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I am not a sinner saved by grace

I am not a sinner saved by grace.

And neither are you.

Or rather, you shouldn’t be.

Either you’re a sinner, or your a new creature in Christ, you don’t get to be both.

Christ did not save me so that I could go back and wallow in a pit of despair, saying "woe is me" while I continue to live in the shackles of sin that He died to break me out of!  

A few posts ago I wrote about "denying the power", about how 2 Timothy 3:1-5 was speaking specifically about this issue.  (You might want to go back and read it if you get a chance.)

I’m not sure why I’m posting again on this same subject, except hat it’s been bugging me more and more lately, as I’m hearing person after person spout the "I’m just a sinner like everyone else, I’m just a sinner saved by grace" nonsense.  If you are just a sinner, and nothing else, then you are denying Christ!  Christ is not some lame duck God that has no power to help you keep from falling into the sins that he died to bring you out of.  He is real, living, powerful, capable, and absolutely able to cleanse and sanctify.  And if you don’t believe that, then you might as well throw away your Bible and live up to that "sinner" label you’re so fond of.

He did not save you so that you could go wallow in the mud of your familiar sins!  

Christians love to quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 — Or, I should say, they love to misquote it.   They love to say that "God won’t give you more than you can handle" — ignoring the obvious context of the verse, and the actual text of the verse, they take something said about temptation, and make it about life’s burdens.  It’s great to think that God won’t let life throw us more burdens than we can bear.  It’s not so great to think that we have no excuse  for our sins.  But that’s exactly what this verse says:

There hath 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 ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

That’s right.  God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond what you can, but will provide a way of escape.  That means for every temptation to sin, there is a way for you to check yourself, and not sin.  Every time you’re tempted, you have a choice.  

As Christians, we are to learn to look for those choices, look for those ways of escape, and get better and better at not sinning when faced with temptation.  

Does this mean that every Christian is going to be perfect?  Of course not.  We’re still human, and we still have to wrestle with these choices, and we’re still going to screw up from time to time.  But as Christians we have a responsibility to lay aside our old, sinful nature, and live as a new creature.  A creature with the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit behind us.  

Insisting on claiming the label of "sinner", even in the context of a "sinner saved by grace", is essentially denying what was given to you when you accepted Christ as Lord.  You might as well be throwing down that spotless garment and picking up the old one again.  "I don’t want to seem like I’m better than anyone else, I’ll just wear this dirty rag, okay, Lord?".  How insulting can you get?   
Furthermore, the more often you say you’re just a sinner (yeah, yeah, saved by grace), the less likely you’ll be to look for that way out.  After all, you’re just a sinner, and God’s grace is sufficient, right?  Why not just give in to the temptation?  I’m not any different from anyone else, after all, right?  

And we wonder why so many Christian leaders fall?  We need to purge this ridiculous notion from the body of Christ.  We are not just sinners saved by grace.  We were sinners.  We were saved, by grace.  And now we’re new creatures, and we need to stop denying the power that was given to us and learn to live that way.


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Denying the power?

So I was looking up this verse, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" because I wanted to make a post about it.  I was surprised to find (though I’ve read the New Testament I don’t know how many times) that the context was not what I remembered it to be.  

If you’re like me, you’ve probably  heard people preach on this passage.  But if you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard it preached in context.  It turns out that part that’s quoted is not the full thought (or even the full sentence).

Here’s the full quote:

2 Timothy 3:1-5

  •  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Now, I’m sure you’ve seen this list before, too, usually divorced from the part I mentioned above.  We like to look at this list and point out the type of people we don’t like.  Self-indulgent, greedy, envious, liars, traitors, etc.  

Some pastors take this verse and run with it, they preach week after week about how their parishioners need to make sure they keep themselves holy and away from sinners like this verse is talking about.  They take it so far that they scare people into avoiding the unsaved altogether… so much for the great commission!

Except the passage, even the sentence, doesn’t end with that list.  Before he says to turn away, the author points out exactly who he’s talking about, by describing them as "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof".  Now, the  list that proceeds this phrase sounds nothing like a person that has a form of godliness to me.  It sounds like a list of grave sinners.  

But taken in context it seems clear to me that the author is NOT talking about non-Christians here.  He’s talking about people who have "a form of godliness"… yet still fit into that list.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing.  People showing one image in public and secretly living as something else.  People who sin all week and then repent on Sunday.  Or worse, people who sin all week, preach about not sinning, and then just hide their sins from the people in the church.  The "do as I say, not as I do" type.

Before looking at this scripture yesterday I always assumed "denying the power thereof" was talking about the power of the gifts of the Holy Spirit — the kind of power that spurs healings and prophecies and the like — but after looking at the context more closely I don’t think that’s what he means here.  What power is someone denying when they preach the Word while continuing to sin?  Is it not the power of God that effects sanctification in the life of the Christian?  The power to change one’s life so completely as to turn them around and make a new man out of them?

Having a form of Godliness does a person no good if they deny God the power to change their lives.  I think the author is warning us to stay away from people who want to label themselves Godly, while continuing to sin.  While it’s possible he’s talking about ‘religious folk’ of any type, and not just Christians, I rather think he’s speaking directly about people who claim Christ.  

I also think he’s talking about the "sinner saved by grace" mentality… this idea that once you get saved, you can’t help but to go on sinning, so don’t try, just make sure you repent every Sunday and God won’t care.  This idea, in my opinion, is toxic and disgusting.  Sure, we’re all human, and as humans we’re going to screw up from time to time, but God is not impotent.  If you believe and ask Him to take charge of your life He will come in and clean house.  He will impart to you the POWER, through his Spirit, to overcome your sinful nature.  He will  make you into something new, not just a sinner who’s saved, but an overcomer, a person who used to be a sinner, who was saved, and is now a new creature.  Christians do not have to be, and should not be slaves to sin.  

Here are some other scriptures that speak to this same issue…

1 Thessalonians 4:3-7

  • For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.  For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

  • I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons – not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world.  
  • But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber.  Do not even eat with such a one.  
  • For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?  
  • God will judge those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you."

Hebrews 10:26-31

  • For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
  • Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy "on the testimony of two or three witnesses."  
  • How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?  
  • For we know the one who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people."  
  • It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Romans 6:16-23

  • Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
  • But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
  • I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.  For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.  
  • When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed?  The end of those things is death.
  • But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Derr… Where did Dan go?

We were going over Revelation 7 in a Bible study Friday, and one of the ladies noticed something was off in the listing of the 12 tribes. Dan isn’t mentioned in Revelation, but both Joshua and Joshua’s son Manesseh are mentioned. This is bizarre, since every account of the 12 tribes mentions Dan, even the one in the end-times prophecy in Ezekiel.

So, what happened to Dan?

Scripture References

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His Right Hand

I’ve been neglecting scriptural blog posts for a while, but I needed to note this one for my own reference.

Hebrews 1:3 (NRSV)

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Isaiah 59:14-16 (Linking to KJV – text below is JPS)

14And so redress is turned back
And vindication stays afar,
Because honesty stumbles in the public square
And uprightness cannot enter.
15Honesty has been lacking,
He who turns away from evil is despoiled.”
The Lord saw and was displeased
That there was no redress.
16He saw that there was no man,
He gazed long, but no one intervened.
Then His own arm won him triumph,
His victorious right hand
supported Him.

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Naked and Barefoot

So I was reading Isaiah last night and had to do a doubletake after reading chapter 20.

Isaiah 20:3-6 (NRSV)

3. Then the LORD said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4. so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians as exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.  5.So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.  6.And they shall be afraid and ashamed of Ethiopia their expectation, and of Egypt their glory.

So I read it a few more times, in a few different translations, but there’s just no mistaking the fact that Isaiah ran around naked and barefoot for 3 YEARS!

further pontification

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Yay!  I’m finally out of the Psalms.  I usually enjoy reading them but this time through I just wasn’t feeling it.  Reading the Psalms when I’m depressed just ends up annoying me.

Proverbs on the other hand, is always a good read.  It’s also amusing me that the JPS version uses the word “dullard” where the King James uses “fool”.  For example, Proverbs 13:20, “He who keeps company with the wise becomes wise, but he who consorts with dullards comes to grief”        .

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Psalm of the day

Titus 3:1-11 (NRSV) – text here is JPS translation…

O Lord, I set my hope on You;
    my God, in You I trust;
    may I not be disappointed;
    may my enemies not exult over me.
O let none who look to You be disappointed;
    let the faithless be disappointed, empty-handed.
Let me know Your paths, O Lord;
    teach me Your ways;

    guide me in Your true way and teach me,
    for You are God, my deliverer;
    it is You I look to at all times.
O Lord, be mindful of Your compassion
    and Your faithfulness;
    they are old as time.
Be not mindful of my youthful sins and transgressions;
    in keeping with Your faithfulness consider what is in my favor,
    as befits Your goodness, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore He shows sinners the way.
He guides the lowly in the right path,
    and teaches the lowly His way.
All the Lord’s paths are steadfast love
    for those who keep the decrees of His covenant.
As befits Your name, O Lord,
    pardon my iniquity though it be great.

Whoever fears the Lord,
    he shall be shown what path to choose.
He shall live a happy life,
    and his children shall inherit the land.
The counsel of the Lord is for those who fear Him;
    to them He makes known His covenant.

My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for He will loose my feet from the net.
Turn to me, have mercy on me,
    for I am alone and afflicted.
My deep distress increases;
    deliver me from my straits.
Look at my affliction and suffering,
    and forgive all my sins.

See how numerous my enemies are,
    and how unjustly they hate me!

Protect me and save me;
    let me not be disappointed
    for I have sought refuge in You.
May integrity and uprightness watch over me,
    for I look to You.

    O God, redeem Israel
    from al its distress.

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Let’s see… where was I?

So the holidays are over, and it’s high time I got back on track with the whole posting thing. I’ve been reading semi-regularly and am currently about halfway through Nehemiah.

Since I didn’t get around to posting much over the past few months, I covered a lot of reading without saying much.  I’ll do a quick recap from what I can remember… I think my last mention was of First Kings…

  • Chronicles and Kings complement each other and basically cover the same (very long) chunk of history.  Kings is insanely hard to follow because it keeps jumping back and forth with each generation between the royal lineage of Judah and Isreal.  Chronicles only follows Judah, so it’s a little easier to follow.  When I get the chance, I would love to go back and actually do a timeline to lay out the rules, cuz I think it’d be interesting to see.
  • Comically enough, this read through is the first time it actually DAWNED on me that Israel and Judah were two separate kingdoms and had two separate lines of kings… how on EARTH did I miss that the first two times I read the old testament??  I’m aghast, but it really does make the rest of the Bible make a LOT more sense! lol.

Let’s see, what else…

  • Some REALLY cool stuff happened in the stories of different prophets — peppered here and there through the four books — a lot more than just the few things we hear taught about.  I’ll have to go back and make a list of them at some point. 
  • I developed a much greater respect for Solomon – I always had a kind of mild disdain for him, not quite sure why.
  • There’s a very beautiful prayer for the dedication of the Temple in 1 Kings 8 — very much worth the read, it made me cry – I think it’s repeated somewhere in Chronicles too.
  • Reading about Elisha and Elijah this time around gave me the distinct impression that Elisha was like a puppy dog following Elijah around … :)
  • not much I can think to mention about Ezra right now
  • I’m about halfway through Nehemiah, and all I have to say right now is that the wall of Jerusalem was one ENORMOUS wall lol.

I’m trying to get back on a daily or bi-daily posting schedule from here on out, here’s hoping I manage :)

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I’m straying off-topic a bit here, because I need to share my views on a subject before I get myself into a heated argument with someone who might not be capable of comprehending what I’m saying anyway.

The Bible is very clear that drunkenness leads to sin, and that it’s foolish to get drunk. That said, it does not, at any point, say that drinking itself is a sin.

I, personally, have used alcohol medicinally on numerous occasions, and actually love the flavor of hard drinks. I, however, have never been drunk (I did get a buzz once, but that was when I was too stupid to know how much it took, and when someone else was handing me the drinks).

The argument that was put to me was that “Christians should never drink” and later that it was a sin. When I put this to question, by vaguely mentioning a few scriptures (such as the one where Jesus turned water into wine for a wedding party where everyone had already been drinking for days), asking for a clarification as to whether he was speaking of drinking or rather of getting drunk, he either didn’t understand the distinction, or just tried to avoid it.

He made the argument that drinking then was different because he thinks the wine was only 1 and 2 percent alcohol back then. He argued again against drunkenness, saying “nobody ever became an alcoholic without taking the 1st drink”. But he never addressed the original question, which was whether he put drinking (in any case) with the sin of being a drunkard.

So… here’s my response, which I’m not sure I will give him, because I’m not sure it would be productive…

Wine is created by a fermentation process that is introduced by adding yeast to a sugary liquid. The process has not changed in thousands of years, and the roman empire had wine with the same basic alcohol content as what we drink today, which ranged from about 12-18%. The only reason wine was less potent in ‘those days’ was because people diluted their wine with water, often drinking 1:2 or 1:4 parts wine to water with their meals.

This does not mean that they never drank wine straight, though. If juice is left to ferment completely it will always reach 12-15% abv. The Roman empire was known for it’s wine consumption and production, and even without distilaries they had figured out how to get even higher alcohol contents (up to about 25%) (see the alcoholic beverage wiki for most of these facts). Re Acts 2:15: at 12%, the average man can still get drunk on 3 glasses of wine. Peter wasn’t saying there was no possible way they were drunk at that hour, he was just pointing out how incredibly unlikely it was that that many people had been drinking that early in the day (the taverns weren’t likely open).

Jesus himself drank wine, and the Pharisees and lawyers tried to use this passage in Proverbs to accuse him:

Proverbs 23:19-21
23:19 Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.

23:20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

His reaction to this is recorded in two different gospels:

Luke 7:33-35
7:33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
7:34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.

Matthew 11:18-19
11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

If Christ had been a glutton or a windbibber then He would have been a sinner. We know this is NOT the case even though He drank (and said of Himself that He drank). The only way to rectify this is to admit that it is possible to drink without being sinful.

That said, I’m not saying that one should drink. There are a number of people who probably should never drink, or who are incapable of drinking in moderation. The argument can also be made that a Christian should never drink around anyone who might believe that drinking (even without getting drunk) is a sin, as this would be “causing one’s brother to stumble”. This particular argument could even be taken to the extreme that someone seeing you buy alcohol could be caused to stumble as well, so Christians should never be seen drinking or buying alcohol.

However, the not causing one’s brother to stumble argument was made in regards to eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and I don’t believe that’s something that Jesus ever did. The fact that Jesus openly drank, and that anyone reading the Bible can see these scriptures, leads me to the conclusion that anyone who is so finnicky that they get confused by seeing me buy alcohol is probably going to get just as confused reading the scriptures. I believe this is a case of needing to educate them about the difference between drinking and being a drunkard, rather than avoiding it in hopes of not offending them.

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off the path

I haven’t posted for a while, mainly because I’ve been too busy. I’ve also taken to reading just before I go to sleep, which means I’m not near a computer.

I’m currently somewhere in Joshua, but this post is actually going to center around a passage in John. The sermon at church this Sunday evening was based on John chapter 9, and something struck me when the passage was read, that was quite different than the sermon, so I figured I’d mention it here.

It’s important to read through the entire chapter. The short version of the story is this (completely paraphrased):

  1. Jesus comes across a beggar who is blind (from birth)
  2. The disciples ask Him what sin caused the man’s blindness.
  3. Jesus answers that there was no sin in this case, the man was blind so that God could be revealed in his healing.
  4. Jesus heals him.
  5. He rejoices, people marvel, the people take him to the Pharisees (most likely to judge the validity of the miracle).
  6. The Pharisees question whether someone from God would heal on the sabbath; they question the man’s identity and history; they attempt to get him to say that Jesus is a sinner; and they interrogate the man hoping to get him to recant his story.
  7. After enduring their questions a couple of times, the man preaches to them — pointing out that he is the one who was blind, but they are the ones acting like blind men. He further points out that their own teachings insist that He could not have performed this miracle without the blessing of God.
  8. Not being able to argue with him, they pull the “born in sins” card (they believed that being born blind was a punishment for some sin he or his parents committed) and kicked him out for daring to try to teach them (even though they had been asking for his opinion at first, when they couldn’t agree with each other).
  9. Jesus finds the man after hearing that he was driven out.
  10. Jesus reveals himself as God to the man (in front of some of the pharisees).
  11. The man believes (note: he did not believe in Jesus as Lord until this point, he was healed before believing).
  12. Jesus uses the situation as a starting-off place for some prophecy and teaching…

And here is where the lessons start.

The beggar who had been blind believed as soon as the truth was revealed to him. The pharisees, having seen miracle after miracle, and having just come face to face with a verified miracle, chose to remain blind to the truth. In Jesus words, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” (John 9:39, KJV).

The pharisees got the point, and responded sarcastically, basically saying “surely you’re not calling us blind?” (paraphrase). Jesus responded, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” Recognize that they believed someone who was blind was obviously in sin, so this response would have no doubt seemed absurd to them. At the same time, in the context it would have made perfect sense. They would have had to have known, deep down, that they were just searching for some way to discount Him so that they wouldn’t have to change their world view. They knew that they were confused (or they never would have asked a beggar’s opinion earlier), so they knew that saying they could see (in the figurative sense) was a lie, and Jesus called them on it.

From here it moves in to chapter 10, which is not a separate story but a continuation of the lessons that are started in chapter 9. John 10 might just be my new favorite passage, and I have too much to think about to cover it here without writing another book, so I think I’ll probably write about it in my next post.

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