April 2010

How would you encourage a Christian to resist sin while knowing that God will ultimately work it for their good?

That’s really a good question.

Very practically, the devil and our own sin can incline us to use the sovereignty of God to justify complicity in sin. And it’s at this point that we need to have a strong commitment to the authority of the Bible and the authority of God telling us how to live with the truth that he has revealed to us.

So many of us learn a fact, like “God is sovereign” or “God loves me” or “God hates sin,” and we start spinning implications out of our brain, some of which aren’t biblical!

They look rational. They look like they should be believed. “Well, if God is sovereign, then he is responsible for evil. Therefore we can’t be responsible. Therefore let us sin that grace may abound,” blah blah blah, and it’s all unbiblical!

If we’re going to latch on to big truths like the sovereignty of God, we’ve got to latch on to them the way God ordains for us to latch on to them. We’ve got to latch on to them biblically. That is, we have to see them in connection with all the other biblical truths.

Among those biblical truths is Paul contemplating the thought in Romans 3 and 6, “Shall we sin that grace may abound?” He just said in Romans 5:21 that where sin abounded, grace much more abounded. And here goes somebody with their logic: “Cool! I’ll just make grace abound everywhere! I’ll just click on as much pornography as I can, and commit as much fornication as I can, and steal as much as I can, and be as greedy as I can. Praise God’s grace!”

And Paul answers that in chapter 3 that those people deserve to be accursed. And he says in chapter 6, “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! For how can you who died still live in it?”

Now there’s a truth as important as the truth of God’s sovereignty.

Christian, you’re dead. You’ve got to come to terms with what that means. You can’t just say, “Well God is sovereign, therefore all my sins are his doing. Therefore I can sin.” No! Be biblical. Think God’s thoughts. This is complex. Don’t depend on your own brain. Depend on God’s brain. And God says, “Dead people don’t sin” (Romans 6:3).

So you need to figure out what it means to be dead. And put to death what is earthly in you. “If we live according to the flesh, we will die. If we, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, we will live.” That’s a truth as big as the truth of God’s sovereignty. You can’t throw that out and just go do your own logical thing.

So my answer is, Be biblical. We’re working here with infinite realities that our brains are not capable of managing on our own. You can’t learn one truth from God and then manage it with your brain. You have to constantly submit every thought that you have about God to other thoughts about God so that God manages your brain. Otherwise you will take a truth and distort it in some sinful way.

This is really big. Bottom line: be thoroughly biblical. Test everything by the Bible.


6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:6-10

Focus, for a moment, on the last half of verse 10.  If our efforts are directed toward, or if our primary focus is, gaining approval from other people, then we are not serving our Lord as He desires.

As I read this, it seems to me that it can be interpreted in two ways.

  1. Pleasing Man and Serving Christ are two alternatives.  To the extent that one grows, the other diminished in like amount.  Thus, if I am 30% committed to pleasing man, then I can say that I am 70% devoted to Christ.
  2. Serving Christ is an absolute.  Thus, if I have any motivation to please man, then I am not serving Christ.  It is all or nothing.  100% or 0%.

I can make an argument for alternative one, but I feel in my bones that it just can’t be right.  Yes, I know this sounds like a painful, guilt-inducing religious rule, but add in grace and it all makes sense.  Jesus knows we are simply incapable of being 100% totally committed to Him.  It’s our fallen nature.

Christ’s atonement puts us, legally, in right relationship with Him.  Where we fall short, He bridges the gap.  This should not make us more inclined to stay in sin, rather, it should fill us with gratitude and desire to push out the enemy and live in a way that pleases Him.  Not man.

A very timely piece from Tim Challies.  I was just thinking about how differences in doctrine are often divisive when they should not be.  But then, differences are important sometimes, especially when we’re talking about the nature of God.  I fear that I all too frequently fall into the sin of pride, self-righteousness, and quarrelsomeness when I engage in debate and discussion.   Enjoy, and please comment.

Is error in doctrine always sin? It’s a question I’ve reflected on in the past and one (more…)