Sunday, December 24, 2006
SIMUL IUSTUS ET PECCATOR- "JUSTIFIED, AND AT THE SAME TIME SINFUL" - by Charles Biggs
Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life can be easily understood as union with Jesus Christ.
And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinner comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father's pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter (John 15:1-8).
Our great hope in our union with Christ is that we know that we are truly forgiven of all our sins. Christ died for all of our sins, not merely a few of them, but all of them.
As justified sinners, we will still struggle with sin and temptation, in fact a Christian ought to be described as a "struggling sinner", or better "one who struggles with sin". In John's first epistle, he writes that if we say we have no sin we lie and we call God a liar (1 John 1:8-10). In fact, John says if we claim to be without sin "his word has no place in our lives" (primarily because the Word became flesh "to save his people from their sins").
However, those covered with Christ's righteousness given to them, those who have Christ as their Advocate with the Father, can go to Christ confessing their sins and he is faithful and just and will forgive as well as purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8,9). We have this great benefit because we are united to Christ and because he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2).
To be justified and at the same time sinful ("simul iustus et peccator") is to be one who is united with Jesus Christ while truly struggling against our sinful nature, or "old man" as Paul describes our former way of sinful life in this world. We are truly at war with our sinful nature as justified sinners!
The difficulty with the war is that we know our sinful inclinations are not good, yet we still are very much attracted to our sins. We hate our sins, while we love them; we love certain sins, while we at the same time hate them! It is like in the 'Fellowship of the Rings' when Bilbo desires to get rid of the great ring he has obtained from Gollum. He knows it is evil and too powerful for him to control, yet he tells Gandalf the Wizard "it is precious" to him. While we struggle to kill our "old man", our sinful nature and the sins that so easily beset us, we at the same time think they are "precious" to us. Notice how Paul describes this life-long battle with sin in Romans 7.
Paul describes the conflict in this way: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me...For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - -this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15-20).
In our conflict with our sin, this is exactly how we feel as well! We want to do good, we desire to obey God's law because it is our delight, but at the same time our sins are still "precious" to us. Where can we go? What can we do? We must run to the Lord Jesus Christ daily confessing our sins and transgressions, knowing confidently that he will forgive us and purify us. This is exactly what Paul does: "Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God --through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:24,25).
There is a daily struggle and battle going on in the heart's of justified sinners! We are at the same time justified and yet still tainted with sin. Our hope is that he will cleanse us, he will purify us and one day will present those who are united to Jesus Christ as a Bride without spot, wrinkle, or blemish.
In other words, we shall be perfect as he is perfect when we are glorified on that Great Day when Christ shall return for his bride! This is our hope today! God, who began a good work our uniting us to His Son, shall complete it on the Day of His return! Glory be to God! May God grant us more grace and strength to overcome our sins, to despise and hate the sins that so easily beset us, causing us to see Jesus as more "precious" in our sight, and our sins as truly heinous in His sight!
Remember that God has granted us means of grace to help us in our battle: the Word of God and the Lord's Supper! May His Spirit help us today to hate the sins that are so "precious" to us and may we be more conformed to his image this Christmas season! Amen.
In the Name of the LORD of the Word and in the fellowship of His service,
- Pastor Biggs
Sunday, December 17, 2006
"Christians, however, do not believe in the power of prayer: Rather, they believe in the power of God. American religion – I do not say Christianity – has become so subjective and man-centered that the “power of prayer” and the “power of faith” are touted continually. Power is ascribed to our words – prayer – and to our believing, rather than to the effective Word of God, who heals by speaking a word. This subjectivism – this idolatry – explains why Christ warned us not to think that much speaking, chanting, or rote recital of prayers is Christian prayer.
God does not and will not listen to such prayers. Instead, Christian prayer is to be done privately and succinctly, and comprises praise to God as well as our petitions for help. The model prayer that Christ taught his disciples in the Gospels is focused on God on Heaven, his holy name, and the advancement of his Gospel and Kingdom. Prayer is speaking to God in Heaven, and it is God, not prayer, who hears and heals. Faith is believing God’s Word; it is his Word, not our believing, that saves and heals us. In our idolatrous religious subjectivism, we have not kept our minds on our Heavenly Father, but we have focused on our praying and our believing."
- John Robbins
Friday, December 15, 2006
Every year it seems, I hear this claim. But is it true? Gene Edward Veith has got his facts straight. A great read.
Christmas was NOT based on a pagan holiday
by Gene Edward Veith
Another Christmas special re-run: My column for WORLD refuting the old charge that Christmas was based on a pagan holiday:
Why December 25?
According to conventional wisdom, Christmas had its origin in a pagan winter solstice festival, which the church co-opted to promote the new religion. In doing so, many of the old pagan customs crept into the Christian celebration. But this view is apparently a historical myth—like the stories of a church council debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or that medieval folks believed the earth is flat—often repeated, even in classrooms, but not true.
William J. Tighe, a history professor at Muhlenberg College, gives a different account in his article "Calculating Christmas," published in the December 2003 Touchstone Magazine. He points out that the ancient Roman religions had no winter solstice festival.
True, the Emperor Aurelian, in the five short years of his reign, tried to start one, "The Birth of the Unconquered Sun," on Dec. 25, 274. This festival, marking the time of year when the length of daylight began to increase, was designed to breathe new life into a declining paganism. But Aurelian's new festival was instituted after Christians had already been associating that day with the birth of Christ. According to Mr. Tighe, the Birth of the Unconquered Sun "was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians." Christians were not imitating the pagans. The pagans were imitating the Christians.
The early church tried to ascertain the actual time of Christ's birth. It was all tied up with the second-century controversies over setting the date of Easter, the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection. That date should have been an easy one. Though Easter is also charged with having its origins in pagan equinox festivals, we know from Scripture that Christ's death was at the time of the Jewish Passover. That time of year is known with precision.
But differences in the Jewish, Greek, and Latin calendars and the inconsistency between lunar and solar date-keeping caused intense debate over when to observe Easter. Another question was whether to fix one date for the Feast of the Resurrection no matter what day it fell on or to ensure that it always fell on Sunday, "the first day of the week," as in the Gospels.
This discussion also had a bearing on fixing the day of Christ's birth. Mr. Tighe, drawing on the in-depth research of Thomas J. Talley's The Origins of the Liturgical Year, cites the ancient Jewish belief (not supported in Scripture) that God appointed for the great prophets an "integral age," meaning that they died on the same day as either their birth or their conception.
Jesus was certainly considered a great prophet, so those church fathers who wanted a Christmas holiday reasoned that He must have been either born or conceived on the same date as the first Easter. There are hints that some Christians originally celebrated the birth of Christ in March or April. But then a consensus arose to celebrate Christ's conception on March 25, as the Feast of the Annunciation, marking when the angel first appeared to Mary.
Note the pro-life point: According to both the ancient Jews and the early Christians, life begins at conception. So if Christ was conceived on March 25, nine months later, he would have been born on Dec. 25.
This celebrates Christ's birth in the darkest time of the year. The Celtic and Germanic tribes, who would be evangelized later, did mark this time in their "Yule" festivals, a frightening season when only the light from the Yule log kept the darkness at bay. Christianity swallowed up that season of depression with the opposite message of joy: "The light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).
Regardless of whether this was Christ's actual birthday, the symbolism works. And Christ's birth is inextricably linked to His resurrection.
Copyright © 2005 WORLD Magazine
December 10, 2005, Vol. 20, No. 48
For more info:
Read "Is Christmas Christian?" from the Christian Research Institute
Read "Are Christmas Trees Idolatrous?" from the Christian Research Institute
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Believing the Gospel by J. Michael Feazell
Many of us Christians are afraid of the gospel. We are afraid of the gospel because it is too good. Many of us are more comfortable with religion than we are with the gospel. We prefer to read the Bible as a divine rulebook that guards the entrance to the kingdom than to read it as God’s witness to his redemption of the whole cosmos through his Son.
We prefer to think that when God breathed the life of his Word into the Bible, he was merely creating a religion—a divine formula to show humans what things to do and not to do in order to get on God’s good side and stay there.
But the gospel is not a new and improved religion. The gospel is an affront to religion. It is the end of religion, the end of all systems of works designed to make us acceptable to God. The gospel, by contrast, tells us that God himself has already, through Jesus Christ, made us acceptable. The gospel is good news; religion is bad news; and the gospel wins. Christ is victorious. Sin is vanquished.
We are overcomers in Christ alone, not in our overcoming anything. We are sinners, always have been and will continue to be to the day we die. Whatever we may have overcome is like removing a spoonful of sand from the beach. Unless and until we are found in Christ, we remain dead in our sins. And we are found in Christ only by trusting him to be for us who he says he is and to do for us what he says he does. Only when we trust him will we accept his gift of mercy and life, and only when we wake up to our sinfulness will we trust him.
As long as we think we are "doing OK," or that we "aren’t all that bad" or that we are "making progress" or even that we will never be "good enough," we will not trust him. All such thinking is trusting not him, but ourselves. It is thinking that his acceptance of us is based on how well we behave. It is thinking that if we do better, then he will accept us, or conversely, that he accepts us because we have been overcoming.
God accepts us because he wants to accept us, and not because we have measured up. God dealt with our sin by the blood of Christ, not by giving us a new and improved law code. We are justified because God justified us himself, personally, through his Son. God did for us in Christ what we could not do for ourselves, and he calls on us to trust him to be our righteousness.
That means we do not have righteousness. It is not just a matter that we "have got some problems." It is not just a matter that we have "a few things to overcome." It is not even a matter of "putting sin out of our lives." It is a matter of understanding that we are hopeless losers, sinners through and through, and that even our "good" deeds are thoroughly laced with selfish impurity. Until we see that, until we see ourselves for what we really are, we will not trust him who alone saves sinners.
Fear of the gospel
Many Christians are afraid of the gospel because it puts everybody on the same level—"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). That means we, being sinners ourselves, have no ground to feel spiritually superior to people who do things that disgust and offend us. Others are afraid of the gospel because the gospel requires them to believe that God will save them in spite of their sins. We have a hard time trusting God to do exactly what he promised to do—forgive us our sins.
We want to prove to him we can "do it." We want to show him we’ll be faithful, that we will be obedient, that we will be "good Christians." But the plain truth is, we won’t be. We will sin, and we will sin again, and again. And until we believe the gospel, instead of some fairy tale about having to please God before he will accept us, we will not enter God’s rest. God saves us; our changed behavior does not.
We can live in misery, struggling to be found worthy by perfect obedience and constantly failing and fearing that God is waiting to squash us like flies, or we can trust his Word. (Or even worse, we can live in appalling arrogance, actually believing that we are worthily obeying God and trusting him to accept us for our "holy deeds.")
God is our salvation; our improved behavior is not. To repent is to turn to God and away from ourselves. It is to concede that we are sinners and that we need God’s mercy. It is to trust God to be faithful to his word of grace spoken in his Son before the world began. It is to remove our little homemade crown and hand it over to our Maker, the author of eternal salvation.
God is our righteousness; our illusion of good behavior is not. When we come to see our righteousness as filthy rags, as indeed it is, then we can begin to see our need for God’s grace and mercy. When we believe his word of salvation in his Son, then we can begin to trust him to forgive all our sins and save us.
Why is it so hard to trust God to forgive us and to make us his perfectly righteous children in Christ? Perhaps one reason is because we can’t stand to think of ourselves as, or to think that others might think of us as, bald-faced sinners. We prefer the façade of pretending to be good, decent folks. But we are not good, decent folks. Nobody is good, decent folks. At best, we are less destructive and wicked than we could be if we let ourselves go entirely.
Have you ever noticed that if you behave decently for a day or two, you begin to feel like you are a pretty good person after all? And conversely, if your natural self gets loose for few minutes and you behave like the ratbag you are, then you feel depressed, disappointed and frustrated that you are not as grand as you had been imagining?
But what is there to be disappointed about? Why, given what you are, were you expecting not to behave accordingly from time to time? Our disappointment ought to be in our failure to honor the God of our salvation, not in our failure to look impeccable to ourselves and others. If it were, then we would be free to see more clearly that in spite of our sin, we can rest in the atonement of Christ, for our sins are forgiven in him. The reason we need a Savior is because we need saving. The gospel declares that God has indeed saved us through Christ. In fact, Christ died for us ungodly people while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
Now please don’t start telling me that we "were" sinners, but now we are not to be sinners anymore. Please drop the rhetoric. We are sinners. We do still sin after conversion. Every Christian who ever lived continues to sin after conversion. That doesn’t make sin OK. It doesn’t condone sin. It is simply a fact, and one we would all do much better to just admit and quit pretending that if we try hard enough we will become sinless.
There is one way, of course, in which we are not sinners. As believers we are in Christ, and as such we are not sinners in the sense that God does not count our sins against us (Romans 4:8). In other words, when we do not pretend that we are not sinners, but instead put our trust in Jesus Christ who saves sinners, God does not count our sins against us (compare 1 Timothy 1:15).
What must we do about sin? We must trust God to forgive our sins. We must trust him! He is our only hope. We are sinners, and unless God forgives our sins, we come under the condemnation all sinners deserve. We are not going to stop being sinners. I’m sure you have tried, like I have, and discovered that despite occasional bouts of improvement, sin is still alive and well in your life. But God says that if we trust him he will take care of our sins and he will count us righteous in Christ who, for our sakes, became the perfect human.
The Bible is not a rulebook for new and improved religion. It is the Word of God, God’s chosen revelation of himself to us, declaring to us that in Jesus Christ he has dealt with the sins of the world so that whoever trusts him will be saved. That is good news. It is the gospel. It is not religion. Don’t be afraid of it.
I know. You’re still waiting for me to say something about the importance of behaving right. But I’m not going to. At least not in the way you are probably used to. We are overcomers in Christ alone; when it comes to godly overcoming, there is no other way to be an overcomer.
When you trust Christ to be your righteousness, your behavior will be set by the Holy Spirit on the road to improvement, regardless of whether you constantly set "overcoming goals" for yourself. But if you try to improve your behavior without trusting Christ to be your only righteousness, you may or may not be successful, and whether or not you are won’t make a hill of beans of difference in terms of your standing with God.
In other words, salvation is not based on what you do; it is based on what God has already done. When you trust God, you are in Christ, and when you are in Christ God does not count your sins against you. If you do not trust God, you are still in your sins, because you are not in Christ.
Here’s a gospel tip: don’t make behaving better your main goal in life. If you do, you’ll always be frustrated, disappointed in yourself and miserable, not to mention a judgmental and obnoxious prig. You’re welcome to it if you want it, of course. But will-powering yourself into a better you is a no-win life goal. Will-power goodness is the root of religion; it has no place in the gospel.
Instead, make your main goal in life knowing and trusting in the Lord your God for absolutely everything, including your behavior. When you do that, your preoccupation with yourself and how good you are will fade, and your eyes will begin to open to the righteousness of God and the joy and peace of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit will reorder your priorities, and the pain your sins naturally cause in your life will more readily drive you to God for mercy and help to overcome.
Let me say it another way: Work on yourself and make every effort to change for the better—but not because you think it will make you less a sinner and get you in good with God. Take overcoming seriously. Do it because God wants you to, because Jesus Christ gave you a new life, because it is right, because everybody who loves you wants you to, and because it will make your life infinitely more blessed, rewarding, peaceful and pleasant. But don’t do it because you think that’s how you will get into the kingdom of God. It isn’t.
Regardless of how much you improve (and you need a lot of improvement—I know you; you’re just like me), you are still a sinner, and the only hope of salvation you’ve got is the mercy of God along with his word that in Christ he extends it to you. Trust him, not your good life, when it comes to salvation. When it comes to salvation, trust the word of God that in Christ it is a fait accompli; when it comes to behavior, trust yourself to the supervision of the Holy Spirit and put your heart into overcoming.
Don’t think that good behavior results in salvation; but know that salvation results in good behavior. But don’t let that make you think that poor behavior equals unsaved and good behavior equals saved. It simply does not work that way; don’t forget that we all still sin. Sin involves not merely acts but attitudes, and God knows even the deepest secrets of our hearts.
Rest in this: God loves you; he’s proven it in Christ, and he will make you into what he wants you to be. You can trust him to do it. Get to know him. Spend time with him. Put your confidence in him. Make him the priority in your life, and you will begin to find his love influencing the way you live in the world and the way you interact with others.
Whether we experience hardship or ease, prosperity or poverty, bad times or good times (and Christians experience them all), our ability to cope with what comes our way will depend on our trust in God. But all the while, because we are in Christ, our salvation is not in question. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, and even our faith is God’s gracious gift to us.
Remember, the gospel is good news. It is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Therefore, as Hebrews 10:23 encourages us, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."
Monday, December 11, 2006
"Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it."
— 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Heaven is a place where we shall never sin; where we shall cease our constant watch against an indefatigable enemy, because there will be no tempter to ensnare our feet. There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. Heaven is the "undefiled inheritance"; it is the land of perfect holiness, and therefore of complete security. But do not the saints even on earth sometimes taste the joys of blissful security? The doctrine of God's word is, that all who are in union with the Lamb are safe; that all the righteous shall hold on their way; that those who have committed their souls to the keeping of Christ shall find Him a faithful and immutable preserver. Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in Him shall ever perish, but shall be with Him where He is. Believer, let us often reflect with joy on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and honour the faithfulness of our God by a holy confidence in Him.
May our God bring home to you a sense of your safety in Christ Jesus! May He assure you that your name is graven on His hand; and whisper in your ear the promise, "Fear not, I am with thee." Look upon Him, the great Surety of the covenant, as faithful and true, and, therefore, bound and engaged to present you, the weakest of the family, with all the chosen race, before the throne of God; and in such a sweet contemplation you will drink the juice of the spiced wine of the Lord's pomegranate, and taste the dainty fruits of Paradise. You will have an antepast of the enjoyments which ravish the souls of the perfect saints above, if you can believe with unstaggering faith that "faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it."
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Is Porn Norm?
Rev. George C. Scipione
First published in Evangelium, Vol.3, Issue 4.
Several years ago, Faith Popcorn, America’s foremost trend expert, hailed by the New York Times as the “trend oracle” and as the “Nostradamus of marketing” by Fortune magazine, declared, “Porn is norm.” She was not endorsing pornography, but predicting that media technology would push the limits of what is acceptable and would facilitate a culture of instant gratification; thus porn would be the norm. True to her prediction, pornography has moved out of the back allies of the urban scene and onto the main streets of America.
While most Internet businesses were going bankrupt, the porn industry was raking in huge profits, making it perhaps the most profitable business on the Internet. In the past, one had to travel to sleazy backstreets to find porn; now, it’s only a click away on the computer and on the remote control of the cable/satellite TV. Easy, private and nobody knows … except God. At home or in the hotel, porn is private, available and acceptable. Some estimate that as much as 70% of in-room hotel profits come from porn and that over 50% of hotel patrons participate. As people consume it in private, porn becomes the norm and goes public.
Whether it’s the infamous Super Bowl incident or the recent Paris Hilton hamburger commercial, porn is seducing its way into the mainstream. The church needs to be on guard against this tsunami of trash. As it inundates our culture, it is also seeping into our churches. Shepherds must be vigilant and use the rod and staff to defeat this enemy and guard Christ’s sheep.
A Reality in the Church
I can hear you protest, “That’s the pagan world, not the church!” Are you sure? My personal experience and my pastoral experience have taught me otherwise. I’ve been ordained for over thirty years. I’ve served as pastor in two congregations, as a theological professor and as a biblical counselor. The threat is real, present and dangerous. It is much worse now than thirty years ago. While I do more counseling than most pastors, I have discovered that my experience is typical of dozens of other pastors, as I’ve talked with them, prayed with them and advised them on numerous cases.
Personally, on our home computer, spam (unsolicited mass e-mail) has included pornography pushing heterosexual sins, homosexuality, bestiality, and sadomasochism. Yes, ancient Rome would love this technological bonanza; Sodom would shout for joy as sin becomes so simple. Dear saints, we are slouching towards Gomorrah. As Professor Peter Jones has shown well, we have degenerated into a Roman Empire of pagan passions. (1)
As a pastor of a local congregation and a seminary professor, I’ve counseled pastors and members of evangelical and Reformed churches enslaved to porn—single and married men, men and women struggling with homosexuality, fornicators, adulterers, victims and perpetrators of sexual molestation, cross-dressers, transsexuals, and other unmentionable perversions. Porn, with the rare exception, is always involved. I have never dealt with a sex offender who was not deeply enslaved to porn. (2)
The Biblical Solution
To paraphrase a line from our history, “Heaven—we have a problem!” But we have a powerful, loving, sovereign Savior who rules and reigns in heaven! He has the answers to this dilemma and is more than willing to help us overcome the enemy of our souls and live pure, victorious lives in this evil and perverse generation (Phil 2:14-16). The solution is twofold. First, we must define these sins biblically. Second, we must biblically define God’s solution to these sins.
Porn, and the lusts triggered or deepened by it, are sins. But they are sins in specific ways. Such understanding is necessary to defeat these enemies. First, they are self-centered perversions of God’s design of human sexuality as part of the image of God and as a good gift to one’s spouse, (Gen 1, 2; 1 Cor 7). Second, they run contrary to reality and involve vain imaginations of the worst sort (Prov 17:24). Thus sexuality is depersonalized and degraded into mental and physical self-stimulation. Third, they involve coveting, a violation of the tenth Commandment (Eph 5:3-5). There are clear connections between sexual sins, coveting and idolatry. Lust, at the core, is worship of the creature instead of the Creator and the neglect of the good of others. The two great commandments are sacrificed on the altar of self-love. Thus, when a man turns to porn, he says at least three things: one, the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s fellowship are not enough; two, sexual love of spouse—present or future—is not enough; three, “I’m lord and king over me and can care for myself.”
On the one hand, the world’s view is that porn and lust are not serious problems, since, after all, “Everybody (almost) indulges.” On the other hand, our culture has little hope of change for sex offenders who engage in criminal behavior. But we Christians know better. The gospel of God’s free, sovereign grace through the life and death of Jesus the Messiah is the only effective answer to these sins.
What does the gospel say about these lusts? What would a pastoral approach to them look like? Is there any realistic hope for victory? Let’s try to summarize a biblical plan of care. I believe there must be at least the following seven things in a biblical pastoral plan that will result, LORD willing, in the renewal of a soul scorched by sexual sin: regeneration, renewed repentance and faith, a renewed mind, renewed obedience, regular use of various means of growing in grace, regular reporting to responsible shepherds, and reading good literature on these subjects. I address the issue of lust in men, but the same is true for women. Consider each one in sequential order.
REGENERATION: Jesus made it clear that the new birth is not optional, but absolutely essential. The unregenerate church member is incapable of producing the fruit of the Spirit as opposed to the deeds of the flesh (John 3:3-8; 15:4-5; Gal 5:16-26). If the disciple is a goat and not a sheep, chaff and not wheat, deep and lasting change is impossible. While a subjectively oriented inquisition is not helpful, a gentle probe can help. If Dr. C. John Miller had not probed my heart when I was in my first year of seminary, I might still be fighting a losing battle against my sins of the flesh, failing and on my way to a Christ-less eternity in hell! The pastor who is counseling should not try to be the Holy Spirit, of course; but he should ask questions and observe responses in ways that bring to light the true condition of the disciple’s heart.
RENEWED REPENTANCE AND FAITH: If there is evidence that the disciple is truly converted and he is a member in good standing of a Bible-believing church, then he must be renewed in his relationship with the Father through the Son by the power of the Spirit. Unless the brother can, to some extent, pray Psalm 51 with a straight face and heart, he is still trapped in sin and self-deception. Most believers caught in sin know they are wrong, just as David did. Yet it took the Spirit, using Nathan, for David to crack and repent (2 Sam 12:1-14). C. John Miller’s Repentance and the 21st Century Man is very helpful. Repentance is simply the flip side of the coin of faith. The brother must look to Christ for forgiveness in a fresh way (1 John 1:9-2:3). He must realize he is a new creature in Christ—justified, adopted, united with the Vine and sanctified (1 Cor 6:9-11; Heb 11-12).
RENEWED MIND: If the brother is to win, he must know his enemies—idolatry, covetousness, impurity. His mind must begin to perceive life in general and sexuality in particular in the light of God’s word (Eph 4:17-24, 5:3-21; 1 Tim 5:1-2). He has to see and respond as God’s adopted son, not as a pagan or an orphan.
RENEWED OBEDIENCE: He must understand the nature of covenant faithfulness and his part in progressive sanctification. This process is called mortification and vivification by the Puritans or “put off and put on” by Jay Adams. Adams’ works and those by Kris Lundgaard are helpful here. (3)
REGULAR USE OF VARIOUS MEANS OF GROWING IN GRACE: The disciple cannot win the battle while he is weak. Public worship including the preaching of the good news of God’s grace in Christ, the Lord’s Supper, prayer alone and with others, Bible reading, and fellowship with the saints is foundational to spiritual vitality.
REGULAR REPORTING TO RESPONSIBLE SHEPHERDS: This may be the most underused tool in the battle against these sins (Jas 5:13-18). Shepherding starts with the pulpit but must never end there (Matt 18:15-20; Luke 17:1-10). Someone must monitor the brother as a coach or trainer would (Gal 6:1-2). Accountability is essential. A man who will not submit to a shepherd whom he sees will not submit to a Shepherd that he does not see (1 John 4:20).
READING ABOUT THESE ISSUES: To ignore the wisdom of the elders of past generations and the developing classics of today is folly (Prov 1-9).
Jesus is exalted at the Father’s side and rules over all His enemies, including sexual sins. He is crowned, thus the victory is ours. On this “pagan planet,” in a crumbling culture saturated with sleazy sex, porn is norm. But for you, child of God, Christ is the norm and purity is possible. Don’t exchange your eternal inheritance and reward for some temporary sexual stimulation (Heb 12:16-17). Don’t be led like an ox to the satanic slaughterhouse (Prov 7:6-23). Keep your eyes fixed in faith upon Jesus and follow His footsteps to glory (Heb 12:1-2). (4)
1 Jones, Peter, Capturing the Pagan Mind (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003).
2 In addition, the Internet poses a problem for women as well. While not as drawn to porn as men, the Internet replaces the romantic or raunchy novel as a major polluter of women's hearts. I know of several instances of women leaving their husbands and children for a total stranger met online.
3 Lundgaard, Kris, The Enemy Within (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1998).
___, Through the Looking Glass (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2000).
4 Please refer to suggested references.
This article is not intended to be comprehensive due to the limits of space. For further information, here are some suggested references on this topic:
Harris, Josh, Not Even a Hint (Sisters: Multnomah, 2003).
Wilson, Doug, Fidelity (Moscow: Canon Press, 1999).
Hall, Laurie, An Affair of the Mind (Colorado Springs: Focus on the Family, 1996).
Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. 13, No. 3 (available at Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, www.ccef.org).
"The Pain of Porn" by Jim Newheiser, # ibc0111
"Purifying the Heart of Sexual Idolatry" by John Street, # ibc0314
(These can be ordered from www.soundword.com)
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Friday, December 01, 2006
Some reformed say yes, some say no.
Here's a quote from Dr. Greg Bahnsen on the former view:
"When God promulgated His moral will through the Mosaic law, how much of mankind did He consider accountable to keep that law? From Paul's standpoint the answer was obvious: "Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God" (Romans 3:19). God declared His righteous standards to Israel, and through Israel to all the world, thereby stopping every mouth and bringing all men, Jew and Gentile alike, under judgment. "Whatever things the law says," therefore, it says to the whole of mankind. Precisely for this reason Paul could "lay to the charge both of Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.... There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (vv. 11, 23)." Read More
Here's a quote from Lee Irons on the latter view:
"In Paul's normal usage, nomos means the Mosaic Law as a covenant of works. As such the Mosaic Law includes all of the stipulations given to Israel through Moses, founded on the "Do this and live" principle, accompanied by the threat of the curse for those who transgress the Law. The sanctions of the Law (blessing and curse) cannot be separated from the stipulations of the Law because the two are inextricably intertwined. Believers have been set free from the Law by means of their union with Christ in his death. The Law has jurisdiction over a person only as long as he is alive (Rom. 7:1; Gal. 2:19). Because we have died with Christ, we are "not under law" (Rom. 6:14-15; 7:4-6; 1 Cor. 9:20; Gal. 3:23-25; 4:4-5, 21; 5:18). This means we are free from its condemnation and from its commanding authority."Read More