8 Thoughts on the Problem of Why Christians Still Sin?

One of the biggest problems and discouragements for the Christian is: why do I keep sinning?

Here are several thoughts on the subject:

  1. We sin because we’re still in the flesh.
    Although we have been given the Holy Spirit and have been raised up to newness of life, we still have a flesh body. The flesh body doesn’t want to die. It is selfish and wants to satisfy it’s appetites no matter the cost. Although the believer can grow and can see victory over sin, sin remains persistent and temptation will always rear its head as long as we’re in this flesh body in this fallen world.
  2. Sin is a problem.
    If the fact that you still sin doesn’t bother you, you’re doing doctrine wrong. I’ve been around Christianity long enough to know all the “doctrinal” reasons why sin is OK. But sin isn’t OK, never has been, never will be. Sin is bad. We’re not supposed to do it. If the fact that you continue to sin does not make you feel guilty, occasionally doubt your faith, make you weep and fast, etc., then I think you need to read larger portions of the Bible. There are even righteous people in the Bible who were disturbed to the point of tears by observing sin around them. Sin should bother you; that’s actually a good sign if it does.
  3. God knows our frame.
    Our sin does not take God by surprise. He knows our frame. He knows we are dust. He knows the temptations of the flesh (remember He was in the flesh being tempted before). God has made many beautiful, wonderful, and tasty things down here. Our flesh really enjoys them. Our flesh goes crazy and turns the beautiful and the good into ugly sin. God is aware of the struggle and the pull. He is also a faithful and sympathetic High Priest.
  4. God is gracious.
    God is slow to anger, merciful, and willing to forgive. This is a blessed thing. If God is not these things, then there’s really no point to feeling any given way about sin, because it matters none at all if God doesn’t forgive. We’d all be condemned and done with. If God is not good, He’s the last place you’d go with your guilt, shame, and sin. But God is good, this is what leads us to repentance.
  5. Confess your sin.
    Many evangelicals shy away from this idea to avoid the Catholic notion of confession. Confession is a rather simple thing. To “confess” means to “say the same thing as.” It’s to see your sin the way God sees it. To acknowledge that it’s there, that it’s a problem, and that only God can truly deal with it through Christ. To not confess your sin is to say you don’t have sin. And he who says he has no sin is a liar. Deal with reality. When you sin, admit it. Deal with it. Talk to God about it.  He already knows it anyway; He’s waiting for you to wake up about it.
  6. Your good aint all that good.
    Paul says, “When I do good, evil is present with me.” All our goodness, while being truly good, gives our flesh opportunity to sin. We get pride, self-righteousness, judgmentalism and comparison going. We can truly do good things. But doing good creates it’s own pitfalls. Our flesh is so messed up, it can even turn righteousness into evil. Let not your good be evil spoken of. Be aware of your flesh and it’s power to taint.
  7. Sin is a bigger problem than we’ll ever know.
    There are times the Holy Spirit gives us a glimpse of who we truly are. It’s ugly. Often one or two big sins in our lives will capture our attention. It’s not until we deal with those that our eyes are clear enough to be able to see other sin in us. The older I get, the more I realize how much of my habits and natural responses are actually sin. I had no idea. I can only assume that the more I progress in the faith, the more clarity I will have about my sin.
  8. Be humbled.
    We sin. We sin even when we don’t know we’re sinning. We can sin even while we are doing good. Sin is ugly. It put Christ on the cross. Humility is  huge. God knows you. He sees you for who you are. Nothing is hidden from Him. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and let Him lift you up. Humility brings peace. I don’t have to defend myself, or protect my stuff, or maintain an image or reputation. I can rest in the humble knowledge that I’m nothing without Christ. Be humbled by sin. Humility is a virtue our world despises, but one our Lord and Savior fully embraced when He humbled Himself in the form of a servant to become obedient unto death on the cross. Sin even humbled our Savior, and He didn’t even do any of it! How much more should we, who actually sin, be humbled?

If you are a Christian and still sin and this doesn’t bother you, make sure you’re actually more than a Christian by name. If you are in Christ, sin will bother you. If sin is not a problem in your mind, then you have bigger problems than you know.

Face the problem. Deal with the problem. Be humbled by the problem. Look forward to the day when we will be released from the problem of sin and will be made like Him when we see Him as He is.

Even so, come quickly.

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The Two Extremes of Assurance of Salvation

Salvation and assurance are two different things.

Salvation is a concrete reality: you either are or you aren’t saved.

Assurance is a feeling. There are many who are saved who don’t feel assured of their salvation. There are also many who are assured of their salvation who are not saved.

Satan, the Deceiver, wants to make those who aren’t saved feel like they are, and make those who are saved feel like they aren’t.

Human intellect is susceptible to deception. Several times in Scripture we are warned “be not deceived.” We are warned about this because too often we are.

There are many days I can observe my behavior and condemn myself to hell. There are other days I can solidly justify myself into heaven.

The question is: on which day am I most right?!

There are two kinds of people on this issue who are in serious trouble.

  1. The guy who knows 100% with no doubt that he is saved
  2. The guy who knows 100% there’s no way he is saved.

If you are in group 1, you probably don’t take sin seriously. I know, you’ll chalk it up to taking God’s grace seriously, but really what you mean is that your sin isn’t that big of a deal. Of course God loves me, it doesn’t matter what I do. Plus I do good stuff too.

If you are in group 2, you either don’t take sin seriously because you’re truly not saved and you don’t care, or you take sin so seriously you doubt the effectiveness of God’s grace, mercy, and the power of the Gospel.

People in both camps are largely consumed with themselves. If you are 100% assured you are saved, you aren’t viewing you and your sin from God’s holy perspective. Sin should shake you. It should make you question your love for God. Guilt is a real thing and should cause you to pause and examine yourself. People who don’t feel guilt (another way of saying you are 100% assured of salvation) might just have hardened hearts. Remember the Pharisees? They had 100% assurance of salvation. They were constantly thinking about themselves and their own awesomeness.

People who are always gloomy, doubting God could love them, and assuming they lose their salvation every time they think a bad thought, are also consumed with themselves. All these people see is their mess; they don’t have any confidence in Christ. These people arrogantly assume they are the exception to God’s grace. Even God’s power is not more powerful than I am.

I think the healthy believer avoids both extremes, and also knows there’s a time and place for both.

When I sin, I should feel guilt. I should be aware of God’s opinion of it and wonder how can I, who am dead to sin, walk in it like this? I should confess my sins and ask for mercy. I should examine myself to see whether I’m in the faith, to see if there’s any growth, any fruit of the Spirit. We are easily deceived and our Adversary spends his time deceiving us. Are we taking 1) our own fleshly weakness to be deceived and 2) Satan’s power to deceive into consideration in our assurance?

At the same time, when I do good, I need to keep an eye out for pride and self-righteousness. Many flippant statements of assurance sound more like Pharisees than Christians. Remember Paul was not ashamed to describe himself as the chief of sinners. He was very aware of his sin.

But bashing yourself into the ground over sin does no good either. We can have assurance in the grace and mercy of God, in the power of His Gospel, and His willingness to forgive. We know we have forgiveness granted to us freely in Christ Jesus and we can be cleansed from all ungodliness.

But this forgiveness does not mean we run around doing whatever our flesh feels like. We don’t take the grace of God in vain. We don’t turn God’s grace into lasciviousness. Sin bothers us primarily because it is contrary to who God is, because it is what put Christ on the cross, because it does belittle God’s amazing grace.

There are times, when we are brought low by our sin, that we need to be like Joshua who was told by God to quit moping, get up and take care of the sin! There are times we need to be brought low like Peter when he saw reality when Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him.

I would much rather have someone doubt their faith and be examining themselves to see whether they are in the faith than have someone assure themselves of salvation all the way into hell.

For too long the Church has turned Once Saved Always Saved or Perseverance of the Saints (both of which I think are true) into an excuse to take it easy and live in sin.

The question is not: Once I’m saved, do I stay saved? The question is: are you saved?

Guard your heart. Watch and pray. Walk circumspectly. Redeem the time. Fight the fight. None of these phrases make sense if what the Bible is saying is, “Hey, you said the prayer when you were 6, don’t worry about it, do whatever you want.”

Satan is active and deceiving many in the Church today. I think it’s time we wake up to this.

How to Study the Bible

Here are some tips for studying the Bible on your own.

–Read the Bible a lot. Over and over. Cover to cover. Try at least once to read it as quickly as possible, like under a month.

–Question everything. Write down questions as you read it, then when you read it again, see how many more questions you get and how many old ones you can now answer. Don’t be afraid to question anything and everything.

–Ignore formal theology. Don’t read merely to find verses to back up or attack doctrines. Just read what it says. Otherwise you’ll miss half the message because your brain is arguing theology.

–Avoid dumb Bible study questions like, “what does this mean to me?” or “how can I apply this to my life today?” They tend to make the Bible all about you. One of the points of the Bible is that it’s about no longer you but Christ. Focus more on God’s/the author’s point, on aspects of human nature, what is God like, etc.

–Context. Context. Context. If you don’t know the whole flow of the Bible you won’t know the context of each book. If you don’t know the context of each book you won’t know the context of the chapter, thus you won’t know the point of any given verse. Concordances, although helpful when used right, have been one of the most destructive biblical tools ever invented. One word can be used in many contexts. Not all contexts mean the same thing. A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.

–Think critically. Why does God say what He says? How does this relate to what He said before or after? Examine it to know what’s going on. Get past Sunday School level thinking. Be real. Be honest. Think about all of it.

–Explain passages to people. The best way to understand a passage is to explain the passage. If you can’t explain it; you don’t understand it. This doesn’t have to be formal, it can just be talking to your wife. Write it out or speak it out. It is best to explain it to someone to get feedback and input. The Body of Christ edifies itself. You can’t understand the Bible in isolation—that’s why there’s a Body of Believers. Spiritual gifts in other people are there to help you, just as your gifts are there to help others. People who study the Bible alone get very weird ideas. Avoid weird ideas by not avoiding other believers.

To summarize:

Read it
Question it
Think on it
Explain it

Why Is Theology Confusing?

Biblical doctrine is much simpler than human theology.

Most confusing doctrines are confusing because they are someone’s idea of what the Bible says, not what the Bible says.

The problem is that biblical doctrine is straightforward. A little too abrupt and real. It tends to mess with life.

Theologians enter the picture to “clean up the mess” by telling you the Bible doesn’t mean what the Bible simply and clearly says.

The main job of a theologian is to impress you with their theological astuteness. In other words, they prove their doctrinal superiority by being confusing.

“You’re too stupid to understand, that’s why you need us smart theologians.” Is the attitude. We go along with them because they tell us why we don’t have to listen to all those parts we wish weren’t there, which suits our flesh fine.

You know you’re dealing with human theology when you are reading quotes of people more than quotes of Scripture. When you are using multiple, giant theological words that don’t appear in the Bible. When the word “theory” is used, as in The Theory of Substitutionary Atonement. When more time is spent telling you why the verse doesn’t mean what it says than is spent telling you how to apply what the verse does say.

If you’re confused by theology, that’s OK. Theology is confusing. Most confusion that believers have is trying to bring together what that guy said with what that other guy said.

Good luck.

It’s best just to forget the guys and read the Bible. Don’t worry if having five Solas is confusing. Don’t worry if there are verses that interfere with established church doctrine. Go with the verses.

You don’t need seminary to understand the Bible. You might need seminary to understand human theology.

I suggest you understand the Bible. It’s up to you whether you want to try understanding human theology.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
–2 Corinthians 11:3

The Problem of Evil, God, and Larry King

For some reason, in the last couple of weeks, I have heard Larry King ask the same question about God. Here is how he phrased it on Twitter:

If God is omnipotent why do tragedies like earthquakes and hurricanes happen? No religious leader has ever been able to answer that for me.

I’m sure this statement is not actually true. He asks religious leaders this question all the time, I’ve yet to hear one who didn’t answer the question!

I think what Mr. King means is that he’s not been satisfied with any of the answers, which is completely different.

What Mr. King fails to realize is that faith leaves us with tension. It leaves us with unresolved issues. Faith is a fight. If everything made sense, if all questions were answered, then you wouldn’t need faith.

Most Evangelical Christian answers to the problem of evil and God are sorely lacking in depth. Most rely heavily on cliches: “God is still on the throne,” “God works in mysterious ways,” and “We don’t know how, but God gets glory out of all things.” They offer surface answers that don’t really cut it in the face of pain. They skip to the easy and happy way too quick.

None of the answers are satisfying to me either. I’ve rarely been impressed by any religious persons answer to this question.

Here are two giant things I know about the Problem of Evil and God:

A) The earliest written book of the Bible is the Book of Job. Job is all about the problem of Evil and God. And guess what? Even when God is directly asked the question, “Why am I suffering?” He refused to answer it. He’s not answering the question. That is, in fact, why we are still asking the question all these years later. God doesn’t answer it. If God didn’t answer it, all our answers are nothing more than human philosophy and speculation.

B) The central point of the Bible is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God was made flesh and dwelt among us. He came unto His own and they did not receive Him. Instead they beat, tortured, mocked, and then crucified Him. He bore in His own body our sin. He was wounded for our transgression. He was bruised for our iniquity. By His stripes we are healed. Evil, pain, and suffering are a major part of God’s plan of redemption. He entered into these things. He embraced the pain.

These two points, although not answering the question, give us a good indicator that whatever God’s attitude toward pain is, He’s not ignoring it. He’s not indifferent. If anything, He feels it more than we ever could.

That may not satisfy you. That may not “answer your question.” But then again, I don’t think God is trying to answer it. Perhaps God is wondering the same thing. “Why, since I’m good, do people go against me and ruin everything?”

Humans may not be the only ones baffled by this.

The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us why He allows evil and suffering to exist. But it does say that you should take care of the evil rampant in your own life. It does tell us to alleviate the sufferings of others. He promises His help and power for both.

Instead of pretending to have existential angst over the general problem of evil so you can deny God and faith for “rational” reasons, perhaps Larry King and we need to deal with our own evil and go from there.

Owning Success Might Be Your Downfall

Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who got a bumper crop. He built bigger barns to store it so he could retire.

He felt good about his stuff, and good about his plans for the future with his stuff.

He took credit for his work. “I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all MY fruits and MY goods.

It was his! And he was going to use it on himself. He truly felt it was his because he earned it.

Interestingly, the parable earlier showed why the guy had a bumper crop: “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.”

His success was not attributed to his hard work, his great farming skills, his diligent weeding, nor his genetically modified seeds.

It was attributed to something beyond his control. The ground got the credit.

He thought he made it all happen and it was rightfully his; God thought dirt did it.

How often we attribute our success to our awesomeness, when in reality things entirely out of our control get the credit?

Read biographies of successful people. There’s always a formula, a reason, a path to follow. We adore successful people and eat up their advice about how to follow in their greatness.

Rarely do they ever attribute their success to things they had no control of.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were in the right place at the right time. If they were born 10 years earlier they would not be as successful.

Yet we eat up their advice.

The most popular blogs are about how to have a popular blog. Think about that a second!

Once we take credit for all we do, we’re pretty much on the way to worshiping ourselves or our guru, and God gets left in the dark.

Next thing you know you are serving mammon and not God.

I imagine the same thing is true of many failures as well. What of your failures had little to do with you and much to do with things out of your control?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re not nearly as great as you think, but nor are you as pathetic as you think.

You’re just a person, making their way through life, hoping at some point dirt comes through for ya.

But all along the way, we do all things with thanksgiving knowing that all good gifts come from above.

God Has a Problem With Much of What We Don’t Have a Problem With

So much accepted behavior in our day is actually wrong. Not wrong because I or someone else has a problem with it, but because the Bible says it’s wrong.

I’m not talking about the latest efforts of the Liberal Church in making some deviant behavior more acceptable either.

I’m talking about stuff that everyone does. Stuff that no one has a problem with. Stuff that everyone around you is doing.

Saving for retirement, for instance.

Bet you didn’t think I was going there did ya? Who in their right mind would?

Well, Jesus Christ would.

There was a man who had a bumper crop and built bigger barns to store it all in. He said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

He had his money. He had his plan. He was going to enjoy life. He earned it after all. He deserves a break, a nice retirement.

Then he dies that night.

I’ve known many people who are now dead. Many of them had great plans and left behind great stores of goods they can’t use anymore. While saving it for their own consumption, they were not rich toward God.

Saving money for your future enjoyment is a problem with God.

I know, I know, everyone is doing it and only a moron wouldn’t plan ahead for the future.

I’m aware of that.

I’m just telling you what God thinks.

That’s all.

That’s what He thinks about saving for future enjoyment and ease.

That’s what God thinks. The very God you’ll stand in front of some day.

Carry on.