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Sin, Guilt, and Salvation II

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Question #1:  

Hi Bob,

I have no self control. This is really bad, spiritually speaking, because self control is a fruit of the Spirit. Some sin is next to impossible to resist, and every other time an Evangelical speaks I want to cynically scoff at them (this is also bad, because we must love our siblings).

I pray to God for more grace. I need to pray for others more, but I feel that I myself am most at risk. I said cynically scoff, but sometimes I want to scream to the top of my lungs.

Response #1: 

Self-control is a difficult "lift" for most people. I have known many good Christians who have had issues with this in some area of life or another. As to sin in particular, it takes some spiritual growth to begin to hear the "still, small voice" of the Spirit, and a good deal of spiritual maturity to begin to respond to that voice consistently. All of us have sin natures, and all of us are tempted to sin in one area or another. Getting victory over areas of particular vulnerability is possible even for unbelievers (Gen.4:7); how much more for believers who have the Holy Spirit? That does not mean that it will be easy, however. To be consistently victorious, we have to get serious about the fight "to the point of blood" (Heb.12:4). That means owning up to our failures and taking aggressive action to head them off – including doing whatever others might not have to do in order to get that victory (e.g., if I don't even like alcohol, having lunch at the local bar is not a problem, but if I have a problem with it . . . ). Blessedly, the Lord "helps" us in this . . . by laying on greater and greater loads of discipline for failure in areas where we are lagging. As we grow, He works with us to knock of the rough edges – and we all have them. Since this is the way of it, getting serious sooner rather than later about areas where we are having trouble is the best course. Feeling as if our fellowship with Him is compromised is clearly one of the areas of discipline we receive, but as Hebrews chapter twelve tells us, getting emotionally down about it is the wrong response: the very fact that we are receiving the discipline means that the Father loves us like His own sons and daughters – which we are in Jesus Christ. And we can have confidence of victory once we make the commitment to leave no stone un-turned until we win it. The evil one's agents pester continually any believer who has an unresolved and habitual problem, but once we decide to stand and fight . . .

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

So don't be disheartened. Jesus died for all of ours sins and we are restored to fellowship with Him and the Father the instant we confess whatever we have done. Does the discipline sting? All the more reason to use that as motivation to make a change – which is the whole point of discipline:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

Recently, evil blasphemies have been bubbling out of my heart. I try to stop them but they shock me like lightening. I disown all of them.

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

I get this a lot from many believers – and I think it happens from time to time to everyone. As long as you reject it as ridiculous, the "one" who is working on this will give up (Jas.4:7). "He" only continues with this in cases where believers get very upset and fall into a loop of self-abhorrence. As with anything which may be sinful, simple confession and "moving on" is the ticket (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:1-6). We are not perfect and won't be this side of eternity, and in terms of the need to confess (and the need for the Lord to have died for it) one sin is no worse – and no better – than another (even if this sort of thing you are asking about happens to be sinful in the event that it involves some subconscious participation on our part). Take my advice, spit it out and don't worry about it; worrying about it is the only way it can negatively affect you long-term, because that is the only way it is likely to continue long-term.

Here are some links on this:

Controlling one's thinking

Forgiveness of evil thoughts

Christian Mental Reprogramming

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hi Bob,

I have a real dilemma at my hands. I learned today about an acquaintance that [...] How do I handle this delicate situation?

Sincerely,

Response #3: 

It's important never to say or do anything that violates the truth. But it's not necessary to beat people over the head with it in an unsolicited fashion. I dare say that it would be possible for me to take to task virtually everyone I know outside of this ministry on some point of truth or the other. But that is not profitable if said person is not willing yet to receive it. There is a right time and place for such discussions. I think that it is largely because of the politicization of this issue that it seems more pressing than others. After all, most secular people – and sadly a large percentage of Christians – are not without fault when it comes to illicit behavior. That doesn't mean that I'm going to reproach someone who is not walking right if in my estimation the reproach will not have the desired effect. It takes courage to do such things, and also great wisdom and humility in order to avoid being just a self-righteous ninny. And there are consequences (think of John the baptism vs. Herod and Salome).

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I am still studying your dissertation on "The Biblical Study of Sin". Here is a quote from your study:

"True repentance is measured by our change of attitude going forward, rather than the intensity of our regret looking backward. This is clear from the primary verbs for this concept in both Greek and Hebrew. In Greek, metanoeo (μετανοέω) means, etymologically, to change one's mind or attitude, while Hebrew shubh (שוב) means to turn around and come back. Thus each verb indicates a clear and genuine change on the repentant believer's part (of attitude and spiritual direction respectively), but neither word in any way connotes that an excessive display of emotion is somehow necessary for effecting that change. We change our minds so as to do better in the future. We return from our wrong way so as to take the right way in the future. Indeed, divine discipline is an important part of getting our attention and causing us to understand the gravity of our mistakes through appreciation of their spiritual consequences."

1. Is Divine discipline the only method of getting our attention and causing us to understand the gravity of our sin?

2. Is the changing of our minds left entirely to us, and is returning from our wrong way completely left us to us?

Seems to me that God's help and assistance in these matters is sorely needed, just like it is needed when we are first born again.

I do understand that we must do what God cannot and will not do, but God by His Holy Spirit also does that which we cannot do.

3. In conclusion then, I know that from your teachings, the Holy Spirit has a definite role in decisions we make in our lives, but we also have a part in those decisions, in other words, we can follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, or, take our own way, as God will never override our wills or ?

In my mind, if a person changes their mind and returns from the wrong way, and does it again, more than once or twice, then he has not meant the requirements of repentance. How can we say we have repented, and then do the same thing we repented of over and over, but not on a daily basis. How would you define a life of sin, in other words, if someone repents of a particular sin, and then, as I said, does it over again. I know that there is a Scripture that speaks of man forgiving another 70 times 7, not literally, but I also know that God is a forgiving God, if we repent. How can we have a change of mind and heart without the assistance or help of the Holy Spirit? I always appreciate your kind and gentle responses, and this Study has been a tough one for me. Got some work to do on this one.

Thank you for your love, kindness, gentleness and understanding.

Your friend always,

Response #4: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

To take these in reverse order, I'm not sure what the problem is with the translation here except that in my translation the issue is made clearer in terms of what the Greek actually means and says. The point is that when it gets down to "things", our "choice" is really about obeying the Spirit or the sin nature (which is often motivated by the evil one and his minions and/or the influence of the world). So with this verse Paul essentially tells us that this whole process is much easier than most people suppose: all one has to do is to listen to the Spirit and obey . . . and if not the Christian in question will be following the guidance of the flesh instead. Simple.

That brings me to the issue of free will addressed in your other comments. We do have free will. Combating sin and gaining victory of sin is not easy, but it is something even unbelievers can do. Doing it is not easy because while our spirit is willing, our flesh is weak – and opposes (with the help of the evil one and his forces and under the influence of the world system he has set up) every good intention we may have. Sin, especially chronic sin, is a tough one. But we do have to "own it" in order to gain victory. I don't think there has ever been a Christian who hasn't had an issue with at least one form of chronically sinful behavior or another at some time in his/her life. So it is nothing unusual. It is also, sad to say, far from unusual for said believer to be defeated quite often. The number who get "victory" is usually small. That is because "victory" can only really be achieved through spiritual growth and diligent and determined application of the truth to one's life. And even when "victory" is achieved, once the hill is taken, it will have to be defended – and the devil is excellent at counter-attacks (as are the world and the flesh). So it's hard to get to the point of being effective in the fight, it's hard to win the fight, and it's a struggle to hold onto victory after the fight is finally won. But it is not impossible. Sanctification is an important biblical mandate (Heb.12:14).

My problem with contemporary Christianity generally is that most churches/people/groups seem to think that some one-shot, emotional decision or public proclamation or dramatic action is what brings victory. All such things bring is embarrassment when defeat comes again – and it surely will come again if battle is joined without the proper weapons. Spiritual maturity is necessary for gaining lasting victory, because the truth fully understood and believed is the only thing that can aid us in this struggle. Of course we have the Spirit – but we have to understand who He is and how He works and how to make use of His ministry in this fight (just to cite briefly one important point of necessary truth). I think you can probably see this well enough in your own life and experience. The very fact that you are writing this to me now is not without significant. A Christian has to get to a certain point of spiritual growth to have the humility to recognize that there is a "problem" and set about with Christian integrity trying to solve the problem. So good for you! Without recognizing the enemy, understanding the enemy, understanding the battlefield, understanding the issues, etc., it's hard to fight and win.

The important thing to understand at the outset is that you can win. To do so, in addition to continuation of growth day by day, doing all the good positive things necessary, eventually the believer in question has to start owning the problem and accepting the responsibility for failure. Confession of sin is then absolutely critical in this fight. We cannot afford to be embarrassed to confess or reluctant to confess for any reason. We have to be willing to flee to the mercy of God on each and every occasion of failure, just like David did, e.g. We cannot be flippant about confessing nor can we be so disgusted by our failure and apparent hypocrisy that we fail to do so. In other words, as in all things, we have to keep in the middle of the high road to Zion. The "ditches" on either side here are lack of proper concern for our sin on the one side and overweening and inappropriate guilt on the other. It's OK to feel bad about failing; it's not OK to wallow in guilt, especially to the point of spiritual inaction. And it's OK to appreciate and embrace God's mercy and forgiveness to us as sinners; but it's not OK to treat the issue cavalierly. We have to have a proper respect for God, but an absolute appreciation for our status as His sons and daughters. Not caring and not being able to "get over it" are two potholes which will put any believer out of action.

Faith is a key thing here as with all other important issues of the life of the believer. We have to accept that God does care for us, that He has provided for us, and that He will help us do whatever we need to do. Understand. That does not mean that He will do everything for us without our involvement at all, or that all we need do is pray "O God, please deliver me from this sin!" That is a fine prayer, but afterwards we need to actually resist sinning that sin – and resist for all we are worth. How to do that? 1) "Own it"; accept responsibility for our failures; we are the ones who sin; we are the ones who choose; life is all about choice; we choose when we sin; we can choose not to sin, even if that is hard: do we care more about ourselves or about pleasing that Lord? That is what is at the heart of all sin, namely, cowardly selfishness instead of courageous humility. 2) Take all steps necessary to insulate ourselves against the sin pattern in question. Stay away from people, places, stimuli of all kinds which have anything to do with influencing us to said sin pattern. As I often point out, if booze is the problem, having dinner in a brew pub every night is a questionable strategy for someone who really wants to win. 3) Trust the Lord that He will work with us on this and that He will help us win this fight . . . if we are really willing to do what's necessary. That means growing, that means sacrificing, that means aggressively applying the truth at all points in our day, not just occasionally, and that means, very importantly, accepting that we are not going to win without being bloodied (Heb.12:4); there will be failures, but we can't allow those failures to keep us down. Confess; move on; make a mental note not to make the same mistake again; and keep fighting even if/when more mistakes are made.

You ask about divine discipline. I will say that the fear of the Lord – which means a proper and reverent respect for Him – is also a critical part of this equation. Obviously, we do sometimes need that kind of help to steer clear of things to which we are particularly vulnerable – and He does provide it. So it is entirely appropriate for us to keep in mind the "spankings" we've received in the past and to focus on them when tempted, remembering that we really don't want to repeat the consequences of past failures. When we do so, however, we need to try and do so without guilt but instead with appreciation for a Father who loves us and has given us some important motivation to succeed. Remember: Jesus has already paid for whatever sin we have committed. By sinning, we don't hurt God – we only hurt ourselves. That is not to say that it doesn't sour our relationship with Him – it most definitely does. But that too is something that really only hurts us. And when we confess we are restored "to fellowship" (1Jn.1:3-10).

So we have all the weapons, all the help, all the motivation, all the knowledge and tactics we need to win the fight. All we really need is the will. God helps us here too (Phil.2:13; Gal.5:17), but we still have to supply the fundamental desire and the essential choice. Life is all about choices.

I encourage you to engage in this fight and not look back. There may have been defeats in the past and there may be more in the future but this is a fight that must be taken on and must be won. And the sooner the better.

Here are a few links which may be useful:

Sin and Spiritual transformation

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

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

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

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

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

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Sanctification, Separation and Restraint

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Hi Bob,

God's wrath is beyond comprehension. Who can know it?

I am having a very difficult time walking in the Spirit ever since the US election. I'm not sure if this is a "sign of the times" that we're living in, but it's not good. I was reading about the "fruits of the flesh" in Galatians, and I was left trembling and in terror. This is a good thing, because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but I am left in terror, because my secret sins and evil inclinations of my heart are continually before God.

I thank God for his blessed grace (unearned favor) every day. I only pray that he may establish the work of my hands.

Response #5: 

God is just. That ought to frighten any rational person. But He is also love. Therefore "perfect love casts out [irrational] fear" – meaning that if we have a godly reverence of Him we have nothing to fear in this world (1Jn.1:9).

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

If even a wild animal approaches this mountain, it must be put to death. Moses said I am trembling with fear.
Hebrews 12:20-21 NIV

Response #6: 

A good verse to quote on that point; here are some others that come to mind:

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psalm 19:9 NKJV

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever.
Psalm 111:10 NKJV

But Moses also said:

He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.
Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Deuteronomy 33:27a NKJV

From which we can deduce a deep and closely personal relationship between Moses and our Lord:

So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
Exodus 33:11a NKJV

So while Moses was terrified by the sights and sounds of Sinai (along with everyone else), he did not live in terror of the Lord; he loved the Lord and had a godly fear or reverence for Him in the same way that a humble and obedient child will have a healthy respect for his father, but still love him and have confidence in him – and how much more in this case when the Father is absolutely perfect, completely gracious, and worthy of all esteem?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Dear Bob,

I was reading at Ichthys when I came upon one of the emails you posted up, in which the person in question mentioned her friend being close to someone whom claimed to be a psychic. I notice that they were attributing this person's 'ability' (can people even be truly psychic?) to the evil one, and then I remembered how we are all given gifts. Some for ministry, others for generosity, others for compassion, and there were a couple of others ones I cannot truly recall. One of them was about being able to see/speak to the dead? It was something along those lines, I can't remember the exact verse.

Well, the reason I bring this up is twofold: one, I do want to know what came of that story, in terms of if the friend's friend really was really having the evil one work through her, or if it is at all possible for a gift like that to come from God? The second reason I ask is because I know someone who claims she can see (and speak to?) the spirits of the dead. There was a time, when we were younger, where she thought she was the daughter as Gabriel, but I think now at our current age and maturity, she's grown past that fantastical phase of thinking anything of the sort (and this was before she was saved). However, she does still mention being able to see the spirits of the dead.

I was wondering if this line of thinking is.. I'm not sure how to put it: healthy? Either she is making it up, in which case she'll eventually drop it, or for some reason she really can. Is it possible such a gift were from God? I remember reading about it in the past to comfort her, since she was worried about her spiritual status because of it some time ago, but reading that one story in "The Battlefield Within" made me remember, and think I should ask you about it. Have I asked you about this before?

Recently, I accidentally ingested some blood as a result of a bloody nose; then that familiar feeling of panic started to set in, but then I kept calm and went back to my teachings. I remembered first our discussion of what consuming blood was, and that was not what scripture meant by 'consuming blood' (such as when you cut yourself and first thing one tends to do is lick it clean). My mind then went back to the idea that such a thing was not even possible (if I recall), and that even if it were, Christ's blood has wiped us clean, and nothing can separate us from God's love. Then I told myself the sequence of what happened, and that it wasn't premeditated, and that more than likely when that thought came to mind, it was just the evil one trying to take advantage of a crack in my armor he may have found.

I must admit to feeling a bit of shame or worry still, even though I know I need to stop, but I am hoping that this is the sign that some progress has been made? Before, in the past, I would've written a more panicked and worried email to you. The idea that my mind is struggling and these thoughts come to my mind even in the first place still bothers me greatly, this latest one being no exception, but I'm trying to focus more on the idea that God's love and Christ's sacrifice wipe clean all sin, and that the evil one is still trying to take advantage of my one weakness he knows I still have difficulty with – my emotions. I hate what is evil, and I hate these thoughts, even though we do ultimately have control over our own minds. Part of me wants to feel even worse because of that, but then again, there is that word: "feel". I just have to remember to repent of my sin, ask for forgiveness, and keep moving forward. The evil one's tactics keep changing up on me: if he can't get me to believe that I 'may not be saved', he tries to make me wonder if I am a believer at all. All I focus on is keeping on the road, looking forward, and keep remembering that feelings are easily swayed and easily sway us if we let them, and that faith is first and foremost a choice.

How did I handle the situation? I am hoping it is at least better than I would have in the past.

Finally, I wanted to express my gratitude for just how much you’ve helped me, and continue to help me. I hope that in our times together I haven’t tested or tried your patience, especially given the recent matter of the battle of my mind. I try not to look back (not always successfully, mind you), except in times where I wish to see how I am now compared to how I was before, and I am fairly certain I would not be where I am today without you, or at least not as fast as I have done so. I am not sure how many of these types of emails you get, but you really have been a great help to me, and from what I’ve seen of Ichthys thus far. You have been a great help and guide to many people. I won’t claim to know God’s will or plan, but I am pretty sure you’re accomplishing what you were meant to do, and I hope your rewards are great indeed.

Response #7: 

Thanks for your good words, my friend!

From my point of view, you are making great progress in combating the assaults of the evil one. Be pleased to keep up that good work!

Blood is a symbol in the Bible. Deliberately consuming blood from animals is prohibited because that would symbolize profaning the sacrifice of Christ. His "blood" is a sanctified metaphor for His work in dying for the sins of the world. Accidental or incidental ingestion of one’s owns blood means absolutely nothing – even the Pharisees ate meat, after all, and though it was ritually drained, we know enough about biology to understand that it still had blood cells in it, even cooked very well done. So it’s the symbolism that is important here.

As to your other concern, I think you know that this behavior you report has nothing to do with scripture or with reality. So it is disturbing. I'm certainly not going to advise you on any course of action or otherwise weigh in on what you do with your applications of scripture. Relationships are always difficult. No one is perfect, and it is a very rare person who is straight-arrow on all points of biblical doctrine – if we found somebody like that, they'd probably have good reason to find fault with us. It is something to put before the Lord in prayer, however (I'm praying for you both).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Robert,

It has been a while I have not heard from you, so I hope that this finds you well and relieved with having survived yet another election. I personally feel a great relief with the outcome, as we have been saved by the bell, as they say, from a very dark precipice. Not that I feel that the present outcome is a panacea, but at least we have dodged a very dark bullet. I still feel very uneasy about the future, and as we all know, its going to get worse before it gets better. Here in the Dominican Republic we are under a very dark cloud of rulers, engaged in every evil deception and crime possible. Not to mention the upsurge in satanism under the guise of local syncretic practices of catholicism and voodoo. There is something heavy and dark over the world , I sense, and only through prayer and daily reading of my Bible am I able to withstand the darts and attacks of the enemy. Is this a common thread among your readers? Or am I the only one complaining about the darkness that I feel we are living in? If so, please tell me so that I can get some professional help LOL! How are things holding up there? I pray that you and your loved ones are fine, in good health and spirits. I would love to hear from you whenever you have some time for your long lost dominican friend. I remissed in not writing but I can assure you that you have been on my mind, and have mentioned your work to other brothers and sisters. But it seems that I everyone that surrounds me is either in Christianity 101 twenty years into the journey, or liberals with a mindset that the Lord changed in me many years ago. It is a lonely walk, so please keep me posted from time to time.

God bless and protect you always!

Response #8: 

It's very good to hear from you, my friend. I have been keeping you in my prayers faithfully day by day, and am encouraged by the positive tone of your email in spite of the darkness of the world. The world is a dark place, and failing to see and appreciate that fact is a sign that a person is too friendly with it; being cognizant of that truth is, on the other hand, a sign of spiritual growth. So I am encouraged by you on that score as well.

Things here are not perfect but I have been brought through some hard times and still have my scalp (as the frontiersmen used to say). The times are busy but my health is pretty good and I'm not on the verge of going under – so praise God for deliverance large and small!

Presently working on Basics 6A, but that is a long way off at present. Things are "interesting" in the world, and bound to get more interesting as things progress, regardless of political developments. All the more reason for us all not only to get by and get through but also to get as spiritually prepared as possible before the fact.

Feel free to write me any time, my friend!

I hope everything is working out for you – finding Christian fellowship that is more than superficial is a difficult thing wherever one is in the world these days, not just in your latitude and longitude.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hello I was raised in a Christian home and I was baptized in 2001 while in high school yet afterwards I was sinning and disobedient to God till about a few months ago shortly after I turned 30 and I realized how I've been living my life and realized I've failed God every single time so I asked God for forgiveness and repented and changed my life around. But at times I still fall to temptation and I'm really trying hard not to sin and to obedient to God's Word I tried before in my early 20's but failed miserably. I sometimes feel like if I mess up again then I will be cut off from God and I don't want that to happen and sometimes I wonder if I'm already am. It hurts when I realized I gave into fleshly temptation. Please help me understand I wish I really knew where I stand with God or am I doomed to judgment?

Response #9: 

It's good to make your acquaintance.

I want to assure you that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are not doomed but instead have eternal life and will, with the rest of us who are your brothers and sisters in Him, live with our Lord forever in resurrection . . . just as long as you hold fast to your faith throughout this short life.

You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Matthew 10:22 NIV

If only those who did not sin were saved, then no one would be saved, because all sin (Rom.3:23), all stumble (Jas.3:2), and anyone who claims they do not makes God out to be a liar (1Jn.1:8; 1:10). Blessedly, since Christ has already died for all of our sins (1Jn.2:2), our sins are forgiven when we believe, and all of the subsequent sins committed thereafter are forgiven when we confess (1Jn.1:9). If our heart convicts us, we know that God is greater than our hearts (1Jn.3:20), and that we have an Advocate before the Father to speak up on our behalf, Jesus Christ our Lord (1Jn.2:1).

Make no mistake. Sin is an issue, but it is an issue for reasons different from what many who are not well versed in the Bible often suppose. Sin is rebellion against God, just as any time a child violates one of their parents' rules. But there is a big difference between causing mischief and being punished for it, then getting back to normal behavior on the one hand, and being so resistant to parental authority that the child eventually runs away. Sin is a problem, obviously, because it is a bad witness, because it results in divine discipline from the Lord (analogous to parental punishment likewise meant for our good but painful at the time: Heb.12:5-13), because it is counterproductive to accomplishing the mission for which we are still here on earth after salvation, and because enough sin done arrogantly enough for long enough will eventually result in our estrangement from the Lord – not by His actions but by our choice: few people can disrespect any authority to a violent and vigorous degree and still retain any loyalty to that authority at the end of the road of revolt and rebellion. So most who have become believers but sour on the relationship, blaming God, for example, for bad things that happen in their lives, will eventually fall away and stop believing. Sin is sometimes a catalyst in this process of apostasy because it can involve becoming enamored of certain behaviors which the person knows are unacceptable to the Lord, but said person would rather embrace the sin than have to answer to the Lord for continuing in it (see the link: "Apostasy"). Not all believers who are caught in the web of some chronic sin go that route, however. Equally common is the believer who "halts between two opinions" (1Ki.18:21) and refuses to give up either the sinful behavior or the Lord. That is not a sustainable situation, however, because the Lord will not allow it to continue forever. He will ramp up the divine discipline and if the believer in question still refuses to repent and change his/her ways, will eventually bring said person home to heaven in a painful way, namely, through the "sin unto death" (1Jn.5:16; see the link).

From your email, my impression is that you are interested in getting your Christian life back on track. That is admirable, and I encourage you to persevere in that intention. It is far from unusual for people who are saved at a young age to stray from the Lord as young adults and then come back to Him once they have "gone over fool hill" (as my maternal grandfather was fond of saying) and found it pointless (that was my own experience). Being forgiven for sin is easily accomplished – easy for us since Christ died spiritually in the darkness of Calvary in bearing all of our sins for us. All we need to do is confess to be forgiven (see the link). But this is only part of the solution to victory over sin. To be truly victorious in all things in the Christian life (of which sanctification is a part, a necessary part, but only a part) requires spiritual growth. One cannot fight this fight without ammunition, and our ammunition as believers is the truth of the Word of God, heard, understood, believed and properly applied. Getting to the point of spiritual maturity thereby is not an overnight thing, and if we are in need of spiritual recovery from some hole into which we have leapt, that may require extra effort and time. But all spiritual problems are ultimately resolved by spiritual growth and only by spiritual growth.

To that end, I encourage you not only to confess your sins and set yourself to walking in a sanctified way, but also to do what is necessary in order for this to really work in the long term . . . and also to fulfill the purpose Christ has for your life. You are most welcome at Ichthys for that purpose of learning the truth so as to grow, progress and eventually produce for the Lord, but I do urge you, in case this ministry is not your "cup of tea", to find some place where the Word of God is being taught in depth and in an orthodox and doctrinal way so as to be able to build on your good intention the spiritual edifice Christ means you build. Staying away from sin is our "defense"; but while defense is necessary, it takes "offense" to win this spiritual battle. That is the growth without which a Christian is leaving him/herself largely defenseless against the devices of the evil one. Here are a few links to help get you started with this (and they will lead you to many others):

Salvation Lost and Found

Spiritual Growth II

Spiritual Growth II

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Christian Struggle, Perseverance and Deliverance

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Salvation Questions

Salvation Questions II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Your responses to the questions you have received from the emails on your site have truly helped me in defending the word of God as well as ministering the word of God. Your ministry has truly helped me to bless so many and I am so thankful for your anointing and what the Spirit of the Lord has revealed to you. I have been studying the word consistently daily. I have been in the word since I was 5 years old and I am now 42 and God has truly helped me to straighten any crooked paths regarding his word. Since first stumbling along your page, God has freed me from a particular sin which was pretty much my only stronghold. I am more confident in His word and I can with a clear conscious truly say, I'm free! Thank you for your wise counsel, and I pray my strength in the Lord it will not be in vain.

V/r Your brother and student in Christ

Response #10:

Thanks for your encouraging testimony!

The power of the Word of God is indeed truly awesome. The truth is the answer to all problems and the scriptures have the answer to all worthwhile questions – for those who keep seeking the truth the right way, in the Spirit.

I am certain that you on are on your way to a great reward. So keep fighting the fight, my friend! There is nothing but blessing at the end of that road, even if we do have to fly through some flak on the way there.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hi Bob,

I have sinned greatly against God, because I visited a very bad political website after getting TOO caught up in politics this election cycle. I had nightmares of having my eyes gauged out a la Zedekiah for visiting this website. Pray that God may not remove me from this life.

Response #11: 

Visiting bad websites of any kind is always a bad idea, but it's questionable if what you mention is even sinful. Even if it is/was, God forgives us any sin when we confess it (1Jn.1:9) – because Jesus has already died for it. So while doing something that violates our standards is not a good idea (Rom.14:23; Jas.4:17), allowing ourselves to become guilt ridden over something we have repented of and confessed is ten times worse.

Repent, confess, forget and move on. That is the only way for a Christian to survive and thrive in this life (not forgetting that spiritual growth is the essential part of the picture).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hi Bob,

I can't answer this question, because I'm not gay. But do some people naturally feel attraction for the same sex, or is it ALWAYS a result of perversion from poor choices?

Response #12: 

Neither am I, but from what we can tell from scripture (see BB 3B for details), while everyone has a sin nature, not everyone is tempted to the same things. All are tempted, but some more so than others in one thing or another. We can certainly see that in our observation of human life as well. Engaging in sin amplifies and accelerates sinfulness I should add. Romans chapter one and James chapter one talk about the process. So a Christian walking closely with Jesus will be tempted; but an unbeliever or rebellious Christian who involves him/herself in gross sin will go from bad to worse and end up doing things and being tempted to things that otherwise would not be much of a problem. We are all different in tastes; we are all human and identical in the biggest things under the skin (the spirit's free will opposed to the flesh).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Dear Bob,

Your response this week to that woman was impressive. I couldn't have handled it with the dignity you did. I think you were getting through to her, but I would have been inclined to state it more directly. (Probably losing her for good which I suspect is inevitable.)

I read in 1 Corinthians 6:9,10. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Also Romans 1:26-27.

That seems to me to be a resounding condemnation of the behavior. While I've never treated a homosexual crudely (though they have treated me that way,) I avoid them if at all possible. Further, I also believe that the "marriage" brouhaha is a direct attack on Christianity since civil unions and civil contracts have always been available. Their argument strikes me as specious. I prefer Lot's approach. My understanding is that, if they're still doing this at their end, they'll not enter the kingdom of heaven.

In other matters, recent stumbling verses were 2 Corinthians 2:15,16. I don't know how many times I've read this and thought I understood, but this last time brought me up short. I have understood it to mean the death of the earthly and rebirth in the Spirit. Is this a correct understanding?

Thanks. Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #13: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope all is going well with you and yours.

To take your last question first, Paul is speaking in 2nd Corinthians 2:15-16 of his charge to evangelize the world, giving the gospel to all which results in confirmation of condemnation for those unwilling to accept it but in eternal life to those who are willing to be saved – a task to which no one is equal.

Thanks for your kind words. The person in this exchange is/was not at the time confirmed in this behavior, if my correspondence with her prior to it is a guide. 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 and other such lists in scripture, if all are read carefully, will indict pretty much everyone of some past sinfulness – in fact in the similar list in Galatians 5:19-21 Paul actually adds for good measure that it is those who "practice things similar to these things" who will not inherit the kingdom (meaning any sort of sinful behavior which is embraced as standard practice, the Greek verb prasso being used with that particular force here as parallel to "being [by profession] a fornicator" etc. in the 1Cor.6:9-10).

The purpose of these two catalogues and other such (of which there is a fair number in scripture, e.g., Ex.20-23; Lev.18-20; Ps.15:2-5; Prov.6:16-19; Rom.1:18-32; Gal.5:19-21; Eph.5:3-5; 1Tim.1:8-10; 2Tim.3:1-5) is not to make those of us who do not indulge in certain types of gross sin feel more secure, but to warn every Christian that the repetitive practice of any sin is a dangerous business and embracing it as "not a sin" even more so. In practical terms, the way this works is that refusing to repent of any type of sinful behavior so as to be fairly characterized as "one who practices it" will lead a believer either to apostasy (when the contradiction between Gods' Will and the person's becomes too great to handle with the result that the person stops being a believer and rejects Christ) or the sin unto death (in cases where the person refuses either to reject Christ or to give up the sinful behavior which is repugnant to Him and produces a terrible witness). The main link on this is in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

This was what I was trying to get across to this person, namely, the inconsistency with being a believer and the resultant spiritual danger of doing things one knows clearly from scripture are prohibited as sinful and repugnant to the Lord. The worst thing any believer can do is to start telling him/herself that sinful behavior "X" is actually not sinful. Turning truth on its head will always land a believer on his/her backside – and often very quickly too.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Dear Bob,

Thanks for clearing up what Paul meant. It concerns me a little that my preconceived notions may have clouded my understanding of other scripture. I assume it was the Holy Spirit that brought me up short this time. Line on line, precept on precept is true. I hope your correspondent eventually sees the light. Living with someone doesn't necessarily make for a sinful relationship. I've had roommates in the past. But sexual intercourse does. "Having her baby" regardless of how it's done seems to me to qualify as the same thing.

I don't want to judge nor is it my place. From your description of "prasso" I doubt it does; that word suggests a prostitute. I have enough trouble keeping myself straight without correcting
someone else. I worry, though, that she's headed down a very bad path.

I worry about my own sins that I've not recognized as sins, so haven't confessed. Somehow asking for forgiveness of all sins recognized or not doesn't seem to resolve the problem. My constant sin is my mouth, I suspect. (Too much time on the East Coast.) One day, with God's help, I'll get that under control. As an aside, as someone who was married 35 years to a woman Icherished, I think Paul's advice was best. Stay single. Get a good dog. Anyone who would want more than one wife should be committed to an asylum. Although I know some people who can't stand to be alone and remarry after losing a spouse, I would argue against it.

Along those lines, my understanding of Biblical marriage/the taking of a spouse is having intercourse with her. The two become one flesh, hence marriage. The same is true of any two people combining bodily fluids that way. They become one. (The church of science is confirming that in the horizontal DNA exchange.) Hence the "confusion" of homosexual sex. Also, my understanding of Biblical marriage is that the husband (after the taking of a spouse) is to take responsibility for his wife and offspring -- regardless of how many wives he may have or how many women he's bedded. That's something that doesn't always happen today in spite of state authorized marriage.

In any event, thanks for clearing up my misunderstanding of Paul's statements. Thank you, also, for being willing and able to field questions like this. All is well here as I hope it is for you. Thank you for asking.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #14: 

You very welcome, my friend. Glad to hear you are doing well!

Yes, I pray for this person too. Clearly, any sort of sinful conduct is going to bring discipline from the Lord. Bigger problems occur when we start seeing a sinful course as "an option" and "not really all that bad" or even "virtuous". Turning the truth on its head is the fastest route into apostasy or the sin unto death (depending upon the true resiliency of the person's faith). While sex isn't marriage (marriage is marriage), it's absolutely a problem outside of marriage (as God defines marriage); and I certainly agree with you about taking responsibility. I think if more people realized viscerally what sort of responsibilities marriage entails, especially in God's eyes, there would be less accidents along these lines.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

I've come to the realization that OSAS/Positional Security along with the constant assurances of "we all sin and we'll never stop, just confess and you're forgiven" has caused me to backslide.
Exactly like it says in the post about the three false doctrines. Along with that truth I found in the post, I've also come to a point of confusion and a sense of abandonment from God. I've heard assurance from everyone, but it leaves me questioning their faith as well because they believe the same lie that I bought into. I backslid for about two years. I've not stopped praying the whole time, still have a desire for church, a relationship with the Lord, to know Him intimately, be involved with whatever will He has for my life, etc. and I know that in and of itself doesn't mean I'm Christian. I'm just saying that I'm not denying Christ or denouncing the faith. However, I prayed 3 weeks ago that God makes me more sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit, to continue to convict me of known sin and convict me of unknown sin, and that my fiancι and I would come to an intimate relationship with Him and that our marriage be centered around Him. That evening I happened to be at a Bible study (completely unplanned. One I've never been to) and it was on a Spirit driven life. I thought about my prayer about the Holy Spirit that morning and it made me feel like it was an answered prayer, but then Hebrews 6:4-6 came up and I felt condemned. My question is, can I be forgiven due to ignorance because I bought into the lie of positional security and be restored to God or have I "fallen away" or done what Hebrews 10:26 is describing? I feel like I've committed the unpardonable sin, and I'm so angry with the false doctrines going around leading people astray.

Response #15: 

It's good to make your acquaintance. I'm happy to hear that you have been helped by these materials, and also that you've come to the realization of what the truth is in regard to the false "Once saved, always saved" teaching. Moreover, your experience – of being emotionally pushed to the other extreme after rejection of the first extreme – is not uncommon at all. As I like to say at these times, OSAS is not biblical, but neither is "pins and needles salvation", the idea that if we mess up we are immediately tossed out of God's family. Many OSAS'ers are correct about the fact that we are forgiven when we confess: God is 100% faithful to do as He says He will do (e.g., 1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.9:10) – of course He is also faithful as a perfect, loving Father to discipline us for our sins in just the right way to teach us that straying from Him is painful and costly (e.g., Heb.12:1ff.). You are a believer and therefore your salvation is secure – as long as you are a believer. What OSAS misses is that just as a person can put their faith in Christ to believe, so also a person can fall away after believing by ceasing to believe at all; it's called apostasy (see the link):

And those [whose seed of faith fell] on the rock do receive the Word with joy when they hear it. However these [types] have no root [to their faith]. They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize.
Luke 8:13

Apostasy is not easy to accomplish however. It is also not the direct result of sin, any sin, no matter how terrible that sin may seem to us (all sin is terrible, even the ones that don't bother us at all, and Jesus had to pay the entire price for them all on the cross). The relationship of sin to apostasy is that sin weakens faith, and the worse the sin, the more frequent the sin, the longer before we confess the sin, and particularly falling into a pattern of sin from which we are unwilling to extricate ourselves, weakens it all the more. And if faith dies out, we are then no longer believers – and only believers are saved. Generally speaking, it isn't sin that usually brings on apostasy but a person feeling let down or disappointed by God. More often than not, the believer who falls into a pattern of gross sin which he/she is not willing to give up is also not willing to give up the Lord and faith in Him. When that happens, the result is not apostasy but the sin unto death (see prior link), whereby the Lord takes that believers and his/her terrible witness out of this world and brings them to heaven: salvation is not lost, but no doubt such individuals will have little to show for their lives here on earth, and we are here to win eternal rewards (see the link).

It seems clear to me from your testimony that the Lord is working in your life to get you not only to live in a sanctified way (that is the good and very necessary "defense" of the Christian life), but also to move you towards spiritual growth, toward positive progress in your walk with Him, and eventually toward ministry (in accord with whatever gifts you have been give) so as to earn a good reward which glorifies Him. That requires not just "being good", praying and reading one's Bible, but also consistently accessing, hearing/reading, and believing the truth as it is taught from a sound and spiritually reliable teaching ministry. There aren't many of these around nowadays (few churches teach at all and those who do are usually caught up in one set of false teachings or another – just as you report). It's not everyone's cup of tea (and I am happy to recommend a few other places), but I like to think that Ichthys is one such good place, and you are certainly welcome to all the materials here (I also recommend "Bible Academy" at the link).

Before closing, let me give you a few links for reassurance that you are not in danger of losing your salvation:

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

Have I Lost my Salvation?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

Salvation Lost and Found

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hi Dr

The more you think you are spiritually strong, the more the Lord shows you, you have flaws and makes you realize that you will never be 100% sanctified on the flesh. I am doing good from my standpoint thinking I have a routine of studying His word, fighting the fight if faith with my trials and my spiritual progress has matured and then out of nowhere sexual sin. Something pops up online that gets your imagination running wild and before you know, you clicked and fell for the temptation.

We are but just men and without his grace and mercy, none of us can make it. This humbled me but now I have to fight harder the temptations when they come, especially when I am idle, which is not that often, which is a blessing in disguise.

In Christ our Lord
p.s. One thing I did notice is that when temptation does come my way, whatever kind it is, I don't pray for deliverance. I will make of an effort when I know temptation is at the door to stop and pray that the Lord delivers. I believe that will help me even though I don't fall every time but one fall is enough.

Response #16: 

I think you have hit upon it exactly. The evil one is very adept at working hand in glove with our sin natures to take advantage of every opportunity offered. When we are fighting a good fight, there is often little opportunity for temptation (rather that will be the time of tricky opposition). But just as David failed so spectacularly with Bathsheba when he decided very uncharacteristically to leave off his normal practice of accompanying the army when in the field, so when we ease up – even for very deserved and needed rest – it is often the case that we let our guard down as well. On this score, no doubt married men have an advantage over single men on the one hand (1Cor.7:1-2), but on the other hand the former may be less accustomed to these attacks and thus more vulnerable on the rare occasions when they are more open to them – it certainly didn't "help" David that he had multiple wives at the time of his failure. We live in a time when all things carnal are hyped by the devil's system in a more brazen and ubiquitous way (with modern media) than perhaps ever before in human history. But we mature believers ought to be able to put these temptations largely aside, avoiding them as much as possible in the first place.

Some helpful tactics: 1) "avoid [as far as possible] anything that even looks like evil" in this regard and on this score: 1Thes.5:22; 2) "fear God" (Eccl.12:13) in regard to the potential consequences of this sort of failure (David received 14 years of the most intensive discipline/punishment ever; cf. Prov.5:1-14; Eccl.7:28; Is.3:16-26); 3) look below the surface (2Cor.10:7): below any attractive exterior is an inner person . . . with all the flaws and disagreeable traits we have ourselves, maybe even more so; the exterior, therefore, is mostly a lie (Prov.31:10), and we also don't want to be guilty of putting a stumbling block in anyone's path; 4) For those who are married, it is important always to keep the commitments we have made firmly in mind, and make the best of what we have been given by the Lord, remembering that in reality nothing is perfect in this life (Prov.5:15-23).

This is a fight which can be won; but it does have to be fought with honor and consistency in order to be won.

One final note here, since you mention the internet: there is a difference between temptation and sin. And there is a difference between a mental slip and what David (a greater believer than any of us by far) did in stumbling so dramatically as he did. Still, one thing leads to another. This must have been true in David's case too (Jas.1:14-15). We don't have all the details, but he didn't just "up and commit adultery"; there was some prologue there. This is why it is important for us to fight the fight at the first sign of trouble. The further out we draw the line, the more intolerant we are of allowing any consideration of such things in our hearts, the less we give the evil one any sort of opportunity to tempt us in this way, and the better for all concerned.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
1st Corinthians 6:18 KJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Also, you feel bad after falling for such easy temptation. I felt bad all day and that is a good sign I guess so I should be in a better position next time the Lord wants to test me to refine me again.

Thank you and God bless

Response #17: 

You're always welcome, my friend.

I do think that part of the divine discipline for any failure where we really did "know better" and "saw it coming" yet sinned anyway is just this sort of dis-ease. It is a blessing, not only because it helps us learn our lesson, and the only way we will stop "feeling bad" for such things – besides learning not to fall into the same trap again – is to quench the Spirit's powerful witness (1Thes.5:19), and that would be a big step in the wrong direction.

Also, it's not a bad idea to distinguish between genuine tests of faith which are of God, helping us to grow by challenging our faith, and fleshly temptations which arise from the sin nature spurred on by the evil one and his minions. This latter category is ubiquitous in our day and age. Certainly, God is the Author of the plan, and everything that happens has been taken into account by Him, but I still think the distinction is quite important:

(13) Let no one say when he is being tempted, "I'm being tempted by God!" For God has nothing to do with evil temptations, nor does He tempt anyone. (14) Rather, everyone is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. (15) Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give in to it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give in to a life of sin), produces death (i.e., spiritual death, the death of faith).
James 1:13-15

This is also an important point to make on account of the possible confusion because the same Greek word(s) is used for both testing and tempting. The peira- root clearly has to do with "tempting" in the verses above, but there are places, e.g., Hebrews 11:17, where we clearly have to do with a test which is from God (cf. Cor.10:13 where it can be both). Please see the links:

Temptation vs. Testing I

Temptation vs. Testing II

And a final note on spiritual combat tactics: those preparing for or engaging in ministry already have (or should have) plenty on our plates to keep us so busy that we don't have the time (or even energy) for such things. After all, learning and mastering Greek and Hebrew alone can take a lifetime. We all need to relax from time to time – but that is precisely the time we can't afford to relax too much (just ask David).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

This is where I learned a valuable lesson as part of my spiritual growth. I didn't pray. If the temptation was that powerful, I should have immediately prayed but I didn't because I thought I could easily think of something else or allow myself to get distracted from something else.

In the past, this worked because I was a spiritual infant and the Lord was helping me to grow. Now that I have been walking more consistently, he wants me to grow to rely on him when temptation comes and I believe as you grow spiritually, the temptations become more intense and that is where your maturity is shown.

I confessed to the Lord I wasn't matured but He did give me insights so I believe with the Spirit's help I am ready to handle another instance of intense temptation, even if it is not of similar nature.

One other thing, forget about learning Greek and Hebrew, studying and perusing your site will keep you busy just as much. I have read up to 2/2015 of all previous email postings and still have 750 weekly email postings to go. That will keep me busy. I was printing out each weeks email and kept a large 3 ring binders that hold 10 lessons each and I have 10 binders already but when ai realized I have 750 more emails to read, my strategy has changed. That is over 75 binders not including current weeks email. I decided to only print out current week's email but at the rate you produced your emails I might have to find another solution. I like to print and read your materials. All of your study materials are printed in binders. I have to figure out what to do about emails.

Response #18: 

I appreciate your spirit. One other thing I can tell you about all this is that while you and I are discussing this from a theological point of view, looking at the issue in a timeless fashion as it needs to be considered in such discussions, from a practical point of view we Christians also need to be quick to move on from failures and not dwell on them. God has forgiven us, and that is true even if He is doling out some discipline to help us to avoid the same mistake(s) in future. So after we turn back to Him and confess whatever it is, large or small, it's important not to get hung up on these past mistakes – and anything that happened even as recently as yesterday is the distant past in Christian terms. We are here to live for the Lord one day at a time. It's a trap for a Christian either to get caught looking too far into the future (planning is needful to a certain degree, but we really have no idea what will happen even tomorrow: Jas.4:13-16), and if we are fretting about what we did wrong yesterday – or what we failed to do that we should have done – we risk missing the boat on what we are supposed to be doing (or refraining from doing) right here and now. The Christian life is spiritual combat, and every combat veteran understands that not paying attention, being mentally distracted, can get a soldier killed very quickly, even if it is only a momentary lapse. Falling into sin or getting distracted from our present tasks on account of past sins does not result in immediate death of course, but these things can trip us up in our walk, slow down our spiritual progress, result in divine discipline, give us another dose of regret we have to fight and fend off, and just generally impede the progress which the is the whole point of our being here after salvation. Some mistakes are going to happen. But it is very important not to let worrying about what has already happened make us more vulnerable to more such things happening here and now since we are putting ourselves off of our game by allowing ourselves to be distracted with thoughts about the past. We can't change the past – not even what happened yesterday. We can make today count for our Lord, if we give it our full attention. If we do, tomorrow will take care of itself too.

On the topic of studies, I didn't realize there were that many! While I'm flattered that you would think them worthy of printing out and organizing, I think your contemplated switch to reading the postings on-line is a good one. I used to do exhaustive notes on my mentor Col. Thieme's tapes. Today, the value of that is all in what I concentrated on and the truth I remembered in my heart, not in my filing system (I don't even have most of those many binders anymore).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Hi Bob,

I've been studying the ten commandments, through the work of the wonderful Thomas Watson (titled, unsurprisingly, The Ten Commandments). And I've come to a terrifying realization: it's too hard. I cannot obey God's perfect moral law. I know exactly what it demands, and I fall horribly, horribly short. And the New Testament says that only doers of the law, not hearers of the law will be saved. After all, the Devil knows that Christ is "the Holy One of Israel," but it's not doing him any good. My heart has many idols. I love the boastful pride of life and boasting in my own works. So I am a breaker of the second commandment. My heart does not respect the name and authority of God, so I break the third commandment. I am too ashamed to go over the rest! How do I know if I have the right kind of faith? There is a type of faith that is dead, mere appraisal of the facts of the Bible.

Response #19: 

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Romans 3:20 NIV

For all sin and fall short of God's glory.
Romans 3:23

We all fall short of the perfect standard of the Law; the Law was given to convict people of sin so that they might be saved. And when we believe in Jesus Christ, all of our sins, past, present and future are washed away. That is "the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom.3:24).

You have faith. I can testify to that. Can you live a more sanctified life? We can all stand to improve. If you have sinned, confess and move on. This is a fight to the finish in which we are involved, and no Christian can afford to get overly subjective about it. You have been fighting a good fight. If you are convicted that you need to fight it harder and better, start trying to do so; and if you have failed, get back up and try not to fail again. But please don't think that you'll ever be perfect. That is not an excuse not to try; but if you accept the false premise that perfection is possible it will destroy you – or turn you into a legalist who redefines sin into some comfortable (false) formula.

Be pleased to thank God for His ineffable grace in removing all of your sins in Jesus Christ. Jesus died for your sins – they are already covered by His blood. Please appreciate that. Becoming too subjectively focused on what we have done takes our gaze off of what Christ has done for us. So be grateful and happy that you have been forgiven!

In the One who died for us that we might live with Him forever, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hi Robert Dean Luginbill, Ph.D.,

I really like your site. I have a weird question. Is innocence blind. I think it is to evil and yet how much we are exposed to evil. My question is How do I know what to ignore and what to highlight. I don't want to be too blind and yet I value innocence very much. I think Jesus is calling me to greater innocence every day. I don't think He wants me to avoid certain things that are evil but He doesn't want me participating. To be in the world but not of it.

An example is my television. I have to try and stay current on events but I can't stand the advertisements and such which are very offensive. I don't want to be an old fuddy duddy but I'd rather be ignorant than less innocent. Not that I am totally because I make mistakes. But I am forgiven because of Jesus the Son of God come in the flesh.

I just need some help in this area. Sorry to ramble on but I really have no one I trust to answer this question.

Thanks in advance.

Response #20:

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question, the word "innocent" and its cognates have developed some connotations in English which are not necessarily helpful in understanding what scripture teaches.

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:16 KJV

NIV, ESV and NASB, to name three popular versions, have "innocent" here instead of harmless. Both words fall short of doing justice to the Greek word akeraios which means, literally, "unmixed", and in this context has the double meaning of being actively and passively separated from evil in terms of interacting with the world, uncompromised by it, that is. That is to say, to fulfill this command, the believer should be "harmless" in terms of how he/she relates to others (like a sheep rather than a wolf), but also pure in terms of not allowing the ubiquitous evil viewpoint and carnality of this world invade his/her thinking and values so as to corrupt a simple love for Jesus Christ.

How to do this? It is perhaps easier to see how not to do wrong to others, but even here we all fall short. As I often tell readers, if you ever think you have "arrived", see how you react in traffic the next time you are late for work; or take notice of how you deal with some cashier or someone on the phone who is being particularly unhelpful. Clearly, we could all use a little more patience in respect to how we deal with others, even if we are much more sheep than wolf in this regard.

Getting better regarding the above is a question of learning and applying the truth of the Word of God. Not just one piece here or there but the entire breadth and length of biblical truth. So spiritual growth and progress in the application of the truth one has learned and believed (it does no good merely to "know" truth; it has to be believed to benefit us) is as with so many other things in the Christian life the essential key here. Getting better at using this key in situations such as the one described is a life-long process.

The same thing applies in terms of how we ward off evil influence. We cannot "go out of the world", as Paul assures us (1Cor.5:10). Many in the past have tried this foolish experiment but every monastery in history is monument to the impossibility of escaping worldly influence through physical separation. Our separation has to be spiritual to work. Spiritual growth provides the armor we need to resist the temptations and the pollutions of this world. It is virtually impossible to avoid contact with such influences. Obviously, there are TV programs we shouldn't watch, websites we shouldn't frequent, music we shouldn't listen to. But it is impossible even to move around in a modern city without hearing music we wouldn't choose to hear, seeing images we wouldn't choose to see, and reading copy/headlines we would rather not consider.

As in all things in the Christian life where it comes to application of the truth to complicated life circumstances, a proper balance needs to be struck and this will differ from individual believer to individual believer . . . because we are all different in many ways and also because no two of us are at the same point of spiritual growth.

So, just for example, I get emails from individual who realize they have an obsession with certain types of music. In such cases, avoiding such music and perhaps music altogether as much as is possible is not a bad thing to do. Or others who are addicted to television or music or social media or whatever. Anything we are doing too much of – anything the Spirit is telling us is getting out of hand – needs to be addressed for our spiritual welfare. What is to be avoided in this process, however, is the double-edged danger the Christian encounters when making such lifestyle changes: 1) on the one hand, we need to be careful not to make a virtue out of any sort of self-denial of anything: it may be indeed a spiritually salutary thing for us to do to stop watching satirical and scatological comedy altogether, but it is dangerous to be proud about giving it up and doubly dangerous to look askance at others who have not made the same application; 2) whatever we decide to do in terms of behavior changes, it is important not to make a "law" out of such things, even if we are going completely "cold turkey" regarding whatever it is: we have to remember that this is our application which may change over time to some degree, and that if we are not convicted that a particular activity of this sort is sinful, then "failing" on any given day is not something we need to feel guilty about. Guilt is a very damaging emotion and often used by the devil and his minions to gain a foothold in manipulating us.

I'm always happy to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to grow closer to the Lord. That is what it is all about. If watching less TV, for example, allows a person to spend more time listening to or reading good Bible study and also the Bible itself, and if such a change makes seeing things from God's point of view more consistent, well and good. But making behavioral changes apart from the objective of spiritual growth, progress and production – the plan of God for believers in a nutshell – is fraught with legalistic perils and does nothing to advance our spirituality. We need to keep our eye on the prize, the eternal rewards our Lord has for us . . . not for presenting a certain appearance to the world, but for actually growing in the truth, actually walking closer to Him through that truth, and actually helping others to do the same through ministry. That is where the crowns of righteousness, life and glory grow (see the link).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Dear Robert Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. I appreciate mostly that you did respond and your encouragement. I like the way it is a journey and how listening to God and keeping from idols is important. You are a smart person. God loves you. Thanks again. You more then answered my question you gave me hope.

Response #21: 

You are most welcome. Please feel free to write any time.

Incidentally, you might want to look at the recent Ichthys posting, "Dealing with Sin and Guilt" – it has a lot to say about this subject also. Wishing you continued spiritual progress and production in Jesus Christ our Lord, and a wonderful reward on that great day of days.

In Jesus Christ who is our everything.

Bob L.

 

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