Christians & Sin

May 25, 13 Christians & Sin

 

“We all sin everyday” so how can we judge?

 

“We all sin everyday” –  We were having a great theological discussion and a Christian in our group made this comment to the other Christians in the group.  I know we think this but is it true?  Aren’t there times, when resting fully in God’s strength, we get it right and don’t succumb to sinning?  At least for a day, maybe?

 

And as Christians, how can we judge someone else of a sin, who is claiming to be a Christian (and is church-involved to boot), if we all sin and all of the time?

 

Before I continue, I should probably define “Christian”.  It is a person 1justified by Jesus and going through the 2sanctification process. 

 

In our culture, we usually refer to ourselves as “Born-again Christians”.

 

There was a time before sin … a little history:

We know as Christians that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, corporate representatives for mankind, basically because they wanted to be like God and thought that they’d actually be better at it too.  This is our inherited condition and when a Christian, we recognize that it is our daily battle to “crucify” our sinful nature/natural man and through the help of His indwelling Holy Spirit, we submit to God’s will for us.

 

The Christian definition of Sin:

Mankind, unlike other created life on earth, has a moral sense of what is right and what is wrong:

 

“They (mankind) show that the work of the law (God’s moral code) is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”  Romans 2:15 esv

 

In the Bible, the Hebrew and Greek words translated “sin” as either 1) a transgression which is defined: “to step across” or “to go beyond a set boundary or limit” (these would involve a willfulness on our part) or 2) as defined: “to miss the mark” and this would represent our “inherited” aspect of sin.  

 

In most cases, it is a willful separating, and independence from and rebellion against God.  Scripture tells us that everyone sins. (Romans 3:23, 1 Kings 8:46, Ecclesiastes 7:20)

 

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4  – Sin separates us from God.   John continues through to verse 10, with some pretty strong exhortations to believers about sin.


As a Christian, a committed sin is an affront to our relationship with God.

 

I think as Christians, we may, at times, feel guilty for no sound reason.  We, being now indwelled by the Holy Spirit, feel the weight of our imperfection, and our selfish-nature, but I don’t think that is a “I’ve committed a sin” indicator necessarily.  That would be a ‘conscience’ but I’m not talking about that.  Paul’s letters are filled with the exhortation and actually even Jesus, stated many times to people, (paraphrased) “Sin no more” so there must be times when we choose not to sin and therefore, aren’t sinning.

 

So granted, the sin nature is our tendency and we are constantly vigilant over our actions, our mouths and even our thoughts, but when a sinful thought tries to gain our attention to voice it or put it into action, and we successfully vanquish it, (and granted, it is only by His strength that we can do this), aren’t we submitting to our Father’s will to not succumb to temptation?  We’re being tempted but we aren’t succumbing so therefore, we aren’t sinning, right?

 

James, Jesus’ half-brother wrote about this:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

James 1:14,15 esv

 

The exegesis of this passage is:

In a nutshell, Sin and therefore, death, is the result of giving into temptation.

 

So there is a difference between tempted and succumbing to actually sinning.  Jesus was tempted but never sinned.  I think as Christians, we sometimes mistake the temptation as the sin.

 

No one born of God (Born-again) makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

1 John 3:9 esv

 

Yay!!!!  This means we can stop from sinning.

 

And when we do slip up and sin, we have a hope:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 esv

 

(This is not however a get-out-of-jail card that we blatantly pull out and hand to God whenever we’ve transgressed His laws.)

 

Scripture constantly counsels us to live a Holy life, set apart from the corrupt world.  (A couple of references are 1 Peter 1:15,16 and Leviticus 11:45.)

 

When we see a self-proclaimed Christian in our midst with a blaring Un-repented Sin, I think we can look to 1 Corinthians 5 to see what we should do.

 

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is heavily admonishing the attendees of the Corinth “church”, which we must remember actually had to be in someone’s house because it was an iffy position being a Christian at that time, and so public meeting places were dangerous places to gather. When you imagine this “church”, think close & personal proximity – there was no anonymously slipping past people you’d never met, which we can do in many of our churches.

 

The Corinth church members were arrogantly flaunting their progressiveness in the face of Jesus’ holiness and Paul was “calling them on the carpet”.  One of their members, was engaging in 3sexual immorality i.e. sinning, and they were tolerating it.  “No more!”, says Paul!  You WILL require this sinner to leave the body of Christ (in the hopes that he will come to his senses, repent and return to God).  We ARE called to judge the members of the body of Christ.  How else can we do what Jude, Jesus’ half-brother, calls us to do, which is to contend for the faith? (Jude 1)

 

So in answer to the question: as Christians, how can we judge someone else of a sin, who is claiming to be a Christian (and is church-involved to boot), if we all sin and all of the time?  

 

There are times that we get it right and don’t sin.   More to the point, though is that nowhere in the Bible are we told that that is the criteria, which is to be sinless, in order for the body of Christ to be allowed to judge a member in the body of Christ.  And when we have to judge, Paul maps out in scripture, a process for us, corporately as His body, acting responsibly and out of love.

 

I think we can take the Corinth example to also illustrate that there are degrees of sins too (some considered more serious than others), at least as it pertains to the safeguarding of the body of Christ, the church.

 

I think there were probably gossipers (a sin) and definitely arrogance in the Corinthian church but the record we have of the ‘Christian’ being asked to leave the body is the one practicing sexual immorality.  I think that is the crux: he was an unrepentant practitioner and his was a blatant disregard of God’s laws.  In any case, that was the sin amongst others that was serious enough to require expulsion.  So it seems that Paul was measuring degrees of sin.

 

So are all sins the same to God? 

I’ve had to see what better minds than mine had to say about this so that I could put this into words.  What I have gleaned from them is that the answer to that question is “no” and “yes”.  (Bear with me because, I think that this can really help us to better understand.)  The “no” explanation is: Sins have degrees to God and some sins are more detestable to Him (Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19).  And the “yes” is because all sin has the same consequence, which is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).

 

So, what was happening with the Sexually immoral Corinth person?  I think what might have been happening and what may be happening when we see similar situations, is explained to us by Jesus in the 4Parable about the 4 types of soil which is about the 4 different responses to the Gospel.

 

Exegesis on this parable:

Jesus is encouraging his disciples not to lose heart, because they will encounter 4 types of responses to His Kingdom message and only 1 type will submit to it.  Those types are: 1) a heart hardened by sin (hard ground) so there is no way for the seed to penetrate to take root, 2) a shallow response and the person falls away when his faith is tested (stony ground) because the message has not penetrated his heart, 3) the responder who falls away to other pursuits and/or pleasures (the thorny ground), which he holds dearer to his heart, 4) the person who responds and does not fall away – wahoo (the good soil).

 

As mentioned, Jesus was encouraging his disciples with this reality: only 1 in 4 types will get it.  I think as sowers of His truth, we just keep sowing & plowing away in the hopes that a person will allow the Holy Spirit to soften their heart, resulting in true repentance for their sin.  In my case, it took multiple sowings and multiple plowings 😎

 

Jesus also stated that the “tares” (a very invasive weed that looks like wheat when it first grows) and the “wheat” (God-planted) would be allowed to grow together (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).  We have to assume that there are “tares” even in the church, with low to high influence on the body – how else do you get cults and heresies?

 

So what I think was going on with the Corinth sinner was that he was not a Christian.

 

Which leads then to a question:

Can a person think he is a Christian and not be a Christian?

 

A subtle example:

I recall author and seminary professor, Dr. Elmer Towns, writing about his own experience in “The Daniel Fast for Spiritual Breakthrough”.  In Chapter 2, he relates that when he graduated High School, he thought he was “saved” (a Christian).  In fact, he was contemplating heading to seminary.  Thankfully, there were devoted intercessors in his small town, covering the youth by name with their prayers, and therefore, a revival broke out.  Elmer came face-to-face with the truth: he was not a Christian.  Again, thankfully, he wanted to be and he prayed to Jesus to save him.  When Elmer surrendered through repentance & faith, he became “justified” by Jesus.  This targeted praying over him was all unbeknownst to Elmer; he found out about the pray-ers after being saved.  As a side-note on the power of Kingdom-building prayer, 19 of the 60 youth being prayed over, went into ministry full-time.  Elmer is co-founder of Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.

 

Oswald Chambers expounds on the unsaved “Christian” in his “Utmost for His Highest” January 10th devotion.  To paraphrase, he believes that many in the church today have been roused by the conviction of the Holy Spirit but have not accepted the justification and without that, you aren’t a Christian.  In his words, conversion is not regeneration, which is another theological word for justification or born-again.

 

If we see a self-proclaimed “Christian” unrepentedly & openly sinning, perhaps they aren’t a Christian then. 

 

If a person I know who is now living a sexually immoral life 1) once attended church for long periods in their life or 2) grew-up in the church but no longer attends church, I tend to think that they have never been justified.  Their head may know it & they may even feel a love for Jesus but their heart has not submitted yet.  James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote:

 

 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” James 2:19 esv

The point James is stating is that even demons know who Jesus is but that knowledge doesn’t save you.


I respond to such a person as if they are blind to the Gospel at this point in their life. 

 

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 esv

 

To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 5 – we don’t judge the world; God does.  We act as His ambassadors to the world.

 

Before I was a Christian, I was a closet New-ager with a persuasion toward Christian Esoterics / Gnosticism teachings.  I knew I was not a Christian but I wasn’t going to inform any of my extended Christian family.  I loved God; I had many supernatural experiences that seemed to attest to a “relationship” of sorts with something, which I thought of as “god”.  I was a “good” person.  In the Pentecostal church I went to, I even at times, interpreted ‘tongues’ or thought I was anyway.  I was NOT a Christian, and man, at this time in my life, I can definitely attest that I was BLIND (and deaf). 

 

I think it is important to remember to be an Ambassador for Christ no matter WHO we are in contact with, whether we think that person is a believer or not, because, case in point, MY case, I was not but most thought I was (see blog about being an Ambassador: http://www.bloggingwithelaine.com/christs-ambassadors/)

 

AS a Christian, Paul tells us,

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26 esv

 

Because our God wants all people to be saved:

 

This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God, our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” 

1 Timothy 1:3,4 esv

 

So without embarrassment and with integrity to the Truth message, we proclaim:

 

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 1:5,6 esv

 

In this way, we represent and also protect His body, the church, the bride of Jesus, who is called to be of one mind with itself and with God.

 

Jesus, just hours from his fake trial and his crucifixion, prayed to His father over his disciples, and all believers that would follow:

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself,that they also may be sanctified in truth.  I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:17-21

 

Endnotes:

 

1 Justified: Justification is the doctrine of being declared righteous because of our faith in Christ – all claims of the “law” are satisfied, so we are free from penalty of sin.  We are justified by Jesus’ willing sacrifice on our behalf.  Justification occurs by acceptance of Jesus’ gift by faith.  It is not related to personal merit or anything you have done or will do. You are no longer under the penalty or consequences or judgment of sin.  The sinner is now a believer; renewed, regenerated, born-again.  Justification doesn’t change anything in the sinner’s nature or character but it makes way for the Sanctification process, which cannot take place without Justification.  It now allows us access to God and it allows his Holy Spirit access to indwell in us.

 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7 esv

 

Thank you, Jesus!

 

2 Sanctification: is the work of the Holy Spirit, after you have been justified, He works with and on the believer to bring a believer’s whole nature steadily toward holiness and to being as Christ-like as possible in our present fallen state.  It is the process by which God brings the Christian to be the person God created him or her to be.  A Christian is continually being sanctified by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Got fruit, Christian?

 

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  Romans 8:9-11 esv

 

3 Sexual immoralities are defined as any sexual act or conduct not sanctioned by God.  The only sanctioned act is between one man and one woman who are married to each other. 

 

4 This parable is in all three of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18

 

Lastly, I love this passage but, I just couldn’t find a place to make it relevant in this blog, so here it is 😎 :

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1 John 5:4,5 esv

 

 

You may freely reprint anything on this site for your personal use or for sharing with others as long as you include:
“By Elaine – http://www.BloggingWithElaine.com.” Please do not make any changes without my permission. If you reprint it to your website or blog, please include a link back to this website.

 

Copyright © Elaine Montefu

 

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2 Comments

  1. Lisa H.

    Hi Elaine. Have been meaning to get to the computer and send a comment, but have not had the time. Or have not made the time. First, reading your blog was like listening to you talk. Very good, but fast…And your references reminded me of Hermine in Harry Potter when she brings this huge book to Harry and Ron and says she was doing just a bit of light reading…I have a comment on the part about “I tend to think that they have never been justified” When I was around 13, I had a very awesome experience during Christmas where I had a baby doll and I imagined it was Jesus and thanked Him for all his sacrifices and cried and I was all alone. I then go to a life of sexual immorality till my mid 30’s…Can you not just fall out of the grace? What about the Angels singing of the lost sheep that have strayed but now have been found. Of course I know we are all lost sheep if we are not in Christ. I get confused sometimes when referencing the bible because I am truly an infant in reading it. I have so much underlined but this is where I had written a comment. I am not sure about the “you never had the Spirit part.”

    • Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for taking the time to formulate a comment and then take the time to send it to me. Greatly appreciated! And your comment about Hermione cracks me up – thanks for that! Because I DO get her! Anyway, this topic has been really on people’s radar it seems lately. Just the other day, one of my co-workers was making a comment to a few folks in the Orthodox stream (Armenian), stating that we Evangelicals have our issue of whether or when a person is saved. The Orthodox gentlemen gave us his testimony of sorts which was to say that he had been in the church awhile and then as an adult, it all made sense on a personal level. To us of the Evangelical bent, he had had a born-again experience.
      Your comment about your experience as a 13 year old, I believe was an awakening to his Truth but your will hadn’t been surrendered. I responded to an alter call around the same age and said the sinner’s prayer but I did not surrender my false belief system and I did not become a Christian. I think that must be the crux somehow which is to truly believe as John states in 3:16. There is an actual renewing in spirit then that takes place and I did not experience that until just over 5-years ago.
      Brennan Manning, an author, who recently died, stated in his book, “The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus”, that basically that narrow gate which Jesus refers to is only accessible through humility. He references Matthew 18:4 and he equates the experience to being like a child, having stumbled and fallen on its face.
      I think it is a realization of our own worthlessness. (I write a bit on this in my blog, “Danger only He can see”, URL: http://www.bloggingwithelaine.com/danger-only-he-can-see/). And finally, accepting God as He is and not how we want to create Him to be. This is why Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples, “Blessed is he who is NOT offended by me!” (Matthew 11:6).
      I love the book, “A Comedian’s Guide to Theology” by Thor Ramsey. I just read it again for the 4th time! On page 211-212, Thor writes, “The Jesus who speaks to the churches in Revelation sounds a lot different from most of the preaching I hear today, and this frightens me. For example, most pleas made to people today are all about receiving a free gift, which is a tenet of the gospel mentioned right there in Revelation (22:17), but this plea is made without mentioning the fact that Jesus also says that the only ones who will be with Him in heaven are the ones who overcome and do His will to the end. Talk about your fine print. Jesus certainly expects more of us than our local churches do. He expects our full devotion, which in turn affects how we live. In other words, if we experience Jesus, we will do something.”
      The Jeremiah 29:11 quote is really popular, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I’ve heard some argue that that can’t be taken to mean us Christians because it was written to Israel, but I am one of those who believe the Holy Spirit layers His word, so I think in the context of the time in history, it fit, and it fits now for us Christians. EXCEPT, the full meaning of the passage is revealed in the next two verses, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” God WANTS what is best for us, which is eternal life with Him but until we fully turn to him, not just a look back over our shoulder as we proceed on our own way, we cannot realize that plan of welfare. His best good for us IS salvation and I think some Christians make an error in defining our welfare as happy times here on earth. Anyway, I’ve rambled enough, Lisa!
      I think what you had at 13 was a recognition of who He is. As Oswald Chambers states in that January 10th devotion which I reference in my blog. Here is the URL so you can read it because it is deep, rich stuff: http://utmost.org/the-opened-sight/
      Lisa, you and I, had our hearts plowed over and over. Thankfully, He IS relentless because He kept sowing! And through His wooing, we finally succumbed to His love and mercy towards us. Glad to call you Sister-in-Christ 🙂 Praise God through whom ALL blessings flow!

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