03 April 2007

Question for discussion: Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, sooo....

by Dan Phillips

Let me say right up-front that this will be like no other post I've put up here at the fire-ring.

This post is, I admit up-front, about an issue that is a problem to me, and stumps me. I have "answers," if you know what I mean. I have thoughts. I have lots of bits and fragments. But I don't even come close to feeling as if I have The Answer, or even a very good answer. And what I do have is (to say the least) not very satisfactory to me.

So I'm really posing a question, not an answer. And then I'll open the discussion-thread to you, so you can all school me about it.

We have a lot awfully smart readers, for which I'm grateful. Many feel they are smarter than I, and a sizable subset of that number is correct. More than once, I've felt that the comment-thread on one of my posts presented some material better than the post itself. This certainly will be an example of that species. Of course, we have our share of chuckleheads, bozo's, trolls, snipers, and rabble; but they are outnumbered by some awfully bright and shining lights. So I offer this to you.

I really hope it engenders a lively and "real" discussion. I mean what I say: some really great brothers and sisters read this blog, and I want to hear your thoughts. My fear, however, is that many will just back away from it, and the post will be longer than the comment-thread.

THE PREMISE. Here is my Dan-plified Version of what the apostle John says in 1 John 3:8b—"for this purpose, to this end, was the Son of God made visible: that He might dismantle, undo, take down, destroy [ἵνα λύσῃ] the works of the Devil."

So here we have a declaration of the purpose of the Incarnation: to dismantle Satan's works. As I see the whole drama of redemption, this will eventually take in every sphere: the cosmic, the political, the social, the spiritual, the personal. Presently, at bare minimum, this includes the personal level. As each of the elect is converted, Christ sets about the dismantling of the works of the Devil. There are only two categories of men: those in whom Christ has begun this process, and those in whom He has not. Genuine Christians comprise the entire first set. The second set is made up of false professors, and everyone else.

As people who embrace the Biblical doctrine of God, we Calvinists (—with all due apologies to those who think they own the brand-name) believe that God succeeds in every endeavor to which He sets Himself. There is nothing that He purposes to do that He cannot do. No person's will or spirit is stronger than His. Since He can direct the thoughts and decisions of the most powerful (Proverbs 21:1; cf. Deuteronomy 2:30; Ezra 1:1; etc.), He can do so in every case without exception (Acts 16:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:5). No one can stay God's hand in what He sets out to accomplish (Daniel 4:35).

So we know what God's will is for every Christian, without exception. His will is to dismantle the works of the Devil in every believer's heart, mind, soul. And we know that He is absolutely able to do that. It is His will, and it is within His power.

THE QUESTION: so, why doesn't He seem to do so?

THE EXPANSION, AND THE TERMS: why are there so many genuine Christians who persist in the same patterns of sin, apparently without pangs of conscience, without struggle, without the movings of repentance, cheerfully and blithely and hard-heartedly?

As (I hope) you expect of me, I have chosen my wording carefully. Remember, this is my discussion, so I'm framing it. For the purposes of this discussion, I stipulate:
  • These are genuine Christians. So please don't hang your response on, "There's no one like this. Once they've been shown that their sin is sin, they have 37 days to admit to feeling guilty and starting to struggle with mortifying that sin. On the 38th day, if repentance has not begun, they're just not Christians. So there. Next question?"
  • We are talking about patterns of sin, not merely differences of opinion or unwise behaviors or gray areas.
  • They do not regard their sins as sins, in spite of having been shown from the Word, or otherwise knowing from the Word, that these are in fact sins. They've read the passages, they've heard sermons, they've been spoken to personally. Perhaps they winced at the time, but it passed. The Word has made no apparent impact in this area, though it (necessarily) has in other areas of their lives.
  • My using "apparent" twice is necessary, since no man knows another's heart (1 Corinthians 2:11). If you feel you must say, "We don't see it, but deep down inside, they're miserable and guilty and struggling with all their might," go ahead. Appeal to Psalm 32:3-4, if you must. But for the purposes of this discussion, please don't make your response depend on that answer.
  • I am uninterested in the responses of Arminians and gutless-gracers. Sorry, but might as well be up-front about it. So if your response is, "God can't violate their free will," give it on your blog. Not here. Every Christian is living proof that God can transform the most rebellious will. And again, just to be candid, I find the gutless-grace position embarrassing, and have no respect for it, at all, whatever. Talk about it on your blog if you like, and your readers will rejoice with you. Don't clog up this discussion. Respect the rule, or embrace summary deletion. Clear?
Let me return to just one of these, the "They ain't no such animal" response. I'm sure this will be the first thought for at least some of you. I won't bar you from the discussion, but please consider this first, seriously: are you really going to say that you have never known anyone whose Christian testimony is convincing to you, who has shown humbling and growth and repentance in many areas, but just has one or two large, gaping areas where this is this astonishing blindness and apparent lack of all spiritual sensation? In spite of exposure after exposure to the truth of Scripture? In spite of seeing from a dozen angles the folly and shame and ruin it leads to? Never?

Let me move the wall out a bit, and give a specific area, though it isn't primarily what I have in mind. Here at Pyro, we and our commenters often are very critical of Christian preaching and practice that we believe is seriously in error, and even sinful. With one voice, we all lament the state of the church today, and of evangelicals in particular.

But none of us suggests that, in every case, the people we criticize are all unsaved. I hope you don't believe they are. I for one certainly do not.

So, if you believe that at least some of these seeker-sensitive churches, these nuttily Charismatic churches, these Bible-lite churches, these Arminian churches, these man-centered churches, are led by people who are genuinely Christian, yet are genuinely displeasing to God (as we argue), then why does the Lord let that go on? Why does He not grant repentance to them (2 Timothy 2:25)? Surely He cares more about His church than we do.

It is in God's interests to undo the doctrinal, behavioral, attitudinal sins I have in mind. It would be to His glory. It would be for His people's good. It is within His power. It is in accord with His stated design.

So why doesn't He?

I'll thrill my Presbyterranean friends by citing the Westminster Confession, 5.5.
The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
And for my fellow baptists, here's the similar (yet slightly different) wording of the The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), article 5.5.
The most wise, righteous, and gracious God often leaves, for a time, His own children to various temptations, and to the corruptions of their own hearts, in order to chastise them for the sins which they have committed, or to show them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness still in their hearts, so that they may be humbled and aroused to a more close and constant dependence upon Himself for their support, and that they may be made more watchful against future occasions of sin. Other just and holy objectives are also served by such action by God.

Therefore whatever happens to any of His select is by His appointment, for His glory, and for their good.

Is that it, then? Does that explain everything — He's just leaving vast scores of Christians in their sins to chastise, humble and instruct them? If so, then (A) boy oh boy, there must be a whole lot of chastising, humbling and instructing going on!; and (B) why don't we actually see more chastised, humbled, and instructed saints? Instead we seem to see rutted, stubborn, impenitent, hardened, deluded, defecting saints.

Unless we're prepared to go the "us four, no more" route. Which I'm not.

One last twist: could you throw yourself in there? I could. The problem isn't really just Them, is it? Would that it were. Why does not my holiness grow and deepen more apace? Whatever "those people" pray, I know that I pray (and you pray) for growth in holiness. Why is it so slow? Why are sins so stubborn, and graces so seemingly ephemeral? Sins die so hard, graces grow so agonizingly slowly.

This dilemma has been sensed by Christians all through our history. It has been the genesis of much false teaching: deeper life teaching, gutless-grace teaching, "second grace" teaching, and on and on.

What's our better answer? Or do I really have the answer, and I just don't like it?

Okay. There's the assignment, all you Bible brainiacs. Got my notepad ready. All ears.

Easy stuff, right?


Dan Phillips's signature


FX Turk said...



Andrew Lindsey said...

I'm not able to give any answer other than the confessions you cited.

Actually, the first thing I can think of is additional information to highlight the problem.
I agree that many reading this post, despite your warnings, will tend to have the "They ain't no such animal" response.

But I would remind readers (and this is something I have been thinking of lately) that all theological errors are sin. So while this post seems to be primarily concerned with obvious sins of selfishness (I get the feeling Dan is referring to pride, anger, lust, worldliness, etc.) it is also applicable in matters of doctrine as well. IOW, how is it that God allows theological traditions against his Word to persist in the lives of his children? For example, in the baptism debate between MacArthur and Sproul both disputants freely admitted that their positions on the issue were contrary and that at least one must be in violation of Scripture, thus requiring repentance. Yet from the end of the debate to this day neither has changed his position. The same could be said about issues such as the sign gifts controversy (either the cessationists are quenching the Spirit or the continuationists are dishonoring the Spirit and the Word) or even eschatological controversies.

So unless readers of this post desire to split up the Together for the Gospel conference, choosing one of the seven preachers as the true Christian and damning all the others (or else condemning the whole conference, which I think would disqualify you from commenting here), then the issue Dan raises is one that we all must admit we need to deal with.

David A. Carlson said...

Is there some reason to doubt that the principle in 2 Peter 3:8 does not apply here - that God's will accomplish his will, but in his time, not in the time we think it should be accomplished?

Just a thought

DJP said...

Frank: coward

AJ: not really limiting. ALL the works of the Devil.

David: that may be the whole answer. God sees the whole picture in one glance, and in the whole picture, the words of the Devil are all dismantled. Our tiny fragment of the picture is the not-yet part.

That I don't love it doesn't mean it's wrong; if it's right, it means I'm wrong.

Dawg said...

Can we ‘let’ sin reign in our bodies? Where sin once abounded and now grace abounds, is it possible, once we have been born again, to permit sin to continue to control us?

This Scripture comes to mind…….

Romans 5:20-6:14

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

I’m not a scholar in Greek so I don’t know if the word ‘let’ in verse 12 is something Paul was inferring that we have control over after we have been born again. Paul tells us to present (choice?) our members as instruments of righteousness to God and not unrighteousness instruments to sin. It would seem the more we present our members as unrighteousness, the longer it’s going to take us to grow in holiness, if we ever do.

And if we continue to do so (present our members to unrighteousness) John 15:1-6 comes to mind….

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;[a] and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

The opposite is true if we abide though…..John 15:7-8….

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[b] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Thus the redeemed grows quickly in holiness and is not in danger of being cut down.

I don’t know if I’m on the right track with your thoughts or not.

FX Turk said...

I'll thank you not to point at my yella belly ...

Unknown said...


Few thoughts:

1. Paul (apostle, saint-extraordinaire) called himself the chief of sinners. Perhaps growing in holiness and destroying the devil's work IS the act of seeing one's self as filthy, rather than fixing the majority of the filth. If it means nearing perfection, I think that narrows the God-man gap significantly.

2. Remaining sin highlights the promised REST of believers. It makes heaven heavenly.

These may not apply, so be gentle.


donsands said...

I love the Scripture where the Lord says He saw Satan fall like lightning.

That was the begining of the crushing of His head. The Cross and the Empty Tomb would be the final blow.

Why does God allow Satan to still hinder and tempt us? And why do we give in?

It's just the way it is.

Sin loves to grip us by the throat. Our flesh will always be a hassle to us, though we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.

Even the Apostle Paul said he hated what he did, and he didn't do what he wanted to do.

But thank the Lord for this hassle, and praise Him for the Cross, where all our sins have been forgiven.

This is a fine challenge. Look forward to hearing some good thoughts.

Savage Baptist said...

Some things are just harder to deal with than others, some are less obvious.

I struggled with one particular sin for some little time before I finally realized that I needed help; now, I e-mail someone every morning to let them know that I haven't had a relapse in the last 24 hours. Sounds stupid, I know, but it makes all the difference. It doesn't even bother me mentally much anymore.

That one was obvious, it was just hard to deal with. Other things--like ingrained character traits--are just plain hard for an individual to see, even if the "mirror" is of the finest quality. It took a long time before I came to realize that I was really lazy, for example. After all, I went to work every day and did a good job, didn't I? But in the meantime, too many other things were deteriorating that shouldn't have been. I just couldn't see the problem for the longest time; my good job performance obscured my vision.

Carla Rolfe said...

"Is there some reason to doubt that the principle in 2 Peter 3:8 does not apply here - that God's will accomplish his will, but in his time, not in the time we think it should be accomplished? Just a thought"

My answer exactly. To me, this one is simple. I think sometimes we might overcomplicate the obvious with expectations that we shouldn't have to begin with.

Just an extra thought.

Turretinfan said...

Dear Dan,

The first thing to do is to identify what is meant by "the works of the devil."

In view of the first half of the verse, "He that commits sin is of the devil, for the devil sins from the beginning," it should be clear that "the works of the devil" are sins. See also John 8:43-45.

Having identified that the object of destruction is sin, let us then examine what it means to "destroy" (luse) sin.

In the context, the contrast is between those who commit sin and those who do not. To "destroy" then, in context, means to move from the state of committing sin to the state of not committing sin.

A further contextual clue is the parallel between this verse and verse 5. There, Christ was manifested (ephanerothe) to "take away" sin.

I think, brother Dan, that you have fully agreed with this view.

Nevertheless, you ask why this does not appear to be the case for many Christians?

First, the perfect (complete) fulfillment of this promise is still to come in heaven. It is in heaven that we will be glorified. That's the end of the golden chain of salvation.

Second, brother Dan, I don't mean this harshly, but you're being negative and cynical. Yes, there are Christians who have difficulty with certain sins, but can you honestly say there is no difference between them now and they way they were before God regenerated them?

Some experience a greater measure of God's sanctifying grace than others. God is a just judge, but we Calvinists recognize that God is not a grace Communist, dealing the same precise amount (or same precise effective amount) to all.

The warnings of Hebrews, and James, and I John about folks living in sin are there to warn people against false security.

Anyone living in unrepentant sin should repent! There is no doubt about that.

Nevertheless, God chooses to show longsuffering towards His servants (both those who are greatly sanctified, and those who receive less grace).

Some will be saved according to the pattern of Ezekiel 16.

Nevertheless, in the end, they - with us - will be glorified.

I don't know if that answers your question or not.

Have I missed what you have been asking, brother Dan?


Tom said...

My .02

Yes, I also would run first to 2 Peter 3:8.

My other thought would be that perhaps that particular area of one's (inner/soulish) life is just not able to be fixed/healed/corrected (insert your own verb of choice) in this life. As in: God does not regrow limbs that have been cut off or malformed at birth or physically change hermaphrodites or cure cerebral palsy etc., etc. upon regeneration, justification, and sanctification. Those thus afflicted must finish their days on earth dealing with the limitations which their fallen corrupted bodies are locked in. They grown waiting for their full redemption in His presence (by death or translation at the end of this age).

Then of course the question is what is the Body's (of Christ) responsibility to those so afflicted? How do we bear one another's burdens? How do we deal with discipline? Does this anology even hold in any way? I don't know - but those are my thoughts at this point.

DAD (aka Tom)

Connie said...

Maybe this will add to the discussion, I happened to read it on another blog (The Purple Cellar) this a.m. after I'd read your post.

"Why We Get Stuck in Sin" (taken from Ian Duguid's commentary on Numbers)

"Why is it that we give in to sin and disobedience so often, even though we know what are doing is wrong? . . . The underlying dynamic that drives our sin is unbelief. . . . We have false beliefs about God that we persist in doggedly in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary. Until these deep-rooted core beliefs are challenged, little real change is possible in our lives. This is why even when we recognize that our sinful patterns lead to painful consequences, we often find that we cannot change them.

Unbelief is the opposite of faith not in being the absence of faith, but in being faith in the opposite set of propositions about God. Unbelief is the firm faith that, for all practical purposes, God does not exist, God does not care, God is not involved actively in my life. [This] drives our own patterns of sin. . . . The motivating power of all sin lies in failing to believe God's good purpose for us, which is for us to glorify him and enjoy him forever. Temptation always offers us something: Satan never goes fishing with a bare hook. . . . Yet whatever temptation offers us, it cannot offer us the opportunity to glorify or to enjoy God. Whatever we are pursuing when we sin, it is always something less than God's good purpose for us. It is a functional idolatry of something other than the Lord. In practice, we are believing that something else is better than experiencing joyous fellowship with him forever.

Something else has become our chief purpose in life, the desire that is driving us. Perhaps it is comfort or pleasure or pleasing people or succeeding in our career or having the perfect home. Idols come in all shapes and sizes, but until we . . .reorient our thinking at the most basic level, sin will always seem more attractive to us than righteousness as a means to satisfy our idolatry. As long as something other than fellowship with God is our chief purpose in life, we will easily be seduced away from obedience."

Glenn said...

Having no original thoughts myself, I'll just quote someone else: (Charles Hodge)

What Romans vii. 7-25 teaches.

Assuming, then, that we have in this chapter an account of the experience of a true and even of an advanced Christian, we learn that in every Christian there is a mixture of good and evil; that the original corruption of nature is not entirely removed by regeneration; that although the believer is made a new creature, 224is translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, he is but partially sanctified; that his selfishness pride, discontent, worldliness, still cleave to, and torment him, that they effectually prevent his “doing what he would,” they prevent his living without sin, they prevent his intercourse with God being as intimate and uninterrupted as he could and does desire. He finds not only that he is often, even daily, overcome so as to sin in thought, word, and deed, but also that his faith, love, zeal, and devotion are never such as to satisfy his own conscience; much less can they satisfy God. He therefore is daily called upon to confess, repent, and pray for forgiveness. The Apostle designates these conflicting principles which he found within himself, the one, indwelling sin; “sin that dwelleth in me;” or the “law in my members;” “the law of sin;” the other, “the mind,” “the law of my mind,” “the inward man.” His internal self, the Ego, was sometimes controlled by the one, and sometimes by the other.

We learn, further, that the control of the evil principle is resisted, that subjection to it is regarded as a hateful bondage, that the good principle is in the main victorious, and that through Christ it will ultimately be completely triumphant. Sanctification therefore, according to this representation, consists in the gradual triumph of the new nature implanted in regeneration over the evil that still remains after the heart is renewed. In other words, as elsewhere expressed, it is a dying unto sin and living unto righteousness. (1 Pet. ii. 24.)


Sanctification is declared to be a work of God’s free grace. Two things are included in this. First, that the power or influence by which it is carried on is supernatural. Secondly, that granting this influence to any sinner, to one sinner rather than another, and to one more than to another, is a matter of favour. No one has personally, or in himself, on the ground of anything he has done, the right to claim this divine influence as a just recompense, or as a matter of justice

John H said...

Dan: your query almost answers itself:

There are only two categories of men: those in whom Christ has begun this process, and those in whom He has not.

Error will finally cease to exist in our lives and in the life of the church at the same time all other sin ceases to exist in our lives and in the life of the church: at the resurrection from the dead.

The problem you describe would only raise a theological question if we had been given to understand by Scripture that a full victory over besetting sins and errors can be expected in this life. However, the Bible is pretty clear that we remain sinners until we die (or the Lord returns). So it's not surprising that the lives of Christians end up looking pretty much like we're led to expect they'll look.

To throw another confessional statement into the mix, here's Luther in his Small Catechism:

[Baptism] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Or as Luther put it elsewhere: "the old Adam swims well". He keeps swimming to the end, when finally he is drowned and the work begun in us is brought to completion.

Mike J said...

This isn't too in-depth... just a few quick thoughts.

Hebrews 5
11About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Dan: I agree with you that this situation is real. I've been there too. The author of Hebrews suggests that to discern right from wrong requires "constant practice."

I mean, new Christians don't know right from wrong. We gradually come to realize where we are wrong over years and years. This verse struck me as most telling:

Hebrews 6
1Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And this we will do if God permits.

I think the apostles encountered the same situation even in their time. None of us are exempt from this. God must permit us to grow. He gives us each a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3) - some more, some less.

I think it is a reminder to be patient with others (and ourselves) and to "patiently endure evil." God must grant us repentance, and if He so withholds that gift for a time from even believers, that is His prerogative.

It certainly is humbling.

Also, look at the question from the angle of church structure: God has given teachers (Eph. 4) to help the church mature. A teacher would be most redundant if every believer instantaneously were aware of all their sin and convicted of it. The duties of a teacher in Scripture would also be unnecessary (hold fast to the trustworthy word as taught... rebuke those who contradict it).

Why does God do this?

I suspect it has something to do with this:

Ezek 36:
31Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.

Our sin fulfills the Scriptures. When we are finally glorified (as mentioned previously) I think this will be completely fulfilled - and gradually throughout our lives - we will THEN loathe ourselves ?perfectly?.

God saves. Not our knowledge of every individual sin in our lives simultaneously at conversion and the ability to understand and discern every right and wrong for the rest of our life. We can take comfort, as those who know God is sovereign over all, that He is willing, able, and most certainly going to completely destroy the works of the devil.

1 Thess. 5
23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Just not all at once :-)

(that being said, teachers who reject clear Biblical principles give evidence that perhaps they should not be teachers...) - after all, it is our teachers (and their teachers) who are to help us identify these areas in our lives!

Andrew Lindsey said...

re: Turretinfan's "God is not a grace Communist"

Good phrase!

DJP said...

I appreciate everyone who is taking the question seriously. Thanks for your very thoughtful responses. I'll try to interact more later, when I can. Thanks!

Kay said...

Well, my first thought was that the many times I have been this person is down to laziness. Battling sin isn't a passive thing, and sometimes, I admit shamefully, I can't be bothered.

But then Connie's quote about unbelief pushes that back a bit further, to the basis of the laziness.

Because we walk by faith and not by sight, it's not always 100% obvious to us which way we should go, and even when it is, there's a whole lot of world in our lives that distracts.

So, essentially, when I'm quite comfy with my sin, thankyou-very-much, it's because I don't have that vision of the Lord's holiness before my eyes like a searing fire motivating my conscious mind out of the apathy.
Which is entirely my fault.

*Why does the new blogger force me to type the stupid word verification thing in twice???*

James Scott Bell said...

Dan, I'd love to respond but can't according to the "rules." Oh well. Usually I love your stuff...I'll read on with an open mind.

Connie said...

"...when I'm comfy with my sin, thank you-very-much..." Ouch! And amen!

It IS laziness on my part, and might I add, FEAR. Fear that if I ask God to stir me out of my complacency it might be uncomfortable, humbling, embarrassing, or maybe even HURT.

So my sin is compounded by my sin! "Oh wretched man that I am".

Sorry, no answers or insights in this comment--just a Saint feeling the intense sting of God's Truth delivered through His People.

Mike J said...

*Why does the new blogger force me to type the stupid word verification thing in twice???*

It 'times out' while you are typing: It is for security reasons (in case some nerd writes a program that will actually be able to read the 'captcha' in less than a minute...)


Anonymous said...

When I am confronted for staying stuck in sin, or when I confront others, friends/family often ask "What lie are you believing that is contrary to Scripture?" I think one of the underlying issues is that people in willfull sin are buying into a lie and therefore are blinded by the lie itself. Thanks for writing about it, Dan, its definitly an issue.

Mike J said...

Janelle: Indeed... We seem to be inclined to commit the sin of self-deception which prevents us from (naturally) being convicted of other sins, including that self-deception... hence our lack of conscience (as par Dan's parameters for this scenario).

Mike Bonebright said...

A while back I was struck by one man's answer to this question.

When discussing the concept of perfect victory over sin, of "an utter killing and destruction of it," John Owen says:

"This we would have; but God sees it best for us that we should be complete in nothing in ourselves, that in all things we must be "complete in Christ;" which is best for us, Col. ii. 10."

Danny Bryant said...

I am probably in the chucklehead group, but I will take a shot.

One of the things I am reminded of so often in my walk is how we are called to do the impossible with full confidence that there is a day coming where all will be right. We are called to strive for perfection knowing it won't happen until we see Jesus. We are called to fight poverty, hunger, and injustice knowing we will always have the poor, hungry, and oppressed with us. All of our efforts point to the coming kingdom.

Our efforts are so futile without the eyes of faith. I teach elementary bible. There are days I feel like what I am doing makes such a little difference, but I am reminded of the power of a seed. Jesus said unless a seed goes into the ground and dies it cannot produce life. As Christians we are called to little seed deaths every day. Parents don't tell their kids not to play with seeds because of their power, but the truth is seeds have much more power than fire or force. The power just takes longer to manifest itself. That is the kingdom.

Our growth is slow and painful and seemingly futile, but there is a day coming where all will be right.

C. M. White said...

Hey, folks. I'm the person this post is about (though Dan didn't know it when he posted it). I've had a certain, specific, recursive sin in my life for several months. I liked that Dan pointed out (very subtly) that it isn't a struggle. I have friends who say they're "struggling" with sins when they're really just doing them and wishing they could struggle with them.
I've been told I'm not a Christian by a couple of people, while others have told me, "It's normal; you'll probably have that sin your whole life, so just live with it."
Having read all the comments thus far, none really hit the spot for me except to realize that Paul was the chief among sinners. That's extremely comforting to me, because I know that I'm not the only one who views myself that way.
While that's important to keep in view, I still have the issue that I feel completely unable to struggle (or, as my youth pastor says, "grapple") with this sin. Temptation comes, and I just sin. I don't have any resistance at all, though I feel terrible about it later. Like Dan said, the remorse wears off and the sin comes back.
So there, this isn't about an abstract theological position anymore...anybody care to help me figure this out?

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

Two (or more) thoughts:

1. The confessions you cited seem to have it correct when they talk about people being in sin "for a season", or "for a time". That description doesn't jive with your description of those who are in ongoing, constant, unrepentant sin.

2. This question from you contains some things that don't seem to fit together. You asked, "why are there so many genuine Christians who persist in the same patterns of sin, apparently without pangs of conscience, without struggle, without the movings of repentance, cheerfully and blithely and hard-heartedly?

Is it possible to have a GENUINE Christian who continues on through life with the same patterns of sin, with no pangs of conscience, no movings of repentance, and who do it hard-heartedly, etc?

I don't know for sure, but it sure doesn't seem to line up with how Scripture (and the confessions cited) describe the true Christian who is in sin.

I also think we are talking about two totally different things when we look at someone in blatant unrepentant sin and when we look at something like the credo and paedo sides of the baptism issue.

One issue is dealing with those who are seeking to glorify God and are arriving at different conclusions...the other issue concerns those who are seeking to glorify and satisfy themselves.

Great thought-povoking post!

FX Turk said...



... and I thought you were a nice girl ...

northWord said...

Excellent, thought provoking post.

my .01 cent:
"...But I don't even come close to feeling as if I have The Answer...
Could the word "feeling" be part of the problem? I sometimes wonder if we are too often trying to be feelin-it when we just need to be faithin-it and move on, get out of whatever rut that might stop us from moving on so we can be continuing to grow in the knowledge and grace of...
When I read: 1 John 3:8 - He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
- I think of the original sin of Adam and how it seperated/s us from God, and so hense - "the Son of God was manifested" so that the works of the devil might be destroyed. I think that covers every work the devil dishes out. (including the ones you're concerned with)
"Why is it so slow? Why are sins so stubborn, and graces so seemingly ephemeral? Sins die so hard, graces grow so agonizingly slowly."
No kidding.......and it is frustrating.
2Cr 4:18
"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
"who are genuinely Christian, yet are genuinely displeasing to God (as we argue), then why does the Lord let that go on?"
We just gotta keep walking this road to holiness in the flesh, which means we're always going to make mistakes until Jesus is revealed to us again.
"why are there so many genuine Christians who persist in the same patterns of sin, apparently without pangs of conscience, without struggle, without the movings of repentance, cheerfully and blithely and hard-heartedly?"
(define "genuine") - I think the words "false convert" fits somewhere in there. (ducks and runs)
mannn blogger is being a bear today!
-I'm not anon as it keeps telling me, and how many times do I need to "verify".
oye. forgive me as I havn't been able to read the last few comments bfore posting this, I have my 5 yr old nephew here today, and spongbob is over.

FX Turk said...

In an attempt to scub some of the yellow off my belly, my only insight here is that there's a fine line between perfectionism and the sanctification of the believer.

David Sheldon said...

Well – it seems to me that we need to keep the Apostle John’s “categories” of thought intact. By that I mean – he focuses on a category and then speaks of it in black/white terms. He can say something in one category of thought as if it were black/white – then say the exact opposite thing in a different category of thought. Example – I John 3:6 “no one who abides in Him sins…” versus I John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves….”
So which is it? Both! “Probably” (truly!) because he has switched categories. If we get the categories confused – we confuse ourselves and the text. (We have to do this because he loves black/white speech no matter what the category!)
So what is the “category” of thought in this context? Well – in I John 1 it is our fellowship with Him and the reality that it won’t be perfect during this life because the remnants of our sin nature still remain with us. In I John 3 the “seed” is perfect – therefore, if we could only concentrate perfectly on this perfect “seed” that abides in us – we would not HAVE TO sin. But of course, we don’t perfectly do that – but on the other hand – that “seeds” presence makes Himself known in our practices! We also know from the Apostle Paul that because of our being united to Christ – we are NOT UNDER OBLIGATION to the flesh – Romans 8:12 So when we are tempted to sin by the world, flesh, devil - we know that we CAN but we don't HAVE TO! So resist the devil to sin not by arguing with him that you don't want to - but resist him reminding yourself that you don't have to. HE is unto us Sanctification. If I still think I am my own sanctification - I have problems. And it is the Spirit who makes known in us through the Word what Christ has accomplished for us.
The other thought I would like to bring into the mix for all of you Greek scholars out there is this – does the role of the subjunctive mood play any part in this text? Because “destroy” is not in the indicative but in the subjunctive.
David Sheldon

MTR said...

Let me get the premise straight: Are you suggesting that there are Christians who do not sin?

Unknown said...

"His will is to dismantle the works of the Devil in every believer's heart, mind, soul. And we know that He is absolutely able to do that. It is His will, and it is within His power.

"THE QUESTION: so, why doesn't He seem to do so?"

Do you mean, "Why doesn't He do it Right Now?"

Why did God permit Job's calamities?

We live in a supernatural universe, and there's a war on. God has called us to but one battle in that war, and our individual appropriation, by faith, of the sanctification He provides in grace is a measure of success in that engagement.

Although we can't fully understand our part, we, like Paul and the apostles, "have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men"; we're left "in but not of" the world for the same reason we're justified and will be glorified with Christ: to glorify God through our sanctification.

Would you buy, "Ours is not to reason why"?

angeleyes said...

runninbill wrote:
"misguded doctrine of perfectionism". Question: What is perfectionism? And is the following hyperbole?
1Jn 3:5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
1Jn 3:6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
1Jn 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
1Jn 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
1Jn 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

The normative Christian life is 99 percent perfection. Gill makes the right connection between 2 Cor 12:7 and Jdg 3:2.

Jesse P. said...

Check out John Newton on the 'Advantages from Remaining Sin' http://www.gospelweb.net/JohnNewton/advantagesfromremainingsin.htm

I would only add one thing: If we were all sanctified immediately, evangelism may be affected.

I'm not saying that sin 'helps' evangelism as an excuse for sinning...but if we were all instantly translated into some special class of sanctified humanity, it would be hard to reach those not in our class.

There's something about being similar enough to those we are reaching so that our testimony is compelling, and so that people see, "Here's a guy just like me, struggles with the same things I do, and yet he's making progress."

Jesse P. said...

Sorry, the Newton address above was too long, it should end:

advantages from remaining sin.htm, all one word, no spaces...

Glenn said...

"The normative Christian life is 99 percent perfection. Gill makes the right connection between 2 Cor 12:7 and Jdg 3:2."

Do you really believe this? 99% perfection?

Wow. Then I am in big trouble because the older I get the more I realize how sinful I am.

angeleyes said...

Glenn wrote: /.

Maybe we can examine the process:
Jas 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Jas 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

angeleyes said...

Ah! But Rom 7 is also:
Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Turretinfan said...

To Caleb:
- Brother, resist the temptation with all your might! (Hebrews 12:4)
It's God's command that we fight temptation to sin with all our might.

- Brother, that won't be enough, so pray to God! (James 4:6)
Lean on God's strength, don't assume your own is enough.

- Brother, avail yourself of the means of grace, including your elders! (1 Peter 5:5)
Don't assume that God will aid you in a way that circumvents the ordinary way. Their admonition and nurture is important. They don't dole out grace with a ladle, but God has appointed them to serve your spiritual needs.

- When you sin, repent, brother! (Matthew 9:13)
It's part of our calling as Christians to repent of our sins. That goes for those of us who have more-frequently recurring sins, as well as those of us who have less-frequently recurring sins.

Don't be comfortable in the sin, whatever it is, but remember that you are justified by faith in Christ.

Remember the mercy of God and praise Him for it, Brother.

It is good to praise God, for His mercies endure forever!


Cindy said...

It's rather very simple..........we relate to Paul in Romans 7.

angeleyes said...

cindy wrote:
It's rather very simple..........we relate to Paul in Romans 7.

Amen! Yes it IS rather simple... we just have to work through the steps. In fact making it complicated unneccessarily takes us down rabbit trails. For example, using textual criticism lands us in the "historic present" soup. I think we can help each other out without going that route. But its Thursday morn here, so I bid you adieu, till next time.

donsands said...

"there's a fine line between perfectionism and the sanctification of the believer."

Amen. A spiritual balance beam we need to walk.

Wasn't there a great hymn writer and a friend of Edwards, who dealt with deep depression, and in the end committed suicide?
I'm thinking William Cowper.

He certainly struggled, and couldn't have had a finer Christain freind, and yet God allows him to kill himself.

Catez said...

Dan my thoughts when I read your post were:
1. Who can argue against His will? Not that He wills our sin - but His will can be to forbear.
2. Who can know His purpose in forbearing? We don't see the outcome, although we may try to predict it. We can warn of the expected outcome of a behaviour pattern, but we don't know if or when a person will repent, or how the circumstances will work together for good to those who love and please Him (a very rough paraphrase here).
3. Do we not all have blindspots? I know mine get revealed over time - looking back I see the graciousness of God. And I wonder sometimes what I will look back on from this present time - what things He will make apparent to me. The potter is fashioning the clay.
4. It is an error to mistake the forbearance of God with the approval of God. i.e. Just because God does not hit me with a big stick about that thing on my conscience doesnt mean he likes it or condones it.

Those were some thoughts off the cuff as I read - not sure if they are the sort of thing you were looking for.

Catez said...

I should have added, that it is an error to mistake the forbearance of God with the approval of God - and that can also apply to those things a person is not aware of. My own consciousness of my sin has changed as my sanctification has. But I think your post was about conscious sin - or at least a cognitive awareness of it but not necessarily a spiritual realisation.

If that makes sense.

Tom said...

Sin Boldly. Trust Christ more boldly still.

-Martin Luther

Morris Brooks said...

This is one of those times where we observe something that God does not explicitly tell us the why. However, He has given us some clues. Galatians 5:16-17. The verbs in vs 17 are in the present tense so we know there will always be this battle between our flesh and our spirit just as in Romans 7. Verse 16 tells us though that if we walk by the Spirit we will not carry out the desires of the flesh. So the first part of the answer is that we don't always walk by the spirit.

Next look at James 1:21. It says here that we have wickedness remaining, which we know from Romans 7 and Galatians 5 that it is still in our flesh. Why then did not God completely sanctify our flesh at salvation? God's dealing with Israel might give us a clue. Look at Judges 2:20-3:4. God left enemies in the land to test the faith and therefore the obdience of Israel. He has left enemies in our land/flesh as well, to test the quality and genuineness of our faith, therefore our obedience, therefore our love for Him. It is constantly being put to the test and serves as a barometer of where we are and are not in our faith, and how much more we love Him than ourselves. As Paul states in Philippians--Not that I have already obtained it or already become perfect, but I press on...Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on. This is the boat, this boat of an unglorified body that sin resides in, that we are all in. We are to watch and pray that we would not enter into temptation because our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak, and I dare say that our love for Him is as well.

mem said...

Dan, there's been some Scripture tossed in, and I'd echo some sentiments that it's germane here.

I'd add that I think at least part of the reason God doesn't pop us perfect out of the womb is so that we understand him a bit better.

Perhaps I'm at a sensitive time—life is full of lemonade lately—but it's only recently I began to appreciate that because Christ was separated from God by my sin, he is with me at the same moment I am separated from God by my sin.

While the experience has been painful, it has brought into sharper relief the person and work of Christ, and indeed of grace.

It's always a shock to find out you actually need grace.

At least in my case, I think the Lord used my time in sin to show me a bit more of himself. Would that I wandered less to learn, though.

Sandra T said...

I have grappled with this thought also. Hebrews 12:1 says..."Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".
This verse doesn't say that we'll start the race and suddenly wham, we're at the end finished. It says "run with endurance". My thoughts on this is that as we build strength through the actual running of the "race", we are more able to "lay aside the weight of sin". Jumping to 2 Peter 1: 5-11..."But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love...for he who lacks these things is short-sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Thefore brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure".
TRUE christians need to be looking at ourselves under microscopes EVERY day,running the race EVERY day. This is hard, especially when we are confronted by the filthy sin inside all of us. But the word says we need to be DILIGENT in exposing our sins - because we are adding virtue to our faith, then knowledge/self control/perseverance etc.
As to why we continue our patterns of sin - maybe we are taking a "pit stop" in the running of our race? Maybe we have stopped to "smell the roses along the way"? Whatever the reason, we need to pick up the pace, and resume throwing off the "weight of sin" that slows us and drags us down. For 2 Peter 1:11 says it all..."For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ".

Anonymous said...

I know this is quite shameful, but I honestly think you will enjoy this...


It's a web search dedicated to searching a number of Reformed/Puritan websites.

Sorry for spamming you.

Anonymous said...

Just noticed rule 3, sorry about that. Please feel free to delete my comment.


Coram Deo said...

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

'nuff said.

Unknown said...

Let me throw in another thought about the struggle with sin in the believer. We all bring in baggage - consequences of our past sin - that makes things difficult. I think some of that baggage is habit forming, memories, weak conscience, and general weaknesses. Some Christians need to be the "weak" of Romans 14-15 because of their past habits. David said his "sin is ever before" him. So diligence and seriousness is what is required. I like what MacArthur said in a sermon on 2 Cor. 12:7-10; something like...God chooses not to take away the devil or the thorns but to increase the grace to overcome.

Pastor St. John said...

Simple answer from a simple mind: God is not in our age doing miracles. He did in ages gone by. He CAN if He pleases. He WILL in days to come. But right now He is only working providentially, except in the case of actual conversion, which must be miraculous.

Chris Hamer-Hodges said...

A wise man once said...

You won't find one syllable such as "Holy Spirit, hold off from fleshly lusts for this passive little sock-puppet," or "Jesus, love God with all of each believer's heart, soul, mind and strength instead of him." God addresses us. He gives what He commands, and then commands what He will—but He does command. And He commands us.

The sovereignty of God does not take away man's responsibility. And because he sovereignly engages with us in order to achieve his will... it is often a slow process!

You are right to identify that the lines between good and evil is not always something exterior, as we often like to think, but it lies within the heart of each one of us.

So, as has been pointed out, God's "slowness" is also his forbearance.
(Matthew 13:24-30)qa

lawrence said...

"God is not in our age doing miracles."

Interesting thing to say, when there is evidence of the miraculous power of God in many parts of the world all the time. Perhaps "God is not in most parts of America doing Biblical miracles (raising the dead, splitting the Atlantic, making a big fish consume Benny Hinn etc.)

DJP said...

Chris HH — did you just... quote me... with approval? And post on a thread that's not about Da Gifts?

I may have to reconsider this whole age-of-miracles thingie.


angeleyes said...

James 1:14, 15.

This tells us that sin isn't something that just happens: there's a progression. (Gen 4:7, Eph 4:27). Think about it. Our sins are planned: men take cabs, wear hooded jackets, use "shades". Women "share" prayer items, manoevre and manipulate "incidents"...

Rom 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Here's where we need an analogy:

Think of yourself as an aircraft. Before you were saved, you belonged to AdamAir. After you were saved, you became a part of ChristAir. But your craft is on "wet lease"! The pilot (sin nature) belongs to AdamAir (the old man). Your new nature (spirit) is a rookie: he sits beside Captain Sin Nature.

The Cap'n is used to the old ways: look after number one, maximum gains for minimum effort, don't rock the boat. And above all, avoid danger: divert to the nearest strip at the first sign of storm clouds. Also minimum maintenance on the airframe and plant, and so what if the NOX soup stresses the old girl: we need a bit of excitement right?

But the craft has had a refit, new bracing, new plant, better servo (Acts 2): the New Nature has also brought on board a full bag of tricks: (Eph 6:11).

So when the storm clouds brew up, when the Cap'n is dithering over course of action, Mr. Christian flicks on the Autopilot and heads straight for the stormfront: he's got Purpose.

I'm glad the general air on this thread is optimistic:
Num 13:30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, "Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it."

rather than:
Num 13:33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them."

The giants are real, but God is real too!

angeleyes said...

I'm headed for a Bible study now, (I draw and paint my study material!), but I'd like to leave you with one thought:

Old Man= The World

New Man= The Church

There are several good articles on the Net with good explanations about this without going into the grammatico-historical, so give me a shout if you want the links

Bruce said...

Three reflections. One: this very quandry is what makes the doctrine of purgatory seem plausible. It's one way out, as long as you don't reintroduce the problems with purgatory in general.

Two: Jesus did say that the weeds--that which causes men to sin--*would* grow up until his return at which point he would send the angels out to gather up those things (which cause men to sin), at which point the saints would shine like the sun.

Three: You underestimate how radical the victory over sin is, in practice, among believers. Believers generally have great, great holiness--not compared to the kingdom to come, but compared to the darkness in which we universally did/would have been living in.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Way over two cents' worth:

I think the gist of Dan's actual question was: why are some Christians comfortable in their sins (in some particular area)? And why doesn't God do something about it?

Many respondents seem to be answering a slightly different question: why do Christians continue to sin, and how do we stop?

In regard to the actual question, two thoughts arise. One: James identifies the source of such conflicts as our inward lusts. Personal lusts are always traceable to idolatry of some sort - something that I consider more valuable than God, or more important than what I know is His will. Martin Luther called us "idolfabrik" - idol factories, and our conversion does not necessarily stop that process in its tracks. Without thinking, we can become like the Jews in the Old Testament, worshipping God but also visiting the idols' high places.

For Christians in our age, our idols are not wood and metal, but ideas and desires that we find congenial or desirable. We make room for those idols in our heads or homes or lives - and place that shrine off-limits to God. At some level we know it's sin, but at another level we also want it (Romans 7 comes to mind here).

I am convinced that many (or most) Christians in this culture have some "quirk" that they pass over (whether it's liking violent movies, or watching Benny Hill reruns [Hill, not Hinn - that's just wrong], compulsive shopping, or any number of other things). These we tend to keep private, and when we are found out, alternately hang our heads or insist that they don't affect us. These small things are sin's foot in the door.

Second, it appears that the answer to these is summarized by two old theological terms: mortification and vivification. Mortification is the putting to death of sin - a conscious effort to locate and root out sin (and idolatry) in our lives (Colossians 3:5 in the KJV uses the term "mortify"; modern translations "put to death").

How many of us make a daily, conscious effort to find our sin and put it to death? Don't we mostly live with it until it bites us somehow, and then worry about it until the pain goes away some?

But mortification is not enough - we are to replace those sinful thoughts and desires with Godly ones (vivification - making alive)(Philippians 4:8 comes to mind as the key here).

Casting out idols leaves a sort of emptiness in our lives, which we must fill with the things of God, lest we fall into the old habits again.

Hmm, looks like as I went on, I wound up sort of answering the second question myself. But I think that part of the answer to the first is to help our brethren identify their idols (and let them identify ours). Very often we name the behavior without looking at the root.

Two excellent resources: John Owen's "Mortification of Sin", just released in a very readable version by Banner of Truth, and "How People Change" by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp.

lawrence said...

Mark b hanson,

hey very helpful post that makes a lot of sense.

Are you saying that compulsive shopping or watching violent movies is sinful?

philness said...

I think over the grand scheme of things sin exists for us to work on continually in order that we might continually lean on the Father. Dont we love it when our children clutch our hand for protection and comfort? I think that sin is Gods way of tormenting the devil. Even though the devil has been defeated, the Lord is using sin to kick him when he is down so to speak. I mean here we have sin accomplishing the deads of the flesh and when we say no to sin by continually renewing our minds through His word, it in turn accomplishes two things. 1. The devil flees in defeat(probably painfully being reminded of his loss at Calvary) and 2. Our Father is pleased and at the same time smacks the devil across the face as if to say- see, not only have I defeated you I am allowing you to still exist so that through my elect you will be all the more crushed by their resisting you. Its like the devil has been in his own hell of torment ever since God kicked him down here. And as time goes on God will slowly turn up the heat on him and this means more resistance on our part in the future. There will come a day when we as Christians will be tested more than ever. Example: If the homosexual movement has its way we will be put in jail for speaking against their sin. I believe we do not have free will (thank God because I would not choose Him)when it comes to our salvation but we do have free will to resist the devil and it is this free will that is Gods sweet way of crushing the evil one. So we are to crucify ourselves daily and lean on Him and not our own understanding and trust in the promises of God, and let not sin reign in our mortal bodies, etc, etc, etc, For this is our reasonable duties as saints. Just some simple thoughts on this heavy topic.

DJP said...

I think the gist of Dan's actual question was: why are some Christians comfortable in their sins (in some particular area)? And why doesn't God do something about it?

Many respondents seem to be answering a slightly different question: why do Christians continue to sin, and how do we stop?

You're exactly right on both counts, though I'll hasten to say I've appreciated virtually every post, even when the discussion has wandered a bit. Work hasn't allowed me to interact as much as I'd wish, and I mean to try to come back.

Just wanted to drop that word of appreciation.

John H said...

why are some Christians comfortable in their sins (in some particular area)?

I don't think this is so different from answering why Christians continue to sin. Being comfortable with your sins is itself one of the sins in which we continue. (Albeit a particularly subtle and dangerous one.)

I also wonder if, even if just on an unspoken level, certain sins are being singled out as particularly problematic ones for Christians to get too comfortable with. Christians being comfortable with their sexual sins or other outwardly "obvious" sins tends to be seen as more of a problem than Christians being comfortable with their spiritual pride and judgmentalism ("I'm not afraid to speak my mind, y'know").

And why doesn't God do something about it?

He did. As we'll be recalling this Friday.

cwblogger said...

It seems to me that Dan is asking why God doesn't do more about the sin in the lives of Christians. I think Mark Hanson offered a nice redirect. So here are some more thoughts.

First, we know the ultimate end: God' glory. I then ask myself, "How can a Christian's ongoing unrepentant sin be for God's glory and the Christian's good?"

I think the best answer is it forces us to "grapple" with the issue, thus focusing us on Christ. It may be a method of moving us to greater dependence on Him.

Someone posted about all theological error being sin. In 'Why one way' MacArthur says 'the meaning of Scripture is Scripture.' His point is that there is one interpretation and that everything else is wrong. We would all agree that the many different denominations in America alone would illustrate this. I kept thinking of 1 Corinthians 11:19: "For there must also be factions among you..." (admittedly I do not know the context well). If factions are necessary, perhaps the Lord has ordained it to be so in order for Christians to sharpen their sword. After being taught the Word of God for so long, I am able, through prayer, to better discern between truth and error.

And maybe these "factions" show off different aspects of God. I think often of Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" I often ponder why God doesn't just save everyone. I have been taught that universal salvation would not show off some of His attributes, such as His divine wrath. Perhaps the Lord allows factions or ongoing sin in order to show off to us other Character traits, such as His long suffering and mercy. It illustrates His grace much more vividly.

On an extreme side note, I have reflected recently upon how these kinds of issues serve to run in us the full gamut of emotions. One of God's gifts to us is our emotions and sin does provide opportunity to use them all. (I realize that sin has corrupted the original intent. Therefore some emotions should not be experienced b/c they are sinful: anger)

I hope this is helpful. Please help me out by pointing out errors in my thinking. I long to know the Truth as God intends it. Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...


this is a great question...i've wrestled with this in myself as well.

I believe, as Calvinists, that we are missing something in the doctrine of sanctification in regards to the tension of the flesh vs. Spirit and our understanding of regeneration. Or said another way - have we really grasped what it means to sow to the Spirit and reap life and peace vs. sowing to the flesh and reap the corruption of the flesh. (This seems to be what believers are able to do - not unbelievers.) Or to say it more plainly - we miss the boat in regards to our responsibility in sanctification.

I believe in our desire to avoid dualism (or to avoid saying we now have "two natures")- we have downplayed the adamic nature of our flesh (that it still under the curse of sin) and have not defined it well. Oh we pay it lip service by calling it our "unredeemed humaness" - but that is too general and vague for the average person to have a grasp as to why the flesh is such a nemesis and why we need resurrected bodies. We need to recover a robust - and biblically consistant - theology of "the flesh" and the believer.

While at the same time we have neglected the transformation of the will in regeneration (i.e. - the will is now "able" - by grace - to seek after God whereas before we were totally "inable"). The new man must be nurished in the Word of God that he might grow in the grace and power of the Spirit of God.

Some have hit on this fact that santification is progressive and that agressive attention must given to growing in godliness

I only know that to the measure that I have given great attention to the Word of God and prayer in my life - particularly to the areas of weakness - and growing in a renewed manner of thinking - is the measure to which I am consistant.

When I do not give attention to the Word of God - I begin to sow to the flesh by giving the flesh freedom to rule. While I want to avoid dualism - I am in some sense a "jeckle and hyde".

In as much as we understand the tension and how to grow in grace by the Word of God - and consistantly apply it - I believe that we will see individuals come out of patterns of sin.

And unfortunately those who have not been taught well and understood this or given attention to the proper teaching they have received regarding progressive sanctification fall prey to the corruption of their flesh and it becomes harder to lay aside patterns of sin.

This is why we need sound biblical pastors - who understand this tension and how we grow in sanctification and how to counsel from the pulpit with the Word of God.

I have to read it again - but I believe that Jerry Bridges book - "The Discipline of Grace" is the best treatment of understanding Gods and our responsibility in sanctification that has been written in our times. It is a great pastoral resource.

Thanks for being honest enough to ask the question and to shine the light on ourselves. I hope to do a thesis or dissertation on this issue some day.

Even So... said...

It is not a salvation issue but an assurance of salvation issue. It is not a “make it to heaven” issue, but a “rewards in heaven” issue.

The answer is in our personal valuing of practical sanctification, both temporal and eternal. God is giving us opportunity.

Peter says to make your calling and election sure by growing in fruitfulness (2 Peter 1:5-10). Now when he says this he is not saying that you are making your calling and election sure to God, but to yourself, because the Lord knows those who are His, and because the second inscription on the sure foundation of God says that those who are His, those who claim the name of Christ are to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). We also make our calling and election sure to others we know (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4), others we meet (1 Thessalonians 1:6-9), and perhaps even to Satan and the demonic realm (2 Timothy 2:26).

Those that are doing this are being made useful and ready for every good work by cleansing themselves from sin (2 Timothy 2:20-25). Here in 2 Timothy Paul speaks about a cleansing that isn’t just something God does for us as we sit passively. This is a self-cleansing for service that goes beyond a general cleansing for sin. 1 John 1:9 would be speaking of the general cleansing from the guilt and penalty of sin, but Paul and the Bible talks of another type of cleansing. We sanctify, or set apart ourselves because He has sanctified us (Leviticus 20:8 / 1 Corinthians 1:30).

Again, it is not a salvation issue but an assurance of salvation issue. It is not a “make it to heaven” issue, but a “rewards in heaven” issue. How much of your mind is renewed? How much faith do you have? How many crowns do you want to cast?

I am placing a much longer reply in post form (with a link back to this post) on my blog...

DudlyDoRight said...

I can't imagine that you have time to read 73 comments, but for what it's worth, here's number 74.

It seems to me that the OT is full of the kinds of believers you describe. Usually they're the "halfhearted" ones, the ones that lack the "all or nothing" spirit of the "one after God's own heart"; David. They might be the "Saul's" of the kingdom or the "Balaams" or "Lot's wife". They want God and Christ, but.....maybe not too much. Maybe not so much that they've got to lay it all down. They are the lukewarm believers, neither hot nor cold.

But aside from that issue, ultimately, it seems to me that it's all about His Glory. So if God has hardened some, and to others, He later grants the mercy of humility, He is then glorified in every case. There is, no doubt, a continuum of faith with each receiving his reward according to that faith, and all the more we should listen to Paul when he said "let us run so that we may win the prize"!

Matt said...

I can relate to all the others who said this post was about them. It's about me as well, as I struggle with habitual sin myself. Maybe those around me think I'm not bothered by my sinfulness, but it does bother me deeply.

I am honestly not sure how one who truly tastes grace cannot feel convicted of persistent habitual sin in their lives (even if they don't always *seem* bothered by the persistent sin in their life).

Turretinfan said: "Anyone living in unrepentant sin should repent!"

While there has been a lot of helpful comments as to the "how" and "why" of Dan's question, I wish to repeat Turretinfan's emphasis on the *practical* aspect of this problem. Regardless of whether we say that the person in question is a)saved but with significant sin in their life that they are seemingly not working with; b)never have been saved (perseverance of the saints); or c)have possibly been saved at one point but are backsliding and turning away from God's grace (Arminianism) [I hope this mention doesn't violate the rules!], the practical advice we would give to this person is the same in ALL situations. REPENT of your sin and take comfort in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Katie said...

Hi! I'm a total lurker here but this is such a good discussion. Here's a little different take on the subject - maybe or maybe not helpful. I've been thinking a lot about heaven recently (thanks Randy Alcorn...) and it got me thinking about the final judgment. Don't you think we will learn much from watching with our own eyes our great and holy God, the consuming fire, pour out his righteous wrath on his enemies? We will truly stand in the cleft of the rock, sheltered by our great God, who at that time will devour his enemies. We'll see what we deserve and what our Lord suffered for us. How much of our theology will be corrected! How differently we will see our sins of laziness or pride! How clearly we will perceive sin! Yet that is THEN and not NOW. God isn't giving us that lesson now, he is holding it in reserve for then. Why, why, why? Wouldn't we be better Christians NOW for it? Surely, but God has many purposes, not solely our perfection. He has his glory in mind - and many other things. How beautiful his plan will appear to us then. "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord and who has been his counselor?"

So maybe some of that humbling and chastisement comes only at the end! There is more to this life than THIS life. (And how sweet it will be when we're all believers in the doctrines of grace!)

Hope I didn't break any rules and I addressed the question. If not, please be gentle!

DudlyDoRight said...

Sorry to double post, but I just wanted to add one more thing. An unwillingness to turn fully to God in hot pursuit of Him is the "stiff-necked" history of Israel and the main example of the spiritual condition that you describe. This also reminds me that God's purposes and plan are the reason for the current condition in the Church. It may very well be that the times of the Gentiles are full and that God is once again turning his face toward the people of Abraham and the fulfillment of prophecy. If so, then it would not be surprising that many in the Church are hardening to God's call, that seems to be the pattern throughout OT history.

annilee said...

Excellent question and great answers.

I have nothing new to add but to observe that it is frustrating that we are not quickly or even steadily conformed to the image of Christ after conversion. We all have periods of growth in Godliness, and then times to our shame that we just seem to stagnate spiritually. In my life it seems to relate directly to time spent in the Word. I am a quite able "idol factory" and need the Word to rein me in, convict, and redirect me.

I think we can all relate to the Apostle Paul...we sin...yet we hate the sin we commit. We are freed from the bondage of sin, and yet we find we spurn the Grace of Christ and sin anyway. It cuts us to the heart and drives us to Christ daily. And to top it all off, the more we come to know Christ, the more we see our own sinfulness, which drives us ever the more to humbly fall before the throne of Grace.

I don't know why God made us "positionally" perfect at the moment of Salvation, but then gives us a lifetime to"practically" be conformed to His image. Sure does eliminate all pride though.

I do wish we could just give-up all ability to sin forever - just be done with it once and for all in one fell swoop. That will definately be a highlight of heaven...no ability to sin ever again.

Now, as to how someone can continue to sin - without seemingly giving a second thought to it,I suspect conviction of their sin just hasn't gotten thru to them.....yet. Sin is very decietful, and the human heart is stubborn, stiff-necked, and proud. It is heart breaking to see the chaos and stumbling blocks thrown down by those who teach error and false doctrine in the church. It is grievous that some are led away and reject Christ because of it. I have a hard time fathoming the Grace of God to allow it - even for a time. But again, I have an even harder time fathoming that He would come to earth and die for my sins, and impute His righteousness to me.

As for sin and Satan, maybe after dealing with sin in our lives we will agree even more so with God as to it's total wickedness and hatefulness. And we will rejoice all the more with Him when Satan and sin are ultimately destroyed at the end of the age, and rejoice that Christ has already won the victory. Seems like the more we love God the more we hate sin; and the more we hate sin the more we see the righteousness of God in condemming sinners to hell; and the more we see the rightousness of God's judgement the more we are in awe of His mercy and forgiveness; then the more we are in awe of God the more we are driven to fall before Him and worship Him.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Lawrence said: Are you saying that compulsive shopping or watching violent movies is sinful?

I was naming items that are sins for me that at one time I had made peace with. But almost always, compulsive anything is a form of slavery to the world (even compulsive Starbucks, I'm afraid).

And as for violent movies, I am considering mainly those for which violence is the selling point rather than a byproduct of storytelling. Augustine in his "Confessions" tells of a friend who would go with him to the Roman "games", where gladiators fought to the death. His friend, being a peaceful person by nature, went for the friendship, but covered his eyes during the combat. Once, however, he peeked, and found himself fascinated by the violence - winding up consumed by the games for awhile thereafter.

I think for some people movies are a modern substitute for those games. True, nobody actually dies in the movies (for now, anyway), but they play on the same fascination. And the theme of most is vengeance, which God reserves for Himself, not us - so the portrayal of human revenge should not lead us to say "cool!"

To be sure, if I had said "sexy movies" rather than violent movies, I might not have been having to answer that question (but then again, I might...)

Mark B. Hanson said...

One other thing: I firmly believe that naming specific sins is one of the best ways of preaching the Law, both to believers and unbelievers. But I find it curious that one increasingly has to explain more often to believers than to unbelievers why certain items are called sins. Perhaps we find it easier to fool ourselves about our bondage to them than unbelievers do.

DJP said...

dudlydoright -- I can't imagine that you have time to read 73 comments...

I have, and have appreciated all who have shared what they had to give on this vexing issue.

Charles e. Whisnant said...

There will a day Christ will destroy the devil himself, but He came primarily to destroy the devil's works. What are the works of the devil? Sin of every kind. Since Christ died on the cross to destroy sin, rightesousness has replaced sin in the life of a believer.

Since Christ came to dismiss sin, unite us with Himself in His rightesounsess, and release the works of the devil, for a believer to regularly practice sin would render the entire work of Christ null and void. Christian cannot frequently sin because it is incomplatible with the law of God and the work of Christ.

The question to ask, how do we define the term "practice sin" and frequently sin."


John H said...

@Charles: I think you are confusing the imputed righteousness that we enjoy now with the inherent righteousness we will possess after the resurrection.

Until then we are simil iustus et peccator - at one and the same time both justified and sinners.

Personally, I "practise sin" daily, hourly, however frequently you like. I wish I didn't, but I don't/can't make any claim to have any righteousness in myself: I look solely to Christ, and look forward to the day when I will be entirely free from sin, in the new heavens and the new earth.

Of course this sinning is incompatible with the law of God: that's why we need the gospel promises to rescue us from the law's condemnation. But it is not remotely "incompatible" with the work of Christ: rather, our sin - even our continuing sin as Christians - is what Christ came to save us from.

angeleyes said...

mark b. hanson wrote:

Hi! Mr Hanson, good post. But are Christians REALLY comfortable believing the lie?

And what EXACTLY has God done about it?

I read through your posts: did I miss your explanations? Thanks for reading. :^)


Charles e. Whisnant said...

I agree John W.
"Until then we are simil iustus et peccator - at one and the same time both justified and sinners."
Yes this is true, as Martin Luther said.

And I agree with imputed righteousness we have now in Christ, and would say the final stage of the process of salvation is termed “glorification.” It involves the perfecting of the spiritual nature of the individual believer, which takes place at death, when the Christian is absent from the body and present with the Lord. (Which is open for thought).

In this life, while believers have been granted and given the gift of righteousness, our spiritual
perfecting will occur in a future completion of the process, begun in regeneration and continued in sanctification.

Our “position” is perfect in Christ now, our “practice” in ever growing into Christ likeness.

I believe I John 3 teaches “whosoever abides in Him does not continually habitually practice sin.” So Believers sin? Yes. Do they sin on purpose? Occasional, sometimes, once in a while intermittent. But if they do, they will respond with grief and repentance. Ps. 51. And this is the thesis of I John 3:4-10.

I don’t know how long one can continue in deliberated sinning. A day, a season! But I know he
will not enjoy it for long.

But I think the question given by Dan was: Didn’t Christ come to destroy the work of Satan? And if so, why do believers continue to live in sin?

The point of John in I John three is a believer will not live is life as if there was no law (I John
3:4) The sin that is spoken here, I think, is “to live as if there were no law of God is to live as if
there were not God.” Which is the definition of sin.

Christ will one day destroy Satan himself and all his workers who seek to destroy Believers today. That is a future event. What Christ accomplished when He became the Son of God, as Jesus Christ, was to provided the means whereby God could justify granting unbelievers salvation.

What Christ did was to destroy the power of the devil in the life of the Christian. I often said
“You don’t have to sin, you chose to sin.” The fact is, to the believer, we are a lost cause to
Satan. The work “destroy” means “to loosen” or “to undo” or “to remove.” Christ didn’t destroy sin, but threw off the chains and freed us from sin. The work that Christ did was to unite us with Himself in His righteousness, and release the work of the devil. The work of Christ was to give us a new nature, we are given as my brother likes to say, “a seed” that remains. A seed of divine
existence. i.e. God himself was planted in us. I became a “son” of God. Sin can no longer be
the habit of such a life.



Ted said...

Hi, Dan. Greetings from Mer-town!

Now . . . I have NO business wading into this pool. I am WAY out of my league. However, I have couple "ducky and horsey" -type thoughts for you. (Please be gentle!)

The answer to your questions MAY be rooted in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In particular, I would look to the language in the Beatitudes:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:2)

"Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:3)

"Blessed are the meek" (Matthew 5:5)

"Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9)

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake" (Matthew 5:10)


"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (matthew 5:11)

Jesus wants us to be humble. Jesus knows that we need to be humbled.

Even the Apostle Paul needed to be humbled. (As one commenter noted, a later writing of the Apostle Paul included these remarkable words, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." 1Timothy 1:15)

Isn't life, as God has laid it out, particularly humbling? Even for the non-believer? Aging is humbling. Gravity is humbling. Rust is humbling (for the metal). And sin is humbling.

I believe that there is a purpose for all this humbling. That we become truly humble. Christ-like humility, I would say, is God's goal for us. (As a part of our sanctification process, perhaps?)

Anyway, that's my two-cents.

With Christ's love (and a heaping helping of mine, too!),


angeleyes said...

Umm, was my last post a "thread killer"? Seems to have been a "rain of thought" killer at the least. And such a trangression of Dan's stipulation not to stress the idea of "no such animal", "for the purpose of this thread". So good of Dan to be merciful. My heartfelt appreciation. The behaviour of us boys from different camps have actaully been rather exemplary: Interesting how the thought of instant annihilation can focus the mental processes so wonderfully! It should be patented: the Sword of Damocles, v2 (Dan-ocles?). We actually have a taste of the "unity of faith" going on here.

Sorry, I was a bit out of line in my previous post, but it was actually rhetorical. I do agree that Christians are comfortable, but not because they deceive themselves, but because Christ HAS destroyed the works of the evil one. We need to digress a bit here, but I promise to get back on track.

I hinted at the progression of the believer's life as a type of journey into the Promised Land. We are takling allegoric, midrashic type hermeneuitc here. The young believers have been fed, I beleive, and while they toodle off to wash down the meal with a glass of milk, lets get into the steak 'n potatoes.

If Israel's venture into Canaan is a type of sanctification, then the Canaanite tribes are "sins". (Paul uses allegory, Gal 4:24, so let's not shy away from following suit, albeit with discrimination). God has promised to fight for them. But, wait, did'nt Aichan "sin" and didn't the Lord give Israel over to her enemies? So the Canaanites must respresent something else, something other than moral violations.

How about: Cananites= "the works of the devil", which are often described as a blinding or a stealing. (Jn 12:40, 2 Cor 4:4, 1 Jn 2:11/ Matt 13:19). Others have posted about 1 Jn and its multiplicity of categories or themes (is it about assurance, heresy, spiritual status, or sanctification?) Yet others have noted the sins are theological sins or doctrinal errors. In fact, Doctrinal error could be the unifying theme for 1 John.

The works of the Devil steals away our "comfort", whether believer or non-believer:
Isa 48:22 "There is no peace," says the LORD, "for the wicked."

This is seen in the world, where men try to drown their spiritual pain with addictive pursuits. But what of the the believer:
Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Does that mean that all men who believe God exists have peace? Judge for yourselves: do theists have problems with drugs, alcohol, sex, etc? Its an oxymoron if you say they do.

So ALL believrs (theists) have a measure of comfort derived from general revelation.

What then is doctrinal error at its most basic? And what are the consequences?

Those who do not respond to God's drawing, are destined to wandering in the widerness. (Heb 3:17)

This is often in the form of "Don't rock the boat" attitudes. When I engaged in a forum with a Rationalist, I was chided for my "evengelistic" methods. 'Sam, show them Christ in your life, not in your words. You win the debate, but you would have lost a potential entrant into God's Kingdom by your un-Christian attitude. RELIGION is the primary cause of war and hostilty in this world. Don't mess with 'the Anaks" let sleeping dogs lie.' What is often forgotten is that the Promised Land is populated by "the works of the devil" and they are going to be annihilated, because that is God's mission.

So Joshua is the type for the faithful:
Jos 1:6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

Joshua gives Israel "rest":
Isa 48:22 "There is no peace (rest)," says the LORD, "for the wicked." Insertion mine.

Mark B. Hanson said...


"...are Christians REALLY comfortable believing the lie?"

The short answer is "Yes and no."

The long answer is, yes in the sense that they can deceive themselves either about the extent of the sin or about its consequences. The church gossip can prattle on for hours about everybody's business (or what they imagine everybody'e business is) with nary a twinge of remorse (indeed, such a person may be so self-deceived that they imagine they are bringing "transparency" into the church).

Maybe a better way to describe this is that they become "comfortably numb" in their sin (apologies to David Gilmour & Roger Waters).

Does God just leave them to this? In my experience, no - he will send people across their path that will name the sin as sin. Each time that happens, the habitual sinner will either turn and repent or blow it off.

I believe it is possible for Christians to leave this life still at (relative) peace with certain sins - but at that time God will remove the blinders and show us exactly what we were doing and what it cost.

That may be one reason that God will need to wipe every tear from our eyes.

angeleyes said...

Mark H. Hanson wrote:
The short answer is "Yes and no."

The long answer is, yes in the sense that they can deceive themselves either about the extent of the sin or about its consequences. The church gossip can prattle on for hours about everybody's business (or what they imagine everybody'e business is) with nary a twinge of remorse (indeed, such a person may be so self-deceived that they imagine they are bringing "transparency" into the church).

Maybe a better way to describe this is that they become "comfortably numb" in their sin (apologies to David Gilmour & Roger Waters).

Hi Mr Hanson, thanks for the reply. Please take the following as non-antagonistic. I have a different take on it: one of us is right and the truth will help at least one of us and hopefully, the both.

Take the expression "self -deception". Sometimes a catch phrase is used so often that it becomes almost axiomatic in character. In the case of this particaular phrase, we have: a deceiver... me. And we have the deceived... again me. Now I am lying to myself and I don't know it's a lie?

If someone says I'm mistaken, then it's different. The inference is that of a wrong understanding. More importantly, no sin is involved.

Mark H. Hanson wrote:
Does God just leave them to this? In my experience, no - he will send people across their path that will name the sin as sin. Each time that happens, the habitual sinner will either turn and repent or blow it off.

I believe it is possible for Christians to leave this life still at (relative) peace with certain sins - but at that time God will remove the blinders and show us exactly what we were doing and what it cost.

That may be one reason that God will need to wipe every tear from our eyes.

I think you need to address the fact that Scripture (and an assortment of wise men) says "God succeeds in every endeavor to which He sets Himself. There is nothing that He purposes to do that He cannot do. No person's will or spirit is stronger than His. Since He can direct the thoughts and decisions of the most powerful (Proverbs 21:1; cf. Deuteronomy 2:30; Ezra 1:1; etc.), He can do so in every case without exception (Acts 16:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:5). No one can stay God's hand in what He sets out to accomplish (Daniel 4:35)."

Its not a case of removing blinders: its a case of "destroying the works of the devil". Period.

And as for wiping "every tear from our eyes" I think that is in connection with :
Rev 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

Former things being death, crying, etc.

Thanks for reading. I hope you realise that you are a very good sounding board and that I am actually learning many new things from this exchange! :^)


Jacob said...

There's a difference between being comfortable in a lifestyle of sin (which shows unrepentance and a reason for that one to question their own conviction and perhaps their claimed faith), and one who hates their sin and fights against it yet still fails in what could be seen as some sort of 'pattern' of sin.

God's call to be holy as He is holy is echoed in Paul's words in Romans 3 (and other places). It is being called to the highest standard - the one which we cannot live up to by works (legalism). We have to trust in Christ and His perfect work. While we are spiritually regenerated we do not receive our glorified, sinless bodies until a time yet future. Thus we are still in the flesh and fighting the flesh and striving to be in the Spirit instead. That we hate our sin spiritually(though we still at times commit it fleshly) is itself a demonstration of our new nature and our salvation.

That, at least, is my understanding of the matter.

Bohinski said...

You are tapping into the area of sovereignty - the Lord's choice in the area of one's day of visitation (becoming accountable to the Holy Spirit and said person judging him/herself and repenting)and the timing allowance of such. This is a part of the sin unto death subject. A "Christian" that hasn't/doesn't repent, is not a true believer. Only God knows the hearts of men. A person's relationship with Jesus is personal and only comes about by his/her choice to receive the Truth and repent. Oh, and by the way, there are only 2 kingdoms, and luke-warmness is not one of them. Peace Out!!!

Unknown said...

This is a very old post I know - but I just happened to stumble on it while searching for something else. I'm sure by now it's so far out of date the moderation for the comment won't even be noticed. ;-)

However, I wonder that nobody really discussed the possibility of God's judgement. Not only is God not a "grace communist" between people in a given age, he also gives out grace differently in different ages. Given the state of our church is it not within reason that God may be chastising His church through this problem itself? I.e. that the dearth of grace is an end in itself (judgement) and not a means to an end?