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Fighting the Fight VI

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Question #1:

Hi there,

Just thought I would send you a fast hi and how are you doing?

We are getting a little more settled. I've been busy sanding and staining our kitchen table with 6 chairs. It had molded in storage where we had our things for 2 years in an open barn. Its been quite the job but its turning out very nice. I have now finished a table 4 chairs and 5 other pieces of furniture.

The raspberries came on and we got 10 gallons. I also have made black cap and apricot jelly. Getting ready to pick blackberries soon.

Besides being really busy I have found time to read your Eschatology. What an amazing reading. I have absolutely loved it.

I know in my heart this home we are in was where we are meant to be for now. I'm still not certain how we are going to do it but that's the faith we need to have. We are renting from __ they are all kind but sure are into their assets. They like us because we take care of things. At first I was thinking they really wanted to help us and that's why we were able to move into this house but as time goes by I have realized its only because God wants us here. They are all about money and assets.

On another note. The place we were last year, well last week it caught on fire. They were haying and the piece of equipment sparked in the field and it caught the grass on fire. The fire moved up the hill and everything burnt where we had our camper. The house and shop thank goodness survived. I'm very thankful we weren't there or we would have more than likely burnt. I don't think we would have had enough time to load the camper onto the truck. The fire season is on here. It's been really smoky. There was a big fire last week above the barn where we have a lot of our house belongings. I didn't worry to much as I couldn't get it out in time if it were to burn and I figured if it was meant to burn then so be it. Just like if we were meant to be at the place we were – instead God had moved us out. The barn ended up being safe. But we aren't out in the clear yet. The smoke is really thick here. You cannot see out very far.

I'm so thankful for all God has shown me. I truly believe all hardships are for good and to just have faith.

Thanks for all your time in reading and returning my emails.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Response #1:

Thanks much for the update. It's wonderful to see the Lord moving in good Christians' lives. He has certainly been looking out for you. I have been keeping you and your family and situation in my prayers daily and I'm very happy to hear that things have gone from daily trial to hopeful – that's what we like to hear! I know that the Lord will work all this out together for good.

I also know what you mean about folks who are focused on material things. It is a way of life for far too many Christians. If it means anything, I have noted that to a person all of the Christians I know through this ministry who are truly dedicated to the Lord and to learning and living His truth in more than just a "nod to God" sort of way all seem to have financial stresses and strains. The ones who aren't gung-ho for the truth the same way we are may be nice enough . . . and they have assets; but they don't seem to be being tested and prepared in the same way. Tells you something.

Thanks for your kind comments, for your prayers, and for your Christian friendship!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I cannot stop having these nervous tics. I've prayed the hardest I've ever prayed in my life and it won't go away. It's so bad that I wouldn't wish this on anyone. It makes me feel as if God has forsaken me, and I don't know what I've done to warrant this. The bible says that God will never forsake us and never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able. It's as if none of that is working in my life. I know that I am a child of God according to scripture, but why would God allow any of His children to suffer as I am suffering? I would rather not exist than to suffer with this.

God Bless,

Response #2:

I have been praying for you about this since you first mentioned it. Whenever we find ourselves suffering, it is always a test of our faith. For while it is true that we are disciplined by the Lord as a loving Father disciplines the sons and daughters He loves, it is also true that sometimes, and, in the case of positive believers on the spiritual advance, oftentimes we suffer "undeservedly". If this were the garden of Eden and if the devil were not allowed to persecute us, then such suffering would be odd. As it is, such suffering is a regular occurrence for believers who are really trying to live a life pleasing to Jesus Christ.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV

We can be fairly sure, whatever we are suffering, that we are not suffering as intensely as the apostle Paul suffered. For one thing, we are not as spiritually dangerous to the devil as he was, even if we are doing a good job for Jesus Christ. But we can certainly learn from his experience – and indeed that is what we must do. If we make the mistake of taking our troubles personally, we will fail the test. Paul understood that God was the solution, not the problem; that God was fair and good and just, and was not treating him badly. In other words, Paul had the spiritual maturity recognize that the evil one and his forces were persecuting him because he was doing a good job and so Paul did not blame God in any way. On the other hand, Job, who only got his answer after he had failed the test, did in the end fail to honor God with his words to the extent that he might have done. Since Job was one of the greatest believers who has ever lived, we can be forgiven for not being perfect in such circumstances right from the start. But we also need to benefit for the example of Job (and resolve not to fail this test) and from the example of Paul (and adjust our thinking until it matches what the Lord is thinking). We cannot expect the Lord to give us a verbal answer as He did for Paul, but the answer He gave Paul is meant for us too of course: whenever we feel as if we cannot go on, we need to embrace the words the Lord gave Paul: "My grace is sufficient".

We are beneficiaries of God's grace in so many wonderful ways. And we look forward to even better things beyond. If we were to be taken home by the Lord today, this very moment, our eternity would be one of bliss beyond understanding from that point forward. As long was we are in this world, however, we are here for only one reason: to glorify Jesus Christ. We are not here to enjoy ourselves (although God does not begrudge us enjoyment of what He has given us); we are not here to promote our own interests (although we can be grateful for all the promotion He gives us); and we are not here forever: all of this is coming to an end. We claim to trust God. When the pressure is on is the time to demonstrate that we mean what we say. Anyone can claim to trust the Lord. Only mature believers can actually do that to a great degree. If the Lord gives us a hard test – such as He has given you – our job is to trust Him that He will also get us through that test. The Israelites complained at the Red Sea – but the Lord brought them safe across. Then they complained in the desert – they were thirsty, they were hungry, they were impatient. And every time the Lord brought them through. And every test they failed should have been a learning experience, but they never learned. And speaking of that very example of the never-learn exodus generation in 1st Corinthians 10:1-12, Paul applies their experience to us and tells us what we must keep in mind when we are being tested:

You have not suffered any testing beyond normal human [experience]. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your capacity, but, along with the test, He will grant you the way out, so that you can bear up under it.
1st Corinthians 10:13

We are promised in this verse not an absence of testing, not an absence of suffering, not an immediate relief whenever we feel pain or trouble. No, we are promised that His "grace is sufficient" for us to get through. It may take much longer than we would like; it may be painful and troubling as we negotiate the test; it may truly "test our faith", but the outcome of that testing – for those who pass the test by trusting Him – is a stronger faith capable of greater things in the future, and the glorification of the Lord by showing that we do in fact trust Him no matter what.

In anticipation of this ultimate deliverance, your joy overflows, though at present it may be your lot to suffer for a time through various trials to the end that your faith may be shown to be genuine. This validation of your faith is far more valuable than gold, for gold, though it too is assayed by fire, ultimately perishes. But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Though you have never laid eyes on Him, yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize – the deliverance of your lives – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:6-9

If we love Jesus Christ, we will recognize that we are here for Him and Him alone, that everything that happens is known to Him and in the plan of God, that if we are suffering, He is indeed "working it out for good . . . for those who love Him" (Rom.8:28). If we pass the tests of suffering for Christ, we are earning eternal rewards that glorify Him and bless us for all eternity. If we give up, we only have relief here in this life.

(35) So do not throw away this conviction of yours – it leads to a great reward. (36) You need to keep persevering so that you may carry off in victory what has been promised – after you have accomplished God's will. (37) For yet a little while, how short, how [short the wait], and He who is coming shall come, nor will He delay. (38) "Then shall my righteous one live by his faith, but if he shrinks back, My heart takes no pleasure in him (Hab.2:3-4)." (39) Now we are not possessed of cowardly apostasy which leads to destruction, but we have faith which leads to [eternal] life.
Hebrews 10:35-39

This life is short. Eternity is long. Suffering causes us to examine ourselves, the genuineness of our faith and depth of it, and our true priorities in this life. Trials of every sort make us consider whether or not we really do trust the Lord. Is He worthy of our trust? Absolutely yes! He is and could only be 100% faithful to us. So if we are doubting that faithfulness, that goodness, that mercy, we are in the wrong, not the Lord. This is not the sort of thing that immature or young believers can easily handle – which is why they do not receive such tests – but it is a level of growth that mature believers always need to learn to negotiate – which is why we DO receive them.

God has not forsaken you. Christ is in you. God is not testing you beyond what you can bear – even if it seems that way; the fact that you are still trusting in Him means that you can bear up under it because you are indeed bearing it. God is not ignoring you; He hears your prayers and has answered them in eternity past. But if He solved the problem immediately, where would there be opportunity for trusting Him on your part? Where would the opportunity be to show the devil and his forces that you really do put more faith in the Lord and value Him more than even your own life and comfort? How would He be glorified in delivering you if the deliverance were a small thing or an easy thing or an instantaneous thing?

I do empathize with you. I do pray for your relief. I do fret about your problem – and also about your faith; more so about your faith. If you stand fast your ground, you will win a great victory of faith. That is also what I pray for, because that is what the Lord wants you to do, wants from you. It is not easy, of course, and it is much easier for me to say than for you to do. But please believe me when I say that I know of no serious Christian who has not undergone seemingly "impossible testing" – and yet the Lord delivered every time. Not necessarily in the time or way that deliverance was prayed for, but every time. For the Lord is faithful, and absolutely so. The only question is, how will we respond when He gives us these opportunities to trust Him?

It's not what the eyes see or the ears hear or the feelings feel that counts – it's what we know to be true by faith that counts. That is how all of the great believers of the Bible won approval, namely, by trusting the Lord when everything they saw and heard and felt – and often all of their friends as well – were telling them that it was foolish to do so (Heb.11:1ff.). We trust the Lord, even though the mountains should fall into the heart of the sea.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

Be pleased to wait on the Lord, my friend. He is not deaf to your prayers. He will deliver you in good time. Only trust Him.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I thought this nervous tic would never go away, but it seems to happen far less often now. Prayers, and going for walks on a sunny day sure is a good way to get my mind off of negative things, especially nervous tics. Thank you for sharing scripture that is very helpful in my struggles. I couldn't have asked for better bible verses. I can clearly see that the bible verses are "alive". Your prayers are a huge help. And I've come to realize that God's timing on answering my prayers are not the same as my own. Bless your heart, and I pray that God will bless you.

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #3:

Thank you so much for this encouraging email, my friend! You've really made my day. I have been concerned for you all week, but now it is clear that you have passed this test with flying colors – and God is good!!!

If you have a moment, it would be good of you to say a prayer for my friend, pastor teacher Curtis Omo (of Bible Academy which I recommend on Ichthys quite a bit). He and his family live in Houston and while not flooded (hope it stays that way), they are pretty much cut off along with everyone else.

Rejoicing in your good news, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our loving and faithful Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

My heart goes out to those in Houston. I will definitely pray for Pastor Curtis Omo, and pray that God's divine sovereignty and protection for him.

God Bless,

Response #4:

I should also share with that Curt and his family had to move about a year ago from an apartment where they were really comfortable – it was not a happy thing to have to do. But that place flooded with four feet of water and they would have lost everything. So when it comes to moving, if we have to do so, it is certainly possible that it is because God is looking out for us. I know that this is a great concern of yours as well and as you have asked I'm praying for you to be able to stay where you are . . . but not if it would be bad for you for reasons yet unknown. God knows all, and we have to learn to trust Him that He is working it all out for our good.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question on the subject verse. Here is the KJV version:

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Romans 8:17

The NASB says this:

and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Romans 8:17

1. The KJV seems to say that if perhaps we suffer, or if so be that we suffer.

2. The NASB seems to say that if indeed we suffer with Him, puts a condition on a person in addition to what it says in Eph. 2:8-9. Would not this be a work? Can you please clarify this for me? Always appreciate your insight and gracious help.

All Glory to the only one who is worthy to be praised, Jesus Christ the righteous one.

Your friend,

Response #5:

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

Here is how I translate this passage:

(16) For the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are God's children. (17) And if we are God's children, then we are also His heirs, even fellow heirs of Christ – that is if we have indeed suffered with Him so that we might also be glorified together with Him.
Romans 8:16-17

The point Paul is making is that being an heir, receiving an inheritance, getting a reward that merits mentioning, is not automatic. On the one hand it is true that if we are believers we have no worries and are saved: we will be resurrected and even the least well-performing of us will have a place in the New Jerusalem – an inheritance; on the other hand, tough times are ahead and some are going to lose their faith for unwillingness to persevere through the suffering to come, while others will squander their advantages and do little to glorify Christ so as to have their works burnt up at the judgment seat of Christ (1Cor.3:12-15). Both sides of this coin are true, and Paul, along with John and Peter and indeed all the writers of scripture under the inspiration of the scripture, is lead to emphasize both sides. Having just encouraged us with the truth of our adoption as sons and thus as joint heirs with Christ, Paul reminds us that we do need to persevere through suffering to achieve and maximize our glorification on that day – to the glory of Him we serve.

I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers daily.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thanks Dr.

Here is the question I am posing and thanks for resending. I did receive these.

In reference to Ro 12:1, most versions have "spiritual act of worship" while the KJV has "reasonable sacrifice". Which is the correct rendering?

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #6:

Best thing I can do is give you my translation:

(1) Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. (2) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2 (cf. Rom.2:17-18)

Paul is comparing service under the Law (Greek: latreia; translated 'service' by KJV and 'worship' by e.g. RSV) to our spiritual warfare in reprogramming our thinking in the Church Age – which is why he calls it "spiritual" (Greek: logike [from which 'logic']; translated 'reasonable' by KJV and 'spiritual' by e.g. RSV). NB: this is not the most common word for "spiritual" in the NT; so what this means essentially is "I'm using the word 'service' as an analogy and not literally"; Peter uses the adjective in the same sense at 1st Peter 2:2 where he wants us to know that the "milk" he's speaking about is the Word of God and not literal milk but that this too is an analogy. Moreover, logike is from logos meaning 'word' (as in the Word of God).

So our "spiritual" service has to do with the Word of God, not with the rituals of the Law. We "sacrifice ourselves" not literally as sacrifices in the Law, but spiritually by dedicated ourselves to the truth, learning it, loving it, living it. That is how we are transformed in our thinking so as to see things from God's perspective instead of that of the world – so that we may do what He really wants us to do: genuine service to His Church after growing up and passing necessary tests so as to be able to do so.

There will be much more about this in the soon-to-be-posted "BB 6A: Peripateology: the Study of the Christian Walk" (shooting for before the 4th of July).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

I am writing to a friend of mine who is asking about the strait gate and I want to respond in a way that will encourage him. I hope you will bear with me as this is liable to be quite long. I’ll write it as written but unsent as yet:

‘There are many who think that being a Christian and attaining salvation is dependent on attending a church on a regular basis. THAT SIMPLY ISN’T TRUE. God does not live in temples made with hands. In the early days of Christianity, most couldn’t read or write – people were so poor they couldn’t afford a Bible – they were all hand written. The printing press wasn’t invented until 1440, so you had to go to church to hear the word and the churches knew that so they had a monopoly on you. These days, everyone can afford a Bible and the churches have had to resort to other methods to entice and keep you. They know that attending church isn’t a pre-requisite for salvation. Sadly, over time, the churches have become so polluted by so much false doctrine making it very hard to find a good one. The reason I say this is because there is a danger that the truth in scripture can be, and often is, misinterpreted by some pastors and on certain issues (the timing of the catching-away) wrong teaching may be very costly indeed. This is why I believe it’s better to get a good Bible and start reading it together with http://ichthys.com/ beginning in the Satanic Rebellion. The Bible alone isn’t enough, you need a good teacher to explain and the best teacher is ichthys.com. I’ve already mentioned about having a preparedness of mind, that simply involves reading your Bible as much as you can, which is the only way you can spiritually grow. In this world of materialism it’s easy to find or invent reasons for not reading your Bible but just remember it’s Satan who puts up the ‘detour sign’ and we all need to be aware and overcome that. Human nature being what it is, sometimes finding the time to read can seem like a chore, of which I am also guilty but we can all find 10 minutes or so a day to create a habit and once you’ve developed the habit the Spirit will come to you – and that’s a wonderful thing! The more often you read the more God will send His Spirit if you invite him, and isn’t that what we want? Satan will always try to drive a wedge in between us and God and he will do that by whatever means, and one of the worst ways he discourages us is from reading our Bible regularly. If we give in to this sort of attack we will only slide backwards and if we allow it to continue, it can and may end in apostasy. A quick crash-course in reading the Bible at the last minute is not recommended.

Most people who go to church don’t read their Bible; instead they just rely on what is preached to them and when you understand what will happen to the churches in the last days, (Amos 8: 11 – 13 is a perfect example) a good Bible and ichthys.com is all you need.

Matthew 7: 13, 14 are two of my favourite verses that are one of the most important parables that is strangely, the least understood. So many really don’t understand the true meaning behind them and I’ll write them here with an explanation: Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life and few there be that find it.

To my mind Jesus is responding here to a question in Jeremiah 6: 16 which says, Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.

To explain these verses; there are so many different ways these days, which only causes confusion (much to Satan’s delight) – which one shall I go to? And that’s because they’re only looking for one that accommodates or suits their needs but ignores the big picture. There certainly is a broad way in which so many think that theirs is the right way but lead to nowhere, and millions to their astonishment will find it only ends in shipwreck on Eternity’s shore. (And further – any religion that says theirs is the only way – is a cult.) Jesus has told us about this narrow way that leads to life and we only have to ask the Spirit to lead us and it doesn’t involve going to an enterprise that is only concerned with numbers and money, which are all manmade, some far worse than others. (Many things are done in God’s name but are they done in His way?) Even in O.T. times, as it is today, good scripture is ignored, Jeremiah 5: 31 says it all: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

Most people today, in whatever belief they hold to have all heard or read these verses at some time and they all think that the road they’re on IS the narrow way. There are so many who prefer the broad way because it suits them, saying just what they said to Jeremiah, we will not walk therein. And because of their spiritual blindness and/or ignorance, is it of little wonder that Jesus said few there be that find it.

As a simple analogy, imagine yourself standing on an overhead bridge over a 15 lane highway, looking in the direction the cars are travelling and you notice the occupants of most cars appear happy but some are unhappy, so they change lanes, perhaps because that other lane is moving faster and they become content for a while. (This is people becoming restless in whatever religion they’re in and change for whatever reason.) This is the broad way, which is the easy way of the world. Soon you notice a small off-ramp leading off this highway and every now and then, a car exits this highway onto a very narrow road, which is not an easy road. But once off this highway there is so much more to see and the rewards are far greater than the broad way.

The strait and narrow way isn’t manmade, nor hard to find because it’s in you and anyone can enter in but it is difficult to travel – you just need to remember that Jesus walked it before us and suffered all for our sake and has promised to walk it with us. He simply said – follow me. (Ask yourself where was the strait and narrow way before Jesus – there weren’t any churches as we know them then.) Just as the Spirit is given by grace, so too, is the strait and narrow way and we access it by faith, by believing in Him, and maintaining that belief so that we don’t fall away in the days ahead by continuing in prayer and reading His words.
And few there be that find it suggests that this gate is hidden, 2nd Corinthians 4: 3, 4. Many seek to find it but only a few will and they fail because of not seeking with all their heart, no-one just happens on the narrow way casually without diligently searching until you finally realise it is within you all along. It isn’t just down the street and around the corner in a building or in another town, which is why it IS hidden to human reasoning but it is revealed to the searching heart. Seek and ye shall find.

Jesus has told us there are two gates, one is the strait and narrow gate, which is unappealing and difficult and you will be persecuted on this road, perhaps even to death. The other is the wide gate, much more alluring and easy, you won’t be persecuted on this road, which ends up as the devil’s highway. Even now there are many false teachers already in the churches. And just think, if you’re still in this broad way during Tribulation, which will be coerced into following Satan (in the Anti-Christ’s body) by the false prophet, you will be more likely to accept the mark. (And doesn’t that tell you that the easy ways of the world is far removed from the strait and narrow way.) I would ask you think about this – if the Spirit is given to lead us into truth, doesn’t it stand to reason that he will also reveal the strait and narrow way if we’re prepared to receive it with all our heart and mind? This can be a hard thing for many to accept. John 14: 5, Thomas says in part: and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me. There is only one God and there is only one way that is acceptable to Him. Ephesians 4: 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism. John 14: 26 says, if you ask for the Holy Spirit to teach you all things, he will guide you. We are saved by grace and not by works, Ephesians 2: 8, 9. No good works are ever sufficient in God’s eyes to equal or repay what Jesus did for us. Submitting to God’s will and not our own is the next step and is probably the hardest step as it means a sincere change to how we live our lives. It means not living for the things of this world, which we see all around us and mean little, but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. The most comforting thought for a sinner like me is the isn’t a sin so great that He won’t forgive. Salvation is the only thing that really matters and Jesus paid a terrible price for us, yet we hardly ever give it a thought. We can’t even imagine how God felt as it was at His cost. I am unable to express in words what His selfless sacrifice means to me – I only know I am unworthy.’

I’ve tried to put this as simple as I can so that my friend will understand it and I’m hoping he will have some questions.

Again Bob,

With brotherly love.

Response #7:

Great stuff!!!

One small comment, in the middle of the email where you talk about the Spirit you may give the impression that as a believer your friend still doesn't have the Spirit indwelling (which of course he does: Rom.8:9); I know what you are trying to say, but I would suggest rephrasing slightly.

It's a pleasure to see your growth coming out in this wonderful way of ministry!  [see now also "End of Days"]

Keep up the good work, my friend. I'll say a prayer for your friend's response.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your response to my email and I’m so very glad that you agree with my thoughts on the strait gate – it just seems a natural progression from receiving the Spirit.

It’s a shame that so many don’t think this way or even understand but I suppose that’s the way of the world now. Having once belonged to a cult (I didn’t know it at the time) and thankfully I’ve been out of it for some years now and it only furthers my distrust of all the churches these days, particularly knowing their end.

Sad too, that most who go to these buildings are ‘mouth only’ Christians and willingly put up with the lies that are fed to them, in particular the timing of the catching away. I cannot understand why so many who are blinded by hoopla have never bothered to examine them (it’s a blind trust) and have never thought about the strait gate in this manner before, yet one thing is certain – the Spirit isn’t going to lie to you. As I’ve said before a good Bible and ichthys.com is all you need – the Spirit will do the rest.

I sincerely hope that any who read my email (should you include it your email postings) may think about it as well and benefit from it, as I know that finding a half-way decent church is so hard these days.

Again dear Bob,

In brotherly love,

Response #8:

You're most welcome.

I do hope your friend responds. We can never predict when others will or won't respond to the truth – but it is blessed to give them the opportunity whenever it seems like there might be a chance.

Good for you!

I'll hold onto this for a future posting.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello Dr Luginbill, I pray you are doing well.

1) Biblically speaking, what does 'believe' mean? For example, when Eve chose to eat of the fruit was this because she did not believe what God said or that she believed what the serpent said?

2) What would be a good response to those new to the faith if ask how do they put their trust in God if they don't know him or have a hard time experiencing him? Essentially, how do we trust, have faith in one we can not sense or know personally?

Thanks as always

Response #9:

Hello Friend,

Good to hear from you.

On "faith" and "believe", the short answer is they mean to "trust" or to "place trust in" – when we genuinely and from the heart make a decision to rely on the Person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation we are born again. There is a great deal written on all this at Ichthys; here are a few links to some of the major postings on that:

Faith is Trust (in Pet. #21)

Faith Dynamics (Pet. #24)

Faith, Forgiveness and Salvation

I don't believe that scripture uses the words "faith" or "believe" or "trust" or anything related in Genesis chapter three or in any of the passages elsewhere in scripture which refer to the temptation of Eve and the fall. Nevertheless, in terms of application to our own situations, it does show that we have free will, and that our one decision to trust the Lord for salvation is not the end of the matter – we are challenged as to whom we will believe and what we will believe many times every day. That is, in a nutshell, the Christian fight. As to the "why" we fail as Eve failed, we fail because we choose to do so – putting self in front of the Spirit (whether we do so knowingly as Adam did or are deceived on account of being in a spiritually unprepared place as Eve was).

And as to your second question, as with all things in life, spiritual growth is a process. Just as we have to learn to walk before we can contemplate running a Marathon, so also with new believers: spiritual growth, the day by day accessing of the truth, believing it, and putting it into practice, is what gives confidence and builds faith. God is 100% faithful and worthy of our 100% trust response, but our faith starts out like a mustard seed. It has to be properly nourished to grow. That motivation has to come from within the individual Christian. If the will is there, God will provide the spiritual nutrition – and everything else (such as testing) to help the willing believer grow. But the short answer is always, truth, truth and more truth, hearing it, believing it and living it. That is what we ALL need – and there is no substitute.  As always, I recommend this ministry (and also Bible Academy).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi, I want to ask about Matthew 5:44-45.

It sounds like if we will not love our enemies than we are not sons of God.

Response #10:

The passage is an encouragement to carry out the command to love our enemies . . . "so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven".  That is to say, this is how the Father acts, forgiving everyone, even sacrificing Jesus Christ that all may be saved; so we should follow God's lead in this as in all things (1Pet.1:16).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #11:

"Pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."

Also it can sounds like they are persecuting us because we want to be children of the Father in heaven.

Response #11:

To the extent that "they" are being motivated / manipulated by the evil one, that is undoubtedly true:

"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also."
John 15:20 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

So I'm confused because it sounds also like if for example if boys are bullying me and I don't love them I will go to hell.

Response #12:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV

As the verse above makes crystal clear, believers go to heaven. Unbelievers go to hell. It's not about behavior. It's about faith in Christ.

If you are a believer, there are things you should do, of course, namely, grow up spiritually through learning and believing the truth, walk closer to Christ day by day through applying that truth to your life (and that does include sanctification, staying away from sin), and eventually help others do the same through whatever ministry Christ calls you to.

Besides, we don't have to like everyone; we only have to treat them in Christian love – which first and foremost means desiring their salvation. So we can pray for those who abuse us (Matt.5:44; Lk.6:28) without enjoying being abused or offering ourselves up to be abused. We don't have to seek out the company of such people – in fact it only makes sense to avoid them. But our mandate is to avoid hating them, cursing them, or doing our best to destroy them. That is what the world does (contrast: Rom.12:19). But as Christians we understand that Christ died for all, even those we don't like and whom we wish to avoid. Since He paid for their salvation and desires it, that should be our prayer as well. The fact that we may not be perfect in this does not mean we are "going to hell". Only unbelievers go to hell. No believer is perfect or sin free (e.g., Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:7-10). We all need to confess our sin and fight daily to live a sanctified life. We go to heaven for believing in Christ; we are rewarded for growth, progress and production; so that is where we should put our efforts. That is what glorifies the One who did everything for us, loving us so much that when we were yet His enemies Christ died in our place (Rom.5:8-10).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Bob,

What would constitute the difference in regards to application?

Will it be correct to see 'faith-repentance' as a salvation focus; From not knowing God to knowing God as Father in and through his Son, as the primary purpose for repentance? Jesus Christ's sacrifice was once for all. It will be difficult to practice repentance continually for committed sins, as if Christ's death did not suffice. Therefor, confession as a repetitive notion, rather than repentance?

The definition of repentance could then be qualified in view of having Christ as the substance and the content of once turning?

'Law-repentance' was differently applied simply because the blood of steers and goats cannot save and had to be repeated because of its inefficiency.

Grace and peace In Christ,

Response #13:

I my opinion, the essence of things under the Law was exactly the same; only the forms were different. The truth has always been the truth; only the way in which God has presented it in various forms and dispensations of it differs (Heb.1:1-2; and see the link).

You really broach two questions here, if I may (and if I am reading your text right): 1) What was the difference between biblical repentance before and after the cross?; and 2) What is the difference between repentance for salvation and repentance after salvation?

Biblical repentance is a change of heart, and represents a turning to (for salvation) or back (for fellowship) to God. Unbelievers did not have a relationship with Him beforehand. When they "repent", that is, come to recognize the fruitlessness of their lives and hopelessness of life in general without the Lord, they have a dramatic change of heart which leads them to seek Him. Under both the Old and New Testament "dispensations", the truth is the same: Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, and once a heart changes to direct itself to God, grabbing hold of that truth is what constitutes "saving faith", trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ for life eternal. The truth is the same, but it was not so clearly seen before the cross as it is after the cross. Before the cross the believer trusted God's promises of solving the problem of sin through the Substitute He would send (and this is all graphically represented in animal sacrifices). After the cross we see the actual Object of faith clearly as well as what He did for us in dying in our place for our sins. But the act of faith, putting trust in God's Solution to sin and death, is the same in all cases.

For believers, before and after the cross, there will be need of repentance at many points along the road to Zion. Every time we get out of fellowship with Him, whether a little (which will require only a quick prayer of confession) or a lot (which will require a "return journey" in the manner of the prodigal son), repentance (changing our heart about what we did / are doing / were intending to do which displeases Him) followed up by confession (a prayer to Him acknowledging our sins: Ps.32:3-6; 1Jn.1:9) restores us to fellowship. Our Lord explained this distinction between repentance unto saving faith and repentance unto restoration of fellowship to the disciples on the night He was betrayed. After He had washed the disciples' feet, Peter protested. When Jesus told him that Peter could "have no part of Me" unless the Lord washed his feet, Peter then wanted his whole body washed. But Our Lord replied, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." (Jn.13:10 NIV; and please see the link: "Footwashing").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

How would confession slot into this scenario? Turning to God in the full scope of repentance and walking in the Spirit, with the ultimate goal of offering one's body as a holy sacrifice well pleasing to God. Would confession not be the proper way of 'repentance' in restoring fellowship with God?

Your 'savlanut' (patience) with me is appreciated!

The God of love and peace be with you,

Response #14:

For the believer, confession and repentance (biblical repentance) go hand in hand. Confession is the natural result of a change of heart (biblical repentance), and a genuine change of heart about one's course (in large things and small, whether long overdue or coming after a small stumble) ought to result in confession to the Lord of whatever we have said, thought or done offensive to Him (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:5). This restores us to fellowship with Him immediately and completely so – even if in cases of severe sinning there is some residual divine discipline we must suffer through . . . but for blessing now rather than for cursing. All these matters are discussed in great detail at the link: BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dr. Luginbill,

I hope this email finds you well! Do you take the summers off from teaching at university? If so, I hope your summer has been relaxing!

I had a fellow brother tell me that we aren't expected to offer forgiveness to just anyone. That the forgiveness we are expected to give over and over only applies to those who repent either to us or God. His logic was that if God only forgives the repentant that we are only supposed to forgive them as well.

I think his views of forgiveness stem from his hyper-Calvinistic interpretations of the elect. He didn't persuade me, but I was unable to provide him enough scripture to back up the following argument:

Jesus died for the sins of people of all time, elect and reprobate, on the cross. The only sin that he cannot die is the sin of unbelief. If Christ has forgiven all before repentance, so should we. How are we to love our neighbor as ourselves if we are holding a grudge against him?

Can you clear up this issue for me? I'm not 100% I'm even right. This wasn't a contentious argument, but whenever I can't resolve a conflict of mind with a few google searches I think of you.

For someone I've never met, you've had such an important impact on me. Thank you for your service to our Lord.

Response #15:

Sorry for the delay. I was out of town at a family wedding and am behind in answering emails.

As to your question, here is what I read in scripture:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
1st Corinthians 13:3-4 NIV

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14-15

There are plenty of other verses and passages in scripture which make it abundantly clear that love and forgiveness go hand in hand and that lack of forgiveness in the heart and from the heart is a very dangerous thing for a Christian. After all, do we not pray every day "forgive us our debts/trespasses (= sins) AS we forgive . . . ???

However, there is a difference between forgiving and admitting someone back into fellowship with us on a personal basis. We are required to love everyone, not to have everyone over for a backyard barbecue. Sometimes there are people who are best loved "from a distance", even other believers, even family members. And of course, in fact, it is sometimes required that we keep our distance:

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
1st Corinthians 5:11 NASB

This doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't love said brother, pray for them, and forgive them anything we feel they have done to us – but association is another matter, and that is what our Lord's words mean when He says that we should forgive those who come to us and repent of their offenses against us. And please note: the emphasis is on our being forgiving, not on their being repentant:

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
Matthew 18:21-22 NASB

When our Lord asked the man who wanted to know who his neighbor was, the illustration of the "good Samaritan" He gave is a pretty clear indication that erring in the direction of mercy is always preferable. Of course all Israelites were supposed to be believers, therefore "brothers" and "neighbors", and the Samaritans occupied a middle ground between being Jewish and gentile. James 2:8 also suggests that "neighbor" is to be understood as first and foremost "fellow Christian":

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
James 2:1-9

In the context this "royal law" ("royal" being a reference to the Kingdom of which we and other believers are a part only) of loving one's neighbor is talking about abuses in the local church regarding other believers. Peter, for example (at 2Pet.1:7), also distinguishes between the general love which should characterize the believer's life (agape) and the special love we are to have towards all who love Jesus Christ as we do (philadelphia). So we do owe other Christians more "neighborly love" than others. But it would be a mistake to think for that reason that the policy of blanket forgiveness and desire for their good expressed in prayer should not be one we adopt towards all, regardless of spiritual status. After all, it doesn't cost us anything to forgive them or pray for them – that cost was born in toto by our Savior who tells us to live a life of love. It seems the least we can do.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Brother Bob,

As you can see it has been a while since our last email conversation. I hope all is going well. I always look forward to reading your website every week. I have been doing well. God has been good to me. However I need to reach out to you with a problem that I am having.

I have a besetting sin that has almost ruined my marriage on two occasions. I have done well with it for several years now but fell back into it for a brief time but have stopped. Bob, I feel horrible. Almost to the point of wanting to die. I don’t want to ever hurt my spouse again. I feel like I am between a rock and a hard spot. I have repented but I have broken my promises to my spouse and to God so often it is hard sometimes to keep trying even though I don’t want to give up. I’ve been feeling so depressed today I just needed to reach out to someone.

If you would like I can give you the details but it is not pretty. I believe in Jesus and have put my faith in Him but how can I be a Christian and still struggle with this? Right now I’m taking one minute at a time. I look forward to hearing back from you.

God Bless,

Response #16:

Let me assure you that as a believer in Jesus Christ you are saved. Feeling distraught about failure in sin does not negate your relationship with Him as long as you maintain your faith in Him.

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

Let me assure you that struggling with sin is nothing new for most believers. Gaining victory is possible. However, it does take determination – and it may take a great deal of that and of sacrifice too.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:4 NIV

One of the ways God helps us get that victory is by providing us with sufficient divine discipline to realize that we cannot do whatever we want with impunity – and it sound to me as if you are getting your share. That is a good thing – if at the time a painful thing:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 NIV

What to do? We need to be willing to be trained. God does His part, always. We need to remember that by continuing to disobey, the troubles will only get worse. We also need to remember that we have free will. If we sin, it is because we decided to "do it". We have to own that completely; we have to take complete responsibility for it. We absolutely can never allow ourselves to think for even a second that refraining from sin is outside of our control. That is the worst possible rationalization especially when it comes to things so spiritually dangerous as you are describing. We have to be tougher on ourselves than our worst enemy would be and allow not a sliver of daylight between ourselves and the truth.

When it comes to any kind of particularly addictive behavior – and all believers are vulnerable to such things (only our preferences and specifics differ) – getting out once we are in is usually no easy matter. But it can be done. It is possible to lose weight, e.g., even though that may seem impossible for someone who has been overweight their entire life. For a problem like that, however, it may be not the best witness and bad for the health, but it's not a sin. When it comes to gross sin that would scandalize the Body of Christ, our Lord has shorter patience (cf. 1Cor.5:1ff.).

So for the sake of your health, your spiritual safety, your marriage, and everything else you hold dear, I would strongly counsel you to be absolutely unflinching in your determination not to get anywhere near this sin – or anything that may contribute to it, however tangentially. If having a beer makes you more vulnerable, give up alcohol. If watching TV makes you more vulnerable, give up TV. If surfing the internet . . . You get the idea. In serious situations where the battle has already gone badly against us, we cannot afford any more mistakes. Please know that with the Spirit in you, you absolutely do have the power to resist and to win – and it is an absolute necessity. So please be implacable towards yourself in this regard.

Let me also assure you that the Lord forgives you when you confess (1Jn.1:9; cf. Ps.32:5). That does not mean that He stops the discipline – nor does it mean that others will forgive and forget. But Jesus Christ certainly does forgive you when you admit your sin to Him. So put that concern aside – it is important that you do. In order to win this fight, you have to know for certain in faith that the Lord is on your side. And He will continue to be on your side in actually resisting the temptation. In fact you cannot do it without Him – but you absolutely can do it with Him. In all such cases, a person actually has to get to the point of being willing to fight the fight "to the point of blood" to win (Heb.12:4). You are certainly sufficiently motivated. But you still have to do it.

Finally, it is also important to remember that no one can win such a fight with defense only. Without advancing spiritually, all resistance to sin will be brittle. We have to clean and to build up the inside to have an effect on the outside. So I also counsel you to redouble your efforts to grow spiritually. Try to make learning and believing the truth from a good source (of which I am convinced Ichthys is one; see also the link: Bible Academy) a daily part of your routine. Read your Bible more. Pray more. Make more of an effort to apply the truth of the Word to all of your circumstances, holding on to the "high ground" in your heart by thinking things that good and true and godly (Phil.4:8; Col.3:1-2). In other words, do all the things you already know you should be doing anyway, and do them more and more zealously. If you are doing what you should do, you will find that it is easier not to be doing what you shouldn't do. It sounds simplistic, but it is the absolute truth.

Here are a few links to some postings you may have missed which will demonstrate that we all have to fight the fight against the flesh, the evil one's temptations and opposition, and the cesspool influence of the present world.

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Salvation and Sin

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

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

I promise to say a prayer for your deliverance in this, my friend!

Please know that the Lord loves you and wants to see you win this fight. You can do it. But you have to do it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Robert,

Thank you for getting back with me. I am doing much better. I can say that I am at peace with this now. I did some really hard praying since I contacted you and I can sense God’s gracious hand upon me over this situation. It’s hard to explain the divine discipline He put me through but He did it in such a way that it matches up exactly with the verse you gave me (Hebrews 12:11)

I can honestly say that I feel like I’ve been delivered from this! Just pray that God will help heal the hurts I have caused my spouse in the past over this and our relationship will blossom and be better than ever. I truly want to be a faithful and faithful to the Lord. I do accept all responsibility for my actions and that victory is mine if I truly want it which I do.

God Bless you for all you have done to encourage me and give me the truth.

Thank You,

Response #17:

Thanks for this very encouraging email! You have made my day. I had confidence that the Lord was going to help you through this, and it is wonderful to hear that He has done so.

I will continue to keep you and your marriage in my prayers, my friend.

Keep growing and progressing in the Word! That is the way to be ready for the evil one's counter-attacks (which always come sooner or later).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Bob,

I'm going to be more straightforward than most people are comfortable with on the topics discussed. Just FYI. (There will a couple questions related to this approach below).

If I had to pick any one sin that "easily besets" me (Hebrews 12:1), I think it would have to be lust. We've talked about this some in the past -- an ever later age of independence combined with a culture awash with sexuality has made it trying times for young Christian men and women with regards to sexual purity. The instantaneous stimuli of the internet and proliferation of sexual materials therein has not made the situation any easier.

I was fortunate to be sheltered as a child, and therefore did not come across pornography until I was around in high school (which is, depressingly, years "behind" the average). This being said, I've struggled with related issues ever since.

I've gotten wiser about triggers and minimizing my exposure to materials that lead me down the path to sin. There are any number of behaviors I could mention that I have put in place over the years to try and sandbag against this area of weakness. But ultimately, I have not eradicated it, or even been particularly successful by a numbers point of view.

Ever since I ran across your site in several years ago I've been trying to keep myself focused on "offense" -- you commonly make the point that trying to be sinless is a big mistake many believers make, since they effectively stall in their growth. This isn't to say I've just wantonly given into sin -- I certainly know it is wrong when I am sinning -- but that I have tried to pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep going forward rather than spending a lot of time trying to fix the sin out of misplaced legalism. However, in the last few months, I feel like I have plateaued. I'm not moving forward as fast as the beginning, and it seems harder to take each additional step forward.

After putting some thought into it, I'm pretty sure my struggles in this area are the things causing the blockage. Particularly now that I'm on the path I am, I tend to berate myself rather severely every time I fall, since it is so incongruous with the example I should be to others (James 3:1, for example). I've worked on making the effort not to simply "feel bad" for sinning (God punishes us in perfect justice -- we never "get away with it," so no need to add our own punishment to the mix), but this fact doesn't stop me from having my legs knocked out from under me every time I do sin. Particularly when I am under fire a great deal (as I have been this semester), I am never able to pick myself up and dust myself off because stress is a huge trigger in these areas.

I've gritted my teeth to look God in the face and confess, but it has been an enormous struggle to keep going back over and over again when the world seems to be collapsing around me. I've experienced more anxiety, panic even, this semester than I have since I've been in college. It's a combination of failure to meet my own standards and nebulous expectations and low accountability in my classes, particularly Greek. Keeping up a successful fight against sin -- in my irrational perpetually-stressed state -- seems like a huge time-sink without much gain. So somehow I trick myself into thinking that it's "less bad" because of the circumstances. Which is absolute rubbish and not at all true

So I did what I always do when I'm trying to solve a problem: research it extensively and plan backwards from the desired outcome. I've spent some time in BB3B and Bartek's guide to resisting sin, but also did an extensive foray into how other people (not always Christian) resist these things.

It turns out that there are entire online communities of people giving things (for example, here). There is also quite a bit of neuroscience emerging about the topics. I could go on.

As I was doing this, it occurred to me that this might entirely be a waste of time -- we overcome sin with the power of the Spirit... right? Should we use other "tricks" to try to achieve the desired outcome? For example:

1) A common element among people in the communities dedicated to kicking addiction is a technique called "don't break the chain" -- basically, you keep track of how many days you've made it and you're motivated to resist so as not to reset your counter.

The thing is, it works. But it has absolutely nothing to do with God or successfully submitting my will to His Will. How can I say that I conquered sin when the only reason I am not giving in is because of some day count I have next my name on Reddit?

(I am also interested in this technique vis-a-vis Bible study, but have similar reservations. Isn't reading my Bible to "not break the chain" doing it out of wrong motivations, or is the fact that I'm reading it enough to justify the practice?)

2) Another common element is accountability partners. Again, they actually do work. It seems much harder and more shameful to look someone else in the eye and say that you've sinned than to look God in the face (even though God is actually there all the time). I know you mentioned to me before the idea that we would sin a whole lot less if Jesus was visibly floating next to us all day. Which I'm sure is true.

To me, accountability partners always seemed like bad theology. We are accountable to God, not other Christians (cf. Psalm 51). If we avoid sin to avoid the shame of confessing our sin to another Christian, are we really winning in the battle? Do the ends justify the means?

3) Even forgoing (1), almost all non-religious people that have success emphasize the importance of keeping track of occurrences. Humans are great at eliminating cognitive dissonance by selective memory. Without numbers, one will always remember the sin as less frequent and less severe than it actually was. Keeping a spreadsheet means you can't lie to yourself -- you can actually see if you are improving week to week and month to month -- and if so, by how much -- instead thinking you're doing alright in this area even when you're not.

But does keeping the spreadsheet again shift the focus from where it should be? Do I want to sin less this week than last week to make a box turn green, or because it is what my Lord and Savior has called me to?

4) There are other things I could mention -- "tricks," as it were, for achieving victory in this area. The common theme about them is that they are entirely separate from prayer, confession, etc. Mainly, what I'm asking is this -- are these things OK to utilize by Christians? If we would sin less with them than we would if we tried to fight sin simply by resolving not to in faith, are they sanctified?

I thought a lot about analogies. Not everyone struggles with these things like I do (although I'd wager a bunch of younger Christians do). Some people struggle with alcohol, or marijuana, or watching sinful things on TV (Game of Thrones, etc.).

We are entirely supportive of alcoholics avoiding bars, for example. Doing so is just common sense. But how about them using any of the strategies I've mentioned above? Most people would probably say whatever helps them overcome alcoholism is good, but is it? Wouldn't simply trusting God and resisting through the Spirit be better? Is that what we're supposed to do?

I have also noticed that there's a huge taboo concerning these issues. People will (at least comparatively) readily admit that they struggle with alcohol, e.g., but will stay tight-lipped about struggles in this area. I understand that the Bible treads gingerly around it too (it doesn't use any explicit language, for example), but it most certainly does deal with it (cf. Proverbs 5:15ff., Song of Solomon, etc.).

If we were simply to take the studies at their word for how many men between the ages of 10 and 30 engage in this area, we are already talking about far more than half of the population. And this is with the obvious response bias that some people would be unwillingly to admit that they do. Of course, the numbers will be lower among serious Christians (I hope), but it still must be a big problem. So why is it seen as so improper to discuss? Why can't we dispassionately talk about strategies for resisting these things just how people do for alcohol and drugs? Is it because it is more shameful somehow? Is the taboo justified?

This is relevant for me since I am pondering starting up a teaching website in the near future (although this is a conversation for a different time -- several people at my church have also encouraged me to start teaching second-hour classes, the equivalent of adult Sunday school). I think there is great need in the community for people to share their strategies on how to resist this particular form of temptation -- I would have loved to know some of the things I know now when I first started struggling, for example. But at the same time, would it be proper for me as a teacher to "air my dirty laundry", so to speak?

Teachers need the respect of their flocks, and I'm pretty sure admitting to struggling with these things isn't high on the list of things that earn it. I have at various points considered talking with the elders of my church about it (so that at least someone would know, even if it's not the congregation at large) -- particularly when I've talked to them about me teaching -- but again, the whole accountability question from above comes into play. Sin is, in some senses, an entirely personal thing, between me and God.

Well, that's enough for this first volley. I am really looking to overcome this area of sin and put it behind me (even though I understand it is a day by day process), and since I think it is starting to (or has been) significantly holding me back spiritually, I'm trying to throw all my efforts into beating it so that I can get back to doing job #1 effectively.

I know there is a lot above, so please get to it as you can. I'd also be interested in any other thoughts you have on gaining victory here or on overcoming serious sin in general.

Yours in Christ

Response #18:

As to your question/issue, first let me say that your supposition between the lines and also directly written on some of the lines to the effect that I am negatively disposed to the type of "accountability measures" you mention is absolutely correct. I don't just dislike them; I consider them very dangerous mistakes. This is a bit like handing over the critical defensive positions of your front line to an unreliable ally who looks good when the pressure is off but will run for the hills at the first sign of trouble, leaving you in the lurch. Under pressure, serious pressure, these measures you list always fail, and the more one has relied on them for temporary success, the greater the disaster that ensues.

After all, this life is all about free will, the exercise of one's faith in trusting God in all things – or not doing so. We are here to make choices. Failing to resist is a choice. It's a bad choice, but it is a choice. Handing one's free will over to any other person or group or system which takes the choice out of things – by replacing it with the opinion or expectation or response of others – is the best way to undermine free will. If one were setting up a cult, that is exactly the sort of system one would employ. It's not for no reason that the R.C. church makes use of the confessional and puts forgiveness into the hands of priests. But we know that we are not accountable to priests or other people or to any system of "checking up" – we are accountable to the Lord. If we succeed we succeed to the Lord and if we fail we fail and need to confess to the Lord, but it is all about the Lord and our response to Him.

You have not yet resisted to the point of blood in your struggle against sin
Hebrews 12:4 NKJV

The above was true of the Jerusalem believers Paul was upbraiding for not having the guts to stop participating in the temple rites which had been fulfilled by Christ's sacrifice – they were afraid of the consequences of ostracism and no doubt rightly so. But they were badly in the wrong.

Flee sexual immorality (porneia). Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
1st Corinthians 6:18 NKJV

Paul is adamant about this category of sin because it is dangerous in every way. No doubt for that very reason the evil one always probes and attacks on this front – at least I've never heard of any believer not being tempted, tried and attacked on this front. We all have different sin natures, different areas of vulnerability, different levels of vulnerability, and we are all at "different places" in our spiritual growth and spiritual situations. Some things are bigger problems for some than for others, obviously, but few people are without any weakness whatsoever when it comes to this area. For that reason it has to be taken deathly seriously. There is no quicker or easier way for the evil one to compromise a believer than in this area, and that goes doubly for those who are teaching the Word of God.

As you very well know, it is a very difficult situation for unmarried Christians in today's world. In ancient Israel, it would be unusual for a man of your age to be unmarried. Your parents would have arranged an appropriate match for you by age twelve or a little latter. Adolescence has been artificially extended in our society, but not biology. Add to that the fact that our society is awash in sexuality at every turn. A person can't turn on a TV set or a radio or a computer or walk on the street without being bombarded by it from every angle. So it is clearly not a simple problem to fight this fight – but it still must be fought.

(16) But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out what the flesh lusts for. (17) For what the flesh lusts for is contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what the flesh lusts for. Since these are diametrically opposed to each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you yourself choose.
Galatians 5:16-17

This is good news – but also sobering news when one considers just how the Spirit within us operates. Unlike what many people seem to think, the Spirit does not bully us. He is God and could force us to do whatever He wishes, but free will is the whole issue. For that reason the Spirit never compels our free will. We have to do the trusting, the believing, the choosing what is right ourselves. The Spirit's job is to remind us of what is right, not to choose for us, not to make the choice easier, not to suppress absolutely our sin nature or stop the evil one from attacking. That would change the entire dynamic of the struggle in which we are involved. The Spirit is our "power source" but not our "chooser in chief".

Why, then, is making good decisions and sticking with them so hard? First, that is the way life on this earth in these sinful bodies and under satanic attack is and has always been since the fall, and we can see that validated in every other aspect of our lives, the lives of other believers, and in the testimony of scripture regarding all the great people of the Bible. Second, this is indeed all part of the plan. We are here to see just how much we love the Lord. The greater the love, the greater the commitment – to do what He wants us to do (spiritual offense) AND to refrain from what displeases Him (sanctification). None of us is perfect in either area, but determination and consistency in both work hand in hand and give us the momentum to live a decent and productive Christian life.

If you wanted to win the Boston Marathon more than anything in this life, not just run it but win it, that would require an incredible level of commitment, even if you are an exceptional runner. It would require the exertion of an incredible amount of effort, and a willingness to endure pain and suffering far beyond what 99.9% of people are willing to take. It would require fighting "to the point of blood". Winning this fight you actually ARE in is not as difficult as winning the Boston Marathon – but it is far more important. It does require, however, absolute commitment, doing what it takes, whatever it takes, "to the point of blood" if necessary. Otherwise, you have to be honest with yourself that you are just not all that serious about it – at least not serious enough to make a difference.

I'm not saying it is easy. I am saying that until anyone "gets serious . . . to the point of blood" there will never be any lasting victory when it comes to the struggle against sin, against any sin. But when we do get to the point of becoming truly serious, truly willing to resist "to the point of blood", that is when we notice the Spirit helping us.

But if we are really not serious about disciplining our sin nature when the pressure is on, is it right to expect the Spirit to help us unduly? That would be cheating. Our Lord endured severe limitation of His rightful privileges as God and God's Son precisely so as to give us an example that we might follow in His footsteps (Phil.2:5-8; 1Pet.2:21-23; Heb.12:2-3). Jesus had "the Spirit without measure" (Jn.3:34), but that did not make it easy for Him – far from it! But He was absolutely and perfectly committed . . . "to the point of blood" and beyond. It's certainly easier for us than it was for Him! None of us is being asked to fast in the desert for forty days and then be tempted by the devil himself using all his best tricks – and that was only the BEGINNING for our Lord.

The question is, are we really serious about all this? Tests such as the one you are facing are good barometers of where we are at in our quest to revere Jesus Christ and in our determination to carry out His WILL for our lives in persevering with the ministries with which we have been entrusted (or soon will be). But if we are not faithful in other things, we are not ready for the big things (e.g., Lk.16:10).

None of us is perfect. None of us will ever achieve sinless perfection in this life. All of us stumble. All of us fail. All of us need to confess. But there does come a time in any test or area of weakness, vulnerability or compromise, when we have to get absolutely serious with ourselves and determine to do whatever is necessary to finally pass this particular test so as to be qualified to move on to the next one, resisting even "to the point of blood" if that is what it takes.

As to the last issue you mention, porneia is so potentially devastating that handling it with kid gloves actually is highly appropriate (cf. 1Cor.6:18 where we are told to "flee" it). That is because we wish to avoid giving any ammunition to anyone else to do anything wrong in this area. Some things are dangerous even to discuss – because it gets people thinking about them which often leads to sin. Anyone who is going to be a leader in the Church needs not to have a problem in this area – not the absence of temptation, but a good record in resisting it so as not to scandalize others (1Tim.3:7).

Support groups or sites or books which suggest "everyone does it" (whatever "it" is) may be an encouragement on the one hand to those who are contemplating harming themselves out of despair, but on the other hand these things also often contribute to the idea that "well then it doesn't really make all that much difference". That is bad enough when it comes to dangerous things like alcohol and drugs, but when it comes to porneia not only will the person who buys into the lie of "no big deal" begin to do serious and lasting damage to him/herself (1Cor.6:18), but inevitably, unlike e.g. drugs and alcohol, it will involve doing damage to someone else as well:

(3) Now this is God's will, namely, your sanctification (i.e., separation from sin). [He desires you] to keep away from immorality, (4) and for each of you to know how to keep his [or her] own vessel (i.e., body) under control in sanctification and honorable conduct, (6) not [giving in] to the passions of lust as do the gentiles (i.e., unbelievers) who do not know God, (7) so that you may not transgress and thereby take advantage of your brother/sister [in Christ]. For the Lord is an Avenger of all these sins as I have warned and have born solemn witness to you before. For God did not call you to uncleanness but in sanctification. (8) So then the one who dismisses [these truths] is not dismissing man but God – the One who gives His Holy Spirit to us (i.e., for the purpose in part of resisting such sin).
1st Thessalonians 4:3-8

We confess to the Lord, not to man. And by our good conduct – not perfect but godly and honorable – we strive to give a good witness to man on God's behalf to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the response. I want to clarify a few points:

I was expecting you to dislike "accountability partners" and such. I was less sure about the other things I mentioned. Just to be crystal clear:

1) Counting days and using the number as motivation is a bad idea.

2) Keeping track of sin frequency and using the statistics for motivation is also a bad idea.

Correct? Could you explain the "why" a little more with respect to these things (that don't involve other people)?

3) After reading through your response, I am unclear exactly where we draw the line. Is filtering software a bad idea too? Locking myself out of my computer when I feel the temptation coming on? Are these things that ultimately detract as well from flexing my spiritual muscles, so to speak, making it harder to resist when true temptation comes upon me?

That is, would it be better to go "crutchless" on this front and try to resist everything through the Spirit instead of trying to rely on any other construct?

4) What exactly do you mean by the bolded bit in the quote below?

There is no quicker or easier way for the evil one to compromise a believer than in this area, and that goes doubly for those who are teaching the Word of God.

5) Regarding this section:

But there does come a time in any test or area of weakness, vulnerability or compromise, when we have to get absolutely serious with ourselves and determine to do whatever is necessary to pass this test so as to be qualified to move on to the next one, resisting even "to the point of blood" if that is what it takes.

How does one know when one has achieved such a level of resistance? Given that we will all stumble, as you say, what is a good standard to set for oneself in this area? Or is possible to achieve total victory in this area?

Anyone who is going to be a leader needs not to have a problem in this area – not the absence of temptation, but a good record in resisting it so as not to scandalize others (1Tim.3:7).

Related to the above, what does "not having a problem" mean?

(Note: I'm not trying to aim low. I'm just trying to figure out what reasonable standards are and not set up unrealistic expectations for myself).

6) With respect to the following quote

As to the last issue you mention, porneia is so potentially devastating that handling it with kid gloves is actually appropriate.

What exactly does "handling it with kid gloves" look like? Specifically:

a) Should believers talk to other believers about their struggles in this area? Should we just not talk about it at all? Should we just be careful in the language we use?

b) Should teachers talk about their struggles in this area, even if it is for the purpose of helping others overcome the same problems?

c) Should lay Christians mention their sin to anyone (elders, mentors, friends, etc.)? Teachers?

d) Is it not deceptive for teachers to maintain a facade of effortless resistance to sin if it is something they struggle mightily with? How does endeavoring to have a good reputation interact with being honest? (For example, it would be bad if lay Christians got the idea that resisting sin is somehow easier for teachers, in my opinion).

In Him,

Response #19:

I'm happy to respond to all these requests for clarification. The thing I want to make as crystal clear as I can, however, is that all of this, all of these points, this whole problem and all the issues revolving around it mostly boil down to this: we have to own up to the situation and firmly take personal responsibility for it all, the failures, the vulnerabilities and the prior lack of seriousness – not that we are not serious, but if "it" is still a problem, then, clearly, we have not been serious enough. When we do this, that is when the power of the Spirit kicks in and we begin to have victory, but not until.

1) / 2) / 3) The "why" has to do with one's basic approach to this "problem". The best thing a person can do is to completely consign this issue to oblivion so as to vehemently have zero to do with it, a no tolerance policy wherein one doesn't even allow oneself to think about it. By definition, all secular and non-biblical "systems" of behavioral modification involve thinking about "it" all the time. And you can't dance with this problem and win. I don't like such approaches even for problems such as abuse of drugs and alcohol and gambling, etc. But at least when it comes to drugs and alcohol and gambling, one has to actually have drugs or alcohol or a place to be gambling and then actually start to indulge in these things in order to fail; thinking about them or even looking at them may be a temptation but it is not a sin/failure in and of itself. Not so when it comes to porneia. All a person has to do is start thinking about it to fail/sin (e.g., Matt.5:28). So a system which requires a person to be thinking about it is absolutely crazy. That's like asking an alcoholic to gargle with booze and just not swallow or a drug addicted person not to inhale, or a chronic gambler to go to the track and pick horses without actually laying a bet, etc. I can't see how it will possibly work forever.

As with the Marathon example, no amount of planning or systematizing will accomplish anything or lead to winning the race. Eventually you will actually have to go out the front door and start suffering; analogously, a person in this area has to finally get tough enough on him/herself to just "stop it!". There are no stages on the journey. There is true willingness to stop and there is everything else – and everything else results in failure, sooner or later. The only place to draw the line is zero tolerance.

4) Teachers are held to a higher standard. And people look up to teachers. That is especially true of Bible teachers (Jas.3:1). For when we fail in any moral or ethical way, we let others down, not only ourselves. We are required to be examples to the flock (e.g., Tit.2:7). If we are bad examples, we "teach" many that success is impossible or, alternatively, that failure is "OK". Either way, we are going to "catch it" from the Lord for sure, not only for sinning but also for leading others into sin and/or making it harder for them to avoid it (Matt.18:6; Mk.9:42; Lk.17:2). And any engagement with any sort of porneia tends to be a hard sin to hide – eventually, it will out. Since all of us are vulnerable in this area, since it has the potential to do so much damage, since the bad reputation that will adhere to a pastor or the like who is caught out will stick like few other failures, the devil of course attacks on this front even more vigorously in the case of those who are in amu authority in the Church or who are handling the Word in any way – why wouldn't he? He's not stupid. He can see how difficult dealing with this area of sin is for the vast majority of human beings. And that explains 1st Corinthians 7:2-5.

5) No one is perfect. But in this area, a pastor / elder / teacher / missionary etc. has to be darned-near perfect – and seriously working to root out any hint of imperfection: the no-tolerance-of-such-things-in-oneself policy. It's probably best not to assume that one has ever "arrived" in this respect because in the face of such arrogance a fall is likely to follow. This is like being in an endless war where we have one particular "base" so critical that it must be defended at all costs, regardless of casualties or effort necessary to maintain a good defense here and even building it up more and more whenever we can. The smallest bit of self-indulgence is like allowing the troops in the front line to sleep on guard duty at night. Sure enough there will be an attack and a breach and destruction wrought on our precious "base" – maybe not fatal, but damaging and serious and possessing lasting consequences that are in no way proportionate to or "worth" the momentary self-indulgence of a sloppy approach in any regard.

6a) Talking about porneia requires thinking about porneia, and thinking about it is deadly, for both parties at either end of the conversation. So even if the motives are pure, this is a crazy thing to do.

6b) See the above. When necessary, speak in generalities. That is what I have tried to do (as you can see well enough from this email). It is still dangerous. Consider the two quotes from Paul's epistles I gave you on this (1Cor.6:18; 1Thes.4:3-8). They are deliberately SO general – and sanctifiedly so in the Spirit – that they don't constitute temptations in and of themselves. I don't find anyone in scripture ever doing "this" (what you ask about in 6a / 6b). Here is what I do find in Romans:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
Romans 7:7-9 NKJV

Hard to get more general and still make the point. Getting specific is inevitable, however, if one makes a point of having conversations about this sort of thing rather than considering such discourse a [potentially dangerous] exception. After all, we only allow ourselves to get close to porneia because on some level we (insanely) don't consider it dangerous or at least not "that" dangerous – but all such thinking is in truth dangerous by definition, a horrible rationalization which will result in defeat sooner or later (2Sam.11:1-4).

6c) That sort of thing would be confessing to man and not to God – and no doubt was the genesis of the Roman Catholic confessional. But we are commanded to confess our sins to God, not man (for Jas.5:16 see the link). Confessing such things as this to others may lead them into temptation, lead them to be "thinking about it" too – how could they not, especially if details are included as they almost certainly will be? And of course the person doing this confessing is most definitely "thinking about it" in order to prepare to and to engage in such confession. So this is all a very bad business that helps no one and inevitably does all manner of damage. If we surrender our free will to others, moreover, we don't have a chance of winning victory, any victory over any sin, because all victory over sin comes only when we finally take FULL, personal responsibility for our actions, not when we delegate the problem to someone else.

6d) A teacher can, as I always do, affirm that we are all sinners, that we all sin, and that we are all in need of grace. Getting specific about porneia, on the other hand, is deadly dangerous for all concerned. Leading by example is what teachers should do. They should affirm that the struggle against sin is not effortless but often a fight "to the point of blood". And it is not a one-time battle which once won is ever over. It is protecting that precious base of sanctified conduct at all costs every day as long as it is called "today". That is not hypocrisy; that is doing one's job properly before the Lord.

Pastor teachers, moreover, should teach the truth as it comes up in their study and program of teaching, whether they are going topically at the moment or verse by verse. By way of starkest contrast, preachers who sermonize and hold forth on "favorite" sins and causes never get around to teaching the truth. In order to have the spiritual resources to win the sort of fight we are discussing, a believer needs to be at or approaching spiritual maturity. No amount of railing against sin XYZ from the pulpit will "equip the saints" for the warfare we face individually and collectively. Only teaching the whole realm of truth will do that. One of the reasons you will win this fight is because you have some clear idea of who Jesus Christ is, what He wants from you, and what you need to do to please Him. That understanding is built upon detailed study and knowledge of the scriptures and the truths they contain. An immature believer fighting against sin XYZ in the abstract is never going to win – until he/she gets serious about spiritual growth. It all gets back to depth of commitment.

Have a restful weekend, my friend!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob,

This all makes a good deal of sense. I see now the disconnect between the two points of view, and hadn't really considered the idea of "systems" constantly making one think about the problem...playing with fire.

I just have one more question: given the considerations you bring up (i.e., forced thought about the issue and what have you), what do you think of having a passive internet filter in the background that screens out problematic content without any input necessary from the user? Nothing to maintain, update, think about etc. -- simply a background filter.

This still seems prudent to me to minimize any unintentional exposure, and take away the easiest pathways to sin. I would compare it to an alcoholic avoiding keeping hard liquor at his house -- it would lead to unnecessary temptation with no real gain. At least as far as I can see. (Resisting to the point of blood will of course be the necessary component to conquering the sin, but no need to make it harder for oneself).

What do you think?

Also, I'm a little curious about your wording in your examples of the alcohol and drug users and mental sin. It seems to me that a former addict thinking about these to the point of lusting after them (or to the point of failing to do their life responsibilities, etc.) is also sinful. Was the point you were trying to make that in addition to the sins just mentioned (desiring something out of sinful motivations and failing to do one's responsibilities), porneia has another layer of potential sin -- so you can "sin worse" through just thinking in this area than the other areas mentioned?

Thanks for bearing with me on this.

In Christ,

Response #20:

I would agree that doing things to insulate oneself from unnecessary temptation are prudent – as long as they don't involve a measure of temptation in and of themselves as we've discussed. Sooner or later, whatever such measures are taken, you will have to do the filtering yourself, rejecting the wrong, choosing the right.

As to the analogy, it's just an analogy. However, drugs and alcohol are not people (or, generally, unique objects which can be lusted after in particular but more typically generic commodities). If we covet a person that is a sin (Matt.5:28; cf. Ex.20:17).

Wishing you a productive and enjoyable week ahead!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

I keep thinking of new things. Sorry.

1) I understand what you are saying vis-a-vis the analogy just being an analogy. But the 10th commandment (e.g.) speaks both of coveting your neighbors wife and his material property. Are you saying that coveting alcohol in general (vs. your neighbor's alcohol) is not a sin? (Or not as bad a sin?). I'm still having problems seeing the overall distinction here between desiring a material thing in one's mind and desiring a woman in one's mind, assuming the desiring in either case is improper.

2) It occurred to me that the points brought up about systems that require thinking about "it" would not necessarily be bad for non-sinful "its" (i.e., not porneia).

What about when "it" is something positive – like Bible reading or prayer? Would it be allowable to use such things as an unbroken chain of days, excel sheet, etc. to motivate oneself to do these things?

In Him,

Response #21:

Covetousness is lust for something someone else has, something that does not belong to you (Ex.20:17; cf. Matt.5:28; Rom.7:7-11). Unless you are married to the person, "that" which you are looking at / thinking about does NOT belong to you. Drugs and alcohol are commodities of no particularly great monetary value so that the danger lies not in wanting someone else' bottle of beer but in indulging in what may be easily procured. Covetousness in regard to things is wanting you neighbor's vintage Mercedes or his house and vexing yourself over it – which will lead to other mental, verbal and perhaps active sins. So I see it as significantly different.

Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.
1st Corinthians 6:12a

Setting up rules and regulations and systems brings with it the concomitant danger of legalism, that is, of investing in the system and in one's adherence to it a virtuous value it does not in fact possess; and since said systems are not from God, they will necessarily be flawed in some ways. I would be reluctant to judge a brother for doing something like this. I would, if asked, mention the potential danger. Because I know for certain that God's system – of learning and loving and walking in the truth through the Spirit – is far superior to any concocted system of one's own making, one that will inevitably compete with God's system at some point and in some ways. That sounds a lot like idolatry to me.

As for positive things, we have to keep in mind that the words we are reading in the Bible and our concentration in reading them are far more important than a "perfect record" in not missing a day of Bible reading. It would be better to miss a day now and then if as a result we paid much more attention to what we were reading when we did read. What is the best thing is to do both: read every day and always pay attention.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Oh well...last question: Must we pray for forgiveness for every sin? When I do some sin I regret it and trying to stop it but I'm not always praying for it.

Response #22:

We all no doubt commit many sins we don't even recognize as such at the time and it is also possible to forget. When we confess, however, we are forgiven everything (1Jn.1:9) – NOT, however, if we are deliberately NOT confessing some sin (Ps.66:18). But why wouldn't we? Whatever the reason, that is a dangerous situation. 1st John 1:9 assumes a willingness to confess everything.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

So by confess do you mean pray? I do some sin and I don't always pray for forgiveness but I'm regretting the sin and trying not to do it again. Is it enough?

Response #23:

Trying not to sin is a good thing. Regret is of no consequence. We are told to change our mind (repent) and confess – and yes, that is indeed a simple prayer to the Lord acknowledging our sin. After all, Christ paid an ineffable price for every one of our sins so that they are forgiven when we believe in Him, and so that as believers we are restored to fellowship with Him when we do confess.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
[Then] I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 32:3-5 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

So we must pray for every sin for forgiveness?

Response #24:

No doubt we've always either forgotten some sins or committed sins we didn't even realize were sins when we confess (see the link: BB 3B: Hamartiology). It's best not to think of God the Father as an accountant. He is happy to forgive us based on the sacrifice of His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . . when we repent (change our mind) and confess. But if we are deliberately refusing to confess certain sins, that is an arrogant posture which is not pleasing to Him. Scripture doesn't address the question directly of confessing some sins and not others – because who would confess some sins but not others?! But if a person does take that tack, I see no scripture to assure us that deliberately unconfessed sins, sins we know very well are sinful, and for some reason still refuse to confess, would be forgiven anyway just because we confessed.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
Psalm 66:18 ESV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

I study now 1 John 2:15-16

You saying that smoking cigarettes is not sin but what about lust of flesh?

Lust of eyes - I think its normal lust like in 10th commandment.

But I don't understand what lust of flesh means very well.

Response #25:

Smoking is a bad idea for one's health (clearly) and it could be a violation of the law of love (if it is done in a way that aggravates others unnecessarily), but, no, the Bible doesn't label smoking as sinful.

"Lust of the flesh" is distinguished from "lust of the eyes" in 1st John chapter two – and also from "the boastful pride of life" in order to break down sinful motivation into its three main areas: 1) whatever the body longs for that is sinful or leads to sinful behavior; 2) whatever we see and covet, either to have or to do that is sinful or leads to sinful behavior; 3) the arrogance of life that motivates us to get more than others, have power over others, boast about our achievements and successes, rather than giving glory to the Lord. These three things all overlap but taken together they are flexible enough to cover most human sin and sinful motivation.

Compare:

(16) But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out what the flesh lusts for. (17) For what the flesh lusts for is contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what the flesh lusts for. Since these are diametrically opposed to each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you yourself choose. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (19) The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; (21) drunkenness, orgies – and whatever is similar to all these things. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, uprightness, faith, (23) humility, self-control. Against such things, there is no Law. (24) Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its weaknesses and its lusts. (25) If we live because of the Spirit, let us also walk by means of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-25

Please note also that the solution to sinfulness and lust is walking in the Spirit – and that requires attention to the truth because it is the truth which the Spirit uses to direct us (if we are willing to listen to Him). Sin is a broad topic. Bible Basics 3B is entirely devoted to that subject (link). But note above that even in this lengthy list Paul sees fit to all "and whatever [sinful behavior] is similar to all these things". So one will never master sin through a legalistic approach. The only successful approach is the way of spiritual growth that results in a closer walk with Jesus Christ.

Your sin Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

I don't know. For me sounds like smoking is part of this.

Response #26:

It very well may be . . . for you. If you realize this is something the Lord doesn't want you to do for whatever reason (health, waste of resources, bad witness, living with a family member whose health you are endangering, etc.), then James 4:17 would apply. However, that is something that only the person concerned is allowed to decide for him/herself. That is not something we get to decide for somebody else when it comes to any activity that is not inherently a sin. That would be judging someone else' servant, namely, infringing on the Lord's prerogative (Rom.14:4). In any case, if we are operating on the basis of the Law of love there may be many such things we refrain from for the benefit of our weaker brothers and sisters (Rom.14:15); but it's also important not to allow their weak consciences to direct our behavior entirely (so as to be bullied by them into some course of action rather than we ourselves choosing it out of love).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27:

I remember ending in 1Cor 6:12

Is not this talking about addiction?

Response #27:

This is also talking about the law of love. Believers have a great deal of freedom, but how we use it is important. This life is all about choice, about free will, about trusting God . . . or not. We become children of God in the first place by trusting Him for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And we grow up spiritually by attending to good Bible teaching and choosing to believe that as well. Then we progress in our Christian lives by applying the truth we have learned to the lives we are leading. To do well for the Lord, we will no doubt have to make sacrifices. We will read our Bible instead of watching TV this afternoon. We will go to Bible class instead of to the "big game" on Saturday. We will exercise bodily discipline to keep ourselves healthy so as to be able to serve Him however He is using us instead of living a life of dissipation like so many of our unbelieving friends (1Pet.4:4) – and no doubt all too many of our supposedly Christian friends as well. In other words, we will make decisions based upon what pleases the Lord instead of what pleases us . . . so as to grow, progress, and help others do the same. That is the way the Christian crowns of eternal reward are won (see the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi, I don't understand Romans 14:23

I want to ask what is mean here by "condemned" somewhere "damned" and I want to ask what it means that whatever is not from faith is sin?

Response #28:

If you think it is a sin to do something then you should not do it. It is possible, if a person is an immature believer such as in this case in Romans, that said person will be wrong about the impression that behavior XYZ is sinful; but if he/she does think that it is sinful, then he/she should stay away from it unless and until he/she is convinced in his/her heart that indeed it is not sinful. The "condemnation" is from one's own conscience (i.e., the conscience telling said person he/she did wrong, that is "condemning" him/her of doing wrong), because even though he/she felt it wrong, he/she did it anyway – that is why "not of faith" is the determination on this point, i.e., not having confidence that it is right to do. Our policy should ever be to avoid things we are convinced are wrong and do only those things we think are right. As we grow, we will no doubt find out new things and there will be some fine-tuning in both direction, but we can count on the Lord to help us with that too:

(15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:15-16

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29:

It sounds a little weird. So if there is activity that is not sinful but I believe it is sinful, so it is sin for me if I do it?

Response #29:

This was written to a mixed group of believers, some of whom came out of Judaism and were used to following the Law, and some who did not. The truth is that the dietary code of the Law is not necessary for Christians today to follow, but many of these believers did not see it that way because that was not "the way we always have done it". For such people, to become convinced of grace would be a good thing; but to violate their consciences before they were tuned into grace would be a bad thing.

We find this in a number of places in scripture (cf. also 1Cor.8:7-12; 10:25-29). A person has to be convinced in their hearts of the rightness of what he/she is doing. That is what Paul is saying. If you are convinced in your heart that alcohol is wrong to drink, then please do not drink just because someone tells you it's OK when you don't really believe it. That would be living your life by someone else' standards and also rationalizing away your true beliefs (same goes for anything you feel is wrong). Later on, if you are convinced from scripture that your view was incorrect (Phil.3:15b), you will be able to "do" whatever it is in a non-extreme way and a non-sinful way without at the same time polluting your conscience – which is a valuable asset you need to keep as pure as possible (cf. 1Tim.1:15).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30:

So what is context in don't judge or you will be judged? Or the last verse in 1 Cor 11:34 there is also judging.

Response #30:

God is the Judge, and there are all manner of judgments in scripture. For believers such as yourself, the two that matter are:

1) the judgment seat of Christ where at the resurrection the Lord will review your life and your spiritual accomplishments and you will be rewarded for the good while the bad is burned up (1Cor.3:12-15);

2) God is evaluating us all the time and "judging" our actions; when they call for divine discipline, whether a large or a small "dose", that is always forthcoming.

1st Corinthians 11:34 tells us that we can avoid being judged and punished for improperly celebrating communion if we will confess our sins first; that is a valid principle to apply all the time too: it makes no sense not to confess our sins and only intensifies the punishment designed to get our attention until we do confess.

On Luke 6:37 (Matt.7:1), if that is what you asking about, this refers to the principle that being merciful to others is the way to engender God's mercy toward us, whereas being judgmental towards others and condemning them in our hearts or with our mouths or with some action is a sure way to incur God's wrath unless there is a very good and reason for what we think/say/do – wrath in terms of divine discipline is designed, as always, to get us to repent and confess, and also to teach us not to do the same in future.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31:

I'm now stressed with these verses, James 4:17 and Romans 14:23. It sound like everything can be sinful. I'm also now in hospital with very bad broken wrist so I feel very bad.

Response #31:

I'm very sorry to hear this, my friend! I will say a prayer for your rapid recovery.

Don't be stressed about "unknown sin". Whenever we confess – and we confess every day when we say the Lord's prayer at least – we are forgiven all of our sins and cleansed of all of our unrighteousness (1Jn.1:9). Sin is indeed an ocean deep and wide (for more about it please read the detailed study, BB 3B Hamartiology at the link), but it is important to remember that while pursuing sanctification as you seem intent on doing is a good, proper and necessary thing, it is not possible to be perfect, and as I have pointed out many times before, only by conducting a good "offense" of daily spiritual growth do we ever even get better at the "defense" of warding off sin. So be pleased to commit yourself to daily spiritual growth (I highly recommend Ichthys, as you know; see also the link: Bible Academy).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #32:

So in Romans 14:22-23 if I think something its ok its also sin if I do it? Or just if we think that something is not ok and then we are doing it it's sin?

Because if I think its ok and my mind doesn't condemn me . . .

Response #32:

It doesn't work in reverse. A sin is a sin, even if we do not realize it. That is why confession is so important, namely, because we all sin many times a day without realizing it (in addition to the sins we commit knowingly). Under the Law, most of the sacrifices for sin were for just such "sins of ignorance". Confession cleanses us from all unrighteousness, known or unknown (1Jn.1:9).

My advice is ever the same: give yourself some mental peace on this; committing yourself to a course of spiritual growth will result in greater sanctification of its own accord as you draw closer to the Lord day by day.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #33:

So if I think something is ok but I'm not sure, then can I do it or not?

Last question : are all lies sinful? Or just harmful lying like in 9th commandment?

Response #33:

If you don't know that something is sinful, my guess is that your conscience won't hinder you from doing it – why would it? However, for someone who is a mature believer, the chances of not knowing that some serious sin is a sin are relatively remote in my view – so we would be talking about very minor things here. In all such cases, sins of ignorance are forgiven when we confess just as sins of cognizance are.

On lying, the Bible is pretty clear in my opinion about the virtues of telling the truth and avoiding the lie. Clearly, small things are less consequential than large things, but in general lying is a bad idea. Of course one can be extreme on any subject. There are a number of instances in scripture of "sanctified lying". For example, if your country is at war and you are a spy, your whole job is to lie to the enemy for the benefit of your country's safety. Or if a criminal asks you where you keep your small amount of money, it would be silly to "tell him the truth".

Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "Do not let anyone know about this conversation, or you may die. If the officials hear that I talked with you, and they come to you and say, 'Tell us what you said to the king and what the king said to you; do not hide it from us or we will kill you,' then tell them, 'I was pleading with the king not to send me back to Jonathan's house to die there.'" All the officials did come to Jeremiah and question him, and he told them everything the king had ordered him to say. So they said no more to him, for no one had heard his conversation with the king.
Jeremiah 38:24-27 NIV

In the passage above, Jeremiah's deception of the (almost certainly) unbelieving Judean officials was ordered by the highest authority in the state, the king himself. I suppose it would be easy to see this as a failure on Jeremiah's part, acceding to a lie in order to save his own life. However, not only does nothing the text not characterize what he did as wrong, but we may recall that Jeremiah had taken his life in his hands on many occasions in order to proclaim God's words to the rebellious people of Jerusalem and her apostate kings. It seems clear to me whatever he may have thought about the king's order, that Jeremiah felt the king had the right to give it and that it was his responsibility to carry it out (compare also Elisha's deception of the temporarily blinded Syrian army who had been sent to capture him: 2Kng.6:19).

Here are a couple of links on this:

White lies?

Is it ever justifiable to tell a lie?

Is it ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie (part 2)?

What about Rahab?

The Old Prophet who lied

Satan's system of three essential lies

Lies in war and peace

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #34:

Well I'm asking because if we play some game where one side must lie to reach a win. Or some jokes like if we say to our friend someone is knocking so go open (but it's just joke).

Response #34:

Depending on the details, neither of these things strikes me (personally) as particularly Christian behavior – since you ask about it. Or even funny . . .

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

 

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