Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Depth of Sin - The Depth of Grace


Ok, this post is meant to rattle our religious and self righteous cages. Bet let it be known that we are supposed to pursue Christ as believers and seek a deeper relationship with Jesus. We are never supposed to “get saved” and go about our business as usual. And even after many decades of being a believing follower of Jesus we should still stoke the fire and repent of the sins and weights which so easily beset us. However we must never, ever lose an understanding of the depth of our own sin even while being a redeemed child of God. We will deal with that in this post. And conversely we should never, ever lose an understanding of the depth of God’s grace even after we have been redeemed by that grace.

Should we as believers be wary of false teachers? Yes, of course. And those of us called to be ministers of the gospel should boldly speak out against heretics, false teachers, and blasphemers. We live in perilous times and there are many wolves out there with television programs and large mailing lists. It is extremely important we reject them. But while we identify and speak out against such men and women there is also a tendency to become self righteous and legalistic. And many times we call out a condensed list of a few sins which can easily be condemned and which we easily avoid without any real temptation. You see it isn’t the sins about which we feel no temptation which serve as a spiritual test for us. How many of us aggressively speak out against crack dealers? How about bank robbers? How about polygamists? If we made those sins the final exam we would all get a perfect score. But that is not how it works within the kingdom of God.

When we speak of sin we need to be very careful and very humble as well. We need not shrink from calling sin for what it is, but we also need not create a man made list of approved and unapproved sins. And we all need to realize that we need the grace of God and the blood of Jesus every single day. All of us. This is a sacred journey which requires a sacred and humble perspective. This is not just some moral checklist. This is a passionate pursuit of Christ lived within the mystery of grace. And therein lies a profound paradox. The relationship between sin and grace cannot be taken lightly. We must not sin because we stand in God’s grace, and yet we must admit openly we all still sin in thought, word, and deed.

Sin has been so compartmentalized in the general parlance of the church that we now consciously and subconsciously understand sin through the prism of observable and “major league” sins. Murder is a sin but a few words of complaint are just excusable transgressions if transgressions at all. Prayerlessness can be excused by busy schedules and being tired but robbing a bank is a real sin. Homosexuality is a sin but throwing away enormous amounts of food while children starve is just the way it is. Do you see what we have done? We have made large compartments of grace for our own sin while we have made the guillotine for others who commit sins on the unapproved sin list. And what do we call that class? If you said hypocrisy give yourself an “A”.

And what horrific sin sent the world into spiritual and physical death? Surely it was murder or adultery or homosexuality. But, no, it was one seemingly slight act of disobedience. That should not minimize sin. It should make sin exceedingly sinful. And that should magnify the power and scope of God’s grace while magnifying the power and scope of sin. Do you understand this sacred mystery? Of course none of us fully comprehend it all, but what we must not shrink from in our stand against sin is that we must also stand against our own sin. To whom much is given much is required. So who is more indictable? Is it the saved man who sins carelessly all the common and accepted sin or the unregenerate man who cannot know his sin and has no power to overcome? Of course the unsaved man’s sin condemns him to spiritual death, but why can we excuse our sin?

And follow me here as I attempt to unravel this question of sin a bit further. Those of us who were born into this western culture have picked up some of its practices and even some of its mindset as well. We waste money; we watch too much television; we watch things we should not; we do not pray as we should; we do not witness as we should; we eat too much; we do not read God’s Word as we should; we are not as humble as Jesus; and we treat money way too much as the heathen do as well. In fact we all live in sin. So if you want to minimize God’s grace then let it begin with us.

But that does not mean that we should continue to sin. Again, here is a great mystery and a journey which should pursue practical holiness but which relies entirely upon the grace of God.

So we must not stop speaking about sin among the company of believers. Specific sins must be addressed among the redeemed for only they can make such distinctions. This is sorely lacking in today’s feel good church. But we present the gospel to lost sinners and speak of sin primarily in the principle. For if we tell a lost sinner that he must forsake his particular sin we make a stumbling block to the gospel. And after a sinner is redeemed his journey to sanctification begins. But here again we find something quite revealing. How many professing believers who have been saved for years are still eager and energetic in allowing the Spirit to ferret out any sins in their own lives followed by a robust discipline of repentance? Come on. Let us not lie to God’s Spirit here.

But many of these same comfortable saints will gladly join in a discussion of what it requires to be saved especially when the discussion allows for their sin and disallows others. There has been a major movement across America where local churches have been started which are known as “gay churches”. They accommodate the gay lifestyle and they are wrong in God’s sight and most have their own gospel. I do not suggest we support such churches. But there are a growing number of gay people who have received Christ and much of their life has been changed. They support missions and they pray and on different levels they are conflicted about their same sex attractions. Now if you do not believe that some are born with same sex attractions then this post is not for you since you live in a safe and convenient world.

Now some professing believers with same sex attractions battle them with varying degrees of success. Kinda like the way we battle our sins. Some still have those temptations but consistently overcome them. Some stumble form time to time and others have been overtaken by them once again. Only God knows those that are His, but I am dealing with the possibility that some could be saved. And what I am trying to convey is that if a person who is living in sin cannot possibly be saved then no one is saved. And all of us commit sin we should know is sin and others that we are blind to. Let us whittle it down even further. Do you believe that it is God’s will for the open idolatry connected with American sports? With all the hunger and thirst and disease in the world is Jesus leading us to spend money to go to games and eat and enjoy ourselves? And even though men are paid obscene amounts of money to play a game is it right for believers to support them and cheer them on even when the entire construct goes against all the teachings of Jesus?

Is it right for believers to pay money to support the Hollywood industry when we go the movies and be entertained by lost and sinful people? And as we sit in that movie house surrounded by hell bound sinners and we laugh at what they laugh at without warning them is that following Jesus? And when we open our closet and see all kinds of clothes we could never use and some of them fairly expensive is that following Jesus? And when we go to a restaurant and spend a lot of money when we could have eaten for much less at home and given the difference to mission or starving children, is that following Jesus? And when your next door neighbor for many years is lost and on his way to an eternity separated from God and yet you have never shared the gospel with him, is that following Jesus? I hope you can see that you and I commit all kinds of sins that we do not even consider as sins and yet we have no problem believing we are saved. And if we are to use the Scriptures then it is beneficial to realize that for ever verse about gay sins there are twenty about greed, pride, and heterosexual sins. Just sayin'.

And it is at this juncture that grace must enter in all its majestic fullness. Make no mistake, grace does not excuse sin. Just look the cross and see the unfathomable price that was paid for sin. But if a person who professes Christ cannot live in sin and still be saved then no one is saved in this western culture. No one. That does not excuse sin nor does it alleviate our calling to pursue Christ and His righteousness, but it must bring into focus the power and expanse of God’s grace.

No one can deny that there are many who make some sort of profession for Christ and then show little fruit. That is rampant even among church members. But we loudly shout through our doctrinal bullhorn about justification by faith and salvation by grace through faith and then we seem to dilute that theology by creating a sort of backdoor legalism. And again may I suggest that there are deep caverns of mystery here which only the Spirit can accurately unravel. It is wrong to give people unwarranted assurance but it is also wrong to build unassailable walls that disallow even the possibility of some people being children of God. Most of us would have vehemently taken the stand that the man in the Church at Corinth could not possibly be saved. I mean he was committing a sin even the unsaved would not commit. But we would have been wrong.

Oh yes, you argue, but that man repented. Are you suggesting that leaving a particular sin saves a soul? And are you suggesting that if that man had died before he repented he would have been lost? I mean just what kind of theology are we supporting here? So a professing believer can seek personal wealth, save up large amounts of money, never witness, hardly ever pray or read the Word, and yet because he is not homosexual he is saved? Let us be honest, what I just described can be applicable to millions of evangelicals as well as to many evangelical pastors. And are we openly suggesting that God’s grace has its limits? So no one can in truth believe on Jesus Christ as Savior and yet not recognize all his sins as sins and still practice things that are against God’s holiness?

And once again I must present to all of us that the issues of sin and God’s grace are the fine china of God’s truth. We have become so lazy and like a reclining king we point to this one or that one and pronounce judgment or excuse. The tithing church member who has no spirituality but is on the right side of a few moral issues is saved without a doubt. But the gay guy who supports missions and is humble and kind and prays and believes on Jesus but struggles or even succumbs to that sin cannot possibly be redeemed. Ok, well at least we know the rules now. But those are not God’s “rules”.

Here is the process of salvation for a lost heterosexual sinner:

He must believe on Jesus without any preconditions and if he commits adultery later and marries his mistress he can still vote as a church member and sing in the choir.

Here is the process of salvation for a lost gay sinner:

He must believe on Jesus with the precondition that if he does not completely give up any gay behavior than he cannot be saved.

And with that prescription we have obliterated God’s grace. Martin Luther lived a life which in many ways might be seen as unregenerate by today’s standards and yet he is revered in orthodox circles. Martin Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” You see, ALL men have feet of clay but God’s grace is the foundation of rock.

In the end the depth of sin is very, very deep even descending into the uncommitted sins of the mind. But even deeper and unfathomable is the depth of God’s grace which awards eternal life to sinner’s who not only are undeserving of such a reward, but who consistently reveal their unworthiness until the day they go to be with Jesus. And yet one unworthy and practicing sinner rejects the idea that the other unworthy and practicing sinner could possibly be saved. Let us all cling strongly to the hope that God’s grace is stronger than our theology.


Anonymous said...

There is no holiness, then, if You withdraw Your hand, Lord. There is no wisdom if You cease to guide, no courage if You cease to defend. No chastity is secure if You do not guard it. Our vigilance avails nothing if Your holy watchfulness does not protect us. Left to ourselves we sink and perish, but visited by You we are lifted up and live. We are truly unstable, but You make us strong. We grow lukewarm, but You inflame us.

Rick Frueh said...

Good word.

michael said...

I was moved upon by the Spirit to see something I hadn't before when I read this in your article, Rick:

"...And what horrific sin sent the world into spiritual and physical death? Surely it was murder or adultery or homosexuality. But, no, it was one seemingly slight act of disobedience. ..."!

How seemingly insignificant his disobedience is in light of all the horrible acts of sin that followed it, the sorrows and grief upon countless multitude of souls!

And it took one man obeying God to right the wrongs "suffered"!

This one has rocked me to my core! I'm just disgusted with how easily I am bothered by a look, a smell, a sound!

Romans 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Rick Frueh said...

Another good word, Michael.

Anonymous said...

Bless yer little pea pickin heart Rick.
You have a gift in telling it like it is.
Don't let it go to yer head. That would be a sin. Just sayin

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rick,

Grateful to you for painting the picture of true grace by God, our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ. A true shepherd loves his sheep, and what depth of love our LORD has for us that while we are still sinners, He died and rose for us.

And yes, we all still sin, at least I do anyway, for I have not achieved that "little god" status as of late!The words "I am sorry and I repent of my sin," have been resonating from my very soul as my body ages and I too, will one day cease to exist here on this earth.

Praise God for you Pastor Rick, be blessed this day!

Anonymous said...

I am thankful for your insights and comments. Reading your posts have caused me to deeply consider my faith and beliefs in light of the word of God. I have been rebuked and challenged in trying to separate the truth of the Gospel from the cultural influence of our society. Keep it up!

Kelli Baker said...

All during his ministry, the disciples continually asked Jesus, "When are you going to take power? When are you going to stop fraternizing with simple people? When will you run for office? When's the first primary? When's our first TV special?" Instead, Jesus rose humbly and then was tortured and killed. Even when Jesus rose from the dead he first appeared to women, the people who had no status. Jesus's salvation is received not through strength but through admission of weakness and need. And Jesus's salvation was achieved not through strength but through surrender, service, sacrifice, and death. This is one of the great messages of the Bible: God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, the foolish and despised things to shame the wise, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). That's how God does it.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises Of Money, Sex, And Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

Timothy Keller

John Gardiner said...

Absolutely magnificent! The older you get, the better you get :)