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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You Just Can't Keep on Sinning and Be a Believer

Ephesians 5:5-6 (ESV)
5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

It is easy for me to throw stones at those who have sins that I don't have. I can look down on them because their sins seem much more egregious to me than my own. The awareness I have of my own weakness can make me weaker still in minimizing those sins. I could say, "Don't worry. Your sins aren't that bad." Then, I would find myself as one who uses empty words to sooth those who are convicted of their sins. I would be guilty of their sins because I would participate with them in their sins by declaring those sins as insignificant.

Are any sins insignificant? Did Jesus die only for the greater sins? Are there some sins that we can do penance for and absolve with our own work? No. They are all sins which required the blood of Jesus for forgiveness. Not one ounce of His blood was earned by our commitment or work.

So, while I am certainly one who has received grace, believe in grace and want to give grace to others, I cannot make sin insignificant without grace. His grace should change us so that we our lives become compatible with a lifestyle pleasing to Him. We may still sin but we will not be characterized by such sin. We will not be able to live in that sin without conviction that it is wrong. We will not resist the Holy Spirit in confessing and, therefore, repenting of that sin. We will not be able to casually sin in such a way. We will seek the relief of our Savior's forgiveness or we do not know Him at all.

Why does Paul so clearly single out the sins mentioned above? I believe it is because they are so obvious. The person who is acting sexually immoral could not have "accidentally" been sexually immoral. We must be conscious of this action. Sexual immorality intimately invites sin to become a part of us. They unite us in the sin of another like no other sin. It makes us unfaithful to our spouses and to our God.

The same is true of covetousness. Paul likens it to idolatry because it is the worship of someone or something other than God. Nothing should be so abhorrent than to be unfaithful to God. The worship of anything other than Him is as unfaithful as adultery. It too unites us to an object or person outside of our commitment to Him.

We should not be able to sin without conviction in these things. The evidence of our salvation is that our lives are being changed into the likeness of His Son. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives prevents our continuation in such affairs. We are brought to conviction, confession and repentance or we do not have the Holy Spirit. If we do not have the Holy Spirit, we do not have Jesus either.

I have seen believers do things they know they shouldn't. I have seen them unite immorally. I have seen them live miserable lives until they, like the Prodigal Son, realized their misery and came home to the Father. I have seen people who once came to church live immoral lives without a thought of God ever again. They cannot come back to God because they never were His in the first place.

Recently, two people with whom I have had conversations ended relationships which were immoral. I never said a thing specifically to either of them about their lifestyle. I challenged them to try to walk close to God. The only way they could do so was to end these relationships. I suspect it was painful but I believe it was also glorious. I believe God met them as they came home and threw a party.


Craig Godfrey said...

There is a very fine line between slipping up occasionally in sin, and living in constant rebellion against God.

For me personally, there are 3 types of people:
He who is tempted and occasionally falls into sin -
He realises that he has grieved God, and immediately repents and asks forgiveness for his sin.

He who struggles with a habitual sin -
He has a habitual sin, possibly left-over from his old life. Like above he wishes to make amends, but also seeks pastoral counselling to help him change his lifestyle.

He who constantly sins and does not seek repentance -
This person sins constantly, has no remorse or shame for it, and will not repent from it.

The third example sounds much like the non-Christian. He cares not for his lifestyle because he answers to nobody.

Sadly, our churches are full of these people as well. They sin constantly, some cases in in secret, other times in full view of everyone – wearing it proudly like a war medal. Are they really saved or not? Answer – only God knows.
That is why I am a big proponent of gospel preaching in church. Never is there a safer place to shout aloud the wondrous merciful grace offered at the foot of the cross.
A person who constantly sits under this teaching will do one of 2 things:
Walk away from God (as in your earlier post “Some People Have to Leave the Church to Prove They Never Were of the Church”), or
Repent and fall at the saviour’s feet for mercy.


Anthony Chia said...

Eph 5 talked a lot about how we, as believers, are to live out our lives. It was being encapsulated by apostle Paul in the phrase, “Be imitator of God” (v1). When I was researching on sanctification, I found an article that caught my attention because it said that God’s nature and character are of two categories, communicable and incommunicable. Incommunicable would include His omnipresence and omniscience; nature or character that we do NOT share and could NOT emulate. But there are many other nature and character of God that we are to share in and emulate or take on, in our living; these included God’s kinda of love and the other 8 fruit of the Spirit.

A couple of important things to note here: 1. Eph 5 is talking to believers. 2. Prescription of how we, believers, are to live out our lives, is about Sanctification. 3. The prescriptions/commands are for us to know, to follow and obey, meaning there is a part for men to do. 4. Two sets of fruit are involved.

I will elaborate a little more on item 4: Two set of fruit are involved. One set, the fruit of the Spirit; that should be quite clear. The other is the fruit from good deeds/works. Is it there in Eph 5? Yes, this verse allured to it:

“Take no part in and have no fellowship with the FRUITLESS deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them.” Eph 5:11

Can’t I just concentrate on the 1st set, fruit of the Spirit, ignoring the fruit from good works/deeds? The answer is no. Because you and I cannot develop fully the fruit of the Spirit, devoid of works as led by the Spirit or in good works. God’s ways are that, the two run in parallel, and the good/blessing that comes out are two-folds, one, it blesses you, for it develops IN you, one or more of the fruit of the Spirit, and two, it, through the fruit of the works, bless others.

Coming to the text of the blog entry, Eph 5:5 is an example of what I called prohibitive prescription/commands in the sanctification process of God. One part of the blog entry discussion is why these 2 being specifically mentioned. Please note that it is NOT only these two, will give problem with inheriting the Kingdom of God; a whole list was given in Gal 5:19-21 Amplified Bible – “19 Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, 20 Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), 21 Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Yes, it could be they are obvious, your conscience would tell you, if you have NOT numbed it to conviction by the Holy Spirit. But I think depending on each’s degree of sanctification, and so, too, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, the list of Gal 5 may NOT even be a complete list. It could perhaps, be for the Ephesians, sexual immorality and covetousness ranked high as “national ills”, and the apostle Paul particularly mentioned them.

I know many people don’t want to discuss about these passages in the Bible. I won’t be surprised many will say, “Brother Anthony, you quote some more, we all will need to prepare to go to Hell!” Or another may say in his heart, “If I go to Hell, he is no better!” For one thing, I am just doing what Eph 3:12-14 said to do: “12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

Or would people rather have me do what God said we are NOT to do; be the “they” in this text, Romans 1:32: Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

If you want another list or what the “such things” in the above verse comprises, just go look up the preceding verses to Romans 1:32. I wonder if pastors and preachers who tell their congregation that ALL their FUTURE sins were already forgiven them at their born-again, and that when they sin (subsequently), they have NOT to confess to God and ask for forgiveness, but rather to just tell the Devil off, saying that they are righteous, regardless, can be considered as “approve of those who practice them”!

“Brother Anthony, God said there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, why you condemn!” Please I have no intention to condemn, for if I condemn, and I am condemned myself, for I am NOT perfect too (In any case, it is NOT for me to condemn). Rather, please, don’t misquote God. Romans 8:1 (KJV) - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, WHO WALK NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT. Some people misinformed by their overly grace teachers, said, “No, Brother, you misquote. The NIV and several other translations do NOT have the part of “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”” No, the NIV has it; it is in v4 – “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The “flesh” was footnoted in the NIV, and in my own words, it is referring to the agency of Satan, called Iniquity or Sin.

We don’t condemn, we merely point out what the Word prescribes. So, are we going to Hell or what?! My stance is this: I am NOT perfect. I do sin from time to time. I ask God for forgiveness regularly. I named the sins obvious to me. For the rest, especially the sin of omission (which is more difficult to know for sure), I just cover with a “catch all - all my sins”. I work at these things (overly grace preachers jumping already!). I know what I have come into, what I have committed to do, and I learn what the prescription is, and try my best to WORK WITH GOD to develop holiness; and so, I attempt to live righteous, live holy, and godly. I tell myself I have to be humble, agree with God, and be sincere about it, in my trying; also that to love God I have to try and I have to work on it, my holiness. Of course, I do fail, but I talk to God, and ask Him for forgiveness, and get up and I work on it again. Those who are in a profession, like medical profession, or legal or accounting, they understand they have to try their very best to adhere to the prescription and ethics of the profession. I am a professional, too (an accountant, by training), and we try our best NOT to violate. All the more when I come to my profession as a disciple of the Great Lord.

Hard, difficult? Which really worthwhile thing is NOT hard? Just because it is hard, we don’t do it? No. I take courage, that God is for me (us), NOT against me (us). Scripture said when we draw near to God, He draws near to us. Scripture said we do NOT have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Heb 4:15). Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb 4:16). Please, it is NOT 20 years ago you approached God’s throne of grace already, and everything was finished, no more need to approach God again and again. No, it is a walk with God, a sanctification journey. In a Chinese dialect, we say, “Hao hao chor, ching lang chor”, meaning “Do it properly, do your best”, and it is how I see it; the judgment bit, I leave it to God; if after that, I still perish, I perish.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions