Sunday, April 29, 2007

How to Avoid the Same Sin

Someone asked me a question the other day, "how do I avoid repeated sin?" I want to answer this in an addiction context. Most repeated sin is addition of one sort or another. It could just be a thinking disorder (I feel bad, therefore I need this sin), but more than likely it is a compulsion to perform an act that we think we cannot help.

So how do we avoid our addictions?

1. Recognize that giving in to this sin displays a sense that our needs are not being met.
This sense could be true, or might not be. But sin never fulfills our need-- it only covers it up and then we have a worse problem to deal with. But this doesn't mean that the need isn't real. We probably have a lack that we are not dealing with, but our bodies are re-directing us to another source that doesn't really meet the need. Our bodies are stupid, we should be smarter than them. So we should analyze ourselves-- what is wrong, what is lacking, how can we fulfill these needs in a godly way?

2. Recognize that giving in to this sin, we are allowing our sense of need be more important than God or others
To give in to repeated sin is simply one thing-- selfishness. Even though we are told how much our sin hurts others and our relationship with God, we do it anyway. This is the ultimate selfish act-- we are only focusing on ourselves instead of what we should be focusing on-- the God who loves us and gives us our very life and the people around us we are supposed to be serving.

3. Giving into the sin is a result of a thought disorder
Thinking that the sin will fulfill our needs is a disorder in our thinking that ultimately destroys us. How do we reform our mind? How can we transform our thinking, which we seem to have so little control over? There are many ways, but here's a few:
a. Read the word daily, especially the gospels and the psalms.
b. BEFORE you read the word, do some exercise. This "stirs up" your brain neurons, and allows new thinking to take place.
c. Meditate on your life and what God wants of you. Don't allow yourself to complain or have any selfish thoughts! Focus on God's plan and God's will. Journal it, if you can, so you can read it later.
d. Pray for God's deliverance and Spirit daily, without exception.
e. Throw yourself so much into God's plan for your life that you don't have room to think about your misery.

4. Remember at all times-- God didn't make us Christians in this age to have our needs met, but to suffer!
Jesus told us to rejoice in the suffering and persecution we experience for Him, because it is an indication of our salvation. We've got to stop the pity parties we allow ourselves to have and recognize that if our needs aren't being met by doing God's will, then we must be doing something RIGHT! The more we allow ourselves to sacrifice for the sake of others and our own humility, the more God will reward us in the end. So let's not look for the "quick out" of our troubles. Let's be glad we have the troubles we experience.

Divisions and the Spirit

If the Spirit is not divided against itself, then why are there so many denominations? -Gordon

A denomination does not mean a division in the Spirit. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement once about how to deal with fallen recruits and so had to begin different ministries. Does that mean that the Spirit was divided? No, it meant that the Spirit wanted to work differently with each of them. Paul was going to the "front lines" in a severe ministry, and weak believers just couldn't do that ministry. It would have been wrong for Paul to compromise his ministry for the sake of someone who wasn't ready to participate in it. But should Barnabas have listened to Paul? No, his task in the Spirit is to bring up the weak and encourage them. Because of Barnabas, John Mark became the strong disciple he turned into. Different ministries were necessary at that point.

Even so, the denominations. God allowed the divisions so that the church might be strong in different areas. If it weren't for the minority Pentecostal movement, there would not have been the powerful move of the Spirit over the last hundred years. If it weren't for Luther, there wouldn't have been such an emphasis on the Bible for the last four hundred years. If it weren't for the Mennonites and Moravians, there wouldn't have been Protestant Christian communities. God established these divisions to allow the Spirit more movement to work.

Of course, sometimes divisions turn ugly and there is backbiting, gossiping and every other kind of terrible disunity. God did not cause that, but people's self-centeredness and narrow-mindedness did. Disagreements need to be guided by Galatians 5-- not of the works of the flesh, but of the fruit of the Spirit. Only then will division and denominations agree to go in different ways, but still remain unified in the Spirit.

Can We Lose Our Salvation?

Can we lose our salvation?
This one is easy-- the Bible says you can.
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." Hebrews 6:4-6

For if we continue sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.Hebrews 10:26-31

Hebrews 6 describes a Christian-- one who has tasted of the heavenly gift and has shared in the Holy Spirit-- and then falls away (which means no longer believes) then they cannot be turned back to repentance again.
Hebrews 10 talks about a believer who refuses to repent from their sin and the terrible punishment they will receive.

Theologically, this is also easy to understand. The basic requirement for receiving salvation is faith, right? Then if you no longer have faith, even if you once did, then you no longer have the salvation. Jesus uses a number of descriptions of those who refuse to obey Him or who refuse to believe in him and they will be burned in fire, cast out of the kingdom. This isn't just a temporary punishment, but his descriptions of eternal hell. You can look it up-- John 15:6; Matthew 7:21-27; John 3:36.

The reasons many say that there is no possibility of losing one salvation is twofold:
a. Theologically, people misunderstand the idea of predestination. Paul speaks of a church being predestined before God. But Paul is speaking of a group of people, not each one individually. It was predestined-- prophesied, in fact-- that the Gentiles would be saved. It was predestined that people of every nation would enter as citizens of God's kingdom. But Paul never said to Timothy, "You are predestined, nothing you say or do will send you to hell." Predestination is the salvation of a remnant, not of an individual.

b. Biblically, people misunderstand the passages of assurance. For instance, Romans 8, where Paul says, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ." But Paul was not speaking of our refusal to accept that love, to accept the salvation He is offering us. He was speaking of angelic powers-- demons-- and sufferings that people would claim that we do not have God's salvation if we suffer like that. Well, Paul says that sufferings or demonic forces cannot put a block between us and God. That is true. But if we refuse God's gift of obedience, His gift of the Holy Spirit, then He will not force us to accept salvation, even if we wanted it earlier in our lives.

Again, the argument against loss of salvation is picking up certain Scriptures, misunderstanding them, and ignoring others.

Is God the Author of Sin?

So, is God the author of sin? -Gordon

I must answer with Paul-- Certainly not! We need to see the source of the question before it is answered. People assume that since God is sovereign, that He is in control of all things. This is certainly not true. If it were, then one must do some amazing metaphysical hopping in order to say that God is not in control of every sin, every disaster, every temptation. But an all-controlling force is not the description of God in the Bible. Rather He is a king who has great power, but puts limits on his own power, in order to share his sovereignty-- his rule-- with others. And in that sharing, others, in their inadequate sense of justice and mercy, created sin in disobedience to God because sin seems more "moral" than God. At least, that was the beginning of sin. Nowadays it is cool to be "bad" or "evil" and to "break moral standards" especially if they seem arbitrary. But sin didn't begin as a way to be evil. It began as a way to be more moral than God allowed us to be.

We aren't given the full story of what happened to Satan before Genesis 1 which caused him to rebel against God and to tempt Adam and Eve. We do know, however, that God allowed many angels to rule over the earth for a period of time. They were partners in His creation. And we know that many of them were disgusted that God gave his rule over the earth to humanity. So they wanted to undermine humanity, and so they do evil things to humanity, like tempting them to rebel against God. In this way, they suppose, God must destroy them and re-establish angelic rule over the earth. But God does not change His mind once He's made a promise, and so even though humanity is a sinful, rebellious race, yet God still allows humanity to rule, planning for redemption instead of destruction.

All this is to say that God is only good and is actually more good than any of us could imagine. He is not, nor could ever be the author of sin. James says, "God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (to do evil)." So how could God have created sin? God did, however, give freedom for some of his creations to create. He gave restrictions, but He did not, nor does He, absolutely control. The fact that the world is sinful but we have a perfectly good God is the best proof of free will. This world is NOT how God wants it. And that is because He surrendered some of his control to us. Many have accused Him of being foolish in that way. I just figure that He has a better plan.