Tag Archives: Sanctification

Man’s Sinful Nature

Within the next month, and by the grace of God, my wife and I will be welcoming our first child.  Along with the stories and helpful advice that everyone has been offering, I’ve been paying more and more attention to our friend’s babies to see how they act or respond to certain situations.  Now yes, I agree that babies are adorable and I cannot wait until ours arrives, but there is something else entirely on display even in infants that often gets overlooked, namely the sinful nature of man and our willingness to sin.  For instance, a friend of ours was telling us a story about how they had walked to the edge of the driveway with their daughter and explained to her that she should not step across onto the road.  Immediately after this, the little girl (age 2) goes right up to the road, pauses, looks around and steps her toe onto the road.  Is that really any different than how we act as adults when we sin?  We go right up to the line, look around to see who’s watching and maybe at first just stick a toe over to test out the sin, but once we see it’s ok, we jump right in.  King David so beautifully illustrates this in his lament of Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” 

 

In the nature of man, even as infants, we can see 2 laws at work, doctrines for those students of Systematic Theology.  One is called the Doctrine of Original Sin and the other is the Doctrine of Imputed Sin.  The first refers to the “sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born,” as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden and just as we read from David earlier.  The second is the guiltiness associated with Adam’s sin that has been transferred down through all men.  The Apostle Paul speaks of both of these doctrines in Romans chapter 5:12-21

 

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In verse 12, we see evidence of both laws, that sin entered the world through Adam, yet we can’t blame only Adam, because we too are responsible for our sins, “death spread to all men because all sinned.”  We all sin because it’s inherent in our nature.   Likewise in vs. 18-20 we find condemnation, or the declaration of guilt, came to all men through Adam’s imputed sin.  These two doctrines that we mentioned earlier provide evidence of a problem, what then is the solution, or better how do we address each? 

 

Paul’s discourse on our sinful nature is so powerful because it serves to explain to us that sin is not just something we do with actions or even decisions we make, but also each of us are sinners by nature.  Because of that nature, each of us is born guilty in the sight of God, regardless of how “good” we think we are.  And because of this guilt each of us faces condemnation before God who must be just in His judgment of sin.  But there’s good news, in fact, there’s great news, because God is not only just, but the Justifier.  (Romans 3:26) In order to solve the dilemma of Imputed sin, man needs a Savior.  Look briefly at verse 18 again, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”  Guilt, conviction, and condemnation came to man through Adam, i.e. his sin was imputed to us.  However, the converse of this is that through the “one act of righteousness”, namely Christ’s death on the cross, justification became available to all men.  Believing in Jesus, trusting in Him as Savior cancels Adam’s debt of sin that has been imparted to us.

 

But we’re still left with the problem of our sinful nature, did Paul forget about this or is it too solved by our justification?  In chapter 5 of Romans, Paul details the solution for our imputed guilt by way of justification by the free gift of grace through Jesus Christ.  However, chapter 6 of Romans is all about answering the problem of our sinful nature.  In Romans 6:3-4 Paul states, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  He states again in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”  That old self is the old sinful nature that we talked about earlier that came to us through the original sin, yet if Christ is our Savior, we died with him on the cross and were buried with him, and we therefore are no longer under the bondage of the original sin within our nature.  Paul continues by giving several commands for life, namely “let not sin reign” and “Do not present your members as sin,” with the outcome leading to sanctification, an ongoing process in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives cleaning out more and more of our old nature to make us more like Christ until we are joined together in heaven.  It is by justification that the guilt of our condemnation is removed and by sanctification that our nature is progressively becoming more like Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.           

 

In the age of the postmodern church, no one wants to talk about sin, for fear it’s too judgmental or offensive.  Nobody wants to get to know their sin, how it works and attacks their life, and certainly no one is talking about killing sin (deeds, not flesh) in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.  But until we, as a Church, start to confront sin beginning with learning where it comes from and understanding that we don’t just do sin but we are born sinners, then our depravity will not resonate within us and our desperate need for a Savior will not be manifest in our lives.  Until this happens there will be no revival, no reformation or awakening, and no spiritual growth.  We’re at a crossroads in Church history that will require us to either get on our knees crying out in repentance of our sins or we will be forced to our knees crying for mercy.  Recognize your sins and eliminate them from your life.

The List: A Wartime Ambush

Last week we looked at the importance of declaring war against our own sinful flesh and we uncovered and examined some truths about the nature of this war.  In brief summary, we outlined 3 key strategies in declaring this war: 1) Don’t conform to the world 2) Renew your Mind 3) Put on Christ and realize your identity in Him.  If you remember, this third strategy is where our true power lies, by realizing that this fight of the flesh in our battle toward holiness cannot come from any internal power of our own, but instead from the power of Christ living in us.  It’s on this point that we must advance and avoid the wartime ambush.

 

Picture it like this, you’ve declared war against sin, against your own sinful nature, against your fleshly desires of anger, greed, lust, fear, anxiety, money, power, selfishness, racism, hatred, every ungodly impulse that runs through your body and you’ve developed your battle plan, a list of do’s and don’ts that are sure to make you victorious.  Just like the troops ready to storm the beaches at Normandy, you too are ready to begin your war.  There’s only one problem, that list of do’s and don’ts, the warfare strategy that you thought would be so helpful, has actually disarmed you and is sending you into battle with no weapon in hand.  This is quite the precarious situation, because surely you cannot do battle without a plan, yet to proceed into war without a weapon would be spiritual suicide.  This is why the third strategy from above is so critical; your warfare strategy must come from a total reliance on Christ.  It is He that arms you with His Spirit. 

 

Let me attempt to put this in terms we can relate to.  Suppose in your declaration of war, you resolve that you will not lose your temper toward your children, spouse, co-worker, friend, etc. for 6 months.  That’s a goal you’ve created in order to wage your war.  What happens when you lose your temper and get angry after the first week?  Have you already lost the battle?  Will you start the 6-month period again?  What would be the point in that?  A second scenario might be that you’ve decided to avoid all lusts of the flesh and after a few months have passed you are able to look back and say, “I haven’t committed a lustful sin in 7 months 4 days and 3 hours.”  This is equivalent to building the Titanic and declaring that God Himself cannot sink it.  That “sinless” streak will end nearly as soon as your Pharisaic declaration has been made.  How then did our “list” strategy fail us?  Especially when we had intentions of doing good.  These lists that we like to create are really no different than what the Apostle Paul addresses in Romans chapter 8, because just like the “Law” that he speaks of, our lists cannot sanctify us, only Jesus Christ working in us through His Spirit can bring us progressively closer to Christ-likeness.

 

In Romans 8:3 ESV Paul states, ‘For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”  The law that Paul speaks of here, namely the Mosaic Law (10 Commandments), is perfectly Holy, perfectly good, but our sinful flesh is unable to uphold them, just like we are unable to keep those lists we created.  If you remember, in our last post we said that legalism was “doing” works, i.e. law keeping, in attempt to gain right standing with God.  Legalism (“law-keeping/list-making”) can’t improve our standing or justify us, just like it can’t move us toward holiness, or sanctification.  The same principle is at work here; we must be totally dependent on Christ trusting in Him that, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ESV

 

Our instruction from Jesus is to obey the law, to follow the commandments that God has outlined for us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 ESV The law however, reveals areas of personal weakness (Romans 5:20) in our hearts that needs to be changed.  But the law, and to a lesser extent our list based on the law, isn’t a personal improvement plan; it’s a standard of holiness, one that without Christ at work in our lives any attempt to uphold it would be futile.  How then can we move toward holiness and progress in our sanctification without checking off a list of do’s and don’ts?  By loving Jesus.  If you love Him, you WILL keep His commandments.  It’s conditional on love, not on list keeping.  Do you want to move toward victory in your war?  “This land cannot be entered by moral effort or by moral attainment.” (A. Redpath). It can only be entered by the redeeming blood of the Savior Jesus Christ and the sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit within us.  Run to Jesus and love Him, treasure Him, obey Him, and you will have victory.

 

“Absolute triumph is achieved only in response to utter obedience.”

 

“For the greater the obedience, the greater the discipline, the greater the faith, the fuller and more complete the allegiance to our precious Lord, the more does the heart expand and receive more and more of Jesus.” A. Redpath- Victorious Christian Living

Be Reminded

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” II Peter 1:12 ESV

As my first year of blogging here about the Word of God has concluded, I thought it best to look back over this year and see just what God has done in my life and the lives of those of you who read.  In doing this I wanted also to reexamine why it is that I write, or maybe even why you should read.  Throughout this year-long journey one thing has become overwhelmingly evident.  In order to effectively preach the Word, even in written form, one must spend time in the Bible daily, soaking up every message, every passage, every theme so that these truths may be passed on to others, specifically you. 

It’s often easy to get frustrated through a medium such as an internet blog, because of the distance between myself and those of you who read and also no doubt the irregularity with which some pass by here, so much so that admittedly I’ve sometimes wondered is this making a difference.  God often reminds me the answer to this question is unequivocally YES! because everything written here is a lesson I’m being taught.  I’m likewise encouraged by God’s promise that His Word will not come back to Him void, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 ESV Through this promise, I’m increasingly encouraged by the emails or messages that you send that tell me how God is working in your lives, perhaps even through some posts written here and that’s what makes it all worth it. 

It’s far too easy to allow the enemy to trick my mind into becoming cynical and thinking that no one really wants to hear the Word of God speak to their lives.  That those who receive this blog, via email, Twitter, Facebook, or a simple Google search already know the Truth, so why then would they need to read the words written here?  The answer is so simple and it’s why Peter is writing to the churches of Asia Minor in the verse from his epistle above.  It’s why the Apostle Paul wrote his monumental letter to the church at Rome.  (Romans 15:15) To remind you.  Most likely those of you who are reading this have heard the Truth.  You have been preached and taught the Gospel, yet each one of us no matter how spiritually mature, no matter the level of education in theology, pastors, teachers, preachers, or those of us who slumber in our contentment with spiritual mediocrity, all of us need reminded of the qualities necessary in the Christian life.  So that is why I write, to “stir you up by way of reminder” that perhaps God may use these words to ignite a fire within you to “equip you” and “build up the Body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13 ESV

So with this in mind, let’s briefly examine those qualities of which Peter reminds the churches. Beginning in II Peter 1:5 faith is the first characteristic that we see.  This is faith in Christ as Savior.  Faith that results in being justified, faith that Christ will complete the good work He has started in each of us who follow Him as Lord.  But that faith needs supplemented, this is a quick reminder that life doesn’t end at the point of salvation, it begins.  Your learning, your growth, even your faith, doesn’t stop, it is constantly progressing.  Peter instructs us to supplement our faith with virtue.  This isn’t a haughty proud look at me quality of moral goodness like the Pharisees might’ve had, but a genuine reflection of the Holy Spirit working in you.  It’s putting to death your old desires and passions that you had prior to your profession of faith, just as Romans 6:12 ESV says, “Let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.”  Be virtuous, seek to live pure.  Build upon your faith with a desire to do good, serve God, become involved, that others might see the virtue supplied by God shining forth in your life.    

But I want to remind you, do not merely let your faith carry you into service, grow also in the knowledge of God.  This is Peter’s second supplement to faith (vs. 6).  If you have faith in Christ, not only should you have a desire to do good and serve but also a desire to learn more about Him.  Study the Scripture, soak in His Word, meditate on it daily.  “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2 ESV  In this way you won’t be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, [or] by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Ephesians 4:14 ESV Don’t be a reed tossed in the wind, be an oak tree solidified by the knowledge of Biblical truths.  Know what you believe and why.  Desire solid food and be not merely satisfied with milk. I Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12-13

Yet be reminded also Christian, to add not only virtue and knowledge to your faith, but develop self-control.  Peter’s third quality instructs us that once we have a virtuous desire to do good and we are increasing in our knowledge of God it becomes increasingly more necessary to develop self-control.  The Apostle Paul discusses his level of self-control in I Corinthians 9:27, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”  The worst thing we can do as Christians is to bring shame to the name of Christ.  When we make our profession of faith, become involved in service through our desire to do good, increase in our knowledge of God, self-control becomes so paramount.  A desire should grow so strong within us to not only walk in a manner worthy of our calling so that we won’t cause others to stumble, but to control ourselves, flee from sin, lest we bring shame to Christ.

The fourth quality that we need to be reminded of is steadfastness or perseverance, which Peter mentions in vs. 6.  Nobody said walking the Christian life was going to be easy, in fact quite the contrary.  It is hard and there will be trials and tribulations.  We are constantly bombarded with not only spiritual attacks, but attacks on the flesh that seek to cause our stumble and fall.  This race is a marathon and it requires endurance (Hebrews 12:1), yet endurance requires nourishment through daily feeding on the Word of God and seeking Him daily in prayer.  “…so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” John 6:57 NKJV  

Be reminded also to add to your faith with godliness.  “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” I Timothy 4:8 ESV Godliness should become a way of life for all those that profess Christ as Savior.  We’ve heard the familiar verses of, I Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”, and Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Don’t just trivialize them, live them.

Finally be reminded of brotherly affection and love that Peter speaks of in vs. 7.  The Apostle Paul affirms this in Romans 13:8 ESV, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  Love is the fulfillment of the law, the commandments that we’ve been given to follow, not merely the 10 that were etched in stone, but every Biblical command that we can find is fulfilled to the letter by love.  To actually “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Matthew 22:37 ESV and to “love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:39 ESV is so vital to our lives because everything depends on these two commands.

So I write to remind you Christians, of the faith you have and to add to it with virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and brotherly affection and love, so that you may be sanctified. I write to edify you that you may desire that Christ complete the good work in you and that you not be satisfied with the mediocrity of the world.  To walk worthy of the manner in which you were called that we all may mature to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  I write to remind you to seek those things in heaven not things of this earth that fade away so temporally like vapors or dust in the wind.  Be reminded Christians, and live for Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 ESV