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Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

'Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.' (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

The same verse that condemns gay people from entering the kingdom of heaven also condemns thieves from entering the kingdom of heaven. Now if the legal venue of obtaining music and movies is payment, and obtaining music and movies without payment is illegal, then pirating movies and music is, in God's eyes, theft. Why don't Christians say that those who pirate movies and music will not go to heaven, if it is not for the fact that most of us are scarred that the majority of our congregation would not make the cut?

Sincerely,

Response #1:

Here's a parallel verse which is even scarier when applying that interpretation:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; 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.
Galatians 5:19-21

Who has never manifested hate, or jealousy, or rage, or selfishness, or been divisive, or been envious? Even if a person were able to convince him/herself of such like, Paul adds to wonderful effect "and whatever is similar to all these things", meaning that even if a sin / area of weakness has not been specifically mentioned here, that does not absolve the perpetrator (feel free to plug in any sin / area of weakness).

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23 NKJV

The first half of this verse is terrifying – because "all sin" (Rom.3:23). The second half is pure grace. All who believe in Jesus Christ are saved; all who refuse to believe are lost. The former is because of God's forgiveness for all sin through Christ's work on the cross; the latter is the result of universal sin, which is, as the verses you cite and the ones I cite (and many others) make crystal clear, an impossible problem for every human being – absent faith in Christ. Therefore Jesus Christ is the issue, not sin per se.

"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

What we can we say about all this then? Those who steal (whatever is stolen and however it is stolen) demonstrate by their thievery that they are by nature sinful, and suggest by their actions that they do not know Christ: the wages of sin is death (for all), and anyone whose sins are not covered by the blood of Christ will indeed be cast into hell – because of their rejection of the Son of God, the only way of salvation. Believers are, technically speaking, not "thieves", even when and if they may steal (cf. 1Jn.3:6; 3:9; 5:18). But what Paul's sobering words in both passages make very clear is that while there may be distinction between, e.g., stealing and being a thief, the one certainly leads to the other. Likewise, Engaging in behavior of any kind which God forbids (sin) weakens the conscience, hardens the heart, incurs divine discipline which, if not responded to appropriately, will cause a person to further alienate him/herself from the Lord (out of a combination of shame and resentment) – and the end of these things, if persisted in long and egregiously enough, is apostasy or the sin unto death (see the link). By the time the person who engages in hatred becomes "a hater" in God's eyes, this sad process has run its course.

So the cause and effect here is not necessarily what is commonly assumed. Any Christian reading these passages ought to at least "get" the importance of staying away from any such behavior. Any Christian reading them all carefully and being sufficiently humble and objective about their own behavior ought also to realize that perfection, even in terms of scriptural lists, is impossible (even if we are "winners" on one list, there are plenty of others which will hit closer to our personal weaknesses). So that any Christian properly instructed in the teachings of the Word will recognize in these mirrors of truth both their own failings on the one hand, but also God's great grace on the other – and will thus be motivated not to treat sin cavalierly as a result, but to strive to please our Lord even more by refraining (not so much for fear of losing salvation but out of a deep desire to please Him and to win the rewards that glorify Him).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

1) What is healthy fear of God? I don’t seem to know the difference between healthy fear of Him and paranoia of Him. All I know is there is this nagging feeling that keeps bringing me back into repentance when I stray, but it’s always out of paranoia of hell.

2) I've been seeing lately that popular preachers like Paul Washer, John MacArthur, and those tied to them promote Lordship Salvation. I kept re-watching one of Washer's videos again and realized that not only did his paranoia for "saving souls" bother me, (giving worldly examples to defend his bothersome emotionalism and whatnot) but how he tested people who were saved: His testimony was that he kept crying out to God and he had to wait for him to answer him; he even told a woman, who came to him and told him that he didn't answer when she cried out to him, to continue doing this until she "knew" (felt) she was saved. And others are constantly saying things like this a "How to know you’re a Christian test" that adds to faith: works, ("fruit" in our lives), and that real Christians will never commit horrendous sin.

This opened my eyes because this person who tested to see if these preachers were of God constantly kept reading from the Bible over and over again against their claims:

Another Gospel (Documentary) View on www.youtube.com

That's not to say that they aren't saved, but they have been teaming up with Prosperity Gospel preachers and Word of Faith preachers like Rich Warren, many of whom have promoted The Roman Catholic Church and Contemplative Prayer.

I’m not being judgmental here am I? It’s just I felt foolish into thinking they were right and I was wrong despite not consulting scripture for those claims myself.

Response #2:

Good to hear from you.

To address your second question first (the two are definitely related), it seems to be an all too common feature of our Laodicean age of lukewarmness that Christians (pastors included) who are not much interested in doing the hard work of studying the Word of God find themselves drawn into emotionalism of various sorts instead. If a person is truly moving forward with Jesus Christ, growing in the Word, applying the truth they've learned, and eventually coming into the ministry Christ has for them, there will be no doubts in their hearts – and no question at all about the fact – that they are saved. In any case, all who have faith in Jesus Christ are believers and all believers are saved (e.g., Jn.3:16-18). But for believers who are sitting still and being entertained by music, ritual and emotionalism – as well as for the pastors who cater to this tendency and even promote it with their zero-content ministries – well, one can see how the "am I saved?" question would come up. Attempting to slap questionable production on a crumbling foundation of very little maturity and no progress in the Word or its application will inevitably be only "wood, hay and stubble" in the end. That seems clear enough in the case of the groups you mention generally inasmuch as they are deep into political and social action which by definition is impersonal and not of God at all (all true production comes from the truth, its acceptance and its ministering so that others also can grow in Christ). So I think you have evaluated all of these things correctly. Good for you.

As to the fear of God, yes, there is definitely a difference, and we can see that, for example, in the case of John's observation:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1st John 4:18 NKJV

This verse tells us that being "God fearing" does not involve paranoia. Being concerned about how the Lord feels about our missteps is appropriate, as is a healthy respect for divine discipline. After all, the Father is the perfect Father and that relationship is the model for our human relationships. Just as we would respect a perfect human father but have no need to be in terror of him, so we should comport ourselves towards our perfect divine Father: He treats us in absolute justice and fairness, He loves us with a perfect love, and He only wants what is good for us. He is love. But that does not mean we can disrespect Him or disobey our Lord Jesus with impunity. For these reasons "reverence and respect" are probably better words to use than "fear" – in terms of the way the latter word is usually meant and understood in the English language today. Please see the links:

Fear of God versus "being afraid" of God

"Don't Be Afraid!"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Which do you prefer, religion or Jesus?

Response #3:

Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ entered into by faith in His Person, the God-Man, and His work, dying for our sins on the cross; we who put our faith in Him are born again.

Religion is a word of Latin derivation from religio which means "religious scruples" or "superstition" or "cultic practice". So I don't like the word "religion" for Christianity, but people do use it and occasionally believers do as well.

Question #4:

That's what I like to hear, and is there any verse in the Bible where it says God will stop pardoning after a certain number of sins?

Response #4:

Not that I'm aware.

Question #5:

It's just that I have heard someone say that if someone does a certain number of sins God ceases to pardon. Just more people saying false things?

Response #5:

Indeed. However, I don't wish to minimize sin. Sin is destructive of our relationship with the Lord, and if we give in to a life of sin, confessing it on the way down will only act as a temporary brake. We have been called to sanctification, and one result of genuine spiritual growth is indeed less sin and less serious sin (though no one ever achieves complete sinlessness). Sin undermines our faith, because if we are more and more arrogantly and more and more deliberately rejecting our Lord's will for us, we will be less and less willing to look Him in the face (so to speak), so that we will, like the prodigal son, drift further and further from Him. The prodigal came back – but only after he had made a firm determination in his heart not to go down that false path again. If our confession is just a temporary change of mind and is not reflected by a genuine change of attitude, if we continue to go on in our sin in fact, that will in the long run damage our faith and can, if left unchecked for long enough, destroy our faith. That is the road of apostasy: not of God abandoning us because "we sinned too much", but of us abandoning God in favor of our sin, throwing aside our faith because we would rather engage in sin and not be held to account, becoming unbelievers again in fact after a long period of living like them. For those who never let go of their faith but also never let go of their sin, the result can be the "sin unto death". These things are generally not well understood by contemporary Christians (since in our Laodicean era there is so little patience for solid and in-depth Bible study), but they are very important. Please do read this part of BB 3B: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Robert, please tell me is the sin unto death and the unforgivable sin the same thing?

Response #6:

Not at all. The so-called "unforgivable sin" is rejecting Jesus Christ (only unbelievers commit this sin). The sin unto death (which only a believer can commit) is behaving in such a horrible way without being willing to repent or change one's ways that the Lord removes that believer from life in a very painful and horrific way – so that he/she may be saved nonetheless (and not lose faith or besmirch his/her witness any longer: cf. 1Cor.5:5). The latter has been linked for you before (please read): Apostasy and the Sin unto Death.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

I have a question about the salvation of someone who has said they were and are Christian but they are not so sure anymore if Jesus is the only way to heaven. Are they saved?

Response #7:

It's certainly not a positive sign! However, no one really knows what is in another person's heart except for the Lord. If a person is not actively denying Christ, then it is perhaps a case of said believer having drifted far but not entirely away (as the prodigal son did). The truth is as you know it: there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. If a believer, whether through immaturity or through backsliding, entertains such false opinions, it doesn't necessarily mean they have already lapsed into apostasy (the prodigal son came back, after all), but it does mean that they are in need of changing for the better since they are in a spiritually dangerous position (at the very least). Please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

Can you please tell me how 2Peter 2:18-20 cannot be talking about believers that can loose their salvation, when the phrase "escaped the corruption in world through knowledge of Jesus, is the same phrase used in 2Peter 1:4 to describe believers?

Response #8:

Verses 20-22 are speaking about believers who respond to the false teachers in the previous verses so as to apostatize in response to their heretical teachings. This happens through the loss of faith, of course. So yes, those mentioned as the objects of such diabolical attentions in verse 18 are believers who apostatize (completely abandon their faith in Christ and revert to being unbelievers) when they respond to the lies of these satanic messengers so as to abandon Jesus Christ.

Here is an expanded translation of the passage which makes the relationships (clear enough in the Greek but often rendered in a confusing manner in the English) a bit more clear:

(18) For by pouring forth [statements] of outrageous folly, [by appealing to] fleshly lusts, and by making use of every [sort of] sensuality, [these false teachers] entice those who [previously] had truly escaped from those who live [such] lives of deception (i.e., the false teachers). (19) [These false teachers] promise [weak believers] freedom [from a disciplined life], though they themselves are truly slaves of corruption. For by what[ever] one is mastered (i.e., the victims of false teaching – who are the center of discussion from here on in), to this is he enslaved. (20) For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [these weak believers] should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. (21) For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ which was] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now (i.e., reverting to a state of unbelief). (22) And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:18-22

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Why is it that the Bible in its original language contains no errors but all these translations have errors? How were the authors able to write without error?

I'm still finding it hard to make a decision and because of this I keep slipping back into sin. I don’t see a point in sinning but I feel that I've gone too deep to fix anything because of the situation I've gotten myself in.

Response #9:

The best way to answer your first question is to quote Peter:

No single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:20b-21

This is my translation, and I think it makes the point. The Holy Spirit who is God is responsible for the Bible being the exact message that God wanted mankind to have – and it was perfectly delivered and perfectly written down by the inspired human authors. Transmitting the text is not inspired, so that occasionally we have to make use of the art and science of textual criticism to reproduce the correct text to translate. Translation is even more of an issue since, obviously, a translation is by definition different from the original, being in a different language, after all. Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows that things are not always exactly the same in one language versus another, and when it comes to ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek, well, let's just say that they are more complicated and more difficult to precisely understand than, say, modern Spanish. Also, the Bible is theological, which means that how we translate also depends to a large degree at times on how we understand the theology – and few translators have ever been "aces" in this respect. Finally, all languages change over time. I have seen in my own lifetime how meanings of words in English and modes of expression have changed. This phenomenon guarantees that a translation done in, say, the 17th century will not have the same reception today as it did then: people will understand it differently in each generation (at least). Here are a number of links on this if you want to get into the details:

How can we know the Bible is true?

The Bible is inspired (in "Read your Bible")

"God-Breathed" (in "walking the path")

Issues of Canonicity

The integrity of the Word

The Chicago statement on inerrancy

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading

Some Issues of Transmission, Translation, and Transliteration

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

On the second question/observation, everyone has to struggle. The key thing is not to give up and not to fail to keep taking responsibility for fighting the fight:

"If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
Genesis 4:7 NKJV

Confession restores us to fellowship with the Lord and results in the forgiveness of our sins whenever we repent and put the matter before Him in prayer. But the main thing that most people miss when considering this issue is that no one can win this fight on defense. In order to effectively "pursue sanctification" (Heb.12:14), we must first and foremost be growing spiritually by reading scripture, praying, accessing good Bible teaching, hearing, believing and applying the truths of the Word day by day. That is the only way to change from the inside out, and inside-out change is the only change that "takes". Many groups and churches concentrate on whitewashing the outside but that only results in hypocrisy and frustration. As I often point out, spiritual growth is the answer to most of the truly important questions in the Christian life. The change and the "fix" is also not likely to be blindingly rapid but very slow and, one hopes, steady -- but that steadiness must come from the determination of the individual believer, not just "not to sin", but even more crucially to keep moving forward spiritually in order to possess the spiritual balance and maturity to be able to walk in a sanctified way. See the links:

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Fighting the Fight III: False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

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

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

Keep fighting the good fight in the truth of Jesus Christ!

Bob L.

Question #10:

Another thing.

Is repenting always followed by confession in prayer? I find myself repenting and confessing in prayer only after I stray away, when I realize I'm not sensitive to sin because my attitude has changed which causes me to sin in the first place. But what about my thoughts? Do I have to repent and confess of those? It feels like legalism, obsessing over every single sin, to the point that I'm unwilling to watch or do certain things out of paranoia (example many TV shows even kids shows) have sexual jokes/dark jokes/ even if it's subtle, or slapstick) and I begin to feel the need to quickly judge others. I become obsessed over avoiding sin instead of looking to Christ.

Response #10:

There is a balance to be struck here, I would agree, and if we are ever getting into a sort of legalistic ritual about confession, it's likely we have gone too far. I have known Christians who are very reluctant to pray at all and reluctant to confess, and others who tend to get obsessive about trying to be "in fellowship" and so get into a constant state of confession. The middle place between ignoring the issue and hyperventilating about it is the best. Here is the way scripture puts it:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

The Lord forgives us all of our sins and all of our unrighteous behavior whenever we confess. That means that we are given a blanket forgiveness when we do seek His forgiveness in prayer. One thing I take from that is that we can rest easy in the Spirit's guidance of us, trying to walk a good walk and focusing on our Lord as you are wishing to do, and only being concerned about confession when we are convicted of the need for it. You're right: we don't want to get legalistic about this. We are forgiven by the grace of God because Christ died for all of our sins; the right to confess and to be forgiven is a blessing, not a rote ritual.

Here is a link where this is all discussed in some detail: In BB 3B: "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness ".

Again, if we are concentrating on growing spiritually, we will be changing from the inside out, and that is really the only way to be effective in avoiding sinful behavior in the long run.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

I have been reading your new study in an effort to help you on your request. I haven’t found anything yet to report on that regard.

However, I have a question. You state in the following sentence that our sprits "cannot be tainted" and, if I am understanding correctly, that the filter between the truth of the gospel and our incorruptible spirits is our body of corruption, that is the flesh. Is this correct? Does that mean that our sprits cannot be corruh. Human beings, however, are sinful, inhabiting bodies of corruption ever since the fall in Eden, so that between our spirits (which cannot be tainted) and the words of truth we hear, there is a filter of corruption.

I know you are not asking my understanding on this, but I think that if I understood these words correctly, they are not wholly correct. Our spirits are tarnishable and corruptible as well and in fact not only is this understood through the Bible, but much of the words in your study show that as well.

I believe this was something important to communicate.

In our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #11:

You've understood my position on this correctly, even if you are not in complete agreement. By tainted or corrupted I am talking about the sin nature which is a physical manifestation in our bodies as a result of our first parents' sin (a corruption which necessitates the destruction of these first, physical bodies and their replacement by something better for us to live together with God). Scripture talks about the body of corruption, never the spirit.

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
1st Corinthians 15:50 KJV

It is true that "we" are responsible for what we do, and that the fallen angels, although they have no physical bodies, are going to be held responsible for their rejection of the Lord's authority. The issue at hand for human beings is whether or not there is a tangible change in our spirits resulting from the fall; if there were a tangible change in our spirits, then the resurrection of the body would do us no good since it is concerned with the renewal of our bodies, not our spirits.

The Holy Spirit is the key to allowing God's truth to reach our pure spirits even though they presently reside in corrupt bodies. Please see the link: "Epignosis and Epistemology".

In any case, if you have any scriptures that you feel address this issue of the spirit, I'd certainly be happy to consider them with you.

Thanks for your good efforts!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Thanks for your explanation Bob,

I believe the most clear and direct allusion in the Bible regarding the defilement of the human spirit is found in 2 Corinthians 6 and 7, particularly in verse 7:1

After pointing out the restraining that the Corinthians had put on themselves through their misplaced affections and then proceeding to ask them to realize how unable to have fellowship are believers with unbelievers, justice with unrighteousness, Christ with Belial, and the temple of God (that is us and our bodies - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) with idols, Paul then encourages them to cleanse themselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. This last part then I understand as having our spirit truly cleansed by the Spirit of Christ from all impurity (idolatry, injustice, evil, etc.) and not just our bodies or flesh, so these (I mean our bodies) can truly be a temple of His Spirit. This is also why Paul asks them to make room for himself and his fellow workers in their hearts, so they may repent from their mistaken ways and grow in the truth he has imparted to them even if that has caused them sorrows.

Moreover, I find the previous to be in line with our Lord’s words:

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

Both our Lord and Paul are referring to the heart as something immaterial, as the seat and center of our soul (body and spirit) and the essence of our being, not to our physical heart as you well know. As such, as the essence of our [defiled] being, it is something in effect spiritual that is affected by both our fleshly condition and His Spirit, if indeed there is something left of His Spirit in us. For even though all of us have life thanks to His Spirit, it is in our heart where our battles rage on between both principles of the flesh and Spirit, if indeed there is even such conflict and our heart hasn’t been deeply corrupted by deceit, evil and injustice to the point our conscience is seared. But I state this because of what I read in James 4:

Whence [are] wars and fightings among you? not thence -- out of your passions, that are as soldiers in your members? 2 ye desire, and ye have not; ye murder, and are zealous, and are not able to attain; ye fight and war, and ye have not, because of your not asking; 3 ye ask, and ye receive not, because evilly ye ask, that in your pleasures ye may spend [it]. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! have ye not known that friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever, then, may counsel to be a friend of the world, an enemy of God he is set. 5 Do ye think that emptily the Writing saith, `To envy earnestly desireth the spirit that did dwell in us,' 6 and greater grace he doth give, wherefore he saith, `God against proud ones doth set Himself up, and to lowly ones He doth give grace?' 7 be subject, then, to God; stand up against the devil, and he will flee from you; 8 draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you; cleanse hands, ye sinners! and purify hearts, ye two-souled!

I have used the YLT for the previous verses to highlight in particular verse 4:5: To envy earnestly desires the spirit that did dwell in us." Which after much study I’ve found to be a correct translation (along with that of the KJB or the NLT) of such verse no only given its wording, but also its context; because can the Spirit of God desire earnestly or covetously to envy? Is not envy a work of the flesh as stated in Galatians 5, just like the wars and fights between people as stated in James 4:1? Is not envy a desire of the flesh that puts us as well in conflict within ourselves ?And yet that is the spirit that dwells in us! But after pointing that out, James, just like Paul did in the previously quoted verses, asks the people to draw near to God, resist the devil and purify their hearts from their double nature.

Moreover, if the spirit could not be defiled, why then would John instruct people to test every spirit because of the many false prophets? He does not instruct to test the person or the soul, but the spirit. False prophets, and teachers for that matter, are false precisely because the spirit within them is of deceit for it has also been deceived. It is a corrupted spirit that is according to the spirit of this world and not according to the Spirit of Truth, for they live according the desires and thoughts of the flesh and such desires and thoughts come from the world and not from God, although they probably believed and still do that these are from God - the god of their idolatry nevertheless.

Therefore, in the end, the principle of the flesh and its desires is spiritual as well, spiritual according to the spirit of the world and the one against we fight by the Holy Spirit, for we do not fight against flesh, but against spiritual forces that seek to corrupt and destroy us evermore to the point that those who are fully corrupted and enslaved by this spirit cannot understand the things of the Holy Spirit, because The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Now, concerning the resurrection of the body, I understand what you say to be correct: our bodies are corrupted and cannot inherit incorruption. But on the other hand, what benefit it would bring to have a new, spiritual and uncorrupted, body if our spirit is defiled? Indeed, that is why we are asked to remain steadfast in the cleansing of our hearts through perseverance and growth in the truth (for which He empowers us through His Spirit) and thus wholly cleanse ourselves both in body, soul and spirit so our spirit may also be one with the Spirit of Christ ("he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.") and adequate for the new incorruptible, immortal, heavenly, spiritual bodies. "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Indeed, to this much point out the last, exhorting words in 1 Corinthians 15:

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in "the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."

But now that I have re-read everything I just wrote, I think there is something very important for us to discern together and communicate if we wish to reach a common understanding regarding these issues and that is: what is spirit? What does the word fully mean in the Scriptures? Is it just breath or air? Air is material after all, and so is breath. But is the breath of God material? And what does it mean when our Lord states that the flesh profits nothing, it is the spirit who gives life and that the words he had spoken are spirit and life? How can words be spirit and life? Can words be of death and corruption as well?

In our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #12:

I think what we have going on here is a confusion over definitions (as you seem to have concluded also, judging by your concluding comments). What I mean to say is that the human spirit is 1) indestructible (once created by God at the point of birth, it will never be destroyed, even for unbelievers who experience a resurrection of condemnation); and 2) the spirit cannot be changed or altered as to its constitution in the way that the physical body most definitely was. None of this means that the spirit is pure in the sense of being incapable of or not culpable for sin (there was no substantial transformation in the case of the fallen angels either – but they clearly chose their evil path). Furthermore, we human beings are though dichotomous from the point of our birth / coming into this world, possessors of a unified nature, so it is not as if the spirit is doing one thing and the flesh another. There is clearly a tension between the two (Matt.26:41), but the spirit (in the body) is "us" and "we" make the decisions we make, even though these are powerfully influenced by the flesh.

You mention "heart" below, and that is the key point here – if one understands that in biblical terms the heart or soul is the composite, unified person with a focus on the inner man (see the link: "The heart: interface between body and spirit"). Without a sin nature in their bodies, the only way that Adam and Eve could sin was by an act of direct disobedience in eating of the fruit of the tree of knowing good and evil. Today, being steeped in sin, we are capable of all manner of evil without great effort. We make the decisions, but these acts of sin and evil do not change our spirits in the sense of altering them in any substantial way (the way Adam and Eve's physical bodies were altered), since they are not material in the sense our bodies are and are therefore incapable of being substantively changed. All sin comes from our will; all sin needed to be atoned for; and believers are forgiven when they believe and when they confess after salvation. None of this changes the constitution of the human spirit (which is the only point I have been making); only the body was corrupted at the fall; only the body is infested with sin; only the body will, therefore, gradually be worn down and die; only the body will be substantially different in resurrection.

None of the above is inconsistent with 2nd Corinthians 7:1 wherein we are commanded, literally, to cleanse ourselves "from everything defiling [coming from] your flesh or your spirit" (molysmos is the production of filth, and the genitive here gives the point of origin, meaning something more like "[originating] from" than "of"). Paul is, rightly, looking at the actions we commit which are sinful or foul in any way and commanding us to sanctify ourselves by staying away from them, by ceasing to produce them – with both elements mentioned since the spirit provides the will to sin and the body the means of sin. Paul is not telling us to undergo some sort of internal purification (no directions provided here for that either, after all). Such a purification on our part would be impossible in terms of the flesh (since we cannot expunge the sin nature) and also in terms of the spirit (whose constitution is unchangeable). The only sense in which any lasting and significant internal change is possible is through spiritual growth wherein we adjust ourselves, our thinking, conversation and behavior, to the truth of the Word of God – that is, the very internal "change" in which we belong to Christ are all supposed to be engaged day by day. Such change necessarily involves the entire person and it is not possible to separate out flesh from spirit in the process since "we" are the two in combination and ever shall be (although, blessedly, we will of course receive a sinless body at the resurrection). Paul's separation of the two here is meant to take away all excuse: "stop sinning, no matter where you think it is being stimulated from more, your flesh or your will".

For the Word of God is living and powerful; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even to the point of being able to divide the spirit from its earthly life and the marrow from its bones; [for] it (i.e., the Word when resident in our conscience) acts as a judge of our heart's intentions and emotions.
Hebrews 4:12

Paul's language above shows just how impossible analyzing spirit versus flesh really is: it is comparable to dividing joints from marrow – practically speaking an impossibility for any living subject in the ancient world at least. The Word of God can do so – truth can do anything – but the analogy used actually makes the point of the impossibility and shows that we ourselves cannot do so when it comes to our own life and how we live. We think and feel, speak and act, are tempted and struggle as unified persons, not as spirit here, body there.

Finally, as to James 4:5, here is my translation of that verse and its context which has confused so many:

(4) You adulteresses (i.e., immoral people of both sexes)! Do you not know that friendship with the world is inimical to God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world establishes himself as an enemy of God. (5) Or do you assume that the Scripture (i.e., Gal.5:17) says to no purpose "The Spirit" which dwells in you "sets its desire against" [such] envy [emanating from the sin nature, a situation rampant among you (as is evident from the examples given in verses 1-4)]? (6) But [God] "gives grace [which is] greater" [than all these temptations] (i.e., in the provision of the Spirit which resists the flesh). That is why it says, "God opposes the arrogant, but He gives grace to the humble".
James 4:4-6

It is not really possible to understand this passage until it is realized that James is quoting Paul in Galatians 5:17. For the complete explanation, please see the link: "The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy".

The word "spirit" is not an easy one to translate or understand inasmuch as the Bible in both testaments uses the same word (ruach Heb.; pneuma, Gr.) for the Holy Spirit, angels (fallen and elect), the immaterial part of man (which we are discussing here) and also for other things such as influences or influential individuals (as in "test every spirit" and "the spirit of antichrist"). I am certainly happy to discuss any of these; here a few other links to get you started in the meantime:

The Creation of Adam and the Human Spirit

Biblical Anthropology III

The Nature of Angels

Annihilationism, Universalism, Hell and Judgment

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Bob,

A reverend obviously not saved & opposing praise hymns to God in sermons has published an article in our language quoting Isaiah 30:15 & 1 Kings 19:11-14 to confirm that we should be silent before God in worshipping without making noises. I would like to add your views also in replying to those against singing praise hymns.

Blessings

Response #13:

Clearly, the two passages cited do not at all prove anything of this sort. Also, it is very clear that music is part of biblical worship in the Old and New Testaments.

As to the question of the role of hymns in churches, well, that is another question. Perhaps your reverend is over-reacting to the disturbing trend of music replacing teaching. In my country, it is rare to find a church any longer where the Bible is taught in a substantive way. Generally speaking, services are composed of 50% music, 30% administrative matters, 20% sermon . . . and 0% teaching. If the music is replacing sermon time or admin time, well, it hardly matters. The purpose of assembly for the local church is mutual encouragement through the Word of God. Everything else is extraneous, but the extraneous has completely replaced the essential in almost every congregation worldwide. A sure sign of the swift approaching end.

Also, not all music is good just because it proclaims itself to be "Christian". The words are what is important, and to the extent that the words are not biblical or are slightly askew from the Bible (as with almost every new-style Christian song I have personally heard), to that extent they do more harm than good because they evoke an emotional response over something that is not quite right. Here are some links on this subject:

The Unknown Hymn

The Influence of Music

Christian Music

More on Christian Music

Negative Effects of Christian Music

"Worship Services"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

Greetings from Arizona. I have been reading with keen interest your emails "combating legalism" and have been greatly encouraged by it. Still going through it, reading it on my lunch hour at work.

I have been troubled by two scriptures. One is Romans 14:23 and the other is 1 Corinthians 8:10-11. These scriptures seem to some people to indicate that if you do anything that you are not 100 percent sure about (I am talking about "gray areas" like instrumental music or men's hair length, etc...), you could end up in hell. It talks about the weak brother perishing. Perishing? I thought the only way a believer could perish is if he turns his back on Jesus and commits apostasy. There are things that I cannot see any harm in myself, but because of years of indoctrination by various groups I feel ill at ease about them even though I cannot see the harm in them. One of these is hair length (and the nagging about it from other people). I could use some Godly wisdom about these things in light of that dark, threatening fear that comes. I welcome your feedback. Thanks!

In Jesus,

Response #14:

Very good to hear from you again, my friend! I have been keeping you in my prayers day by day.

As to your question, the first thing I would note is that your title words "conscience and ultimatums" are right on the mark; if we are doing something (or stopping something) purely as a reaction to pressure from other so-called believers and even though we do not feel the need to do (or stop) whatever it is out of conscience, then doing it (or stopping it) is a big mistake. Sometimes God does use other believers to prod us and remind us through the Spirit and our consciences that we are in need of a change:

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
Proverbs 9:9 NKJV

This verse assumes that the correction is justified and that the wise man will see that immediately and respond in the appropriate godly way. But if the correction comes from someone who is clearly not acting in a godly way, and if the person being corrected's conscience does not speak to him/her through the Spirit, then this verse does not apply. It's all a question of truth.

Paul's point in Romans 14:23 is that if a weak believer is led to do something he/she doesn't really believe is right – because of the example of a strong believer – then the weak believer who does the thing will not be doing it out of faith and will believe he/she is really sinning "for whatever is not from faith is sin". So it seems to me that allowing oneself to be bullied into doing (or stopping) something according to another person's false standards is more a case of not acting in faith than it is of acting in love. After all, if it is not a case of leading someone into sinful behavior (or into a violation of standards which, though false, will have the effect of weakening the conscience for potentially falling into true sin later through becoming thus inured to it), then there is no problem – except for the potential problem of acting contrary to one's own faith in such a thing. The spiritual bully in question is not being tempted to wear his hair longer, after all (regardless of any spiritual considerations) – he/she is adamant about his/her own position and not being led but attempting to lead instead.

In the case of 1st Corinthians chapter eight, Paul envisions a situation where the weaker believer "is destroyed" – but he is not necessarily talking about loss of salvation; the point is that if we damage our brothers and sisters we cannot really know just how we are damaging or to what degree. But it is important to note that the connection here is with pagan idolatry and the weak being re-ensnared into a system of evil from which they have only just recently escaped. So avoiding being connected with such a system, even if only in the minds of the weak, is clearly a prudent thing. To my mind, hair length has no such associations or connotations. Also, it is difficult for me to see what you wearing your hair long relatively longer than someone else who objects – and doing so for personal and cultural (native American) reasons – might possibly do to influence anyone toward any bad behavior. Possibly someone over whom you have influence might be led to do the same (not that this would be a problem, especially with similar circumstances), but if that is not the case, then it is hard to see how tirades against your hair-length are not just legalistic, self-righteous impositions from people whose business it most definitely is not.

Anyone who mentions "hell" in such a situation is so far from grace and truth that they are not to be taken seriously. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It has nothing whatsoever to do with extraneous and unimportant factors. Besides, if you cut your hair to please these people, the next they'll want is for you to give up steak and potatoes too (and who knows what else).

In any case, Paul's criticism of the Corinthians on the subject of hair is all about the women of Corinth shaving their heads (in imitation of Jewish vows which were only for Jews and only for men) and also tearing their hair in mourning (which was a pagan custom and indicative of those who have no hope). Male hair length is only addressed as a point of comparison and in relative terms, so that what is acceptable on that score for Christians today is a matter of conscience and is not independent of cultural considerations (as in native American customs as you relate). Here are some links:

Hair length and the Bible

Hair too long or too short?

Hats or Hair?

Are women required to wear hats or veils in church?

More on Hats and Hair (response #2)

Long hair in 1st Corinthians 11

What does the Bible say about long hair?

Sign of submission?

Yours in the Lord of grace, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi bro. Bob,

Greetings again from coyote and roadrunner country.

I honestly don't know how you manage to answer emails so QUICKLY given the volume of emails you get, and the detailed responses you give to most of them (the ones I see on your website). Thank you so much for your response to my queries; they are most encouraging and strengthen me in my walk with Jesus. I usually copy them and save them in a Word file to read again later.

I have long suspected that the fears I described were the evil one trying to shake me up. Your counsel, along with other brothers where I fellowship all harmonize such that I know that the Lord is letting me know to "chill out" and not worry about the hair thing, as well as other peripheral things. I think the scripture that I have really come to love in this regard is the one that says to "Be still, and know that I am God". I love that verse. I have hundreds of promises from God's Word packed away in my memory to use like a suite of tools (or defensive weapons as the case may be), but I am no good at remembering references. Numbers and Names are fiendishly difficult for me to memorize.

Thank you for remembering to pray for me. With all the hundreds of emails you get, hard to fathom how you manage to remember one brother like that.

Wa-Do (thank you in Cherokee) again for your encouragement! God bless.

In Jesus,

Response #15:

You're most welcome.

Keep up the good work for the Lord, my friend. We all have our ministries according to the gifts given us in Jesus Christ. Nice to be "on the team" with you!

Your friend in Him,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Brother Bob,

Thank you so much for your website. You have been a blessing to me. I do have a question about assurance. I believe in Jesus with all my heart and have asked Him to come into my heart and to save me. The problem is I have done this many times. Whenever I hear a sermon on hell or hear the sinners pray I pray it. I just want to make sure I am saved. I don't want to be without Jesus in eternity. I want to be with Him in Heaven. I have done some abominable things in my life even after being saved. I think after I do these things that if I were really saved I would never do them. It is hard but I always get back up, seek the Lords face and ask for His mercy and forgiveness. I feel at times He is getting tired of me and is not pleased with me and maybe my faith is not genuine if I have to keep asking Him to save me. I don't know what other Christians experience. All I know is what I struggle with. I ask The Lord to give me peace and assurance but am afraid He is getting mad at me for my weak faith. Please pray for me and help me overcome this.

Thank you,

Response #16:

Our Lord is longsuffering – that is one the blessed aspects of His great love. No one can exasperate the Lord to the point that He kicks us out of His family. The prodigal son was convinced that he had done just that, but what does the father (representing the Father) reply?

"For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."Luke 15:24 NIV

We can always count on the mercy of God, His forgiveness, and His great love:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NASB

This doesn't mean that our sinning, our backsliding, our failure to learn our lessons, our making the same mistakes over and over again have no consequences. Indeed they do. For one thing, every believer is disciplined for their sins – with the punishment that a loving Father doles out to correct those He loves. The more recalcitrant we are when it comes to adjusting our behavior to what God requires, the more we can expect that discipline to increase (see the link).

Even more perilous when it comes to sin is the very real danger that excessive rebellion from the Lord in serious ways that become chronic will make the believer reluctant to confess or return to the Lord at all. He will always have us back, but it is a fact of human nature that when we become completely intransigent we also become less willing – or completely unwilling – to admit our mistakes, confess them, and then take our medicine. When that stage is reached, the believer's heart begins to harden, his/her conscience begins to degrade, Jesus Christ becomes less and less a part of the person's thinking, and faith weakens . . . and it can weaken to the point of failing entirely. When a person no longer believes in Jesus, whatever the cause of the falling away, that person is no longer a believer (obviously).

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Believers are saved; unbelievers are lost. If an unbeliever repents and believes, he/she is saved; if a believer changes his/her mind and abandons faith so as to actually become an unbeliever again, not believing in Christ (whatever the process by which this stage is reached), he/she is lost (Rom.11:22-23).

So most people have this backwards. God is not the problem. We are the problem. If we let our behavior stray too far there is the danger that we ourselves will compromise our own faith and fall into apostasy by our own decisions to abandon our faith (for the details on all this please see the important link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

One other very important point. Struggling with chronic sin is something far too many believers do, but it is somewhat understandable in our Laodicean era of spiritual lukewarmness. That is because we cannot win the victory of faith by sitting on the defense. The only safe path to sanctification is spiritual growth followed by spiritual advance and production for Christ. Without growing spiritually, the believer is left highly vulnerable, and the best that can be hoped for is a see-saw battle against sin that does not in the end swamp the believer's faith. Said person will be in the New Jerusalem and blissfully happy for all eternity – but will also have squandered the opportunity to win the three crowns of eternal reward (see the link). To gain any sort of genuine and truly godly traction in the battle against sin, truth in the heart fully believed and ready to apply is needed – and that is the province of spiritual growth.

For those who are growing, it is true that we all have areas of weakness which we need to address, and sooner or later we will be forced to do so even if we put it off for a long time. In that struggle, it is important to remember that 1) we are responsible for what we do; 2) we are in control of our own will; 3) and so we ought to courageously own up to that responsibility; 4) appreciating that we can in fact stop doing something we should not or start doing what we should (we control our own will and with the power of the Spirit can do whatever it is necessary to do). Such reform is often not easy (nor is the spiritual growth without which it is likely to be impossible), but however hard and time-consuming and grinding it may be, it can and must be done, victory over sin can and must be won (Gen.4:7) – not sinless perfection, but a truly sanctified and godly life with which Jesus Christ is well pleased.

I will pray for you in this fight – but please do remember that it can be won . . . if you are truly willing to do whatever is necessary to win it.

For everyone who has been born from God overcomes the [devil's] world. And this is the victory that has overcome the [devil's] world: our faith [in Jesus Christ]! For who is the one who overcomes the [devil's] world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1st John 5:4-5

In Jesus Christ who died for everyone of our sins that we might be saved and have life eternal with Him.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi. I wholeheartedly believe in Jesus Christ (though my actions don't always show it). I was not always a believer. I've done the sinner's prayer with someone without really believing, I have raised my hand in church when asked if one wanted salvation...after which I drifted away in hatred towards Jesus and God when my someone I cared for left me for the church. I told Jesus I didn't want His salvation. Years later when regaining an interest in church, I came home and looked at a website which had a bible verse at the bottom of it. the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit verse....and it really scared me. In fact, I was terrified! I went to church immediately the next day and told my pastor that I really wanted to be saved, but I feared it may be too late for me now. I said a prayer with him. I then had a conviction of sin which I never had before. Certain verses would often scare me such as Hebrews 10:26. Even over the next decade or so my church/prayer/bible life was rocky at best. Many backslidings...but SOMETHING always brought me back, whether it was a scary verse, or a small voice urging me to get back into the swing of my faith. Like I said, I DO believe in Jesus, and I want to serve Him with the best of my ability, and I desire for others to be saved. I try to share the gospel the best I know how. But this is scary to do, since I don't want to be a bad witness or a hypocrite. Now my question is based on what I have just said do you believe I am an apostate or a reprobate? I have seen some sins clearing up almost with no effort on my part. All I do is keep seeking God and these things just "happen". I overcome certain lusts for longer periods of time, foul language and angry outbursts seem to have disappeared. Please help me. I am holding on with everything I have but some days what little faith I have seems to be attacked by something or other. Please help.

Response #17:

Good to make your acquaintance, although I am sorry to hear that you are in the midst of such spiritual turmoil. Here is what I read in scripture:

"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

And also:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

According to the first passage, all believers are saved; according to the second passage, God forgives believers when they confess their sins. This agrees with everything I have ever read and studied in scripture. If you believe in Jesus Christ, His perfect person and His perfect work in dying for you on the cross, then you are a believer, and all believers are saved. And if, having sinned in any way, you confess those sins, God forgives you.

This doesn't mean that there is not such a thing as divine discipline for sin – of course there is, and it is more intense the worse the spiritual situation the believer gets him/herself into (see the link). But the reason for discipline in the first place is not to destroy us but to turn the believer around, back to God:

"And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ "But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ "
Luke 15:21-24 NKJV

And the reason for discipline in the second place is to help the believer avoid getting into the same situation in the future:

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 NKJV

No one should despise the Lord God; a healthy reverence for Him is absolutely imperative for the believer who wants to stay out of harm's way. However, none of us who call Him Father should fail to understand the ineffable grace and mercy – and love, as in a Father to His dear children – that belong to us by divine right as believers in His Son our dear Savior Jesus Christ. It is therefore permissible to regret past failures; however, it is disastrous to dwell upon them.

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Every day is a new "day of battle" with an opportunity to make the most of what the Lord places before us, to learn about Him, walk with Him, and produce for Him. Tomorrow we shall be with Him forever, yesterday He died for us, and today we can make a difference for Him through spiritual growth – these are the only "days" that matter and the only things that really matter here in this temporary life.

There are many things in scripture which, improperly understood, can throw a scare into a believer who is allowing guilt the get the better of him. Excessive guilt, however, is actually self-indulgence, placing a higher premium on how we feel than on what God says. The devil knows this well and thus is always eager to advance false interpretations of scripture. Here are some links which I hope will be helpful to you on these matters (do feel free to write back):

Bible Basics 3B:  Hamartiology:  The Study of Sin

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation

Does Hebrews 10:26 teach loss of salvation?

Hebrews 10:26 again

Salvation Lost and Found

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #18:

I backslid and sinned willfully and am scared it's too late for me. Sometimes I feel empty and like God doesn't love me. I worry if my name has been blotted out of the book of life. I don't know what to do and every time I see Hebrews 10:26 or even see 10:26 on a clock I get scared.

Response #18:

We all fail from time to time. So before you panic, please consider the following verses from the Word of God:

All sin and fall short of God's glory.
Romans 3:23

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
Psalm 130:3 NIV

We all stumble in many ways.
James 3:2 NIV

For there is no one who does not sin.
1st Kings 8:46

Repentance (and you sound repentant) and confession to the Lord of our sins is the means of immediate restoration to fellowship (1Jn.1:9). If we have failed, the least we can do is follow God's procedure to get back on track ASAP. Of course we will (and should) feel bad about our failures – as you do – but we should not let our frustration at our own failures or guilt about the past consume us so as to trip up our forward progress.

God loves you. He does not love you because you are perfect. Clearly, if you have failed, you will receive divine discipline (see the link), but that is punishment from a loving Father to a son who belongs to Him, given not to destroy but to teach and to heal. We do not need to worry about punishing ourselves, and if we get hung up on our failures and try to add to the Lord's discipline, we will only confuse the issue and hinder our recovery and spiritual growth. Move on (Phil.3:13). Nothing we do can ever separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NIV

As long as we are still believers in Jesus Christ, then we still have the helmet of salvation sitting securely on our heads (1Thes.5:8; Eph.6:17). We are the only ones who can take it off, and apostasy only happens when we deliberately abandon our faith. That is important to remember when reading (or rather "mis-reading") verses such as Hebrews 10:26, which, whatever they mean, do not contradict the entire rest of scripture or otherwise neutralize the grace, mercy, love and forgiveness of the Lord who saved us by dying for every one of our sins, past, present and future.

In fact, Hebrews 10:26 does not mean what you fear at all. Please have a look at the following links and do feel free to write me back about any of the above:

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Does Hebrews 10:26 Teach Loss of Salvation?

Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?

Hebrews 10:26.

Deliberate Sinning

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness I

Being in a position to marshal the resources of the truth of the Word of God against all such doubts and fears when the going gets rough (whether that is our fault or not) is a function of spiritual maturity, a status the gaining of which requires a diligent effort in learning the truth (both from personal study but also from a solid, orthodox source) day by day.

I am keeping you in prayer day by day for your academic and spiritual success.

In Jesus Christ the Lord we love and with whom we will be forever.

Bob L.

Question #19:

Please tell me, what was the difference with God's forgiveness before and after Jesus.

Response #19:

God has always forgiven those who wish to be forgiven. The only difference is that those before the cross got it "on credit" for what Jesus WOULD do (but had not yet done), while after the cross we are forgiven on the basis of the actual sacrifice of our Lord in dying for the sins of the world (even for those not yet committed; see the link in BB 3B: "God's Forgiveness of Sins"):

For all sin and fall short of God's glory, [but we are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption (lit., "ransoming" from sin) which is in Christ Jesus. God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, so as to prove His justice in the present, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Can you help me to forgive people.

Response #20:

Here is what I read in the Bible:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 NIV

And forgive us what we owe you just as we also forgive those who owe us.
Matthew 6:12

And forgive us our sins just as we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
Luke 11:4

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV

Since we are commanded to forgive other by the Lord Himself, and since if we do not forgive others we will not be forgiven ourselves, well, I can't think of any better motivation than that.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

It's hard to forgive sometimes. Is it okay if we decide to not forgive the devil?

Response #21:

Believers, being human beings, cannot see angels, elect or fallen, and so we should restrict ourselves to whatever scripture has to say on these subjects. We may get angry at human beings who do things we dislike or let us down, etc., and then we will need to forgive them. But since we cannot see the devil or his minions attacking us, there really is nothing we would need to be concerned about forgiving in the first place; so this should never even come up. Believers who get too interested in angelic affairs so as to "go beyond what is written" (1Cor.4:6) always run into trouble. The proper method of spiritual warfare is to understand the conflict swirling around us and our role in it (which things are very important and generally not understood properly), but also realizes that our job and role in the fight is to grow spiritually, walk with Jesus, and help others do the same through Christian ministry, regardless of what is happening beyond our ken.

It may be hard sometimes to forgive human beings we can see, but the activities of entities who are invisible to us need not cause us any concern. In short, we don't even need to worry about this.

In our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

What about people who wrong others – do we have to forgive then too?

Response #22:

Forgiveness is what we do towards others who wrong us or against whom we have some grievance – these are "our debtors"; these are "those who trespass against us":

Then Peter came to Him and said, "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 NKJV

In our Lord's reply to Peter above, not only was it a case of personal wrong, but also of the one who did the wrong actually coming and asking for forgiveness. We are to have an attitude of forgiveness towards others, especially if they ask for that forgiveness, but it is not our place as third parties to inject ourselves into the disputes of others (e.g., Prov.26:17).

Also, actions have consequences, and personal forgiveness does not necessarily blot out the tangible effects of wrong done. For example, if two people are engaged and one is unfaithful to the other, it is certainly not un-Christian for the wronged party to forgive – but also to terminate the engagement. Just as there is a difference between innocence and stupidity, so the command to forgive is not a command to destroy oneself. People who do wrong should be avoided; true forgiveness from the heart is not inconsistent with prudent behavior. This is especially true in the case of criminal behavior; we should not associate with anyone so involved nor fail to report them to the authorities, forgive them for such wrongs against ourselves though we may.

Please see the links:

Forgiveness

Sin, Forgiveness and Confession

Yours in the One who died for all of our sins that we might be forgiven through His blood shed for us, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #23:

Got a question to ask you. My relative has been carrying a lot of hate and unforgiveness. I told him that is not what the Lord says but he claims we don't have to forgive he doesn't read the Bible. How can it be explained to him? He seems think it takes a better man not to forgive than to forgive.

Response #23:

You are certainly correct, of course. Forgiveness is not only the way of love (1Cor.13:4-7), but it is also required of believers if we want to receive forgiveness from the Lord:

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV

In my view, these (and similar) verses admit of no alternative interpretations (e.g., Matt.18:35; Mk.11:26; Lk.6:37). If a person is not willing to accept the crystal clear truth of scripture on such a basic topic, I'm not sure that there is a rhetorical way to convince them. Besides laying the truth of scripture before them, it probably must then be left to the Lord to make the matter clear.

I will certainly say a prayer for your relative.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Could you please give me some advice? I just want your general opinion. Is there a such thing as being Christian, but not being a practicing Christian? I feel that to pray, would be to invite God's wrath on my life. That might sound dramatic, but I know I'm basically living in unrepentant sin. Well, actually I feel bad but apparently not bad enough. I know it's dangerous spiritually to stand still. Yet, here I am. I've been straddling the fence for months and months now. Besides being guilty (I was going to say feeling guilty, but I actually am guilty), I'm no more worse for the wear. I know that I have probably given up some serious ground spiritually. I also know I have some pain coming my way in the not so distant future if I don't repent and change course. I'm just so stubborn. Honestly, not getting any rewards in heaven doesn't sound all that bad to me. I'd be in heaven. I doubt I'd care about a crown. I mean it's heaven, how bad could it be? Yep, still paradise. My thing is, should I pray in this situation? Should I even talk to God? Knowing that I'm sinning, and I have no intention of stopping until I get ready to. I know they say praying is always better than not praying. I think I may have found the one situation where it's better to not pray. It just seems like it would be even more disrespectful to God than I'm already being. Besides, it's like we (me and God, and I guess you) already know I have taken my life into my own hands. I'm inevitably going to run it into the ground, because that's what happens when you don't follow God's plan. I probably won't stop until God makes me. I can't stop. I'm not strong enough spiritually. I can't be any other way. We know that I go through cycles of being spiritually strong, and then crashing. Metaphorically speaking, I've just decided to hang out at the bottom of the mountain until God makes sitting even more painful than making progress. I feel really bad about all this. It's just that, I'm not stupid. I am extremely aware of when I am sinning. I don't think that's ever stopped anybody before though.

Response #24:

I do care about you, and so I am very sorry to hear that you are struggling with temptation to this degree. I will say that this struggle is to some degree something every believer has to engage in, regardless of how long they have been in the faith or how much spiritual progress they have made. Fighting and losing is bad (but it happens to us all from time to time); giving up the fight is very problematic.

When you say "knowing" probably never stopped anyone, you are dead-on correct. It's not a matter of information. It's a matter of basic choice. So when you say, "I can't stop", that is not the case. We have control over our own free will – if we don't who does? It may be the hardest thing we have ever done to stop doing X or to start doing Y – but if it is something the Lord asks us to do, then He has given us the means to do so. This doesn't mean that it will be easy to stop/start whatever it is, nor does it mean that we will be successful even five out ten times at first, but if we don't fight the fight, we cannot win the fight. The main thing is to keep fighting and not let ourselves get discouraged. How we feel about things is also more in our control than most of us realize or are willing to admit. The main first step in all this is to accept complete responsibility for what we are doing or not doing (as you seem close to doing).

The pattern you describe here is the classic one, and I hope you can see by examining your own letter that the big danger in giving up is that one's conscience will, over time, begin to erode. It is understandable that a person would be reluctant to pray to the Lord when involved in things he/she knows the Lord disapproves of – and especially if he/she is having a hard time giving them up, or is very reluctant to do so, or especially if he/she has no intention of doing so in truth. The fact is, however, that there is no such thing as "taking a holiday" from being a Christian. As soon as a person starts to slack off and back-track, bad things start to happen from the spiritual perspective. This might not be obvious at first, but it will become more and more obvious the further a person drifts from the Lord.

If we let ourselves drift too far, one of two things is going to happen because the Lord loves us and is not going to just let us float away without saying or doing anything. If we are, as you suggest in your case, really not willing to let go of our faith no matter what – it's just that we want to do what we want to do and continue to belong to Him with the prospect of heaven – then lying at the end of the road of lukewarmness, followed by disobedience, followed by outright rebellion is intensive divine discipline. If we respond when the heat gets too hot for us to stand it (as I did in my own youth), then there is healing and restoration, and we can get back on the track moving forward – but not before we have suffered much more in intensive divine discipline than any perceived disadvantage or inconvenience of doing the right thing now. If, on the other hand, we refuse to respond even then, the Lord has an early exit policy for such wayward believers known as the "sin unto death": He is unwilling to let those who belong to Him and who are determined to belong to Him perpetuate a horrible witness in this world forever.

Another bad possibility – which I doubt applies to you – is the result of apostasy. Many Christians become disillusioned or tired or otherwise disgruntled and drift away from the Lord, but with no intention of coming back. Those who change their mind about believing in Jesus altogether and no longer have any interest in a relationship with Him (often following some personal tragedy or disappointment for which they blame God), become unbelievers again. For these there is no intensive divine discipline because they are no longer sons and daughters entitled to this loving attention. You can find all this written up at the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

So do keep fighting, do keep confessing, do keep praying, and do recognize that resisting the Lord never works out and never results in any kind of true happiness – as your letter plainly shows.

True happiness in this life only results from the peace a believer has in being right with the Lord and in following Him in the path of righteousness – everything else is the devil's lie.

Your friend in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. It was really helpful. I know I always say that, but it's true. Your responses are very comforting. I think I like seeing a Christian that has their stuff together. It's grounding.

I meant to send this email a few days ago, but I kept getting sidetracked. I wanted to let you know that I feel better spiritually. I prayed seriously for the first time in a while. I think I'm close to getting back on track. I just need to throw off this final thing that's holding me back. If I start doing what I'm supposed to as a Christian, I'm going to lose friends. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is. I'm going to have to find another crowd to hang out with. I know I will have to do it eventually, but I have been dragging my feet about it. This is like the first time in my life being part of a group that I feel understands me. It feels like I belong. I never felt like that in church. I just don't want to go back to being the way I was before.

I'd also like to say that most of my sins aren't visible. They're mainly in my head. I don't have any visible sins. No one could point me out and say "that's a bad Christian." Maybe that's why I have been having so much trouble.

Thanks,

Response #25:

You're welcome --I'm glad you found my previous reply helpful.

It is often true for many people that circumstances and situations have a tendency to lead into various types of bad behavior:

Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."
1st Corinthians 15:33 NKJV

For that reason, alcoholics should avoid bars, those addicted to gambling should avoid racetracks, etc. We all have sin natures, and our individual sin natures all have their own areas of strengths and weaknesses. A reasonable part of good Christian application in growing to maturity and pursuing sanctification is just this, namely, to figure what things, people, places, situations, etc. ought to be avoided out of pure prudence given our individual past histories and personal vulnerabilities.

"But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?"
Matthew 21:28-31 NKJV

I was praying (and expecting) that after your "it's no use" email, that you would "think again" and turn and do the right thing. You are a true Christian, someone who does or does not do, with no wishy-washy in-betweens. This may make things difficult at times of decision and crisis, but in the end it is the only way to be to please our Lord.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!"
Revelation 3:15 NIV

Seeing as how you cannot be lukewarm (praise God!), now you can get about the business of being red hot for the Lord and His will for your life (as I see you beginning to do).

Keep fighting the good fight in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior!

Bob L.

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