Louie: The Bible is a radical book; Check out what it says in 1 John 3: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. NO ONE WHO IS BORN OF GOD PRACTICES SIN, BECAUSE HIS SEED ABIDES IN HIM; AND HE CANNOT SIN, BECAUSE HE IS BORN OF GOD.”
What are we to make of this kind of talk in a world that constantly declares, even as a born-again believer, we are still sinners, or we sin everyday?
Tom: It’s not individual acts of sin to which this refers. It’s the continual practice of sin. We all sin – ALL Christians – but someone who continually practices sin reveals the absence of the Spirit and true rebirth. Paul spoke of the sin “which so easily besets us” and the constant battle with sin in his letter to the Romans. Luckily, if you have been born again, your sin is covered in light of eternity. However, in this life, the continual practice of sin will damage your fellowship with God and if it goes too far, God may “turn such a one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that the soul will be saved in the Day of the Lord.”
Louie: I agree we all have the ability to commit sins; but I don’t believe Paul taught we had to live in a constant battle with sin as you say. Paul actually shares the revelation of victory with us at the end of Romans 7–“who will deliver me?” “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He then goes on in Romans 8 to tell us “there is now no condemnation…and Christ Himself fulfills the Law within us” 8:3-4…earlier in Romans 6 he said, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? I guess my question is how much sin can Christ keep us from?
Tom: You will be in a constant battle against sin until the day you die. Don’t let anyone – particularly any preacher – tell you otherwise. If they do, it’s not Biblical teaching. I’ve dealt with the “there is no more spiritual battle” teaching before. It’s false.
Louie: No one ever said there’s not a battle, but for the most part the battle is on the level of temptation not sin. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” We are called to walk in what Jesus Christ accomplished! He has won the battle against sin! According to the scripture we are told to “reckon ourselves dead to sin and stop presenting our members as instruments of unrighteousness.” “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” To me this means “sin is not my master” therefore I do not have to let sin into my life anymore. This is one of many radical things we are told in the scriptures. It’s up to us as individuals whether or not we believe and live in what it says. “HAVING BEEN FREED FROM SIN, YOU BECAME SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”–Romans 6:18
Tom: That’s the key. “For sin shall not be master over you.” We will always have a constant battle against temptation – and sometimes actually fall into sin and have to deal with it – but sin must never become our master. When sin becomes our master we lose fellowship – not relationship – with God. The point I wanted to emphasize is that we will never be free – in this life – from the reality of temptation and sin. In light of eternity, we have already been forgiven and our salvation ensured from the day we were born again. Sometimes Christians confuse the process of sanctification – or cleansing from sin. I have often run into the teaching -begun by the Kenneth Hagin-Kenneth Copeland error – that Christians no longer have to battle sin because we are no longer subject to it. That teaching is false but can be very deceptive when Christians do not understand the process of sanctification.
Louie: How much freedom from sin was purchased on the cross? 80%? ,90%?
Tom: Freedom from condemnation in eternity and the power to resist it in this life.
Louie: What about “NOW” there is no more condemnation?
Tom: Now we are no longer condemned by God because of sin because Christ has paid the price. Does not mean we don’t face trials and temptation in this life.
Louie: I agree. Some of this conversation, like most when it comes to Spirit stuff, is difficult because we are talking about eternal things while still living in the temporal realm. I think that’s why rather than divide the two up so much, we learn to see it’s really “both and” rather than “either or.” When talking about sanctification I think it’s a done deal and it’s also being worked out. We are walking in eternal promises of freedom while still traveling through a temporal, time-based existence. The question is how much of the freedom promised to us are we able to access now?
When Jesus was hung on the cross he became sin. Jesus compared himself to the bronze serpent Moses placed on a pole in the story found in Numbers 21. He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so shall the Son of Man be lifted up.” Why do you suppose he would choose that particular story?
The Apostle Paul told us in Romans 8 God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh… In the story found in Numbers 21 the Children of Israel had been complaining about their conditions; so God sent fiery serpents among them and many were bitten. God told Moses to make this serpent and place it on a pole and all that looked to it would be healed of their snakebite. In the same way Jesus was lifted up on the cross and became sin. You see he became what we were so we might become what he is. He gives us his righteousness for our sin. He took upon himself “Sin” so we might become a partaker of his divine nature.
When Adam fell he opened himself to the serpent; since then all of us have been born with the nature of the serpent in our flesh. So you see it isn’t merely a question of morals, or being “Good”, we are in need of a change of natures. Although it is so easy for us to get caught up in attempting to manage our sins, God is looking to get to the root of our problem. This is why Jesus had to come in the likeness of sinful flesh. “Since the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death he might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil…” He took our sinful nature upon himself, carried it to the grave and triumphed over sin, death and the grave by being raised three days later!
Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, lived his life as a human. The Bible teaches us human beings are vessels, Temples and branches designed to house the Holy Spirit. When the sinless vessel, Jesus Christ, was lifted up he absorbed sin. Now all that look to him in faith are healed of their sinful nature. Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up form the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” We, that place our faith in the lifted up Savior, will be set free from our sinful indweller and the Holy Spirit will move into the brand new, cleansed Temple. Like I said, God is after the root of our problem and once we look by faith to the crucified Son of Man we become a partaker of his divine nature. The old serpentine, sin nature is out behold all things have become brand new!
In 1 John we are told “now we are the sons of God, and we don’t know yet what we’ll be but we know when we see him we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he really is.” Jesus Christ came here in the likeness of sinful flesh in order for us to one day be in his likeness with a brand new body to go with our new nature. For right now we’re still looking forward to our new bodies but we can rest assured as the Apostle Paul said, “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:27a)
According to the Strong’s Concordance the word “image” used in this verse comes from a word that means to shade, a phantom, i.e. illusion, resemblance; hence, a representative figure, espec. and idol:–image, vain shew.
When I think of an idol I think of something either a bird, animal or some sort of symbol that is used to represent a spirit being or a god. The point isn’t the idol so much as the being or force that lies behind it. If this is an accurate description this verse means we were meant to be God’s representative on earth and if someone looks at us they should sense the presence of His Spirit. We were created to show others, whether it be another human or some heavenly being, what God is like.
If this sounds too fantastic check out what Ephesians 3 tells us. Paul said, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Wow! That’s it! God wants us to be the means by which he reveals himself to the watching universe.
In 1 Peter we read something very similar which tells us the prophets in the past prophesied of the grace that was to come through the sufferings of Christ. “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.” You see God created man higher than the angels, and it was the fall that caused us to lose the original glory and image of God but in Christ it is restored. So much so the angels are even straining their necks to look into what it’s all about.
In Romans eight we’re told that the whole of creation is groaning and longing for the sons of God to be revealed. You see God’s plan to have us as his representative hasn’t been thwarted. In fact I would say it’s right on track, and although at this moment things seem to be wrong, according to the scriptures “our present sufferings cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.”
“For the creature was made subject to vanity.” (Romans 8:20) Some Bible translations say, “Creation” rather than “Creature” but ultimately it means that which was created; so it includes everything from the animal kingdom to plants, Sun, moon and stars. All of these things were subjected to vanity. Of course this brings up an important question. What is the definition of vanity as it is used here?
Let me just say the primary meaning of the word vanity is futile, empty or meaningless. In other words this is telling us the creature was subjected (submitted to or put under the authority) of futility and meaninglessness. You might ask why God would put his creation in submission to vanity. Let’s look at this a bit closer.
When Adam partook of the forbidden fruit right away he saw that he was naked. This is telling us he became outwardly, or materially focused, rather than Spirit or God focused, right? God told him “Do not eat of this Tree” but he did anyway therefore he placed himself under subjection to the elements and the material realm. He, by his own choice, removed himself from the realm of the Spirit in God and stepped out into the created world of space, time and matter. In other words, he became limited in a way that had never been known before. He embarked on a journey that would include toil, frustration, pain, disenchantment and ultimately it would provide no fulfillment.
If we read a little further in Romans 8 we discover God’s purpose in subjecting his creation to vanity. We read it was subjected “In hope.” God knew all along man would disobey, so if the truth be told we can see where God had a plan to redeem us long before we found ourselves in this vanity. He didn’t force Adam to stay away from the tree but he did have a way for him to come back afterward.
What we have here I believe is a verse that harkens back to the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. The one that tells us over and over again how there is nothing new under the sun. We are reminded “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” From the merely earthly perspective there is no ultimate meaning found in anything which is why he uses the term “under the sun.”
This is telling us the same thing as in Romans eight because the author of Ecclesiastes is looking at life from the vantage point of being under subjection to the elements or merely physical, earthly life. What we need in order to be liberated, which is the hope, and reason it was subjected in the first place, is a view from above the sun. We need to get God’s perspective on life. It is only when we get his viewpoint that these things start to become clear to us.
While it may seem like God is just toying with us if the truth be told it is really an amazing display of his great patience with us. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but at the same time he honors our free will. Rather than override our free will, he subjects us to meaninglessness in the hope we will come to our senses and look to him. God, and his plan that is worked out through his Son Jesus Christ, is the key to meaning for everything. In fact Colossians tells us “In him all things hold together.”
Built into the human is a divine drive for meaning that wasn’t extinguished by the fall. It is that divine discontentment that will lead us to Christ because we will try everything under the sun in order to find ultimate meaning and purpose until we discover it can’t deliver. Then, and only then, do we look to the one and only that can give us that which we seek, which is deliverance from corruption and entrance into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.