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Dealing with Sin and Guilt

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Question #1:  

Hi Robert....I have one more ? for you that you may not be able to answer. How do I know if what I am now experiencing is Divine discipline or if it is from the evil one and God is allowing it to occur for my spiritual growth or for other reasons? Ty for your time!

Yours in Christ,

Response #1: 

I don't think there is a Christian alive who has not at some point wondered about extensive trouble and been tempted to think it had something to do with "wrong doing" and "divine discipline", even when that is not the case. Even a wonderful man like Job was tempted to fall into that trap:

"For you (i.e., God) write down bitter things against me and make me reap the sins of my youth.
Job 13:26 NIV

When we sin, we do receive discipline for our good (Heb.12:1ff.; cf. 1Cor.11:30-31). But God is a loving Father. He receives us back with joy even if we have gone far from Him like the prodigal son, and restores us to blessing. There is a purpose to everything, but we are not in this world to enjoy "good things" as if this were the garden of Eden. God gives us many good things, of course, but we are also our Lord Jesus' representatives here in the devil's world and as such are constant targets of the evil one. If we sin, we should confess. When we confess, we are forgiven. And unless we refuse to follow a sanctified path, we can be confident that whatever discipline we received at first to put us back on the right course is then transformed into blessing, drawing us closer to God. But as in the case of Job, and Paul, and so many others, it is very important to remember that most of what befalls believers who are walking closely with the Lord is not punishment for things long past – our God is gracious, loving, merciful and forgiving, after all – but trials and testing that God allows the evil one to impose in order that we might grow, that we might learn all the better to rely on Him and not on ourselves. We have experienced His faithfulness in so many things. When we are under fire, it is very important not get down on ourselves. The next step is often blaming God for being unfair. If Job could fall into that trap (and he did), how much more might we if we are not keeping our spiritual wits about us? Our Lord is with us, and He will deliver us from all of our troubles, today – as long as it is called today, tomorrow – if we are given one, and in the end – when He will take us to be with Himself forever. On that great day there will be no more tears or sorrow of any kind. One benefit of testing of any kind is that it helps us to take our eyes off the here and now (which we might not do if everything was going well), and to focus instead on the heavenly realities ahead.

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:8-10 NKJV

Heaven is where our true treasure lies. And that is where our true focus should be as well.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

I'm keeping you in my prayers for deliverance, my friend! Here are a few pertinent links:

Mutual Encouragement in Christ IV

Mutual Encouragement in Christ III

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

God's Dealing with the Sins of Individual Human Beings (in BB 3B)

Mutual Encouragement in Christ II

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

God Heals - in His way (not our way)

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

May you have a fruitful observance of Good Friday (I can't say "Happy Good Friday").

"And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow."
(Luke 23:48)

What does Psalm 42:6 mean?

"Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you— even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar." This seems too specific for it not to have special meaning.

I am also composing a new blog post and what is time and how the flow of time relates to arguments for God's existence.

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

Happy holidays ahead to you too, my friend (regardless of degree of observance).

Here's how NIV renders the verse:

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Psalm 42:6 NIV

This is the correct Hebrew order which makes it clear that Mt. Hermon is Mt. Mizar (so the second title is in apposition for explanatory/emphatic purposes). The Jordan rift, while it is fed from that mountain massif, represents the lowest of the land in contrast to this other highest point. So this combination represents a geographic totality: "no matter how high or low I go". Or in other words, "wherever I am, be it ever so high or ever so low on the earth, I will remember you, Lord".

As to the contrast between this sentiment and the way the verse starts, the Psalms and other wisdom literature (notably Job) often gives us "stream of consciousness" thinking wherein we see the human author wrestling with his thoughts and emotions, remembering biblical principles to buck himself up even as the despair of his situation pounds in upon him (e.g., Job 19:21-29). These are wonderful passages which reassure us that our human weaknesses in having to fight to keep the truth as our way of looking at life and interpreting our circumstances is nothing new – it is the essence of the Christian walk. Here are some links on that:

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Courage in the Fight.

Fighting the Fight IV: Dispatches from the Laodicean 'Front'

I'm very encouraged by the development of your blog-ministry, my friend. Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

I saw on a Bible Academy video as well as your website that there's a difference between sin and evil. Is evil that it involves sin, but is violent and causes people's lives to become endangered – like not being a law abiding citizen? And sin is just an offence to God, disobeying him?

Response #3: 

They are different words in Hebrew and Greek too. That is mainly because a sin is an action but evil is a broader term or concept which characterizes action. In Hebrew, it's simply ra', "bad"; in Greek it's poneros, "base" (originally). In my way of explaining the important theological difference, sin is something all human beings do, including believers who are doing a creditable job battling against it (doing it less and committing lesser sins). Evil is a broader brush stroke, so to speak, which may characterize a person's entire behavior pattern or character, or it may be a system of behavior (whether systematized or not). In general terms, the devil promotes evil – not just individual sins but a pattern of sinning which embraces the bad (instead of fighting against it and occasionally lapsing). That is a huge difference. As I also like to say, claiming that a particular sin or system of sinning is not only not "bad" but really good is the essence of "evil". In our heart of hearts, we know the difference (ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of "knowing good and evil ["bad" / ra' ]). But if we harden our hearts against the truth and reverse these, justifying our bad actions and calling them good, that is when what would otherwise be a "mistake" dips into true evil.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hello Robert,

Thank you again so much. I am so very grateful for your patience, understanding kindness and time (and for all your years of study that has enabled you to answer my questions and give me the biblically sound reassurance I so desperately needed). You have really really really helped me with this, maybe I will be able to help someone else in the same place I was...perhaps this is a small part of the Lords timing and plan.

I have read the link you provided about apostasy and the sin unto death which I totally understand and will definitely read more, looking forward to it in fact, and as you say there is loads on the site and definitely enough to keep me going for years. Can I just ask where you think it would be best for me to start? And can I just ask what R/x means please? You said I needed plenty of it and I wasn't sure what you meant?

I will keep you in my prayers and if there is anything specific you would like me to pray for you..please ask.

It's the middle of the night here and I just read something on your site that has sent me into a downwards spiral... in tears again. I just read the chapter on apostasy again...properly. After being baptised...I fell away from church because I didn't go one Sunday and the pasted told me off...an I got cross. And did go back to [sinning]. I was horrified/terrified, I hadn't been living a Christian life at all

I was exactly like those in 2 Peter ... Sow going back to mud and in Jude twice dead..... If I committed apostasy..which I think I did...going back to the old lifestyle (still believing that Jesus loved me no matter what I did) then my trying to come back is impossible... pointless....I have been trying to believe I am a real Christian for years, believing totally that there is a God and that Jesus died for sins (but so does the devil) but it was too late for me...and I have been going for nearly ten years...the vicar avoids me...and my in depth questions...and says the fact that I am concerned tells him I am not an apostate but anyone would be concerned if they believed they were going to hell...(which as you can imagine absolutely terrifies me which is why I cannot sleep) and that Jesus didn't love them anymore (which breaks my heart) recently as I have explained to you I have got more and more upset/angry at trying and not having solid ground.

And deliberately sinning as I told you about in my email...your help is all I have now. If someone has apostatised they cannot come back can they...like 2 Peter and Jude say...is that true? Am I damned? Please don't ignore my email...I realise I am taking up a lot of your time and patience but I really am lost...and just can't stand this torture anymore.... Sorry Robert....please can you offer me anything...anything at all

Response #4: 

We are in a completely different time zone on this side of the pond. I'm certainly not ignoring you, but I have to go off to work very soon so I'll have to make this short for now. I want you to be encouraged to know that since you are a believer in Jesus Christ you are NOT an apostate. An apostate is someone who has lost faith or abandoned faith in Jesus Christ entirely – so as to no longer be a believer. Apostates do not put themselves through what you are putting yourself through because they do not care. They do not care because they no longer believe in Jesus. They have reverted to the state of unbeliever. Apostasy is all about the status of former believers who are now unbelievers – it is not about sin (and is just as often occasioned by being disappointed with life or otherwise disillusioned as it is about getting involved in gross sin of the sort which causes many such guilt years later and makes them wrongly doubt their salvation.

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.
Hebrews 3:12 NKJV

Please remember that Jesus died for every single one of your sins (and mine). They were all forgiven when you believed. If we sin after salvation – and there is no one who does not – we do come in for divine discipline as the loving Father works with us to get us to reform our ways. If we persist in sinning things do get worse. But when we finally come back, there is restoration. Since you have come back, since you have confessed your sins to the Lord, you have been restored for "the blood of Christ cleanses us" from all sin (1Jn.1:7).

There is no passage of scripture which says a person can't "come back" from "prodigal son" type journeys far away from the Lord – the purpose of that parable is to show that we can and to urge us to do so. Human history the way God has designed it is all about choice. And there is hardly a page in scripture where the Lord is not wooing us to do the right thing, and to come back to Him if we are far from Him. That is what He clearly wants all to do: to come to Him, whether for the first time or whether, like the prodigal son, to be restored to past blessing. Since this is what He wants – and scripture is clear on the issue (we only have to consider the loving character of God, after all, who sent His Son to die for us) – why would we imagine that in our single case alone He no longer wants us back? That is a vengeful human sort of emotion that has no place with God, and it is a feeling that is motivated by misplaced guilt (which emotion is happy to feed into all manner of misinterpreted scriptures when fueled by the evil one).

I'm not sure what passages you are referring to, but I am happy to address each and every one that may be causing you difficulties – and no doubt have already done so many times at Ichthys.

I'm sorry that the study on apostasy upset you, however I am certain that nowhere in there do I ever say or point to a scripture which supposedly says that no one can come back. Please understand. Since you are a believer, you are not an apostate (regardless of where you got to spiritually in the past). There are many believers who have come close to losing faith; but if they have faith now, they are believers, and all believers are saved – including you, no matter how you feel about it.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Here are some other links I would ask you to please read:

Salvation Lost and Found

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Again, sorry for any confusion; and please do feel free to write back about this.

In Jesus Christ our Lord who died for us to save us, not to condemn us.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Thank you Rob...you are so kind to take the time., especially as you were on your way to work to go out of your way to help just me. I will never forget it and I think you are a very very special person.

Thank you for your email it is the most reassuring...the most helpful email ever, the terror in my guts/heart? calmed as soon as I read it, I was so frightened, and so scared and your email broke through all that, I will email you the verses that frightened me so much, but for now I just need to get some sleep and simply trust in the Lords love for this night.

Will keep in touch if that's ok with you. When my shakeyness dissipates some more I will start studying your website.

Will definitely keep you in my prayers.

Thank you Rob, thank you so very very much. Have a lovely evening.

God bless you

Love, in Christ (can say that now, thanks to your time and kindness and wisdom with more confidence)

Response #5: 

You're most welcome.

I'm happy to hear that you are rallying your faith. The devil doesn't attack unbelievers, after all, so the fact of being attacked proves your status as a child of God.

As to where to start in spiritual growth, one of the places most people find most beneficial at Ichthys in getting a start is the (incomplete) Peter series (see the link for the organizing page). I began this series many years ago to help Christians who were experiencing suffering of one type or another and need encouragement to persevere with spiritual growth. Please also see the FAQs "Recommended Sequence: Which of these studies should I read first?" and "Recommended Use: How can I best benefit from these studies?" (at the links).

Thanks for your prayers! I'm keeping you in mine as well.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hi Dr,

I hope all is well. Phil 2:12 where it states "work out your own salvation", can you provide an exegesis on this? I know it is not salvation by works theology but want a better understanding. My initial thought is that it means since you have been saved, show the works of salvation via obedience similar to James line of thought about faith without works. Am I correct or off base?

Thanks like always. In Christ our Lord.

Response #6: 

Here is how I translate this verse:

So then, my brothers, just as you have always been obedient [to the truth], not just when I was present [with you] but even more so now in my absence, go to work on your salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12

The idea is that spiritual safety consists not in standing still but in maintaining a steady spiritual advance, and also that complacency is a dangerous attitude. As I am fond of saying, there are two sides to the road each of which one ends in the ditch. Some people emphasize the truth that we are safe in Jesus Christ – wonderful and true, but dangerous if taken to the extreme of arrogant complacency (which is exactly the reverse of the correct application one should make); some people emphasize the dangers inherent in this world if a person should turn from the Lord – also true and salutary, but not if taken to far to the point of inducing a lack of confidence and faith in the Lord or if used to substitute a legalistic agenda of salvation by works to alleviate the unwarranted fear. We are in good shape in the middle of the road between these two extremes, but we need a "proximity alert" if we are drifting too far one way or the other. Paul apparently felt this was a good place to warn rather than to encourage – both things are necessary. So it is a mistake to see these two principles (security and the need to pursue safety) as mutually exclusive when in fact they are two sides of the same coin. We are to fear (respect) the Lord even as we are to love (appreciate) Him. These are not opposites really; in fact you can't really have one without the other.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Interestingly, the Psalmist deals with the philosophical issue of an almighty God-like being (God) presenting a calculated, rational decision to free-will being:

"Because with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared."
(Psalm 130:4)

Much like the Parable of the Unjust Judge, even if God was secretly bitter and despising toward humanity, he knows it's good to give forgiveness to people, even if it's just to "shut the widow's incessant complaining up." How much more would a loving God give!

Response #7: 

That is a blessedly wonderful verse which is also quite interesting. The forgiveness of God is based upon Christ's sacrifice, and since God has forgiven the sins of all, there is no excuse in eternity for not responding to Him now. Hardhearted types may seek to convince themselves that God is unloving, and that therefore they will have a reasonable defense at the last judgment (and that it didn't matter what they did in life anyway). But the forgiveness He offers – and for which He paid such an ineffable price – puts the lie to all such defenses of straw.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Thanks for your letter. - - But you didn't answer my one question. - - - Did you have such a mind blowing experience like the one I explained to you?

THAT is what BORN AGAIN truly is-!

It is like that scene from "The Ten Commandments" when Moses (Charlton Heston) comes down from the mountain, and his hair had turned slightly gray. The look on his face was one of "Holy ----- !" - I just talked with God-! That is what being born again is like-! My relative George knew what I was talking about ---100% Since then, I only heard one other testimony of someone who had such an experience like that. One American girl told me, "It's like the greatest high you ever had-!" - - That was in 1982.

Blessings,

Response #8: 

I was saved probably at about age four and my memories of it are foggy. But I know I've been a believer all my life since that early time. I think it's more common for those who come to the Lord later in life to have such experiences as you relate. One thing we can say for sure, however, is that it's not really the experience or emotional impact that counts; it's putting faith in Christ that counts, trusting Him for life eternal based on who He is and what He has done for us (see BB 4B: Soteriology at the link).

Plenty of people have emotional experiences about all manner of things and aren't saved. For some believers salvation is a quiet thing, even if they are older when saved. God gives us what we need it seems. I'm happy you have something nice to remember, but please remember that it's all about faith in the truth. The truth is so important – faith in the truth is how we are saved and we stay safe thereafter. During the soon-to-come Tribulation a third of believers are going to apostatize. Even if they had wonderful salvation experiences, it won't matter if they abandon their faith during the pressures of the Great Apostasy. So keep moving forward spiritually so you'll be prepared for that. This is one of the reasons I've hung in there with you on this point we have been arguing. In my humble opinion, it's become a stumbling block for you that is preventing you from growing. So I urge you to find a place where the truth is being taught in a substantive and orthodox way where you can grow, and give that place/person your spiritual allegiance so as to grow and be ready for the hard times ahead.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hello Brother Bob

I pray all is well with you! Something seems to be missing as I try to understand what God is referring to in Gen. 3:22, "like one of us, knowing good and evil". It seems that there is something significant that by knowing good and evil changes mankind. The act of disobedience changed our relationship with our God and Creator. Does "knowing good and evil" do something as well?

As always, I am eager to read the wisdom God gives to your reply-

Blessings to you as we wait for the Blessed Hope

Response #9: 

Most of what I have to say about this is written up at the link: "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil". In a nutshell, eating the fruit of this tree activated the human conscience: before eating, before sin, no such understanding of the difference was necessary, but in a world of sin and death mankind had to have a conscience capable of telling the difference in broad terms between what is essentially good and what is essentially bad in moral terms (we "calibrate" this conscience to a more detailed appreciation of things by means of truth believed as we grow in Christ). You might also see the links "knowledge" and "trees of Eden"Having the image of God is such an important thing; now that we are born in sin, that image – the ability to choose – is used to return to the Lord on His terms (or not). Being able to discern "good and evil" is therefore critical to both to being saved (or being culpable in rejecting salvation) and for applying truth to our lives in the midst of devil's deceptive world.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

First I want to thank you for taking the time to read my email, I am sure you encounter many others who are dealing with an issue similar to mine. My situation is a rather deep and complicated one, I hope and pray I can find some sort of relief.

I became born-again in August of 2010. I was dealing with my son being born with a rare disease, praying I was watching an old Billy Graham crusade and accepted the invitation at the end and felt a calming peace I had never know. I immediately started going to church, wanting to change and give thanks back to God for what he had done for me.

Not long after I started experiencing severe anxiety, hair loss and depression. It was crippling and I sought help from my new church family who questioned if maybe there was an open door for sin that was causing this? None of them could relate. I stayed at this church of Christ for a little over a year until the pastor moved in spring of 2012 then we stopped going altogether.

At this time (not attending church) I started a new job, and my boss was muslim. I felt certain this was my test, my calling...to preach to this man about Jesus. He offered me a management position even though I had no experience and I believe this was my first mistake. Looking back now he planned to keep me confined because he knew working out in the field I shared Christ with all my clients.

My plan soon back fired and instead of staying strong and being a bearer of light to Jesus I fell into sin. One day I felt a voice say "How can I be forgiven, Jesus cannot be recrucified to cover this sin" and another "you can just repent".

I told my husband I missed church and he agreed we needed to come back. I did my best to repent, but I had a difficult time with it. In January we did the Daniel fast and I dug in my Bible (which went untouched over two years) and realized Hebrews talks about "habitual and willful sin" as well as "re-crucifying Christ" (just like the voice I heard). After the fast I heard a voice say "blasphemy" and one day I heard it say "you have renounced your faith, you have renounced your faith". I had to look up the word renounce because I didn't know what it was. Another voice said "I am a mountain, I cannot be moved".

I am in such distress. I feel like I tried to repent for a year, but then I read about the consequences and am in such fear that I lost my salvation. Esau sought his with tears but he couldn't truly repent, the same with Saul. I am so depressed and I think of this all day long. The Bible says if we again get entangled from what we had been forgiven then we were better off not knowing the truth. The word of God also states we can throw away our confidence and be left with a fearful expectation of judgment, and this is where I fear I am now. I know Christ's blood covers us, but when we willfully abuse Grace there is no atoning blood over such sin?

Response #10: 

It's always good to make the acquaintance of a fellow believer in Christ, although I'm sorry to hear of your present distress. Let me assure you from the outset that as a believer in Jesus Christ you are indeed saved, in spite of any and all sins you may have committed (Jesus died for them all, and they are all forgiven upon genuine confession; cf. 1Jn.2:2 with 1Jn.1:9). All believers are saved; only unbelievers are not saved. As our Lord Himself tells us:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

Esau was never a believer and he never sought the Lord; he merely was grieved over the loss of his blessing (as Genesis 27:38ff. makes clear). Saul was a believer acting in defiance of the Lord's will, but he never became an unbeliever (as 1Sam.28:19 makes clear). Those who are "worse off than in the beginning" (2Pet.2:20-22) are those who are "overcome" and lose their faith entirely (apostatizing and reverting to being unbelievers) as opposed to "overcoming" by maintaining their faith (Rom.8:37):

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1st John 5:4 NIV

Only apostates "lose their salvation". An apostate is not a believer in distress, or a believer who has fallen into sin, or even a believer who is acting in defiance of God's will. An apostate is someone who has completely rebelled against Him, who has completely rejected the Lord he/she once embraced, who now no longer believes in Him or is in anyway concerned about being faithful to Him (see the link). Clearly, you do not belong in that category.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1st John 2:1-2 NIV

Our Lord died for you, for all your sins – and for me, and for all my sins. He isn't looking to condemn us; He is looking to bring us ever closer to Himself, and back to Himself whenever we stray – as in the case of the prodigal son, or the lost coin, or the one sheep out of a hundred. Our God is love and our Lord died for us out of a love so deep we cannot really comprehend it. So the only way we can be lost is to be determined to reject Him, to cast off all faith in Him, to go in search of other gods or make ourselves a god in our own eyes – so that we no longer believe. You, however, do believe, and you do retain your faith in Him. All this time He has been wooing you back to a closer walk with Him in the truth. That is really the issue here, namely, the truth.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:15-17 NIV

The truth is the Word of God. The truth is not what we imagine it might be but what it actually is. The truth is not our taking counsel of our deepest fears and deliberately ignoring what we know to be true from scripture in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The truth is the love, the goodness, the mercy, the forgiveness, the sacrifice, the faithfulness of our God and Father and of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, all of which wondrous things sing out from every page of the Bible.

Throw all of your worries upon Him, because He is concerned for you.
1st Peter 5:7 (cf. Ps.55:22)

So I encourage you not to give over to the fears that all believers feel when they recognize they have strayed from the Lord (whether for a long or short time, whether in large or small things). Jesus loves us all as part of His body and will never let any of us out of His loving embrace (Jn.10:28-29) – it is only we ourselves who can compromise our salvation by deliberately rejecting the One we have received as our Lord, our Master, and our Savior when we first believed. Unless faith dies completely out like the dead plant of Luke 8:13 (and that takes deliberately willful rejection of Him and His truth over some period of time . . . to the point where a person would no longer be concerned about Him and one's relationship with Him in the way that you most assuredly are concerned), we remain born again children of God, and part of Christ's Body, His Bride, deeply beloved by Him.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 NIV

The passages in Hebrews you quote are likewise commonly misunderstood and improperly used by various and sundry. And I rather suspect, just from what you shared about your church's ungracious reaction to your medical problem, that you have gotten bad information from that source as well. The truth is the truth – what the Bible actually teaches; not what it does not (and there are many false teachings afoot here in the last days). You will find out more about that in the links I will include below, but let me say here that "crucifying afresh" is continuing in the temple rites of Judaism as a believer when those rites proclaimed a Christ not yet come and a sacrifice not yet made – to do so for a Christian was to give the worst possible witness (but it's not something that can even be done today).

Finally, just as I would advise you not to take counsel of your fears, so I would advise you not to listen to voices. Our emotions, roiled by the sin nature we all possess and egged on by the minions of the evil one, are only too happy to suggest to us all manner of terrible thoughts and these may even seem audible at times. But as we grow in Christ, we learn to trust Him and the truth of His words in the Bible more that we trust our feelings – or even what we see or hear with our physical eyes and ears. For everything in this world may be deceptive – except the truth of the Word of God. That said, the solution to all such problems and troubles is diving deep into the Word, reading one's Bible for oneself, but also accessing a good, solid, orthodox Bible teaching ministry where one can be fed spiritually and grow up to spiritual maturity. That is what we all need. Sadly, it's also something in short supply in these last days of Laodicea. You are certainly welcome to all the materials at Ichthys, and also to write me if you have any questions (either about any of the above or about anything else related to the Bible). I also recommend Pastor Curt Omo's Bible Academy (at the link).

Finally, I have heard similar concerns as you voice from many of our brethren, my friend . . . and I have heard much worse (from people who for all that were also believers, just very misinformed about the Word of God). Here are those links (they will lead you to many more at Ichthys as well):

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost my Salvation?

Salvation Lost and Found

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

John's Primer on Sin

Repentance, Confession and Forgiveness (in BB 3B)

What does 1st John mean about sin?

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Legalism, Past and Present II

Christian Struggle, Perseverance and Deliverance

An Extended Conversation on the 'Unpardonable' Sin

Salvation and Sin

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Thank you so much for your thorough response, I am very appreciate of all the scripture clarification. About 8 months later, my husband and I attended church a few times, one service the pastor started prophesying and said "women grab your husband and come down here". He revealed my life and I felt this shaking sensation through out my body. I asked forgiveness, but did not turn from my sin. There was also a time where I took the Lords Supper while in this sin. I am worried that I did not turn from my sin in time, that my chance was blown and I went back into it. I am so disgusted with my sins, my lack of fear of God during that time, and putting the world before Him. The word says what good does it profit us if we gain the world but lose our souls.

Also, about the words I spoke in another language, could that count as apostasy? My husband looked into it and he said he may have been trying to get me to do some quick phony ritual to justify myself. I cannot believe I allowed this to happen, I preached on the dangers of islam in my speech class in college only months before this happened. I want to be back in The Word but I feel such strong conviction that I am overcome with guilt. I also think of the torment of hell and being separated from my family for eternity then I get worried God will get angry because I should be worried about being separated from Him!!! (I am sure this is a natural thing as a human to contemplate but I am being honest with my feelings.) I told myself if I am indeed a reprobate, I will continue to be in the faith until the end, continue to be active in my church, and not just give up and live a wasted life. I go to church three times a week but when I hear a sermon I always feel like Gods promises are not for me anymore, I have been shunned and am reserved for darkness.

Response #11: 

You are very welcome. And I want to be very clear that guilt is a terribly destructive emotion when it becomes divorced from the truth and is allowed to run roughshod over the will. That is true of all emotions, but guilt in particular. When the Spirit is prodding us to stop doing something wrong or to start doing something we ought to do – or when we have a twinge of guilt on account of the violation of some definite standard to which we have become accustomed – that is all to the good because it helps us to see that we need to reorient to the proper course. Neurosing about the past, however, never comes to any good. We do not have to worry about being "let off too easy": God the Father always provides the perfect divine discipline for us to turn us around, and also to teach us (and others) whatever lessons we have yet to learn or are reluctant to learn. There is not a Christian alive who cannot, upon reflection, testify to the truth of that; and, after all, it is in the Bible:

And you have forgotten the encouragement scripture gives us as to the sons we are: "My son, do not treat the Lord's punishment lightly, and do not lose heart when you are rebuked by Him. For the Lord punishes those He loves, and flays everyone He receives to Himself as a son." So take your punishment in this spirit – God is behaving towards you as to sons. For what son has never been punished by his father? And if it should be that you are not receiving punishment (in which all [true sons] share), then you are illegitimate and not sons at all.
Hebrews 12:5-8

But there is no scriptural mandate for torturing ourselves about things done in the past, often in the distant past, things about which at present we can do nothing. If we have indeed confessed and turned from the wrong path, that is what God demands of us. He said He would forgive us. Isn't it wrong – even arrogant – to assume that He doesn't? So if there is anything to confess, we should confess; if there is anything about which we need to completely change our minds and our opinions (biblical repentance), then we should do so posthaste. But if it is a question of things past which have been confessed and addressed, we are to take this biblical advice instead:

(13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

What our Lord wants from us after we have turned from the wrong to the right, after we have confessed whatever we have done, after we have come back to Him like the prodigal son, is not to waste our lives agonizing about the past – which does no one any good at all and only delays our spiritual recovery – but to get moving forward in His plan for our lives, a plan which in the case of every Christian involves growing up to full spiritual maturity through reading, hearing, learning, and believing the truths of the Word of God, walking ever closer to Him through our application of the truth we have received and committed to our hearts by faith to the trials and tribulations of our lives, and then, when we have moved forward far enough, helping others in the Church do the same in the proper exercise of our spiritual gifts.

There is no sin which cannot be forgiven – save the sin of refusing to believe in Jesus Christ (that is the only "unpardonable sin"). We are disciplined for our sins, but as sons and daughters of the living God, so that even as we suffer through the pain of whatever righteous but loving punishment we may receive, the very fact of it reminds us that we are beloved by Him. There are consequences for earthly actions: if I foolishly stick my hand in the fire to impress someone I will be burned; God will forgive me my folly, but He will not miraculously heal the burn immediately. But one of the worst mistakes a Christian can make is to allow him/herself to fall into the guilt trap which the devil has prepared. We all sin (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:5-10). So on occasion we all have need of repentance, confession, and spiritual recovery. But our God is a God of love and forgiveness. He promises to forgive us when we come back to Him. How is it that we could possible doubt Him? If we do, we are playing the devil's game and we are not responding to the Lord Jesus as He wants us to respond.

My advice is to have faith that God is telling you the truth and believe that truth; believe the Lord and His Word, not your guilt and your fears. They, with Satan's help, will lie to you every time. But the Lord never lies. He says He loves you. And so He does. He says He forgives you. And so He does. He says that nothing can ever separate you from Him, and so nothing can – only we can mess this all up by failing to believe His promises and going our own way instead. This course is only different in appearance from the sins which we loathe that set us on it in the first place.

Jesus Christ does forgive you everything – He says so in His Bible. Our part is to accept that forgiveness in faith, and then to move forward with what our Lord wants from us in this life. That is the way of great eternal reward (see the link); the other way, the way of endless introspection set aflame by false guilt and lack of faith in the truth of His promises, never ends well.

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.
Isaiah 30:18 NASB

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6:9-12 NKJV

I commend to you all the former links (they will help you grow), and am happy to answer any further questions you might have.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

What can I say, Professor. Firstly, I was wrong so many times with these things and last year I have plunged myself into so many troubles that I will do wisely not to assume too much now. On the other hand, to go there today did reinforce the most important truth. After this difficult year I would never say I deserve a deliverance and it may be that it will come. How far more undeserving are we when it comes to the most important deliverance of all? I feel ashamed that this truth hasn't been ingrained deeper in my heart. But there is something very motivating in this, because it is very motivating to be given things in grace. That's how we were saved and although we cannot show ourselves worthy of such deliverance through our works, we know we belong to the Lord and want to serve Him in love. I don't know what will happen, but to be in such a peaceful place would be exactly this - a wonderful gift that I could myself never find, but one that would be a great and needed help when it comes to serving the Lord through the ministry of the word, ministry for which I'm preparing and hope to commence, even in a very small capacity, hopefully soon.

In our Lord through whom we received the Gift of gifts,

Response #12: 

That's great my friend!

Here's hoping (and praying) that it all works out and that you can get this place without too much fuss and muss – and also that everything works out from the job point of view.

I'm praying for you on all this. I found your testimony here to be particularly encouraging personally.

Keep me in the loop!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Hi Dr.

I hope all is well and like always my prayers to your ministry for helping the body of Christ. May The Spirit continue to strengthen you for your work for the Kingdom.

The title of my email, "fight without fear", is apropos because my mind is being inundated with thoughts that I know are not coming from the Lord and not of the Spirit. As you know I am under extreme pressure not only because of the ongoing situation but also financial burdens including possible potential loss of job due to no fault of my own. The company is being sold.

I understand God's truth and I have years of witness of his deliverance during my many trials in life. The issue with me is not one of faith and or lack of continued spiritual growth because I continue to maintain my daily walk of prayer, bible reading and studying and edifying the Body when The Spirit feels it fit for me to do. My issue recently has been that there are these pernicious thoughts that pops up in my head about the surety of God's words and deliverance. The thought is that I feel that God is cruel and will somehow is playing a joke on me. I am like his yoyo. It doesn't happen on a consistent basis but I do sense it is happening frequently and I pray and repent and I feel better but the thought doesn't go away once and for all.

A great example of this recently and not having to do with the ongoing pressure is the job situation. Through his Grace, I was notified in advance this was going to happen to give me sufficient time to start looking etc. God being who he is all-knowing and loving created an opportunity where I did not see coming. One of the senior executives from another division contacted me and took me to lunch and ask me confidentially if I would like to move over to his division. I took this as a blessing from God and sign that this might be the avenue He will have me go through rather than being unemployed and looking for work. The conversation went well and we are meeting again next Tuesday to discuss it further with another senior executive from that division.

While I knew this was God providential hand, a thought immediately came into my mind where God is dangling this and then will yank it away. This is the same thought pattern from the ongoing trial. He shows that he is with me and then yanks it away, hence the yoyo analogy.

I know this is all Satan but while under testing of this sort that I am facing, is it normal to also receive testing of the mind as well or is it all one of the same? Also, apart from my continued reading, praying and repenting and studying, what other measures do you think can help me not feel this sense of "joke is on you" thought that is in my mind?

I can assure you I have not lost a step in my faith but I want to be a real stalwart of faith like believers in the bible and I feel that I am not passing this part of the test because of this intermittent thought issues I am dealing with because of all these pressures facing me. I am still joyful and still have the Spirit of Peace but I really want to know how to be more effective in this area. I will go back and re-read some of your notes on Thinking and Emotions and I know there will be some scriptural advice in there.

Thanks for listening and also if we are having such a rough time at it now, I mean believers who are really trying to walk with the Lord day by day, do we even have a chance when the real test happens soon. That is a scary thought which this also brings about.

One last thing and I apologize. I know I have many questions intercept through the emails but I believe you get the gist of it, how does the evil one know to read our thoughts? Isn't that the domain of the Trinity? Can he tell what we are thinking by observing our behavior and what if our behavior doesn't emit any signals or is this a case of God allowing him to test our thoughts?

Your Friend in Christ Jesus.

Response #13: 

It's good to hear from you, my friend. I'm happy to learn that the Lord is looking out for you in spite of the evil one's attacks. We know of a certainty that He always does so. But it is true that sometimes under pressure a gap can develop between knowledge and faith. It's called being human. But the human beings who come in for the greatest divine praise are the ones who close that gap the most for most of the time (that is the theme of Hebrews chapter eleven after all). Put enough pressure on anyone and it will challenge them and make them fight to keep that gap closed.

If we saw the Lord, all doubt would disappear; if we really had a small smidgen of an idea about how "big" God was, we would have no worries; if we could fully internalize and hold onto the truth that He is absolutely faithful – and cannot be anything else because He is God – our faith would embrace that faithfulness without allowing a sliver of daylight between the truth we have believed and what we are feeling under pressure. But of course we are dealing with 1) the evil one and his minions; 2) our emotions and sin nature; 3) an imperfect walk, imperfect track record, and incomplete preparation (even in the case of those who are wonderfully faithful and prepared in spiritual terms, no one is close to being perfect in this as our Lord was).

So when the fight comes, we are not necessarily going to have an absolutely easy time of it. That is the first thing to accept, namely, that we aren't perfect. We can't afford to get rattled or thrown off by our own lack of perfection; that is a subtle form of pride and the devil is only too happen to exploit that flaw. We have to accept the fact that this side of heaven we will always need to confess, that we will always need to readjust our attitude and fight this fight from time to time, and that no matter how much progress we make we can't expect to erase all of our vulnerabilities overnight. That is to say, we have to accept the fact that we are essentially weak and will always need the Lord's help down here – but that is the beginning of victory:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

This is all a matter of faith. But what is faith? Faith is accepting the truth of the heavenly realities we can't see at present (Heb.11:1-2, the most important of which for this purpose is the faithfulness of God. We have to remember and to remind ourselves in no uncertain terms whenever we are feeling the heat that God is completely faithful and cannot be anything else. The words of the 23rd Psalm, e.g., have to actually be real to us, not just words. The truth we know about the Lord, about who He really is, about how He loves us – as shown by what He did for us on the cross – is more real than what we are seeing, hearing and feeling. Our experience is not as real as the truth we have believed, nor anything as important.

This doesn't mean that it's as easy to do as it is to say. Consider Job. He was one of the greatest believers who ever lived, but he fell into this trap, the trap, that is, of interpreting what he was experiencing as "the truth" and allowing that to influence the way he felt about things and then, inevitably the way he thought about things . . . leading unfortunately to the way he spoke about things. Of course, Job didn't have the benefit of being able to read the book of Job. Had he done so, I'm thinking that he might well have passed that difficult test too.

If we are doing what the Lord wants us to do, walking with Him closely, and doing our best to help others do so as well, then we do not have to worry about anything. What is the worst that could happen? We could lose our lives, of course, but we really do understand that it's better by far to be with the Lord in any case (Phil.1:23). And we also know, understand, and, more importantly, believe that we won't be in any sort of pain or suffering or emotional torment the instant we are relieved of this physical life. If our life is not in immediate danger, what are we really worried about? This life won't last forever, everything down here is dust, and anything achieved in this world that isn't directly related to or eternal rewards means less than nothing in the end (cf. Ps.39:6).

Are we suffering now? We may very well be. It's not a sin to suffer. But it is possible to have joy in the midst of our tears – and we know that too. So what prevents us from "counting it all joy" (Jas.1:2-4) when we are under some form of pressure? It always has to do with the way we allow ourselves to think about what is happening. Being in physical pain is not a spiritual negative. Being in emotional distress isn't either . . . unless in either case we allow these and similar pressures (worldly threats of one sort of another) to affect the way we think. How should believers think? Always according to faith. Faith is essentially that, namely, using our free will to trust God. Obviously, when we are threatened or disadvantaged or under any sort of pressure, that is harder to do. It's easy to get focused on the threat we see and how we feel about it than upon the invisible God who is right here with us and who made provision for our deliverance before He created the world – which is why genuine faith exercised at such times is so admirable and wonderful. We all applaud and rejoice with Daniel and his three friends in their great victories of faith; what we may not understand is that we have the exact same power to do the same – not survive a night in a lion's den or being cast into a fiery furnace (that depends on God's will) . . . but being willing to suffer such things even in the face of certain and actual death rather than change our way of thought, rather than abandon our faith, to trust God no matter happens or be threatening to happen.

Why do we have such confidence is the face of everything the world fears? Because this life and this world and the things of this life and this world mean absolutely nothing to us, whereas the opinion of our Lord and Savior means everything to us. So we are happy to lose everything if that is what Jesus wants, and we are absolutely certain that whatever the threat not a hair on our head will be touched if that is what Jesus wants. So it is not at all about us but is all about Him and His will for our lives. And if we really are doing now what He wants us to do, why in the world should we become frustrated or anxious when things "go bad"? If we are not being "spanked" for some recent indiscretion, then of course we are being opposed by the evil one. So we don't even have to feel bad about bad things happening; indeed, we ought to feel good that we are winning the victory ("count it all joy"; "sharing the sufferings of Christ"), coming into the devil's cross hairs just like Job did because we are doing what's right and most definitely not because we are out of line.

Speaking of Job, when he suffered so much he was in fact being given one of the most profound compliments in human history by the Lord Himself. He didn't see it that way; that was his one mistake. He had an excuse of sorts (insufficient information); we don't: we have the book of Job and the entire Bible wherein the faithfulness and loving character of our perfect Lord pulses through every verse. Question is, do we believe what we read, what we know, what we affirm? And if we do believe it (which of course we do), then how strongly do we believe it, especially when the pressure is really on?

I hear what you are saying about "if this is hard, what about the Tribulation?!" In fact, the Tribulation will be no harder than any test we face now. It will only be different. The reason, no doubt, that the Lord is allowing tests to come even now which seem so difficult is not to frustrate us about our "chances" in the future, but to give us opportunities for victories now, and to learn about Him and who He is so that we may be confident in the future as well not matter what betides. He is the same today as He was yesterday, and He will be the same during that dark day too, namely, 100% faithful.

No doubt also these types of tests are coming now to show us where we have flaws and vulnerabilities in the way we are thinking about all these things. Here too, we have a right to feel good in the face of "bad" because: 1) the Lord is strengthening our faith; 2) the Lord is showing us His faithfulness and helping us to appreciate it (which things we should ponder in our hearts and never let go); 3) the Lord is helping us to see that this is all temporary, that it doesn't matter at all in the way our egos and emotions and sadly many friends and family and certainly the rest of the world thinks it does: the only thing that really matters is that we belong to Him and that He will never let us down. If we remember that truth and encourage ourselves with that truth when we get this "incoming", we will never stumble and He will accomplish all His good pleasure for us and through us. The more it's about us, the more likely we will fail; the more we take advantage of all setbacks, threats and trouble to see it all through His eyes, the more we have already won.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

He has given us many victories and many blessings – more than the hairs on our head and without number if we stop to think about it. And it is a blessing to that He allows the opposite from time to time. Otherwise, how we would be able to show that we really do trust Him and love Him more than this world?

It is a fight, but it's a fight we can't lose if we let Him fight it for us, and if we truly fight it for Him and not for ourselves.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hi Bob,

Over the last week or so I've been struggling a lot with a sin that I had mostly conquered in the past (overall victory with occasional stumbles every once in a while). This recent period of failure has left me somewhat disturbed given my present state of preparation for ministry. It's not like I thought everything would be easy once I set off along this road (in fact, I was pretty sure of the opposite, reading scripture on balance), but I feel the damaging effects in a seemingly more painful way now. While I have certainly "known better" all along, how much more so now.

I've read through your treatment of repentance, confession, and forgiveness, and am familiar with the mechanics of how one restores fellowship with God. But I'm having a hard time appropriating this truth in the times it is most needful – I'm struggling with the jump from "knowledge" to "experiential reality". In the past, I would pick myself up, dust myself off, grit my teeth, and head back into the conflict, trying to forget my own shortcomings and focus on God's redeeming me out of them. Recently, however, I've been unable to get the turnaround fully in place before falling again, and it feels almost as if I am getting knocked over repeatedly right before I can get my feet beneath me.

I force myself to confess as soon as I can bear to look God in the face again, but my heart isn't behind it. I "know" it's sin. I "know" God doesn't tolerate sin, and in fact judged His own son that we might be purified from sin. But of course I don't really appreciate these things, otherwise I wouldn't so callously ignore them and give myself over to the flesh.

Questions:

1) Is it ever sinful to go before God in confession while being double-minded about it, saying the words but not really meaning them 100%? It would obviously be better to confess, repent, and really mean it, but is trying to force yourself to go through the motions worse than not trying at all?

2) Similarly, is forcing oneself to read scripture in a period of unconfessed or "half-confessed" sin a good thing or a bad thing (or a waste of time)? Can the Spirit still empower the reception of the Word in our hearts if we are not fully under His control?

3) Does James 3:1ff refer to a "stricter judgement" in regards to us before the judgement seat of Christ, or a stricter judgement with regard to divine discipline (or both)?

Obviously none of us are perfect, and if we wait until we "feel like" confessing, we may find ourselves without much confession at all (and the same with Bible reading). But so far my strategy at attempting to throw truth at my heart until it starts behaving doesn't seem to be working too well. Thoughts?

Yours in Christ,

Response #14: 

Sorry to hear of your struggles. We all have to fight through this or similar resistance on the way to Zion. To take your questions in reverse order, I believe James is speaking to us here and now – at least primarily. After all, more is always expected of leaders, and in Christian terms leaders are looked up to and emulated so that poor behavior will have consequences beyond the individual level. And it is also true for teachers that poor teaching does not just affect the teacher, obviously, but also those who listen. And if we do a poor job here, we are certainly going to suffer in terms of our reward at the Judgment seat of Christ. But I have a better hope for you on all these things.

As to doing anything when in a spiritually questionable situation, it's always better to be 100% right with the Lord, and it's always better to be doing something positive in terms of things which contribute to spiritual growth and preparation for ministry. So the answer is, do both: keep working but also keep confessing whenever it is necessary to do so.

On partial obedience, while I do understand what you are saying, I think the simple answer is that we are either doing what the Lord wants or we aren't. It is true that there are degrees in all things, but the Lord wants us to see them more in terms of black and white and not in terms of shades of gray: He wants us to be red hot for Him and His Word, and would rather have us cold than lukewarm. There is plenty in scripture inveighing against double-mindedness and the like, because when it comes to staying away from what's bad and cleaving to what's good, while in fact there is no such thing really as all or nothing, He would rather us be more all than nothing, whereas if we try to parse the differences we're going to end up being more nothing than all.

If a person is having trouble with some sin or behavior or resistance to doing what ought to be done, then whenever a sin is committed, it should be confessed. If we know it is wrong, then we really should want to get it out of our lives. If we know that is going to be a problem, we should trust Him that He will help us to do it . . . so we should confess and try to move on. The fact that we struggle and worry about such things in the ways you report may show we have a problem but it also shows where our heart is. If we stumble and fall a hundred times but get back up and get moving, that is better than not getting up because we are afraid we are going to fall back down again. There is only one direction in the Christian life, one that is pleasing to the Lord, and that is forward. The way forward is sometimes rough and we will often have to fight through resistance from this world and its ruler and even from our own flesh. In all these things the Lord is teaching us something. For one thing, He is teaching us just how to listen to the voice of the Spirit and make use of His power. Know that every time you do it the right way you'll be getting a little closer to gaining functional victory over whatever may be plaguing you, and that these techniques will be vital for other more complicated problems sure to come down the road. The devil doesn't waste his time or resources on those who are of no account in this fight. You have chosen the better part, and so are coming under fire. Be pleased to trust the Lord that He can handle this problem even if you can't . . . especially if you can't.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10

So keep confessing – and keep fighting the good fight.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the perspective. I am certainly not "trying" to play with fire in terms of seeing how much less than red-hot I can get way with (not the intent behind the questions), but my feelings got the best of me for a period and led me to question how I was attempting to turn back to God. I've mostly snapped out of it now, thankfully, but I'm still trying to study the situation and triggers so that I can prevent more of this sort of thing in the future. The only thing that seems to cure this state of lacking enthusiasm and half-hearted repentance is time; after a few days of trying not to think about the sin, I guess I kind of let myself "feel ok" again and got back to the Lord's business.

I'm thinking what it boiled down to ultimately was not forgiving myself and not being quick enough to put out of mind my self-inflicted feelings of guilt and shame. Taking Christ's forgiveness and making it our own, trusting that God will discipline us exactly as we deserve, is much easier said than done. How I managed to turn the situation on its head and sin more because of feeling bad about previous sin is illogical, but, well, all sin is ultimately madness and folly, so I suppose it isn't out of character.

I'm guessing that a large part of growing up in Christ is learning to get that bigger picture before you make a mess of things, not after. Would that we could have enough faith to believe scripture instead of forcing God to teach us through painful experience!

Yours in Christ,

Response #15: 

Well said, my friend!

The closer we walk with Jesus, the more we really do "put the Lord always before" us (Ps.16:8), seeing "the One who is invisible" in our daily walk with Him (Heb.11:27), the more we are going to be responsive to Him in every way. As I told one correspondent once, if we really did have Jesus sitting next to us all the time . . . visibly . . ., it would certainly influence our behavior. In fact of course we actually do . . . and in fact He is in us and we are in Him (as is the Holy Spirit). It's the fact that these truths are not physically manifest and can only be accessed through the truth and through effort in learning, believing and applying the truth that make them less than automatic. No one is "good" at this immediately, and we all have room for improvement. As long as we are pointed the right way on the high road to Zion, namely "up", we have every right to feel good about it – and in fact we should (Ps.84:4-7).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for the previous clarification. But here is another one. This is in the study of "Christology" also, under the title "Lamb of God"

Here is the comment:

**Jesus, of course, offered up His life, (not literally His blood) ? (cf. Heb.8:3: "something to offer"). **

You referenced 1 Peter 1:19:

" 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Now I do realize that from the Old Testament: "The life of the flesh is in the blood". Many Christians, especially Catholics, don't understand John 6:54, or the entire Chapter, which is also speaking symbolically.

In John 20:17 - "17Jesus said,

"Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ "

Is Jesus speaking of the time (future), when he would ascend to the Father or ? I was always under the impression that Jesus was going to the Father at that time to present His blood upon the Mercy Seat in Heaven, but??? He then ascended a second time? in Acts when His disciples were with Him. Many Christians I believe, would probably take offense at your statement but...I think what you are saying is. that since the "Life of the flesh is in the blood" He offered His life/blood as the ultimate sacrifice?

I apologize for so many questions, but I know that your expertise is needed.

To Him whose tomb is empty be praise forever and ....

Your friend,

Response #16: 

I'm happy to take your questions any time. On this one, the important thing to note is that the biblical phrase "the blood of Christ" is a metaphor – it is not speaking about His literal blood. We know from John's gospel that when our Lord released His spirit, His blood was still in His body (Jn.19:34-35). And we also know that He accomplished redemption through propitiation of our sins while He was still physically alive in the three hours of darkness when He bore and paid the penalty for our sins (afterwards He says "it has been accomplished": Jn.19:30): that is the "blood of Christ", namely, the spiritual death of our Lord represented by the physical death of animals under the Law; animals shed their literal blood representing the pain and horror of Christ's spiritual death for us in bearing and being judged for every single one of our sins; but just as Jesus is not a literal lamb, so the "blood" is not literal blood. It is much more than that. Please see the following links for more information on this critically important (and often misunderstood) point:

The Blood of Christ (in Pet. #9).

Spiritual Death of Christ I (in BB 4A)

Spiritual Death of Christ II (in BB 4A)

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Hello Professor,

Thank you for your replies, I'm about to start going through them now. It has now been five and a half years you've been tirelessly responding to my numerous questions and committing time to helping me grow and I really appreciate that. As I'm slowly preparing to the teaching ministry I recognise how much it takes to be ready and then to do the task.

This place is truly wonderful. It is exactly the type of place where I know I could stay. Where I feel I have refuge, where I am in peace and quiet. And it has grace written all over it, I don't deserve what I got. But as for me, instead of making the right decisions through good spiritual judgment, I have made mistakes already and it's own my own fault. Not having made most of my previous opportunities - and I have had plenty - to overcome my weaknesses, I find myself having to do it now, when I know I should have been ready when it all started.

Professor - whatever good there is here, is from God. Whatever I have done myself here - I have done poorly. There is one thing, I have to tell you, Professor, as my teacher and true friend. I know these things happen for a purpose. I lived a very modest life with hardly enough sustenance and often without for a long time and didn't concern myself with all the things that I have to do now. I lived in a small, rented room and it was easy to focus attention on what matters. Now I know is the time for me to deny myself and there is no self-denial when there is no opportunity for it, so in those early days as a believer for me some traits of my character were not really tested and they are now and have been for a time. But in all this I can see one thing clearly now - how I underestimated the laodicean battle and just took it for granted. Not because my objectives changed or because I desired to live in luxury. That's not the case. But I really didn't expect the flood of worldly nonsense to be so paralysing. I have to be honest with myself here - it caught me off guard.

But it is tempting for someone of my character to wish to have all things done well, to make sure everything is arranged perfectly, etc. But it's all, to use your expression - rust, lust and dust. But the real danger is the seeming smallness of this spiritual traps. It's not the case, as it was before, that one deals with a broken heart, or an illness. Rather - one has to be constantly vigilant that time and attention is not eaten up by totally worthless issues and these arise from every corner. I know that this is what I got now, because this is what I need to do now. But I really, really regret not having used opportunities to learn to walk in the Spirit with these things and to mould my own character according to the scripture. And these opportunities were ample. So that I could now enter what really could be the place where God wants me to be in the state of spiritual readiness, instead of making one mistake after another and having to learn and put into practice - because it's only a matter of application - not of not knowing the truth - things I should have learned and put into practice a long time ago.

Professor, I keep you and your family in prayers and hope that not only spiritually things are well, but also when it comes to the earthly issues, so I hope that there is no danger to you and the current conditions don't affect your spiritual productivity in any way.

In our Lord,

Response #17: 

I'm very happy that you have found a good place to live, my friend. I am very grateful to the Lord for providing for you in such a marvelous way, and I know you are as well. Getting things perfect is very hard to do. Also, it is sometimes hard to get them "right enough" so as not to fret about them to the point that one is not productive. Believe me, I know about both tests, and in my experience when you've passed the one you get the other. We have to be constantly reminded that this world is impermanent and that nothing lasts here. That is decidedly a good thing, however, both the fact and the reminder, and the sooner we get to the point of seeing things in that light somewhat automatically and as a matter of course, the better. In my opinion, that is part of "godliness", not just living in a sanctified way (it's pretty obvious even to new believers that living in a sinful way is wrong and not pleasing to the Lord), but beginning to see things more and more "God's way" rather than our natural, normal, habitual, earthly, worldly, understandable but unprofitable "wrong" way.

I'm reminded of Jonah who got this lesson with vine which pleased him (when it hadn't even been there in the first place) and then frustrated him when it perished. What we do in studying and teaching the Word is important to the Lord, so when something is wrong with the situation where we do our work (lighting, desk, chair, external noise, air-quality, etc.), it may well be a bother to us and a frustration, and that can be a hindrance – not so much the "problem" itself but our reaction to the problem. Does that mean we should "suffer through"? Not if we can make a change which is helpful without eating up all our time, energy and resources in doing so. But the point is that 1) nothing is ever going to be perfect here on earth, not once we start coming in for serious "counter-battery fire" from the evil one; we have to realize and accept that fact; 2) the Lord most definitely is going to give us everything we need to do the job He wants us to do – maybe not today or tomorrow, maybe not what we had in the past, maybe not to the degree that there is nothing to be frustrated about or to be tempted to complain about, but enough. If anyone had grounds for complaint, it was Paul. Consider how much he went through. But instead of complaining, he saw things in a godly way, thanking the Lord for the opportunity to glorify Him in still pushing forward under pressure. We are not Paul. But we can always do better.

I wouldn't worry about self-denial or even put things in those terms. Believe me, if you need work in that area, the Lord will provide. I hear what you are saying about being too concerned about worldly issues, about making mistakes, about regretting some decisions which after the fact don't match up with your high standard. But none of us is perfect, and we will not have a perfect situation until our Lord returns. In fact, we can expect many things to get much worse once the Tribulation begins. Why do we even care, given all we know about the truth? Only because we are still human and have to fight day by day and step by step to keep seeing things God's way instead of our way.

My advice to you, my friend, is ever the same. Don't worry about placing burdens on yourself which are not essential; the Lord will do plenty of that as needed. Don't worry about past mistakes, errors, bad decisions – it only leads to frittering away the joy you have in the Lord, and that in turn can sour everything else. We all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2). When we do, the proper course of action is to get back up and move forward, "forgetting what lies behind". If we don't do that, we are only going to make things worse going forward instead of better. To put this in soccer terms, if I as a goalie am too heart-broken or upset about the goal I just allowed because of a mistake, I am very likely to allow another one very soon because I'm focused on what already happened instead of what is going on "now".

Wishing you a blessed time in your new "digs" as we both strive to make the most of the limited time remaining before the storm.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Bob,

Can you help me with this verse? It seems to mean one of two things, but I can’t figure out which without some Greek help…

Romans 8:10
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Is this saying:

If the [Spirit of] Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit [of Christ] is life giving because of [His] righteousness [received by faith].

You have moved from spiritual death to spiritual life because His Spirit is in you, imputing His righteousness in you. While this is true, the OT saints were also spiritually alive, and received righteousness by faith (on credit). The Spirit resided with them, but it wasn’t in them yet (as that was not possible until the ascension).

Or is it saying:

If the [Spirit of] Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness [received by faith].

You have moved from spiritual death to spiritual life, because of righteousness received by faith. This is only possible because the Spirit of Christ has testified to you of the gospel, and you believed in faith. This view would apply to all saints, both old and New Testament. This seems to fit with the comparison it is trying to make--your body being dead because of sin (powered by the law), and your spirit being alive because of righteousness (powered by the gospel of faith).

I can’t tell if the Greek makes it clear if the [spirit] refers back to the Spirit of Christ, or it refers to our own spirits.

In Christ,

Response #18: 

The Spirit dwelling within us is the proof that 1) we have died to this world through faith in Christ and 2) we are alive to God through being born again when we believed; the result will be eternal life when this present conflicted situation of being positionally alive looking forward in spite of our sinful nature when our present flesh is transformed when we are also transformed in resurrection.

I will be praying for your mom, and I have also put a request for her on the Ichthys list.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Thanks Bob,

I still haven't gotten the clarification I was looking for. I know we are alive by the Spirit for it is what testifies of the gospel and also after the cross it is what indwells us. But with this verse in Romans 8:10, is the "spirit" referring to the Holy Spirit or our spirit? It seems that the article "the" is not there so it is our spirit that is alive (if Christ dwells with us).

The NASB implies our spirit is alive and the NIV implies the Spirit gives life. (I know they are both true but want to know what this verse says).

Response #19: 

Many versions get this wrong. You are correct that the Spirit here is the Holy Spirit, and also that the definite article points in that direction – as does the context which is all about the Holy Spirit. If I were to rephrase Romans 8:10 so as to bring out what Paul means it would go something like this:

"And if Christ is indwelling you (which He most certainly is if you have the Spirit and if you don't have the Spirit you don't even belong to Him; see previous verse), while your present physical body is doomed to die because of the whole problem of sin and corruption common to the human race, the Spirit who indwells you is your pledge that you will be resurrected (see next verse) because He is the sign that you do have eternal life (positional now, but experiential at the resurrection) because you became a believer and received God's righteousness, the righteousness which came to you by faith not works when you put your faith in Jesus Christ (see chapter four)."
Romans 8:10

Naturally, if every verse given such an expanded translation, we would have a Bible so big we couldn't carry it around.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Bob,

I need some guidance to ensure I am rightly understanding the Word. I think I am starting to truly see something that I had not fully realized. It is that nearly every promise of God, such as righteousness, the forgiveness of sin, our rebirth, our adoption, our spiritual circumcision, etc. are all still only 'credited', even after the atonement. I know that these credits are based on God's word, and that means that we can know they are true. While we presently believe, God credits and treats us as if these promises were actualized, but as Paul says in Phil. 3:7-14, we have not 'fully attained' any of these yet. This is how the Scripture can say things like "he who believes is saved", and likewise "he who endures to the end is saved". While we have faith, we are credited and treated as if it were true. God withholds very little from us. But it's based on faith, and if we abandon that faith through apostasy, that "credit" and treatment is removed. We are adopted into God's family, but that's really only on credit and treatment. Our true promised adoption is yet to come. We are 'born from above' or 'born again', but that's really only by credit and treatment. Our true revealing as sons of God is yet to come. Our hearts are sprinkled clean and our bodies are washed with pure water, but that's really only on credit, through faith. They are not truly clean and washed until the future resurrection to glorification, where the Spirit truly transforms us into the likeness of Christ's glorified body. By faith, I have been credited with Spiritual circumcision, but I am not truly separated from the body of sin and death until the future glorification. By faith, I have been credited as having been baptized by Christ, and put into His body and having been clothed by Him, but I am not truly put into His body and I have not truly received the righteousness of Christ until the future glorification. Since His ascension, He now marks us and gives us His Spirit as a promise to the future actualization of these promises. By that same Spirit, we each receive Spiritual gifts to help equip and edify the body (again, by His love He blesses us with spiritual blessings, even while it's all still on credit). By His holiness, righteousness, grace, and love, His credit is as good as His word, PERFECT.

By the love of God, who blesses us with all things in Christ,

Response #20: 

I'm not willing to say that this is incorrect. I will say it's not the way I phrase things because I don't find any scripture which puts it this way. The word "credit" is no doubt being derived from various uses of logizomai by Paul in Romans. This word has often been translate "impute" and that has led to some very large doctrinal errors when it comes to developing a theological "doctrine of imputations" which in large part is not scriptural (depending on whose doing the theologizing). It's certainly fair to say, for example, that we have eternal life now, but we are not yet experiencing it; and it's also fair to say that if we prove unfaithful and abandon our faith, then we are not going to ever experience it. Does that mean we have it "on credit"? Maybe, but I'm not sure they are the same things and I don't find the Bible putting it that way. Also, what person X might understand by this might be different from what you mean (if I am right in my assumptions about what you mean).

It might be better to line up the verses which putatively teach and reference this as a principle and consider them carefully before developing a model and trying to plug things into the model. That latter method is notoriously problematic (it's what most theologians do – and why they get so many things wrong, especially when they are too overly fond of their "models"). So I guess what I am saying is that there is a big difference between a doctrine and a teaching illustration. If we are not careful to distinguish the two, we can be sure that those who listen to us won't do so at all.

Happy to consider individual passages with you on this score!

Keeping you and your wife in my prayers, my friend!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Bob,

When I say credit, I don't mean on loan. I may have phrased that wrong in my previous email. I was using the word "credit" as it's most often the word used when describing Abraham and us being "credited" with righteousness. My understanding is as the Hebrew and Greek word states: to regard, to consider, to reckon.

God regards us as righteous, calls us righteous, and even treats us as righteous. But our true righteousness is yet to be received. Likewise God regards us as adopted children, calls us children, and treats us as children, but we are still waiting on our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:23).

All these things are based on our future state, which of course is based on our decision to follow Him and His word in faith. If our future state is judgment, wrath, and the second death, then we are considered and called dead. For anyone not believing, they are "condemned already". Their current reckoning is condemnation, but that is actualized at the judgment when those who have not believed are truly condemned. God is gracious and merciful, and continues to witness to us, and if we should repent, He changes what He was regarding on us (Jer.18:7-8).

If our future state is grace, righteousness, and eternal life, then we are considered and called alive. Should we fall completely away, He likewise will change what He had reckoned to us.

I am already about 10 pages into writing this all out by going through the scriptures.

I pray for you and your ministry. You are one of the few that I trust to conform your doctrine to scripture, instead of conforming the scripture to your doctrine.

All His promises are yes in Christ!

Response #21: 

Thanks – I appreciate your good words.

And I do understand that you don't mean "on loan". To use the case of Abraham, he, being a human being, was not righteous (no one is); what he was was willing to trust the Lord, and that trust, faith, belief is what God takes into account when He considers someone righteous. We actually do possess God's righteousness by grace here and now, having received it from Him through our faith. That's the way He "sees things", even though the world wrongly thinks we have to work for that credit.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

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