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Faith, Hope and Love: Virtue in Spiritual Warfare

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Question #1:

Dear Professor,

Your answers come at a good time. Please keep praying for me, as I am being hit at my weak point. My own weakness disappoints me - I know what I've got to do and yet I struggle. Spirit is willing, but flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Every minute is a trial from which there is no escape. There was a better period not long ago, but I've still not let it go, even though I really want to.

I don't want this to keep affecting my productivity for our Lord and I believe that God will give deliverance.

In our Lord,

Response #1:

These tests are not easy sorts of things to bear up under, and the evil one knows this quite well. He seldom hits us in our strong spots. But God uses all things for good, even if it often doesn't seem so at the time. Our part is to learn the truth of His goodness and perfect superintendence of us through all these rough periods, learning to wait on Him, learning that really only the "things above" are of lasting significance. We know this intellectually, and we believe it too, in principle, and we probably have even made headway in being able to keep this perspective when things are going wrong. But then they really go wrong. And then we are faced with the choice of trusting God or doubting. The thing to do is not to feel bad about ourselves for being tested, as if the test were a mark of our failure; it's exactly the opposite. The Lord only refines and anneals the faith of those who are willing to stand firm in the furnace of testing. And if we do stand firm, our faith strengthens.

I wish I could promise you an end to tears, trouble and heartache in this world, but that is not what the Christian life is all about (even if the false "prosperity gospel" says different); what I can promise you from scripture and from personal experience is that there can be immense joy through the tears, satisfaction in the midst of the trouble, and great encouragement in the Spirit in spite of the heartache. And in the end, victory, when we finally experience all the wonderful "things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1Cor.2:9).

It's not easy to do. But we Christians have to learn how to let go of this world, our lives and everything we have in it – not physically but spiritually – purposing in our hearts not to love this world or the things in it but to love our Lord more, and to follow Him by doing what He wants us to do with the time He has given us here.

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
Luke 14:26-33 NKJV

Keep fighting the fight, my friend. There is great joy to be had in this struggle, even through the tears.

I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
Philemon 1:21b NIV

I will most definitely continue in my prayers for you my friend.

Your friend forever in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

The voices had a huge anxiety attack for me the other day, and I really need advice on how to rekindle my love for God. And I'm also suffering from some disbelief, every time I try to get back on top of things, my chest forms a wall and while I slid underneath a week or two ago, I just want to get back in line now. I'm sorry for being so straight forward I don't like to be.

I also haven't been getting any strikes in the heart and I can't seem to. I know it wont happen everyday, but I just I get so flustered I have no idea what to do. Just yesterday, I was praying with another Christian and my arms and legs got really energized and I almost started shaking. But then I tapered off doing something else through out the night and now I'm back here again. I do believe that Jesus never leaves us, and I know that the Holy Spirit doesn't get up and go, I just can't seem to get close to Him again. And I miss Him, although with every failure that gets farther and farther away. That anxiety attack really did a number because the voice in my head kept saying (you don't believe) when how can I not? But if it comes from within I keep thinking that it's me and it's my heart speaking but it isn't! Why does this keep happening? Am I doing it to myself? I still feel warm reading the Jesus' words, but today he feels like an old friend that I haven't heard from in a while. My love is low and so is my faith.

Response #2:

I'm sorry to here about these recurring troubles. I do think that what you are experiencing – though in your own unique way – is the issue all Christians have from time to time of our emotions not following along with our will in perfect lock-step. Until a person gets to a certain level of spiritual growth, it will frequently be the case that how we feel may not line up with what we know to be the case. We may know and believe completely the wonderful things you report here that you know and believe, and yet we may feel low or down or discouraged. At times like this, we have to use our will to command our emotions. The Hebrews had a standard encouragement for this, repeated many times in scripture: "Be strong and courageous!". For me, this sums up what a Christian must do when at times – and these times strike us all, even the most mature of believers, and often not through any fault of our own – when internal feelings and external circumstances conspire to beat us down. We have to orient to the truth deliberately and "manually" since it is not automatic: "be strong!" = get to thinking and applying the truth no matter how we feel; and do so defiantly: "be courageous!" = don't let fear and doubt stop you from doing what it is the truth leads you to do. We have to be determined to embrace the truth regardless of the swells that strike us in the face, and go on to do whatever our Lord is calling us to do. Thinking about our eternal reward, about our inheritance in the New Jerusalem, about our Lord, what He has done for us, and the good report we wish to get from Him, indeed, about all manner of blessed truths the scriptures contain and we have made our own through faith, is the way to "battle down" these sorts of attacks. And attacks will come as long as we find ourselves here in the devil's world:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
1st Peter 4:12-13 NKJV

Be sober and alert. Our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, looking for someone he can devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, remembering that your fellow believers in this world are undergoing the exact same sort of suffering.
1st Peter 5:8

Here are some links which I hope you will find helpful in learning how to encourage yourself when the going gets tough (cf. 1Sam.30:6: "David encouraged himself in the LORD his God" KJV).

Peter #29: Maintaining a Sound Christian Offense in our Spiritual Warfare

The battlefield: strangers in the devil's realm.

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

Fighting the inner spiritual struggle.

Be strong and courageous, my friend! Remember that this fight is really a short one – and the consequences of fighting it well go on for all eternity.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus who showed us by His example what to do,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Robert, thank you for the words, thinking about the reward eases the anxiety, which MUST mean, even if I'm having trouble with belief, and my faith is relatively weak, that He is here, not to mention His Word, but why can't I get passed this wall of stubborn doubt and hesitation in my heart? I really hope it is reversible.

At church today a woman sang a song in Spanish and the moment she started my eyes started to weep (I didn't actually weep but my face changed and was about to and it happened a few times), and also when I prayed at the fellowship dinner, my body got energized again and my breathing got heavy. I also thought about a prideful thought I had when telling someone about a vision of Jesus I had two weeks ago, and when I thought this later today, I got "heavy" and started to cry and felt a little upset (not overwhelmingly though), which in turn I took as true conviction (because I didn't know the difference between conviction and condemnation) and confessed (without even really feeling connected to God, I just prayed towards Him, out loud) and it lifted and my face stopped being crunched and I was not sorrowful or heavy anymore. So I guess I'm asking, if I feel disconnected from God for whatever reason, would that mean that faith and even belief and trust would be harder to come by? Since we get our faith from Him. 

Thank you for all of your input, you are really helping me.

Response #3:

You're welcome,

I can't stress enough the point that it is not about how we feel. Christians of all sizes and shapes (and spiritual levels) have to learn that feeling good is no guarantee of God's pleasure or our proper approach; and even more importantly that feeling bad often means nothing in spiritual terms – except that 1) we may be under satanic attack, or 2) we may just be failing in our proper application of the truth. We have to learn to control our emotions rather than letting them control us. They will respond to the truth if we keep pitching the truth at them in a consistent and resolute way. Please have a close look at the previously supplied links, and also these as well:

"Virtue Thinking"

Spiritual battle in the heart and mind

Our Reborn Reorientation

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

I'm out of the office until the new year, but I'll be back in touch as soon as I can be in 2014.

Merry Christmas, and a very happy new year!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4:

How are you Professor?

The folks in Bible Study asked me what double-minded meant. I shared it is like a person one foot on the fence and the other on the ground. That a Christian does not separate himself from the the world. Their Christian walk is influenced by the world. What is the correct meaning to double-minded? Thank you

Response #4:

I think you have given a wonderful interpretation. This idea is found in James 1:8 and 4:8 where the Greek dipsychoi means "two-hearted", and that parallels Psalm 12:2 "They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak" – where "double heart" is, literally, "with a heart and a heart" (the opposite is "one heart": 2Chron.30:12; Ps.86:11; Jer.32:39; Ezek.11:19). The other place this idea shows up in English versions is Psalm 119:113 where "double-minded" is the Hebrew adjective sa'aph which means, literally, "branched" as in a fork (similar to "speak with forked-tongue"). The Hebrew passages are considering willful deception, but James is speaking of someone who has not committed fully to the truth, as in Zephaniah 1:5 of the people who "bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molek"; or those of whom Elijah complained: "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him" (1Ki.18:21 NIV). This is the worst sort of wavering or double-mindedness, namely, failure to give the Lord our entire heart. After all, the most important command is to love Him with everything that is in us. None of us is perfect in this regard, but these two contrasting extremes, namely, total love for the Lord on the one hand and a completely compromised and compromising double-mindedness on the other, help us to check ourselves so as to make the proper adjustments in our spiritual attitudes.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Question #5:

Thank you I appreciate your response. I forwarded it off to the person that asked me the question. I am not a scholar, I do love to study God's Word, and want others to enjoy studying. So when I help lead a small group I do not want to be in error of God's Truth. If I do not know, I say so and research the information for them. Again, thank you. In His Name,

Response #5:

You're most welcome,

Write back any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hope all is well. I have some more questions I was hoping you could clarify for me. So I've been reading James and honestly, James 2 is the most baffling section ever for me...I can see why Martin Luther wanted it taken out, it is so frustrating to reconcile. I'm sure you've probably covered this in the past but some things aren't quite clear to me. The most popular interpretation I could find is that it "perfectly harmonizes with Paul that faith always accompanies works...duh" like its that obvious but somehow, it doesn't make sense to me. Most interpretations say (even commentaries in a few of my Bibles) say "no works, no salvation"...that's pretty terrifying honestly because its like how many works do we have to observe? Multiple everyday, once a day, multiple an hour, once every few days? Another thing that baffles me is none of these interpreters say what "works" need to be shown of a saved person...is it works of charity, or like works of the spirit (love, joy, peace, etc...)? I've pretty much found the "no works, no salvation" to be the most common but I have also come across other interpretations that do not pertain to salvation...some cite the original Greek and the tenses (stuff I don't understand as I don't study Greek) that make sense but I'm still unsure if they are right. I've seen that because of the use of the word "profit" in v14 that it refers to eternal rewards not salvation or that it could mean earthly acts that are deemed useless ("dead faith"). I've also seen that saved in 14 might not mean eternal salvation as saved has been used in other contexts not regarding salvation so I'm not sure about that...I've seen something about a participle or something being left out of the original Greek that James had used before which indicates a different meaning to v14. The "faith without works is dead" part tripped me up the most though...I don't buy the "oh you have no works so you weren't ever saved to begin with" argument, that has never made sense to me (as I've ranted about in previous emails). Loss of salvation? I don't know, I mean, what would be the cut off between works and being saved/not being saved? I have also seen that we should produce fruit out of gratitude/obedience but that it doesn't affect salvation but affects fellowship. The last argument I've seen is that a dead faith doesn't mean no faith, a dead body has no life anymore but you wouldn't say it never had life nor question that it is a genuine body or a false body (combating arguments about it being a false vs genuine faith). I am just really confused about this chapter and am trying to harmonize it all because some things just don't add up to me so I feel like I'm interpreting it wrong. Could you help clarify this at all?

Thanks for your diligence,

Response #6:

Good to hear from you – hope your classes are going well.

I am very much in favor of all believers reading their Bibles on a daily basis (please see the link: "Read your Bible"). However, the point of doing so is to build up our faith, draw us closer to the Lord, reinforce the truth of what we know, and increase our peace and our joy. The purpose is not to terrify us or confuse or trip us up. There are many passages in scripture which are hard to understand, easy to confuse, and potentially upsetting, especially when they are poorly translated or interpreted or otherwise taken wrong. Believers should look to their right Bible teacher as the source for doctrinal information; the scriptures should test, inform, and supplement that system of correct teaching in which they are growing day by day. The correct approach to reading scripture is to do so with a good version, supplementing it with other versions whenever "something odd" or otherwise difficult to understand pops up. When neither this nor study Bible notes nor the materials available at the ministry in question provide a ready answer, the believer should put the problem aside until such time as it can be answered. In other words, a believer should believe the truth of what he/she has learned and previously put his/her faith in from a solid, orthodox teaching ministry, and only depart from that when and if there are unmistakable proofs from a wide-range of scriptures that he/she is in the wrong place (rather than allowing random passages to upset his/her peace and undermine spiritual growth).

The above is for informational purposes only – I definitely don't want you to get the impression that I don't appreciate your question. It's a good and a necessary one, and this is precisely what a believer should do when bumping into a concerning passage, namely, not get upset about it, but rather go and find out the truth about it. Until that is possible, setting the "problem" aside without allowing it to affect one's faith or walk is the best approach – and you seem to me to have followed that procedure here.

James is talking to believers (cf. Jas.1:1-2); there is no such thing as "dead faith" in Christian terms: a person is either a believer or not a believer. James' point is that without anything to show for one's faith a person would not have faith (that is what v.14 means: "what's the point [Gr. ophelos "profit/use"] of having faith without anything to show for it!?]"). James is remonstrating with those who want to defend their lazy approach to the Christian life by saying "but I have faith!", and James wants it to be known that sitting idly by and relying on one's laurel's of putting faith in Christ in the past instead of pressing ahead in the Christian life as Jesus wants us to do is the wrong approach – and very spiritually dangerous too. Having faith in the Lord is great. No one is saved without such faith. In the New Jerusalem, one quarter of the gates will be reserved for those who "had faith" in Christ, but not enough "deeds" to gain any of the three crowns – and even here there will be three levels of this not-yet-mature variety of Christian. I fully expect that this will be by far the most populous part of the city. Notice I say "deeds" not "works": even though the two words are synonymous in English, this device demonstrates how the psychological baggage of some words can give them a false meaning that rightly they should not bear so as to be emotionally upsetting to no purpose (cf. "repent!" – great, if you understand what it means biblically).

Obviously, we cannot "do" anything for God, and He would have no need of our efforts even if we could. What we are called to do here in this life is to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, and all who do so are saved, quite apart from their record in this life thereafter (that is the fundamental "work" God requires: Jn.6:29). If a person's faith is genuine, moreover, it is impossible for him/her not to produce "deeds" (or "works") for the Lord thereafter – and indeed, this is precisely what we are called to do. As you rightly intuit, however, what most people think of as "works" are 1) usually restricted to some small set of possibilities in the first place, and 2) usually misunderstand the whole principle behind "works" in the second. "Works" are "doing" what Christ has called us to do: 1) growing spiritually through accessing and believing the truth; 2) progressing in our walk with the Lord through applying the truth we have learned and believed to the tests and trials of this life; and 3) helping others do the same through the application of the gifts we have been given to the ministries we have been assigned. Do you pray? Do you read your Bible? Do you think about the Lord? Do you ever trust Him or put your hope in Him or feel/express love for Him. Those are all "works" in biblical terms, but not the sort of "charity" that so many religious types seem to equate one on one with "good deeds" or "works" (wrongly so, from the biblical perspective). It is possible to give a million dollars to charity and not have any such "works"; it is possible to give a billion dollars to charity and not even be saved (several contemporary examples come to mind)! What are works in Bible terms? Here are the examples James gives in this very chapter:

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
James 2:21 NIV

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
James 2:26 NIV

Neither of these actions have anything to do with charity or giving money. Both of them represent a believer acting out of faith in a difficult situation where an unbeliever would never do what was done. If a person is a believer, they may never be put in such a difficult situation as Abraham or Rahab (there are both unique examples that James has adduced), but active living faith will inform and direct and guide the actions of every believer at least once in that person's life (and generally every moment of every day). If we really do believe, it really does affect how we as believers think, say and act, all of which things are "deeds" or "works", whether good, bad or indifferent. You wouldn't be asking me this question if you were not a believer, if you were not a man of faith – for it is your faith that has prompted you to read your Bible and to wish to know more clearly about the truth it contains. That is the quintessential "work", because without the truth learned and made one's own through faith, nothing else of any significance is possible to "do". The truth is the Holy Spirit's "capital" or "leverage" through which He makes the most of the good intentions and spiritual gifts of the Christian willing to be used of Him. Seeing things through the myopic, medieval, Roman Catholic lens of what "works" must mean is actually worse than not seeing at all. James wants us to be active in our faith – to think and speak and act the way we believe (and that only occasionally has anything to do with money).

For more on this passage, please see the link: "Free will faith" (especially Q/A #6).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

I read that Greek chara means joy as in "the joy of the Lord is our strength." I am wondering if chara, joy, is the root of the word 'character', meaning exact, as in Christ is the exact representation of God? It's very confusing.

Thanks very much,

Response #7:

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question, the words come from different roots – albeit ones which are similarly spelled (accidentally only). Joy (chara - χαρ) comes from the root char- (χαρ – from which we get the word "charity"). Character (charakter - χαρακτηρ) comes from the root charak (χαρακ). The former has to do with happiness; the latter has to do with scratching/scrapping ("character" is the inscription of an indelible mark).

Hope this helps!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:

Robert,

How are you? Is there a section on your website where you discuss in length the difference between hope and faith? Particularly, where hope is not actually faith but wishing.

I know Romans 8:24 relates to actual faith but I think hope is a lower level of faith and not pure faith. For a growing Christian, I know God overtime will help differentiate the two.

Can you comment on this? A good example is someone unemployed and looking for a job. They went on an interview and 1) they hope they have the job vs 2) I know I have the job

I know faith also has to do with understanding any outcome, whether expected or unexpected is God's will at that time for our life.

In Christ Jesus,

Response #8:

Biblical "hope" is significantly different from the word "hope" as it is often used in English today. In Greek, the word group based on the noun elpis means "expectation", and in Classical Greek, this can be a negative expectation as well as a positive one. In the Bible, however, "hope" is always the sure and certain confidence that God will do what He has promised. In other words, if a person says "Gee, I hope so", that is not the biblical virtue of "hope". Rather, a person who has true biblical hope would say, "I am positive that God will deliver me!" Thus, biblical hope is closely related to faith; faith, correctly understood, is a choice, and hope is the perseverance in that choice. Faith chooses to trust God, and hope holds onto that trust resolutely, looking forward into the invisible future with confidence that God will do as He has promised.

(1) It is faith [in the Living and written Word], moreover, that substantiates what we hope for. [Faith] provides proof of things unseen (i.e., the things we hope for confidently).
Hebrews 11:1

So, for example, we believe in Jesus Christ, His perfect Person as the God-man and His work on the cross in dying for our sins, we put our faith and trust in Him to deliver us from the grave, and we look forward in hope to the day of our ultimate deliverance, our resurrection and reward on His return.

[W]e who are awaiting the blessed hope, namely the epiphany of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (i.e., when we too will be resurrected in glory when He appears).
Titus 2:13

I have more on these issues at the following links:

Biblical hope versus English usage (in SR 5)

The three basic Christian virtues:  Faith, hope and love (in Pet.#17)

Faith, hope and love (in Pet.#19)

The true focus of Christian hope (in CT 7)

The 'counter-virtue' of hope (in SR 4)

The "living hope" of 1st Peter chapter one (in Pet.#22)

Yours in Jesus Christ in whose deliverance we confidently hope,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

40 And they rose up early in the morning, and gat them up into the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we be here, and will go up unto the place which the Lord hath promised: for we have sinned. 41 And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the Lord? but it shall not prosper. 42 Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies. 43 For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you. 44 But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp.
Numbers 14:40-44

I do not understand these verses. Where or what was this "mountain?" Why do the people say they will go up "for we have sinned," as if their sin gave them the right to go up? What command of the Lord did the people transgress? Why were the people presumptuous?

Thanks for helping me.

Response #9:

You are very welcome.

The passage you are asking about, Numbers chapter fourteen, relates the reaction of the people of Israel when they accept the bad report of the ten who spied out the land, rejecting Joshua and Caleb's good testimony, and refuse to "go up". Later, when told the word of the Lord by Moses, namely, that as a result they will not be allowed into the land at all, they have a change of heart. But now, they decide to "go up" whether or not the Lord is with them, which He is now not. The "mountain [range]" in context is the high ground at the southern entrance of the land of Israel. So the words you ask about are the regretful sentiments of a people whose heart was far from the Lord. Even at that point, after having a change of heart, they are not truly repentant (they "feel bad" but are not responding to God's will, which shows clearly that true repentance is not about "how we feel" but what we do). That is because they are still not listening to the Lord and His servants. Regardless of how they may "feel", they are still trying to do things their own way. When the Lord said "go", they wouldn't go. Now that He says "don't go", they are determined to go. It's a good lesson for all of us. It's not necessarily the nature of a generic action, but it is the Lord's attitude towards it that really determines whether or not we are acting in His will – and whether or not we are willing to respond the way He wants us to respond:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
James 4:17 NASB

Yours in the dear Lord who bought us, our Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hello Bob,

You answered many questions for me. I am wondering how what Paul writes in Romans ( "to walk in the Spirit") relates to this struggle between what we know is right to do (we know God’s attitude is for us not to do this or that) and what we do, anyway: being unable to overcome our self-will. Does Paul mean that by the power (grace/help) of His spirit we can overcome our self-will, actually, and "conform to the law"? So the people went up to face the enemy (themselves?) without the grace/help of the Lord, and failed. Often I know what is the right thing to do is and can’t do it, as Paul says he found himself, but then he indicates there was, for him, a way out; is this way out, practically, real? When he walked in the spirit did he in fact have the power to overcome his self-will, conform to the law and do the right thing? Or is it as some preach that we are forgiven for doing what we know is not right, by "grace?" And Paul means that in the Spirit ( our mind that knows the right thing to do) we can trust in God to release us from our sins?

Again, thank you for your help in answering my questions.

Response #10:

As is frequently the case, "walking" in scripture refers to our behavior in this world, specifically, our proper forward progress along the path that the Lord has set out for us (cf. Ps.23). With the Spirit, "we can"; without the Spirit, "we can't". If we "don't", that is our failure, not God's. The Spirit does not take over our free will. This life is all about free will. We are saved by faith – making the conscious decision to rely on the Lord instead of on ourselves for a salvation that would otherwise be impossible. Likewise, many things in this life seem impossible, and indeed are impossible – without the Lord. But with the Spirit, there is nothing that the Lord wants us to do that we cannot do. The fact that we often do not do it (whether it is a case of failing to accomplish what He wills or sinning in defiance of His Will), is our failing. True, being in these bodies of sin, even advanced believers are incapable of living an absolutely sinless life and/or doing every positive thing that the Will of God wills us to do. But if and when we fail – and we all stumble in many ways (Jas.3:2; cf. Rom.3:23; 1Jn.1:5-10) – this is our fault. Blessedly, 1) all of our sins have already been judged at the cross and atoned for by the blood of Christ; 2) we can be and are forgiven as soon as we confess them; 3) we DO NOT have to "do it again" or "fail to do it again" (depending upon the category and/or type of our failure). Advancing Christians tend to "move on" to new areas of failure (hopefully ones which are less serious, more subtle, and only possible because of their advanced status). But as long as we are in these bodies of sin, we will fail from time to time (and that can include regressing into old patterns of past failures). It is, however, important to understand that each and every failure is one that could have been avoided – if we had relied on the Spirit the way we should. Walking "in/by the Spirit" is giving our will over to Him by responding to His guidance, for He is the one guiding and empowering us – if we but let Him. He does this through interacting in our hearts with the truth that we have taken in and believed, truth which has informed our hearts and our consciences. He does not take over our will. As I say, this life is all about free will and the choices we make, be they bad choices which compromise our Christian witness and impede our spiritual progress, or good choices which contribute to our own spiritual growth, progress and ministry, and to that of others.

I hope that his is of some help – do feel free to write back.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hello Bob,

Bob wrote: "even advanced believers are incapable of living an absolutely sinless life and/or doing every positive thing that the Will of God wills us to do."

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Romans 8:6-14

Does Paul says that if Spirit of God/Christ lives in you, you are "controlled not by the sinful nature" and thus will not sin? What does it mean to "put to death" the deeds of the body? Practically, it sounds like Paul means the one freely puts one’s self ( the body’s) will to death, and as you say one then follows the Spirit’s guidance. So does Paul say that if the Spirit of God/Christ lives in you and one has ( "the mind controlled by the Spirit") it will "give life to your mortal body" for you will not sin? None of these issues are theoretical for me, and I appreciate having a brother believer to speak to them about.

Response #11:

By using the word "control" I have sought to emphasize and make clear the point that Paul is making: we are either controlled by the flesh or by the Spirit (cf. Gal.5). So the control is permissive in that it requires us to cede control to the Spirit (otherwise we cede control to the flesh by default). Paul puts this very much as John does in his first epistle, describing the believer's state as an absolute, using our correct position and response as a given, showing us thereby that with the Spirit within us, of course we should be acting in this correct way at all times and very definitely could at any given time – despite that fact that in practice "all stumble" from time to time. For in fact, as Paul also says (and as John says too) we still do have the problem of sin: "all sin and fall short" (Rom.3:23). If we cede control to the Spirit as we should – that is the "new natural" state we are in as believers in Christ who have been reborn and been given the Holy Spirit – then we are under the Spirit's control (the correct state of things) and do not sin. Of course, being mortal, being human, having a sin nature, we do all fail, we do all fall, we do all need God's mercy and forgiveness – which, blessedly, we have through Christ's sacrifice! If we make a point of behaving the way we are described in scripture – our Christian "job description" here and in 1st John (notably; see the link) – then we do begin to "put to death" the flesh. That is, in addition to having an absolute spiritual state with the absolute indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we also have a relative state of spiritual growth, maturity and progress (i.e., sanctification is both absolute and progressive; see the link). The more we advance in our accepting and learning of the truth – and in effectively putting it into practice – the more, the more often, and the more effectively we will be "putting to death" the deeds of the flesh. Simply put, believers are never free of sin, but they get better about avoiding it if they are truly growing and advancing spiritually by taking advantage of the resources God has provided: the truth of the Word of God and the Spirit's ministry through that truth.

Little could be worse, however, than assuming that in one act or in one moment a person can forever get the upper hand over sin (any more than one sin could forever put us beyond the pale – the only "unforgivable sin" is rejecting Christ). That is not a biblical position. It is also not the case (see the link: "The Myth of Sinless Perfection" Peter #15). I do understand how such scriptures can be misunderstood, but people who take this position are in for trouble. Either they will get depressed when they fail and begin a cycle of self-loathing and looking backwards which makes further progress and advance difficult and even unlikely; or they will not be willing to admit their failures and so will be tempted to "re-define" sin as only being things that they don't do or actually can control. Either way, failure to get this point correct is at the heart of much spiritual shipwreck and unnecessary self-torture.

I have written much about these matters in the past. Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Doubting Salvation and Questions of Sin

Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

Sinlessness and 1st John.

Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.

Sin and Spiritual Transformation.

Bible Basics 3B:  Hamartiology:  The Biblical Study of Sin

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Bob,

Is there another possibility implicit in what Paul, John and others, like David, write about sin. That Jesus taught his disciples to "take heed of themselves" in order view their inner world. And there one would see ("watch") the many facets of our human nature, or the "children of men" (who are carnal in nature) as the child of God (in Christ). Thus, those who miss the mark (sin) are these wayward children and he (the child of God in us, born of the Spirit) who watches and abides in Christ, is sinless. Isn’t the process of sanctification and purification of which you write produced by this inner watchfulness? Doesn’t’ this watchfulness, empowered by the help (grace) of God give us the hope that we shall bring these wayward children under the control of our mature inner Man; our single Eye, and thus Christ will be formed in us.

Below, does David as he does in other Psalms, watch his inner world where he finds both his "workers on iniquity" and his "perfect," the "righteous," the "upright in heart," in Christ?

Psalm 64 King James Version (KJV)
Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. 2 Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: 3 Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: 4 That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. 5 They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? 6 They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. 7 But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded. 8 So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away. 9 And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. 10 The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.

Response #12:

I'm not sure what you mean by "watching our inner world". If by this you mean taking heed to the Spirit's prompting of our consciences, I would certainly agree. As I often say, life in this world for Christians is actually simpler than it may seem. All we really need to do is to "find out what's right, then do it".

Apologies if I am misunderstanding – please do feel free to write back.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

By watching himself Paul apparently discerned that it was not his real I that missed the mark but "sin" ( a false "I") that lived in him. Paul separates his feeling of his real I ( who he is in Christ) from that which is in him that sins, without excusing or justifying himself or "his" sins. So isn’t Paul saying that his real I and what sins in him are different entities of his spiritual inner world, which he has viewed (watched)? Paul says he knew what was right, but could not do it. His way out was not that he began to do what was right, because he knew what that was, rather he realized that the sin ( false ‘I") that lived in him did not allow him to do what was right, but that was not all there was to Paul; there was Paul in Christ, who could separate his feeling of "I" or self from that which was sinning, by watching it. Certainly, the promptings of the Spirit empowered Paul’s spiritual discovery, and the one (the Real I) who watches is one’s awakened consciousness of one’s self (Conscience) in Christ. To me what is important in this discovery is that while we know that we cannot follow the law to be justified, we may not realize that trying to find out what is right and do it is the same effort. Isn’t the law just that: what is right spelled out, explicitly? My question mark is real; I am not sure yet. On the other hand, I begin to understand that the spiritual/psychological act of watching oneself ( observing the action of sin the lives in one’s self engages our spirit ( our Real "I") with Christ’s righteousness in our self, and He can both find out what is right and do it for us.

I have read some of the emails you exchanged with the "sinless perfectionist." I am not saying that a person, who, in the Spirit, watches (observes) himself does not sin. This apparent contradiction is the same one John raises in his 1st letter, where she says believers both sin and do not sin: the part not sinning being the child of God; the part sinning of the "habitual-one" (devil).

Response #13:

As I often say, all a Christian really needs to follow Christ properly is to "find out what it is right to do, then do it". We do all stumble, fall and fail. I believe that Paul expresses that in Romans, but also that he is trying to show that following the Law is not a workable way to achieve the spiritual progress we all should want in Jesus Christ. The practical application of this for Christians, it seems to me, is that only by following the Law of love, that is, through positive response to the Lord through learning, believing and following the truth in the power of the Spirit of God, can we ever hope to be what Jesus wants us to be. Perfection is impossible; progress, on the other hand, is not only possible but necessary to achieve the spiritual growth and earn the rewards we have been put here for. I think it is clear from your emails and those of others posted to Ichthys, and also from the manner in which Paul and John (and others in scripture) state these things, that there are different ways of phrasing these same truths. My restraint is the way scripture puts things. If you have found a good way to "put it" for your own purposes, I would not quibble with that, but I would prefer not to parse your personal application of these things. That is because "A to b to all who listen to b" is the correct biblical procedure (i.e., the Bible through the Spirit to the teacher to those who listen to the teacher). Where theology and theologians get into to trouble is when they and their adherents and audience begin reacting to one another. No matter how well-intended that process, it will always skew away from the truth, if only because every next listener will hear something a little different. There are many parts to the body of Christ, and we are all members individually of Jesus. We all have to find the best communication of the truth we can, and no doubt there are many pastor/teachers in the body for the simple reason that we all do hear a little differently (based on all the many factors that make human beings around the world and within each society different from one another to one degree or another). However, the truth is the truth, and the objective for any pastor/teacher is to understand and explicate the truth of scripture in the most straight-forward and doctrinally correct manner possible. The fact that we speak different languages, come from different generations, different cultural and theological backgrounds, means that not everyone will have the same approach. I am sure that my own approach and my own phrasing of these things is not perfect, even though I strive daily to make it the best I can. These passages and these concepts are not simple ones; what I have tried to do is to teach the essence of the truth they contain in an understandable way while hewing as closely as I can to the actual biblical wording used in the original texts. I guess this is not much of an explanation, but it is the best one I can give in response.

You have a very careful and introspective approach to these important matters. It's not my place to say, but, since it is true that we all have our own gifts from the Spirit, perhaps you should consider whether or not you have been given a teaching gift. There are many struggles and much preparation necessary to get the point of being able to use and effectively exploit such a gift, but nothing is more important (or more blessed).

Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

I may have been given a gift, but it may not be to teach; rather, to point those who should teach in the right direction. What if the key to understanding the message of Jesus Christ, in the whole of the scriptures, is found in the revelation of James 1:23-26; 2:12-13. James defines " the work" as the hearing and then performing of the word ( Jesus’ teaching). James further suggests that this special "work" is an internal one and may be compared to peering into a mirror, where one may observe and experience one’s freedom, as well as experience spiritual action that amounts to a law: one receives the mercy/grace that one gives. Jesus says God himself does the "work," as well and himself:

"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."

" I finished the work you gave me to do."

The "work" is the practice of "self-observation," in the Spirit. (not reflection, but divided attention to self and other in the present moment.) A study of this word "work" shows that it ( the "work," sometimes referred to as the work of God’s/our hands) is taught throughout the scripture.

James 1:23-26 King James Version (KJV)
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 2:12-13
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

When Paul famously says "He who doesn’t work; neither shall he eat," he wasn’t speaking about a meal but of our "daily" bread!

Response #14:

It is true that "work" means more in actual biblical parlance than is often understood when these matters are discussed. Acting, speaking or thinking "in faith" is indeed a genuine "work" – as is anything else we legitimately "do" for the Lord, whether that "doing" involves what is going on in our hearts, what is coming out of our mouths, or what we are accomplishing with our hands or all three combined – as long as it is actually something the Lord really wants us to do (think/speak/act).

I think this indeed a very important scriptural principle, and it does figure large throughout Ichthys wherever such matters are discussed. I don't think I would want to take 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 to that level of figurative interpretation, however. Paul means this literally. It can be a point to bring up by way of application when teaching this passage, however.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Bob,

The "tradition" that Paul speaks about is not that one labor at a job, but that one "work" on oneself, begun in the practice of self-observation, and fulfilled daily in receiving one’s super-substantial bread and having such bread to share with others, as one patiently bears the burden of other’s trespasses as well as the burden of one’s own sins ( seen by self-observation). This "work" on oneself is thus an inner work; called the "work of faith with power" by Paul. It is the reality of faith, in practice, which is the only work that pleases God. It is the faith of Jesus Christ, who full-filled the Law by finishing this work on himself. Abraham did this inner work as he loved ( became conscious of) Christ ( in himself) more than his own natural son ( he ‘hated’ his son, as Jesus later says) and set him upon the alter. James said we can do it by merely J bridling/holding our tongue! David tries to do this ‘good work’ and says his tongue burned in his mouth! p.s. ‘hands’ in scripture are, partly, what we might call " attitudes." I wish to ask you to closely consider the question whether Paul, when he refers to " work" is referring to some kind of employment among believers, when they are gathered together, or not, in Thessalonica. Please note that Paul equates the lack of "work" with walking "disorderly." Paul also says to not work is to be a "busybody." (to mind others’ affairs). If Paul was referring to whether a person had employment, would he then equate that lack of employment with being a busybody? One could not work and not be a busybody, certainly. Paul uses the same word "disorderly" to describe egregious behavior ( not lack of employment) which he says the Corinthians ( "unworthily") take communion, without "examining" themselves. In turn, Paul uses this word "examine" (prove) referring to the practice of examining one’s self and to minding one own affairs and not others, when he speaks of "the work" to the Galatians:

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Paul urges his people "to study to be quiet." James make the same point when he says to "hear and do the word is to do the work" and says one cannot do the work and follow Jesus teaching unless he bridles his own tongue.

"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless."

Thus, to "work," involves being quiet ( bridling the tongue) minding one’s own affairs and an orderly (self-conscious) walk, and so Paul calls upon his brethren to " work with your own hands; " or in other words to work in their inner man, by examining their own thoughts and feelings or attitudes.

"and to study to be quiet, and to do your own work, and to work with your own hands, as we did command you,"

Paul is describing, in part, what he means when he says we must "walk in the Spirit:" to walk in the Spirit is to do the work. Then, those who work may eat. Could Paul be speaking in part about the communion meal as well as the daily bread of LIFE? It seems beneath Paul to, perhaps, deny a brother communion or any communal meal and ask the brothers to shun him, because he would not labor at a job. But, if a brother’s religion has become "worthless" as James suggests, then Paul is correct, I think, in his judgment.

Response #15:

Maybe that's the problem. Paul isn't talking about communal meals (or communion), but about eating generally. In this sentiment he is exactly reproducing the fundamental human calculus divinely prescribed when mankind was evicted from Eden: "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken" (Gen.3:19 NIV); and if anyone is unwilling to sweat, said person should not expect to eat. This was apparently an important point to make for a few in Thessalonika were expecting to be catered to by the rest of the church there simply because they were now "Christians". But Paul makes clear on a number of occasions that there should be no Christian "dole", even if there is and should be Christian charity: an important distinction indeed (see the link: "Church support of widows").

I'm off soon to visit family for the holidays. Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas too.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

In 1 Cor. 4: 12, Paul speaking of all the apostles says:

" we.. labor, working with our own hands: being reviled we bless; being persecuted we suffer it; being defamed we entreat….."

It is self-evident from the context and usage that to work with [one’s] own hands cannot refer to manual labor since to do so is equated with the inner adoption of faithful and forgiving attitudes by all the apostles.. which Paul says are his ways, which he teaches everywhere and which he beseeches the Corinthians to follow!

With hope that new vistas in Christ will open before you.

Response #16:

Apologies for the delay – I was out of town visiting family for Christmas and after, and it was not convenient to be answering emails.

As to 1Cor.4:12, Paul often uses the "plural of humility" in referring primarily to himself. Also, not only do I not find it "self-evident" that "with our own hands" is not referring to manual labor, but I know of no one else who has ever questioned that fact. What is your specific proof/argument that this could even mean something else? Honestly, I don't know how he could have been any clearer in the Greek even if it were his particular purpose to head off a mistaken view that this meant something else other than that he worked to pay the bills himself so that the Corinthians would not be burdened (as he says many times to them after all; e.g., 2Cor.11:8). And we know that he did "make tents" in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3).

Here's wishing you a wonderful 2014 in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Bob,

As an example of working with [ our ] own hands, Paul says "being reviled we bless." What does a person do when reviled, who does not do the work of faith, who does not work with his own attitudes: he reviles in return. So to do the work of faith or the work with one’s own hands, is to think and act much differently and not, for example, respond with reviling when reviled; but rather bless the reviler. In 1 Cor. 4: 12, Paul speaking of all the apostles says:

" we.. labor, working with our own hands: being reviled we bless; being persecuted we suffer it; being defamed we entreat….."

Response #17:

The fact that Paul is speaking of himself here does not rule out the application of this verse to us and to others. Christ, for example, is our role model for spirituality in this life, and Paul encourages us to think of both Christ but also of himself too as a model for how to live and behave:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1st Corinthians 11:1 NIV

In any case, this really doesn't have anything to do with the fact that "with our own hands" is speaking of Paul's supporting of himself through manual labor in order to serve the Corinthians on a completely grace-basis (equivalent today of a pastor/teacher serving his flock without taking a salary). It's a different sentiment/part of the verse entirely, so the questions in the previous email still need to be answered.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

I leave you with this tip: the colon in the KJV translation indicates that to not react by reviling, but instead, to bless the other, when reviled, is an example or proof of "working with [one’s] own hands."

" we.. labor, working with our own hands: being reviled we bless; being persecuted we suffer it; being defamed we entreat….."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colon_(punctuation)

Usage[edit]

The most common use of the colon is to inform the reader that what follows the colon proves, explains, defines, describes, or lists elements of what preceded it. In modern American English usage, a complete sentence precedes a colon, while a list, description, explanation, or definition follows it. The elements which follow the colon may or may not be a complete sentence: since the colon is preceded by a sentence, it is a complete sentence whether what follows the colon is another sentence or not.

Response #18:

Apologies for the delay in response (still snowed under after returning from visiting family out of town for Christmas).

There is generally speaking little or no punctuation in the ancient Greek manuscripts (nor any space between letters). Breaks are represented by conjunctions, but something like an English colon found in your Bible is an entirely interpretive device put in by translators. So even if the colon could support this theory (which I do not by any means concede nor see), it isn't evidence when dealing with a language that doesn't have the same symbols or use punctuation in the same way. Also, KJV is the only version which uses a colon here (even the New KJV replaces it with a period). Here is something else to consider:

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
Ephesians 4:28 KJV

In the verse above, we not only a similar sentiment but the precise same phraseology in Greek (ἐργαζόμενοι ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσίν in 1Cor.4:12) – and the verse directly above is impossible to spiritualize since working is opposed to stealing, and since the purpose of working "with his one's own hands" (not Paul or his group but all generally) is to be able to share with others in need.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Do you have any tips for getting over procrastination. It's like my vice. If I didn't procrastinate I could get so much more done.

Response #19:

We all have our faults. This one is a question of self-discipline. In my experience and observation, self-discipline is one of the most important personal virtues a person can develop, because it pays dividends in everything we do in this life. Many people are able to do a great deal – under direct supervision and the accountability of others. However, it takes stringent self-policing to get things done consistently when one is "free" to use time, effort and resources however one might like to do so (and that is true even when that "freedom" is only temporary and not complete – i.e., when the "piper must be paid" eventually).

Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.
Proverbs 25:28 NKJV

For those who do not have time or opportunity to join the Marines (or some such other organization/experience where such self-discipline is instilled), spiritual growth is also the panacea for this area of personal development. The closer we draw to Jesus in fact, the more we are willing to subordinate our will to the Will of God in all things. This does take time, and struggle, and commitment – and we will always be in danger of sliding backwards on this issue, and will always find ways in which we can improve, but if our priorities are correct, our forward progress in spiritual growth will begin to positively affect everything we do – including getting things we need to get done done in a timely fashion (and the same goes with being patient in personal relationships and trusting the Lord that He will work out this area of our lives for us wonderfully and marvelously too – if only we keep trusting in Him).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dear Bob,

It's been quite some time, hasn't it? And I've wanted to let you know that I've continued my study and try to make an effort to grow in the Lord every day, even if in some small way; though, lately, I haven't felt too much growth, but could that be from my life in general which is fairly stagnant right now? I feel like there's one last vestige of sin that I've yet to gain control over: my own mind. I know we all sin, and this is what repentance is for, but I feel like there must be a way to almost completely tame the mind. Sometimes I feel like it's out of control, because sinful thoughts seem to come to mind, sometimes constantly. Like, just tonight, I as reading revelations, and to my shame and even fright the phrase 'victory' came to mind, and I think I was not thinking about God if you know what I mean...

Obviously, I don't believe that in the slightest, and it did feel like a simple slip/lapse/sinful thought that literally kind of appeared out of nowhere, and I of course immediately repented... and not to look back, but it really disturbs me that such thoughts come from my mind. I feel like I'm constantly in struggle and at war with my own mind, sometimes. Sometimes I find myself resorting to counting in my head just to keep from thinking sinful thoughts. Am I missing anything? Is this at all normal? I know there are many situations people find themselves in which they feel like they may be the only ones in them, and generally they are not, but this issue does feel fairly... I don't know, unique. I can usually force out sinful thoughts, or distract myself with something else, but I feel like I'm missing something....

Response #20:

Good to hear from you, my friend. Apologies for the delay. I have been snowed under since returning from visiting family over Christmas.

Although this has been a continuing complaint of yours for some time, I would like to point out to you that 1) it is getting somewhat more infrequent; 2) you are handling it better. I do understand that this is still an issue – it may continue to be (we all have our particular weaknesses and vulnerabilities which the devil knows well and seeks to exploit) – but you should definitely be encouraged by the fact that you are doing a better job coping with it. It is also not an insubstantial point to consider that you are also getting better about understanding what is going on. That is another mark of spiritual growth. While it is sin to succumb to temptation and foolish to put oneself unnecessarily into situations where temptations will occur, it is not a sin to be tempted. Especially if we have a history of failure in a particular area of temptation, then the temptation itself may "make us feel bad" no doubt when it reoccurs. But, as you are beginning to do, we need to learn to separate the two in our thinking and in our application. Just as when facing a deprivation test we need to glory in suffering for Christ and not feel bad about being deprived of something if said deprivation is beyond our control and not a result of anything sinful or malfeasant on our part, so it is with unwanted temptation. It may take a long while to feel good about being tested in this way, but it is high time to stop feeling bad about it.

In terms of "tactics", spiritual growth, as I always say, is the ultimate answer. The closer we grow to Jesus Christ and the more consistent we become in our walk with Him as a result, the more these sorts of issues will diminish – both in their strength and in our concern for them. If I have one piece of specific advice, it would be to become more proactive in thinking. If we are aggressively thinking good things, bad things will have a harder time making headway. So instead of counting blindly, why not count and name the gates of the New Jerusalem and their gem stones? Why not concentrate on all the glories of the Millennium and the Eternal State to come? Why not focus on your eternal inheritance? Why not remember point by point all the blessings you have as believer in Christ, your union with Him, the gift of the Spirit, the gifts you have been given, etc. etc.? Why not recite a favorite psalm? In this way, you will be taking the spiritual offensive so that the test/trial will result in edification instead of self-recrimination:

(1) Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, keep seeking after the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Keep thinking on the things above, and not the things on the earth.
Colossians 3:1-2

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ who is our joy forever,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hello Sir

I hope all is well with you. Thank you for providing that help last time (about the interpolation from the conversation about Jesus and the woman found in the act of adultery). I remember reading a past post about it and for some reason I forgot about it in a conversation I had with someone and created what I thought did happen, when in fact nothing really did.

I wanted to get a clear understanding on 2 Peter 1:3-11 on this email. Specifically verses 5 - 8. To me it seems more like a progression rather than a list of must haves. If you can I wanted to know how does the progression that Peter provided link to one another and a rendering of those verses. Is this the staircase to a believer's maturity in Christ? Your help on this is greatly appreciated.

Another question I have is when the bible says all things work together for good, I understand the gist of it but does it mean that every action we do (that we may think is outside the will of God...like sin) God uses it to further his purpose in our lives?

I hope all is well with you and yours..

Response #21:

Good to hear from you again.

As it happens, I have his passage along with the virtues listed here covered at the following link:

The Progression of the Christian Virtues (in Pet.#17)

As you can see even from the title, I do agree with you that what we have is a progression. Do feel free to write me back about anything you find here.

As to your other question, I think a better translation will help understand this passage:

And we know that, for those who love God, He works everything together for good – [that is to say,] for those who have been called according to His plan.
Romans 8:28

Whether we take God as the subject or not (both theoretically possible in the Greek), it is clear that He is the Agent of "working all things together for good" in any case. What this means is that the entire plan of God has been perfectly constructed to provide salvation for all who are willing, and maximum spiritual growth for all who are saved – to the extent that we are willing to surrender our will to His WILL. In the process of so doing, He has taken absolutely everything into account, including our bad decisions (which do hurt us in terms both of discipline and lost opportunities) as well as our good ones. There is much more about this and the mechanics behind it at the following link: in BB 4B: "God's Plan to Save You".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Thank you for the insight through the material you provided in the link. It seems to me (especially through your exegesis) that knowledge overlaps them all. Knowledge of our sinful state (from natural revelation) leads us to saving faith in Jesus Christ, knowing who Jesus is as our archetype (doing as Jesus did) will allow us to know what to do or what's good and proper, expanding on that knowledge will let us know who Christ is and who we are in Him, the world, our adversary and our sin nature, thus we will be able to control these lusts and desires that are within and without because of our (glorious) expected end. Godliness, we have knowledge why we are here (to spread the good news through our individual ministries) and maintain that integrity. Done effectively love for the brethren and the world shows because of the knowledge of who Christ is, what He's done and what He offers.

I hope I got this right. Compared to the faith, hope and love, this seems to be more comprehensive for the believer internally. So if that is true, what is our indication for us to know where we are or what we need to work on? Thanks for the help.

I have another question or concern. I find that whenever I pray for something in particular (like to be more like Christ, show love, things like that) it seems like later on that day I am attacked against the very thing I pray for. Sometimes I do fail or when im about to fail I catch myself and pray for wisdom in that situation. This is something that happens regular with me. I know scripture tells us that all believers are going through the same type of thing. How can we champion these attacks in Christ.

Response #22:

This seems to me like a reasonable way to think about these things. One small caveat: I think the word "control" might be a bit overstated. We all have areas of weakness, and while we do want to gain victory over them, and will with growth and determination get to the place where they are temporarily "controlled" most of the time, once we begin to think about the battle as "over" (in the sense of "control"), we are likely to get hit with a surprise attack. Consider for example James' discussion of the sins of the tongue in James 2:1-12. Complete control over this area seems almost impossible in any case, and especially after reading James' discussion. It is possible not to sin with the tongue; my point is that here we have a good biblical example of an area of sinfulness where eternal vigilance is necessary to keep that area pinned down and violations to a minimum. It's a good bet that every believer has some specific area of weakness where "control" will never seem like a good word to use – and may be a dangerous word to use during a lull between attacks.

As to "areas to work on", I do commend the virtues scripture lays down ("faith, hope and love" are the short list; for an analysis of the longer one you reference in your title in 2 Peter 1:3 - 11, see the link: "Virtue Thinking"). The virtues of scripture, indeed, all Bible verses which are prescriptive and proscriptive, test us when we read them – if we read them carefully in the Spirit – showing us where we fall short or may have need of improvement. As you rightly suggest, everything centers at the apex of walking as Christ would have us to walk, keeping Him in mind as our model, example and leader in all things. It's obviously beneficial to think about this from the unified point of view (following Jesus; living as He would have us to do), and also broken down into essentials (i.e., love, the three virtues, all virtues, all scriptures which discuss our role and behavior). What is often missed in discussions like this, however, is that the Christian life is not primarily about "defense". Most in the evangelical world today assume that keeping one's nose clean in terms of sin (and usually only gross sin and behaviors considered sinful, some of which are instead legalistic prohibitions, with sins of the tongue and heart often entirely forgotten about), and then going to church and witnessing (often in a non-effective check-the-box way) are "enough". In fact the Christian life is meant to be first and foremost lived on the offense: sanctification (true sanctification) is only the essential base from which we are to move forward and exploit the grace and the gifts we have been given. Spiritual growth and progress on the road to Zion are really where we should be living this life for Christ (with production flowing from the tested maturity these good activities provide).

As to your experience, I wouldn't say it's an uncommon one. If we are praying for help in some area where we are proving deficient, the fact of our praying about it has it highlighted in our thinking so that we are likely to be more attuned to our failures. Also, the Lord is probably answering us in showing us where we are failing. When it comes to falling short, whether it is doing something we shouldn't or failing to do something we should, God the Father does respond to our prayers, the Spirit does empower us, and Jesus Christ does show us the way – but we are still the ones making the decisions and following through on them (or not). God gives us the power; He doesn't take away our free will – and hence He doesn't remove the necessity for us to fight through the resistance we face. It's all about the fight. Stay in the fight.

Your fellow warrior in Jesus Christ, whom we are here to serve and glorify,

Bob L.

Question #23:

In light of Colossians 14:17, is it correct to take the subject of Philippians 1:6 as a Christian?

Response #23:

Paul is certainly writing to Christians at Philippi. In Philippians 1:6 he approaches the issue of spiritual growth from the standpoint of God's work in bringing us along – without which there would be no spiritual progress. In Colossians 4:17 he approaches the issue from the point of view of the necessity of our own faith decisions to do what the Lord wants us to do – without which there would be no spiritual progress.

Question #24:

What does Luke 16:8 mean and in what terms is that cleverness?

Response #24:

Being "clever" in this context is the ability to forecast likely future events and take the appropriate action ahead of time. For an unbeliever that means in this case doing what is necessary to avoid trouble; for a believer, that would mean doing what is necessary to get a good report from the Lord on that great day to come. After all, if even a pagan can see what is coming and make a good plan for all to go well, how much more should we Christians who know that the Lord is going to evaluate our lives in detail not spend every effort to grow spiritually, walk closer to Jesus day by day, and help others through effective ministry? That is the way of reward, the way of building up our faith, hope and love. Sitting idly by when we know for certain what is coming is not "clever"; see the link: "The parable of the unjust steward".

Question #25:

I think you said somewhere that your saying "Where there is life, there is hope" isn't based directly on the scripture, but now that I'm going through Ecclesiastes, verse 9:4 seems to me to be saying exactly this:

Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NASB)
For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion.

Response #25:

Thanks!  And also this:

And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:23 NIV

Question #26:

Regarding the "new commandment" in 1 John 2:7-11 – do our Lord's words in the gospel about love qualify in this regard as the "old commandment" (as it has already been taught in the gospel), or as "new commandment" (since our Lord speaks about love as a fulfilment of the Law and prophets and it is He who gives the teaching of the Word this new "spin")?

Response #26:

I think you are as close to this as I can get – I'm not sure I can fine tune it any further. One point to note is that the Light is Jesus Christ: He is the fulfillment of the law for all who believe, and we who do believe are "light" in Him and can walk in love by following His example in the power of the Spirit – new things since Pentecost. Clearly, the time of our Lord's sojourn straddles both covenants, fulfilling the one and inaugurating the other, blending perfectly the old and the new:

He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."
Matthew 15:32

Question #27:

On the New commandment, this is how I currently understand it:

7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you (because the teaching of love was present in the Old Testament), but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard (you have read the scriptures of the Old Testament and can see the teaching of love shining through it). 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining (yes, this is a new commandment, because the law of love is replacing the teaching of the old testament; the law of love is not about fulfilling ordinances, it goes beyond what is written). 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1st John 2:7-11

Let me know if this is correct. I'm just not sure if by the "old commandment" which "is the word which you have heard" John only means the Old Testament, or also some New Testament teaching. I think you include the gospel as a part of the "old commandment", but I don't know how to reconcile it with the fact that the gospel already teaches us the love.

Response #27:

We have spoken about this before and I have resisted being absolutely dogmatic about the overlap, but perhaps it would not be incorrect to say that our Lord combines the two (cf. the good householder of Matt.13:52), so that anyone, like John, looking back would be looking back at the composite of our Lord's announcing of the Kingdom and the New Covenant, as well as forward to the detailed exposition of these things given via progressive revelation to the writers of the epistles.

Question #28:

Ok, so would you say I am correct to take the gospel as the "new commandment", as it is our Lord who introduced the new (as actually reflected in the Matthew 5 passages we discussed in the point above)? This is the one part I've not been sure about, I think somewhere you classified as a part of the old.

Response #28:

As to love, we do find in the gospels:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ "This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 22:35-40 NASB

And this comes from the Old Testament, after all. It is true that the Spirit did not reside within believers as a permanent presence as is true today, but think how much wonderful spiritual progress was made by men such as David, Elijah, Noah, Daniel (etc.)! There is power in the truth, the power to "set you free", and God has always provided both the truth and the means to make it one's own through faith. What we do with that truth is a matter of individual choice. The Spirit prods us, but many ignore His efforts, after all.

 

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