A series of spiritual messages on:
THE FAITH IN CHRIST and ITS FUNCTIONING
“…The just shall live by faith.” (Rom.1:17)
- · “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
- · “Yes, and if I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Php.2:17).
Continued from #048a – EN
Part 3: Erroneous teachings and interpretations
1. The erroneous doctrine that “we can but sin” because:
a) We human beings have weaknesses, and
b) The power of sin is always present as long as we live.
These are largely diffused doctrines, which have rendered God weak and unable to deliver us from our weaknesses and certain sins inherent in our character such as anger, gluttoness, pride, the love of money etc. We pray to God to forgive us but we are afraid – I would rather say that “we believe” – that we will continue to fall into the same sins. We cannot maintain the conviction that God is able also to SAVE US TO THE UTTERMOST that come to God by him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25) and that Faithful is He that calls us, who also will do it (1Th.5:24). Because of our inability to believe correctly, it is done according to our incredulity! And another thing: The fear that we will continue to fall into the same sin is an error and a trap, due to incredulity. We fear that our temptations are beyond our strength… That means that we do not believe in the promise of God, namely, that “…There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1Cor.10:13). In this way, it happens to you and me according to our incredulity. That means that when we fall into sin, it is of our responsibility…
It is written that God has placed, at our disposal, all power necessary to overcome the power of sin and temptations of Satan by which he tries to make us fall and imprison us in the slavery of sin. The Word of God proclaims that we are not anymore under the Law of Moses but under the alliance of grace. And the grace that God has given us is superabundant to help us to overcome the power of sin, power in order not to accomplish the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, as well as to resist temptations and the tricks of the devil. The Holy Bible invites us:
a) To believe in every word of God and to trust Him without any exception;
b) To reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom.6:11), and
c) To remember that we were crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised with Him and that now we walk in newness of life.
We must, therefore, being armed with the conviction that we have ceased sinning in order to live the remainder of the time of our life not according to the will of the world or the flesh but according to the will of God. The Bible invites us to believe that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin (Rom.6:6) but that we are delivered from sin. There is a word of God which puts “knock out” this fear and this false doctrine: “Why he is able also to SAVE THEM TO THE UTTERMOST that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb.7:25). Jesus can save us perfectly, not only in the future but also now, from our passions and the slavery of Satan! Certain people teach that in spite of the fact that we are crucified, we can get down from the cross and do our own will! Silly thing! That silly thing is applicable to all those who do not believe in everything that the Bible says and/or because they have not presented their whole being a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, and are not transformed by the renewing of their mind, that they may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom.12:2).
We died with the Lord, once-and-for-all to sin and we are now “in Christ” for God: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2:20). And especially, the Bible invites us to believe that our love for sin is equally dead in us. This is why it is written, “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1Joh.3:9). It has to do with the normal experience of each true Christian, and in particular, of each true worker of God!
As sure and undeniable is that Christ died on the cross and that He was buried and He was raised from the dead, it is also equally sure and undeniable, according to the Scriptures that:
- · “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that from now on we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died to sin once: but in that he lives, he lives to God. Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom.6:6-11). I am not any more slave to sin but it is the Spirit of God that has delivered me and continues to deliver me from the law of sin and death. Moreover, it is sure and certain that:
- · My sins are forgiven, that God justified me and that He saved me. “Juridically”, I am justified. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit! (Rom.8:1).
Who is this, my old man, if not my sinful tendencies and their power over me? It is true that the power of the habit of sin exists: The attraction of sin which comes from our physical desires is strong and temptations of the devil exist and can be numerous and powerful. However, it is also true that the true believer does not take pleasure in sin; on the contrary, sin makes him suffer and he cannot support it. And this is especially true when the power of resurrection and the power of the blood of Jesus are always at his disposal! Here is the reason why it is written in the book of Revelation 12:11: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death.” Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Rom.5:20). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.” (Rom.6:14). Moreover, it is true that the Spirit Himself abides in the true believer, makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. He abides in him; he is also built for a habitation of God through the Spirit in the true believer (Eph.2:22) and gives him power against sin. He is not any more slave to sin and its tyranny. That is why John, the apostle, says: “…let no man deceive you………Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother.” (1Joh.3:7-10).
The apostle Paul exhorted the believers to become his imitators. If Paul lived under the state of: “…for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Rom.7:15) or in other words: “I want to do what is good but I do not achieve to do it but I do what I hate”, or as it is written “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? …” (Rom.7:24), he would never have made all his exhortations. Quite to the contrary, he exhorted the believers to remember that He thanked God through Jesus Christ our Lord… (v.25). Elsewhere he wrote “…the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom.8:2). In addition, he invites them to imitate his behavior as he had described in his epistles to the Corinthians and elsewhere, by telling them: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Php.4:13). Moreover, he proclaimed: “Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;” (2Cor.6:3-9).
May the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised! Amen!
Our weakness to believe and to live such a holy life leads us to adopt another error, that is:
2. The erroneous doctrine that it is “necessary to consecrate ourselves each day”:
Because of a problem of incredulity or of a false teaching, many Christians believe that it is necessary to re-consecrate or to re-abandon themselves to God every day. Let us stop and think: We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice on the altar of God today; the next day we still come “to offer ourselves”, to abandon ourselves, to Him, either because we fell into a certain sin or because we are too zealous. Then the following question is raised: Since we put and left our “offering” – that is ourselves – on God’s altar yesterday, as a holocaust or as a living sacrifice, how is our offering still in our hands today? Did God accept us yesterday or not? The only case that God does not accept what we put into His hands is if we are not sincere! The weakness of the flesh and our walk by “sight” make us fall from the position of faith.
Those who believe that it is essential to consecrate ourselves to God every day assert that it is normal that man re-devotes himself every day to God; they say that there is nothing wrong with this daily re-dedication or this re-abandonenment; it is just a renewal! They argue this way because it is written in the Bible that we must take up our “cross daily” and follow Jesus Christ. This position, as they mean it, is very incorrect. It is very incorrect because what the believer does can be compared with an agreement or a contract signed between man and God, that is to say that the believer will follow Him faithfully. It can also be compared with somebody who is enrolled in the university. I repeat: This teaching is very incorrect because:
- · They confuse the execution of their “contract” or of their “agreement” with God – call it as you like – with the paraph or signature of this agreement or contract day after day! Or
- · They confuse their faithful and diligent presence at the courses of the university, in which they have been registered, with their inscription at the University. One should not be re-registered at the university every day! The only thing which can take place is to be more or less diligent concerning his duties… He who decided one day to become a missionary or a pastor or a priest does not make the same decision each and every day. It took it once- and-for-all.
It is true that we must take up our cross “daily” and follow our Lord but it is not true that we must make the same decision every day. What is going to happen if we forget and/or if we neglect one day to renew our re-abandonment decision to God? Since we made the decision and declared this decision to Christ, ALL THAT IS NECESSARY IS SIMPLY TO KEEP OUR PROMISE. If you promised on the day of your marriage to be faithful to your wife every day of your life, do you repeat the same promise daily? If you repeat your promise every day, she will end up by suspecting that there is something wrong! Do you repeat your promise to her by also repeating the marriage ceremony?
Let us not be misled. The person who has NOT TAKEN the SUITABLE DECISION to follow Jesus Christ honestly, sooner or later he/she will be victim of his/her error and will think that because of a committed sin, he/she is obliged to renew her “contract” with God. The only thing that is necessary is to continue diligently and HONESTLY, independently of the problems and the difficulties, to keep firmly what was agreed between us and God. The Lord who knows man’s heart, will never accept the responsibility to help him to keep his promise if that man is not sincere in his intention to keep his promise and to respect his contract with God! On the contrary, God is ready to assume all responsibility for the life of the person who sincerely wanted to entrust his life to Him! God does not accept to give his Holy Spirit and His power against sin to people who will not be faithful and who will become allies one day of sin and the devil and the other day will try to flatter God!
God reveals to us from time to time a sin or a weakness of which we are not conscious, in order to purify us. Unfortunately, we are stiff necked people. God is obliged on several occasions, to bring us to the same weak point of our existence so that we may have enough of ourselves and that we ask from the bottom of our heart our deliverance: “Thus said the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD your God which teaches you to profit, which leads you by the way that you should go (Gr.: ‘that you should have gone’. O that you had listened to my commandments! then had your peace been as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa.48:17-18).
Another problem in the spirit of many believers is that there is:
3. A confusion between a “victorious life” and “sinless perfection”
There is, unfortunately, the distorted impression that those who preach “the victorious life”, i.e. that it is possible to be delivered of the “flesh” such as from bad habits, passions and covetousness, that they teach the false doctrine of “sinless perfection”. The truth of God, however, remains: The truth is that “sinless perfection” does not exist but that victorious life is possible and it is required. It is a commandment for believers! And if it is a requirement according to the Word, then it is possible. God can save perfectly! It is written: “Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb.7:25). The Word of God says, IF ANY MAN SINS, if any man falls (1Jo.2:1). A life of “ups and downs, ups and downs” is not a normal Christian life! Here is how Paul describes the normal life: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, LET US GO ON TO PERFECTION; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,” (Heb.6:1). What counts is not if it just happened to lose a battle but if we are committed to win the war! “Moreover you shall say to them, Thus said the LORD; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?” (Jer.8:4). Is it a normal Christian life to be a slave, for example to anger during twenty years or to lies or to greediness or to hypocrisy, or, or? The Bible declares: “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal.5:24). It also indicates: “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1Joh.3:9). One cannot have a victorious life unless one gets rid of the burden of sin and has not made up his mind to follow faithfully Christ. You cannot run the race with an overcoat. Sin is the enemy of faith.
It is not permitted to have the name or the “etiquette” of a Christian but not the nature of a Christian, because it has been given him exceeding great and precious promises so that by these he might be partaker of the divine nature, having escaped ‘the corruption that is in the world through lust’ (2Pet.1:4). The true Christian is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2Cor.5:17). God has declared that « …this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people» (Heb 8:10 and Ezek.36:26). God is asking from every Christian to follow « …peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord» (Heb.12:14). A Christian is not permitted to draw near to Him with his mouth and honor Him with his lips but his heart be far from Him but in vain worship Him, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Mat.15:9).
God has given him a glorious place and destiny (Eph.2:6-7). HE has predestinated him to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29). He is not allowed to defame his Savior with his sinful or superficial way of living…
Our difficulty to respond to God’s requirements is partly due to the:
4. Confusion between the expressions “having sin” and “committing sin”
Many are those which confuse the expressions “to have sin” (1Joh.1:8) and “to commit sin” (1Joh.3:9). It is written: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1Jean 1:8). To have sin(s) means that there are sins in our life but of which we are not conscious but that God reveals them to us through different testings and temptations while we walk before Him in the light. When we realize the existence of a sin or of a defect, etc., God invites us to hate it and to reject it. We must not be weary of His correction but we must love His correction because this is the only way to be purified and to make spiritual progress (Prov.3:11). To commit sin refers to a sin, which we already know! God will give his blessings only to those who have decided to purify themselves from every known sin of our life. “Whoever offers praise glorifies me: and to him that orders his conversation aright (Gr: Puts his live in order) will I show the salvation of God.” (Ps.50:23). Let me make it clearer: The Bible says that “…and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. …” (Ec.9:3) and that “…there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not.” (Ec.7:20). This is why God sanctifies us… We have within us, much “rust” of which we are continuously purified. God, during all our life, shows us vile things which exist hidden in our fallen nature, which must be rejected as soon as we become conscious of them.
Conclusion: Sinless perfection does not exist but true victorious life exists and it is required. This way of life is the normal Christian life. The victorious life is given only to them who are upright in heart, to them who love Christ with all their heart, to those who trust Him in all things and have decided to take up their cross and follow Him. “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, said the LORD.” (Isa.54:17). Thus, the satanic excuse which says that we are weak human beings and that it is normal to have a life of “ups and downs, ups and downs” should immediately and completely be rejected.