Excusing Your Own Sin Hurts Others

One of the main, and yet never considered, problems with teaching doctrines that say righteousness isn’t necessary and sin isn’t that bad, is the effect it has upon the Church, the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4 says that a properly functioning church will have individual members growing into the perfect man Christ Jesus.

Growing into Christ means doing righteousness and not sin. I mean, seriously, it can hardly mean much else!

As individual members grow in righteousness they will not be tossed about with every wind of false doctrine–sin always leads to bad doctrine.

Good doctrinal footing will lead to more righteousness. As members grow the Body edifies itself in love. As one member grows, they help other members grow.

As you remove the beam from your eye, you can better see to remove the mote from your brother’s eye.

In other words, your spiritual growth will affect those around you.

This is one of the least considered problems with sin. Your sin affects other people.

When a Christian excuses their own sin and tries to theologically justify why their spiritual immaturity is no big deal, what they are basically saying is, “I will never be equipped to help you grow.”

If one member of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.

One immature member will keep the body immature.

It might be cute for you to maintain you’re saved by your baptism and nothing you do matters. That may relieve your guilt temporarily. It might make you feel better.

But it will also destroy you and who knows how many other people. This is especially true when such things are taught as official church doctrine.

We are teaching people to be immature, which keeps them immature, which never allows them to help others mature. It’s a devastating cycle.

Justifying your own sin with flippant false doctrines hurts you and everyone who has contact with you. If you care about others and the health of the church: grow up!

Exaggerating Faith

Just as people exaggerate grace to eventually undermine the whole point, people do the same with faith.

We are told that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith means listening to God.

The Greek word for hearing is akoo-oh. Here’s where the Greek gets fun and our English translations lose a little something in translation.

The Greek word for obey, such as in Romans 10:16–“they have not all obeyed the Gospel”–is the Greek word hoop-akoo-oh. This literally means to hear under. To submit one’s self to what someone else said. To heed or conform to a command.

In other words, faith means obeying God. Any simple reading of Scripture will show you this, but the Greek does explicitly.

A verse like 1 Peter 2:7 seems to state it rather explicitly as well:

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

The opposite of “believe” for Peter and is to be disobedient. I didn’t say it; Scripture did. So did the Greek. So does Hebrews 11 over and over–all those of faith did what God said. This is also the main point of James 2 where he says we are not justified by faith alone–it must be an obedient faith. Even the demons believe, but they lack obedience.

But there are two forces, at least, at work in forming our doctrine.

1) A desire to make our sin OK
2) To be superior to other people

It seems like the logical and biblical thing would be to teach that we are saved by grace through faith, and that faith means listening, and that listening means obeying. Which leads to the conclusion that a saved person would increasingly live to obey God. If a person does not do that, they don’t believe and are not saved.

But how judgy and harsh! How awful to put people back under a yoke of bondage!

So, instead of grasping this simple truth about faith, people who are stuck in sin must find a way to be spiritually superior to those preaching something they have no desire to do. You will hear the following:

“I can’t do God’s commands. The Old Testament shows us how impossible it is. We are not justified by works but by faith. Faith doesn’t do anything. Faith just believes that God loves me and grace wipes my sin away. I will show you my faith by my complete non-desire to obey and lack of obedience to God.”

Now granted, most don’t come right out and put it like that, but unfortunately, I have heard several pretty much say such things.

They attempt to elevate faith beyond what the Bible says about it. The attempt is to show those stuck listening to the Bible, that there is a higher and better way. The way of faith. The way of doing jack-squat and believing God will take em anyway.

It sounds impressive. It sounds like it’s elevating and emphasizing faith–I do nothing but believe! But in reality, it completely undermines what faith actually is according to the Bible!

Faith means an obedient listening. That’s what it means. That’s what the word means. That’s what the Bible explicitly says.

In the end, this sort of theological one-ups-manship elevates sin and the sinner and downplays God’s word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
–2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Exaggerating Grace

Yesterday I talked about the tendency for Christians to argue theology into unbiblical extremes. One of the main areas this takes place in is dealing with God’s Grace.

Grace truly is amazing. Our Creator, who we rebelled against and ruined His creation, became one of us to carry our sins in His own body to suffer and die on the cross, to then be raised again for our justification is mind-blowingly awesome.

Just sticking with what the Bible says about grace is amazing. But people feel the tendency to go even further, to supersede biblical restraint and go whole hog emphasizing the awesomeness.

This leads people to believe that grace is so amazing, I become so little, so worthless, there’s nothing to be done except marvel at grace’s awesomeness.

But the Bible says that grace rebirths us. It raises us up to newness of life and teaches us to deny ungodliness, worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.

The effort to emphasize grace by saying we can’t do anything, or worse, to emphasize it by sinning more with impunity because grace has em covered, is blasphemous!

The Bible explicitly tells us that grace recreates us so we can do good (Ephesians 2:8-10). Grace is so amazing, it turns a servant of sin, worthless and incapable of doing good, into a servant of righteousness who can grow into the perfect man Christ Jesus and do good works!

You do not emphasize grace more by sinning. Should we sin that grace may abound? In no way! The Bible comes right out and tells us not to over-emphasize grace and turn it into lasciviousness.

If your understanding of grace leads you to more sin and inability, you are not understanding grace biblically. It feels like you’re emphasizing grace by insisting you’re pathetic, but actually, that is undermining what Grace is and can do!

Grace doesn’t just forgive sins. It doesn’t just make God forget your sin. It doesn’t just cover your sin.

Grace sets you free from sin. Grace crucifies the old man with its affections and lusts. Grace lifts you up to newness of life. Grace has the power to make a worthless, pathetic, servant of sin into a child of God equipped for every good work.

In my flesh dwells no good thing. But through God’s grace, I am no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit where I can now yield my bodily members as instruments of righteousness with fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life.

You can emphasize grace by talking about how pathetic you were before salvation. But continuing to show how pathetic you are after salvation does not emphasize the amazingness of Grace!

Here’s how Paul puts it:

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Paul tells everyone how horrible he was before his conversion. Then grace stepped in! Amazing Grace got rid of old, rebellious Saul and recreated righteous, laboring Paul! Amazing Grace!

Yes, it’s even more amazing and powerful than your patheticness! Want to emphasize the awesomeness of grace in your life? Then let grace transform you.

Exaggerating Theology

Theological arguments tend to go to extremes. As people argue, they get pushed further and further into their corner.

There are those who think that exaggerating their point somehow makes their point more spiritual. Rather than emphasizing a doctrinal point, they are making themselves and their doctrine better than the other guy’s. It has little to do with holding highly doctrine and more to do with holding yourself highly.

Let me give you an example.

We are saved by grace through faith. One would think the response to salvation by grace through faith would be a desire to serve the one who saved us by His grace. I will show you my honor of grace by my works. As Paul said, because of God’s grace, “I labor more abundantly than they all.”

But wow, that seems pretty tough. Awful worky. So I will come back with my higher view of grace that says, “You know, grace is so great, I don’t think works are necessary. It’s all Christ. It’s all grace. I am so little and insignificant. It’s all grace.”

This attempt to magnify grace carries some arrogance with it. To say that grace is so big I can’t do anything anyway, so I won’t, although seeming to glorify grace, actually tends to glorify your own self.

So the next guy, rather than going back to Paul’s idea that grace makes you labor more, has to outdo the last sanctimonious theologizer. He has to glorify grace even more than the “I can’t do anything” guy.

So the next guy says, “Grace is so amazing, so large, so incredible, not only can I not do anything, I will say that grace is so big, it is magnified even more by my abject sinning. I will get so far away from the dangers of good works, I will just sin and let God’s grace, which is so amazing, cover it all. I am nothing but a sinner, sinning in the glories of God’s grace. Praise God!”

The journey is complete. You can’t get any further away from the Bible’s stance on grace. But all this is done in an effort to glorify grace.

That’s what’s so amazing about so much false doctrine: it was created to emphasize and glorify the very doctrine they eventually destroy.

The same thing is true of Calvinism and God’s sovereignty. God is so sovereign, He even makes people sin. We don’t understand how or why, we will say He’s not the author of sin, even while saying He is, it’s all a mystery, but God is glorified by things that are completely contrary to His character and glory.

In an effort to emphasize His sovereignty, they blaspheme His very nature.

(You will also note that in both the grace and sovereignty exaggerations, both end up saying sin is not that big of a problem! This is the root point of most bad doctrine.)

Once you are aware of this theological trend, you will see it everywhere.

It’s no longer about elevating our view of God, but rather elevating our views of ourselves and whether we are better than those people. All you need to do is listen to people and the attitude and arrogance dripping off their explanations. There is no one more arrogant than the guy who thinks he’s elevating his doctrine to lofty heights. (Read Michael’s comment from Justifying your Disobedience post last week for a recent example.)

It’s a sad thing. Using God for our own advancement. Using doctrine to brag about ourselves. Everyone is susceptible to it. Myself included. It’s a terrifying thing.

Stay humble, my friends. Stick with what the Bible says. Don’t fall for the trap that going beyond what Scripture says makes you more spiritual. It aint true.

Claiming Doctrines That Don’t Apply to You

One of the attempts by Christians to avoid doing any good works is to doctrinalize themselves into ambivalence.

Since they know certain doctrinal truths, they assume there is no needs for practical application. Here are a couple examples:

–The Bible says we have been made righteous in Christ, therefore, It does not matter if I do righteous things.

–The Bible says I’m already forgiven, therefore, it doesn’t matter if I sin, it’s already been taken care of.

–The Bible says I have eternal life already, therefore, it does not matter how I live my life down here.

–The Bible says once saved always saved, therefore, there is nothing I can do to lose my salvation, so why worry about changing anything?

All have truth in them, the Bible does say, in my opinion, those doctrinal truths. The doctrines are right; the applications are dreadfully wrong!

There is no denying that a true believer has been made righteous, has been forgiven, is an inheritor of eternal life, and cannot lose their salvation.

The person who says they believe these things and yet continues to live in sin and not make any progress in righteousness, spiritual growth, and sanctification clearly does not understand the intent of these doctrines!

Just because you understand a doctrine does not mean it applies to you!

The Bible holds out tests for whether you are a believer or not. One of them is not how well you can explain doctrine! Most of them have to do with the testimony of your life and the evidence that new spiritual life has taken root in you.

If those tests can’t be passed by you, then those doctrines do not yet apply to you.

If you think being made righteous in Christ and being forgiven means sin is no longer a bad thing, you’re probably not righteous! If you think Christ dying on the cross to forgive you means it’s OK to sin now, you don’t quite get it.

The person who claims to have eternal life and yet clearly lives for life here, does not understand the basis and glory of eternal life.

In other words, anyone can claim these doctrines are true for them, but they only apply to true believers.

The question is not whether these doctrines apply to true believers; the question is whether you are a true believer!

True believers do not turn the grace of God into an excuse for sinful living. True believers understand the Gospel of Christ and desire to grow into the perfect man Christ Jesus.

If you turn the cross of Christ into the thing Jesus did so I can keep sinning, you are not yet a believer in the Gospel.

If you’ve not come to the “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” moment; then whatever it is you think you did in believing the Gospel, was not legit.

The whole point of getting saved is to be released from the power and bondage of sin, not to give you an excuse to stay under sin’s bondage and power!

#1 Way to Defeat Guilt

I have known many people who hold to Justification By Faith Alone. They believe that since they said the prayer or got baptized that they are saved. That’s it. Nothing else they do matters.

They have then lived their lives after their own way, doing sins, not going out of their way for anyone else, and generally taking advantage of anyone they can.

They are eaten by guilt. Their guilt makes them even more sinful, selfish, and greedy. This adds to their guilt.

Instead of dealing with the guilt, they tell themselves happy thoughts like:

–Jesus kept the law for me.
–God only sees Jesus in me, not me.
–It doesn’t matter what I do, it only matters who I am.
–Christ fulfilled it all, He said ‘it is finished.’ There is nothing for me to do.

Although each point carries a grain of truth, when taken to extremes, it borders on blasphemy.

While telling themselves these happy thoughts, they continue to live selfish lives and be eaten by guilt.

No amount of happy thought repetition eliminates the very real guilt brought about by doing sinful things.

Typically, these people will get closer and closer to concluding they are more spiritually mature than you lowly types out there still trying to do good.

Meanwhile, there is still guilt. There is still defeat. And, unfortunately, their gospel of happy thoughts provides them no salvation from it.

True salvation offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is way more practical and delivers people from sin. You are no longer under bondage, no longer a slave of sin. You are reborn and recreated as a servant of God, using your body as a servant of righteousness.

When you do what is right you will be amazed at how little guilt you will feel!

It’s an amazing thing!

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

I was told many times that in Christ we don’t have to feel any guilt for our sins because there is “no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.”

That’s a nice happy thought, and absolutely untrue.

I tried it, all it did was make me feel more guilt! I already felt guilty for the sin I did, now I also felt bad for feeling guilty for feeling guilt for the sin I did! All this teaching did was double my guilt.

It wasn’t until I saw that actually I was supposed to do good, that I began to feel less guilt!

Here’s why–walking in the Spirit never leads you to do anything to feel guilty about!

Feeling guilt is a good thing: it’s God’s warning system in you telling you that you sinned. Sinning and not feeling guilt is not a sign of salvation; it’s a sign of a hardened heart and a closed up conscience, never a good thing.

Doing righteousness is the only way to stop feeling guilt. It really is. This is not rocket science.

Godly sorrow leads to repentance unto salvation. Salvation leads to being indwelt by the Spirit. The Spirit’s indwelling leads to a mortifying of the deeds of the flesh and producing fruit of the Spirit. When you walk in the Spirit you fulfill the righteousness of the law. Since you are fulfilling righteousness, there is no need to feel guilt.

It’s a beautiful thing. You should try it!

Easy Believism and Guilt

The basic attempt by people who hold to justification by faith alone is to eliminate personal responsibility in doing what God says.

The temptation of making salvation dependent upon merely nodding your head to the Gospel and then continuing on in your old life is great.

Everyone wants to think that sin isn’t bad. I can still do it and get to heaven. I don’t need to change anything. God loves me just the way I am.

It sounds great and certainly it will result in an easier life! But every attempt at eliminating the responsibility to listen to God will be shown to be foolishness.

Since there’s no reason you should listen to me, I’ll quote Jesus Christ Himself.

At the end of The Sermon on the Mount, a list of impossible commands for anyone in the flesh to possibly follow, Jesus Christ says this:

 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

If you do not do what Jesus commands you are a fool. The storms of life will knock you and all you’ve ever built over. Nothing but destruction.

I really am amazed at the number of Christians who try to convince me I don’t have to listen to God’s Word. Loopholes come fast and furious when specific commands get brought up.

No one wants to have to obey. No one certainly wants anything important riding on whether they obey or not.

Why so much skittishness there? Why do people feel the need to convince others they don’t have to listen?

If you are one who goes around telling others they don’t have to listen to God’s commands, it’s because of your own guilt. I see no other motivation–perhaps the exception of people trying to get you to listen to them.

But I don’t think most Christians are trying to get followers or start a cult. Most are just covering their own guilt. Doing what is right makes people doing wrong feel bad.

People are not content to just sin. They have to flaunt their sin. They desire societal approval of their chosen sin. They do this because of a nagging sense of guilt eating away at them.

At the heart of all the versions of an Easy Gospel is a lack of responsibility and tremendous guilt.

Instead of legitimately believing the Gospel and obeying God’s commands through the new Spiritual Nature we’ve been given, people wallow in their man-made Gospel that sounds easy, but never truly answers the guilt problem.

The only way to not feel guilt is to not do things that make you feel guilty.

It’s quite simple in theory! Through the power of God in you, it can be a reality too. The Gospel delivers people from bondage to sin. It really does.

If yours doesn’t, it’s because you have the wrong Gospel.