To the surprise (and consternation) of Hollywood, Unplannedopened to more than $6 million in box office receipts, finishing number 5 in the nation. And it did this while opening in less than 1,100 theaters nationwide.
More importantly, this powerful, pro-life movie that exposes the evil of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry is making a powerful impact on its viewers. This could truly be a major game-changer in the days ahead.
Not that the left didn’t try hard to stop the film from getting out of the gate, let alone succeeding.
Lead actress Ashley Bratcher was warned that she was “probably gonna be blacklisted” by Hollywood if she took the role.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that, “Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, HGTV and several other cable networks” rejected advertising for the movie.
I’ve heard of theaters that dropped the movie before its release, only to reinstate it after protests.
Then there was the ridiculous R-rating the movie was saddled with, without possible justification.
And over the weekend, Twitter temporarily suspended the movie’s account, only to restore it a few hours later after a storm of protests. (Can anyone tell me any possible rationale, other than sheer, anti-life bigotry, for shutting down this account?) Then, once the account was restored, more than 100,000 followers realized they were no longer listed on the account. This is beyond suspicious.
And still, despite all this opposition (and more) the movie brought in more than $6 million in the first weekend, more than doubling prior estimates.
It’s also quite revealing that, on Rotten Tomatoes, critics (15 so far) have given Unplanned a rating of 53, while viewers (1,996 at present) have given it a score of 94. Right now, that makes Unplanned the highest viewer-rated movie of all new releases, way ahead of Dumbo and Captain Marvel, both of which have viewer ratings of 60. It’s even doing better than How to Train Your Dragon, at 88.
But these ratings only tell you so much. It’s the testimonies of the viewers which are so powerful.
“I had tears throughout the movie. Got to my car and really broke down. Thank you God that you are allowing people to see your side of this issue.”
A woman wrote:
“I cried through so much of this movie. I don’t understand how people can continue to justify the killing of the unborn. I walked out of this movie with the conviction to get involved in crisis pregnancy assistance ASAP.”
Another said this:
“I couldn’t stop crying and at one point wanted to wail and pray. I had to force myself to get it together.”
“Within the first ten minutes I was sobbing as was the lady sitting beside me. I know what happens with an abortion but seeing it was powerful. If I weren’t already pro-life I would be after watching this movie.”
A mother posted this:
“I took my 16 year old and she was greatly impacted. She had no strong opinion on abortion until she saw this movie. I’m taking my 11 year old to see it next.”
And one viewer commented:
“I was overcome by the strong message of grace and forgiveness.”
One viewer after another described the powerful impact of Unplanned, with many feeling the need to get involved in the pro-life movement now.
But the comment that moved me most was this one, from another mother who went with her daughter. Her own story is compelling as well. Read this and weep:
“Wow what a movie! I went to see it with my 11yrs old daughter Bella. I was reluctant at first to take her, I prayed about it and got the green light from The Holy Spirit. Yet there were scenes where she covered her eyes, she was glad she saw it too. At the end she hugged me so tight, started crying uncontrollably and said ‘So much evil mommy, those poor babies. Everyone needs to see this movie.’
“She is also one of those babies who got saved by prayer. I was one of those women who had an appointment to murder my baby when I was 12weeks with her, but cancel the appointment hours prior doing ‘the procedure’ at a clinic here in Houston…”
May God have mercy on our nation. May He turn the tide in our country. May He act on behalf of more than 60 million slain in the womb.
And so we pray:
“So much evil, Lord! These poor babies! Help us to do our part to awaken the conscience of the nation. We beseech You, Father, to change hearts and minds. It’s time!”
Three weeks ago I blew the trumpet for “Planting a Passion” to waken a dream in you of being a part of spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples by starting a new, strong, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, missions-mobilizing, soul-winning, justice-pursuing church somewhere else in the Twin Cities. I pray that this vision of Planting a Passion is simmering in all of you.
The Call for Justice-Pursuing, Coronary Christians
Then in the last two weeks, we fleshed out some of what it means to be a justice-pursuing church. We focused two weeks ago on racial justice, and we focused last week on justice for the unborn. And in general my plea was that God would create justice-pursuing, coronary Christians at Bethlehem — not adrenal Christians. Christians who keep on pumping the blood of life hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade into a Cause bigger than yourself or your family or your church. Marathon Christians, not sprinters. William Wilberforce-likeChristians who gave all his life to defeat the slave trade in Britain two hundred years ago.
One of his adversaries said, “It is necessary to watch him as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that Enthusiastic spirit, which so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows.” In other words, knock him down and he gets up stronger. There are not many people like that in America today. Most people who get knocked down for righteousness’ sake feel sorry for themselves, then they ask where God was, and then they take someone to court. A coronary Christian learns from the defeat, gets up, sets a new goal, and presses on in the cause.
Coronary Christians Fight Warfare Against Their Sin
Now, this morning we have returned to Romans 8 to pick up where we left off on December 16th. But I am still trumpeting Planting a Passion, and I am still working to build “justice-pursuing” churches, and I am still pleading for God to create coronary Christians, because that is what verses 12–13 help me do.
If you are going to be the kind of person who gets up when you get knocked down and instead of planning revenge, plans fresh strategies of love; and instead of questioning God, submits to his wise and good sovereignty; and instead of whining, rejoices in tribulation and is refined like steel, then you will have to learn to kill the sins of self-pity and pride and grudge-holding and loving the praise of man. In other words, coronary Christians who joyfully press on in some great cause of love and justice don’t come out of nowhere. They come out of the fiery furnace of warfare with sin — fought mainly in their own souls.
Let’s look at verses 12-13: “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh [literally: we are debtors not to the flesh], to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
If you are going to be a coronary, justice-pursuing, passion-planting Christian — or, for that matter, any kind of Christian who inherits life and not death — Paul says you must not be the debt-paying slave of the flesh — that old rebellious, insubordinate, self-sufficient nature we all have (Romans 8:7). “Brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” — we owe the flesh nothing but enmity and war. Don’t dally with your destroyer. Don’t be a debtor to your destroyer. Get out debt to the flesh, don’t pay for your own destruction.
How, we ask? That’s what verse 13 describes. If you are going to be a coronary, justice-pursuing, passion-planting, free-from-debt-to-fatal-flesh Christian, you must be skilled at killing your own sins. This is dangerous language here, so be careful. Don’t think about other people’s sins. Don’t think about how people wrong you. Think about your own sins. That’s what Paul is talking about. Verse 13b: “But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of [your!] body, you will live.”
John Owen on Mortification of Sin
The great teacher of the church on this doctrine is John Owen. Nobody has probed it more deeply, probably. He wrote a little 86-page book called Mortification of Sin in Believers. “Mortify” means “kill” in 17th century English. Today it just means “embarrass” or “shame.” But Owen was talking about this verse. In fact, his whole book is an exposition of this verse — Romans 8:13. He put it like this: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
My mother wrote in my Bible when I was fifteen years old — I still have the Bible — “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” Now Owen says, based on Romans 8:13, “Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you.” We will see that these two mottos are very closely connected, because Romans 8:13 says that we are to put be putting sin to death by the Spirit: “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” — and what is the instrument of death wielded by the Spirit? The answer is given in Ephesians 6:1: “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.” This book will keep you from sin — this book will kill sin.
I just want you to see how everything in these recent weeks is connected. We thought we were taking a detour from Romans since December 16, but it turns out that we were really simply giving application of what happens when Christians put to death the deeds of the body. They become coronary, marathon, God-centered, Christ-exalting, justice-pursuing, passion-planting Christians.
So now what would be helpful to know in order to experience what Romans 8:13 is calling for? Well, I see four questions that would be helpful to answer so that we can be about this crucial duty of killing sin.
“If you have been justified by faith you will be glorified.”
What are “the deeds of the body” when Paul says, “If by the Spirit you kill the deeds of the body, you will live”? Surely not all the deeds of the body are to be killed. The body is supposed to be an instrument of righteousness. So what are the deeds of the body that are to be killed?
What does killing them mean? Do they have life that we should take away? What will killing them involve?
What does “by the Spirit” mean? The Spirit is himself God. He is not a lifeless instrument in our hands to wield as we wish. The very thought of having the Spirit in my hand gives me the shivers of disrespect. I am in his hand, aren’t I? Not he in mine. He is the power, not me. How am I to understand this killing of sin “by the Spirit”?
Does this threat of death mean that I can lose my salvation? Verse 13a: “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die.” This is spoken to the whole church at Rome. And death here is eternal death and judgment. We know that because everyone — whether you live according to the flesh or not — dies a physical death. So the death this verse warns about is something more, something that happens only to some and not to others. So the question remains: can we die eternally if we have justified by faith? If so what becomes of our assurance, and if not why does Paul threaten us all with death if we live according to the flesh and tell us to be about the business of killing sin?
So let’s start here with this last question and then take up the others in two weeks. What we should take away this morning is a general sense of how justification relates to sin-killing; and how crucial it is that we do it.
Does the Threat of Death Imply We Can Lose Our Salvation?
You know my answer: no, someone who is justified by faith alone apart from works of the law cannot die in this sense of eternal death. One of my main reasons for believing this is found in this chapter in verse 30. In this verse, Paul argues that salvation from beginning to end is a work of God with every part linked to the other in an unbreakable chain.
Romans 8:30: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Here the link between justification and glorification is certain. If you have been justified by faith you will be glorified. That is, you will be brought to eternal life and glory. The chain will not be broken: predestination, calling, justification, glorification.
Killing Sin Is the Result and Evidence of Justification
So the question then is why does Paul say to the church in Rome — and to Bethlehem — “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”? The reason is this: Putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit — the daily practice of killing sin in your life — is the result of being justified and the evidence that you are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law. If you are making war on your sin, and walking by the Spirit, then you know that you have been united with Christ by faith alone. And if you have been united to Christ, then his blood and righteousness provide the unshakable ground of your justification.
On the other hand, if you are living according to the flesh — if you are not making war on the flesh, and not making a practice out of killing sin in your life, then there is no compelling reason for thinking that you are united to Christ by faith or that you are therefore justified. In other words, putting to death the deeds of the body is not the way we get justified, it’s one of the ways God shows that we are justified.
And so Paul commands us to do it — be killing sin — because if we don’t — if we don’t make war on the flesh and put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit — if growth in grace and holiness mean nothing to us — then we show that we are probably false in our profession of faith, and that our church membership is a sham and our baptism is a fraud, and we are probably not Christians after all and never were.
Killing Sin Is the Effect, not the Cause
This is a good place to review and reestablish the great foundation for our call for coronary, justice-pursuing Christians. Are we calling for you to live this way so that you will get justified, or are we calling for you to live this way because this is the way justified sinners live? Is the pursuit of justice and love “by the Spirit” with life-long perseverance the cause or the effect of being set right with God?
Let Wilberforce answer. Here was a man who had a passion for holiness and righteousness and justice greater than anyone in his day perhaps. When he wrote his book, A Practical View of Christianity, to trumpet this passion for justice and for political engagement in the cause of righteousness, here is what he said,
Christianity is a scheme “for justifying the ungodly” [Romans 4:5], by Christ’s dying for them “when yet sinners” [Romans 5:6–8], a scheme “for reconciling us to God” — when enemies [Romans 5:10]; and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled.
“If we died to sin by being united with Jesus in his death, we can’t stay married to sin.”
We have spent almost four years laying the foundation for understanding Romans 8. The first five chapters of Romans demonstrate that the only way for us sinners to be declared righteous in God’s sight is by having righteousness reckoned to us — credited to us, imputed to us — by grace, through faith, on the basis of Christ’s perfect life and death, and not on the basis of our own works. God is just and justifies the ungodly who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
With that stunning and unspeakably wonderful foundation laid, Paul has to ask in chapter 6, two times: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase” (verse 1)? “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace” (verse 15)? And all of chapters 6 and 7 is written to show that justification by faith alone apart from works does notand cannot lead a person to make peace with sin.
Paul answers his own question in Romans 6:2, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” We can’t. If we died to sin by being united with Jesus in his death, we can’t stay married to sin. The faith that unites us to Christ disunites from his competitors. The faith that makes peace with God makes war on our sin. If you are not at odds with sin, you are not at home with Jesus, not because being at odds with sin makes you at home with Jesus, but because being at home with Jesus makes you at odds with sin.
Therefore, I call you and urge you, for the sake of being God-centered, Christ-exalting, soul-winning, justice-pursuing, passion-planting, coronary Christians, don’t live according to the flesh but “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body.” Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.
Yale has found a roundabout way to blacklist legal and nonprofit organizations that don’t adhere to Yale’s understanding of gender identity.
April 1, 2019 by Aaron Haviland
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges of being a Christian and a conservative at Yale Law School. A few days ago, the law school decided to double down and prove my point.
After the Yale Federalist Society invited an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a prominent Christian legal group, to speak about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, conservative students faced backlash. Outlaws, the law school’s LGBTQ group, demanded that Yale Law School “clarify” its admissions policies for students who support ADF’s positions. Additionally, Outlaws insisted that students who work for religious or conservative public interest organizations such as ADF during their summers should not receive financial support from the law school.
On March 25, one month after the controversy, Yale Law School announced via email that it was extending its nondiscrimination policy to summer public interest fellowships, postgraduate public interest fellowships, and loan forgiveness for public interest careers. The school will no longer provide financial support for students and graduates who work at organizations that discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”
Yale based its decision on a unanimous recommendation from the school’s Public Interest Committee. The committee explained: “The logic of our broader recommendation is that Yale Law School does not and should not support discrimination against its own students, financially or otherwise. Obviously, the Law School cannot prohibit a student from working for an employer who discriminates, but that is not a reason why Yale Law School should bear any obligation to fund that work, particularly if that organization does not give equal employment opportunity to all of our students.”
The law school also thanked Outlaws for raising this issue.
Too Vague and Broad
Conservative students who read the announcement were outraged. At first glance, the policy looks like it applies to organizations with disfavored policy positions. A student working for ADF, for example, would not receive school funding because ADF advocates for natural marriage.
In private emails to students, however, the Yale administration has been presenting a narrower explanation of the new policy. The school’s funding restrictions will only apply to organizations with disfavored hiring practices.
While admitting that there are still many details to be worked out, Yale currently says it envisions a self-certification process for employers. For a Yale student to receive a summer public interest fellowship, the employer must certify that it is in compliance with Yale’s nondiscrimination policy. If an organization does not self-certify, then the student will receive no financial support from the law school.
For organizations like ADF, this presents a problem. ADF employees must sign a statement of faith in which they affirm—among other principles—the Christian sexual ethic. This ethic teaches that “all forms of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, polygamy, polyandry, bestiality, incest, pornography, and acting upon any disagreement with one’s biological sex) are sinful and offensive to God.”
When asked specifically about ADF, Yale officials claimed they do not know enough about ADF’s hiring practices to make a determination. However, they admitted that if ADF does not certify that it will comply with Yale’s policy, then students working for ADF will be ineligible for public interest fellowships and the loan forgiveness program.
Discriminating Against Christians Is Totally Acceptable
When questioned about this new policy, Yale officials act puzzled as to why religious and conservative students and alumni are so worried. There are several reasons to be concerned.
First, Yale’s only assurances that the policy will be limited to hiring practices, and not applied to policy positions, are private emails sent to individual students. This is not enough. What ultimately matters is the text of the policy. Behind-the-scenes promises about how the policy will be interpreted and applied are not binding. The law school’s public position is too vague.
Second, even if this new policy is limited to hiring practices, it’s still deeply troubling. The policy was obviously a response to ADF. Yale made this clear when it thanked Outlaws for raising this issue, which was in the context of a protest against ADF. And in announcing the new policy, Yale said, “while the law governing nondiscrimination against LGBTQ people is subject to contestation, the Law School’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is not.”
Without naming ADF, Yale has found a roundabout way to functionally blacklist them and other organizations that do not adhere to Yale’s progressive understanding of gender identity. Law students and graduates will still receive funding to work at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union that defend abortion, for example. But if students and graduates want to work for ADF or other similarly situated religious or conservative organizations, they will get no help.
Finally, Yale has already caved to one progressive demand by restricting financial support for conservative students. Who is to say that the school will not cave again and start denying admission to conservative applicants? There were certainly calls among the student body to do so. Progressive students are attempting to shrink the Overton Window of reasonable public discourse, and Yale seems all too willing to comply.
I still believe that there is plenty of good at Yale. As Justice Kavanaugh said, we should all strive to be “on the sunrise side of the mountain.” I am incredibly lucky to be here and am determined to leave this school without any anger or bitterness. But they’re making it hard.
Aaron Haviland is a student at Yale Law School. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Cambridge, and he served in the Marine Corps.
The R-rated pic scored the second-best start ever for faith-based distributor Pure Flix; tracking had suggested it would only earn around $3 million.
Graced with a coveted A+ CinemaScore, the controversial anti-abortion dramaUnplanned opened to a strong $6.1 million from 1,059 theaters at the U.S. box office despite a relatively modest footprint.
The R-rated film — landing in fifth place — scored the second-biggest start ever for faith-based distributor Pure Flix behind God’s Not Dead 2 ($7.6 million). The Christian pic did its biggest business in the Midwest and South.
Generally, theaters in New York City and Los Angeles populate the list of a film’s top 20 grossing theaters. In this case, there were none. Instead, the top theater was the AMC Northpark 15 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, followed by cinemas in St. Louis; Detroit; Wichita, Kansas; Temecula in Southern California’s Riverside County; Salt Lake City; Orange County, California; Kansas City; Odessa, Texas; and Nashville.
“We are thrilled, gratified and humbled,” co-directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman said Sunday in a statement. “We are so pleased that the American people have responded with such an enormous outpouring of support at the box office. It humbles us and we look forward to seeing what happens in the weeks ahead.”
Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested a $3 million debut for Unplanned.
The pic tells the true story of Abby Johnson, who defected from Planned Parenthood to become a pro-life activist after witnessing an abortion at 13 weeks. Unplanned was partially financed by My Pillow founder Michael Lindell, who is a born-again Christian and outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.
The film’s producers, who unsuccessfully fought to overturn the pic’s R-rating, note that Unplanneddidn’t have an easy road to the big screen. A number of TV networks declined to play ads for the movie, while the film’s Twitter account was briefly suspended Saturday morning.
On Friday, trailer views hovered at around 250,000. That stat swelled to 1.7 million views by Saturday morning.
“To bring the story of Abby Johnson to audiences and have them show up in such large numbers shows how abortion is so important to bring to audiences,” said Pure Flix CEO Michael Scott. “We hope that those on both sides of the debate will see Unplanned and begin to have their own dialogue. This film can be that spark to bring more hearts and minds to understanding the value of life.”
Unplanned is set to move into a total of 1,700 theaters next weekend.
In fact, many become pro-life by the time he’s done explaining to them “7 Reasons,” as his new film is titled.
It’s available now for download for a charge and is scheduled to be released on the Living Waters YouTube Channel on Mother’s Day weekend.
Comfort asks students whether they are pro-choice, and most say yes.
But within a few minutes, they’re reversing course.
He asks one student: “Did you change your mind?”
“Actually, you know what? Yeah, I have,” the student says.
See a trailer:
Comfort and the others who created “7 Reasons” believe the movie will change viewers’ stance on abortion.
The 42-minute documentary shows that transformation taking place in man-in-the-street interviews.
“The movie really is a pro-choice politician’s nightmare,” Comfort told WND. “Like millions of others, I was horrified to hear liberals abandon their usual arguments about it not being a baby in the womb, etc., and freely admit that they just want to kill human beings out of convenience. I wanted to produce a film that would change people’s minds about this horrific practice, and ‘7 Reasons’ does just that.”
Abortion has been in the news in recent months.
The Trump administration this week expanded the Mexico City Policy that forbids U.S. tax dollars from being used by overseas abortion providers. Meanwhile, New York state in January adopted a law that effectively allows abortion until birth. A similar Virginia bill failed, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam drew attention with his de facto approval of infanticide in a radio interview.
Comfort said that as he speaks with young people about abortion, he is “amazed at both the hardness of heart of some, but of the ignorance of others and tenderness of others.”
“They have no idea what happens with an abortion,” he said. “I ask questions like, ‘If it was your job to kill a baby, what do you think would be the most efficient way to do the job?’”
The students, all confidently pro-abortion at the beginning, change their minds by the end.
“When minds and hearts change, laws change,” the production explains.
“So you’ve changed your mind about abortion?” Comfort asks one student.
“Of course,” the student says.
And then comes the warning for abortion-industry funded politicians.
But will you now vote pro-life?
It’s not the first time Comfort has approached the subject.
In his film “180” just a few years ago, he shows how people can change their minds about abortion in seconds when faced with one question.
James Dobson, founder of FamilyTalk, described it as “powerful stuff.”
“I was deeply moved,” he said.
Comfort is the founder of Living Waters and the bestselling author of more than 80 books, including “God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life,” “How to Know God Exists” and “The Evidence Bible.” He co-hosts the award-winning television program “Way of the Master,” airing in almost 200 countries, and is the executive producer of “180,” “Evolution vs. God,” “Audacity” and other films.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
The question we will tackle today is how do people who have experienced the miracle of the new birth deal with their own sinfulness as they try to live in the full assurance of their salvation? That is, how do we deal with the conflict between the reality of the new birth, on the one hand, and our ongoing sin, on the other hand? How do you balance the danger of losing assurance of salvation and the danger of being presumptuous that you are born again when you may not be? How can we enjoy the assurance of being born again, and yet not take lightly the sinfulness of our lives that is so out of step with being born again?
John’s first letter, more than any other book in the Bible, seems to be designed to help us in this practical, daily battle. Consider 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” This book is written, he says, to help believers have the full assurance that they have been born again—that is, that they have new, spiritual life in them that will never die. John wants you—God wants you—to experience something in this letter that makes you profoundly confident that you have passed from death to life.
First John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life.” Jesus says in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” So John and Jesus are jealous for us believers to know that judgment is behind us, and death is behind us, because our judgment happened when Jesus was judged in our place, and our death happened when Jesus died in our place. And therefore, new life is in us and this life cannot perish and cannot be taken away. It’s eternal. That’s the assurance John and Jesus want for you. “I write these things to you . . . that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
The Folly of the False Teachers
But something is going on in the churches that John is writing to that concerns him deeply. Whatever it is, it threatens to destroy this assurance. There are false teachers who are saying things that may give the impression of good news and strong assurance, but will have the very opposite effect. In dealing with these false teachers, John shows us how to deal with our own sin in relation to fighting for assurance. What were these false teachers saying?
First, they were saying that the pre-existent Son of God, Jesus Christ, had not come in the flesh. They did not believe in the full union of the pre-existent Son of God with a fleshly human nature like ours. Here is what John says about them in 1 John 4:1-3: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”
Disconnecting Christ and the Flesh
There is a lot we could go into about this early Christian heresy, but I only want to focus on one thing. These false teachers disconnected Christ and the flesh. See that in verse 2: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” They did not like the idea of the pre-existent Christ being united with human flesh.
Now here is the reason that’s relevant for our question today. This view of the person of Christ not being united to physical, bodily, flesh evidently had a practical, moral effect on the way these false teachers viewed the Christian life. Just as they disconnected the person of Christ from ordinary physical life, so they disconnected being a Christian from ordinary physical life.
Disconnecting Christians and the Flesh
One of the clearest places to see his is here in our text: 1 John 3:7. John says, “Little children, let no one deceive you [so he has the false teachers in view]. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” What’s he saying? He is saying beware of the false teachers because what they say is that you can be righteous and not practice righteousness. “Let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous.”
In other words, John opposes not only their view of Christ, that they disconnect his person from his ordinary bodily life of doing things, but he also opposes their view of the Christian life when they disconnected our person from our ordinary bodily life of doing things: “The flesh didn’t really matter for Jesus; what mattered was that somehow, in a spiritual way, he was the Christ and there was no real union of the pre-existent Christ and the physical man Jesus. And our flesh doesn’t really matter either; but somehow, in a spiritual way, we are born again, but there is no real union between that new creation and our physical life that does righteousness or does sin.” Which led directly to the error that John points out in 1 John 3:7, that you can berighteous in some spiritual way, and yet not do righteousness in your ordinary physical life.
Now John has three responses to this false teaching.
Christ’s Incarnation Lasts Forever
First, he insists that the flesh of Jesus and the person of the pre-existent Christ are inseparable. First John 4:2: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Notice it does not say “came in the flesh,” as though that union with flesh and bones happened for a while and then stopped. He says “has come in the flesh.”
This incarnation lasts forever. The second person of the Trinity will forever be united with human nature. We will always know him as Jesus, one like us, and infinitely above us—the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29). God did not, and does not, despise the physical creation that he made. He has comein the flesh. And the Son of God remains in the flesh forever. So John’s first response to the false teaching is to set straight their view of Christ. His physical being is not a mirage. It’s not secondary. It’s not unimportant. That he has a body marks and identifies him forever.
Christian Doing Confirms Being
John’s second response to the false teaching is to deny emphatically its teaching that spiritual being can be separated from physical doing. John, in fact, insists that spiritual being must be validated by physical doing, or else the spiritual being is simply not real. That’s what we saw in 1 John 3:7: “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” The deceivers were saying: You can be righteous and yet not practice righteousness. John says: The only people who are righteous are the ones who practice righteousness. Doing confirms being.
That is what John says over and over again in this letter. For example, in 1 John 2:29, he says, “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” In other words, the doing of righteousness is the evidence and confirmation of being born again.
Not Practicing Sin: Evidence of the New Birth
Or consider 1 John 3:9: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” The practice of sin is the evidence and confirmation that one is not born of God. Doing confirms being. Not practicing sin is the evidence and confirmation of being born again.
And the reason the new birth inevitably changes the life of sinning, John says, is that when we are born again, “God’s seed” abides in us, and we “cannot keep on sinning.” That’s how real the connection between the new birth and daily physical life is. The seed may be the Spirit of God or the Word of God or the nature of God—or all three. Whatever it is specifically, God himself is at work in the new birth so powerfully that they cannot keep on practicing sin. God’s seed cannot make peace with a pattern of sinful behavior.
These false teachers who think they can separate who they are spiritually from who they are physically do not understand either the incarnation or regeneration. In the incarnation, the pre-existent Christ is really united with a physical body. And in regeneration, the new creation in Christ has real, inevitable effects on our physical life of obedience.
Rejecting Any Notion of Sinlessness in the Born Again
John’s third response to the false teaching is to reject any notion of sinlessness in born-again people. Evidently, the way this false teaching was working was that, by disconnecting “being righteous” from “doingrighteousness” (3:7), they were then able to say, “Well, even if your body does some things that are sinful, that’s not really you. The real you is the born again you; and that real you is so above daily physical life that it’s never defiled by sin.”
So this disconnection that the false teachers made between who you are and what you do had led them, evidently, to say that Christians never really sin. How could they? They’re born of God. They’re new creatures. They have the seed of God in them. So John levels his guns at this error three times. It’s important that you see them.
1) There Are No Sinless Christians.
First John 1:8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” We! We born-again Christians. In other words, don’t let the deception of these false teachers work its way into your own self-deception. There are no sinless Christians.
2) The Born Again Have an Advocate.
First John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” In other words, John does not assume that if you sin, you are not born again. He assumes that if you sin, you have an Advocate, Jesus Christ. And only those who are born again have this Advocate.
3) There Is Sin That Does Not Lead to Death.
First John 5:16-17: “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.”
Notice that last clause: “There is sin that does not lead to death.” This is why you can see your brother committing sin. He is your brother. He is born again. And he is sinning. How can this be? Because there is sin that does not lead to death. I don’t think he has particular kinds of sins in view, but rather degrees of rootedness and habitual persistence. There is a point of confirmed sinning which may take you over the line of no return and you will be like Esau who sought repentance and could not find it (Hebrews 12:16-17).
How Do the Born Again Deal with Their Sin?
Now we come to the question we raised at the beginning: How do people who have experienced the miracle of the new birth deal with their own sinfulness as they try to live in the full assurance of their salvation? My answer is: You deal with it by the way you use John’s teaching. John warns against hypocrisy (claiming to be born again when your life contradicts it), and John celebrates the Advocacy and Propitiation of Christ for sinners.
The question is: How do you use these two truths? How do you use the warning that you might deceive yourself? How do you use the promise, “If we do sin, we have an Advocate”? The evidence of your new birth lies in how these to truths function in your life.
Here’s the way they function if you are born again:
1) Fleeing Presumption, Flying to the Advocate
You are slipping into a lukewarm, careless, presumptuous frame of mind about your own sinfulness. You are starting to coast or be indifferent to whether you are holy or worldly. You are losing your vigilance against bad attitudes and behaviors—and starting to settle in with sinful patterns of behavior.
When the born-again person experiences this, the truth of 1 John 3:9 (“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning”) has the effect, by the Holy Spirit, of awakening him to the danger of his condition so that he flies to his Advocate and his Propitiation for mercy and forgiveness and righteousness. He confesses his sin and receives cleansing (1:9), and his love for Christ is renewed and the sweetness of his relationship is recovered and the hatred of sin is restored and the joy of the Lord again becomes his strength.
2) Fleeing Despair, Flying to the Advocate
You are sinking down in fear and discouragement and even despair that your righteousness, your love for people, and your fight against sin are just not good enough. Your conscience is condemning you, and your own deeds seem so imperfect to you that they could never prove that you are born again.
When the born-again person experiences this, the truth of 1 John 2:1 has the effect, by the Spirit, of rescuing him from despair: “My little children [he wants to be tender with their consciences], I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
John’s warning of hypocrisy calls you back from the precipice of presumption. John’s promise of an Advocate calls you back from the precipice of despair.
The Redemptive Power of God’s Word
New birth enables you to hear Scripture and use Scripture helpfully, redemptively. New birth doesn’t use the promise “We have an Advocate” to justify an attitude of cavalier indifference to sin.
New birth doesn’t’ use the warning “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” to pour gasoline on the fires of despair. New birth has a spiritual discernment that senses how to use John’s teaching: The new birth is chastened and sobered by the warnings, and the new birth is thrilled and empowered by the promise of an Advocate and a Propitiation.
May the Lord confirm your new birth by both of these responses to the word of God. May he grant you to embrace both the warning and the comfort and put them to proper spiritual use in preserving the full assurance of your salvation.
A Christian representative in the Pennsylvania legislature has been denounced over the prayer she offered on March 25 during a swearing-in ceremony for a Muslim lawmaker.
During her prayer before the swearing-in of newly elected Democrat Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, who is a Muslim, Republican State Representative Stephanie Borowicz (shown) invoked the name of Jesus over a dozen times, and also offered thanks for President Donald Trump’s support of the nation of Israel.
Calling herself Jesus’s “ambassador,” Borowicz declared that Jesus is the “King of kings and Lord of lords, the Great I Am,” and the “One who is coming back again.” In her prayer Borowicz asked God to forgive America for losing its spiritual bearings. “Jesus, we’ve lost sight of you,” Borowicz prayed, as Johnson-Harrell and the rest of her Democrat colleagues squirmed uneasily in their seats. “We’re asking you to forgive us…. Jesus, You are our only hope.”
Borowicz went on to pray for the state’s and nation’s leaders, and concluded her prayer “in the powerful, mighty Name of Jesus.”
Response from Democrat lawmakers and the governor was predictable in its condemnation of Borowicz and her Christian sentiment. Democrat House Whip Jordan Harris called Borowicz’s prayer “inappropriate,” offering himself as a model of correct comportment. “I am a Christian,” Harris solemnly intoned. “I spend my Sunday mornings in church worshipping and being thankful for all that I have. But in no way does that mean I would flaunt my religion at those who worship differently than I do. There is no room in our Capitol building for actions such as this, and it’s incredibly disappointing that today’s opening prayer was so divisive.”
Similarly, Democrat Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf claimed to be “horrified” by Borowicz’s prayer. “I grew up in Pennsylvania,” Wolf pointed out, and “Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn on the basis of freedom of conscience. I have a strong spiritual sense. This is not a reflection of the religion I grew up in.”
For her part, Johnson-Harrell called Borowicz’s invocation “offensive,” saying that “to use Jesus as a weapon is not OK,” and “we cannot weaponize what’s going on with Israel and Palestine.”
She added that the prayer “blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people. I came to the Capitol to help build bipartisanship and collaborations regardless of race or religion to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the Commonwealth.”
The Muslim lawmaker complained that Borowicz’s prayer amounted to “a political statement, and I think we need to be very, very clear that everybody in this House matters, whether they’re Christian, Muslim, or Jew, and that we cannot use these issues to tear each other down. And not only that, it was made during my swearing in.” She also called for Borowicz to be censured, “because we need to be promoting inclusion, not division.”
Somewhat ironically, reported CBN News, “another Muslim lawmaker, Rep. Jason Dawkins … opened the session on Tuesday by reading from the Quran. His invocation was followed by applause.”
Among those stepping up to defend Borowicz was Republican State Representative Daryl Metcalf, who pointed out that his colleague was merely “walking in the footsteps of our forefathers who would have prayed a prayer very similar.” Added Metcalf: “That the newest member, who is a Muslim, would attack her and say that [Borowicz’s prayer] was an example of Islamophobia, should be offensive to every Pennsylvanian.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham also weighed in to defend Borowicz, insisting that “she doesn’t need to apologize,” for her Christian prayer. “We don’t change who we are or what we believe because someone who is present may believe differently than we believe…. I always appreciate anyone who has the guts to stand up for Jesus.”