Archives for posts with tag: sin

Greg Koukl on The Stand to Reason blog is bold to post ideas in Christian philosophy that are not yet fully developed. But such a thing is necessary for allowing the idea to be processed in the community of Christians at large. He recently started a discussion on the difference between God issuing a decree and acting as a cause. That language might not immediately seem pertinent. But there is the tension that we see in scripture where God is absolutely sovereign and where He seems to cause sin as a result. Go here to watch his video blog and read some of the comments:

http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/02/decree-vs-cause-video.html

My slightly edited response:

God, as a causer, is not an agent of cause. “Agent” implies that the causer was himself caused by something else. God’s causing is in this way different than His creation, as discreet subdivided iterations of existence, being internally consistent agents of cause. That is, God has eternally established what will happen by decree and has created underlying rules for all of creation to follow as temporal causal agents.

Men, as volitional systems of causal agents, have intent. Where this intent agrees with God’s ethical will, then there is no sin. Where this intent does not agree with God’s ethical will, there is sin. The will of man is hardly monolithic. Every decision a man makes consists of a cocktail of intents – some good, some bad. If God causes anything to happen in the action of any man in the fallen world, that man will be guilty of sin.

God’s intent, conversely, is always pure. God is not guilty where His goodness causes actions that arise out of the evil intents of men.

Men are sinners already and God has not alienated Himself from men any further than they are by causing actions that for men are sinful because of their intents. And their intents are not the most fundamental level of their sin. Evil intents arise out of the status of men being separated from God. We are born in a separated world and are likewise separated from God from birth. Even when we are given the Holy Spirit, we must endure the wiles of this separated world. Being given the Holy Spirit allows us to be separated FOR God (Holy) in this age rather than being separated FROM God in this age.

Atheists are interesting. First, they argue against the existence of God based on the problem of evil. God can’t exist, they say, because God wouldn’t allow evil to exist in the world. Second, they argue that although it seems there must be some sort of natural law of morality, there is no absolute standard of good and evil. So, on the one hand they say that God doesn’t exist because evil exists and on the other hand they say that evil doesn’t exist because God doesn’t exist.

What is further interesting is that lack of intellectual development beyond this. Some atheists recognize the conflict to some degree and try to rectify it by a weak appeal to some natural law of morality. This only results in a relative morality that still fails to address the universal question.

Evil in the world creates a paradox that confuses our thinking on every issue since evil lies in the intents of men. Any attempt to construct a true philosophy is frustrated by this. As a result, we have need to debate and wrestle not merely over issues of behavior and relationship, but over concepts and ideas. This fact alone should be a clue that things are not as they ought to be. But if intellectual conflicts are normal, then they should be expected in our theology. However, atheists point to theological paradoxes as though they are unique to theology when theology alone answers the presence of the paradoxes. So atheists pursue the resolution of the paradoxes of atheistic philosophies and fail to consider any resolution of theological paradoxes proposed by theists.

Looking for the perfect church? It doesn’t exist for two reasons: First is because churches are made of people who are at best still undergoing sanctification. That is, we have been saved from the penalty of our sin, but we are still in the process of learning how to live like it in a world that remains fallen.

But the second reason is similar to the first: Sanctification provides the rest of the world with a practical view of the nature of God. It’s one thing to say that we are graciously forgiven. It’s another thing to handle ongoing sin as though we are graciously forgiven.

We may be called to glorify God individually in how we handle our sin, but it’s a mistake in light of original sin to think of sin as being a purely individual phenomenon. More importantly than how the individual handles sin is how a church body handles sin.

Therefore, if you are looking for the perfect church, look for how a church handles sin and submit yourself to the church that will help to purify you in a practical way – not because the church is perfect, but because the people therein have been through their own struggles with sin and have submitted to the same pattern of corporately ministered mortification of that sin.

Stay away from any church that makes you feel good about yourself and ignores your sin. That provides the temptation to worship the church rather than Christ. Submit rather to churches that demonstrate humility in overcoming struggles with sin with honesty, repentance, grace and reconciliation.

HT: Resurgence

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m amazed at the righteousness many have had throughout their lives. Many of them are leaders in churches, missions and other various ministries of extraordinary impact. They accepted Christ at a young age and recognized God’s call to a particular mission in their life at which they may serve for most of their lives to great distinction. They are surrounded by people of great spiritual means and thoroughly networked. God has indeed raised them up to accomplish great things for his kingdom.

There are also people who have achieved great feats of righteousness and serve locally without distinction.

Sometimes I wish I was one. So far, my kids look to be these kind of Christians. Their worst sins amount to stealing cookies from a cookie jar. I call them “cookie jar Christians”.

There’s one drawback to cookie jar Christians.

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

And we see that even Christ was able to help those who fell into sin.

Cookie jar Christians must know they are pretty righteous. How can they not? When confronted by a tender soul who has been crushed by a life of sin and pain, cookie jar Christians typically must condescend in order to minister at all. They often treat such people with an air of spiritual superiority and you know they can’t help but to know how much better they are than them. 

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I don’t intend to disparage cookie jar Christians. It’s wonderful that they are good enough that their focus is on helping others in the name of Christ, but there’s a point at which they have to recognize that they simply can’t relate to the struggle of someone who has been deep in sin.

However, some cookie jar Christians become a bit legalistic and refuse to help without some sign of repentance up front lest they become sullied in some way by associating with the sinner.

Most cookie jar Christians will be bold against the sins of the sinner, but not let up until repentance is gained. Thinking then that the job is done, they go about their business without taking the time to disciple the sinner. Busy Christians don’t have that kind of time to invest in someone, especially when the sinner is not one of their inner circle of cookie jar Christian friends.

When a cookie jar Christian commits to discipling a sinner, however, the difficulty lies in not being able to address the struggles of the flesh that a sinner can undergo. The cookie jar Christian just hasn’t had that experience. For example, a cookie jar Christian may tell a sinner to “just run to God!” (I’ve actually heard this advice given.) What does that even mean?

Then there are sinners who have been forgiven. I call these “broken Christians”. God uses people who have come from bad family situations, deep-seated patterns of sin, abuse, racial prejudice, difficult illnesses, war, or any of a multitude of things that break a soul. Christians who come from these situations may, over time, become no better than cookie jar Christians. They forget their past. In a way, a broken Christian can give thanks for healing. In another way, such scars allow a broken Christian to meet a sinner who has not come to Christ and see the hope of salvation for the sinner as a person not unlike the broken Christian once was.

God uses broken Christians to work the difficult parts of the field in the harvest. They may not reap the apparently best stuff like the cookie jar Christians. However, their toil is of great value for they do it at the Master’s behest and with his tender care for the harvest.

I write this to encourage my fellow broken Christians to use this gift to reach those like you once were.

But if you are a cookie jar Christian, I know it is difficult for you because you are superior in holiness to your brothers and sisters in Christ who are broken Christians, but I urge you to support and encourage them in their ministerial endeavors. Do not marginalize them or relegate them to the lower places in the church leadership, but learn from them what it is to love a sinner like Christ did.