Archive | Sin

Why I Still Defend the Doctrine of Imputation

I have explained and confessed my belief in the doctrine of imputed sin, which is not a popular doctrine these days. It is one of the many doctrines that are being “rethought” by even the most conservative Christians. Why? Because it seems to fly in the face of everything we feel is just and suggests a characteristic in God that we would rather not be present.

Here is the situation that was concluded from the last post: We are born with a propensity, bent, or inclination to sin. Because of this bent, we sin: It is our nature. When we do act according to our nature and sin, we are held guilty by God and ultimately condemned to eternal punishment. Not only this, but we are already condemned for the sin of another—namely Adam—before we commit any personal sins of our own. This is imputed sin as it is “imputed” or credited to our spiritual bank account before we have a chance to sin. We are held guilty for something someone else did. I can understand why so many are saying “check please” to this doctrine. I did not vote for this. I did not ask to either have this sin nature, or whether or not I approved of what Adam did. I never had a chance. I am sorry, again, this just seems unjust.

It is not hard to see why unbelievers scoff at such a foreign and seemingly cruel proposal. Similarly, it is not difficult to see why believers would decide to either remain agnostic concerning these issues, or change their theology to look more Pelagian. Seriously, this is not an easy subject. We must understand how absolutely shocking this doctrine brings to the table. As Pascal put it, the flow of guilt seems unjust.

Continue Reading →

The Gospel of BREAKING BAD

I don’t like the first part of the Gospel. Let me rephrase that. I don’t like telling people the first part of the Gospel. It’s tough to swallow. You know, the part that goes like this: “You’re a sinner,” “you’re totally depraved,” and “if you really want life you can’t get it on your own.” The heart of it is that no one likes to be told what to do. And what’s more, no one wants to hear the words “you need to be saved” either. We like to encourage people. Part one of the Gospel is pretty discouraging and we don’t always know just how to say it. Of all things, could it be possible that Hollywood’s come to the rescue? Could some television networks, like AMC for example, actually be helping us in our efforts to tell the world why it needs a savior? Scandalous thought, I know, but at least hear me out.

AMC’s corrupt crime-drama, Breaking Bad, is one of my favorite television shows of all time. So many reasons. To name a few, it’s got an airtight narrative and the dialogue and the acting are anything but average. It’s safe to say the show stands out. It’s also safe to say that it stands out as a poignant expression of the darker side of entertainment. Except I wouldn’t be so quick to call that a problem. Better put, maybe Breaking Bad stands out most because it’s actually a moving trailblazer, slowly arranging network television on the path toward Gospel redemption.

Let me back up for a second. Much of media today, telecasts and transmissions we fill our susceptible craniums with, is taking a plunging nosedive into moral bankruptcy where the Gospel is wholesale absent. It’s no secret to anyone with a pulse that a result of postmodern thinking is relative truth. Since the nineties (some would argue the sixties), protective boundary lines, once held securely in place, have been moving around haphazardly. Black and white are melting together into many shades of gray and a motion toward subjective experience over that which is concrete and knowable is on the rise. Media and mainstream television wield some of the largest swords in the arena where truth is being constantly defined and redefined.

Hang with me. I’ll get to Breaking Bad in a minute. But there are some things that need to be understood first. Continue Reading →

How to Sin More Boldly

At a staff meeting, Chuck Swindoll once gave us a tip about interviewing for pastoral positions (as many of us were thought to be candidates for other jobs). He said, “When you preach your first sermon during the interview process, don’t give them the best one you’ve got. In other words [and hear his deep preaching voice come in here], don’t put your best foot forward. Otherwise, when you come back or start your job you won’t have anything but your normal self to give them, and you have already prepared them for something different.” (Yes, that was a paraphrase, but it went something like that.)

Unfortunately, we are always (spiritually speaking) trying to put our best foot forward, both to ourselves and others. We are consumed by what we think others think of us and, in turn, what we think of ourselves. Unknown to us, our lives turn into theatrical performances of lies, manipulation, and deception. And the worst part about it is that we hardly even know it. It becomes second nature.

Of course, we don’t really want to throw up on people at every turn. And, more importantly, people don’t really want us to. But that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about learning to be who we really are and being fine with it.

I would like to say that I learned this in some Bible study, class at seminary, or revelation from an angel. However, such is not the case. I began to learn and practice this (and, please note, I am still just beginning to acknowledge the mass amounts of self-deception I have rooted deep in my soul) in my days at the bars, picking up on girls (yes, you heard that right). I had a good friend who could get just about any girl in town (or so we thought). I was so impressed with him. He could not even count the number of girls he had slept with (and at that point in my life, that is where I wanted to be). He began to teach me the tricks of the trade and, for better or worse, one of his “tricks” was brutal honesty. I cringe at trying to give example of what I mean. (I think there is a difference in being wisely transparent and irresponsibly crass!) But this guy showed me that I did not have to put my best foot forward. In fact, I could lead with my weaknesses. Of course, this had an interesting dynamic at 1 a.m. in the bars. The slurring of truth from a guilt-ridden, wayward Christian may not be the best example, but it is my life. Since then, I have always tried to lead with neither my best foot, nor my worst foot (which is just as bad in the opposite direction), but my real foot. Continue Reading →

Is Fornication Really a Sin?

I spent seven years as a singles pastor.  Can you imagine the issues I had to deal with regarding sex? How far can we go before marriage? What if we are engaged? What happens when we have already crossed that line? Is it okay to try living together if we don’t have sex? As well, I knew the issues of lust and temptation that come from magazines, internet sites, and promiscuous thoughts in general. While I was at seminary, I remember the head of the counseling department saying that by his estimation, half the male students were struggling with internet pornography. Half! If half this body of guys sold out to Jesus, selling everything they own to go to seminary, were this deeply involved in sexual struggles, how much more so the singles at my church?

Many of these are difficult questions. More difficult than one realizes, until pushed for an answer. We are dealing with sexual sin among sexual people. We are bound to attempt to find as many loopholes as possible.

One day I was blindsided by a question that, before then, I had considered a softball. A man walked up to me after my lesson and said that he had some good Christian friends (and by “good Christian friends” I mean he considered these friends to be good Christians), who questioned him about the issue of sex before marriage. They had suggested to him that, contrary to popular thought, the Bible does not anywhere condemn what is known in our language as “fornication.” They said that the word “fornication,” when it is used in the Bible, does not mean sex before marriage, but sexual immorality in general. According to their studies, the sexual immorality condemned in the Scripture does not include fornication.

After some quick research, I discovered that what they said was true . . . at least part of it.

Now, let me be up front here. Before I married Kristie, I did not do to well in the sex before marriage department. I regret it quit a bit. I don’t think I ever actually committed adultery, but for the most part I worked on a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” basis. I was a Christian at the time and the guilt was bad. However, I took some comfort in thinking that I had not crossed the actual adultery line (at least as far as I knew). Why? Because I knew that the Bible had a lot to say about adultery. You know, it was all that “take them out and stone them” stuff. But, while the guilt was bad, it was not as bad as it could have (or should have) been. After all, who was I hurting? God made me a sexual being. I was not coloring outside of the lines that much. After all, what does he expect? It is quite a killjoy to create sexual desire and then say, “You cannot touch.”

So, back to my question: Is fornication really a sin? Continue Reading →

Sin in the Life of a Believer

Thanks to a friend who gave me some wonderful quotes about sin in the life of a believer.

Matthew Henry

The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do.

This passage does not represent the apostle as one that walked after the flesh, but as one that had it greatly at heart, not to walk so. And if there are those who abuse this passage, as they also do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction, yet serious Christians find cause to bless God for having thus provided for their support and comfort.  And no man who is not engaged in this conflict, can clearly understand the meaning of these words, or rightly judge concerning this painful conflict, which led the apostle to bemoan himself as a wretched man, constrained to what he abhorred.

He could not deliver himself; and this made him the more fervently thank God for the way of salvation revealed through Jesus Christ, which promised him, in the end, deliverance from this enemy.

So then, says he, I myself, with my mind, my prevailing judgement, affections, and purposes, as a regenerate man, by Divine grace, serve and obey the law of God; but with the flesh, the carnal nature, the remains of depravity, I serve the law of sin, which wars against the law of my mind. Not serving it so as to live in it, or to allow it, but as unable to free himself from it, even in his very best state, and needing to look for help and deliverance out of himself.

He was willing to act in all points agreeable to the law, in his mind and conscience, but was hindered by indwelling sin, and never attained the perfection the law requires. What can be deliverance for a man always sinful, but the free grace of God, as offered in Christ Jesus?

The power of Divine grace, and of the Holy Spirit, could root out sin from our hearts even in this life, if Divine wisdom had not otherwise thought fit. But it is suffered, that Christians might constantly feel, and understand thoroughly, the wretched state from which Divine grace saves them; might be kept from trusting in themselves; and might ever hold all their consolation and hope, from the rich and free grace of God in Christ.

An excerpt from Pilgrim’s Progress – ‘My Name At First Was Graceless’ (edited) Continue Reading →

How Do I Overcome Sin in My Life?

An email I recieved:

“I have seen your website and read through some of the things on there. I have already prayed to receive Christ and feel God calling me to ministry. But right now I am really struggling with a particular sin in my life and I cannot seem to get victory from it in my life. It has caused me to have doubts of salvation and calling. How can I get victory over this sin? If you have any advice or answers that would be great.

Thank you.”


Dear brother in Christ,

I am not sure what the sin is or how particularly destructive it is in your life, but let me try to encourage you. I spent from the age of 20 through 23 praying nearly every night that God would get rid of destructive sins in my life (primarily fornication). I felt the calling at that time as well. God would just not seem to give me victory. Every time I would muster up the will to get rid of it, I would let all my friends know that it was over. Then, within just a couple of days or weeks, I would be back into it. And, to top it all off, when I got back into it, I seemed to become more depraved than I was before. It was so frustrating and disheartening. I even had to quit teaching a Bible study I began to teach, because I fell back into the sin three months after I started the Bible study. This was embarrassing and shameful. I often just wanted to give up trying because I felt God was not going to come to my rescue and give me deliverance. I would sometimes, with tears in my eyes, blame him for making me that way.

There are still sins in my life that I can’t seem to get rid of. I just prayed last night with the same zeal that God would change me. Sure, the sins are not evident and destructive like sleeping around, but they are, for some reason, just as disheartening. I often wonder why God does not answer sincere requests for things that are good. He is slow. Often, very slow. John Piper once said, “I don’t doubt God due to the problem of evil. When I doubt God it is due to the slowness of my sanctification.” I am glad he said that. It helps me a great deal. My sanctification is so slow. I mean, like, come on Lord. Just sanctify me completely and instantly once I ask. What gives? But he does not. Even the great Apostle Paul says that he did not do the things he wanted to do, but continually practiced the very things he hated. Read Roman 7:15-24. We will always struggle with sin this side of heaven. Continue Reading →

Do I Need to Ask God for Forgiveness?

(Lisa Robinson)

That question sounds radical, I know. But bear with me and hear me out. For all of my Christian life, when I’ve sinned I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me. And observing the landscape I know I’m not alone. How many of you do that when you sin? Lord, please forgive me. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and examining this concept against the breadth of scripture and have come to the conclusion that maybe asking forgiveness is not the best approach.

Why do I say this? Consider these verses

“In Him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to his grace, which he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4)

As a believer, I am united to Christ through the Holy Spirit (cf 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). And if I am united to him, then Ephesians indicates that in Christ is the forgiveness of sins.  Meaning, the forgiveness is already there. But here’s the passage that really got me to thinking about this;

“By this [Christ doing the will of the Father and offering himself as an atoning sacrifice for sins]  we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all…for by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10,14) Continue Reading →

An Open Letter to the Apostle John


First of all, let me say how much I appreciate your work. Your Gospel was the coup d’état of your writings. Chapter 14 was a lifeline to me as a kid. Thanks for spending so much time (four chapters!) focusing on what we call the “upper room discourse.” It is tender and comforting in so many ways. As well, I loved your emphasis on the deity of Christ. From beginning to end you magnify Christ and it is awesome! (I wish Matthew, Mark, and Luke were so bold, but I understand their reasons). Thanks for leaving your works unnamed. I am assuming that you are the “Apostle” John, but either way, your anonymity gives your testimony great credibility.

However, I do have some problems with something you wrote. This something confuses me quite a bit as I cannot find a satisfying way to fit it into my theology. I know my issue is really with God, as he co-wrote with you on this project, but I am not as comfortable writing an open letter to God! So you will have to do.

Ready? Here it goes…

I am confused by your statement in the book we call “First John”:

“No one who is born of God sins, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)

I am confused because I believe that I am born of God, but I still sin. What gives?

Now, we often qualify your statement here since the word “sin” is in the present progressive in the Greek. Therefore, many translations opt for “practices sin” instead of “sins.” I think this is a valid conclusion. Therefore, you were talking about those who continue to sin in a progressive way.

Let me be honest here . . . This justified exegetical qualification did comfort me at one time. When I first started following our Lord with a greater intensity, I did give up many sins. So for the first few years, my experience coincided with your proposition. I was no longer practicing certain evident sins which had plagued me. But here I am, twenty years later, with more questions than answers about your theology on this issue.

Here is the basic problem. I still practice sin. While I gave up certain sins twenty years ago and have yet to fall back into them, for the last twenty years I have discovered so many things in my life which I habitually practice and cannot regulate to my satisfaction. I do try and try, pray and pray, ask and ask, beg and beg, but I fall back into these transgressions. Let me illustrate (humor me). . . . Continue Reading →