1 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Σάρδεσιν ἐκκλησίας γράψον·
Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας· οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ὄνομα ἔχεις ὅτι ζῇς, καὶ νεκρὸς εἶ. Revelation 3:1 (NA28)
1 And to the angel of the Sardis Church write,’
These things says the one having the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. “I know your works that you have a name that you live, and are dead.”’ Revelation 3:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
My brethren, the message from Revelation 3:1-6 goes contrary to most of what is taught in Evangelicalism today. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive yet our Lord bluntly said that even so, they were spiritually dead. Since 2006 since I have been in this ministry I have seen my good friends like the late Ken Silva along with all of those associated with him denigrated because we stand firm with what God’s Word says about what constitutes real Christianity and what doesn’t. Then when we point out that certain ministries do not measure up we are called divisive, haters, and many other ugly things and then some of them resort to worldly things like lawsuits and denial of service attacks on our websites. Excuse me, but how can anyone justify that sort of behavior as Christian in any shape or form?
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)
One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is Separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in “process” of being transformed unto Christlikeness as Paul stated above. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love.
Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate contrasts true and false repentance. According to Johnson, “False repentance can come from a heart that honestly believes it deserves grace. ‘God better forgive me, I deserve it!’ is the attitude. Meanwhile, true repentance comes from someone who knows they deserve death.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need to discern between true and false repentance. Second Corinthians 7 teaches that not all tears of remorse flow from a truly repentant heart. Some cry because they were caught, and others cry because they offended God. Those two groups do not necessarily overlap.
In God’s providence there are a few examples given to us in Scripture that juxtapose these two types of repentance. The most obvious is Saul vs. David. Saul and David both sinned, were confronted by a prophet, and then acknowledged their sin. In fact, they both use almost the same words: “I have sinned against Yahweh” (1 Samuel 15:24; 2 Samuel 12:13).
But the narratives make clear that Saul’s “repentance” was superficial, while David’s was supernatural. The prophet did not extend forgiveness to Saul, while he did to David. Saul was concerned about what others thought, while David was concerned only with what Yahweh thought. And there are probably six or seven other contrasts as well.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16, KJV)
There was great openness about Christ. There was an utter absence of anything like the Jesuitical plan of saying one thing and meaning another, or using expressions that had double meaning in them. It is true that our Lord did not explain to the great mass of the people all that He said to them, for they were so stupid that they would not receive it.
But, at the same time, there was nothing that His hearers really needed to know that He concealed from them. He carried His heart where all might read it and even in His common teaching to the multitude, there was, if they had but had eyes to see it, all that He taught to His disciples in the most private place.
There was no wish, on His part, to keep back any Truth of God that ought to be made known to those who gathered to hear Him. I have heard it said that there are certain Truths in God’s Word which it is better for us not to preach. It is admitted that they are true, but it is alleged that they are not edifying. I will not agree to any such plan! This is just going back to old Rome’s method.
13 Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς ἐλπίδος πληρώσαι ὑμᾶς πάσης χαρᾶς καὶ εἰρήνης ἐν τῷ πιστεύειν, εἰς τὸ περισσεύειν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἐλπίδι ἐν δυνάμει πνεύματος ἁγίου. (Romans 15:13 NA28)
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing for you to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The concept of “hope” as it is viewed in the world today, and, sadly, by much of what calls itself “Christian” is an expression of a wish or a want, such as, “I sure do hope I get…,” or “I sure hope I do not get…” In this, there is no certainty in the usage of the word “hope.” However, in the passage above (Romans 15:13) for example, the Greek noun which is the lexical root for both ἐλπίδος and ἐλπίδι, which is ἐλπίς or elpis speaks of a “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.” The Christian concept of our hope in Christ, our blessed hope, is exactly this. We are not hoping, as the world does like football fans that our favorite team will win a game or even the title of conference or whatever. That is not what we base our hope upon. No, our hope is based upon certainty.
19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19 NASB)
When our Lord spoke of the “world” in John 14:19, he was talking about those in this temporal existence who are not believers. They are not true Christians even though some in that group may profess to be so. In this context he was also referring to the Jewish religious leaders of his own day who opposed him and his ministry and who would continue to oppose the early church as is seen all through the books of Acts for example. What is it that separates those alive in this world who truly see Jesus for who he really is, believe and are saved from those who refuse to do so, reject the gospel, and remain in their sins, even if they may develop a form of Christianity that suits them that is absent of the real Jesus?
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:3 (NASB)
One of the main contentions of the Emergents is that it is an arrogant thing to teach from the Bible as if it is absolute truth. They say that the truly humble are those who confess to know nothing precisely, but only in a nebulous sort of way. This is primarily an attempt to appear humble to the world by seeking common ground with everyone, which is only possible if truth is held loosely so there is room for compromise. In the world’s eyes this does appear to be humble, but is this biblical humility? As you contemplate that question read the following passage.
30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:30-32 (NASB)
14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:14-19 (NASB)
A deep study of the book of Acts reveals many interesting things about the spread of Christianity as the Apostles obediently made disciples wherever they went. This spread was always accompanied by persecution. The hotter the persecution the more encouraged the brethren became. While that is not logical to the fallen mind, that is exactly how God grew His church. In the early 2nd century the bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John, was brought to the Roman authorities and ordered to confess that Caesar is lord. Polycarp was eighty-six years old at this point. All he had to do was utter that statement as he offered a pinch of incense to Caesar, but he refused. He was martyred by fire.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word. Psalms 119:9-16 (NASB)
It is vital for Christians to know God’s Word, to love its precepts so much that they hide it in their hearts so they will never forget it. Why? This is the foundation of discernment. God gives the gift of discernment to His people. Some have more than others of course, but we all must learn to develop it and it begins by knowing and understanding God’s Word. Why? God’s Word is our plumb line. All Christians have a right and duty, not only to learn from the church’s heritage of faith, but also to interpret Scripture for themselves. The Roman Catholic Church had forbid this very thing, which resulted in the Protestant Reformation. The Church at Rome’s reason for doing this was a fear that people would easily misinterpret the Scriptures. This is a legitimate fear. The Westminster Confession of Faith agrees that “All things in Scripture are not alike in plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all,” but it also states clearly the authority of individual believers to read the Bible for themselves: “not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding” of the Scriptures. What are these “ordinary means?”
6 Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are perishing. 7 Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NET)
When we are pressured in our circumstances to compromise and respond via the flesh, i.e. the way of the world, we are actually employing worldly wisdom. That wisdom says to, “Look out for number one!” It says to, “Never allow yourself to be taken advantage of.” It says to, “If attacked, respond in kind.” When Christians react this way then they are actually utilizing values that are part of a system that does not know God, cannot know God, and sees truth as relative. Those who hold to relativism appear to the unregenerate as the most enlightened and, obviously, more fair minded. However, when the “liberal christians” or “secular humanists” seek to shutdown or censure a ministry or a voice that will not compromise, while standing firm in God’s truth no matter the consequences, what we witness coming from those on the other side is brutal suppression. The Bible calls it persecution.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NASB)
Philippians 4:8 is one of the most profound statements in the New Testament. This is part of the Apostle Paul’s closing statements to the church at Philippi. His epistle to the Philippians is a wonderful letter, full of encouragement and deep spiritual truth about how to live this Christian life no matter what fiery trials we are going through. In chapter 4 v8 (above) we come upon this profound statement and we stop. We ask if this is even possible for us. How can we do this since we must live in this life in which we are pulled in every direction and so must find the time for such things. Perhaps a deeper look at the underlying Greek would help.
13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB)
The growing apostasy in the visible Church seems to be accelerating. The spiritual blindness of so many professing believers and their leaders is truly astounding. My brethren, the sad state of the visible Church is both the product of the famine of the Word of God and the cause of it. When the Word of God is seldom heard or read or taught then its purifying power is muted. The world and its ways now coexist with the visible Church. Genuine believers are new creations, God’s workmanship, and they now crave the pure milk of the Word of God. It is necessary for their Spiritual Growth and their new character craves it. This is not an attribute of the natural person though. The unregenerate have no desire to know the Word of God and really don’t like to hear it preached to them. Therefore, the genuine believers in those churches which are apostatizing by neglecting the Word are leaving to find church homes that still preach it, teach it, and hold it as the revealed Word of God.
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 (NASB)
When I was a much younger man I made a commitment to become fit enough to run one mile in under 5 minutes, run 5 Kilometers in under 18 minutes, run 5 miles in under 30 minutes, run 10 Kilometers in under 37 minutes, and run 10 miles in under an hour. By the time I was 33 years old I had accomplished the first three. I had missed my goal for the 10K by less than a minute, however, my best time for a 10 mile race was 1 hour and 4 minutes. These times are no where near competitive at the highest level, but in the Oklahoma City Running Club it was. It took a great deal of commitment. I had to train by doing many hours of long road work and then compliment that with speed work. I had to work on my upper body strength and had to eat right. Some of my friends and relatives accused me of becoming obsessive. I couldn’t have done any of that without commitment. When God saved me in 1986 I remember my mother saying, “Watch out! Michael will get into the Bible just like he did running…” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but I have found that commitment to the Word of God is just part of becoming the Christian God wants all of us to be. It also takes commitment to obedience to our Lord’s commandments, God’s glory, denying self, dying to self, submitting to others, and loving our Lord foremost.
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NASB)
Much of the apostasy we are witnessing in our time is rooted in generations of ministries in which preachers, because they feared men more than God, preached in such a way that they talked about God or they talked about His Word rather than actually preaching what God’s Word says. In this, they have created their own “god” in their own image who is inoffensive, all love, all grace, and just wants everyone to have a great day. The only ones this “god” ever gets peeved at are those guys who are serious about their theology and preaching what God’s Word says as if it is to be obeyed and believed. Since I began this series on Romans I have had spam comments from a few atheists and one Roman Catholic apologist when I got into Justification. I have yet to get any from any “liberals,” which would include the emergents of all flavors I suppose, but in any case, what these people say and do means nothing. God’s truth is eternal. It is the truth regardless of whether these people believe it or not.
22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:22-25 (NASB)
We have completed Paul’s case that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone. In the passage above (Romans 4:22-25) we have his concluding remarks to that part of his dissertation. He has made it clear that those truly in Christ did not get there according to merit or works, but on the basis of faith alone, but now we begin the section of Romans that if not taken in context can cause much confusion. I will not move quickly through it. I have found it amazing to study God’s Word in context and come across a passage that has been used by “proof texters” to teach a pet theology, but when kept in its proper context, it does no such thing. Carefully read again the passage I placed at the top of this post then read the passage below because, as you will see, it begins with the word “therefore.”
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God. What does Scripture say?
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.Romans 4:1-3
Paul says that Abraham our forefather discovered two ways to gain worth: One, Paul suggests, is by works. Abraham was a man of good works. In Genesis, Abraham was an idolator and worshipped the moon goddess. But he was not deliberately seeking to evade God. He worshipped in ignorance. It was in the midst of that condition that God appeared to him and spoke to him. Abraham believed God, responded to his call, and set out on a march without a map. He trusted God to lead him to a land he had never seen before, to take care of his family, and to fulfill his promises. So Abraham appears in the Scripture as a man of great works.
Paul admits that if Abraham was righteous because of works, he had something to boast about. Works always give you something to boast about. You can look at the record, you can show people what you have done and why you ought to be appreciated. You may not boast openly, but we all have very subtle ways and clever tricks of getting it out into the open so people can see what we have done. You can drop a hint of something you have done, hoping that people will ask some more about it. Somehow you manage things so that people will know you are a person of significance. That is the way the world is today, and the way it was in Abraham’s day.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:27-31 (NASB)
In our last post we ended with the passage above (Romans 3:27-31) in which Paul makes it very clear that genuine salvation is by the law of faith not by a law of works. In v28 he says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Justification is by faith alone and does not depend in any way on the believer doing any works of the law. In vv29,30 he tells us that since God is the Lord of all, whether Jews or Gentiles, there can only be one way of justification, which is by faith alone. What does it mean that believers uphold the law rather than nullify it by our faith? Justification by faith alone does not denigrate the law, but, instead, underscores its true importance by providing a payment for the penalty of death, which the law required for failing to keep it; by fulfilling the law’s original purpose, which is to serve as a tutor to show mankind’s utter inability to obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ (Galatians 3:24); and by giving believers the capacity to obey it (Romans 8:3,4). Then Paul moves into the obvious objection to these arguments by using the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham whom God declared righteous in Genesis 15:6.
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20 (NASB)
The real Gospel is not entertaining. It is not “fun.” It is not hip. It is not cool. No, it is blunt and abrupt and not politically correct. It calls everyone a sinner with no exceptions and those who are justified by God are so on the basis of the righteousness of another while they remain completely undeserving. Not one of them can take credit for their own salvation. After they have been baptized into Christ, they remain “sinners saved by grace.” They are not perfect or perfected nor will they ever be in this life. They have not somehow become “better than” anyone else. They have the mark of the Saviour upon them. They belong to Him. They are His bondservants or slaves and He is their Lord, but in the interim until they go home to be with Him forever, they remain in this life both declared Holy and Righteous by God in their justification, but also still sinful and imperfect as they go through the fires of sanctification. What is the source of this righteousness since it is not by any works of the law that it comes as we read in the passage above? In fact, it is through the law that comes the knowledge of sin.
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9-18 (NASB)
In this post we will look at Romans 1:18-3:20. That may sound like a lot of verses, but remember my brethren, Paul didn’t write Romans with chapters and verses. In any case, that section of Romans is what Paul uses to build his case against all mankind in that they are born dead in trespasses and sin without exception. God is Holy, Righteous, and Just and there is not anything any person can do to become justified or declared righteous on their own merit. No, there must be another solution that does not compromise God’s perfect Righteousness. In any case, in this post we will look at the airtight case Paul builds against all mankind that shows the utter wretchedness of the natural man.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3)
Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die on a cross for people’s sins? After all, if God is loving, why couldn’t he just forgive everyone instead of putting his Son through all that suffering to make atonement for sin?
We find the answer to this question in God’s attribute of simplicity. A lot of people view simplicity as meaning “uncomplicated,” something that is easy to do. True, the word is certainly used that way. When referring to God as being simple, however, we mean that God is not complex. God is pure spirit; he is not made up of a bunch of parts (John 4:24).
Let’s use an everyday cooking example to make this point. When making stew, people usually use a variety of ingredients, including meat, potatoes, grains, vegetables, broth, and various spices, to name a few. All these ingredients are combined together to make a nourishing meal. Many people view God in a similar way. They look at all of God’s attributes—including his love, holiness, goodness, righteousness, mercy, justice, and greatness—and think that all these things are combined together in the being of God.
He died a real death, but now he lives a real life, he did lie in the tomb, and it was no fiction that the breath had departed from him: it is equally no fiction that our Redeemer liveth. The Lord is risen indeed. He hath survived the death struggle and the agony, and he lives unhurt: he has come out of the furnace without so much as the smell of fire upon him. He is not injured in any faculty; whether human or divine. He is not robbed of any glory, but his name is now surrounded with brighter lustre than ever. He has lost no dominion, he claims superior rights and rules over a new empire. He is a gainer by his losses, he has risen by his descent. All along the line he is victorious at every point.
Never yet was there a victory won but what it was in some respects a loss as well as a gain, but our Lord’s triumph is unmingled glory – to himself a gain as well as to us who share in it. Shall we not then rejoice? What, would ye sit and weep by a mother as ￼she exultingly shows her new-born child? Would you call together a company of mourners to lament and to bewail when the heir is born into the household? This were to mock the mother’s gladness. And so to-day shall we use dreary music and sing dolorous hymns when the Lord is risen, and is not only unhurt, unharmed, and unconquered, but is far more glorified and exalted than before his death?
From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “Sorrow At The Cross Turned Into Joy,” delivered November 3, 1878. Image by StephaniePetraPhoto on Flickr under Creagtive Commons License, without alteration.
God never intended nor does He condone same-sex “marriage.” Theologian R.C. Sproul reveals God’s plan from the very beginning: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2: 24). Listen to a lecture R.C. did many years ago or read his words here:
What is wrong with this picture?
Some years ago, I attended an interesting wedding. I was especially struck by the creativity of the ceremony. The bride and the groom had brainstormed with the pastor in order to insert new and exciting elements into the service, and I enjoyed those elements. However, in the middle of the ceremony, they included portions of the traditional, classic wedding ceremony. When I began to hear the words from the traditional ceremony, my attention perked up and I was moved. I remember thinking, “There is no way to improve on this because the words are so beautiful and meaningful.” A great deal of thought and care had been put into those old, familiar words.
Today, of course, many young people not only are saying no to the traditional wedding ceremony, they are rejecting the concept of marriage itself. More and more young people are coming from broken homes, and as a result, they have a fear and suspicion about the value of marriage. So we see couples living together rather than marrying for fear that the cost of that commitment may be too much. They fear it may make them too vulnerable. This means that one of the most stable and, as we once thought, permanent traditions of our culture is being challenged.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (NASB)
Sacred Scripture’s diagnosis of sin is as a universal deformity of human nature found at every point in every person (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:9-23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8-10 see above). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament describe sin as rebellion against God’s rule, missing the mark God set for us to aim at, transgressing God’s law, offending God’s purity by defiling oneself, and incurring guilt before God the Judge. The moral deformity is dynamic: sin is an energy of irrational, negative, and rebellious reaction to God. It is a spirit of fighting God in order to play god. The root of sin is pride and enmity against God, the spirit seen in Adam’s first transgression, and sinful acts always have behind them thoughts and desires that one way or another express the willful opposition of the fallen heart to God’s claims on our lives.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:5-7 (NASB)
Post-modern preaching is man-centered, that is, it is geared to cause hearers of it to be self-focused instead of God-focused. In this seeker-sensitive approach to preaching with all the emphasis being on self-awareness and self-improvement and self-esteem, is there any need for Christ and the Cross or repentance with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit? If you are honest you must say no and then as you think theologically about it consider this, this is just another example of the natural outflow of Pelagianism, which is at the root of post-modern “christianity.” The leaders in the seeker-sensitive movement discount the Cross of Christ and the Gospel and put the person at the center of all things. This is why they continually insist that their disciples look within to find their true self while covenanting with them to keep certain values and obey their commitments. In other words, this is a form of law keeping and has nothing to do with grace nor the Gospel. Let’s look at what the Bible says about our true nature and what we can and cannot do as Christians.
1 Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. 2 ἀποσυναγώγους ποιήσουσιν ὑμᾶς· * ἀλλʼ ἔρχεται ὥρα ἵνα πᾶς ὁ ἀποκτείνας ὑμᾶς δόξῃ λατρείαν προσφέρειν τῷ θεῷ. 3 καὶ ταῦτα ποιήσουσιν ὅτι οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τὸν πατέρα οὐδὲ ἐμέ. 4 ἀλλὰ ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἡ ὥρα αὐτῶν μνημονεύητε αὐτῶν ὅτι ἐγὼ εἶπον ὑμῖν. Ταῦτα δὲ ὑμῖν ἐξ ἀρχῆς οὐκ εἶπον, ὅτι μεθʼ ὑμῶν ἤμην. 5 νῦν δὲ ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐρωτᾷ με· ποῦ ὑπάγεις; 6 ἀλλʼ ὅτι ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἡ λύπη πεπλήρωκεν ὑμῶν τὴν καρδίαν. 7 ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω ὑμῖν, συμφέρει ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐγὼ ἀπέλθω. ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ ἀπέλθω, ὁ παράκλητος οὐκ ἐλεύσεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς· ἐὰν δὲ πορευθῶ, πέμψω αὐτὸν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 8 καὶ ἐλθὼν ἐκεῖνος ἐλέγξει τὸν κόσμον περὶ ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ δικαιοσύνης καὶ περὶ κρίσεως· 9 περὶ ἁμαρτίας μέν, ὅτι οὐ πιστεύουσιν εἰς ἐμέ· 10 περὶ δικαιοσύνης δέ, ὅτι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ὑπάγω καὶ οὐκέτι θεωρεῖτέ με· 11 περὶ δὲ κρίσεως, ὅτι ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κέκριται. John 16:1-11 (NA28)
1 “These things I have spoken to you that you not be caused to stumble. 2 They will put you away from the synagogues but an hour is coming that those killing you believe they are offering service to God. 3 And these things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you that when their hour comes you might remember them that I told you. But I did not say these things to you from the beginning because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to the one who sent Me and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart, 7 but I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away for if I do not go away, the Encourager will not come to you. But if go, I will send Him to you 8 and having come, He will convict the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment. 9 Concerning sin because they do not believe in Me. 10 Concerning righteousness because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me. 11 Concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.” John 16:1-11 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
In v1 the words, “you not be caused to stumble” translate μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. The adverb μὴ or mē is “a primary particle of qualified negation.” For instance, I could have rendered it “may not.” The verb σκανδαλισθῆτε is the Aorist Tense, Subjunctive Mood, Active Voice form of σκανδαλίζω or skandalizō, “to offend, shock, excite feeling of repugnance.” It should be obvious that we get our English word “scandalize” from this word. This verb tense refers to simple, undefined action rather than repetitive action. The active voice is referring to action done by the subject, which would be those to whom our Lord was speaking. Now, what is our Lord talking about here? Some translations like the ESV render this as saying “falling away.” The KJV simply says “not be offended.” When we are persecuted for our faithfulness or if those with whom we stand there will be the temptation for us to stumble in either fear or offense or some other motivation that our enemy will attempt to inflict upon us. Our Lord is saying He is speaking these words to us so that this will not happen.