Posted by: the warrioress | January 19, 2012

The Biggest Sinner III – Conclusion

Christ and Sinner, version of 1875

Little did I realize when I started this series how controversial the topic is. Leave it to me to find something that would have extremist black or white perspectives.

Believe it or not though, there actually is a middle ground for the more moderate and I found a wonderful writing by a respected minister/teacher that explores this. 

Keith Drury makes the topic easy to understand so that we can all find our personal place, yet still respect and love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who may differ with us on the topic. You see, what we don’t want is to become confused and begin to question our own salvation or drown in extremist conclusions that we must be perfect or we are not saved, or that we can never not sin.  Neither perspective is reasonable, really.

Remember:  OUR INTENT IS KEY.

Our heart counts.

If we sin unintentionally, there is grace for the believer, and this is the most important thing that every Christian and those who don’t believe need to know. God is not that harsh. We are deeply loved – all of us. God is not here to trick us or make our lives more difficult.

Have a read of the following. I’ve only included some of the paragraphs because it’s long, but you’ll get the gist of the matter, I think. 🙂

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How much can a Christian sin and still say he or she is a Christian? Every day? Every hour? Constantly and continually? As a regular practice of life? Just how much can a Christian sin and still say they’re a Christian?

There are two general extremes on this issue of “How much can a Christian sin?”

VIEW #1 “Christians Can’t Sin.”

On one extreme are those who argue a real Christian can’t sin, because being delivered from sin is what being a Christian is all about. These folk argue that if you claim to be a Christian but you are sinning, you are a liar—Christians can’t sin. You might be able to say, “I used to be a Christian,” or “I thought I was a Christian,” but if you are sinning you can’t say, “I sin, but I am a Christian.” Christians can’t sin.

The “can’t sin” people can assemble plenty of Scripture to back up their position. They use verses like 1 John 3:6 & 9, “No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning.” “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him and he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” The Bible is clear. Jesus came to save people from their sins, not in their sins, they assert. Christians don’t sin. They can’t. And if they should sin, they are no longer saved. After all what is the difference between a saved and an unsaved person? One lives like they always have—in sin and disobedience, and the other has a changed life: they have stopped sinning.

Those off on the “can’t sin” edge of doctrine often come from hyper-Arminian or holiness denominations. They have a great concern for the pure life—a life without sin. This is admittedly an admirable hope. But they go too far. They eventually came to insist on absolute purity as the minimum requirement for the Kingdom. They think they are following John Wesley. In fact, they start with Wesley then ride off on a tangent into the sunset with an aberration of Arminian doctrine. Instead of offering the future hope of living above sin, they insist on the present minimum of a sinless life—just to be in Christ’s family.

The “Christians can’t sin” doctrine leads to all kinds of crazy eccentricities in practice and doctrine. For instance, for these folk, every time a Christian does indeed fall into sin, he loses his relationship with Christ and has to start all over again and get saved. To them, sin is not allowed for Christians. So, whether a person sins or not is the ultimate measurement of your Christianity. The spotlight is on sin and self, not Christ and the cross. This is a seriously misplaced focus. (snip)

VIEW #2 “Christians must sin.”

This group takes up position on the other end of the scale. They argue that Christians must sin—they “can’t not sin.” This group teaches that sin is a natural and normal part of being human, and getting saved doesn’t change that at all. Why do we sin? We sin because we’re human, that’s why. We were born sinners. It’s in our blood, or at least our nature to sin. Adam was a sinner, and since then so have all his progeny—we are sinners at heart, and becoming a Christian doesn’t change that a bit. Before I was saved I was a sinner. After I was saved I am still a sinner, just a “saved sinner” now. In a sense God switched the label on me!

Then what does getting saved change? It changes our position before God, these folk teach. Before being saved we were a sinner on the way to hell. Now we are a sinner on the way to heaven. Our position changed: we are now adopted into God’s family. And because of this, all our sins—past present and future—were forgiven at one moment on the cross of Calvary 2000 years ago.

For the “must sin” people the focus is on Christ and the cross, never sin and self. They argue that St. Paul confessed he was the “chiefest of sinners” yet certainly he was a Christian wasn’t he? They like the book of 1 John too, especially preferring chapter one, verses 8 & 10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” and “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” The Bible is clear, they say. Christians sin. They are human. Sin is just what we do. The point is not to be sinless, it is to recognize that the sins you regularly commit were forgiven in advance. They teach that Christians do not confess to gain forgiveness. Rather the value of confession is internal—a value to the person themselves.

So they say you are destined to keep on sinning. In fact, every Christian sins regularly, even “in word, thought, and deed every day.” These teachers deny that a Christian could ever “stop sinning.” Sorry, it’s just not possible. You might overcome an individual sin. You might even overcome a number of individual sins. But, they say, you will never overcome all sin. You must sin. There will always be some sin in your life. So just expect it and confess your daily sins to God each day. You might as well start now—you’ll have to do it until the day you die. (snip)

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Christians can sin…but they don’t have to.

You can’t help reading the two extremes on this issue without wondering, “They’re really saying the same thing aren’t they?” It’s true. At least in a way. While the teachers of these two extreme positions probably would not admit they agree, the average person in today’s church can quickly see the sensible middle road approach to these doctrines. They say, “Sure, Christians can fall into sin, but they don’t have to.” Where is the middle ground? What is the position where the vast majority of sensible laymen stand?

1. Christians CAN fall into sin.

James was hot-headed, John was judgmental. Peter denied Christ. The Bible is full of sinners—saved ones. To say that Christians can’t sin squares neither with the Bible nor life. Christians can and do sin. When they do sin they don’t immediately “fall from grace” either. Their relationship with God is stronger than that. How can you read in Paul’s epistles the constant call for Christians, saints, the redeemed, to put off sin, lay aside sin, crucify sin, mortify the deeds of the flesh. If Christians never sinned why would Paul address these “saints” and tell them to stop? The truth is, Christians can fall into sin.

2. But Christians don’t HAVE to sin.

While sin is possible for Christians, it is not required. To say that Christians have to sin—that they can never be delivered from disobedience—sells short the blood of Christ and the cross. Sure Christians can sin. But they can not sin too. Sin is a choice we make. We can choose to do it and sin. Or we can choose to refrain, and not sin. But we are not trapped forever in a sinful cycle. It is possible to resist temptation and keep from sinning. I might admit that I sin every day in word, thought, and deed. But I don’t have to. The atonement is powerful enough to not only forgive my sins, but to deliver me from sin. Christians don’t have to sin.

3. There are two ideas of sin.

Perhaps the biggest reason the middle ground is so hard to find on this issue is there are two ideas of sin. These two ideas are both in the Bible. But even our culture and legal system makes a distinction between them.

A) Sin as falling short. This idea of sin focuses on God’s standard of holiness. It says that anything which “falls short” of God’s perfect standard as seen in Jesus is sin. Our life is like an arrow, and any time the arrow of my thought, words, or deeds “falls short” of the perfect target in Jesus, I sin. This is the first idea of sin.

B) Sin as intentional disobedience. The second idea of sin focuses on intentions, or my will. This idea states that sin is knowing something is wrong but doing it anyway. Or it is knowing God wants me to do something right, yet refusing to do it. This idea of sin emphasizes only willful disobedience. Sin is a deliberate, premeditated incident. Sometimes this is called “sin, strictly speaking” to distinguish it from the more global definition of sin in A) above.
(snip)

4. Christians CAN’T live above sin, generally speaking.

In the sense of sin as falling short, Christians will always sin. That is, they will always fall short of being exactly Christ-like in every attitude, word, action, or response to others. This kind of perfection is neither promised nor given on earth. Christians can daily confess that they fall short of absolute perfection every day. This is speaking of sin in its general, or falling short manner. Do you sin every day in word, thought, and deed? In this sense of sin, yes. We all do.

5. Christians CAN live above sin, strictly speaking.

However, on the other hand, Christians can live above sin if you mean sin in the stricter sense—purposeful premeditated sin. A Christians can indeed grow up…be cleansed…get deliverance…be filled with the Spirit…walk in the light…so that they do in fact come to a place where they do not purposefully disobey God in their day to day life. There really is hope for “obedient living.” At least for a life free from defiant and deliberate sin. Sure, such a person may still fall short of perfection, but they can live above purposeful disobedience. This is the optimistic hope of the atonement.

So, what about you? Is there purposeful sin in your life? Is there something you are doing—or not doing—which is out of line with God’s instructions to you? You know its wrong but you are doing it anyway? Or you know God wants you to start something, but you’re dragging your feet? If so, what you need to do is clear. You need to (1) confess this sin to God, then (2) repent—turn away from the sin and “get in line.” If you are sinning in defiance, the issue is not to debate the definitions of sin. The issue is to stop your defiance. And the route to stopping has always been the same: confess and repent. Trust God’s atonement for the power to both forgive and deliver you from this sin. He can do it. And He will do it.

http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/sin.htm

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Responses

  1. Personally-speaking, I believe that sin cannot separate us from the love of God. I trust that God knows my heart. He will allow nothing to come between He and I. Jesus Christ died so that sin would be overcome. I do the best I can and it’s good enough for my heavenly father.

    I tend to fall into the moderate aspect of doctrine on this matter when all is said and done. I believe that there are times that Christians slip up and sin, either through poor judgment, moments of weakness, or just inability to fight temptation sometimes. God’s grace is there for these times.

    I am grateful for this as I am extremely happy in my relationship with Him. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life. We don’t have to sin and as we progress and mature as Christians, I think we will cease to sin, but I don’t think that this guarantees that we will never sin again. I remain humble in knowing that I need God’s grace now and always will.

  2. You have the Courage of a Warrioress and the Heart of a child. This is a compliment. Jesus said, “Unless ye become as little children, ye shall not see the kingdom of God.”

  3. I noticed myself getting angry one day, as I sat through a bible study on Romans. Here we were freed from sin, and yet still sinning. Paul said he was the chiefest of sinners. I foolishly thought that meeting Jesus face to face would probably cure that, but it did not. So, the bottom line here is, though I would rather not, I too sin daily. I think the basis for these delves into sin, are because of my selfishness. I want to be angry right now. I suppose that makes me middle of the road. I prefer to think of myself as forgiven and constantly striving to do better.
    I think this is where mercy and grace come into play.
    Thanks for sharing
    Ozzie

  4. LeRoy, thank you for that incredibly sweet compliment.

  5. Ozzie, I think it takes time to become like Jesus Christ and I don’t think it happens to any of us overnight. For those of us who weren’t very Christ-like in our former lives before finding Jesus Christ, it can be a lifetime of changing old habits and behaviors.

    Some people are brought up Christian within Christian households; I don’t know about you but I was not.

    Be patient with yourself, hon; I know Jesus is. I know God loves us both very much. I really appreciate your total honesty on this topic. I know it’s hard to admit to still sinning from time to time or even daily.


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