October 29, 2013

Starving Sin I: Undermining the Underminer

Many believe that there is little that can be done about one’s sin. Some would say we are victims of it. The Bible says that sin should hold no sway over the believer. In the end we are victorious in Christ. The question is what to do in the meantime. The truth is that sin will remain but it should not reign. It is like an underwater mine. It's always there lurking just beneath the surface waiting to shatter or splinter your life into a million scattered pieces. When it emerges it us usually a detonation and destructive to whatever touches it.

Romans 6:12-14 ~ “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

We are to turn to God away from our sins and turn to God trusting His promises. This is the source of our conversion and the beginning of our sanctification. Yet…the Bible tells us there is more that we can do to act on our own behalf in our progress and process of sanctification. Yes, it is through grace by faith that we are saved but the process of becoming more holy (sanctified) is a joint process with God. The question then arises: What are the things we can do about our own sin? The Bible has a few things to say about this and I will mention ten of them.

Matthew 6:14-15 ~ “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

This is the latter portions of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew and the message Jesus gives here is clear. The measure by which you do or do not forgive will be reciprocated back to you by the Father. Why? Because there is an element involved in forgiveness that does not immediately become evident when a person first looks at it. The framework that holds up forgiveness is mercy and grace.

This is difficult for sinful people. It requires that we overlook wrongs and leave grudges in the past without expecting restitution. Many trespasses committed against us are often accidental but the grudge and anger we maintain by choice is not. It is sinful and inevitably damaging like the aforementioned mines. Sins that are lingering just below the surface doing or ready to do irreparable damage. Firstly, it is sinful and second God knows that sin results in damages mental and physical...that will lead to a death…our death. That which is not of God is death because God is life (John 14:6).

Within forgiveness we can also find additional Christian virtues. We see humility, self-denial (dying to self), love that is tempered with patience and understanding and finally it shows charity. When we approach wrongs like this it allows us to see other’s mistakes and flaws in a charitable view and not lead to further hostilities. In this way charity and humility act as a city of refuge for others. On the other side of the coin we see anger and pride. These two lack of virtues show that we believe it is below us to endure an affront, or not retaliate an injury and therefore shows we have not died to self in a daily manner and we think way too highly of ourselves. This of course can then lead to cruelty, hatred of our neighbor. These lead us to a contempt of the moral laws of God and Christ that are so plainly against revenge and are therefore ungodly and of the world.

Galatians 5:16 ~ “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

There are two ways to deal with sin. We can either run directly towards it or we can run to God. It is the charge to the Christian to set ourselves against it. Based on the sinful nature of the people that make up the church, the church is often full of errors and foolish practices. The Bible is clear that the measure of the Body and the Church is Christ and the Bible. When we look to ourselves for the answer instead of Christ and Scripture we stumble out of the gate. It is possible to attack those idiocies outright, showing how foolish they are or it is possible to awaken the spiritual life in that Church which itself shed them. We do this by turning to Christ as our mentor and Scripture as our guide.

The Bible and Christianity are not in opposition to the man they try to save. They are at war with his corruptions. God wrote the Bible for man to have a guide or map back to Him. It is man that is forever laboring against the Bible’s truths and fighting God. We have a choice and this verse tells us we have a clearly defined choice. This stands in opposition to those that say it is not my fault that I got pregnant and want an abortion. It stands in defiance of those that would say God made me homosexual, it is not my choice. Therefore I will give in to my nature and produce immorality. This indicts God as the cause of your sinful choices. That is patently absurd.. This one verse alone refutes that. When it says walk by the Spirit and not by the desires of the flesh it implies that Spirit is not carnal or physical, it is spiritual. Sexual immorality finds its root in the flesh, not in the Spirit. If the Bible encourages the pursuit of the spirit…the logical conclusion becomes self-evident.

James 5:15 ~ “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

Many people, especially those that have a poor grasp of theology and are biblically illiterate will focus in directly on the part of this passage that says, “If you pray faithfully, the sick will get well.” This passage has been misappropriated by the Health, Wealth and Prosperity preachers as meaning they can “name and claim” health just by praying for it. If believers don’t get healing, it is then somehow the believer’s fault for not being faithful enough. Never mind that it totally ignores the will of God and focuses on the will of the sinful believer. This is a heretical teaching by ungodly charlatans in pursuit of a buck that victimizes the weak of the faith. The main point of this passage is therefore overlooked or ignored totally. We need to actually do homework to determine what this is really telling us. We need to dig below the window dressing of the affirmation preachers like Joyce Meyers and Kenneth Copeland to see the root of the tree that produces Godly fruit.

One of the primary reoccurring themes of James is that faith is an active thing. It cannot and does not rest or it is not faith. Faith does things…faith without works is dead faith. Faith’s activities cover entire lives. Faith is particularly concerned with relations based in places. That means this passage is placed firmly at the end of a dissertation on Christian faith and its resultant activities.

It therefore answers the unasked question: What needs to be done by or for the afflicted and the sick? It is not necessarily concerned with the immediate assumed result.

We must understand that leaders in the church, those that would pray intercessory prayer, elders, preachers, and missionaries do not heal people nor do they have the power directly in them to do so. They are simply agents of Christ’s body. It is God that does the healing by His choice by His will. We cannot use God as cosmic vending machine. We have no power and authority in and of ourselves. Power and authority resides in the Godhead and is given to us by God at His volition and by His choice. Just because we pray to heal does not mean it happens immediately or at all. By assuming that from this passage we miss the total point from the passage.

Luke 9:1 ~ “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases…”

Further examination of the passage in Greek changes this passages complexion quite a bit. In Greek it says “τῆς πίστεως σώσει τὸν κάμνοντα” or “the faith/belief-will be saving-the faltering” The healing therefore might not be a medical healing but perhaps spiritual. This is also surprisingly close to: The Righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Hebrews 10:28)." The words “will be saving” here can imply being made whole spiritually not necessarily physical. In failing physical health a believer can die and go to Heaven in this way they are perfectly spiritually healed and this keeps with the intent of the context both in James 5 and James at-large. The second half of this verse lends itself even more to this truth. “If they have sinned…” is a perfect active subjunctive in the Greek. In other words it is assumed a person will sin…they will be forgiven (future passive) which means it is something that will happen to them in the future (possibly even after death). How will they be forgiven? If they pray for healing. The act of prayer towards God in a spiritual manner would require a repentant heart change of the one praying. Therefore they would’ve had to have accepted that God has the ability to forgive sins. How? Through the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross. This prayer and belief is therefore not some magical incantation but it comes because or an act of grace from God by His choice and will because of a heart changing and turning to God through Christ. There is much assumed here but not expressed and it does not specifically imply immediate physical healing.

[Continued in Part II]

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