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.

Tozer on the “Deeper Christian Life”

“I hear people testify about their search for the deeper Christian life, and it sounds as though they would like to be able to get it in pill form. It seems that it would have been much more convenient for them if God had arranged religion so they could take it like a pill with a glass of water.

They buy books, hoping to get their religion by prescription. But there isn’t any such thing.

There is a cross. There is a gallows. There is a man with bleeding stripes on His back. There is an apostle with no property, with a tradition of loneliness and weariness and rejection and glory- but there are no pills!”

Justification and Inspiration of Scripture

Everyone and their mother says we are justified by faith alone. If you step out of line with this, you will get whacked.

I have gotten whacked over this many times. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have left my church over this issue. It’s a large number, much larger than the number who currently attend my church.

My life would be easier and my church would be larger if I told people they were justified by faith alone. That good works are optional at best. That sin isn’t that bad because God only sees Christ in you, not what you do.

People like that message and I can see why. I’d like that message too!

I’ve gotten lots of blowback on this issue. I’ve questioned my take on the issue each time someone argued against it.

As far as I can tell, the main thing that shifted me from being a guy who happily taught justification by faith alone to what I teach now is one main thing: I began reading the Bible regularly and repeatedly.

Of all the arguments I’ve heard, none have shaken me from my conviction that justification by faith alone is wrong.

The results have shaken me. The consequences have shaken me. But I can’t ignore these two huge points:

There is no verse in the Bible that says we are justified by faith alone
There is a verse in the Bible that says we are not justified by faith alone.

For me, that’s enough. I don’t know where else to go with that.

If you believe that justification is by faith alone then I am left to conclude that you do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture.

I know, there are many neat theological gymnastics attempting to resolve James and Paul. But all of them boil down to whether the words on the page mean what they say or not. If they don’t, then why listen to the Bible at all? If your theological opinion carries more weight than the Bible, then why mess with the Bible? Just make stuff up.

If James is just making things up, what else is just made up in there? The Bible is either God’s Word or it isn’t.

The Bible clearly says we are not justified by faith only. I know not what else to say.

Here I stand. I can do no other.

Justifying Your Disobedience

This Justification By Faith issue has caused lots of problems over the years. Many arguments have ensued on the issue.

I have personally had this conversation with many people and I’ve heard all the arguments.

With all due respect, the basic argument behind people supporting justification by faith alone is that they don’t want to do anything.

Most of them will bring up the impossibility of doing commands and the general burdensome, guilt-ridden nature of being told you have to do stuff.

Many have the idea that grace means no strings attached, no change needed, and certainly no good works.

Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. We receive it by faith. You cannot earn salvation. You do not merit salvation.

This does not mean that there is nothing you do to get it though.

The only people truly consistent on this issue are Calvinists. They will flat out tell you that God regenerates you and then you believe.

Their confident argumentative bluster does not replace the fact that there are no verses that say this and plenty that say the exact opposite.

Grace has provided salvation through Jesus Christ. A lost soul seeking to be saved from sin would respond to that gracious salvation with love, faith, the desire to obey, and the desire to tell others about it.

If you resist the idea that your faith has to include love, telling others, and obedience, you should ask yourself why the resistance?

I have heard people confidently tell me “I don’t have to do anything. Christ did it all.” It sounds nice, but why do you have a desire to do nothing?

I have heard people boast that “it doesn’t matter what I do; it only matters who I am in Christ.” Again, sounds nice, but why don’t you want what you do to matter? What is it you’re doing that makes you not want to count that? Why do you not want to do what Christ wants?

The arguments always boil down to a it doesn’t matter what I do foundation. The arguments tend to give the idea that if I have to listen to God, I’d rather be unsaved. Listening to God comes across as a giant burden, a total fun ruiner.

Which is all curious.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
–1 John 5:1

OK, we’re probably all good with John’s words here. See, faith is what saves. Just believe in Jesus!

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
–1 John 5:2

1 John 5:2 comes right after 1 John 5:1. Notice how John is tying believing in with loving in these two verses? Again, you’re not justified by faith alone. You are at least justified by faith and love. How do you know you love God? Because you feel like you do? Because you say you do?

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
–1 John 5:3

1 John 5:3 comes right after 1 John 5:1-2. Loving God means keeping His commandments. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” No one likes this definition of love!

We think love means squishy feelings and happy thoughts. To Jesus Christ, love means doing the right thing. Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but love rejoices in the truth. Do the truth.

If your objection to my take on justification includes a reluctance to obey Him, you need to ask yourself why.

Why are God’s commands grievous to you? Grievous means burdensome, weighty, and heavy. No fun to carry around.

If you find listening to God to be a burden, it’s because you don’t love Him. If you don’t love Him, you don’t believe Him.

A person who has truly come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation has done so out of love and faith, with a desire to do what God wants. God provides everything we need to do His commands. We are fully equipped to do what our heart has always longed to do: please its Creator.

There is nothing greater for us to do with our bodies than to use them to serve our Creator. How would that be a burden?

The only way listening to God is a burden is if you are unsaved and have no strength or desire in yourself to do God’s will.

If you’ve spent the majority of your time in Christianity explaining to yourself why your sin is ok and your obedience is unnecessary, there’s a good chance you are not saved.

Again, this is not salvation by works. This is a change of heart that is graciously provided through the power of the Gospel. The new heart desires and enjoys doing the commandments of God.

Justification and Fulfilling the Law

Since we’re not justified by the deeds of the law, many Christians conclude there is no law for the Christian. “We’re under law, not under grace.”

It is true that no member of the New Covenant is under the law. Taking this to mean there is no law under the New Covenant is incorrect.

We are not under the Old Covenant law with physical blessing or cursing for obedience. We’re redeemed from the curse of the law by Christ.

We are now under a different law. Yup, even in the New Covenant there is a law. Here are a couple verses stating the point several ways:

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
–Galatians 6:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
–Romans 8:2

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
–Romans 7:25

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
–James 1:25

Not being under the law never meant that morality is a free for all in the New Covenant. The New Covenant is filled with commandments.

The major distinction between the Covenants is the spiritual provision for doing what God said.

The Old Covenant Law contained zero spiritual help. It was just the fear of punishment or the joy of reward, mixed in with memorials all over the place to remind your wandering mind.

The New Covenant Law (which is only applicable to believers, unlike the Old Covenant Law to all Jews whether believers or not), comes with spiritual provision.

We are born again. Made sons of God. Made partakers of the divine nature. We’ve put off the old and put on the new. We’ve been made new creations. We’ve received the Holy Spirit who mortifies the deeds of the flesh and instructs us in the way of righteousness. We’ve got the Living Word of God that fully equips the man of God to every good work. We’ve been created in Christ Jesus unto every good work which God has before ordained we should walk in. We’ve been redeemed as a peculiar people zealous of good works. We have the encouragement of the Body of Believers all with the Spirit making up the Body of Christ to encourage us to do good, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.

That’s a good sampling of the provision!

In the flesh dwells no good thing. An unbeliever has no shot at fulfilling the demands of God. That’s why the Old Covenant Law was such a disaster–it was given to unbelieving Jews and a smattering of believing ones.

The New Covenant promises foretold of a day when God would pour out His Spirit on people so they would obey Him from the heart.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians say “I can’t do God’s commands. I don’t even try. That’s the point of the law–to make us give up.”

Well, not really. The point of any law is to get people to do the right thing. The Old Covenant Law could not help you do it though. Under the New Covenant, we are equipped by the Gospel and union with Christ to actually be able to do what God desires!

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
–Romans 8:3-4

It’s all spelled out right there! In the flesh: no shot–O wretched man that I am!

In the Spirit, we have a shot: we can walk after the Spirit and fulfill the righteousness of the law. The law made no one righteous. But justified people with the Spirit can now actually do righteousness. (Notice it doesn’t say they will fulfill the law. It says those who walk after the Spirit fulfill the righteousness of the law.)

Drop the idea that you cannot do good if you have the Spirit. Of course you can, that’s why you have the Spirit!

If, however, you find being told to do righteousness and good works to be burdensome. That’s a huge warning sign. That might be saying you have not been born again. If you have the Spirit you will “delight in the law of God after the inward man (Romans 7:22).

Your attitude toward doing good is illustrative of your spiritual standing with God and of the state of faith and justification in your heart.

Do you love God? Do you believe God? Are you born of God? Then you will not regularly be resisting His will, and certainly wouldn’t be throwing up your hands in defeat at having to do what is right.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
–1 John 5:3

Justification and Circumcision

As if talking about justification weren’t hard enough, Paul decided to throw circumcision into the mix to make everyone as uncomfortable as possible.

He has accomplished his goal.

Romans 4, Paul’s one big explanation of justification by faith, mentions circumcision seven times, and a couple more times in chapters 2 and 3.

In Galatians, Paul’s shorter version of Romans, he mentions circumcision 13 times.

Why the circumcision talk?

This is based on what we talked about yesterday: Paul’s point that no one has ever been justified by deeds of the law.

Israel failed horribly at doing the law, that’s why their nation got wiped out. While their nation was declining, the Jews knew they weren’t keeping the law.

They boiled the law down to a couple things. Circumcision was the big deed they did. Circumcision was a sign that they were Abraham’s seed and part of the Covenant. Since they had that sign, they assumed being in the covenant meant they were saved.

Circumcision is basically key word for their notion that thew were “doing the law.”

It was a handy term to use to sum up belonging to the covenant.

Circumcision meant they were God’s people.
Surely God’s chosen people are all saved.
We’re circumcised, therefore, we are saved.

That was the Jewish thinking. Their thinking was wrong. Paul is pointing out the wrongness of their thinking in Romans and Galatians.

Circumcision is a handy, one-time thing you do to “get saved.” It was the Easy-Believism of their day: Just do this one thing and you’re saved!

Many people extrapolate infant baptism out of circumcision (since it was to be done when the boy was eight days old). Since Jews of the Old Covenant did a thing to a baby, we should do a thing to a baby too.

I find this an insane argument.

Clearly Paul goes to great lengths to show that circumcising a baby Jew did not make them saved. That’s a major point of Romans and Galatians. Why Christians miss that point and instead carry it over to promote infant baptism as our sign we’re in a covenant is beyond me.

Perhaps it’s because we’re too embarrassed to talk about circumcision that we’ve missed this point. It’s a huge point that needs to be made today.

A one-time event does not mean you are saved. The fact that you did some religious ritual, or had a religious ritual done to you, is no substitute for having faith and being born again.

Paul goes to great lengths to convey this point. The church has gone to great lengths to ignore his point. It will work out as well for the church as it did for Israel.

Karl Stern on the Crazy Theory of Evolution

“If we present, for the sake of argument, the theory of evolution in a most scientific formulation, we have to say something like this:

“At a certain moment of time the temperature of the Earth was such that it became most favorable for the aggregation of carbon atoms and oxygen with the nitrogen-hydrogen combination, and that from random occurrences of large clusters, molecules occurred which were most favorably structured for the coming about of life, and from that point it went on through vast stretches of time, until through processes of natural selection a being finally occurred which is capable of choosing love over hate and justice over injustice, of writing poetry like that of Dante, composing music like that of Mozart, and making drawings like those of Leonardo.”

Of course, such a view of cosmogenesis is crazy. And I do not at all mean crazy in the sense of slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking.”

–Karl Stern

Justification and the Law

When Paul talks about not being justified by works, he’s primarily, and often specifically, referring to works of the law.

One of the main reasons Paul got beat up by Jews in the Book of Acts is over this stance. From Acts 13:39:

And by him [Jesus Christ] all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Them’s fightin’ words for the Jewish people. Several verses later we’re told that the Jewish mob expelled Paul out of their coasts.

There’s a lot of talk by Paul about not being justified by deeds of the law.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
–Romans 3:20

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
–Romans 3:28

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
–Galatians 2:16

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
–Galatians 3:11

Why is Paul emphasizing that so much?

Primarily because the Jewish people, who have had the law for thousands of years, thought they were justified by doing the law.

Of course, the law was impossible to do, and their history shows they did a horrible job of doing the law. The destruction of Jerusalem and Israel were a result of their failure to keep the law.

Here’s the thing though: The law was never given to save anyone.

The law was part of the covenant God made with Israel to stay in their land. Some of the Jews in the Old Covenant were saved, but most were not.

Being saved had nothing to do with being in the covenant. If you were a Jew back then, you were in the Covenant and thus, under the law, whether you wanted to be or not.

A Jew in the Old Covenant did not choose to be under the law; they were by birth. The law was not given to save anyone; it was given as a covenant between God and Israel to stay in the land.

But all along God had established that justification was by promise and faith. A person of faith under the Old Covenant would endeavor to keep the law and do the sacrifices with a heart right with God.

Killing animals didn’t take away sin. But under the Old Covenant, a person of faith would do sacrifices. Their dead animals didn’t remove sin; their faith did.

Before the law people were justified by faith. Under the law people were justified by faith. After the law people were justified by faith.

For by grace are you saved through faith is the only way anyone has ever been saved. God preached the Gospel unto Abraham saying in thee shall all nations be blessed. It is the everlasting Gospel.

If the law could give life, then Christ is dead in vain. If the law could justify, then we don’t need the Gospel.

We have the Gospel, therefore, the law could not have justified.

No one has ever been justified by deeds of the law. The law did not, does not, and can not save.

I am repeating myself a lot because people miss this point. People also then extrapolate that since we aren’t justified by deeds of the law, therefore we don’t have to do anything except nod our head yes at Jesus and His Gospel.

That is not Paul’s point. Paul’s point is that no flesh is justified by deeds of the law. That’s his point. He has no other point on this subject. That is it.

No flesh is justified by deeds of the law.

Salvation Is Hard

Many years ago I was talking to an older guy about fixing a broken something or other. He was a handyman type, knew how to fix everything. I’m a waste of space at fixing things.

He was telling me how simple it was to do this repair. To emphasize how simple it was he said, “It’s as easy as getting saved.”

I was stunned by his statement. I remember laughing and saying something like, “Hm, I never thought getting saved was all that easy.” He was then stunned by my statement!

There are many who think “getting saved” is easy. If you view justification by faith alone the way most do–nodding your head yes at the appropriate time of the emotional Gospel presentation–then yeah, getting saved is easy.

Easy Salvation agrees to the facts of the Gospel and you’re good to go.

What amazes me is watching Jesus Christ talk to people about salvation. He drove so many away. In fact, Jesus always seemed to make salvation harder than people thought.

The classic example is the Rich Young Ruler, “Go and sell all your stuff and give to the poor, come, and follow me.” Can you imagine explaining to the Rich Young Ruler that making a repair was “as easy as getting saved?”

It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That sounds hard to me.

The gate is strait and the way is narrow; few there be who find it. Sounds pretty hard to me.

If you don’t hate mother, father, son, and daughter you cannot be my disciple. Sounds pretty hard to me.

Anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Sounds pretty hard to me.

Take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me. Sounds pretty tough.

I think you get the idea.

Salvation is not mental assent to facts about Jesus. Salvation is a new way of life, one that must be thought about carefully. You sure you want to do that? You sure it’s worth it to lose your money, your family peace, your friendships, your cares of this world, and your carefully constructed reputation that will become dung?

You sure?

Yet most people will say, “Pssh, I’ve never had to do any of that, and I’m saved. It was easy for me.”

Judgment Day is going to be a real shocker to many people. Don’t be one of them. Wake up today. Read the Word. Realize that salvation is the hardest decision you’ll ever make and it might possibly ruin your life.

For many in the Great Cloud of Witnesses, salvation didn’t pay off until they were dead and finally inherited the Better Country.

Until then, salvation kind of stunk. Don’t rush people into making a decision. Particularly don’t push kids into it; they have no idea what the implications are. So much of our Gospel is wrong and so many of our Gospel presentations are wrong.

Read the Parable of the Sower. 3 out of 4 didn’t get in. If words mean what they say, salvation is not easy.

If you think it is, more than likely it comes from your warped, man-made view of justification by faith alone.

3 Problems With Luther’s Opinion of James

Earlier I wrote about Martin Luther’s problem with the book of James. Luther wants justification to be by faith only. James disagrees with Luther. This led Luther to say the following:

“Therefore St James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it . . . The epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the Papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest…Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove . . . I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.”

I would like to make several points about this quote.

First, he says James has “nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.” This is a common attack on James, probably from people copying Luther. James only mentions Jesus Christ twice. He makes no mention of resurrection, Gospel, the cross, or any other Gospely words.

The reason is not because James doesn’t know the Gospel or is somehow opposed to it (his half-brother was the Messiah, people!). The reason is because he’s writing to a group of people, Jewish Christians, who already think they are saved and yet are showing no signs of conversion.  He is writing to defeat easy-believism. He wants people to know that even demons believe! Faith isn’t the whole story.

James is an epistle intended for an audience in our day as well. James is very practical. People don’t like practical; we like the theoretical. We’d rather theoretically believe we are saved than actually have to practically live as though we were. James knows our state today; it was the same state of religion in his day. There is nothing new under the sun.

Secondly, Luther says James gives us trouble because “the Papists embrace it alone.” Most of the push-back I’ve received about questioning justification by faith alone, has been phrased in fears of Catholicism. I have been accused of being Catholic and of dragging my church back into Catholicism. I find this ridiculous.

I am not Catholic. I feel creepy just going into Catholic type places. I am not telling anyone to become Catholic. I don’t want you to light candles, do holy water things, do hand motion kneeling things, baptize babies (which Luther did despite his “by faith alone” bluster), or any other man-made, humanly devised rituals that accomplish nothing but feelings.

Accusing people of becoming Catholic, or undoing the Reformation, for questioning the unbiblical idea of justification by faith alone is merely the modern day political response of your enemy politician being Hitler. I recommend some more thought on the issue rather than a flippant dismissal and fearmongering about being Catholic.

Here’s a little historical fact for you: James was not Catholic.

Third, Luther says “some Jew” saw Christian faith and said ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.” Notice what Luther did to James’ quote. Luther says James “urges works alone.” Did you get that? Did James ever say people were justified by works alone? No he did not.

The main problem with Luther’s theology appears to be a habit of putting “alone” in places where no one put “alone.”

This is where you know Luther is getting carried away. He’s just making stuff up now. He made up that Paul said we were justified by faith alone, which Paul never said. He made up that James said we were justified by works alone, which James never said.

Slightly rephrasing quotes is quite common in Christianity, and other areas as well. Get original quotes, not people’s quotations of quotes. Go to the source. James and Paul don’t say what Luther says they say. Read the Bible. Seriously. Read the Bible. Check what you hear with Scripture. Test the spirits.

Luther was right to question the Catholic Church, particularly on their idea that you need the Catholic Church, its priests, and systems to get right with God. You don’t. Kudos to Luther for sticking his neck out to fight that fight.

But Luther is just a guy and just as fallible as a pope, which amounts to a lot fallible. I am also fallible. Here’s some news: you are fallible too.

Our job is to read Scripture and help each other understand more and more of it. To assemble together to encourage one another to good works, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.

Justification by Faith and Obedience

Despite the fact that Martin Luther and many since him tell you that you are justified by faith alone, the Bible says we are not justified by faith only. Justification comes with a faith that includes some other stuff.

Obedience is one of those things.

There are many who think that since they believe the Gospel, or “said the prayer,” that they are saved. They’re “in.” All that salvation stuff is done, now I just live my life and then go to heaven when I die.

But true justifying faith has some qualifiers, a couple tests to see if it’s legit. We’ve talked about several already in the last days’ posts.

Obedience is another aspect of justifying faith. The fact that one time at camp when you were 7 a speaker terrified you about going to hell so you “got saved,” means next to nothing.

Justification is not given to those who believed for a few minutes a number of years ago. Justification makes you righteous. If your faith at camp was legit at 7, it will have resulted in a continuously growing righteous life. Your faith may indeed have begun at camp when you were 7, but if these things aren’t there, then your faith was not legit.

The Apostle Paul talks about the “obedience of faith” a couple times in Romans. Rome had faith. How did Paul know they had faith? Because their obedience shone to many people around them. Their faith was obedient.

Paul says that whatever is not of faith is sin. Therefore, whatever is of faith can’t be sin. Faith makes you do what is right. Faith is obedient. Faith comes by hearing God’s word, and as every single person in Hebrews 11 knows: faith does what God says to do.

Paul talks about people who have “not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” Paul speaks of obey and believe as synonymous. What is the Gospel telling us to do? To deny self, take up the cross, be a living sacrifice, live a new life in Christ as the old one has been crucified.

Watch what Peter says in 1 Peter 2:7

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 is to be disobedient.

If you think you have faith and yet you are not obeying the commands of the New Covenant, think again. Granted, there is a sanctifying and growing process, but obedience grows. If getting saved at camp when you were 7 is many years ago now and obedience hasn’t become a regular part of your life, your faith was in vain, you are yet in your sins.

Obedience comes with faith. Faith without obedience is no faith at all.

Justification by Faith and Love

Martin Luther told us we are justified by faith alone, something the Bible never says. But for some reason we are adamant about going with Luther’s take. Even people who otherwise can’t stand Luther go with his take. Bizarre to me.

I believe the Bible says we are justified by faith and faith includes several things. I believe love is another of those things that determines whether you have true, justifying faith. This may, in fact, be the  biggest thing your faith needs for you to be saved.

God is not impressed by outward actions, nor does He take professions with the mouth all that seriously. God judges people by the heart. Israel brought sacrifices to God and sang nice songs and said nice things about God, all things God told them to do, but He rejected them because their heart was not near Him. They didn’t love Him.

External obedience in doing what God said to do still might not demonstrate justifying faith. You might just be following your training, your group, or your traditions. You might be doing it out of pride or reputation. Maybe it’s guilt and you’re trying to work off sins. Listening to God (faith) without love for God is not listening to God.

Faith and love are huge words in Christianity. A faith that doesn’t work is no faith at all. Faith that justifies works.

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
–Galatians 5:6

Faith works by love. This means love is a thing that makes faith work and faith works loving things. True faith works together with love.

Merely nodding your head to the facts of the Gospel does not save a person. It’s more than just an intellectual agreement with facts. It’s a change of heart, a response to God’s love that responds in kind. We love Him because He first loved us. He first loved us when, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
–1 Corinthians 13:13

You’ve heard this verse hundreds of times, but have you ever thought about it?!

Love is greater than faith? 1 Corinthians 13:2 says if you have all faith, even to the extent that you could move mountains, it does you no profit without love.

There are many who say they believe in God or in Jesus Christ, yet their “faith” shows no signs that they love God, or Christ. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” True faith operates out of love. Love for God will keep you obeying God. Faith and love need each other. Faith does not stand alone.

Faith without love is no faith at all. It is an unprofitable faith. Even the demons believe in God, but they certainly don’t love Him. Demons are not saved even though they have faith. Faith without love is a huge problem.

Love is a really big deal with God. He doesn’t want intellectual assent; He wants you to love Him in response to the great love wherewith He loved us.

If you love God and the Gospel of His Son Jesus Christ, your faith will work things in you that are consistent with that love. Faith works by love and love is greater than faith.

When Jesus Christ was asked what the greatest commandment was, He did not say “Believe in the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Nope. He said, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.”

Love is a big deal. You’re fooling yourself if you think love has nothing to do with whether you are saved or not. Your faith better have love with it. Not a squishy feeling kind of love either, but a love that keeps His commands. That’s true love and true faith. They work together.

Justification by Faith and Confession

OK, more than likely my title triggered a few!

When we hear “confession” we immediately think of a Catholic Church with the little doors into the little box where you talk through the screen to the priest. You tell him your sins and he tells you what to do to get them removed.

Confession literally means “to say the same thing as.” Therefore, confessing your sins, like in 1 John 1:9, has nothing to do with Catholic confessionals. It means to agree with God, to say the same thing as He does, about you and your sin.

However, none of this has anything to do with what I’m talking about here.

We are told all the time that salvation comes by faith alone. Yet the Bible never says this, and, if you read the Bible, you will see several other things we’re supposed to do.

When I say justification by faith and confession, here is the passage I have in mind:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

So, again, if you just read the words and go with what they say, Paul says if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth we will be saved.

If that’s the case, and Paul is an inspired author of Scripture, why do we insist salvation is by faith alone?

Why do we insist upon making Martin Luther right and Paul wrong? It’s truly a bizarre thing to me. I honestly don’t get it.

I suppose the argument is that if we have to believe and confess, confess would be a work, and then our works save us.

I find this ridiculous. If the Bible says we’re not saved by works, but we are saved by believing and confessing, then believing and confessing must not be works he’s referring to!

I mean, it can’t be more complicated than that.

The Bible means what it says. I suggest we start listening to it and not defending dead guys’ theological scruples. Just an idea.

Justification By Faith And Works

Most of my life I believed I was justified by faith alone. It wasn’t until I started reading the Bible regularly that I noticed that the Bible doesn’t say this.

James 2 is the classic go-to passage. James specifically says we are not justified by faith only. Works play a part.

One of the best ways to determine whether what you are hearing is true, is to poke at it and listen to the defenses people offer for their stance.

Here are the treatments of James I have heard that try to skirt the issue and keep us saying we are justified by faith only, which is the opposite of what James says.

1) James was a Jew, what do you expect? This is sort of the take of Martin Luther (see his quote in yesterday’s post). Many believe Jews were justified by deeds of the law and doing sacrifices. But Paul clearly and repeatedly tells us no one was ever justified by deeds of the law. If you could be, then Christ died in vain. Saying that James was a Jew, whether anti-semitically like Luther, or in an attempt at pontificating on OT salvation doctrine, is a non-winning strategy. Whatever James is saying, he’s not erroneously caught up in Jewishness.

2) James is not part of the Bible. This is a challenge about inspiration. People are currently comfortable chucking other passages of the Bible they deem they know better than, why not add James 2 to the list? The problem is that James has always been viewed as being Scripture, until Luther. James says stuff that is consistent with Scripture. Unless you are comfortable being the Bible’s editor, I would not play this card.

3) James is talking about something different than Paul. Paul says in Romans that we are justified by faith. James says we see a man is not justified by faith only but by works. “See, Paul and James disagree! Therefore, whatever James is talking about, it must be something different than Paul. They can’t both be talking about justification for salvation, James must be talking about proving faith.” There is a partial point here, James is talking about proving his faith. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t talking about true, saving justification, because, he is. The way to reconcile the both is to see that Paul never said we were justified by faith alone. Saying we’re justified by faith, does not mean nothing else is a part of what faith is. (I’ll bring up some of these things in the days to come.)

4) The Bible is full of contradictions, who can make sense of it? I’ll just go with what my guys say. This strategy satisfies many. They chalk it up to mystery, stuff only people smarter than me can figure out. I’ll just go with whatever and hope God is gracious in the end. This sort of fatalistic whateverness will not go over well on Judgment Day. Remember the servant who buried his talent? Yeah, this is that guy. However you want to deal with James, don’t deal with him this way! Do something with this. Think about it. Figure it out.

The bottom line is this: we are not justified by faith alone. James clearly says so. Faith is a huge word and involves several things. If you go ahead and admit this, other passages will open up to you and you won’t have to feel confused as much. Just go ahead and admit that Martin Luther is not the Bible and you’ll start understanding some stuff!

Hebrews 11, the great chapter of faith, talks about faithful people. By faith so-and-so did whatever it was that God told them. Every single person listed as having faith did what God told them. That’s what faith is.

If God told Abraham to sacrifice his son and Abraham said “OK, I believe you want me to sacrifice my son” and yet never took his son out to sacrifice him, then Abraham, although professing faith, would not have had faith.

Faith does what God says. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. You know you heard the word of God when you do it. Faith works. Paul calls it “the obedience of faith” several times.

You are justified by faith and faith works. Justifying faith will show itself in your life. The old will pass away and a new life will take over. There is a process and we have a faithful High Priest when we mess up. Faith will show itself in works. Even the demons believe, but they have no works, therefore, their faith is no justifying faith.

It’s really quite simple once you eliminate all your doctrinal baggage you’ve lugged around all these years. The simplicity is freeing. Embrace it!

Justification and Faith

Justification means to make something righteous.

The Bible will use words like “declare,” “count,” “accounted,” and “reckoned” to convey the idea.

This does not mean that Christ’s righteous deeds were added to your account, nor that Christ kept the law for you. Nor does it merely mean that God thinks you are righteous even though you continue to live the same life you lived before your supposed justification.

To make something righteous is to do just that: to make something righteous. Even the word “declare” means to show forth. It doesn’t simply mean God said you were righteous. He makes you righteous and you show forth that righteousness by doing righteous things.

People don’t like this idea of justification. We’d rather believe that God sees me as righteous while I continue to live in sin. We like the idea of eating our cake and having it too. Enjoying our sin, but going to heaven when we die.

If that’s your view of justification, I’ve got some bad news for you! Justification will make you do righteous things and will kill off sin in your life.

In fact, if this killing off of sin and growth in righteousness do not take place, you are not getting into heaven.

This is not saying that you get to heaven by works. It’s saying that in the flesh dwells no good thing. You must be born again, so you can walk in the Spirit and fulfill the righteousness of the law (Romans 7 and 8). You have to be made righteous in order to do righteous things. God can do that through the justifying power of the Gospel.

Unfortunately, the Gospel commonly preached today is not The Gospel. Many Gospel presentations skip sin, or at least only mention it in passing.

But the Gospel is for people who  want to be delivered from sin. If you don’t want to be delivered from doing sin, then you don’t want the Gospel.

Most proclaimers of the Gospel know you don’t want to leave sin behind. You want to continue to sin and be selfish and live narcissistic lives and continue the  narcissism on thru eternity in heaven.

“You don’t want to go to hell when you die, do you?” Is the basic gist of most Gospel presentations.

The true appeal of the Gospel is “You don’t want to sin your whole life, do you? Aren’t you tired of doing unrighteous stuff? What fruit do you have in those sinful things you are ashamed of?”

But, if you want your salvation quota, you won’t get far with that message. People don’t want to stop sin.

So, in an effort to meet our salvation quotas, we change our Gospel. We tell people the Gospel is about the life to come, not this one. We then tell people that all they have to do to be saved is believe.

Thus the invention of “we are justified by faith alone.” Because if there were anything else besides faith, then people would, like, have to do stuff, and remember, not doing stuff and yet being rewarded as if you did, is the entire basis of modern thought.

Yes, we are justified by faith, the Bible clearly says so.

The Bible never says we are justified by “faith alone.” Primarily because we are not. Faith needs friends: obedience, works, love, and confession, to name a few.

The reason people believe we are justified by faith alone is because Martin Luther said so. When Luther translated Romans, he made Romans 3:28 say, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law.”

Look up Romans 3:28 in any other translation and you will not find the word “alone.” That’s because the word “alone” is not in the Greek. Luther added to Scripture to make his point, never a good idea.

In fact, the only time the Bible puts “faith only” together is when James says, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

This is the main reason why Luther said:

“Therefore St James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it . . . The epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the Papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest…Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove . . . I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did.”

Luther, acting like every other Christian, throws out the part of the Bible that disagrees with his opinion. When push comes to shove, Luther is going with Luther, not some burdensome chunk of the Bible that dares disagree with him.

So, for 500 years we’ve been telling ourselves salvation is simply by nodding our head yes that Jesus died and rose again. We carry on in our sin, telling ourselves heaven awaits. No fuss, no muss, just easy street for eternity!

It sound so easy and nice. But what will you do in the end? How’s that going to work on Judgment Day?

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Objections to Real Justification: Loss of Salvation

Justification is more than just getting a righteous standing before God. It actually makes you righteous to the extent that you do righteous things. If you are not increasing in doing righteousness, you are not saved.

People don’t like to hear this, especially unrighteous people. Many who hear this will go on to assume I am saying you will lose your salvation if you do something unrighteous.

However, yet again, I am not saying that at all.

Sin is a struggle and we are to fight that battle. Resisting temptation is not easy. Hebrews says most of us have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. Have you? I’m guessing not. So we fall.

A justified person can sin.

If a justified person sins, they have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

There are many passages in the New Testament that teach a Once Saved Always Saved doctrine.

We cannot be plucked out of Christ’s hands, which are in God’s hands, and we can’t be plucked out of the Father’s hands. W e are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise unto the day of redemption. We are placed into the Body of Christ.

I believe that position is secure for the true believer.

Unfortunately, Once Saved Always Saved is applied to people who were never saved to begin with. Just because a person “said the prayer,” or got baptized, or did whatever thing it is you think people do to “get saved,” doesn’t mean they are saved and certainly doesn’t mean they can’t lost their salvation–you can’t lose what you never had.

The New Testament has several warning passages that make it clear that being a false convert is a definite possibility. It’s possible to get a taste and yet withdraw. It’s possible to shoot up a little sprout of faith, only to whither away under persecution, or get choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.

A justified person, one who has been made righteous and is righteous, will never lose their salvation. Primarily because they will never quit, they will never leave the faith. That would not be a righteous thing to do, see.

I believe that once a person is saved they will remain saved. I primarily believe that because I believe salvation makes a person righteous and righteous people would never want to quit being righteous.

I truly believe that salvation makes a person a new creation. You can’t stop being a new creation in Christ Jesus! You’re either new or you aint.

New creations are righteous and hunger and thirst after more righteousness. There is no possible lure that could drag a righteous person back to a life of unrighteousness. It won’t happen.

That, my friends, is the true perseverance of the saints! There is nothing that could keep me from persevering for I have been made righteous in Christ!

Objections to Real Justification: Yoke of Bondage

Justification doesn’t just make you righteous in standing, it makes you practically righteous, able to do what is right. If you are not growing in righteousness you are not saved.

Saying this sort of plain statement will get a guy in trouble. Ask the Apostle Paul, who got his head cut off. Here’s how he put it:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

This passage is from Galatians, and I’m glad it is.

I have had people challenge my understanding of Justification by using Galatians, primarily chapter three.

They bring up how I’m being a foolish Galatian, we began in the Spirit, are we made perfect by the flesh? If you tell me to do something, that’s me in the flesh doing it.

I am then accused of putting the yoke of bondage back on people. By which they mean that I am putting people back under the law.

Which, again, this has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.

I’m not telling anyone to get circumcised, keep the Sabbath laws, food laws, or other rites of the Jewish law that governed their Old Covenant.

Sure, there are people and churches who do that, and I think they are misguided. But there’s actually a reason why there is a New Covenant.

Paul is battling the Jewish influence in Galatia to get Gentiles to become Jews in order to be saved.

I am not calling on anyone to observe the Jewish law, nor to keep commands of the Old Covenant between Israel and God.

What I am doing is letting people know that there is a behavior which is consistent with the New Covenant. There are commands in the New Testament. We’re supposed to do them. The Gospel equips us to be able to.

When people read about the law being a yoke of bondage, they assume that being free from the yoke of bondage means they don’t have to listen to anyone.

That is not true. Romans 6 clearly says that since we are no longer servants of sin in Christ, we become servants of righteousness. Servants of God. Servants of Jesus Christ. Present your bodies a living sacrifice, this is your reasonable service.

The yoke of bondage was the Old Testament law that had no spiritual power to help you do it. All it did was condemn and say “Good luck!” Israel was bound to that covenant whether they wanted to be or not.

All people in the New Covenant are there voluntarily. They chose this. They wanted this. They were sick of doing sin all the time. They wanted to be set free so they could do what was right.

The Gospel answers that desire. The Gospel justifies, makes us righteous, so we can be free from sin and become servants of righteousness. Serving sin is bondage; serving God, Christ, and righteousness is true freedom.

It’s truly a beautiful thing.

Objections to Real Justification: Legalism

Real Justification is not just about making you righteous in standing, but actually righteous. Righteous people do righteous things. The Gospel makes you a righteous person who does righteous things. If you are not becoming a more righteous person, you are not saved.

People object to this sort of plain statement. But I’m in good company, the Apostle John says it plainly too:

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

John not good enough for you? Try on some Apostle Paul:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

So, if I’m concerned about the state of someone’s soul, I’m going to tell them that putting sin to death is what a believer does, what a believer now can do with the Gospel’s power.

Yet pretty much anytime you tell someone to stop sinning you will be charged with teaching legalism.

Legalism is a real problem. Legalism is teaching the commandments of men as the commandments of God. it’s an obsession with making rules, usually driving conformity in a group.

Legalism has nothing to do with what I’m talking about.

I don’t care how well you keep some guy’s made up rules. I’m concerned with you keeping God’s commands.

Listening to God is not legalism.

Let me repeat that:

Listening to God is not legalism.

I’m not telling anyone to live up to my standard or my church’s standard of behavior. What difference would that make? I’m not their judge, nor is my church.

How well you obey arbitrary commands of random people will not come up on Judgment Day.

How well you listened to God will. Quite a bit. In fact, that’s all that will be brought up.

Here’s some more Paul:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

Paul says he tells people to do good because he knows the terror of the Lord. Got that?

Paul understands what’s going to happen on Judgment Day. You won’t be judged on your intentions, your happy thoughts, your sentimental feelings, nor all your churchy things you did to impress others.

God will judge what you’ve done with your body.

Righteous people are the only ones who will and can use their body to do righteous things. No righteous things done with your body? Then you’re not getting in.

Want to get in? Do righteous things. Want to do righteous things? Then come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You must be born again, recreated in Christ to do good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in.

Objections to Real Justification: Perfectionism

My contention is that Real Justification actually makes people righteous, not just in standing, but also increasingly in practice.

If a person is not growing in righteousness, that person is not saved. Growing in righteousness is actually how a person knows they are saved before Judgment Day’s final verdict.

This sort of statement is scary, because most people playing church today are not growing in righteousness. Most are staying exactly the same and many get worse.

Unrighteous people will get defensive with this teaching (because, think about it, if you actually were a righteous person this teaching would bother you none at all).

“So you’re saying I’m only saved if I never sin? Only if I’ve reached sinless perfection?”

Nope, not what I said. Go back and read what I said. It’s clear I’m not teaching sinless perfection, yet this is defensive maneuver #1 of objectors.

I believe sinless perfection is our aim. I do believe that. I also believe that you will never know if you actually achieve it, because the moment you realize you achieved sinless perfection, you’d be arrogant.

I have met people who believe they haven’t sinned for years. I have never come across more arrogant Christians than these.

Jesus said in The Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Paul says the Bible was given to us “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Perfection is what we’re shooting for. I’m not sure why this would be a bad thing. Not sure why so many are afraid of admitting this, let alone shooting for it. If we are dead to sin, why would we want to live any longer in sin?

In one of the most neglected passages of the Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 7:1, we’re told

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Wonder why we don’t know that one so well?

If we sin we have an advocate with the Father. There is provision for messing up. This provision, however, is never given so people will chuck doing good and just keep sinning.

If you are a believer and are growing in your understanding that the God of the universe bore your sins in His body on the cross, your sinful desires will drain away.

Perfection is our aim. We’re to be like Christ, who was perfect. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God work together to bring us closer to this aim every day, until the glorious day we are made like Him when we see Him as He is.

I cannot wait. Why would I not want that new life earlier?

Anyone who thinks sin is OK because of the Gospel is not hearing the Gospel. Anyone who thinks aiming for perfection is wrong is not familiar with the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Justification makes you righteous, and righteous people do righteous things. That doesn’t mean every single thing we will ever do will be righteous. But it will grow and increase and will become habitual.

It just will. It’s the power of the Gospel. If that’s happening in you, then you are saved. If it’s not then you are not saved.

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