Archive for the 'Bible Doctrine' Category

Slowly Returning

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I think.

At least that’s the plan.

I’ve been “on staycation” for about two months now, with posting here pretty sporadic.

A lot of stuff has happened. Most recently the shingles came back to my eye, and for the last three weeks I’ve been dealing with that, complicated by the fact that I seem to be reacting adversely to the antiviral the doctor wants me to take.

We had a wedding here of one of “our own,”,that is one of the members of our local congregation, a young lady who happened to be one of the students in my Sunday School class, and went on to become one of my dear friends.

Friends and family came in for the event, and such things always cram a lot of things into a very short time, where you spend days after recovering, not only from the simple exhaustion of late nights, longish drives and lots of talking, but having your head and heart full of wonderful moments that surface in a disjointed parade of memories afterward. (See my Introvert post, Static and the Need to Recharge, about needing to “process” the sudden high-volume of “deposits” that have been made into your soul)

At the same time as this was happening, my hubby was away elk hunting, and I had full charge of walking Quigley. (I don’t usually walk him every day — we take turns.) Hubby returned successful, so then we had, well, A LOT of meat to deal with. YAY! (We were completely out of wild game and I detest store-bought hamburger, and am not much fonder of ground turkey…) He did most of the work, but the kitchen and refrigerator were commandeered for about a week, I think, which was… distracting at a minimum.

Then there was the matter of my car failing its emissions test, twice, and various  trips to the repair shop, until finally it was decided that we could get a waiver on the whole thing. And all of this pretty much happening concurrently.

So it’s not really been the most “restful” staycation, and it’s not like I’ve had nothing to do but play… though I have managed a bit of that.  In fact, I actually went on 2 Artist’s dates!  And  yes, a month ago or so, I picked up the next Artist’s Way book, Vein of Gold, and started working through it…  only to stop not far in as the Lord took me off in another direction… but that, I think, is for another post.

In fact, I’ve already written a good deal more than I had thought I would. I just wanted to take a tiny step back toward regular blogging, and here I’ve got a full-sized post already. :-)

Staycation

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear,  asleep

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear, asleep

My last post was titled in part,  “Take a Day Off…”

When I wrote it I didn’t realize I was actually going to continue to do it, but that’s what’s happened. Even though I mentioned that I thought the Lord was giving me a vacation — seeing as I’d turned the whole matter of me trying to write and failing, failing, failing, over to Him, and it seemed He was doing nothing, thus it must be a vacation — I guess I didn’t think it would continue to go on. After all, the usual times for a vacation are a week, maybe two. Not a month…

Surely, I thought even as I wrote that last post, I’d been “vacating” long enough  and it was time to get back to work.

Apparently not.  Because I still haven’t been able to get myself to work. I’ve continued to avoid the office and have spent a lot of time reading news and comment stuff on the internet, watching videos on making cards, actually making cards… and just doing the general things around the house and yard that are always there, and could easily take up all my time if I let them.

Internally, however, I continued to fight the whole vacation concept. Or at least to feel guilty about it, as I repeatedly questioned whether I was correctly applying what I’d been learning in Bible class. Maybe I was actually just deluding myself, thinking I could just throw everything out the window like this and and let God do it all. Wasn’t that a bit flakey? After all, as every “Professional writer” knows, if you want to write you must go into the office and force yourself to write. It takes self-discipline, and you must train yourself to do that.  It’s absurd to just “trust the Lord.”

I now think that is the voice of my flesh, which I’ve recently become more and more able to identify. More on this later, but for now though, the fact is, I had already done the “just use self-discipline” thing and it led nowhere.  The only thing left was that I trust the Lord to return the motivation to write, as well as the ideas and the direction the story is to take. Even though He’s taking MUCH longer than I think He should be taking.

Which, of course, means I have to trust Him even more to move me and, as I outlined above, it is very difficult for me to do that. I don’t want to rely on Him. I want to take control and get it done myself.  I have a plan, a timetable that I think is reasonable, and He’s not following it!

Well, yesterday I was doing a search on the Internet for “effects of too many things to do.”  (a subject some friends and I were discussing on Sunday). I didn’t find much on that, but in the course of the search, I did stumble upon an article called, “Recovering from Writer’s Burnout: Steps to Happier Writing.”

Here’s the first paragraph:

Many writers (and other creative people) hit that point eventually: they burn out. They feel tired. They can’t feel any interest in their work, and doing that work becomes harder and harder. “

That was and still is me. Feeling very tired. No interest in the work. I’ve mentioned it before. I kind of like what I’ve done so far, but I can’t think of the right place to go from here, and for some time now it’s all seemed dead. I don’t want to think about it.  When I try, I just confuse myself. Should it be this or that? I can’t decide. If I force the decision I can’t write… Or flip back to the alternative the next day when everything after the bit I’ve written goes blank.

I thought I’d already gone through the whole burnout thing. I thought I’d given myself a break. After all, it’s been six years since I finished The Enclave. Of course, that led right into the caregiving for my mother. And then dealing with her estate and all kinds of family changes — my son leaving home, settling in another state, and getting married, the arrival of our granddaughter… in addition to my own health issues …

All of those things, even the happy events, still intruded into the flow of my writing, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Does that sort of thing contribute to burnout as well? I”m not sure, but I can say from experience that after a while it gets frustrating… I couldn’t remember what I’d decided the last time I’d worked with the material, stuff that had seemed good before the interruption no longer seemed so good… I lost a sense of where I was going exactly…

The article continued in a second paragraph:

“I started to hit the burnout point last year with my freelance writing. Unfortunately, I missed some of the signs and so I continued taking contracts. Eventually I became almost completely burned out — unable to take interest in all but the lightest, most relaxing writing. That’s a terrible place to go if writing is what you’ve wanted to do all of your life.”

Not just wanted to do, but what you’ve actually done. I’ve been writing fiction for over forty years and the drive was always there. Now suddenly, it wasn’t. And since throughout most of that time I believed it was the Lord who was supplying the drive, the desire, the ideas, the guidance… then it must be that for some reason He was withholding it now, and not just something about me. In other words, I don’t think it’s actual “burn out” so much as me stressing out because God hasn’t come through in my time, and so I keep trying to get back in the game when it’s pretty clear He’s been telling me I need to wait.

The biggest reason I can think of for Him to remove the drive, desire and ideas, is to remind me that it really is Him doing it, and not me. Secondary reasons include forcing me to trust Him for all of it and teaching me to put aside the internal shrieking of my control freak sin nature in the process. He’s also making me take a deeper look at ways I’ve always looked at life and self and my work and finding they are not really in line with His ways… Plus, there’s been a huge upheaval and change of direction in how I’m coming to understand the spiritual life overall. And how can one write Christian allegory/analogies if one’s whole perspective on the Christian life is changing?

One of my friends reminded me of the blessedness of winter concept, when the trees are stripped of their leaves and stand bare and gray, seemingly dead. But inside God is doing a work and before long the new life of spring appears…  That He does the same with us.

I know she’s right, and  I think that is what’s happening to me. And part of that includes the fact that God really does want me to have a longer vacation than I think is appropriate.

Because in the above mentioned article, the very first suggestion of what to do for the “burned out” state is “Take a Vacation.”  :-)

Here’s what she has to say:

“There’s one thing that, above all, you should try to do for yourself when you start to burn out. If you can afford to, take a vacation. If you’re still finishing off a contract then take a vacation as soon as it’s over. Be lazy. Sit around the house and read thrillers, mysteries, or something equally pointless and fun. Watch movies. Take lots of walks in the sunshine. Relax. You need to be able to approach the rest of all this [ie, her other suggestions] feeling rested if at all possible.”

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, even if by default. I haven’t, however, yet allowed myself to read novels, thinking that would be too great a “time consumer”. But having read this, I decided that maybe I really should treat my vacation as a real vacation, so yesterday, I picked up one of the recent Brad Thor novels sitting on my shelf, Full Black, and am now halfway through it! :-D

Update:  I wrote this post in the afternoon, and barely got it done before time for live Bible Class from Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida where Pastor John got up and started talking this very thing!  That we keep thinking there’s something good about us that’s going to get the job done (be more loving, be more self-disciplined) when that’s part of the old self that was crucified on the Cross!  The words and phrases he used were almost direct answers to things I’d thought and wondered about in the course of not just writing the above post, but over many days. It was one of those times when I knew that God was talking directly to me, and reinforcing my conclusion.

Yes, the writing is to come from Him. No, I do not need to try to be “more self-disciplined.” Yes, it is right to wait for Him to lead, and I do know what that feels like. This very post, for example, I believe was the result of His leading and guiding and moving,  because until I started writing it, I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all. I don’t even really know why I accessed my blog in the first place, and initially all I did was check out some of the other blogs I follow. Then suddenly I found myself opening the new post window and the words were flowing.

Here’s a link to the message in case you’re interested. I thought it was pretty phenomenal even aside from the immediate personal connections:

The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Church Age believers, part 51

Answering a Reader’s Comments

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Yesterday a reader left a comment on my post Feeling Sorry for Sins that raised a lot of good questions/points for which I had no immediate clear answers. I had to sit down and think/write my way through them all, and once I did, I thought my “reply” was awfully long for the comments section so I decided to use the questions and my thoughts on them as the springboard for this post.

The reader began,

I found your post interesting as I have not thought about the connection between sorrow and confession, or lack there of.  However, in your 7th point you say that God is not hurt when we sin and this seems to make light of the sins a person commits.

Me: How can saying that God is not “hurt” make light of our sins? Sins that God sent His beloved Son to pay for, and for which the Son went to the Cross and died a horrible death, so that we could be permanently reconciled with God. I would think, if anything,  to insist that God is still hurt by sins already judged and paid for by Christ is to make light of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

Reader: In a relationship with God we are free to come to Him through Christ, but if I just spent the whole day defying Him does that mean that because Christ has already paid for that sin that God feels no betrayal or grief at my refusal to obey Him?

Why would He feel betrayed? He knew exactly what you were going to do before you did it. He already paid for it. This is maybe the point that we struggle to really embrace – the total and complete efficacy of Christ’s death on the Cross for every single sin and act of betrayal against God that was ever committed. Judged then and there, once and for all. If His death was enough to satisfy the wrath that God’s righteousness ‘experiences’ in the face of sin and the demands of His justice that the perpetrator of the sin be removed from His presence … and if He’s already given us Believers His own righteousness and declared our old nature to have been crucified with Christ… what does that mean but that no, He’s not going to feel “hurt” when we do the very sin He knew we were going to commit and that He could have stopped if He chose to long before we ever do it. A sin that He already poured out on Christ.  It’s not I who sin, but the sin that still dwells within me. The dead, old nature, which has been crucified with Christ, ie, judged with Christ.

Reader: I agree that He is not surprised, but (and this is a human argument) just because you are not surprised when a nurse stabs you with a needle doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. If a God-fearing man and wife choose to have a nasty divorce in which their children are emotionally wounded for the rest of their life are you saying that God does not hurt because of their decision to disobey Him?

I don’t think you can use the human argument to explain this part of God. Humans are by nature physical, limited, time-bound, changeable, self-oriented, legalistic. God is none of those. Moreover, we don’t easily foresee the blessing that can come from pain and sorrow, life experiences that God uses to mold us into the image of His son. Or that He uses to draw unbelievers to Himself.  To use your example, if a couple get a nasty divorce, do you really believe God cannot heal the wounds of both the couple and the children should they choose to turn back to Him?

In fact, if even one of those people, coming out of that circumstance decides to follow God and let himself be molded into the vessel God desires to mold him into, one full of love and joy and peace and patience and forgiveness… the nasty divorce now becomes the black backdrop against which God’s own glory can truly shine. Man, left to himself, could never make that kind of turnaround. But God can do it in us if we let Him, and that is a big way in which we can bring glory to Him.

Reader: Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you. It just seems that according to Eph. 4:29-32 it is possible to grieve the Spirit by our actions, even though they have already been paid for.

I think He’s grieved because He knows our stupid actions in rejecting His guidance will only lead to pain and sorrow and loss for us and those are not what He desires.

I think He’s grieved because of the loss of intimacy He desires to have with us, where He can guide us and comfort us and lead us into all truth. He’s grieved not out of hurt, but because we’re living as if we haven’t been forgiven, as if our Daddy isn’t the God of the universe who loves us more than we can imagine, and that we really aren’t the apple of His eye after all.

He’s grieved because we’re living in a dead place, a place of unbelief (our crucified old nature) stumbling around with our eyes closed, when if we’d just open them we’d see the light and walk in it, or better yet, swim in those rivers of living water He has for us and having an amazing life.

And that, I believe, is what He wants, not for us to apologize or confess or spend any time mourning our idiocy — we’re all weak and silly sheep, and if we really believed that, I don’t think we would spend one moment in mourning our inevitable failures, but rather in rejoicing over all that our Father has done for us despite the fact that we are weak and don’t deserve any of it.

Shift From Grace to Legalism

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Note: In yesterday’s post I may have given some the impression that Col Thieme taught that we have to feel sorry for our sins in order to be forgiven. He did not. In fact he taught the exact opposite (which was what I was trying to communicate.) I’ve since revised the murky paragraph to reflect this:

Updated paragraph: Col Thieme and others taught that this need to feel sorrow was yet one more means of inserting human effort into the equation… The feeling bad or sorry or broken-hearted becomes the currency by which one tries to earn or buy forgiveness, and is not commensurate with grace.

Now, on to today’s post.

In the process of all the thinking and researching I’ve been doing on the matter of confession of sins, I came across this quote by Roger E. Olsen in his book The Story of Christian Theology:

“Occasionally these fathers of the generation after the apostles gave the gospel their own unique interpretations that began to turn it away from the great themes of grace and faith so strongly emphasized by Paul and  other apostles and more toward the gospel as a “new law” of God-pleasing conduct and behavior… one senses a distance between the Christianity of the New Testament — especially that of Paul — and that of the apostolic fathers (2nd century). References to Paul and the other apostles frequent (in their works); but in spite of this the new faith becomes more and more a new law, and the doctrine of God’s gracious justification becomes a doctrine of grace that helps us act justly.”*

“Of course this shift was subtle and not absolute. It was a barely but definitely perceptible turn in these second-century Christian writings toward legalism, or what may be better termed “Christian moralism.” Although the apostolic fathers such as Ignatius and Polycarp quoted Paul more than James, it was the latter’s spirit that breathed through them. Perhaps due to a perceived moral and spiritual laziness and decline among Christians, they emphasized the need to avoid sinning, obey leaders and work hard to please God more than the need for liberation from bondage to the law.”

*Roger E. Olsen quoting Justo Gonzalez.

Feeling Sorry for Sins

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One of the things that has never been an issue in my experience of the Christian life is the idea that we have to feel sorry for our sins. In fact, I was taught that we don’t need to feel sorry at all.

Recently a comment on one of my previous posts (So What DO we do about Personal Sins?) brought up this sorrow, or broken-heartedness as related to some people’s understanding of what “confession” is – that is, not an official, name and cite the sin to God for forgiveness action, but rather a natural feeling of remorse that a believer should have upon realizing he has offended God. In fact, this is considered by some to be part of what turns one away from the sinning.

Updated paragraph: Col Thieme and others taught that this need to feel sorrow was yet one more means of inserting human effort into the equation… The feeling bad or sorry or broken hearted becomes the currency by which one tries to earn or buy forgiveness, and is not commensurate with grace.

Granted, I don’t think my commenter was trying to say that feeling sorry is necessary for forgiveness, but is merely a part of the process of coming back to God.  Still whether this view or the view that sorrow is necessary,  I don’t believe either has a place in our relationship with God.

Here are some reasons why:

1. I have no argument with the proposition that sin is offensive to God. It is. It’s disgusting, insulting, intolerable, wretched, hateful, gross… I’ve run out of adjectives. He hates it. It’s a denial of His character and in fact, in direct opposition to it.

2. In fact, sin is so offensive to God that no matter how much we might weep, wail, feel awful, feel sorry, promise to do better, none of that — nor anything else we do — could make it up to God for our violation. Death is the only answer to our sin; ie, complete separation from God. And when you’re dead, you can’t do much to rectify a relationship.

3. For that reason, God had to deal with our sin problem Himself, which He did by sending Jesus to earth as a man where He lived a perfectly righteous life, died spiritually on the cross in our place, and after three days in the grave rose again in resurrection life.

4. On the Cross, all the sins of every person who ever lived or will live were poured out on the Son and judged. All sins, but one, that is: the only sin not forgiven is the one of refusing to believe in the name of the only begotten son of God.

5.  That is not a sin I have to worry about, since I have believed in Jesus’s name. At the moment I did, I was declared perfectly righteous for all time and I received eternal life, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a number of other gracious gifts bestowed on all believers.

6. Even so, I still sin after salvation because I am still in this human body with its sin nature.  Yet it’s not I who sins, but the sin nature that dwells within me. (Ro 7:17,18)  So if I were to feel sorry for my sin, what part of me would feel sorry? Sometimes it’s the sin nature, because it knows people will think poorly of it, or even fears God might punish it. Why would I feel sorry in my new man which cannot sin? (I Jn 3:9)  It was the flesh that did it. And yes, I did allow it to take over my soul and do its thing, but the Bible tells me that’s inevitable. I’m weak. I’m going to give in from time to time. Why spend any time at all lamenting the inevitable? Instead, just turn from it and get back with the Program!

7. God is not shocked when I sin. He is not hurt when I sin. He is not offended when I sin. He knew every sin I would ever commit before I was ever born. All of them were poured out on Jesus and judged 2000 years ago, where all the offense God had toward my sin was appeased once and for all.

8. Who am I to think I can improve on or add a little bit more to what Jesus did to satisfy the perfect character of God?

9.  When I sin, where’s the big surprise? As I said, I know I have a sin nature and that it will get the better of me at times.

10. Even less is God surprised.

First,because He knew all things before He ever created anything.

And second because He’s the one who decided to create man with a free will, even knowing that man would sin, and that from that point on all men but one born into the world would emerge as sinners with a sinful nature.

If our sinning surprises and hurts Him, why did He leave us here with a sin nature? Why doesn’t He just do away with the flesh and replace it with a resurrection body the moment anyone believes in Christ?

Because that was not His plan. Instead, He placed our new nature into the old fleshly “body of death” along with the indwelling Holy Spirit, and left us here to live out our lives and witness to others. Left us here in this fallen world, with enemies all around, inside and out, trying their best to get the old man back in power.

11. So of course we’re going to sin. And when we do, how could God possibly be shocked or hurt? He knows exactly what we are, in addition to knowing – and choosing – everything that’s happened and is still going to happen. He has a reason for it , and it’s not really about us learning how to be good little Christians who will never sin again.  That’s for heaven.

No, it’s so that He, through the transforming power of His grace and His Spirit and HIs word, could transform us into vessels of mercy and the very image of Christ.  All here in this devil’s world, with the sin nature right there inside us, and the devil’s minions trying their best to stop us.

It’s so we and all the angels, fallen and elect, might learn what a gracious, loving God He is, how wise and wonderful and powerful. How we are nothing in ourselves, powerless before Him and that we and everything else depends on Him – His power, His sacrifice, His word, His Spirit, His work.

13.  Thus, when I realize I’m sinning, I try to waste no time feeling bad about what I’ve done.

“There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” Ro 8:1,2)

I just recognize that the sin nature has gotten the best of me once again, stop with whatever sin I’ve become aware of,  and turn to the truth of God’s word, rejoicing that He died for that sin, and that as far as He’s concerned it’s gone, so I can forget about it as well and move on in the Christian life.

14.  Which boiled down means: start believing the things He’s written in His word. Things such as…

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  ~Ro 8:28

He will never desert me nor forsake me  ~Heb 13:5

Even when I am faithless, He remains faithful ~ 2 Ti 2:13

My living the Christian life doesn’t depend on me, but on His Spirit whom He sent to enable me to live it.  Jn 14:6; 16:13; Gal 5:17; Phil 4:13

Walk in the Light

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I think I am finally winding down on this subject. This will probably be my last post on the controversy regarding rebound.  At least for a while. (Unless the Lord moves me otherwise, of course.)

Anyway, I want to wrap up my contention that 1 John 1:9 is not directed to believers in the sense of something they are to do, but rather it describes something they’ve already done. That is, acknowledge they are sinners in need of a savior and believe in Christ, who then forgives them their sins and cleanses them from all unrighteousness.

Pastor Farley and Lighthouse Bible Church have been on summer vacation the last week or so, and in the interim I’ve gone back through my notes on Pastor Farley’s initial lessons on the matter of not finding evidence in the Bible to support the doctrine of Rebound. This time I looked up every verse, copied many of them down and gave a really careful, step by step look at everything that was said. In some cases I even re-listened to the original message.

I was also moved to read the information in my NAS Open Bible that prefaces each of the books. There I was surprised to learn that the Gospel of John and his three epistles were all written around the same time: about 90 AD. I also discovered there that I John was written with the presumption that its readers would have knowledge of the Gospel of John.

Therefore, I went to the Gospel itself and found that all references to light and darkness that John made there  apply to believing in Christ or not believing:

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God… In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” ~ John 1:1,3

Right there John tells us what the “light” is: Jesus.

“[John the Baptist] was not the light but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which coming into the world, enlightens every man. ~John 1:8,9

Note, the light comes into the darkness; the darkness doesn’t obliterate the light. The movement is one-way.

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” ~ John 3:17-21

In John 8:12 we find,

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

In John 9:5

“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

John 11: 9, 10

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

Finally, in ch 12, Jesus is speaking to the Jews, who are arguing with Him, saying,

“We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, “The son of Man must be lifted up. Who is this Son of Man?”

Jesus therefore said to them, “For a little while longer the light is among you. Walk while you have the light, that darkness may not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, in order that you may become sons of light.”

The Jews continued to not believe and to question and then

Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And he who beholds me beholds the One who sent Me. I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. …”

All of this clearly refers to salvation: walking in the light is a believer, walking or remaining or being in darkness is an unbeliever.

chapter 12 is the last time John mentions light and darkness in his Gospel.

So, with all this in mind, look how John starts his first epistle:

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen …concerning the Word of Life… we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.   And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins [say we do have sins], He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

To me, the parallels are overwhelmingly clear: walking in the Light means a believer; walking in darkness means an unbeliever. That is the context in which 1 John 1:9 is found, and thus, that is the meaning that ought to be given it.

Well, I’m sure I’ve gone on long enough, despite my intention to be brief — though, in the face of all there is to say on this, I think I have been. If this subject has piqued your interest and you’d like to know more, I invite you to check out Pastor Farley’s study on this, beginning with that first message  “I Have a Confession to Make” and continuing on as he lays out the case verse by verse.

By the way, Pastor John Farley was a student of Col. Thieme’s prior to being mentored and ordained by Pastor Robert McLaughlin. Pastor McLaughlin was mentored and ordained by Col Thieme, himself).

The “Importance of the Issue”

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Last week I commented on an article by Clifford Rapp concerning the meaning of confession of sin as mentioned in 1 John 1:9 (“Confession: Old Testament Insights“). Pastor Rapp’s article focused primarily on what the Old Testament has to say about “confession,” largely because there are too few NT passages on the subject to glean anything.

In my recent post I looked at three of the four NT references he cited, two concerning people still living under the Law, and a third concerning someone who lived and allegedly believed in Christ before the Holy Spirit was universally given.

I didn’t think any of them provided support for the notion that Church age believers must confess their sins to be forgiven; nor do they indicate this is needed for believers to be filled with the Spirit.

Because of this “scarcity of New Testament material” says Pastor Rapp, many “turn to an etymological explanation to define confession of sins.” ( eg, Homologeo = homo (same) + logeo (to speak) = “to speak the same thing” or “agree with God”) Unfortunately this too, can be problematic, he says.  For example, homologeo is never used in conjunction with “sins” except in 1 John 1:9 and while it can mean to speak the same thing,  according to Rapp that’s not usually the way it’s used “in religious contexts, only in contracts or legal contexts.”

So, seeing as “Confession has always been a critical issue for believers because forgiveness is conditioned upon it,” according to Pastor Rapp, and even as he admits there’s little New Testament justification for this belief (only a single verse) he gives up on the New Testament as a source for supporting his ideas and turns to the Old, where there is an “abundance” of material.

Why does it not occur to him that maybe the premise on which all this is based, ie, a single passage in the NT, 1 Jn 1:9, (one contradicted by numerous others NT passages) is incorrect?

If confession is so critical, if our entire execution of the Christian life is dependent upon it, particularly if we receive as a result of it, the filling of the Holy Spirit  which is needed for any spiritual activity or understanding,  why is it not mentioned more often in the New Testament?

Other commands, clearly critical to our execution of the Christian life, are repeated constantly. Eg, love one another, love God, believe, know, renew your minds… even “lay aside” in Ephesians is repeated more than “confess your sins and be forgiven.”

Speaking of Ephesians, that’s the epistle where Paul first tells us to filled with the Spirit:

 “Do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”  ~Eph 5:18

If this filling is contingent upon confession of sins, why doesn’t Paul clearly say it there, where he’s telling us to be filled? (For that matter, why doesn’t John say it in 1 Jn 1:9?)

In fact Eph 5:18 is the ONLY place in the epistles where this phrase, “filled with the Spirit” is found. If you do a NT search of “filled with the Spirit,” of the 10 references that show up (3 of them in the Gospel of Luke; 6 in the book of Acts), none say anything about the recipient having confessed their sins beforehand.

When I look at the lack of New Testament references both to confession of sins and to the filling of the Spirit, particularly in conjunction with each other, the logical conclusion seems to be that one is not contingent upon the other. In fact, there is next to zero New Testament evidence the church age Believer is supposed to be confessing his sins for the filling of the Spirit or for forgiveness.

In light of that, going to the Old Testament to look for support for a practice that doesn’t show up in the New seems counterproductive at best.

However, Pastor Rapp’s article did bring out one thing for me — he quotes various OT verses where someone says “I have sinned” and calls it “confession.” Seen in this light, I would  say, “Yes. That is what we’re to do,” In the sense of realizing you are sinning.

In order to “Stop being angry” you must first realize you are angry, then recall that for a member of the Body of Christ, that’s not the mind of Christ and STOP it!

Or, to be more specific, set it aside and instead turn your mind to doctrinal thoughts, such as the fact that Christ died for everyone’s sins, I have no right to judge, fuming is not the mind of Christ, nor is arguing, punishing, railing, complaining… I’m supposed to be at peace. Operating in love and kindness and grace.

Seen in this light, yes, we do have to admit to ourselves and God that “Yup, I’m sinning.”

But we don’t elevate that to the position of being a condition for receiving God’s forgiveness, especially not in the face of numerous other New Testament verses that say our sins have been forgiven, taken away, removed, blotted out, atoned for, all the guilt associated with them removed forever, that we have been declared permanently at peace with God, declared permanently righteous before all the angels, placed in permanent Union with Jesus Christ, permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit..

In light of all that, I submit the interpretation of 1 Jn 1:9 as applying to believers is unwarranted.

And please don’t tell me that because Rapp, Thieme, Chafer, Walvoord, Scofield, etc, said it is, that I must believe it; show me where it says that in the Word of God, which tells me to be like the Bereans, “searching the Scriptures to see if these things are true.” (Acts 17:10)

For the first time in my life I have been seriously searching the Scriptures precisely to see if this supposed foundational verse is true (as interpreted) and I’m just not finding it.

A Lack of New Testament References

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One of the cool things about my having decided to publicly blog about my questioning of the doctrine of rebound, is that readers raise questions and point me toward other people’s writings on the subject.

One of those writings was an article in the CTS Journal vol 5 #4 (Dec 1999) on Confession by Clifford Rapp, Jr. [Rapp earned a Th.M. degree in Old Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary and is an adjunct professor at Chafer Theological Seminary.  He pastors a Free Methodist church in California] I found his article to be fascinating, not so much from the standpoint of what the Old Testament has to say about confessing  sins as from some of the statements he makes in his article that I believe inadvertently shoot down the premise from which he’s operating.

The piece beings thus:

“The New Testament promises that If we confess our sins [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:0). This essay addresses the nature of confession.”

And then it immediately points out that “The paucity of New Testament material on confession” makes it difficult to fulfill the essay’s objective.

My first thought upon reading that was to wonder, could that paucity perhaps be due to the fact that confession of sins to gain God’s forgiveness is not a major doctrine for the Church Age believer after all? Usually when the Holy Spirit wants us to know a major doctrine He does a lot of repeating. (Think of how many times we’re told to love one another, or know the word, or only believe in Christ for salvation.) As I’ve noted in previous posts, I have not found this to be the case when it comes to the believer’s confessing of sins for forgiveness. So far, 1 John 1:9 is it.

Of the three confessions which Pastor Rapp lists as being found in the NT, two are in Luke (the prodigal son in Ch 15 and the tax collector in Ch 18), and one in Acts 8 (Simon the magician). Rapp also notes “Paul’s public testimonies in which he acknowledged his sin,”  for which he gives no references.

My first thought was that both the prodigal son and the tax collector appear in one of the Gospels, and were parables taught by Jesus Himself before His death on the cross. Both were taught to the Jews who were still part of the age of Israel and thus under the Law. Both were told to illuminate other matters than confession of sins, though they do include “confessions” of a sort.

I say “of a sort,” because the prodigal, upon “coming to his senses” and deciding to return to his father, was hardly allowed to even deliver his confession. Though he had prepared it (“I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”) when he arrived and was still far off, “his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.”

Clearly the father had already forgiven him before the son said a word.

And even though he started out on his prepared confessional, it seems to have been ignored. In fact, he was cut off right after the ‘no longer worthy’ part as his father begins giving orders to his slaves to

“Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine (not slave, as the son wanted to suggest but had no opportunity) was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ and they began to be merry.”

Nothing in this story indicates the father was waiting for a confession before he would forgive. The moment he saw the son returning he raced to him in joy, embraced him, kissed him, gave him no chance to even speak. Nor did he say to his slaves that “this son of mine was bad, but now that he has confessed his wrong doing to me, I’ve forgiven him.”

The second reference to confession, Luke 18, is the familiar parable of the arrogant Pharisee in the temple “praying to himself”(!) about how great he is, and not like that horrible tax-gatherer over there. The one who was beating his breast saying, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”

This is in keeping with the commandments of the Law, which was in force when Jesus was preaching and teaching. And even here the point of the story (delivered to “certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt”) doesn’t seem to hinge on who was confessing their sins correctly and being forgiven, but about the difference between arrogance and humility. One man thought he was god, and the other knew he was wretched. In fact, the tax collector is not portrayed as “naming sins” before God, he merely asks for mercy for himself as a sinner.

Finally, the event with Simon the former magician in Acts 8 occurred in the transitional time period between the ending of the age of Israel and before the Church age really got going. The Apostle Paul, the one who was given the bulk of revelation about how Church Age believers were to operate, wasn’t even saved at this point, and was in fact said to be ravaging the church at the end of Acts 7.

In Acts 8, Philip had been in Samaria teaching the people there about Jesus Christ and baptizing them in His name presumably just after the events of Pentecost. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about them, they sent down Peter and John to lay hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit too.

Simon was supposedly one of Philip’s converts, a person who’d believed but hadn’t received the Holy Spirit. But was he really saved? He’s said to have believed the good news about the kingdom of God and been baptized in water. But he’s clearly out of it when he offers the apostles money to give him the authority to lay his hands on others and impart to them the Holy Spirit, like Peter and John were doing.

Peter did not mince words:

“May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this teaching, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

And then in direct disobedience to Peter’s instruction to pray himself, Simon says,

“Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Which I consider to be a very weird response. He’s not even asking them, he’s telling them to pray for him. It certainly doesn’t sound like a confession. Nor is there any indication he was forgiven.

And what does Peter mean by “pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you?” Did Simon merely say he believed in Christ and really didn’t? What does “bondage of iniquity” mean? Temporary personal sinning in his bitterness and desire for approbation? Or worse than that, not even saved?

I don’t know. But there is nothing that says he received the Spirit himself, and he is never mentioned again after having made his weird remark. Nor is anyone said to have prayed for him.

I suppose one could surmise from Peter’s response that when you sin really badly, blasphemously, then you must pray for forgiveness… But you could also surmise from “pray…that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you…” that Simon wasn’t really saved, and only made a pretense of it. Why else would any sin of his not be forgiven?

In any case, Pastor Rapp concludes that, there being so few verses to support the interpretation of 1 John 1:9 as referring to believers confessing for forgiveness, we must turn to “the abundance of Old Testament confessional material” to define this confessing (I was going to write “command” but 1 Jn 1:9 is not, in fact, a command. It’s an if-then.)

Logical perhaps, unless you consider the fact that the spiritual life of the church age is profoundly different from anything the Old Testament saints had ever known or even dreamed of. In fact, it had been held as a mystery from them until such time as the Apostle Paul was led to reveal it. (Ro 16:25; 1 Co 2:7; Eph 3:3,9; Col 1:26,27)

Why then, should we go back to the Old Testament for guidance on living in an age they knew nothing about, an age where all has become new and the old has passed away? Why not stop and ask yourself… if there’s such a paucity of information and examples of confession in the New Testament, might it be that your initial assumption of what 1 John is actually teaching is faulty?

Well, that was my conclusion anyway, and the more I investigate it, the more confident in it I’m becoming.

So What Do We DO About Personal Sins?

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As I said in my last post, I do not believe that we as believers in Christ can ever reach sinless perfection so long as we’re on this earth in these fallen bodies.  We’re going to sin. The question raised was, what are we to do about it?

Well, first have to recognize that we are sinning, but after that, then what? Well, I am convinced the Bible does not tell us we must go through the ritual of “naming the sin privately to God,”  or “rebound” as I’d been taught for years.

Instead, we simply stop doing the bad and start doing the good. Which is what “repent” means: we “change our mind” with regard to that particular thought process/activity — and then stop doing it. And not just stop, but do something else, instead.

In Ephesians 4 Paul lays it all out… Lay aside the old… put on the new…

Stop walking like the Unbelievers walk, in their old way of thinking…
But renew your mind (Ro 12) with the word of God and think on the truth you’ve learned instead of that old human viewpoint stuff.

Be angry, yet do not sin — that is, sin by holding onto it and replaying it in your mind and getting more and more worked up about it; or even worse becoming bitter… Do not let the sun go down on your anger. That is,

Let it Go!

Stop stealing, and set your hands to productive work so you may have an abundance to share with those in need.

Let all wrath and malice and clamor be put away from you and (instead) be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other because Christ has forgiven you.

Because He’s forgiven us of everything, we should gratefully forgive others of their transgressions against us.  And in fact, it helps me to remember while I’m gnashing my teeth over what someone has done to me, that whatever their sin was against me,  Christ died for it, every bit as much as  He died for my judging or outrage. How can I hold anything against the other person, when my Lord has already paid for that failing and forgiven them? Who am I, to think I can’t?

This shifts the focus of our attention off what we’re doing wrong, and what others are doing wrong, and back to what Christ has done about it. And that brings glory to Him, rather than to ourselves and our little rituals performed to “earn” forgiveness…

Sinless Perfection

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Among the comments I’ve received on my recent series of posts about confession of sins was the suggestion that I have dumped rebound for the old Wesleyan doctrine of “sinless perfection.”

I had to go look up what that was.

After a quick reading of the Wikipedia article I’m still not sure what it is. Wesley himself said he never used the term “sinless perfection” for fear of contradicting himself, but did maintain that Christians were on a “journey to perfection” where they would reach a point where “the heart of the believer is cleansed from inbred sin by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.”

I don’t think we’re on a “journey to perfection.” I don’t think God left us here with a sin nature so we could reach perfection. As believers in Christ, when we die, the flesh will be gone and we’ll have perfect resurrection bodies just like our Lord’s. But not because of anything we do along the way.

I think of what the Bible describes as the “heart of the believer” as being where we do our thinking, where our conscience is, our standards, memory, understanding, our will, etc. I believe it’s a combination of the soul and human spirit (the latter made alive at the moment of salvation). The Bible doesn’t say there’s inbred sin there, but rather in the flesh, the physical body referred to as the “old man” in Scripture. This can and does influence the soul/spirit/heart and will until the day we die.

I certainly do not believe the Bible teaches that it is possible for a Christian in this life to attain “spiritual perfection,” that is, to reach a state where he or she no longer sins.

I have to laugh here, because I remember years ago (when I was about 2 years old, spiritually speaking)  getting into a debate with an older gentleman who claimed he no longer sinned.

My husband and I were attending one of the many home Bible studies we tried out before we settled on the one where we listened to Col Thieme’s tapes (augmented by regular Sunday/Wednesday attendance at a Baptist Church). We’d already received the teaching of 1 John 1:9 (that we must confess our sins to be forgiven) from Orville and our LS Chafer book and here we were faced with this man who was claiming he no longer sinned. We quoted 1 John 1:10 – whoever says he’s without sin is a liar. I don’t recall the man’s argument against that, only that he grew quite angry about it all and began insulting us, and  it didn’t help the situation when my husband pointed out that he was, indeed, angry and that was a sin, so clearly he HADN’T stopped sinning.

In any event, I do not believe the Bible teaches we can ever as long as we are alive on this earth, reach a point of sinless perfection. We still have the flesh setting itself against the Spirit (Gal 5:17), and tempting us to go back to the old ways (Ro 7:14-25); we live in the Devil’s world, which is permeated by a system of thinking that’s totally against God  and which will also constantly tempt us to go back to the ways of the flesh (1 Jn 2:15,16); finally, we have an active enemy in the person of Satan and his minions, who are working to keep us from going forward in the Christian life (I Pe 5:8; Eph6:11,12). They have been doing this with members of the Body of Christ for almost two thousand years and they are VERY good at it.

Moreover, the flesh is not getting better, it’s getting worse (2 Co 4:16). So, no, as long as we’re in this fallen world, in these corrupt bodies, we aren’t going to reach sinless perfection. We won’t be without sin until we’re in heaven in our Resurrection Bodies.

We do sin, regularly. Probably daily for most of us, even if it’s only falling into a wrong mental attitude (fear, worry, guilt, selfishness, resentment, pride…the options sometimes seem endless).

Because I believe confession of sin is not something the Bible teaches that we are told to do (as related in my recent posts)  some have asked, “Well what DO we do about it, then?”

Short answer: STOP it!

Longer answer: Lay it aside, and put on something new.

For an even longer answer, check out tomorrow’s post. :-)


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