When we think of abuse within the church, we might focus foremost on the hypocritical sin bashing often seen in which certain outward sins are harped on while other sins are accepted or ignored. For example, many like to focus on the abomination of homosexuality. However, a lying tongue is just as abominable. What about gluttony, covetousness, pride, and vanity?
From what I see, this tends to go in one direction or the other. Either ministers and Christians are overly harsh and hypocritical, or they go to the other extreme and embrace sin as acceptable. Neither are correct because they do not point sinners towards healing offered by Jesus.
These are serious issues, no doubt. However, in this article I want to focus on a kind of accusation that most don’t talk about—one that is also very common. Especially as our churches continue going down the path of world-pleasing and accepting sinfulness more and more.
The accusation I refer to is condemning those who believe that we should go on to perfection by the power of Jesus as evidence of our salvation.
If you are new to KindlingTruth and are not familiar with what I refer to, take a look at:
- Freedom from the Difficulties of the Depraved Heart
- Jesus is the Remedy for Sin and Death
- Jesus Promises Perfection
- Avoiding the Legalistic Faith Trap
I’m a Sinner. You’re a Sinner. We’ll Always Be Sinners. Really?
How often have you heard such things proclaimed by men and women of God? What a terrible and defeatist mindset to have.
The gospel of the kingdom of God is simple, though it is profound. Jesus, the Son of God, sacrificed himself on the cross to pay the price for our sins. He also raised himself from the dead to show that he has power of life.
The devil has dominion over death, and death is the punishment for sin because sin breeds death.
To sin is to act in ways that bring death—both to our own lives and the lives of others as we kill ourselves and others in various ways physically and spiritually. Those who continue sinning and bringing death will receive the just reward, which is death (Read The Nature of Hell (Part 3) – The Lake of Fire and the Second Death).
With faith in Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins. We are also promised “life abundant” as the laws of the kingdom of God are “written in our hearts,” changing us overtime from those who sin and bring death to those who are free and bring life. All of this is by grace through faith.
When we put our faith in forgiveness only but do not go on and seek Jesus so that we might know him better and also have faith in what he taught, stands for, and promises as evidence of our salvation, then we are not living a full Christian life.
We might believe that we will be raised and go to heaven after we die, however, our traditional ideas about heaven are not accurate representations of the kingdom of God. This is a present-day kingdom that is within those who are being renewed in mind and spirit by the power of the Spirit of God. This is also a future-coming kingdom that will one day overthrow all death once and for all.
Do Not Take God’s Mercy for Granted
Though many misunderstand the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus taught and brings to those who are granted faith, it is because of the mercy of God that many sincere believers grow in the things of the kingdom. Jesus transforms lives every day, even if they have never heard the full gospel preached. He knows who is earnest, and he rewards those who’s hearts are set on him. Intellectual understanding is not as important as a sincere heart. We do not know what the Lord is doing with people and we cannot judge the intents of others, so we can never judge the salvation of those who claim Christianity.
However, just because the Lord is merciful to many does not mean that those of us who know better should sit back and refrain from making his wonderful truths known, and those of us who do are often faced with harsh opposition. Why? Because many love their sin and they would rather use salvation as a free ride to a futuristic fleshly idea of heaven then accept that the kingdom of God is a present-day promise—one that is in direct opposition to the sins they want to justify.
That’s certainly not the case for all. Many are just going along with what they have always been taught, or perhaps it’s a faith issue. When we see how sinful we are, it can be hard to believe that we could be made free. All things are possible for those who trust the Lord, and those who ask in faith diligently will receive. How much more when what we ask for is pleasing to God? It is “God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Now, I’m not a pastor. I cannot imagine the struggles they face. It must be a huge responsibility, and when preaching is also your livelihood, I imagine that brings in a whole slew of ethical dilemmas that I would not want to face. I don’t view pastors as my enemies (even though several have turned people off from listening to me because I’m confused and dangerous, supposedly). However, I do view the lying traditions as a huge problem, and we know that there will come a time when “there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.
All this being said, I want to take a look at some of the common scriptural arguments used by many pastors (or ministers) today that discourage the pursuit and promise of righteousness and consider the actual meaning and context.
(Romans 3:10) There is none righteous, no, not one.
When considering this scripture, I found that you really need to read Romans Chapters 1-3 at a minimum to get the context of what Paul the Apostle was writing about. You can also look at Psalm 14 and Psalm 53.
Of-course, it would not be practical for me to insert all of that text here, so I recommend reading for yourself. I have put together some thoughts that will hopefully help you along so you will see the true lesson here. This is written in order of what you will find in Romans 1-3, so you can compare these notes as you read for yourself.
1. We are the called of Christ, by whom we have received grace according to holiness demonstrated by the resurrection from the dead, for his names sake. In other words, by the power of the resurrection, we are promised holiness by grace. “For his name’s sake, he leads me in the paths of righteousness.”
2. Man values lies and with them create a perverted form of righteousness. Here is an example of the foolishness of man: Though we live in God’s creation and are surrounded by proof of His glory, instead of knowing God, man will worship the creation. Why? It is because man views things according to the flesh, not the spirit. Therefore, instead of worshiping God who is a spirit, man worships vain images thereby changing God into the image of corruptible man. We look at this world and gain knowledge, calling ourselves wise, yet we are fools because we do not see the larger truth that is found in God alone according to the spirit, not the flesh (or in today’s world, science, philosophy, etc).
3. Because of this, God gives man over to the lusts of this world, of which we worship, and it is manifest that we have pleasure in unrighteousness. Are we then excused of judgement for our sin because God gave us over the lusts of our hearts and the foolishness of our wisdom? No. We are without excuse because man has enough knowledge of good and evil to condemn themselves. Such things are manifest in the laws of man and the manner in which we use law to justify the wickedness of some while condemning others for doing the same thing as it is convenient for us.
4. God will judge man according to his deeds. God is no respecter of persons, meaning His judgment is the same for everyone. Whether we are Jew or gentile, Christian or unbeliever, those who live unrighteously are appointed the judgment of wrath and those who do good are given glory, honor, and peace.
5. True righteousness is in the spirit not the letter. Bring this around to the points made in number 1. We view law according to the flesh just as man views God according to the flesh, and our worldy wisdom and perverted righteousness only leads to our destruction. As with the law of circumcision, those who are obeying God in truth are of the circumcision of the heart.
Here is something profoundly interesting: Does the law of the Jew make him better than the gentile? We could also say, does the law of the legalistic Christian make him better than the unbeliever? No. There is none righteous, no, not one.
6. The righteousness of God is by faith in Jesus for all who believe. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. In Jesus, we have healing (remission) from our sins and in Jesus alone are we justified. The laws of God are given to us by grace through faith, so we have no cause to boast or become holier-than-thou. This is not something we can perform by our own ability.
It is also true that within the laws of the kingdom of God, one cannot, as with the laws of man or legalistic obedience (whether Jew or Christian), justify ourselves and condemn others. We cannot find loopholes. We cannot corrupt the true righteousness of God by traditions.
In true believers, the righteous law of God is established as the laws of the kingdom are written on the tables of our hearts — a perfect obedience in spirit and truth, “against such there is no law.”
(Isaiah 64:6) But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
The point made in the above section is that our abilities of righteousness are not so righteous. Whether by our law or our corruptions of God’s law, whether Jew, Gentile, legalistic Christian, or unbeliever, when we attempt to do good by our own ability according to the works and perceptions of the flesh, we find that “there is none righteous, no, not one.”
Man’s righteousness is a filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God. That’s why law does not work, because it is in our nature to corrupt law and to act hypocritically. When Jesus came, he protested against such corruptions.
Are we Christians today much different? I think not. I think over the generations we have lost the way of worship in spirit and truth, and we have become very much like the Jews under the Old Covenant because we have forgotten the laws of God—the perfect law of righteousness that Jesus promises to write in our hearts because he knows that we cannot perform such things on our own without corruption.
When Christians and Christian ministers use such scriptures as those mentioned in this article to say that we will always be sinners, they are correct. They are correct because they have forgotten the way of salvation, so for them, they are bound to their filthy hypocrisies as they attempt to please God with legalism.
Even so, Jesus is merciful and he causes many to grow and be fruitful. However, His mercy does not negate the fact that many are desolate and void of the truth that will make them free.
We will see affliction come to this world someday because of our negligence. However, even in his wrath and judgment, Jesus is merciful. He will “rebuild the desolations of many generations.” He will come for the remnant of his people, and in him we will find peace and joy even when the waves are roaring about as the wicked consume themselves.
(1 John 1:8 and 10) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. / If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
These passages were addressed in the article, “We Must Confess Our Sins, Not Hide Them.” It was suggested that this is not about living sinfully, but rather, this is about being faithful to confess our sins so that we are prepared to receive forgiveness and healing.
Many of us go around with seared consciences, condemning others for sin while we are living sinfully ourselves—even doing things that are on the same spectrum of sin. Consider what Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapter 5-7). We are like those to whom Jesus said, “take out the beam from your own eye, then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
We might also remember what John the Baptist said about bringing forth “fruits of repentance.” Those who think they have it all together or were made perfect by their one-time declaration of faith do not need the physician—or at least they think they do not. They are sorely mistaken.
We cannot hide our sins from God, no matter how much fake fruit we put on display or how much we deceive ourselves by calling evil good or vice-versa. We have to be honest with ourselves and honest with God. A broken and contrite spirit is one that is prepared to receive the kingdom—one that is prepared to receive forgiveness and remission (healing) from sin.
1 John 1
For good measure, I include this even though I mentioned this idea above. Many of us who believe that we should go on to perfection by the power of Jesus rather than legalistic Christianity face such accusations. They call us self-righteous and accuse us of perpetuating works-based salvation.
When we seek the Lord in this, the hypocrisy and foolishness of these accusations are made manifest. It is they who claim to be perfect, because they think that their legalism (even legalistic baptisms and declarations of faith) will save them. They are the ones perpetuating works-based salvation. They are the ones who claim they do not need the physician.
Do not let such as these discourage you from continuing in the faith because they want to call their dead faith the path of life. “they say that they live, and are dead.” Faith without works is dead. These works are the fruits of the Spirit that manifest out from a heart of sincere worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Luke Chapter 5 is rather long, so I do not include it here. Please be a good steward and study these things for yourself. Listening to man without doing our part of due diligence is largely what has fueled this mess in the first place.
What About Grace?
Another argument is the misuse of grace. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith. However, what are we being saved from? What does grace give us? Many today view grace as the following:
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (James 2:15-16).
What good does it do to claim salvation by grace yet you do not provide the things of salvation? What good are we doing Christians when we feed them empty promises that do not have any application of freedom to their daily life? I hope you get my meaning here.
There is a righteousness to pursue, and this is perfect righteousness by the power of the Spirit. No other form of righteousness will do, and this is the ultimate joy and pursuit of Christianity as it should be.
Our abilities are filthy rags. Our legalism does not work. Our works-based salvation of hypocrisy makes our houses desolate. Christians, we really should be considering the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There will come a day of wrath and the vengeance of our God, and in His judgments, He is “no respecter of persons.” It does not matter whether we honor God with our lips and claim to be Christians. If we are doing wickedly without regard for the laws of the kingdom of God, we will be cut down.
Indeed, “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” God is awesome! I love how He throws down the proud and wicked and exalts the humble and the just — whether we call ourselves Christian or not. We Christians really should not be so high and mighty. We might see many unbelievers entering the kingdom of God before we do.
Of course, Jesus is the only way. Make no mistake about that. However, there is something to be said about our perversions in Christianity today that make his way “of no effect by our traditions.”
Questions and comments welcome below. You can also email me with questions or just to chat. This article is part of the series entitled, “Answering the Accuser.” If this article was helpful for you, please consider sharing with others. Subscribe if you would like email notifications of future publications.