I think I'd have to take issue with some of what you say.

Hi.

I found one of your posts by accident (http://www.behindthebadge.net/apologetics/discuss163.html) while looking for one of the passages you quote (1 Cor 5).

I think I'd have to take issue with some of what you say.

First off - your first comment: "sin is a choice, if you choose to sin, then you can't claim to be a Christian ..."   This is simply not true. Becoming a Christian does not instantly make someone perfect and sinless, nor is stopping sinning what makes you a Christian. God makes us perfect when we die. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit works in us in an ongoing process of perfecting us, but that process is only a process and is not completed until we die. You are indeed quoting God's word which is perfect, but your interpretation / understanding of it is incorrect.  There are plenty of examples in the New Testament of Christians choosing to sin. Paul in particular talks quite honestly about his struggles with sin. Your argument would imply that he is not a Christian, which is not correct.

It also kind of implies that sinning is just a relatively small list of big things (like the ones in the passage) which it's therefore not that hard to avoid. If that's true, why did Jesus have to die for us? Sin is in every moment of our life where we are not absolutely in tune with God. It's not just in promiscuity, it's in little acts of selfishness and pride - even perhaps in sending harsh e-mails to a brother Christian. (I hope this doesn't sound harsh, it's not meant too ...)

Second, perhaps you could be a little more sympathetic with the chap with the blue writing. He's a real person and Jesus loves him. He wants to follow Jesus, and needs some encouragement. He drinks alcohol, there's nothing wrong with that - Jesus did that. Drunkenness, the excessive consumption of alcohol, is a problem. Sometimes when people become Christians, God frees them of problems like that instantly. Sometimes he doesn't and they continue to struggle with them. That's God's choice - and who are we to argue with God? (I love the book of Job on that one).

On drugs, I think you need to separate the cultural and legal attitudes to drugs that surround you from what it says in the Bible - which is, largely, nothing. Making yourself insensible with drugs is probably on a par with drunkenness (although from what I gather, the knock-on effects of being stoned are rather less than of being drunk, so maybe it's less serious). Damaging your body with drugs is probably in conflict with the Body being a Temple of the Holy Spirit, but no less so than smoking, eating junk food, or not exercising. And of course some drugs are illegal, and Christians should not generally break the law of the land (although that's not an absolute either - Romans 13 can only be fully understood alongside Acts 5, "Judge for yourself whether it is right to obey man or God". Both are absolutely true, but neither one by itself is the whole truth - otherwise there'd be no need for all the other chapters in the Bible).

As for struggling with depression and wanting to kill himself - yes, Christians can get ill too, including mental illness, and not always as a result of their own sin (Jesus makes that clear in some of the people he heals). Sometimes illness is caused by sin, and depression can be caused by drug / alcohol abuse, but unless God had given you a direct and specific word on this particular person's case, you'd be judging in the way Jesus condemns if you were to assert that there was a direct link between sin and depression in his case. Possibly, maybe probably, but you can't say for sure.  But please don't go down the route of saying that because knowledge of the Lord brings Joy, then those who are unhappy must be sinful, either that being unhappy is in itself sinful, or that it's a consequence of imperfect faith. Jesus wept.

And is Mr blue a Christian? I don't think you can deduce that from the Bible: I would say that your interpretation when you do so is incorrect. It says in Romans 10:9 that "if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Mr Blue would probably (I'm guessing) do both of those. That doesn't contradict any of the verses you mention (of course, because God's word is true and therefore cannot contradict itself), but again, the whole truth is not just in a single verse.  Personally I find it very hard to see the difference between the Christian who is struggling not terribly successfully with sin, and the person who goes through the motions of going to church and confessing a faith but in their heart has no desire to live it out. Man looks at the outside (and judges incorrectly), but God looks at the heart. At least mr blue is penitent in his attitude, which isn't in itself enough to make him a christian, but is an essential part.

I guess when you talk to someone like your mr blue, the big question is, what can you say that will help him to grow into a Christian faith that allows him to conquer his temptations. Sometimes that can be best achieved with a shock answer like yours (I became a Christian after a fairly stark comment, but then, I didn't know Jesus back then). Sometimes that can be best achieved with sympathy and kindly words. Jesus does both on different occasions; quite often he seems to try the soft approach first, and to save the harsh words as a last resort. It was interesting reading the book of Matthew to see how Jesus' approach to the pharisees changes continually throughout the book.

Have you heard any more from mr. blue? I hope your comments have done as you no doubt hoped and challenged him to take those aspects of his behaviour more seriously in order to deepen his faith, as opposed to making him feel he's wasting his time and too bad to be saved. (As I'm sure you'd agree, no-one is too bad to be saved, that's the most fantastic thing about Christianity, and to say otherwise is the most grievous insult to Jesus).

Great site, by the way - even if I don't agree with every word you write, I'm absolutely on your side as someone who believes in God and in his word and wants to use the brain God gave me to help other people to understand it, rather than thinking that faith demands I turn off my brain and accept things without questioning (and therefore without understanding).

Amen :)

My response is in Green:

I guess it will come as a great surprise to you that I disagree with you. First I never said that a person becomes a Christian by not sinning, but I don't take sin lightly like you seem to. You missed many of the points I was trying to make, I am not sure why. You should read about Paul more closely, because you misrepresent his views of sin. You talk about his struggle with sin, show me where that is please! Yes I know you are referring to Romans 7 but you took it out of context and by doing so you changed what Paul is saying. That isn't my interpretation that is what it says. Let me show you:

Romans 6:12-23 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, [13] and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. [14] For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. [15] What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! [16] Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? [17] But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, [18] and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. [19] I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. [20] For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. [21] Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. [22] But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. [23] For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yes it is long, but notice what it says; we WERE slaves to sin, but now we are free from sin and enslaved to God. He says it several times in fact. Now let's look at chapter 8 which is after the chapter that you claim shows Paul struggled with sin:

Romans 8:2-14 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. [3] For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, [4] so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. [6] For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, [7] because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, [8] and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [9] However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. [10] If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. [11] But 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. [12] So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- [13] for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Again Paul tells us that we are not in the flesh but in the spirit; IF the Spirit of God dwells in us. He goes on to say if you are living according to the flesh you must die and put to death the deeds of the flesh.

So now go back to chapter 7: was Paul bi-polar can couldn't decide whether he and we are free from the slavery of sin or not? No the simple answer is that chapter 7 clearly is Paul describing his struggle under the Law, he wanted to follow the Law and be righteous, but he wasn't able to because sin lived in him. That is why he says in chapter 8 that you must die to the flesh.

So I not only stand by my remarks, but I believe the very chapter you try to use as proof that I am wrong, shows exactly the opposite. Also how do you explain these passages:

1 John 3:9-10 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. [10] By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

Was John wrong? Was he lying? Of course not! How about this:

Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. [2] And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. [3] But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

Notice that this too is Paul; if he felt that we all sin constantly why would he write this? No those who claim to be Christians but also claim that they continue to sin and it doesn't matter, need to read Romans very carefully.

You told me to be more sympathetic with the guy who wrote me; why? He needed the truth, how to you candy coat the truth? I don't and I won't. Just like the drugs, you claim I need to separate "the cultural and legal attitudes to drugs that surround you from what it says in the Bible - which is, largely, nothing" No! Drugs are illegal does that make them a sin? Sure does! Have you read Romans 13?

Romans 13:1-7 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. [2] Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. [3] For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; [4] for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. [5] Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. [6] For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. [7] Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Are those meaningless words? No, they mean what they say. God says over and over in His word that His holy name is defamed because of those who claim to be His do wrong things. This is not just a matter of opinion! You can't buy drugs legally, you can't use drugs legally and yet I should separate all that and just go by what the Bible says, which isn't much of anything. Sorry, I disagree with your assumption.

See you look at that man who wrote me and see a Christian that just needs some encouragement; I on the other hand see someone who thinks they are a Christian but needs to go to the foot of the cross and get to truly know Jesus Christ. If you are right, then nothing I said one way or another will make any difference. However, if I am right, then his only hope for eternity is go get right with Christ. He told me he lives an sinful life, so I told him what he needed to know. You might not like what I told him, but it came from Scripture; show me where I have misinterpreted God's word and I will change my view and what I tell people, but I have already shown you where God's word says we are to live righteous lives, that doesn't mean we never stumble and never sin, but it should not characterize our lives like it does the man's life who wrote me.

Ralph

His response is in Blue:

Hi.

Yes, I accept that you never said that a person becomes a Christian by not sinning. I wasn't clear from what you said which way you were drawing the causal link, and I hoped and thought you were making it the other way around - which you were. I'm glad to hear that.

And yes, I probably did miss many of the points you were trying to make. I think that's largely because what you seemed to be saying was so far away from any Christian teaching I had ever heard that I had trouble taking it in, and perhaps subconsciously thought that surely that couldn't be what you meant. I would like to clarify your understanding on this, but before I do, I take issue with you saying I take sin lightly, or more lightly than you. Jesus died for my sin - that's how seriously I take it. The only way I could see of taking it more seriously would be if I thought that sin was so serious that Jesus' death was not enough to pay for it - and I don't believe that at all, and I hope that you don't either. (Or at least not the sins that Mr. Blue was talking about - I'm not talking about the sin of rejecting Jesus, i.e., rejecting his sacrifice on our behalf). Anyway, that's an aside.

I'm still trying to understand what you're saying, because it sounds to me like you're trying to say that Christians don't and can't and never sin (please please correct me if I'm misunderstanding this, but that's what most of what you say seems to say, particularly in your original piece). I can understand your interpretations of the passage in Romans 7, but that's quite different from any interpretation of it I've ever heard, and I can't see that my interpretation (or, to be honest, yours) actually contradicts what it says. Although I suppose from your interpretation, I could question why Paul seems to write in the present tense.

But re-reading your last sentence - and again, if I'm getting this wrong, please tell me - it seems that's actually not what you mean at all. The implication (well, bold statement) of what you said in your original piece was that Christians don't sin, and can't. Ever. That's how you seem to interpret those passages you quote, which I can't interpret like that.  But at least up to that point, there's a consistency in what you say, even if it seems so incredible to me that I have problems understanding the concept of what you say. Because my understanding of what you say pretty much implies that no-one in the world is a Christian apart from Jesus. I'm sure you wouldn't think that!

But re-reading your last sentence, it seems that's actually not what you mean at all: "... but I have already shown you where God's word says we are to live righteous lives, that doesn't mean we never stumble and never sin, but it should not characterize our lives like it does the man's life who wrote me."

Whoa! So you're not actually saying that Christians can't and don't ever sin. I'm sorry, but doesn't that completely undermine your argument? If Christians can sin, ever, then you can't absolutely say this person isn't a Christian because they sin. Instead, it seems you're saying that their sins are so grievous that they mean they can't be a Christian, whereas yours, presumably, aren't. That is exactly the kind of attitude Paul is criticizing in Romans 2:1-3 which you quote (thanks) and that Jesus is talking about when he talks about judging people. Not because you're saying those things are sinful - I agree with your original post to the extent that calling sin sin is usually a simple matter of reading scripture, and that saying sin is not sin is itself sin of a particularly harmful kind. But what is judging in a way that Christians are not supposed to do, and only God is supposed to do, is drawing the line between which sins are too serious and which are not, or as you say, drawing a difference between occasional and misfortunate sin and the kind and level of sin that characterizes a life.

I can't agree with your comment that "If you are right, then nothing I said one way or another will make any difference." Here is someone who is clearly unhappy about sin in their life; someone who wants to follow Jesus, but is struggling with sin in their life (as opposed to being complacent about it and thinking that the level of sin in his life isn't a problem). He's also struggling to comprehend the magnitude of the grace of God - that yes, actually, Jesus' blood is enough to pay for all of his sin. How do you think he will feel if someone tells him that he's not good enough to be a Christian? Won't that just discourage him and make him more likely to simply give up? What ever happened to "a bruised reed I will not break"?

I quoted Romans 13 in my previous e-mail, so you'll know that I was already aware of the passage. My comment was simply that this passage on its own does not present the complete biblical view of how we relate to government. Hopefully this isn't your issue, but I know there are Christians in the US whose attitude is close to idolatry of the US government, culture, and constitution, and I think it helps understand this passage better if you think what it would mean to you if you lived in Iran, for example, or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or under the Taliban. Just a thought - because of course the scripture is true for everyone.

Be careful. Our righteousness doesn't come from what we do - it comes from Jesus'. Remember the parable of the two men coming to the temple, where one is righteous, and the other penitent - which one goes away forgiven? All I'm saying is it sounds a lot as if you're trying to judge mr blue rather than help him.

My response is in Green:

I have to be honest, I don't understand how you cannot understand what I am saying. I think I made it pretty clear, a Christian's life WILL NOT be characterized by sin. A Christian is capable of sinning, but he is no longer a slave to sin and unable to resist.

Speaking of sin, let me explain why I said I think you take sin too lightly. Let me quote your explanation to me about sin: Sin is in every moment of our life where we are not absolutely in tune with God. It's not just in promiscuity, it's in little acts of selfishness and pride - even perhaps in sending harsh e-mails to a brother Christian.

Now the reason I say that implies you take sin lightly is that you make sin sound like something minor that just happens in all our lives. I have heard this stated like this; "We all sin daily in word, deed and thought." That belittles sin because it means that we sin without knowing it, we sin naturally and therefore there is nothing in this life that we can do about it. WRONG! Did you read the quotes I gave you from Romans 6, Romans 8, Romans 2 and 1 John 3? Those aren't my words, those are God's words. If we are no longer slaves to sin, and "No one who is born of God practices sin" then how can you say that we sin constantly? How can you say that sending a harsh e-mail is a sin? That is what I mean by belittling sin, when you make sin just another part of everyday life you belittle it. This goes against Scripture as I have shown you. Let me quote Romans 2 again but add the end of Romans 1 to it. Remember the chapters were put there to make them easier to read and find things, but the letter was one whole letter when Paul wrote it:

Romans 1:28-32 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. [29] They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; [31] they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. [32] Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Now continuing in Romans 2:

Romans 2:1-11 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. [2] Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. [3] So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? [4] Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? [5] But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] God "will give to each person according to what he has done." [7] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. [9] There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; [10] but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. [11] For God does not show favoritism.

What is my point? Simple, a person who claims to be a Christian yet lives in sin, better not think that they will escape God's wrath and judgment! Yes Jesus' death covers our sins, but not if we continue in them. If we do then we are not Christians. That is my point and it was my point to the man who originally wrote me. You claim he is a Christian who is struggling with sin in his life, but I disagree. He might have been a Christian at one time, but he is now a slave to sin and is continuing to live in sin and according to every part of Scripture that I have quoted to you that shows that he needs to come to repentance and be freed from his slavery to sin and that is ONLY done by the blood of Jesus Christ. That is what I told him and I stand by that statement.

Let me show you more:

Hebrews 3:12-14 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. [13] But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. [14] We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

"Turns away from the living God" You can't continue is sin and not turn away from the living God.

Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27] but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. [28] Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. [29] 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? [30] For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." [31] It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

See you say that this man didn't want to keep drinking and using drugs. You defended using drugs and even drinking, although you did say that you disagree with getting drunk. Well go back and read the man's letter again, he isn't just taking about having a drink or two. And although he claims that he doesn't want to get drunk and get high, it is obvious that he does like it or he would not continue, or as I said, he is a slave to sin, which means he needs Christ as his savior!

Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Would you not agree that getting drunk and getting high on drugs is sowing to one's own flesh? Let me quote from Romans again:

Romans 8:9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

If you still can't see my point about this man or anyone who continues in sin, then I guess there is no hope of you ever seeing it.

As for my HARSH e-mail, I stand by it and by what I was trying to do and that was turn back a person from sin:

James 5:19-20 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, [20] let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Notice that passage doesn't say to tell the brother that God loves them and that it is okay to sin, it says that if you turn them back to Christ you will save their soul, which of course implies, no rather just plain says that they are lost at that point until turned back.

Let me tell you that sin isn't the problem, the heart is the problem, sin is only the symptom of the true disease. The disease is apostasy and it is evidenced by the sin in the person's life.

Now let me address your comments to me for a moment. You didn't bother to tell me how you manage to make Romans 6 and Romans 8 consistent with how you interpret Romans 7? I showed you that in both chapters 6 and 8 Paul says that we are free from slavery to sin, and yet you interpret chapter 7 as saying that Paul was still a slave to sin and didn't do what he truly wanted to do because there was still a sinful heart in him. You even say, well if I am right then why would Paul write in the present tense? I have no idea, but I will tell you that you have to be very careful of tense in Scripture; first Paul didn't write that letter in English, it was translated from Greek, which deals with tense differently than we do in English. But beyond that, do we know for sure that Paul wrote the letter in Greek? No, we don't have the original, we have a Greek copy. Now he might very well have written it in Greek, but we know Paul knew multiple languages and he was writing people in Rome, so how can we be sure? My point is that we can't be sure what tense Paul actually used, but we can be sure of what he meant by taking it in the context of the whole letter.

And how do you explain 1 John 3? There is no tense problem there, John plainly says that a Christian will not continue to sin, as does Hebrews, etc... I could go on, but I don't want this to get to be too long.

In closing I want to assure you that I am not claiming a Christian will live a 100% righteous life, we are human and we stumble and we even deliberately sin at times; but our lives will not be characterized by sin, nor will we continue in sin. When a true Christian sins the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts convicts us of that sin, and draws us to repentance. We have a choice, we can ignore Him and continue in the sin and thereby show that the problem is truly in our hearts and that we are turning away from the living God; or we can feel remorse and repent and continue to follow the living God. But what we can't do is ignore the Holy Spirit, continue in our sins and still claim to be following God.

Ralph

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