Tuesday, July 21, 2009

If we confess our sins...

Someone recently wrote to me with a great question.
I'd like your take on this issue: If all sins are forgiven at the cross, why does I John 1:9 say, If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins.
While 1John 1:9 is commonly used to teach that believers can confess their sins and be right with God again, the primary meaning of the verse is that true believers are those who have confessed their sins and so have come to God for salvation.

The immediate context is a series of five "if-then" statements that are parallel to each other.
  • If we say we have fellowship with Him, but walk in darkness...
  • If we walk in the light as He is in the light...
  • If we say that we have no sin...
  • If we confess our sins...
  • If we claim that we have not sinned...
These are parallels that deal with the same basic question - Who is saved and who is not saved? Each statement alternates between people who are not saved and people who are saved. If verse nine is forced to apply to forgiveness of ongoing sins it throws the whole passage out of balance and brings up good questions.

Of course, Christians should repent, confess their sins to God and seek reconciliation with God when they sin. But that is not the primary meaning of this verse. On the other hand, verse nine points to the basis of God's forgiveness. Namely, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness because "the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses us from all sin." (v.7)

One problem of using 1John 1:9 as an instruction to believers about their continuing relationship with God is that it then seems to mean sin is "no big deal." If you sin, you can just confess and God will justly forgive you. Some people think they can callously sin with the intention that they will later confess it and be forgiven.

Chapter two clearly says that the Christians should NOT sin, but that if they do sin, they have an Advocate with the Father. This makes it clear that we are not sinless, but that we should take sin very seriously. After all, Jesus Himself, is our blood sacrifice. Do we love Him or not?

Chapter three emphatically says that sin cannot characterize the life of the true believer. A person who is chronically defeated by the same sins needs to ask serious questions about his relationship with God.
(1John 3:9) 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. (NASB)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Homicide & Pragmatism

The paper this morning reported the eleventh homicide in Stark County in the past two months. This one was a two year old girl - evidently shot during some sort of gang hit at her home. A few weeks ago another person killed his own 3 year old and 6 year old children and former mother-in-law, apparently to spite his ex-wife. How can humans behave in such a brutal way?

Well, many Americans live by the philosophy of pragmatism. "What works is what is right." They also like utilitarianism. "What is useful is good." So they make their choices based on what seems to "work for them" at the moment.

Moral purity or impurity? Fidelity or infidelity? Peace or violence? Honesty or dishonesty? Kindness or unkindness? Truthfulness or lies? Modesty or immodesty? Hard work or sloth? Drug addiction or clean living? Murder or tender care?

Pragmatism says that it all depends on what works for you. If it is useful to you, then it is good! So behavior varies from moment to moment and situation to situation because people's choices depend on what they think "works for them." This should not surprise us. We have been trained to think this way. We have been indoctrinated with the so called "scientific" view that we are all products of the ultimate pragmatic principle - Natural Selection (AKA "survival of the fittest.") No surprise that our society is more and more like a dangerous jungle.

But we have God's own revelation.
(2Timothy 3:16-17) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God says that we are not a cosmic accident, but His own creation. He says that although He has mercifully put up with our sinful rebellion for a while, there is a day of accounting coming. He says that no matter what you may think "works for you," the only thing that REALLY and TRULY works is submitting to God and His word.
(Proverbs 14:12) There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
When man originally decided to rebel against God, he brought death into the world. (Romans 5:12) On the one hand death is a penalty for sin - "The wages of sin..." (Romans 6:23) But on the other hand death is God's way of limiting sin and bringing sinners to account. People can't just go on living in their sin, they will die and face their Creator.

Students who know that they have a final test coming up might be motivated to study the material. Inevitably a few students will show up and say, "I thought the test was next week. Can't I have an extension?" But the teacher gave them the syllabus at the beginning of the year. The teacher wrote the test date on the board every day and offered remedial classes for students who wanted help preparing. The other students were all preparing and talking about the upcoming test. Does it really matter now, on test day, when you say, "I didn't believe it would be today?"

The universal fact of death should put the "fear of God" into everyone and show that pragmatism and utilitarianism are a sham. No matter what you think "works for you" today, we will all someday stand before God and give an account. It is not optional and it doesn't matter what you believe about it. God has given us ample warning in His word - the Bible. He has even built into us a sort of warning system - the Conscience. We know that there is more to right and wrong than the short term utility of our actions.
(Proverbs 21:30) There is no wisdom or understanding Or counsel against the LORD.

God is holy and just. He will make everything right in the end. But, that includes EVERYONE, not just murderers. That means you and me!

Fortunately, God has - like the teacher - provided help for those who believe the test is coming. The teacher provides remediation. God provided redemption and reconciliation through the sacrifice of His Divine Son, Jesus The Christ. Through the provision of Christ by His death and resurrection, all who call on Him can be saved from their sin and have ultimate eternal life with God.
(2Corinthians 5:21) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

(John 5:24) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Are you ready to be examined by your Maker? Getting ready for that day is the only really pragmatic thing you can do.