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Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

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Question #1:

Tell me, what are the traits to being a believer besides just simply believing Jesus was real?

Response #1:

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
2nd Corinthians 4:6 NIV

When a person turns to God for answers, hears the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, and then responds in faith, darkness turns to light as the truth about the true Light of the world, our dear Savior, is made real in that person's heart through the Holy Spirit. All things then become new, just as when God restored the world from darkness to light. Simply put, all believers should know that they are believers, and in case of any moments of doubt, need only compare where they were before – in the darkness – to where they are now – in the light. Clearly, there are many wonderful things believers have through the grace of God as a result of the new birth in Jesus Christ (please see the link), but this fundamental difference of the way we see everything and in fact the way everything now is to what it was before is something we should never let slip from our hearts. But this is also a matter of fact, one way or the other:

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

A person either is or is not a believer. Believers have been born again by the power of God through the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, His perfect Person, human and divine, and His perfect work, having died for the sins of the entire world.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Matthew 7:20 KJV

Believers should produce fruit worthy of their faith, but on the other hand no believer is perfect this side of heaven. As a believer moves forward spiritually, not only will his/her conduct more clearly evince that status of being a child of God – in a true way rather the legalistic way the world might think – but he/she will also be producing more and more for the Lord as growth continues. In fact, spiritual growth itself is production, as is passing the tests that come to those who are growing in Christ. Furthermore production is much more than what the world imagines (giving to charity is pretty much what unbelievers think of) and entails any and all legitimate ministries which lead others to Christ and/or contribute to the growth, progress and production of other Christians after salvation (just read Hebrews chapter eleven where in the long catalog of great believers of the past no "works of charity" as we might wrongly suspect are evident but rather "works of faith"). Just as most unbelievers think of production as giving to established charities, so evangelicals tend to think of production as witnessing or being a preacher. The latter highlights one of the true deficiencies in the church-visible today, namely, effective teaching ministries. But then we do live in the era of Laodicea (see the link).

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

When Jesus says he will spit those out of his mouth who are lukewarm in Revelations what does that mean will happen to the believer? Because only the believer can cause apostasy does that mean sin unto death? And what does "being cold" mean if he would rather have them be cold? Is being cold apostasy or is it being far away from the Lord because of sinning?

Response #2:

The prospect of being "spit out" means that being lukewarm is very spiritually dangerous. As I have often said, the only safe course in the Christian life is the way forward. Going backward is obviously dangerous (going "cold" which at its end is unbelief), but at least then there is such a clear violation of what the Lord wants that those involved are more likely to respond to the harsh divine discipline that will surely follow. Sitting still in lukewarmness is very dangerous because such persons are looking at life in entirely the wrong way, and so can be tripped up into unbelief more easily (like the frog boiled in the pot when the water only gradually got warmer). Laodicea is the era which abuts the Tribulation, and indeed one third of believers will apostatize when the Tribulation begins. That will be a direct result of so many believers being merely lukewarm.

There is no need to worry about lukewarmness itself being a cause of rejection by the Lord, however. Consider: He is speaking here to believers. If these people had already been lost, He would have no occasion to speak to them at all. So this is a warning: being lukewarm is dangerous and puts the person who is little concerned for the Lord and His truth in a constant situation of spiritual peril – not into apostasy but ever on the verge of it. But that is different from being lost itself. The correct response upon hearing these words is to wake up and get "red hot" for the Lord and His truth rather than despairing that there is no hope. If there were no hope, the Lord would not be mercifully remonstrating with this type of believer to get them to respond in a positive way.

You can read more about this at the link in CT 2A where it is discussed: "Laodicea".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

I was reading about Cho Seung-Hui, who was a mass murder (killed 33 students including himself in a rampage), and I was reading about his life issues, and I felt sad and pitiful for him. However, a voice in my head said that I was the child of the devil, because only the devil could feel sympathy for a mass murderer, and I am scared that because of this that it is proof that I secretly want to become a murderer (even though I begged God not to fall away and join Satan) and I am scared that God will turn me into stone and send me to hell.

I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and He is God in the flesh, and is resurrected and sitting at the right hand of God the Father.


Response #3:

If we confess our sins, we are forgiven them (1Jn.1:9). Jesus has already died for all your sins and mine and those of every single human being. All that is needed to be forgiven is faith in Christ for unbelievers, and for believers who have already had the "bath" of salvation, all that is required is "washing the feet", that is, confession of sin so as to be restored to fellowship with the Lord (Jn.13:1-17).

Personally, it's hard to see how feeling sympathy for anyone is a sin – it doesn't mean that 1) you don't have sympathy for the victims, or that 2) you are lionizing the killer or would fail to render judgment and justice properly if it was your responsibility to do so.

Stop listening to "voices". God is not talking to us audibly (even though His words of scripture should ring more loudly in our ears than anything else). If we think we hear a voice when there is no one present, then it could be a case of demon interference, but is more probably a case of demon influence working in tandem with our sin natures, and we are not required to listen to that. We all have guilty consciences. But guilt feelings do no good, and listening to them, whether they seem audible or not, is never a good idea for a Christian. I doubt that a Christian has ever lived who has not had similar experiences. How do we deal with this? We deliberately ignore such things and concentrate instead on the truth we know and have believed . . . rather than the fears upon which the devil always plays.

You are saved. The only way to get "unsaved" is to reject Jesus Christ as Savior and stop believing in Him. Believe me, you couldn't do that even if you tried! So don't worry about it, and keep focusing on good things to the exclusion of bad things. It is a battle to do so for believers at all times, and I do understand that it is especially difficult for you under the circumstances. All the more reason to "play it close" until this crisis passes.

So as you go forward, brothers, [keep meditating on] all the many [wonderful things you have learned], things that are true, godly, righteous, holy, pleasing [to God], reverent – if you have [developed] any virtues [in your Christian walk] and if you have [any hope of] praise [from God at the judgment] – these are the things you should be thinking about.
Philippians 4:8

If therefore you have been resurrected with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Seek the things above, not the things on earth. For you have died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

Your are in my prayers day by day, my friend.

In the Lord Jesus Christ who has already paid the price for every single one of our sins.

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob,

Thank you very much. Paranoia and panic attacks are very weird when you're going through them, but now I am at total peace. I do believe that your prayers heal.

I used to love reading the NT, but fears of "fate" (in the false and pagan Roman sense) seem to pop up whenever I read I and II Timothy, II Peter, Jude, and the middle of Revelation, even though I used to love reading these books when I was in college. Now, I am not going to pull a Martin Luther and deny their status in the canon, but it is a very distressing and irrational paranoia.

I only feel sorry for taking away from your focus. Research is very serious, and dealing with someone who has health issues is probably not on the top of your priority list. I am receiving some help.


Response #4:

I'm happy to correspond with you – Jesus loves you and it is my privilege to share the Word with a fellow believer in my dear Savior.

I'm not sure I get the issue with the books mentioned (free will and predestination are not only not mutually exclusive but cannot exist in the plan of God without each other – and Romans has more to say about these matters than any of listed books), but we can leave that for another time.

I am happy to hear that you are apparently going to be getting some better or more in-depth help. I know that the Lord is the One who heals us (Ex.15:26; Ps.103:3); we get help from things we see (and that is OK), but it is He who actually produces the positive results. Rest in that, my friend.

You are in my prayers for rapid recovery.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Why do you believe that the unreasonable (unforgiveable / unpardonable) sin is rejecting the gospel and not attributing God's Spirit to the devil (I know I've asked this I just want your personal opinion because so many preachers believe it is simply attributing the spirit with an evil heart).

Response #5:

The key is forgiveness. Christ died for all sins so that all could be saved. Why would this sin result in damnation when no others do for those who accept Jesus Christ? So the second key is willingness to accept Christ. But these people in the context were rejecting Christ and to do so they had to explain away His miracles, miracles done in the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who was telling them the truth in their hearts when they heard Jesus speak the words of life. Rejecting the miracles is part and parcel of rejecting the gospel, because if a person accepted the gospel on that occasion they would surely not try to reject our Lord's miracles; but rejecting His miracles by attributing them to the devil instead of the Holy Spirit is the proof that they have rejected the gospel. That is why this sin will never be forgiven, because it is the rejection of the truth, the miracles which support the truth of the gospel accomplished by the Spirit who gives the gospel. Rejecting Him is rejecting the gospel because He is the One who makes it clear to the heart of the person who hears it. Alternatively, it makes no sense that a believer would say anything like this, especially a brand new one who had just been saved at that hearing; and even if he/she did (for some bizarre reason), we know that Jesus died for all of our sins and that therefore all of our sins have been forgiven when we believe, and that therefore we are saved no matter what . . . as long as we keep believing. About the only reason I can see for a believer to say what was said here would be if said believer had ceased to believe and reverted to the state of unbelief – and then of course there is no eternal forgiveness because it has been rejected.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son (i.e., through the Holy Spirit).
1st John 5:10 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Bob L.

Question #6:

Why would people make more of a big deal on the words they spoke than the rejection of Jesus, why do they feel the words are more heinous?

Response #6:

You are saved. It doesn't matter if you have sinned or said something or thought something in the past about which you are nervous. Everyone has. Only the areas/instances differ.

Consider: Jesus died for your sins. God the Father sent the Son into the world in order to take away our sins so that we might be saved. God is love. He is not looking for ways to condemn us; He saves all who are willing to be saved. Only those who go out of their way to reject the grace, mercy and love that is evident in every aspect of His creation (cf. Ps.119:64) go to hell. God would rather even these go to heaven instead – His one and only Son died for them – but in His justice He will not violate free will determined to reject Him by rejecting His Son, the only propitiation for sin.

How do we submit to Him? How do we do His will so as to be saved? We accept Jesus as our Lord and Master, putting our faith and reliance in Him for salvation and eternal life (not in ourselves or anyone or anything else). And if we do this – as you have – then the Bible calls us "believers", because we believe in Him, have faith in Him, rely on Jesus Christ for our salvation. If we have faith, we are believers and are saved. And the only way to lose this salvation is to deliberately throw it away by destroying our own faith to the point where we do not in fact believe any more and have reverted to being unbelievers. And unbelievers are not saved – because they are not relying on Christ or have rejected Him (that is what cannot be forgiven).

Any believer with a shred of faith still intact is still a believer – and believers are saved. So it doesn't matter what you did or when you did it. If you believe in Jesus, then you are saved. Sin of all types militates against faith and so is to be avoided (not to mention the fact that it produces divine discipline which really stings); but sin does not take away salvation; no sin does; no sin can. This is true whatever name we put on the sin in question, like "unforgiveable", because no sin is unforgiveable . . . except the sin of rejecting Christ which only unbelievers commit (and even these are saved if they repent).

No doubt you know all of these things and can probably easily point out the scriptures which validate each and every point. So if all these things are true – and they are – where does that leave doubt about salvation because of some supposed mystery sin which may not be forgiven? If there was such a sin, the fact of such a punishment (damnation) for committing a sin (any sin) even for believers would violate every single principle discussed above. If would contradict the justice of God, the plan of God, the love and mercy of God . . . and the Word of God. He has given us His solemn promise that by believing in His Son we have eternal life. No momentary lapse of any kind can possibly take that away and snatch us out of His hands.

However, the devil is well aware that many Christians can be manipulated and troubled by guilt feelings, even when there is no rational basis for them. He does not play fair. But we do not have to play His game (2Cor.2:11). Take my advice. Give yourself a break on this. You are saved. You know that in a million ways. If nothing else, you know you believe – and all believers are saved. Giving into doubt through guilt on this fundamental principle will only continue to slow you down in your spiritual growth. Part of growth is facing down just such tests and finally winning them – even if we have taken my do-overs to get there.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whom we have life eternal as those who believe in Him.

Bob L.

Question #7:

Thank you for replying. Reading your emails do give me hope. I come back to them often when I am having a "moment". One thing that I do not have in common with the individuals you mentioned were that their trials were not based on prior incidents. I believe that guilt is an area of growth with the Spirit help that I am learning on how to address in this trial and the faithfulness of God. I have an inordinate amount of guilt and I am trying to learn from what you aptly but it that this is not divine disciple but for blessings even if it might be His will for me to go through it.

I can't seem to shake from my head that trials that come for instance, death of a loved one, loss of job, physical ailments, etc. which is not a result of your actions are meant more for blessings.

I know I am not thinking clearly but I will continue to pray and let Christ give me wisdom. I do want to please Him and pass this trial and earn rewards but I have to get rid of this guilt feeling.

Thank you and if I don't respond before the holidays. I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

In Christ our Lord.

On another note, you have such an exhaustive amount of materials that summarizing it for group Bible study will be a challenge. Best to direct them to your site. I mean every page is packed with critical information. I will pray on it for direction. If God does spare me and not allow me to go through it, I would like to work with you on making an audio app for your work. I can a get a professional speaker who can recite your work in audio format for smartphone distribution.

Response #7:

You're most welcome, my friend. Guilt is a "tough one". I receive many emails from Christians who have trouble with this emotion. I think it is more prevalent in those who are kind-hearted, and who as a result actually have less to feel guilty about than many who don't have trouble putting the past behind them (at least in terms of what they themselves may have done). I would recommend to you the example of king David (and ask you to read over the chapters in Samuel where his life is covered, along with the pertinent Psalms, such as Ps.32 and Ps.51). Without question, what he did is "worse" than what you have done, not only because murder is about the worst sin a person can commit, but also because David was the Lord's anointed, the leader of His people and a type of Christ in his position as king over Israel (and those in leadership are always held to a higher standard; e.g. Jas.3:1). Nevertheless, David was forgiven upon confession (2Sam.12:13), and even though there was a lot of divine discipline coming, the blessing never stopped in spite of the corrective measures. David didn't stop being king, was delivered from all the threats against him, and lived a long and blessed life.

Inasmuch as Jesus died for all of our sins and we are told that we are forgiven when we confess based upon that complete and effective sacrifice of propitiation, it behooves us to keep our feelings of guilt in check. It is understandable, and no doubt prudent, to feel some remorse over failure if only to help guard ourselves against repetition. But we can see from Job's rantings over the "unfair" treatment he was receiving "on account of sins long past" (e.g., Job 13:26), how foolish it is to take this attitude too far: Job was actually being complimented for his stalwart faith.

Finally, since beyond all argument there is "no man who doesn't sin" (1Ki.8:46), feeling guilty for things done in the past is obviously a weak point the devil is apt to hit in the case of any of us – Jesus Christ being the only exception in the history of the world. Knowing this, knowing that we are forgiven, knowing that the Lord is for us and not against us (Rom.8:31), knowing that the evil one is always eager to attack those who are actually making spiritual progress, situations like the one you find yourself in ought to be easier to analyze. Ask yourself, if you were not making such wonderful spiritual progress, do you really think this would be happening? As you yourself have said, it seems almost incredible that something like this should surface so long after the fact and in this particular way. It's hardly an accident therefore. And since we know that God is not punishing you for doing the right things these last few years, who else then can be behind it all? Certainly not the Lord. Of course He is allowing this to happen for His own reasons, reasons that, as in the case of Job, have your good in mind and the good of His Church. Exactly what those are and exactly how things will play out I don't pretend to be smart enough to figure out before the fact. But I do have confidence that the Lord is indeed "working it all out together for good", because this is definitely a case of dealing with "those who love Him" (Rom.8:28). So please "be strong and courageous" in this test. We often find ourselves staring at an impenetrable sea with adversary pursuing close behind – but our Lord is able to split the sea in two and bring us safely through dry shod.

Thank you for your kind offer. I rather suspect that this is much more difficult a project than may be obvious at first (or even second) consideration. But as we say, "it is the thought that counts", and I deeply appreciate that.

Looking forward to your deliverance, my friend, for which I daily pray.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Thank you Robert. I think you made some excellent points and I appreciate it. I have better clarity now especially since I have been praying about wisdom. I still do not know what the outcome will be but I know in my hearts of hearts it is for good and I really am not concerned about God's faithfulness. I believe most of my guilt comes from the impact of what this will have on my family but God is Omniscience and everything is already is taken care of.

I appreciate all your emails and all I can do is wait patiently and continue to pray and move to even stronger spiritual maturity.

In Christ our Lord.

Excellent passages

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Is 43:2

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose’ Is 46:9-10

Response #8:

That's the spirit,! One has to counter all such attacks with the truth.

Write any time, my friend.

Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Robert

First of all, I want to say thank you for your wonderful website. I have found it to be one of the most thorough and edifying. Thank you for your service.

I recently came to Christ or "back to Christ" if you can call it that. I was baptized in my youth but in high school fell in with the wrong crowd. I always had Christ in my heart during that time but due to my lack of studying the Word I did not realize how horrible I had became. In the last few years I have come to Christ with a earnest desire unlike I have ever had before. I am fully engulfed in reading and studying the Word and trying to gain a better understanding of the balance of God's love and righteous judgement.

I am having some trouble getting a grasp on what this scripture means:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.
Matthew 7:22-23

It appears He is speaking to MANY who believe they are Christians and it does appear that they do "believe" in Him since they are doing miracles in His name. Does this mean belief alone is not sufficient for salvation? Is He rebuking them because they practice lawlessness? If so, what is lawlessness? Does this mean we can lose our salvation if we break the commandments after we become saved?

Or is it that they were using His name to do miracles in order to get some sort of fame...and is this the reason for the rejection?


Response #9:

Here is something I have already written about this passage (in Gospel Questions VIII; see the link):

At the last judgment, there will be those who approach the Lord to save themselves, but now too late. They are not believers (that is, they did not have any use for Him while still alive), and would not now be saying "Lord, Lord" except that they want to avoid hell – they aren't really willing to be subordinate to Him from their own uncoerced free will. By way of application, it should also be pointed out that there will also be those who did believe at one point but later abandoned their faith (see the link: Apostasy). This will be as if the Lord "never knew them" (even if they are not the focus of this comment). All the more reason to put the highest premium on preserving our faith in Jesus Christ no matter what – "especially as you see the day drawing near" (Heb.10:25).

The Lord actually says in this passage, Matthew 7:21-23, that He never knew them – which has to mean not that they were once believers and have now fallen away, or that they are believers who did something terribly wrong, but rather it has to mean that they never belonged to Christ in the first place, even though they make the claim of doing things "for Him". It strikes me that there are many religious people today as well who style themselves as "Christians" who in fact have never been born again. To belong to Christ, a person has to believe in Him, that is, to put one's faith in Him, His perfect Person, human and divine, and His perfect work, dying for the sins of the world. It is easy to be saved – Jesus did the work. Sadly, however, there are many people who would rather stand on their own "good" works (good in their eyes, not in God's), rather than actually accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That's what we see in this passage; people citing their works when they never really ever came to Christ. It's not a question of water-baptism or joining a church or making pronouncements or saying special prayers or doing works of any kind – it's a matter of faith . . . in Jesus Christ:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Therefore, all who have believed in Christ are saved; those who have not put their faith in Him, believing on Him for salvation, are not saved, just as He told us:

"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

I'm very happy to hear that you have returned to the Lord with all your heart! Many believers wander far, like the prodigal son did, but we are still sons and daughters of God through our faith in Jesus Christ as long as we believe, and when we do come back, our Lord and His Father and ours receives us with open arms.

Best wishes for your continuing spiritual progress through study, belief in and application of the Word of God (you are welcome at Ichthys any time).

Here are two links to where the passage you asked about is discussed further: "I never knew you" and "Confusion over Matthew 7:21-23".

In the dear Lord who bought us, our Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob

Hope this finds you well. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your work and find it to be amongst the most comprehensive studies I have ever seen. Thank you for this ministry. I am sure it has been a blessing to many.

I would like to ask one small favour from you. Could you in a paragraph or two summarise the answer to my question? It seems clear that God knew before any act of creation what was to transpire with angelic kind and then with human kind. It seems to me that he must also have known that giving any creature freedom of will (angelic kind first) would in time result in some rebellion in perhaps one creature at least. If man is a response to this (and He knew we too would fall so as to enable a demonstration of His righteousness), are we not merely ‘tools’ of demonstration in some sense. Yes, He loves us dearly but we are serve only a purpose which is apparently to allow Him to judge fallen angelic kind. We were clearly not His first choice of creation but somewhere further down the line. Why did God create anything at all. What He lonely and simple need companionship? Did God need to express himself in some way? Why anything at all?

Perhaps my questions are vague and border on impudent but somewhere in my mind they bother me. Can this question be answered in a simple way?

Yours in the Lord

Response #10:

The simple answer to this complicated question is that it had to be this way if there were to be a creation at all. Consider. God is perfect, so that everything He does is perfect. If it were possible to create a universe with free will actors (men and angels) created in the image of God and at the same time have none of them ever sin – so that Christ's sacrifice would not be necessary – don't you think that the Lord would have worked things out that way? The magnitude of the sacrifice of Christ is beyond anything imaginable. It is not too much to say that the smallest part of what Jesus did for us on the cross in paying the penalty for sin outweighs all human suffering of all time to an infinite degree. The universe and all human and angelic history, actual and potential, are infinitesimally small compared to the smallest part of what our Lord did for us. That being the case, if God could have planned a creation where even one sin were not part of the mix, He certainly would have done so. Moreover, since He loves us all, since Christ died for all, if there were any possible way for any single person created not to be lost (or not to be created in the first place), God would have worked it that way. What we have is the one and only possible and perfect creation – and we know that for certain because we know that God is perfect and this is the creation He created. We also have assurance of this proposition because Christ has become a human being, God taking on true humanity to die for our sins. That is the most astounding thing of all – and He did it to die for our sins. If these truths are properly appreciated, there can be no doubt but that what has been decreed is the one and only possible, perfect plan of God – and since it is perfect in every possible respect, anything else would not be.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Romans 11:33 NIV

We are not just important. We have the very image of God. In this we are individually unique from the point of our individual creation until the end of time and into all eternity. The only way that such a thing could ever possibly transpire – finite creatures made with the image of God – was to allow us to choose: no angels without human beings, no human beings without angels, and no salvation or the possibility of eternity for creatures made with the image of God without the ineffable sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

I have written about this in some detail in BB 4B at the link: "God's plan to save you".

In Jesus Christ our blessed Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:


Thanks for the answer. I find it still somewhat difficult to see that ‘it had to be this way’. It becomes, for me, one of those logical dilemmas. If God can do anything, why would this be the only way. I do however see you point since it is also the view I hold, but like a Necker cube the answer seems to alternated between more than one state. This is the ONLY way and surely there was another.

I will read BB4B again.

Yours in the Lord

Response #11:

You're very welcome. Here is what I read in scripture:

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:14 NIV

Given that everything in history is interconnected, if one small thing happened differently, it would affect the whole if ever so slightly (and in ways we cannot imagine). I am confident that God has so arranged His plan that everyone who could be saved has/will be saved – and that includes giving each person exactly the right experiences, taking into account all of their free will actions and decisions, not to mention everything else that happens in the world around us. Trying to figure this out or even dimly limn the complexity of God's plan is impossible:

Then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.
Ecclesiastes 8:17 NIV

But we should consider that what we see transpiring in this world is the perfect plan since it is the one He did decree. He is perfect and could only decree a plan which is equally perfect. This, by the way, is why election is a true doctrine, rightly understood: plugging us into the plan so as to be saved is the only way we could have the free will to accept salvation, and while some of us might have been willing to be saved in hypothetical alternative versions, this would never have happened in many cases – just to take one small example of how and why there can only be one perfect plan if there are to be creatures created with free will, the image of God, who may be saved – at the cost of the blood of Christ.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hello Robert. I have to admit that I have rejected Jesus before due to my past stresses and thoughts that I may never be forgiven because of stupid things I thought or said. How do I overcome this issue?

Response #12:

First, remember that our Lord died for every single sin of every single human being. If you did or said or thought anything that was sinful, Jesus has already died for that sin. Peter rejected our Lord three times but is certainly in heaven. Second, our Lord stands ready to forgive us any and all sins we have committed, and indeed to "cleanse us from all unrighteousness", just as soon as we confess (1Jn.1:9). So if you have confessed these sins, you have been forgiven. Third, all who are believers in Jesus Christ are saved – it is only those who are not believers in Him who stand condemned . . . until such time as they believe in Him (Jn.3:18). If you have believed in Jesus, and if you are now a believer in Jesus, then you are saved. Fourth, all believers have "skeletons in the closet" of one type or another, things long past about which nevertheless the devil is still able to make us feel uneasy, nervous and guilty. But if we know who God is, really know and appreciate His great love, mercy, forgiveness and righteous character (justly accepting the blood of His Son in payment for every offense), then we should have no trouble ignoring these lies from the evil one. So it's the same answer: the more we grow, the more the truths outlined in brief above become not just things we would mark correctly on a multiple test quiz, but inherent imperatives in our heart of hearts that guide and direct and influence all we think, say and do – in the power of the Spirit. Our Lord's dying for the least of your sins was greater and "bigger" than the universe, than all human angelic aspiration, than all suffering from the beginning of the world until its end. So great is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father and the Son which motivated that sacrifice.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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 8:33-39 NIV

So be pleased to be at peace with Him. You belong to Him, and He belongs to you through the covenant of His blood shed on your behalf.

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.
Philippians 3:15 NKJV

Yours in the One who died for us that we might live forever with Him, Jesus Christ our merciful Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #13:

Is it possible for someone to cross the line with god and permanently have their name blotted out of the book of life. And if so how?

Response #13:

Only by finally, utterly and resolutely rejecting Christ once and for all (and never repenting). And God knows what is truly "once and for all". The only major "set" of such people recorded in scripture are those who take the mark of the beast. That is the only "line of no return" I know of from scripture. See the links:

The book of life explained

Tithing and the Book of Life

"The Book of Life" translation issues

The grammar of Revelation 13:8 and "The Lamb slain"

I will assuredly not erase his name from the Book of Life (in CT 2A)

The Book of Life (Revelation 13:8) - in CT 4

The godly and the godless and the book of life (in CT 6)

Last judgment "books" distinguished from the book of life (in CT 6)

Question #14:

Sorry to bug you again, but I have had a question that has been bugging ME for quite a while. I want to warn you, this is a pretty sensitive subject, so be ready. If you post this on your website, please omit my name. [details omitted]

Response #14:

Conscience, appropriately consulted, is the way in which the Spirit guides us. What I mean to say is that the evil one is happy to make us feel guilty about all manner of things which are not in fact sinful; and it is also true that if our hearts are hardened we are likely not to feel guilty about things which are sinful. Therefore, just because we have a "pang of conscience" about something, or lack such a pang, it may not be genuine guidance from the Lord either way. Mature believers have by definition calibrated their consciences to the truth through reading scripture and listening to orthodox Bible teaching and believing the truth. The first thing any believer should do when he/she has questions about the rightness or wrongness of some action which is in doubt is to examine him/herself closely to see whether or not the guilt is a legitimate response to the truth of scripture or merely fear and guilt working themselves out in inappropriate or superstitious ways. That is especially important in all "judgment call" situations. The more we grow, the easier it becomes to separate these two things, and the less we will be likely to give into legalism, fear and misplaced guilt so as to give up something which is not sinful on the one hand, or ignore genuine remonstrances of our consciences guided by the Spirit so as to do things we know in our heart are not appropriate on the other. That is in large measure what spiritual maturity is all about:

(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)

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties to [properly] distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14

Hang in there, my friend. I will be keeping you in prayer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

I have a question regarding a statement you made in your article titled: How did Jesus Die for our 'Infirmities and Diseases' (Matt.8:17)? You said: "He did not heal everyone, not even everyone in Israel, not even everyone who put their faith in Him..."

I was wondering what Scripture story you are referring to in the phrase "not even everyone who put there faith in Him"?


Response #15:

Here is one passage that perhaps will help to illustrate what I meant:

"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!"
John 20:29 NKJV

We may be sure that some believed in Him without seeing Him face to face (after all, our Lord sent out the 72 and the twelve for that precise purpose, and He was not with them when they evangelized all the towns and villages of Israel). There is no indication from scripture that these were then automatically healed of their physical injuries or diseases. Not that our Lord could not have done so. God certainly has the power to keep every believer disease and injury free at all times. That of course is not the way things work in this temporary world. Our Lord's healing from physical disease was symbolic of His taking away of the source of all infirmity: sin (cf. Is.53:3-4).

"Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?"
Matthew 9:5 NIV

We are all forgiven at the point of faith; not all at the point of faith are physically healed. Blessedly, in the resurrection we shall have no such issues.

In anticipation of that glorious day to come.

Bob Luginbill

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

Please pray on my behalf, for I have sinned greatly. I have foolishly called for the prayer of destruction upon a sinner, because she practices idolatry. Pray that the wrath of God will turn away from me.


Response #16:

Irrespective of what you report, please know that God forgives our sins whenever we confess them (see the link). Jesus has died for them all already, and as believers we regain full fellowship with our Lord after sin when we take the matter to Him in prayer:

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 KJV

Our forgiveness thus depends not upon anything we might do, nor our emotional posture, nor any sort of penance, nor do we need the intercession of others, priests or other believers. Our forgiveness is based upon the righteousness of God – who has already expiated our sins in the blood of His dear Son – and upon His integrity: He has promised us forgiveness upon confession, and it is the part of faith to believe that what He says is true (for it is true).

We also do not need to worry about being let off "too easy"; there is divine discipline for sin after all (Heb.12:1ff.; please see the link), and we may be sure that our loving Father knows the perfect way to train us to better behavior.

I do keep you in my prayers day by day, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #17:

How can I be born again by the Holy Spirit?

Response #17:

You are a believer in Jesus Christ. Therefore you are born again – you were given spiritual rebirth when you first put your faith in Him (see the link). And all believers (in this age) have the Holy Spirit:

Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Romans 8:9 KJV

Please see the link:  Salvation: God's Free Gift

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #18:

But I still have an issue with sin; how is one born again when he still sins?

Response #18:

I think we have spoken about this before. No one is without sin:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1st John 1:6-10 ESV

Sin puts us "out of fellowship" with the Lord and does occasion divine discipline, but it does not mean that we are not "born again". Consider: have you ever met a sinless person? If that were the standard, no one could be saved and no one would be saved. Believers are required to "pursue sanctification" (Heb.12:14) – but if we were perfect in our behavior from the start, no such "pursuit" would be necessary (and the fact of this command itself given to all guarantees that while all must pursue it, none has attained it to a perfect degree). Sin is an issue, but we must always remember that Jesus died for all of our sins and that they have therefore already been forgiven when we believed – we were redeemed by His blood (and this included all future sins as well as all past sins). Believers should indeed get better and better about avoiding sin and reducing sin's control over their lives day by day ("pursue sanctification"). However, we will never be perfect this side of heaven, especially if we have an honest appreciation of how extensive sin really is ("if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us").

Here are some links I strongly encourage you to read in order to gain a solid appreciation of these important truths:

John's Primer on Sin

Repentance, Confession and Forgiveness (in BB 3B -- the whole study is also good to read)

What does 1st John mean about sin?

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

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L. 

Question #19:

What is your opinion on someone who thinks it is fun and easier to sin?

Response #19:

They are, to put it in contemporary vernacular, "cruisin' for a bruisin'" (Heb.12:1ff.).

Question #20:

But can they still change?

Response #20:

Certainly. If they don't do it on their own before falling into a pattern of gross sin, they surely will once God wipes the smile off their faces for their own good:

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

Question #21:

I worry that I have lost my sensibility to sin; can you please help with that problem?

Response #21:

That's not what I've been getting from you in these emails! Besides, no believer has to worry about that since God is very capable of bringing back "sensibility" when we get too far out of line. It's called "divine discipline". Believe me, if a Christian ever begins to take sin, any sin, too lightly, the Lord has a wonderful way of "spanking" us so as to get our attention.

The best way not to find oneself in that situation is indeed to steer as far clear of sin as possible; and the best way to accomplish that is not, as many believers wrongly assume, by merely defensive efforts or legalistic hyper-reaction, or setting up false systems. No, the best way not to go backward is to go forward. Spiritual growth, hearing, learning and believing the truth of the Word of God so as to be walking closer to Jesus Christ day by day is the best way to avoid anything and everything that displeases our Lord and Savior.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you had a good Christmas. Mine was good. I don't know if you will answer emails over the break. I just want to talk about something. You don't have to reply. I'm just venting. I know I tend to talk in circles when I'm stressed, so I'll just jump right in. I'm tempted to ______. But I think ____ is a sin. That doesn't stop my heart from hurting though.


Response #22:

I'm happy to hear you had a good Christmas; ours was nice as well (although I'm still on antibiotics and hoping to be doing better when school starts next week).

We all want things we can't have. Wanting them is not a sin in and of itself; entertaining any illegitimate desire is always dangerous because of course thoughts lead to words and deeds; indulging in any illegitimate desire has negative consequences which after the fact are always more severe than any "joy" we thought they might bring us before the fact. The most extreme situation of believers getting involved in any sinful conduct of which they may become unwilling to repent happens"down the road" (see the link).

I could be wrong (of course), but my assessment of your character (voiced previously and based upon our many email conversations) is that you are a Christian to the core of your being. That means two important things for the purposes of this conversation: 1) you will never be happy except if you are right with the Lord; 2) going against Him will not only not make you happy but will mean a painful retrenchment if you do so when you eventually cry "uncle" and decide to come back.

I pray for your resolution in this matter.

And here's wishing you a blessed and happy 2015 in Jesus Christ the One we love,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. It's really good advice. I have a question though. Do you think I will go to hell if I _____ ? I'm not saying that I'm going to. I'm just wondering. I know that it's a sin. My feelings haven't changed on that. Please just give your honest opinion.


Response #23:

Someone once asked me, "What is your opinion on someone who thinks it is fun and easier to sin?" I replied that they are "cruisin' for a bruisin'" (Heb.12:1ff.)". Or to put it in more biblical language:

Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?
1st Corinthians 10:22 NASB

Simply put, if we do wrong accidentally, we will be punished, if we do wrong inadvertently, we will be punished, and if we do wrong under pressure or out of some overwhelming temptation of the moment we will be punished – our Lord loves us and chastises us so that we may fear Him in the proper way, out of loving reverence (see the link: The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline). But how much more severely can we expect to be dealt with if it is a case of deliberate, high-handed sin, contemplated ahead of time in full-knowledge of its wrongness and indulged in despite all warnings to the contrary?

Does deliberate sin land a Christian in hell? No. But the more we are intent on sinning in spite of the fact that we know it is wrong, the more damage we do to our faith. Eventually, one of three things will happen for those who ignore the warnings. For most Christians, even if they may want to keep sinning in a particular way, the divine discipline becomes so intense that they do stop, because it hurts too much – and the Lord knows just how to hurt us to get our attention. For those who don't stop even so, the eventual result down the road will be either apostasy or the sin unto death. If a believer is refusing to stop sinning but also refuses to stop believing in Christ and remains His in spite of it all, to remove such a bad witness from the world the Lord takes the believer home, albeit in a very painful way:

I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1st Corinthians 5:5 NASB

For some, however, the further they move from Christ, the less they care about Him or what He did for them or what His opinion of their conduct may be. They lose their righteous fear of God. In fact, because they are aware that their conduct is detestable to Him, they are all the more motivated to blot out the memory of Him from the hearts. Loving sin more than Christ, they eventually replace any love they had for Him with a love of the sinfulness they prefer. When their faith dies out completely, they are no longer believers, and only believers are saved. That is the process of apostasy.

I suppose I could be wrong, but as I have said before in my opinion based upon our conversations over the years you are a person of true faith and will never let it go. I also refuse to believe that you would persevere in a bad cause to the end of destroying your witness so as to force the Lord's hand. Therefore I don't think that either apostasy or the sin unto death (see the link) will ever apply to you. What that means is that if you do go down a false road, any false road, the Lord will undertake to turn you around. Take it from me. The fact that you may be sure of your salvation will not be sufficient comfort to compensate for the pain when our Lord "lowers the boom".

. . . keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
1st Timothy 1:19 NASB

Life is tough enough, especially for Christians. Avoiding the avoidable is always a good plan, especially considering the consequences when it comes to serious sin.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I have a lot that I need to say. I'm going to try to condense it. If anything seems choppy that's the reason why.

I'm afraid I will never be happy without _____. I wasn't going to admit this, but I just feel the need to be honest. You can't really help me if I don't tell you the whole and complete truth. I'm afraid that I will spend my whole life denying myself because of my religion. That I will live an unhappy life. That I will die, and there will be nothing on the other side. It will have all been for nothing. I didn't want to admit that I have been struggling with doubt. I'm 99% percent sure of my faith, but that 1% is in the back of mind whispering "what if?" What if I do all this and it's all for nothing? Even beyond the situation, this has been *THE* issue for me. It has been at the root of all my problems as a Christian. It's the reason why I haven't been progressing as I should be. I'm afraid to give myself fully. I do take Christianity seriously. I see it for the commitment that it is. I know that I have to deny myself. He wants it all. It all must be for His glory. I know what a living sacrifice is. There's no room for the self. I'm afraid to offer myself up fully. I only have one life on this earth. I only get one chance. Who knows what a day may bring? I don't want to waste the time I have if this is all there is. That scares the hell out of me. The only other thing that scares me as much is the thought of ending up in hell because I made the wrong choice. So what now? I don't see how I can pray my way out of this.

Response #24:

Please don't make the mistake of equating Christianity with behavior. True Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ – belonging to Him. That relationship is entered into through faith in the truth, and it is developed the same way. It is true that our behavior ought to conform to the truth we know and learn and believe, but spiritual growth, while it can be affected from the outside in, never happens from the outside in. Christians make the mistake all the time of assuming that if they behave in a certain way they are "good" and going to heaven but if they behave in a different way they are "bad" and going to hell. Behavior may possibly reflect on what is going on in the inside of the person in question's heart, but it is not a means for spiritual growth –  that's getting things precisely backwards (we have to change from the inside out, not the outside in).

Our Lord is not going to be pleased by someone who flagellates themselves or climbs a mountain on their knees, or gives all of their family's money away and takes up residence on a park bench. Our Lord is pleased when we do what He tells us to do. He does want our hearts, but the follow-through on "handing ourselves over" to Him is to learn, believe and apply His words of truth. Spiritual growth rather than fleshly works of supererogation is what pleases Jesus Christ. For it is only by growing in the truth that we grow closer to Him in truth, that we become more able to pass the tests that strengthen and demonstrate our faith, that we are prepared for ministry so as to help others and contribute to their growth – giving rather than always taking.

Please don't make the mistake – a very common mistake – of setting up a false opposition. It is easy to say "I must choose thing X which the Lord wants or thing Y which I want; since I am unable to actually do X and it won't make me happy, I will choose Y because it will make me happy". This is what I am hearing (I have heard it a lot, believe me), but the reasoning is wrong on every point and constitutes only a false rationalization empowered by the evil one. Consider: 1) The choice if framed wrong because you really have no idea what all the Lord wants from you at this point; you should know that He does desire your spiritual growth, but the things you are putting out there as "what He wants" have nothing to do with producing spiritual growth (some of them might be the result of it down the road but maybe not); 2) Whatever the Lord wants from us is not only doable but will bring happiness and blessing the likes of which we can scarcely imagine; perhaps that will not be material in nature, and, in my experience, these blessings will often defy all of our expectations, but they will surpass anything we could ever achieve on our own; 3) Choosing Y will NOT in fact make us happy; in fact, the choice of Y will only result in discipline wherein we shall be much more unhappy than we had ever anticipated, and whatever Y is, it will not compensate in any way for that unhappiness; 4) If we persevere in this false choice of turning our backs on the Lord and His truth for the sake of some pottage here in this very temporary world, all it will do is alienate us further and further from Him, cause us more and more pain, and make our return to the Lord – when we have finally had enough – all that much more difficult. In case we decide never to return, well, the prior email fills in the blanks on that.

We all want things we can't have. We can get sullen about that, we can blame God, we can violate all the rules, human and divine, to try and "go get it" as a result, but none of that will change the facts on the ground. The only way we will ever be truly happy and satisfied in this life is by responding to the One we truly love more than life itself, doing it the right way through spiritual growth, progress in testing, and production. Everything else is really only background noise – and whenever we listen to the noise instead of to the truth, we are only shooting ourselves in the foot, making ourselves completely unhappy in the mythical "pursuit of happiness" (please see the link).

In hopes and prayers for your weathering of this present crisis.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25:

On 1 Timothy 1:13 which also bothers me you state Paul says in Greek. "But I was shown mercy for the things I did ignorantly in unbelief". If that is the right interpretation that still leaves Jesus words from the cross "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". Seems to imply forgiveness for ignorance. Why does the Old Testament make a distinction between sins of ignorance and wilful sin? How does wilful sin draw mercy. Ignorant sin yes but wilful sin? Why no sacrifice for wilful sin in Number 15? As for 1 Timothy 1:13 can you show me from the Greek that your interpretation is right concerning "But I was shown mercy for the things I did ignorantly in unbelief"? But still why does Paul mention ignorance and unbelief is it because he wouldn't show mercy for sin committed wilfully?


Response #25:

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your questions, first, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" is not part of the Bible. It is a late addition which is not part of the original and was added, no doubt, by some well meaning scribe who did not wish for our Lord to look less forgiving that Stephen during his martyrdom in the book of Acts. However, this person who added to the Bible failed to take into consideration that Christ was about to die for the sins of the world, and that only those who accept that sacrifice can be forgiven (please see the link for the details: "The interpolation "Father forgive them" is not a part of scripture").

As to sins of ignorance under the Law, the fact is that there is "no sacrifice" for willful violations . . . of the Law. Law-breakers are punished with death, theoretically (although if this had been fully carried out then all would have had to have been killed). The point is that we all sin (so the day of atonement was provided for all of the sins of the people), and we even sin in ignorance and out of accident (that is what most of the sacrifices of the Law are for). Thus the Law shows every reasonable person that, but for the grace of God, we are all worthy of death (Rom.3:20; 7:7) . . . and thus leads us to faith in Him, and, after the incarnation, specifically to faith in Christ (Gal.3:24).

As to 1st Timothy 1:13, the Greek conjunction hoti can mean "because", but it more frequently introduces an object clause that essentially acts as an object of the main verb; that is the case here with the clause explaining what was forgiven: "But I was shown mercy for the things I did in ignorance and unbelief". The problem with traditional translations is that by placing undue semantic weight on the conjunction hoti, they make it seem as if Paul's ignorance and lack of faith were counted in his favor. But exegetes should realize that neither ignorance nor, especially, lack of faith, are anything to recommend a person to God. The point is that Paul was forgiven for what he did; he did do it "in ignorance" and he did do it "in unbelief" – two important facts, but not the basis of his forgiveness. That is both theologically unsound and not justified by the language.

Everyone has committed (and continues to commit) both willful sins and sins of ignorance, and anyone who claims differently is lying (1Jn.1:6-10). But believers are forgiven and, one hopes, becoming more sanctified day by day as we grow spiritually (but not sinlessly perfect – we continue to "pursue" sanctification: Heb.12:14).

The Mosaic Law was both a guidepost for believers and a legal code for the entire country (wherein all were expected to be believers), and this unique set of circumstances has occasioned many incorrect interpretations that rely upon a failure to see the difference between this aspect of the Old Testament and the New Testament (which is not a legal code or for an entire country regardless of spiritual status but the way of truth only for believers).

Here are some other links which should prove helpful:

Deliberate Sinning

Sins of Ignorance versus Sins of Cognizance (in BB 3B)

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness

Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

Sin, Confession and Forgiveness

Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit

BB 3B: Hamartiology

BB 4B: Soteriology

Sin and Spiritual Transformation

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

In Your Anger, do not Sin: Ephesians 4:26 and the Sin Nature

Sin and Forgiveness

Recovering from Sin

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #26:

I've come across people that think that if you are a true Christian you stop sinning. People that minister say as much quite often. I think that this is false. They say in one breath that our salvation is given by belief in Jesus as the son of God and dying on the cross for us. Then say that if you don't adhere to all the rules such as not sinning any longer then your not truly saved because you don't really believe in Jesus Christ. That if you have faith you no longer will sin. That if you have faith in Christ then you will be this way or that. They give faith a definition that is far more than what it is. I define faith as something hoped for yet unseen or, firm belief in something for which there is no proof. To me then having faith in Christ and in God's promise to us Is simply belief. What John 3:16 says I have always taken that to heart. To me believing in him doesn't mean I become devout or never sin again. At the same time I think that people who do believe in him want to live as God would have us but, we are still sinful. ALL OF US! Some people less than others but, I don't believe any of us do it perfectly. Not all believers are fruitful. Some are just weak but, they believe none the less. According to John 3:16 all we have to do is believe. So my question is why do so many make it seem that in order to be granted salvation we have to be and do much more than have faith or believe (which I see the 2 things as the same thing)? I can't see how but, I'm sure that there are people that believe in Jesus yet still reject him so, what about those people? The reason I ask these things is because I struggle with certain sins and, am horrified at the thought of not being saved because of them or, as is preached by many because of them I lack faith thus am not saved (because we all know that works don't get us to heaven). I believe that I do believe in Jesus Christ and what he did for us but, I am so far from being a righteous person. I struggle with sins that I wish I didn't. If I had two buttons in front of me and one I could push to be and live exactly the way God wanted me to and one to continue to be as I am it would be no contest to choose to be and live exactly the way God wants me to. There are no buttons so I struggle with sin and live with guilt. I don't feel guilty just because God says what I do is wrong. I feel guilty because I believe I do things that are wrong yet still I do them though, I wish I didn't.

Response #26:

Good to make your acquaintance. It seems to me that your understanding of the truth is not far off, but I also do feel the need of providing a bit of explanation for this "problem" that has vexed many Christians over the centuries. Let me start by saying that you are correct that salvation comes through putting one's trust in Jesus Christ, His perfect person and His perfect work for us on the cross, and that as long as we do cling fast to that faith and trust in Him, we are saved (there are some who do only "believe for a while" as Luke 8:13 says, but under pressure abandon their faith and as a result are no longer believers – and only believers are saved). Second, when you say "I'm sure that there are people that believe in Jesus yet still reject him", I'm not sure how to interpret that. A person is either a believer who is born again as a result of putting faith and trust in Him or not; there is no middle ground. "Believing" that Jesus existed is not the same thing as placing one's life in His hands so as to be saved (that is what the Bible means by "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" Acts 16:31).

On the issue of sin, the Bible tells us that we believers are to be "holy as I am holy"; that is the standard to which we are to adhere, absolute sinlessness. On the other hand, no believer has ever achieved absolute sinlessness. Blessedly, our righteousness is not based upon works but upon our faith in Jesus Christ: we are "in Him", He is righteous, and we share that righteousness as those who belong to Him:

(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death. (3) For what the Law could not accomplish (i.e., solving the sin problem) because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh, God [did accomplish]: having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin, [God] rendered summary judgement on [all] sin in [Christ's] flesh, (4) so that the [perfect] righteousness which the Law demands might be fulfilled in us – we who walk not according to the [sinful] flesh, but according to the Spirit (i.e., believers).
Romans 8:1-4

These two principles may seem logically contradictory, but they are not theologically contradictory. The important thing for believers is to hold fast to both. On the one hand, we need to strive to avoid sin at every turn, recognizing that this is what we are called to do, recognizing that with the Holy Spirit within us this we can in fact do it (please see the link: Peter Series: Lesson #30: Sanctification in Time: Christian Defense in our Spiritual Warfare). So it's not good to think that there is some sin or some area of sin wherein we will never get victory; rather we have to understand that we are in control of our will, that we do choose whenever we sin, and that we can fight this fight to victory with the Spirit's help. It won't be easy when it comes to things wherein we have a particular weakness (and we all have areas of weakness), but victory is possible, even when it comes to the "sin that easily besets", if only we are willing to "resist to the point of blood" (Heb.12:4). What most believers don't understand about this is that spiritual growth, a good Christian offense in learning the truth of the Word of God, is actually essential in the fight against sin. We won't get far in our struggle against sin by sitting still on defense; we have to advance spiritually to become better Christian warriors in every respect, including in our struggle against sin (see previous link).

On the other hand, it is also of critical importance to understand that apart from our Lord no Christian has ever lived a sinless life or attained sinless perfection. That is not possible. We will, if we are dedicated enough, come to sin much less and much less seriously (not that all sin is not serious, but having a self-centered thought is not as bad as committing a crime, e.g.), but we will never become so good at resisting sin that we don't occasionally let our guard down. In fact, John tells us that if a person claims to be without sin that person makes God out to be a liar (1Jn.1:10); John also gives us the mechanics for being restored to fellowship when we do sin (simple confession: 1Jn.1:9), and tells us that Jesus Christ is our Advocate in defense of our mistakes (1Jn.2:1-2) – neither of which would be necessary if sinless perfection were the rule or even possible. This is important to mention because the epistle of 1st John also contains some of the most definitive language describing the sinlessness that believers should always manifest. These things are only contradictions to man; they are both true in God's eyes: we need to be perfect; we are not perfect. So what do we do? We try as best we can to be as perfect as we can be on the one hand; but on the other hand we do not lay an impossible burden on ourselves for failure that inevitably comes to all:

All sin and fall short of God's glory (i.e., perfection).
Romans 3:23

We all stumble in many ways.
James 3:2

Failing to take sin seriously enough results in all manner of spiritual problems; failing to understand that we are not going to fight this fight perfectly does the same – it is a fight, and no fight of any kind has ever been perfectly fought. In the prior case, we are likely to fall into sin more easily if we excuse it and that can lead to apostasy or the sin unto death in extreme cases (see the link). In the latter case, we may go mad trying to be perfect when we cannot be, or fall into depression and despair for want of a total perfection that cannot be achieved; or we may "redefine sin" in our own favor, assuming it to be only what we can easily avoid personally – that is what most legalists do, and then they often make it their business to trouble Christians whose areas of weakness are different from their own.

What should do? First, we should never give in to guilt. Guilt is horrible and does nothing productive. Have we sinned? Then we should confess and know for certain that God forgives us as He promises. We may be disciplined for our sin, but that is for our benefit, sons and daughters who are lovingly instructed by their Father so as to learn and do better. But there is no place for guilt (other than perhaps a momentary determination not to make the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences again). And to fight the fight better in future, what we really need is spiritual growth. The closer we draw to Jesus Christ through His Word, the more closely we walk with Him through applying the truth we have both learned and believed, the better able we become to fight this fight as He would have us fight it, without at the same time falling prey to unreasonable notions and false interpretations of scripture (with which the legalists whom you have obviously encountered are all to happy to trouble us contrary to the truth).

Here are some links you may find helpful:

Spiritual Growth

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

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

Legalism, Past and Present II

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

I still believe in God, but I am addicted to violent things like violent movies cursing etc. What does that make me?

Response #27:

I would say it makes you a pretty typical 21st century American believer. Movies can be spiritually troubling because they may put one's mind in places that are not particularly spiritual (and there are certainly some things on video that no Christian who is acting as a Christian ought to be viewing).

Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil.
1st Thessalonians 5:22

Controlling one's tongue is notoriously difficult (Jas.3:2ff.), but it is nevertheless an important objective in the moderation of our behavior:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Ephesians 4:29 NKJV

That said, we are none of us perfect (Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:9; 3:23; 7:14; 7:23; Gal.3:22; Jas.3:2; cf. Ps.143:2). Christians who are embarrassed about the fact that they do sin and as a result try to claim they don't sin . . . at all in any way . . . are not only fooling themselves but calling God a liar (a very bad place to be):

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:10 NKJV

Blessedly, we do have eternal forgiveness for all our sins in Jesus Christ (He died for them all, after all, and we have redemption in Him as those who belong to Him: Eph.1:7; Col.1:14), and also temporal forgiveness in our day to day walk with Jesus when we confess them (see the link for details):

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 KJV

That does not mean that we do not get "spanked" when we sin (there is such a thing as divine discipline, lovingly administered by our Lord; see the link).

But all this is looking at things from a potentially unhelpful perspective. No believer is perfect. We can all stand some improvement, some more than others, but all could improve, even the most advanced. How do we improve? NOT by concocting some sort of legalistic list of (potentially) "bad things" which we elevate in importance above the Bible's words; NOT by confessing our sins to other people instead of to God; NOT by developing legalistic codes of behavior designed to prevent falling into a dozen or so sinful patterns we find particularly offensive or are ashamed of (to the detriment of other things which are indeed sinful but may not bother us as much).

The only way for a Christian to change, really change in a spiritual way that glorifies the Lord and with which Jesus will be well-pleased, is from the inside out. We have to be properly informed by the truth, we have to accept and believe the truth, making it our own by faith, and we have to then aggressively and consistently apply that truth properly in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is often a very lengthy process with stumbles and staggering along the way, but this process – the process of spiritual growth – is the only thing that will actually change a Christian in a real and meaningful way.

Many Christians today who are spiritually immature have learned how to "look good" to other Christians by watching what they say and do in public, but in their hearts they are still immature and not really making progress. This is akin to the Pharisees who were, in Jesus' words, "white-washed tombs", pleasant to behold on the outside but filled with all manner of corruption within. If, on the other hand, we make it our business to really change inside, eventually that will show up on the outside too – and will be real and durable (as opposed to only being apparent and fragile as is the case with the legalistic behavior endemic in lukewarm churches around this country today).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Sometimes I struggle to see how much sin hurts God; can you please help me so I can increase my remorse for sin?

Response #28:

I don't see it that way at all.

You can't hurt God; God cannot be hurt (Job 35:6). And our Lord has already died for all the sins you will ever commit in this life. You only hurt yourself when you sin. Feeling bad or guilty is not an answer; on top of that, if a person thinks that by feeling bad or guilty he is "doing something good", he is really only fooling himself and developing a false system of works which are abominable to God. Of course we feel bad when we fail; of course we feel bad when we are punished/disciplined for sin. But making a spectacle out of ourselves by putting the emphasis on how we feel is a huge mistake and a deadly trap – the Roman Catholic church and many other cults use this device to manipulate their adherents into ever tighter control, control by the church/cult, that is. Guilt feelings are incredibly unhelpful and, as this brief treatment suggests, potentially sinful in their own right. It is arrogant to assume that what we do affects God, that we can do damage to Him, that we do is of such tremendous importance that we need to feel horribly guilty about it. And if a person is depending upon guilt feeling to rein in sin, that will never result in success – it will only result in replacing one type of sin with another. Overt and gross sin is often an embarrassment to the perpetrator, but the legalistic self-righteousness which often replaces it in reaction is at least just as bad.

Sin is a choice. Did we sin? Time to take responsibility. Time to own up to our actions. Time to stop, by choosing to stop. If we are "unable" to stop (whatever it is), it only means that 1) we are really not willing to stop (and no artificial device such as ramping up guilt feelings is going to help – rather, we have to get serious about making better choices); or 2) we are not spiritually mature enough yet to have the ammunition of truth in our hearts to deploy against these temptations in the power of the Spirit, and do so victoriously. And often it's a question of both.

We will never be entirely sinless but we can certainly walk righteously with our Lord. Do we want victory over sin? Then if we really want victory, we need to get serious and take personal responsibility for our behavior – we are the ones "doing it"; we have free will; we can "stop it" – if we really want to. And of course it all comes back again to spiritual growth. The more truth we have in our hearts, truth we really believe having learned it from a solid source, truth we have tested and learned to apply by being consistent in thinking about it, speaking it, living it, then the more the Holy Spirit has to work with in fighting against the sin nature within us.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Galatians 5:16-18 NKJV

We cannot fight the flesh with the flesh, only with the Spirit, and that takes growth in the truth to be effective. Meanwhile, we need to be casting out all negative emotion of every kind, guilt and remorse in particular – certainly not cultivating these manifestations of the sin nature as if that were somehow helpful. Please see the link: "Categories of Suffering".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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