

Six things:   

  1. First and foremost: we become a people heavy on religious rhetoric and incredibly light on spiritual substance. 
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is a loss of our Biblical understanding of the seriousness of sin in the sight of God.
  • There is probably nothing else that can devastate the Christian life like this one thing.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is a growing carnality and worldliness that continually lowers the spiritual standards for Christian living.
  • As one Christian writer has stated: “Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd.”  (God in the Wasteland, by David E. Wells, page 29)
  • Bottom line: As carnality and worldliness expands, the distinctions between the things of the world and the things of the Lord become increasingly blurred.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is that our works of righteousness (our missions, ministry and evangelism) are increasingly done in the power of the flesh rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
  • The power of God does not rest upon the carnal minded who are infatuated with the things of the world.

At the 2002 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to address a large group of SBC leaders from across the country.  In that meeting, I address what I considered to be the most pressing issue of our denomination.

  • “As a Southern Baptist, one of my greatest concerns is that we have developed multitudes of programs, published reams of materials and spent millions upon millions of dollars to train and motivate our people to do in the power of the flesh, what you could not prevent them from doing if they were in the Spirit.”
  • We must understand: We can only pass on what we possess.
  • And we can only testify and witness about that which we have personally witnessed and experienced.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is a growing tendency in such churches to settle for “professions” of faith rather than transformed lives in our new “converts”
  • Maybe this is the reason the issue of unregenerate church membership is now being debated at SBC annual meetings.
  1. When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in the life of a believer, the result is that our spiritual hypocrisy will become increasingly evident to those who genuinely love the Lord while a growing spiritual blindness will cause others to barely notice our spiritual decline.
  • The end result is a deepening divide within the body of Christ.
  • And ultimately, the calls for peace, unity and compromise causes us to cater to the lowest common denominator, as the standards of Christian living move lower and lower and lower.

Denominational Results:

But there are also significant ramifications for the denomination as well.

When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in denominational life, the end results are probably even more devastating —  because all these “things” become institutionalized.

  • And then they are downloaded into our SBC churches through our denominational agencies by the denominational bureaucrats.

When sound doctrine and holiness do not advance together in denominational life, the result is a spiritual environment where …

  • The praise of men slowly and gradually becomes preferred over the approval of God.
  • And the command to “seek first the Kingdom of God” gets lost in the passionate pursuit of the seats of honor.

Spiritual leaders who fall prey to such temptations quickly morph into religious professionals and religious bureaucrats…

For such men, creating and maintaining the appearance of pastoral success becomes the means of climbing the denominational ladder.

In SBC life, Pastoral success is measured by the false criteria of the infamous four B’s:

  1. The number of Baptisms
  2. Size of our Budget
  3. Size of our Church Buildings
  4. Number of warm Bodies we can continue to attract on a regular basis.

Tragically, our passion for numbers is largely replacing our passion for the much more difficult tasks of making disciples.

The Resurgence:  The First Critical Step

With that being said:  I want to make a very important point here:

Some of our SBC brethren have now discovered the harsh truth that our battle for the Bible was only the first step in a much larger and much more difficult battle.

  • A battle that can no longer be fought on a purely political level.

As the former Coordinator of Project 1000, let me state one more time for the record:  Our battle for the Bible here in the state of Missouri was never intended to be the final destination.

  • But rather, our battle for the Truth of God’s Word was a critically important effort intended to take us back to the spiritual “starting line” that we might then run the right race, in the right direction, according to the right rules of God’s Word.

The intended purpose of that battle was to re-focus the attention of God’s people on two essential areas in the Christian life:

  • First: A biblical understanding of the seriousness of sin
  • Second: And the necessity of holiness in the life of the individual believer.

For without these two things – the pursuit of authentic Biblical Christianity is not possible.

The SBC:  Making the wrong thing the “main thing”

Let me make one more observation:

I would argue that the greatest error of the SBC’s conservative resurgence was in its failure to emphasize with the same passion and tenacity the issue of holiness that we did the issues of inerrancy and evangelism.

In fact, I would further argue that these three things (inerrancy, holiness and evangelism) are so intrinsically woven together and so inseparable in authentic Christianity as to represent the three legs of the “three-legged stool of Christian living.”

  • The leg representing the truth of God’s Word must be in place and strong – for it is the revelation of God to man whereby we can know who He is and what He requires in all matters.
  • The leg representing the life of holiness and purity before God must be in place and strong – for it is the essence of the first and greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • And the leg representing our passion for evangelism and the making of disciples must be in place and strong – for this is the essence of the second commandment to love our neighbor as ourself.

And if any of these three legs are missing, or weak, or out of its proper proportion, the stool will not stand as intended.

As Southern Baptists, our commitment to the truth of God’s Word has been unquestionable:

And in the area of evangelism — nobody has talked about the Great Commission and reaching the lost for Christ like Southern Baptists.

But when it comes to the issue of holiness  —  it is barely on the radar screen.

CRITICAL POINT:

For decades, our SBC leaders have been telling us about our commitment to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.

And for decades, we have been told about our passion to win the world to Christ:

  • “We have got to keep the main thing the main thing,” they tell us. “And the main thing is evangelism.”
  • But the “main thing” is not evangelism.
  • It’s not now, nor has it ever been the main thing.
  • Rather, evangelism flows naturally from what Christ Himself said is the “main thing:”
  • The “main thing” is what Christ called the First and Greatest Commandment.
  • And it is from this one thing that everything else in the Christian life flows.

And the degree to which we fail to get this one thing right,

  • To that same degree we will fail in all our attempts to live out the Christian life in faithfulness to all that God has called us to be and to do.

The First and “Greatest Commandment”

We find in Matt 22:34-40, one of the most profound passages of all the Bible regarding the Christian life.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In this profoundly important passage, Christ goes back to Deut chapter 6, a passage the Jews called the Shema.  Here, the Lord Himself makes it profoundly clear exactly what the “main thing” is to be.

And the reason Christ identified the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength as the first and greatest commandment, is because it is from this commandment that everything else in the Christian life flows.

  • I would contend that this commandment can be summed up in the simple phase: The passionate pursuit of holiness. 
  • And it is through the pursuit of this commandment – and all that it means, that we enter through the doorway to authentic Biblical Christianity.

This is the starting point in the Christian life and if we don’t get this right, then ultimately, nothing else really matters.

Because all that remains to live the Christian life is the power of the flesh and the wisdom of man.

First Commandment Christians: A Passion for Holiness

As I mentioned earlier:  There are two distinctly different groups of “inerrantists” within the conservative ranks of the SBC.

  • And these two distinctly different groups have distinctly different visions about the direction this denomination needs to go.
  • With that being said, I would argue that the great battle that has raged in the Missouri Baptist Convention in recent years and the controversy that has now exploded at the SBC, is a conflict between two broad categories that I have called “First Command Christianity” and “Second Commandment Christianity.”

So, what is First Commandment Christianity?

Let me start with this:  First and foremost, First Command Christians understand that:

  • If it’s God who draws men unto Himself, (John 6:44 & 12:32)
  • And if it’s God who convicts men of sin and righteousness, (John 16:8)
  • And if it’s God who regenerates the individual and makes that person a new creation in Christ, (Titus 3:5, 2 Cor 5:17-18)
  • And if it’s God who then indwells the new believer and leads him into all truth, (1 Cor 3:16, John 16:13)
  • And if it’s the indwelling Holy Spirit of God who empowers the believer to carry out the good works we were saved unto, (Acts 1:8, Eph. 2:10)

…then what exactly does that leave for us  —   except to be faithful to the one commandment from which all else in the Christian life flows?

And how shall we live the Christian life in faithfulness and authenticity apart from the power of God, which comes only to those who are faithful to the First and Greatest Commandment  —  the command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength?

  • And how can we be the salt of the earth and the light of the world except we understand what it means to “abide in Christ” and to be holy?

For the very essence of the First and Greatest Commandment is the command to be holy.

  • The Apostle Peter wrote: “be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”   1 Peter 1:15-16
  • In Hebrews chapter 12, we are again commanded to be holy for “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

The apostle Paul summed it up well:  “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  2 Cor. 7:

So, what is holiness?

So what is Holiness?

Simply stated:  Holiness is the God-given passion inherent within every born-again believer to become outwardly what Christ has made us inwardly.

While holiness starts at the point of sound doctrine… 

  • …it is a life that must be pursued through intense spiritual training with an acute awareness of the conflict that rages between the “old man” and the “new man.”

It is the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God that longs for holiness and thirst after righteousness.  (not the old man)

It is the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God that worships God in Spirit and in Truth.    (not the old man)

It is the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God that the Spirit of God indwells and empowers to carry out the good works we were saved unto.  (not the old man)

We are commanded to crucify the old man – daily — for his passion is for the things of the flesh and the things of the world.

We are to crucify the old sinful nature – the old man – not put him in charge of our Christian life.

Those who desire to know Christ and experience the blessings of obedience must understand first and foremost that as Christians, we have two natures to contend with:

The old man and the new man. 

  • Whichever nature we nurture will become dominate in our lives.
  • When we feed the flesh, the flesh grows stronger.
  • When we nurture the new man, born again of the incorruptible seed of God, we will become more like Christ.

The battle for holiness is a battle that must be waged and won in the heart and mind of each and every individual believer  —  each and every day.

  • When this battle is not consciously waged, it is lost by default.
  • In the SBC, we fought the battle for the Bible
  • We have fought to keep the Great Commission front and center
  • But —  I would argue that we have not advocated for holiness with the same passion and tenacity that we did for inerrancy and evangelism.

Sin and Holiness

Now it is critically important that we understand one more thing:

There is only one inhibitor to holiness in the life of a believer, and it is sin. 

  • And the greatest threat to holiness among the people of God is where there is a low and diluted view of the seriousness of sin.

It is for this reason that the desire of “First Commandment Christians” is to live as far from sin as possible.

They recognize the truth in the old saying:  “Sin will take you farther than you want to go – keep you longer than you want to stay – and cost you more than you want to pay.”

  • It is for this reason that Hebrews 12 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us… fix[ing] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

First Commandment Christians understand the significance and context of God’s commands

  • We can never fully understand the command to “go ye therefore” until we understand the command to “Come out from amongst them…”
  • And we can never understand what it means to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” if we can’t come to grips with what it means to:
  • “Take captive every thought, making it obedient to Christ…” 2 Cor 10:5
  • Or the command to… “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deed of darkness but rather expose them…”  Eph 5:11
  • Or to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” Eph 4:29
  • Or to “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds…” Col 3:9
  • Or what about the Biblical command that “…there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place…”   Eph 5:3-5

Bottom line:  For First Commandment Christians, sin is never viewed as a secondary or tertiary issue, but rather primary – because the issue of sin goes to the heart of what the gospel is about. 

Let me say one more time:  Holiness is not about perfection – it’s about our passion

– our passion to know Christ– and to honor Him– in all that I think — in all that I do — and in all that I am.

We are all sinners saved by the grace of God.  But there should be a passion in the life of every believer to be like Christ.

But let’s also point out that there are two sides of this issue of grace.  Not only are we saved by grace as the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, but Titus 2:11-12 says this:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

Now when a man says he was saved by the grace of God, but that same grace can’t seem to teach him the difference between right and wrong  —  between good and evil…

…then there’s good reason to question exactly what got hold of this guy  —  even if he is an “inerrantist.”

It is a perplexing thing to me when you contrast the boldness with which we declare the power of God’s grace to save the lost and our virtual silence regarding the power of that same grace to transform the lives of those same individuals.

Holiness: Character Traits of a First Commandment Christian

First Commandment Christians are those who have a passion for holiness.

And because of that passion to become outwardly what Christ has made us inwardly, certain character traits will begin to develop in the lives of such people.

You will begin to see things like:

  1. Godly character
  2. Integrity
  3. Honesty / a desire to tell the truth and to be honest
  4. Moral purity
  5. A passion to be obedience to all the commands of God
  6. Faithfulness
  7. A biblical Humility, compassion, mercy and a forgiving heart
  8. And a desire for the kind of fellowship where “iron sharpeneth iron.”
  9. A willingness to suffer for the cause of Christ, understanding that if Christ Himself learned obedience by what He suffered, how much more will that be true for us.
  • We need a deeper understanding and commitment to what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:29: For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,   (Phil 1:29)

First Commandment Christians are recognized most clearly by their…

  1. Deep rooted love of God. (First and Greatest Commandment)
  1. A hatred of sin: (Ps. 97:10  Let those who love the Lord hate evil)
  1. A healthy fear and reverence of the Lord
  1. Their love for God’s people
    • ( “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35)
  1. Their longing for righteousness and a desire for the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in their lives.
  1. And lastly, First Commandment Christians are most clearly recognized by their passion to testify — as a witness to others — about the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ — that they have personally experienced.

Second Commandment Christianity

So, if First Commandment Christians are those who have sought to be faithful to all that it means to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength,

Then what does it mean to be a Second Commandment Christian?

The Lord said that the Second Commandment is like unto the First, that we are to “love our neighbor as ourself.”

In SBC life, the essence of the Second Commandment can be summed up in our well-worn phrase:  “missions, ministry and evangelism”.

So, let me try to explain what I mean by “Second Commandment Christianity”

  • Second Commandment Christians are those who are best known for their commitment to the work of missions, ministry and evangelism rather than for their passion for holiness.
  • Second Commandment Christians are more interested in pursuing the latest evangelistic methodologies than they are in pursuing the favor and power of God.
  • Second Commandment Christians are those who have been most faithful in repeating the mantra: “We’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing and the main thing is evangelism.”
  • The problem isn’t in what they emphasize, but what is not emphasized with equal passion.

We can never love our neighbor as ourself until we love God as we should.

And we can never be truly faithful to the work of the Second Commandment until we are truly faithful to the First Commandment.

Let me state it as clearly as I know how:  The problem with what I have called “Second Commandment Christianity” is that it is nothing more than the old man masquerading as the new man.

  • It is the substitution of a right relationship with Christ — with conservative religious rhetoric and the doing of good deeds.
  • Second Commandment Christianity tends to be artificial, superficial and shallow. It is self-centered and self-serving because —  after all  —  it’s all about “self.”

Second Commandment Christianity is popular because it is easy  —  it is the religious path of least resistance.

  • It is what we become by default when we fail to consciously seek the Lord with all our heart.
  • It is what we become when we fail to deal with the all too often subtle passions of our old sinful nature.

Second Commandment Christianity is the results we get when we nurture the wrong nature —

  • …when we nurture the old sinful nature rather than sending him to the cross to be crucified daily.

Second Commandment Christianity has the form of godliness but there is no power…  because God does not empower the old sinful man – no matter how religious he might look or sound.

Second Commandment Christianity honors Christ with their lips but dishonor Him in their thinking, in their attitudes and ultimately, in their behaviors.

Second Commandment Christians are heavy on religious rhetoric but light on spiritual substance.

Second Commandment Christianity is more interested in the temporal than the eternal.

Second Commandment Christianity is more interested in the eradication of suffering than in the eradication of carnality through suffering.

Second Commandment Christianity is running rampant within the SBC and within American Evangelicalism.

Adrian Rogers summed up what I believe goes to the heart of our most pressing problem as Southern Baptists when he spoke of saltless preachers preaching a saltless gospel, producing saltless converts and building a saltless church.

Second Commandment preachers tend to preach more on evangelism than holiness: more on the love of God than on the seriousness of sin: and more on growing the church than on the making of disciples.

It was of such spiritual leaders that God spoke of:

Lam 2:14  The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.

Jer 5:30-31   “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land:  The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.”

Jer 23:13-14   “…among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible:  They commit adultery and live a lie.  They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. 

Again, let me state it as clearly as I know how:  Second Commandment Christians are those who are passionate about their evangelistic efforts;  They are passionate about their mission trips;  They are passionate about their various “ministries;”  And they are  passionate about the planting of new churches (that will be passionate about the same things they are passionate about).

But Second Commandment Christians are passive about the two things that matter most to God:  They are passive about righteousness on the one side and they are passive about worldliness on the other side.

They are passive about holiness because they are passive about sin.

Second Commandment Christianity is the pathway of “lukewarm” Christianity.

So, the question for each of us today is this:  Which of those two categories best reflects what I am?

First Commandment Christian or Second Commandment Christian?

Where would I fall on that scale that runs from “authentic” on the one side to shallow, superficial and “lukewarm” on the other side.

You see, most of us aren’t completely one or the other  —  We are human  —  and sinners by nature  —  so each of us are at least a little bit of both…

So the real question is this: In the quiet and privacy of my home, when I look deep into my heart and life –

What is the testimony of my life?

What is the testimony of your life?

Is there any desire in my life to do better and to be more for Christ?

I am convinced that until the Southern Baptist Convention and the pastors of our churches give to the issue of holiness its rightful place along side our commitment to the Word of God and our commitment to the work of the Great Commission, we will continue our downward spiral.

1900 years after Aristides wrote his letter in defense of the Christians to the king, the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville saw something similar in the Christians of early America when he wrote this:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there;  in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there.  Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.” 

That’s the kind of testimony we need in the American Church today if we are to be truly relevant to this wretched and depraved culture that we live in.

And nothing short of a complete, total, sold out commitment to what Christ called the First and Greatest Commandment can take us there.

We need a “resurgence” of the “Great Commandment.”    May God Help Us.

A Doctrinal Evaluation of the Anti-Lordship Salvation Movement: Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 7, 2014

Originally published August 15, 2014

Do Christians Have Two Natures?

My belief strata is probably similar to most Christians: A. Dogma, firm on that fact; B. Not dogmatic, sounds logical, going with that for now; C. That’s a bunch of boloney. The idea that Christians have two natures has always been categorized under B for me.

Where do I think a stake needs to be driven most in the arena of Christianity right now? Who we are. We are righteous. We are able. We are good. We are not just righteous positionally, we are in fact righteous in and of ourselves. Righteousness is a gift from God, we cannot earn it, but once we have accepted the gift, we possess it. I fear that most gospels in our day propagate a rejection of the righteousness gift, and I strongly suspect that this is the point of the Parable of the Talents. Clearly, the paramount gospels of our day promote a meditation on the gift in order to keep our salvation. To put the gift into practice is to make His story our own story exclusively.

What is the gift? Is the gift just a gift, or is it also a calling? The “church” is a “called out assembly.” Is answering the call works salvation? And what are we called to? We are called to holiness. In part 2 we have looked at the primary problem with anti-Lordship Salvation. They make answering the call works salvation. How do they rationalize this? As we have discussed, it is the age-old Protestant golden chain gospel. Because justification and sanctification are not separate, a calling to holiness is a declaration that progresses in sanctification; if we commit to holiness in order to be saved, we now have to participate in that progression by obedience to the law.

ALS solves that problem by eliminating the commitment all together and making obedience in sanctification optional—a nice gesture unto the Lord, and it will kinda make your life better. If we doubt our salvation because of behavior, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of grace; so, the solution is to return to the same gospel that saved us and re-preach it to ourselves. Both ALS and the Calvinists they despise proffer this same construct.

Calvinists deal with the progression of justification in sanctification a different way: by all means we are saved by making a commitment to obedience, but the commitment we are making is a commitment to living by faith alone in sanctification which results in the commitment being fulfilled by Christ. In fact, both camps speak of experiential sanctification; viz, we only experience the works of the Spirit being done through us and we kinda really aren’t doing the work. In Reformed circles, even our “good” works are sin, and our demeanor in obedience gives a clue that the work may be executed by the Lord in that instance, but we don’t know for certain. They call this the “subjective nature of sanctification.” It is manifested in Arminian camps via, “I didn’t do it—it was the Holy Spirit doing it through me.” Really, in all Protestant camps, accomplishment and meekness are mutually exclusive; you can’t have both.

And with ALS as well as Calvinism, righteousness is defined by perfect law-keeping. When their fusion of justification and sanctification is challenged, both camps retort, “Did you sin today?” In BOTH cases, they make no distinction between sin against the law of sin and death, and sin against the law of the Spirit of life in sanctification—violations that grieve the Spirit. That’s because they see justification and sanctification as the same (though both camps are outraged in regard to the accusation).

Because ALS, like Calvinism, makes perfect law-keeping the essence of righteousness, they cannot not deem the Christian perfect in regard to justification. They posit the idea that the Christian is only positionally righteous and not practically righteous. Unfortunately, that same view of our righteousness is then juxtaposed into sanctification because they fuse the two together. To not continually drive home the idea that we are just “sinners saved by grace” is to suggest that we can keep the law perfectly. But the question is… “What law?” There is no law in justification, and where there is no law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15).

Christ primarily died on the cross to end the law of sin and death. Now there is no law to judge us, and that can be coupled with the fact that we are born again of the Spirit and have the seed of God within us (1Jn. 3:9). The new birth is a reversal of slavery resulting in a change of direction. We were once enslaved to sin and free to do good, resulting in a direction away from God (under law Rom. 6:14), but now are enslaved to righteousness and free to sin (Rom. 6:20). As we will see in Romans 7, we were once enslaved to the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), but now we are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life. In both cases, there is a reverse freedom as well. Unfortunately, the Christian is still harassed by the law of sin and death, which is a law standard by the way, and free to sin against it. We will discuss exactly how this happens.

 But, because ALS, like the Reformed only see one nomos (law), and Christians obviously sin, the Christian must be both saint and sinner in sanctification. This is Martin Luther’s Simul iustus et peccator—at the same time righteous and a sinner. But, this means saint by declaration and position only while the Christian remains in the same state. The only change is the recognition of his vileness—this defines faith according to Reformed ideology.

Likewise, since the Christian cannot keep the law of sin and death perfectly, and that is justification’s standard, the ALS has its own version of the Simul iustus et peccator: the two natures. Sure, it’s soft Simul iustus et peccator, or Simul iustus et peccator Light, but it’s the same concept. I am not going to take time here to articulate all of the versions, but suffice to say all denominations are spawned by the question of how we do justification in sanctification. There are only two religions in the world: Progressive Sanctification and Progressive Justification. One is a call to holiness and you get justification in the bargain. The other is a call to be declared righteous while remaining a sinner. The former is a call to be made righteous. Answering the call saves you, following the call sanctifies you, but the two are separate with the demarcation being the new birth—following the call does not justify you. Accepting the gift justifies you—but the gift is a calling to holiness. Seeing the gift and the execution of the gift as being the same is the monster of confusion known as Protestantism.

The idea of two natures is contradictory to the new birth.

There is only one us. The other guy is dead. His nature is not hanging around with us. He is not sort of dead, and we are not sort of under the law. We are not under the law at all. The guy’s death did not merely weaken him, it utterly slaughtered him. You are not kinda the old you, there is no old you, that person is not you at all, he is dead.

So what’s going on? I am going to pull the theses out of the barn from the get-go. Think, “sin.” This all starts with a very simple word that has very deep metaphysical ramifications that will not be investigated here, but it all begins with sin as a master. Sin was originally found in God’s most magnificent angel, Lucifer, “son of the morning.” How did sin get there? Far be it from us to discuss that here, but there are theories.

Secondly, a law that should promise life, but sin uses the law to create sinful DESIRES within the individual.

Thirdly, this is daring, but it is best to think of the “flesh,” also, “members” as neutral. Our members can be used for both good and evil. The “flesh” IS NOT the old nature.

Fourthly, fruits unto death and fruits unto life.

The Theses Articulated

Much more study needs to be done in this area; this study is designed to get the ball rolling, but you could spend a lifetime articulating it.

When man is born into the world, sin is within him and sin is a master. When people are born into the world, they are sold into slavery:

Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Paul is not saying that flesh =’s evil, he is saying that sin resides in our mortal members. He is saying our birth sold us under sin. Sin is a master. According to the New Testament, this is synonymous with being born “under law” as in… “the law of sin and death.” Christ was the only man ever born under that law who could keep it perfectly. All others are condemned by it.

Let’s look at sin as master:

Genesis 4:6 – The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Sin is a master who desires to rule over the individual. Sin is the problem. This does not mean mankind is totally depraved and his will is in complete bondage to sin, he/she is still free to do good and obey the conscience, but the overall direction is away from God and to sin.

Sin resides in the mortal body, but the mortal body, as we shall see, is somewhat neutral. I am not going to get into anthropological dichotomies and theories, but the Bible seems to say that the mind within the body is what’s redeemed when we are saved. Our thesis here contends that the battle within is between our redeemed righteous minds and SIN, not the old us that is dead. However, we are using the same body that the old man (the former us) used and the body can be habituated to some degree. We are to put off those habits and build new ones into our lives:

Ephesians 4:17 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The putting off of the old self is the likeness of the old self, not the literal old self. The body is habituated by the old ways, and we can bring those same habits into the Christian life with the same ill results. Note that the mind is being renewed, and we are putting off the old ways and putting on new ways. We are not “sinners” just because we fall short of perfect putting off and putting on, we are righteous persons in the process of renovation. The flesh is not inherently evil because it can be used for righteousness:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 6:19 – I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

The flesh is weak, sin resides there, and our bodies will be redeemed; in that sense, “nothing good dwells in me,” but our members are to be used as instruments for righteousness nevertheless. Let me caution in regard to this study. This is not a study that should be approached with sloppy research. For instance, consider Romans 7:24:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

We now hear, “See! See! Paul stated that we are still wretched sinners!” Problem is, the Greek word translated “wretched” in this verse means to persevere in affliction. Paul is longing to be saved from his mortal body where the conflict rages. He is not saying that Christians remain as wretched sinners. Likewise, was Paul really saying elsewhere that at the time of his writing that he was the premier sinner in the entire world at that time? The “chief” of sinners? I doubt it. One may ponder the idea that…it’s obviously not true. Paul was making some other point that will not be addressed here.

So, what is the dynamic that we are really fighting against? We are set free from the law of sin and death because Christ purchased us on the cross:

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

When we are saved, ownership is transferred to another master. We are no longer enslaved to Master Sin. Let’s look at what that slavery looked like:

Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

As Christians, we are no longer enslaved to sin which used our passions aroused by the law to provoke us to sin. Apparently, the cancelation of the law’s ability to condemn us comes into play here. If we cannot be condemned by the law, sin’s motivation is gone. Being condemned by the law is how sin enslaved us. If Christ died for sin, and the penalty is paid, and there is no condemnation in regard to the Christian, sin is robbed of its power. In addition, I assume it goes much deeper than this, but that is another study. We may assume that the intrinsic power of sin over us was broken as well.

Sin was able to produce sinful desires within us that provoked us to break God’s law; we were enslaved to a lawless master. Hence, and this is VERY important, phrases like, “For while we were living in the flesh” should not be interpreted as flesh=evil; it means that the unbeliever was living in a mortal body that was controlled by the Master Sin dynamic that used the law to condemn us and control us, and destroy us. No doubt, sin uses sinful desires to get even unbelievers to violate their consciences against the works of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:12-16).

This is why many unbelievers will obey their passions in things that are in the process of destroying them. They are enslaved by passions that Sin uses to get them to violate their consciences. In this sense, we were living according to the flesh—our flesh was controlled by the triad dynamic of sin, sinful desire, and the law of sin and death. Now we are controlled by a different triad dynamic: the Holy Spirit, His law, and godly desires. To insinuate in any way that a believer remains the same as before or is in some way marginally different borderlines on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and troddens underfoot the blood of Christ.

We will look at another text to build on our point:

Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

A problem arises when we interpret “flesh” without the full corpus of the subject. When we “walk” we are using the flesh. When we walk according to the Spirit, we are using our flesh (members/body) for holy purposes. The full dynamic of sin’s mastery is then interpreted by one word used in various and sundry ways to make any number of points. And, any idea that the Christian is still under the law of sin and death is particularly egregious. Worse yet, if one believes that the law still condemns them as most teach today, this empowers the Sin Master. The word of God can now be used to provoke even Christians with sinful desires.

Furthermore, since sin still remains in the body, it still attempts to use the law to provoke us with evil desires. I imagine that ignorance of the Scriptures supplies a field day for sin in the life of believers accordingly:

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The desire James is talking about are sinful desires provoked by sin. When we are tempted by a sinful desire, we should know exactly where that is coming from; sin is still trying to master us by using the former scheme. A Christian can produce fruits of death in this life by succumbing to those desires. These are temporary death fruits, not eternal. The former you could generate fruits of death in both this life and the life to come, but the believer can only generate temporary fruits of death. Peter referred to it this way: suffering as an unbeliever.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at some verses from Romans 7:

Romans 7:14 – For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Precisely. But note, when Paul writes, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin,” he is not saying that we are still enslaved to the same master or dynamic, he is saying the dynamic is still at work in us, but we are obviously no longer enslaved to it. Hence…

16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So, “Did you sin today?” Well, what sayeth Paul? Unless you take all that we observed in these three parts, this statement by Paul would seem outrageous, but we know what he is saying, and no, we are NOT “sinners.” Note as well, the law is not sinful, our flesh is “weak,” but it is sin itself that causes us to sin. Before we were saved, we desired sin and were ruled by it, but now, we have the desires of the Spirit and love His law…

For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

And:

Romans 7:21 – So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There remains a rest for God’s people, but it is not now. This is war, but we must know who the enemy is and how he works. Let me also add that simplicity is not the duty of the “learner,” aka disciple. Christians are to study in order to show themselves an approved “worker.” Lazy thinkers make for poor disciples and are the fodder for the wicked. The final analysis is this:

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

We are enslaved to the law of the Spirit of life, and fight against the law of sin and death that sin uses to provoke us with evil desires.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

We are not fighting against the old us. We are fighting the sin within that is no longer our master. In addition, our battle is not against “flesh and blood” but rather principalities.

We only have ONE nature, the new one.

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