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Showing posts with label Sin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sin. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2021

When It’s All Been Said and Done – Are they a Christian in the Dark? - Checking the Clues 10 - Purity 546


 
When It’s All Been Said and Done – Are they a Christian in the Dark?  - Checking the Clues 10 - Purity 546     

Purity 546 10/11/2021     Purity 546 Podcast

Good morning

Today’s photo of the view of from the top of Whiteface Mountains that apparently captures “aspects of positive and negative space” comes to us from a friend who quickly  became a fiancé when it became clear that we both viewed each other with love and could both “see” that we would like to spend the rest of our lives together as man and wife.  

But just as the view from the top of Whiteface Mountain was somewhat hazy when I joined my fiancé and several members of her family to take a gondola ride to the summit on Saturday, the view of the future, how we will work out the details of our wedding, and how we will live as husband and wife are still “up in the air” and unclear.  The prospects of the changes on the horizon are both exciting and somewhat alarming as the consequences of two becoming one in the bonds of marriage will have far reaching and unforeseen circumstances.  

Although I will keep it real in admitting that some friends and family have voiced their surprise, concern, and objections, over our “whirl wind” decision to marry,  I must admit that I have had a lot of peace in the process of making my friend a fiancé and meeting the people that will be a part of our new family as the vast majority of my prospective in-laws have been warm, friendly, and receptive.     

I was also surprised by how at peace you could be when you make other decisions that will change how you have lived for years in significant ways.   I have been on the worship team as an audio-visual technician at Rock Solid Church for nearly ten years and decided yesterday to inform the team of my decision to marry in the near future and of my intention to find a replacement for my position and to no longer serve on the team after the first of January to be available to worship the Lord at my wife’s side every Sunday no matter where we find ourselves in our new life.          

As I was driving to my fiancé’s place after attending her brother’s Christian “growth group”, Robin Mark’s “When it’s All Been Said and Done” popped up in the older playlist I had selected and I was shaken by how the lyrics, flutes, and strings seemed to convey the revelation of an all knowing and sovereign God that knew that this present course was to be a part of my life’s journey long before I could ever dream of these changes coming to pass.  The lyrics say:

“When it's all been said and done

All my treasures will mean nothing

Only what I have done

For love's rewards

Will stand the test of time”

I was quite moved in my spirit, hearing these lyrics, and realizing that finding a woman who is the answer to my prayers for a Christian life partner was in God’s plans and that one of the consequences for my decision to live by faith in the power of the holy Spirit was to come into one of “love’s rewards” that will stand the test of time.  

The sweeping changes that lie ahead in my life reveal that although we try to “see around the corners” of the future when we “walk in the Spirit” by predicting and speculating about where “this” is all leading, we actually are totally dependent on God’s plan for our lives and the way that He shapes our journey as I am realizing that all my presumptions and expectations for the my latter days of my life were based on incomplete information. Only God knows our futures perfectly.

With this latest revelation this morning, I have been greeted in my imagination by children’s televisions Blue and Dr. Suess’s Sam I am who have informed me that this 10th installment of our current series of “Checking the Clues” of a potential life partner’s authentic Christian faith will be the last. 

Blue informs me that after today we will have given enough “clues” for our friends to use to find a Christian spouse, and that today’s inquiry from Sam I am, will equally apply to us as advice and encouragement on the path of Christian Discipleship, as well as a possible category for evaluating someone else’s faith life.   

For his final question, Sam I am advises us to think deeply and to consider his inquiry from multiple points of view and then asks:

“Are they a Christian in the dark?”  

As I contemplate the idea of darkness and my walk of faith, there are a few things we should consider in terms of evaluating “Christian authenticity” in someone’s life.   The word says that we will know Christ’s disciples by their fruit so if we are evaluating a potential life partner’s faith life we should observe their attitudes and actions even in “darkness” to see if their faith is evident.  

The first consideration of darkness comes straight from

1 John 1:6 (NKJV)  which says:
6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
  

So, if our potential life partner who claims to be a Christian is “walking in darkness”, they are lying and not practicing the truth.  

So what is darkness here? The NLT translates this verse to convey “spiritual darkness” which would be revealed by someone who has doubts about or fails to believe the doctrines of grace or who holds beliefs that are not Christian.  The degree of authentic Christian faith is directly proportional to the level of someone’s belief and trust in what the Bible teaches. The more doubt or holding of views outside of scripture the more “spiritual darkness” there is in someone’s life.  

I wanted to point out the spiritual aspects and the importance of belief in considering someone’s faith first because we are saved by, and called to live by, “faith”.   If people reveal that they don’t really believe the Bible or hold beliefs that contradict it, their “Christian” faith isn’t as authentic as they may think.  

The second aspect of darkness that can be drawn from the context of John’s epistle is the “darkness” of sin.  If someone claims to be a Christian but lives a lifestyle that includes behaviors that are “sinful”, their Christian faith is either not authentic or is immature. 

If we have our eyes open, we can see the darkness of unbelief or sin in their lives.  While it is everyone’s own decision who they marry, if the desire is live as Christians, we would want to avoid potential partners who live in darkness.  

The second aspect of “darkness” that I can see as a Christian counselor is the “darkness” of depression.   If your potential life partner who claims to be a Christian, has a negative view of life, and seems to dwell in a den of depression we must be discerning in determining if we want to walk out the rest of our days with someone who we may have to constantly encourage and whose Christian faith may not be as authentic as we may think. 

The word commands us to rejoice and speaks about the joy of the Lord as the Christian’s strength.  Someone with a negative view on life or that suffers from depression may be immature or disingenuous in their faith or has failed to apply their faith to their lives or may suffer from demonic oppression.

Am I saying that Christians can’t be depressed? Absolutely not! But I am saying you may want to really consider all the possibilities in choosing a life partner who suffers from depression, including the possibility that their faith may not be authentic.  

As someone who has experienced with suffering from depression individually and has had relationships with individuals who have suffered from depression, I try not to address hypothetical scenarios when evaluating depression in Christians. I don’t know any hypothetical people and neither do you. While I admit the real need for medications to treat depression in some cases, I profess the universal need of all real-life “Christians” to repent, renew their minds with the word of God, and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  

If your potential life partner suffers from depression and is unwilling or unable to use their “Christian faith” as part of their condition’s treatment you may be receiving a “clue” of the true condition of their faith and the difficulties that would lie in being in a committed relationship with them.  

So consider and choose according to where the Lord leads you in this area. As someone who was in relationship with depressed individuals, I can assure you that living with depression is difficult for both parties and is even worse when you are unequally yoked.  

The final take on “darkness” that we will consider is the “darkness” of times of uncertainty or suffering.    The authenticity of, and great value of, our Christian faith is often best proven in times of suffering and times of uncertainty.  How people deal with suffering and uncertain outcomes can help us get an indication of what they truly believe.  

Ideally, Christians would meet suffering and uncertainty with faith. So if your potential life partner is faced with suffering or uncertainty and their response fails to demonstrate aspects of Christians spiritual practices, we may see that their faith is immature or non-existent.  

Again, we are not measuring everyone by the levels of their faith to guess their final destination in eternity, our purposes in this series and in this blog in general is to encourage discernment in our relationships as well as our faith walk. 

We have come to know the incredible power of God that can help us to overcome the problems that we face on earth through walking in the Spirit on the path of Christian Discipleship. So we encourage Christians to believe that the word of God is true, apply it to their lives, and to live continually seeking the Lord and living by faith.   

The best way to find an authentic Christian to be a life partner is to be authentic Christian yourself. So keep walking and talking with God because if you truly live by faith you will rejoice and have joy in your life whether you walk out the rest of this life with a Christian spouse or with just the Holy Spirit by your side.  Either way, God will never leave us or forsake us.       

    

Today’s Bible verse is drawn from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.  

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Romans 12:6 (NLT2)
6  In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.

Today’s verse encourages us to use the gifts that we have been given and to speak the truth in accordance with our faith.   

Paul’s epistle to the Romans informs us that we all have been given different gifts that are given to us by God and that they are to be used.   So while we might not consider ourselves as especially gifted or talented in the spiritual realm or in general, today’s verse tells us that we have some God given gifts that we should utilize for God’s glory.   

Every Christian can do something to give God glory with the gifts they have been given.  Our particular gifts are given to us to fulfill our purpose in Christ.

If you are not sure what your gifts are you can ask other people in your life what they think your gifts and strengths are or you could seek out a “spiritual gifts test” to tell you what your gifts are.   But the key to remember is that once you learn what your gifts are, is to be diligent to use them!   

The gift of prophecy, which in the New Testament context includes preaching, encouraging, and exhorting, is mentioned here and Paul encourages us to prophesy in proportion to our faith.  

Now while we may be hesitant to drop a “Thus sayeth the Lord” future prediction”, we can all preach, encourage, or exhort to some extent, according to the measure of our faith.  

Our preaching can simply include our personal testimony or insights we have gained from the word. So yes, everybody could preach.  

Likewise, if we have come into the Christian faith by making Jesus our Lord and Savior, we should be able to encourage or exhort others to do likewise or to trust the Lord for other areas of life.  

So determine what God has gifted you with and use them for His glory.  God saved us for a reason, and He gave us certain talents and abilities to help us to fulfill our purpose in Him. Listen for the call of God on your life to use your gifts because if you step out in faith and bless others and give glory to God, you just may find yourself prophesying to others to do the same.

 

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

 

Today we continue sharing from June Hunt’s Dating: Secrets to Great Relating When Dating  

 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase June Hunt’s books for your own private study and to support her work. If you need this title you can find it online at several sites for less than $5.00:

. What Is the Difference Between Infatuation and True Love?

Laura is in love! Laura is in love with love. And although she frequently dates, Laura rarely relates. The few boyfriends she's had in the past throw in the towel within a short period of time because dating Laura is almost exclusively about... Laura.

When meeting a new man, Laura enjoys laughing and flirting...wining and dining...dancing and romancing. But soon the fantasy fades and reality sets in with an oblivious lack of commitment to moral character. Suddenly Laura—or more often the man—loses interest. But Laura doesn't let her heart languish for long....Almost immediately she is looking again for something she labels as "love." What irony in this truth...

"The heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

Everyone has felt infatuation to one degree or another. Everyone has experienced "puppy love" at one time or another. Did you ever take the long way around in order to walk by a certain someone or that someone's desk...or locker...or house? Did you take special care to look especially attractive on days when you thought your paths might cross? Did your heart skip a beat when you looked up and unexpectedly caught a glance from him...or her? Is that feeling actually love...or is it love's pseudopersona...infatuation'? Sometimes it's difficult to discern—especially if the one you have these feelings for doesn't seem to feel the same way.

  • Infatuation is a form of emotional obsession, an expression of excessive admiration or foolish love void of sound judgment.
    • —Infatuation is a powerful feeling, but it is based more on the idea of someone than it is on who the person actually is.
    • —Infatuation does not last because it's not based on reality.
  • Love seeks the highest good of another person, does what is in the best interest of another person. People throughout the ages have asked, "What is true love?" Our most authoritative source for understanding the true nature of love comes from God as revealed in His Word.
    • —Love is an action.
      "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).
    • —Love is a decision.
      "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
    • —Love is work.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love and relationships take effort. There is no fairy-tale formula for true love. God's Word, along with time and maturity, will give you the ability to discern fantasy from reality. Until then, waiting for sound reasoning will guard your heart from being hurt. ...

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23)

Infatuation vs. Love

In differentiating between love and infatuation, consider these differences...

Infatuation

Love

• Sudden

• Gradual

• Highly emotional

• Faithfully consistent

• Idealistic

• Realistic

• Based on feelings

• Based on commitment

• Weakened by separation

• Strengthened by separation

• Seeking to find happiness

• Seeking to give happiness

• Focusing on external looks

• Focusing on internal character

• Seeking to get

• Seeking to give

• Possessive

• Freeing

• In love with "emotion"

• In love with "devotion"

God, the Source of love, tells us through His written Word...

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.... let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:16-18)

Live-In Boyfriend

Question: "My live-in boyfriend says he loves me, but just isn't ready to marry. We're already living as though we are married. What can I do to change his mind?"

Answer: If your boyfriend can sexually "have his cake and eat it too," what is his motivation for getting married? When you engage in the sexual acts of love outside of marriage, you are minimizing the essence of love. According to God's Word, neither of you is truly showing love to the other when you engage in premarital sex. Begin now by either moving out or having him move out.

If your boyfriend really loves you, he will want you (not just sex) and will be willing to wait until the wedding vows are said.

"It [Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking." (1 Corinthians 13:5)


Biblical Counseling Keys: Dating: Secrets to Great Relating When Dating.

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

 

 

 

Join our “Victory over the Darkness” or “The Bondage Breaker” series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

 

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Bible Study with the Cincotti's - Sin - 08/01/2021

Today's Bible Study, Authored by Arthur Cincotti. 08/01/2021


Listen to our Bible Study Discussion at: Listen to today’s Bible Study Discussion Podcast


                    Sin

Sin is the problem!

 

         Several words that give different shading to comprehend the complexity of sin include:

Sin; meaning offense

Transgression; meaning rebellion, or trespass, breaking, violation

Iniquity; meaning perversity, (moral) evil:- fault, mischief

 

We have also heard general definitions such as, “missing the mark”

violating God’s law, distortion of the image of God, being stupid.

 

As believers in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we understand that the wrath of God, against the sins of mankind, is satisfied, and salvation is made available to anyone who calls on the Name of the Lord.  Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13

 

We have been set free from the power, and authority of sin, and given a new life (born again) and a new nature. One day we will be free from the presence of sin.

 

But today we still sin...what’s up with that?

 

One of the most perplexing questions that has plagued the church and caused much division is the dispensation of residual sin. In other words: What becomes of those who continue to sin even after receiving God’s free gift of salvation, and what do we do with our sin?

 

In order to unpack this subject we must categorize sins into: sins of commission and sins of omission. Willful sin and sins of happenstance. Thoughtful sins and sins of action.

Unfortunately God does not categorize sin Jas. 2:10

Our residual sin should leave us sorrowful leading to repentance.

                                                                        II Cor. 7:10

Our old nature was sorrowful for conscience sake and fear of       consequences.

Our new nature is sorrowful because we know that our sin grieves God and     causes a breach in our relationship. Eph. 4:1 “Walk worthy of the calling”

 

Some denominations teach that those who persist in sin were never really   saved. Their confession of faith was not from the       heart.

Others believe that one may lose their salvation by persisting in           unrepentant sin.

Catholic believe that there is a place called purgatory where residual sin is dealt with by punishment.

And some believe that all sin was dealt with at the cross, and residual sin      is of no consequence.

 

Gal. 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will fo the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

 

Options of what to do with sin:

1) Denial

          a. that it has consequences     Rom. 6:23

          b. that our actions are sinful at all.   I Jn. 1:8&10

Dangerous

2) Justify

          Make excuses before God; see Lk. 10:29

               Why would you do that? We are justified by faith. Rm. 3:20-26

3) Spend more time in purgatory

                     Really?????? II Cor. 5:8

4) How about facing our sin, humbly bringing it to the foot of the cross, confessing, asking for forgiveness (I Jn. 1:9) and power to walk in repentance. Acts 1:8 “you shall receive power” and I Pet. 1:5; trusting God that, “He who began a good work in you shall see it through” Phl. 1:6



 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Purity 440: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 

Purity 440 06/09/2021 Purity 440 Podcast

Good morning.

Today’s photo of this desert mountain majesty comes to us from a friend’s recent trip to Cottonwood Arizona.   I love the “red rocks” that you see out west and this formation seems to just keep rising, with its steady ascension and crowning peak.     

It’s Wednesday, and I thought what better way to celebrate getting over the hump and commenting on the high temperatures we have been experiencing, forecasted to be 87 degrees locally, by sharing this mammoth southwestern summit.    

So it looks like today may be hotter uphill climb than we are used to making in early June but by taking the proper precautions and by keeping our eyes on the One who has crowned us in victory, we can crest the peak of this work week and rejoice as we adapt and overcome.    

Man can do a lot in his own efforts, but Jesus said that even what man considers impossible is possible with God. 

So no matter what mountain you may be facing in this hot and dry season, remember to keep walking and talking with God.  He will keep you company along the way and will give you the strength and wisdom to traverse all the peaks and valleys that lie in your path.  

 

This morning’s meditation verse is:

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

 

Today’s verse warns us of the consequences of “missing the mark” and reminds us of what we have in our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. 

 

Romans 6:23 should be in our evangelism tool kit because it tells us the hard facts of life.  Sin is an offense that carries a death sentence. A simple Q & A of the Ten Commandments will show anyone that they have sinned by not perfectly following God’s instructions.  This fact should convict all of us and lead us to ask: How can I be saved? 

 

The answer is simple. God’s gift to us is Jesus Christ as His sinless life, death, and resurrection made a way for our salvation.   The question is: will you accept God’s gift by placing your faith in Jesus? 

 

I hope anyone reading this on the blog or hearing this message will put their faith in Christ and experience the new eternal life that God so graciously gives.  Our purpose for being alive is finding the grace of God.  

 

But we should also consider Romans 6:23 as an instruction on how to live our lives as well as a good evangelical tool.  

 

Once we have been saved by faith in Christ, although we are free from the power of sin, we still have free will and can choose to sin.  

 

Why not sin? Christ paid for them all, you might as well make His suffering worth it by sinning it up right?

 

I wish I could say I didn’t have similar thoughts when I first came to Christ.  I figured God knew me so He would understand that I just couldn’t stop sinning the way I did.  

 

But even though God’s grace had me covered, and still has me covered, those wages of death that sin earns are still felt in the life of a believer.  The conviction of sin is worse for those who have given their lives to Christ because we know that we are “not supposed to be doing this” and that our sin gets in the way of our relationship with God.

 

There was many a morning where I would ask God for forgiveness for the things I did and would feel restored, only to have to do it all over again the next morning as I felt trapped in a cycle of sin that I felt powerless to stop.  

 

Although I had eternal life, I was still receiving my wages of death.  What’s the deal, God?

 

But then I understood that although He found me in darkness, the Lord didn’t want me to stay there.  When I found the truth, I was given the revelation of just how much my sin was hurting me, those around me, and my relationship with the Lord.   

 

I prayed for deliverance several times, but I had to stop crying out to God to do an instant miraculous work and instead had to show my trust of His power to deliver me by placing my faith in Him everyday and by choosing to say no to temptation and yes to His ways.   

 

So, if you are saved but somehow can’t get past a besetting sin, you can overcome by first believing in the new life that you already have and then by leaning on the Lord to carry you away from your darkness.

 

He’s not going to drag you out of the darkness. You must do your part too.  They don’t call it lying in the Spirit, our faith is described as walking in the Spirit.  But just like a toddler learning to walk for the first time needs his parents to hold them up, you are going to need the Lord to hold you up and encourage you in your efforts at righteous living.  

 

After you start taking steps, you will be able to walk further and further distances in your faith as you grow stronger and mature.  So take the Lord’s hand, keep your eyes on Him, and listen to what He says.  He will see you through and will help you to experience the life you always wanted but never thought you could do.   

 

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

 

Today we continue with Dr. Neil Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness, continuing in Chapter 2, with the section “New Life Requires New Birth”.

 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Dr. Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support His work. If you need this title you can find it online at several sites for less than $15.00:

New Life Requires New Birth

We weren't born in Christ. We were born dead in our trespasses and sins (see Ephes. 2:1). What is God's plan for transforming us from being in Adam to being in Christ? Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Physical birth gains only physical life for us. Spiritual life, the eternal life Christ promises to those who come to Him, is gained only through spiritual birth (see John 3:36).

What does it mean to be spiritually alive in Christ? The moment you were born again your soul came into union with God in the same way Adam was in union with God before the Fall. You became spiritually alive and your name was written in the Lamb's book of life (see Rev. 21:27). Eternal life is not something you get when you die.

Dear believer, you are spiritually alive in Christ right now. You will never be more spiritually alive than you are right now. The only thing that will change when you die physically is that you will exchange your mortal body for a new resurrected one. Your spiritual life in Christ, which began when you personally trusted Him, will merely continue on. Salvation is not a future addition; it is a present transformation. That transformation occurs at spiritual birth, not physical death.

New Life Brings New Identity

Being a Christian is not just a matter of getting something; it is a matter of being someone. A Christian is not simply a person who is forgiven and goes to heaven. A Christian, in terms of his or her deepest identity, is a saint, a spiritually born child of God, a divine masterpiece, a child of light, a citizen of heaven. Being born again transformed you into someone who didn't exist before. What you receive as a Christian isn't the point; it is who you are. It is not what you do as a Christian that determines who you are; it is who you are that determines what you do (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Ephes. 2:10; 1 Peter 2:9, 10; 1 John 3:1, 2).

Understanding your identity in Christ is essential for living the Christian life. People cannot consistently behave in ways that are inconsistent with the way they perceive themselves. You don't change yourself by your perception. You change your perception of yourself by believing the truth. If you perceive yourself wrongly, you will live wrongly because what you are believing is not true. If you think you are a no-good bum, you will probably live like a no-good bum. If, however, you see yourself as a child of God who is spiritually alive in Christ, you will begin to live accordingly. Next to a knowledge of God, a knowledge of who you are is by far the most important truth you can possess.

The major strategy of Satan is to distort the character of God and the truth of who we are. He can't change God and he can't do anything to change our identity and position in Christ. If, however, he can get us to believe a lie, we will live as though our identity in Christ isn't true.

New Life Results in a New Identity

Have you noticed that one of the most frequently used words of identity for Christians in the New Testament is "saint"? A saint is literally a holy person. Yet Paul and the other writers of the Epistles used the word generously to describe common, ordinary, everyday Christians like you and me. For example, Paul's salutation in 1 Cor. 1:2 reads: "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours."

Notice that Paul didn't say we are saints by hard work. He clearly states we are saints by calling. The tendency of the church is to believe that saints are people who have earned their lofty title by living a magnificent life or by achieving a certain level of maturity. In the Bible, believers are described as "saints," which means holy ones (e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1).

Being a saint does not necessarily reflect any present measure of growth in character, but it does identify those who are rightly related to God. In the King James Version of the Bible, believers are called "saints," "holy ones" or "righteous ones" more than 240 times. In contrast, unbelievers are called "sinners" more than 330 times. Clearly, the term "saint" is used in Scripture to refer to the believer, and "sinner" is used in reference to the unbeliever.

Although the New Testament provides plenty of evidence that the believer sins, it never clearly identifies the believer as a sinner. Paul's reference to himself in which he declares, "I am foremost [of sinners]" is often referred to as contrary (1 Tim. 1:15). Despite the use of the present tense by the apostle, several things make it much preferable to consider his description of himself as "the foremost [of sinners]" as a reference to his preconversion opposition to the gospel. Taking this as a truthful statement, he indeed was the chief of all sinners.

Nobody opposed the work of God more zealously than he did, in spite of the fact that he could boast, "as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:6). For several reasons, I believe this refers to what Paul was before he came to Christ.

First, the reference to himself as a sinner is in support of the first half of the verse in 1 Timothy: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). The reference to "the ungodly and sinners" a few verses earlier (1 Tim. 1:9), along with the other New Testament uses of the term "sinners" for those who are outside salvation, shows that the sinners whom Christ came to save were outside of salvation rather than believers who can still choose to sin.

Second, Paul's reference to himself as a sinner is immediately followed by the statement, "And yet . . . I found [past tense] mercy"(1 Tim. 1:16), clearly pointing to the past occasion of his conversion. Paul continued to be amazed at the mercy of God toward him who was the "worst" sinner. A similar present evaluation of himself based upon the past is perceived when the apostle said, "I am [present] the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9). Because of his past action, Paul considered himself unworthy of what by God's grace and mercy he presently was, an apostle who was in no respect "inferior to the most eminent apostles" (2 Cor. 12:11).

Third, although declaring that he is the worst sinner, the apostle at the same time declared that Christ had strengthened him for the ministry, having considered him "faithful," or trustworthy, for the ministry to which he was called (see 1 Tim. 1:12). The term "sinner," therefore, did not describe him as a believer, but rather was used in remembrance of what he was before Christ transformed him.

The only other places in Scripture that could be referring to Christians as sinners are two references found in James. The first, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners" (James 4:8) is one of 10 verbal commands urging anyone who reads this general epistle to make a decisive break with the old life. This is best understood as calling the reader to repentance and therefore salvation.

The second use of "sinner," found in James 5:19, 20, appears to have a similar reference to unbelievers. The "sinner" is to be turned "from the error of his way" and thus be saved from "death." Because this is most likely spiritual death, it suggests that the person was not a believer. In both of these uses of "sinner," James is using the term as it was used among the Jews for those who disregarded the law of God and flouted standards of morality.

The fact that these "sinners" are among those addressed by James does not necessarily mean they are believers, for Scripture teaches that unbelievers can be among the saints (see 1 John 2:19), as there surely are today in our churches. Referring to them as "sinners" fits the description of those who have not come to repentance and faith in God, as the rest of Scripture clearly identifies believers as saints who still have the capacity to sin.

The status of saint is parallel to the concept of being God's called or elect ones. Believers are those who are "beloved of God . . . called as saints" (Romans 1:7; see 1 Cor. 1:2). They are "chosen [or elected] of God, holy, and beloved" (Col. 3:12). They are "chosen . . . through sanctification by the Spirit" (2 Thes. 2:13; see 1 Peter 1:1, 2). God chose them and separated them from the world to be His people. As a result, believers are "holy brethren" (Hebrews 3:1).

By the election and calling of God, believers are set apart unto God and now belong to the sphere of His holiness. We begin our walk with God as immature babes in Christ, but we are indeed children of God. We are saints who sin, but we have all the resources in Christ we need not to sin. Paul's words to the Ephesians are an interesting combination of these two concepts of holiness. Addressing them as "saints," or holy ones, in Ephes. 1:1, he goes on in Ephes. 1:4 to say that God "chose us in Him [Christ] . . . that we should be holy and blameless before Him." By God's choosing, they were already holy in Christ, but the purpose was that they would mature in character as they conformed to the image of God.

As believers, we are not trying to become saints; we are saints who are becoming like Christ. In no way does this deny the continuous struggle with sin, but it does give the believer some hope for the future. Many Christians are dominated by the flesh and deceived by the devil. However, telling Christians they are sinners and then disciplining them if they don't act like saints seems counterproductive at best and inconsistent with the Bible at worst.


Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ.

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

 

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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship