Category Archives: Rethinking regeneration

Struggle with vs living in sin

If you cannot distinguish between struggling with sin vs living in sin, you undercut much of the work of the church. Consider the following:

  • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9.23)- Suppose a person professes they want to follow Christ, but looks at pornography everyday, and you say to him/her, “Let me help you turn away from sexual immorality,” and they say to you, “everybody struggles with sin.” Are you just going to say, “yes, you’re right,” or are you going to help them deny self?
  • “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8.31)- Suppose a married couple says they are disciples of Jesus, but they fight all the time, so they are getting a divorce, and when you press them on the covenant they made before God, they say, “we’re all sinners. What makes my sin worse than yours?” Are you just going to say, “you’re right, all sin is equal,” or are you going to help them abide in Christ?
  • “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6.2)- Suppose a girl wants to get baptized, but lives with her boyfriend, and when you call her to repent she says, “we all struggle with sin; give me time to grow.” Are you going to say, “yes, you’re right, we all struggle with sin,” or are you going to call her to stop living in it?

The final judgment will be a judgment for the “cowardly, the faithless, the detestable…murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” (Revelation 21.8). For those who struggle with sin, there is good news: trust in Christ and you will be saved! Then the Church can help you struggle against sin for the rest of your life.

For those who live in sin, you still have time to repent! But if you refuse to repent, that’s you in Revelation 21.8, no matter how much you say you love Jesus. God knows the difference between “struggle” and “living.”

 

Are people born gay?

If you wonder about this, you have already bought into a lie. The lie is that there is such a thing as “gay.” And if you believe that lie, you are prone to at least two other lies. So let me speak to these three lies, and then say a word of compassion and hope:

  1. There is no such thing in the Bible as “gay.” What people mean by that word is that they believe some people are born with a  tendency toward homosexuality. Whether people are actually “born” with a “tendency” will be debated until Jesus returns. But what you must believe is that we all have sinful desires. Right now. Don’t we? And should human beings be categorized by any single sinful desire they choose? Sadly, the word “gay” is a way to make something sinful sound like something God designed.
  2. If you believe in the category of “gay,” you are prone to see people who practice homosexuality as a “people-group.” All the connections people have made to the civil rights movements of the past are all based on the lie of “gay” as a category.
  3. If you believe it is possible to be “born gay,” you are prone to misinterpret the lives of all sexual sinners. I am one who has committed sexual immorality many times in my life (Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has delivered me from this body of death!). But I do not know if the best way to describe me was that I was born heterosexual. Truthfully, I was made in the image of God, born a male, but not born a man. I was born as a baby, with no inclinations whatsoever to sexual sin (at least as far as I can tell). I do remember sinning sexually very young, but my thoughts and intentions and desires toward sex did not blossom (if you want to call it that) until my teenage years! Most people I know did not sin sexually as young as I did. Most five year olds (like my daughter) have not thought for a second about being attracted to any human being. They just want to read Curious George! To speak about people either being born with heterosexual or homosexual tendencies seems to be trying to speak about something that God never revealed to us (namely, the mysterious nature of human-cognitive-sexual development that is different for each person). And from my limited experience, it seems almost nobody thinks about sexual attraction in the first few years of life.

A word of compassion and hope: if you struggle with sexual sin, I understand. And I know sexuality feels more personal than most other sins (1 Cor 6.18). But I want you to know there is tons of good news for repentant sinners. You can actually crucify the flesh, along with its passions and desires (Gal 5.24)! And we have a Great High Priest, who has been tempted in every way we are, and yet never acted on any of it (Heb 4.15). And He will love you no matter what, if you repent and believe in him. And I mean, no matter what. He will love you. And so will our fundamental, conservative, fire and brimstone church.

Mom, I’m an alcoholic

“Mom, I’ve had something to tell you for a long time, but I was afraid of how you might respond.”

“Go ahead, son.”

“I’m an alcoholic.”

“ok…”

“I know that’s not how you raised us, but I can’t deny this about myself any longer.”

“But you know what the Bible says…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know what the Bible says. But the Bible says all kinds of stuff like ‘don’t eat shellfish’ and ‘women should be silent in churches’, are we gonna obey all that too?”

“Son, I was just going to say that the Bible doesn’t call it alcoholism, it calls it drunkenness.”

“Mom, I’m just trying to be true to myself!”

“The truth is we are all born sinful…”

“How dare you say that! You’re saying this is the same as murder?”

“I didn’t say exactly that…”

“Are you not going to accept me anymore just because I’m being who God made me to be. I’m an alcoholic and I’m proud of it! Don’t be so bigoted! This is the problem with all you Christians, you think you’re better than all of us!”

“I love you. You will always be my son. You could be a drunk for the rest of your life and I will never stop loving you.”

“Tell me you think it is good and right and holy and Christ-like to be an alcoholic, or I’m going to sue you, mom.”

Just want you to know what the cultural conversation sounds like to Bible-saturated Christians. Brothers and sisters in Christ, be prepared for real bona-fide persecution, like this story. And know that it is going to be ok. It is not our calling to “win back America.” It never was. Our kingdom is not of this world.

Christians must not refuse to serve people because of homosexuality!

You should read Denny Burk’s post on the way unbelievers are mis-framing the gay “marriage” debate.

The governor of Arizona vetoed a bill that would have protected religious freedom. Christians will be fine either way. But I want to point out the foolishness of forcing Christians to celebrate same-sex “marriages”, as well as give an exhortation to Christians who may wrongly refuse to serve people because of homosexuality.

Foolishness: many unbelievers think it is wrong for a Christian florist to refuse to make a bouquet for a same-sex “wedding” ceremony. The Christian florist would have no issue making flowers for an unbeliever’s senior prom, retirement ceremony or funeral, but forcing them to help celebrate a ceremony they don’t believe is real is like forcing an Atheist who works at a bookstore to read the Bible (by law!).

Exhortation: if there are any believers out there who refuse to serve unbelievers because of their sin (outside of a same-sex “wedding”), SHAME ON YOU! Repent, and love tax collectors and sinners with the gospel. The situations I am imagining would be like a Christian waiter refusing to serve a practicing homosexual at a restaurant, or a Christian photographer refusing to take pictures of a practicing homosexual at a birthday party.

I hope those are rare cases. I am certain it would be more ignorance than arrogance. A Christian waiter should not refuse to serve someone because of homosexuality any more than a Mormon librarian should refuse to checkout someone because of Christianity. I pray we will remove all the unnecessary obstacles for the gospel by the way we consistently preach and love like Christ.

Clarification: I appreciate the interaction I have had already over this post. I am not sure how to clarify what I have said above, except by restating things more concisely. To be clear: Christians should not celebrate the “weddings” of practicing homosexuals, whether that is by taking pictures, baking a cake, or officiating. However, outside of a “wedding” ceremony, there is no reason to refuse to serve a practicing homosexual in almost any other venue that I can think of. A perfect example is the florist in the video on Denny Burk’s blog, who had made flowers for two men who were practicing homosexuals on different occasions (the article said she did business with them and befriended them for about ten years), but the moment they asked her to make flowers for their “wedding,” she graciously declined.

Is suicide an unforgivable sin?

No.

Two friends recently asked me about this, so I thought it might be good to address. But I always want to be careful as I never know who might read this, and what people are going through or have gone through. So I pray you only hear biblical truth here to encourage your souls toward Christ. A question like this can only be answered by putting a lot of different teachings together:

1. Suicide is murder- that is the only vice that is listed in the Bible in which that would fall under; suicide is the exact same type of sin as homicide, abortion, and hatred in your heart (Genesis 9, Matthew 5, 1 Tim 1). All those actions are violence toward someone who is made in the image of God.

2. Blasphemy of the Spirit is the only unforgivable sin- to commit this sin, one must charge Jesus with serving the Devil (Matthew 12.22-32). Christians cannot– meaning do not have the ability– to commit this sin.

3. No one can lose their salvation- Every single person God saves is someone He foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and one day will glorify (Romans 8.28-30). Anyone who falls away from the faith only proves that they were never born again to begin with (1 John 2.19)

4. There is no verse that teaches suicide is the blasphemy of the Spirit.

5. Christians can do heinous things- I have. I have committed murder in my heart. Christians cannot blaspheme the Spirit, but they can pretty much still do anything else, given the way sin and temptation and suffering work on this side of heaven.

6. Christians must not commit suicide in the same sense that Christians must not lie, steal, murder, or commit adultery, or any other command of the Lord. Any sin can and will be forgiven (1 John 1.9), and it is only willful, unrepentant sin that should make us question whether someone is born again (Matthew 18.15-17)

7. Christians normally only want to please God.

8. We have much more victory in the Christian life than most Christians ever realize (Romans 6-8). So the temptation and the act of suicide (and any murder for that matter) should always at least make us wonder how much someone really knew our Savior.

My conclusion: suicide is not a damning sin. I do think it is near damning evidence that someone was never born again, but that is as far as I think the Bible goes.

Please stop the “robot” argument!

Many who war against Calvinism argue that if God elects sinners to salvation, that makes us robots. I suppose the argument is “If God causes us to love Him, and if our faith in Christ was guaranteed when God elected us before the foundation of the world, then it is not really us choosing to love Him, and therefore, that makes us less than human.” Something like that. I used to think that way. But it just doesn’t work. Please stop that silly “robot” argument. And it is silly. It is a caricaturization of an opposing view. There are a few reasons that the “robot” argument needs to stop:

  1. Impeccability of God- God cannot sin. Jesus, in his divinity, could not sin. Jesus, in a  sense, cannot help but love His Father. Does that make Jesus a robot?
  2. Impeccability of believers in the future- one day believers will be perfected. In the eternal kingdom we will not be able to sin. We will not be able to help but love God. Will we be robots then?
  3. Love is love- if God truly does cause people to love Him, He is still causing people to LOVE Him. Do robots love?
  4. An experiential argument- We are already partially perfected. I bet you, if you’re a Christian, you cannot commit the blasphemy of the Spirit (Matt 12.32, 1 Cor 12.3). Try it. Try and say “Jesus serves the devil” or “Jesus be cursed.” I bet you the words can come out of your mouth, but you cannot mean it. No matter how hard you try. You cannot help but believe that Jesus is Lord. Are you a robot?

Christians must never claim to be “the old man”

The only passage I know of that is remotely confusing as to whether Christians should ever identify with the old self is Ephesians 4. But here is why it lines up quite nicely with 1 Cor 6.9-11 (“such were some of you”) and Col 3.9-10 (have put off…and put on), which both teach that the Christian is most definitely not both old and new, but only new:

  • Eph 4.20 says “you learned Christ”, past tense
  • v21 says “you have heard…and were taught”, again past tense
  • v22 declares what you were taught: “to put off your old man, according to your former manner of life”; that is what you were taught in the past. Someone said to you: put away the old man!
  • v23-24 continue what you were taught: your mind must be renewed and you must put on the new self. Those are all things we should say to unbelievers when we call them to repentance and faith in Christ, after making the gospel very clear.

Ephesians 4 does not have to be understood as “everyday put off the old self and be renewed and put on the new self.” No, since you have put off the old self and have been renewed and have put on the new self (that’s conversion!!!), live like it. As many great writers have now pointed out, be who you are. The call to the Christian is not “be more holy, be more righteous, because you’re not holy and righteous enough.” No, understand who you are in Christ, and then be who you are.