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Posts Tagged ‘the world’


If you love Christ you have most likely discouraged by the recent spat of news regarding Christian leaders, and laypeople, and sexual sin. It is disheartening to hear of yet another person who has fallen to this type of sin. I’ve lost track of the number of guys I knew in seminary that were disqualified from ministry due to sexual sin.

I’ve read something just as disheartening from the “pen” of a prominent blogger’s wife. I appreciate his ministry. I guess I just don’t get his wife’s perspective. It sounds to me like the old Bob Newhart skit.

What strikes me is how naive it sounds. It seems to minimize the power of indwelling sin and the wiles of our Enemy who wants to destroy the Church, marriage and family. I don’t say this to minimize the power of the Spirit nor the sufficiency of Christ’s work. I often push back against the worm theology that thinks we can never obey. We can grow in obedience, which means we can obey as we mature. The grace of God did appear to teach us to “no” to unrighteousness in this present age (Titus 2).

This does not mean it is easy, as we see in Romans 7 as Paul, who was a more mature Christian than me, cried out to be delivered from “this body of sin.” He shifted immediately into the gospel balm of there being “no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus” which is so important because we continue to sin. He builds on this later in Romans 8.

Paul, in Romans 7 and Galatians 5, talked about sin and the sinful nature: indwelling sin. We talk too little about this fact. Indwelling sin means that we are still attracted to sin in various forms. If this woman was honest with us, she’d admit that there are sins she has seemingly made little to no progress in fighting. Her’s may be far less destructive to marriage and ministry than sexual sin, but that doesn’t mean she faces her own helplessness against sin. Were it not for indwelling sin, there would be nothing in me for temptation to hook.

Indwelling sin also hinders movement toward obedience. It is like trying to swim while wearing a few layers of clothing. At every turn, my flesh comes up with reasons not to obey. I need to talk to myself in gospel terms to goad myself on toward greater faithfulness to Him who died for me.

This is only the third of the great enemies of holiness. The others, of course, being the world and the devil. The former is under the control of the latter to some degree. The world promotes sexual sin, as we see with the existence of the Ashley Madison website, Tinder and pornography in more forms than you can shake a stick at. But lest we think sin is only “out there”, I remind you of indwelling sin which produced the visions of naked women experienced by Jerome as he hid from the world in a cave.

There is also that prowling lion looking to see whom he may devour who tempts us and places crazy and sinful thoughts in us. Satan hates God, but he can’t destroy God. He is aiming at the next best thing: God’s image. Sexual sin is one that strikes at the core of who we are since we were made male and female. Additionally, God gave us the creation mandate which includes “be fruitful and multiply”. Sex within marriage is essential for procreation that we might fill the world with God’s image. Satan does not want the world filled with God’s image, but he’ll settle for that tarnished image resulting from the fall. He wants to destroy the marriages of God’s people precisely because they are seeking to raise up godly seed. Satan wants to destroy the marriages of Christians, and one really good way to do that is sexual sin.

He also hates the Church and the Great Commission (an application of the Creation Mandate to the fallen world). He seeks to stop its growth and progress. One of the many schemes he has is sexual sin. He can destroy marriages, ministries and churches at the same time.

Impalement of PhinehasThink of how Balaam got God to curse the Israelites. If they sinned, turning away from God. So he told Balak to send in the Moabite “hoochie mamas” to seduce the sons of Israel with fornication leading to worshiping their Gods (Numbers 22-25). In discussing this in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says their temptation was common to all.

This means that sexual sin is, in many ways, not like any other sin. While a particular person may not feel temptation to sexual sin, most Christians will. This also means that most pastors will too.

I don’t say this to excuse any sin, or anyone’s sin. I say to this to remind us of the danger there is to people. If you know you are particularly tempted, you need to take steps to be vigilant in fighting temptation. Spouses need to pray for one another (women commit these sins too!). People need to pray for their church leaders. Assume they at least occasionally face such temptation. The recent revelations should move us to pray for people to live upright lives in this present age. They should remind us that the Nancy Reagan “Just Say ‘No’!” approach is not as easy as it sounds when dealing with a sin that promises so much (that it cannot deliver).

“So far as moral failings are concerned, we need to show much more patience. It is easy to trip up here, and the devil is amazingly ingenious in leading us astray.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541)

2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. WCF, XIII

114. Q. But can those converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

A. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience. Nevertheless, with earnest purpose they do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God. Heidelberg Catechism

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It was a fight to read this chapter because I was fighting a migraine at the time.  But it served as a good reminder that progressive sanctification is not automatic, nor easy.  There is no passivism to be found in the Bible.  Hebrews 11 is full of people who acted because they believed.

Anyway, Ryle addresses why this is a good fight (1 Timothy 6:12).  He notes the horrible consequences of war in our world.  Consequences that have not changed.  People may choose to be pacifists when it comes to earthly conflicts.  But in our internal battle against sin, no Christian may be a pacifist or appeaser.  We are all to be soldiers of Christ.

Keep in mind, the battle is not between nations, or religions or theological squabbles.  The battle in view is the battle with the flesh, the world and the devil.  “But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either ‘fight’ or be lost.”

Interestingly, he quotes “the wisest General that ever lived in England”.  I wish I knew to whom to attribute this great quote to, but: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.”  I can think of some politicians that need to read it.  But the point Ryle is making, and we need to hear, is that we must not underestimate the flesh, the world and the devil.  It is not a minor skirmish, or ‘police action’ or ‘act of terrorism’.  The battle against sin is a full-time, full-blown war.  It is not a hobby, or an option activity for the ‘serious’ Christian.

“Where there is grace there will be conflict.  …. There is no holiness without a warfare.  Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.”  This should cause us to recognize our own weakness before our foes.  How we need the work of Christ progressively applied to us by the Spirit through faith!  How we need to recognize it is all of grace, even as we dig in or press on.  We will feel the heat, and pressure, if we are to be purified and transformed.  As John Owen has said, “Be killing sin or it will kill you.”

The key, as Ryle notes, is faith.  Not generic faith- but a faith in Jesus.  We trust in his “person, work and office” as revealed by Scripture and portrayed in the Gospel.  We need our Prophet to reveal our sin, our Priest to cover our sin, and our King to kill our sin.  Faith is also rooted, as Piper often notes, in God’s promises.  We are to believe, and act upon, God’s promises for grace.

We are not alone in this fight, or at least should not be.  Sadly we tend to isolate ourselves from the very helps God has provided.  We have allies in the Word and Spirit.  God has joined them together (Calvin & Owen among others) though sinful men drive them apart.  We have allies in one another (Ephesians 6 speaks of tight ranks to oppose the foe).  Do not go it alone, but stand by your brothers and sisters.  And in the words of a great coach, “Fight, fight, fight!”

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