Wretched Man That I Am!

by Jeremiah Johnson June 24, 2015

Every believer understands the frustration, confusion, and doubt caused by our sin after we’re saved. We know we’ve been transformed through the power of God’s redeeming work. He’s changed our nature and set us free from the dominion of sin and Satan. But we don’t always live in the reality of that freedom. In fact, we sometimes get the sense that we’re still wicked sinners, and that nothing has changed at all.

Apostolic Exasperation

That angst over remaining sin is probably best described by the apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-25.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

That passage has puzzled scholars and theologians throughout the history of the church. Is Paul describing himself before Christ, or is he talking about someone else—perhaps someone with very little spiritual maturity, or a believer still caught in sin’s grasp? Or is this passage an indication that Paul was mentally unstable, as he seems to drift between two contradictory mindsets? The mind that has not been illuminated by the Holy Spirit likely cannot make any sense of Paul’s confessional self-description.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

In his book The Gospel According to the Apostles, John MacArthur helps us answer some of those questions and understand the inner conflict Paul describes.

This is no carnal Christian or someone with a low degree of sanctification. Paul’s repeated use of the personal pronoun in this context emphasizes that this was his own personal experience. The verb tenses show that he did not consider himself past this stage. The conflict that he describes here was one he knew well—even as an advanced Christian. God’s sanctifying work in his heart is clearly evident. He says he hates his sin (v. 15). He loves righteousness (vv. 19, 21). He delights in the law of God from his heart (v. 22). He thanks God for the deliverance that is his in Christ (v. 25). Those are all responses of a mature Christian, in this case as seasoned apostle; not someone floundering in the throes of a desperate state of established carnality. In fact, it is the description of a godly man whose occasional sin feels like a constant thing when set against the backdrop of his holy longings.

Romans 7:14-25 thus describes the human side of the sanctifying process. We must not set it against Romans 8, as some do, imagining that these chapters describe two separate stages of Christian growth. They simply give two different perspectives on sanctification. Romans 7 is the human perspective; Romans 8 is the divine perspective. Romans 7 is Paul’s own testimony of how it is to live as a Spirit-controlled, spiritually grounded believer. He loved the holy law of God with his whole heart, yet he found himself wrapped in human flesh and unable to fulfill it the way his heart wanted to. Are there Christians anywhere who are so spiritual that they can testify to a life lived above this level? [1]

For believers, the push and pull the apostle describes is a common, even frequent occurrence. We understand hating sin even while we’re sinning. We recognize the compulsion to return to the very sins the Lord has saved us from. And we can appreciate how the remaining stains of our sinful past cause us to question whether we’ve truly been transformed at all.

An Unlikely Source of Assurance

But in the midst of that frustration, John MacArthur says we ought to find encouragement and assurance.

All true believers should be living at precisely this level, struggling with the tension Paul describes between an ever-increasing hunger for righteousness on the one hand, and a growing sensitivity to sin on the other. Though the degree of sin will vary depending on one’s level of spiritual maturity, sin in the genuine believer should always make him or her feel the conflict Paul describes in these verses. [2]

In a slightly ironic twist, the believer’s frustration over his sin and lack of spiritual growth is a strong indication that he is growing spiritually. In fact, it’s the believer who doesn’t have this inner struggle who needs to be concerned.

Though some have tried to claim they live above Romans 7, they only reveal their own insensitivity to the pervasive effects of sin in the flesh. If they would honestly measure themselves against God’s standards of righteousness, they would realize how far they fall short. The closer we get to God, the more we see our own sin. Only immature, fleshly, and legalistic persons can live under the illusion that they measure up well by God’s standards. The level of spiritual insight, brokenness, contrition, and humility that characterizes the person depicted in Romans 7 are marks of a spiritual and mature believer who before God has no trust in his own goodness and achievements.

So Romans 7 is not the cry of a carnal Christian who cares not of righteousness, but the lament of a godly Christian who, at the height of spiritual maturity, nevertheless finds himself unable to live up to the holy standard. It is also the experience of every genuine believer at every stage of spiritual development. [3]

We need to take great comfort in the fact that the struggle against our flesh is an indication of victory over the flesh. Paul was no ordinary believer—he encountered Christ face-to-face; he was whisked away to see the glories of heaven; he witnessed and performed miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. In spite of all that, he still struggled with sin, and longed to be free of the fleshly shackles of his former nature, crying out, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).

That was not a helpless exclamation—he already knew the answer, as he immediately identifies His Savior: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 7:25). Paul’s confidence was not in himself or his righteousness, but in God’s triumph over sin, producing a settled hope of heaven’s glory. He made that clear just few paragraphs later in Romans 8:18-19.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

His assurance was rooted in the character and promises of God, and he knew that the Lord would not abandon His transforming work in His people before it was completed. “These whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

He made the same reassuring point in his epistles to the church at Corinth. He wrote, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. . . . But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:5357). “While we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

The struggle against sin is a good thing, so long as you continue to struggle. It’s a lifelong battle, but as John MacArthur points out, one that bears significant fruit.

Yet for now the battle goes on. Full deliverance awaits glorification. Victory here and now is only possible bit by bit as we mortify the deeds of the body through the power of the Holy Spirit: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). “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” (Romans 8:13).

We are bound to be frustrated by our inability to experience holiness to the degree we desire. That is the inevitable experience of every true saint of God. Because of our flesh we can never in this life achieve the level of holiness to which we aspire. “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). But that hope further inflames our aspirations to holiness. [4]

In The Gospel According to the Apostles, John closes his chapter on Romans 7 by quoting 1 John 3:2-3. It’s a good reminder that while the holiness we long for sometimes feels a long way off, it is never in doubt.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Next time we’ll bring our discussion of sin, grace, and righteousness full circle, as we consider the believer’s adoption into the family of God.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150624/~

Is God a Bad Communicator?

Is God a Bad Communicator?

by Cameron Buettel Friday, November 13, 2015

God is not the author of confusion, as Scripture tells us (1 Corinthians 14:33). But confusion nevertheless reigns in many corners of the modern evangelical church. When it comes to understanding the truth of God’s Word, too many believers are content with subjective interpretations and fluid doctrinal statements. And even churches that claim to have sound convictions can quickly descend into a hermeneutical free-for-all.

Scripture Without the Authority

I was briefly a member of one such church. In a region dominated by liberalism, it proudly submitted to Scripture’s authority in all matters of faith and practice. But the façade of biblical fidelity came crashing down when the senior pastor explained that I shouldn’t talk about sin in my evangelism. “People already know they are sinners,” he contended. When I asked if we could discuss this matter by reasoning from Scripture he shut down the conversation immediately, seeing only futility in further discussion. I will never forget the last words he spoke to me: “You can make the Bible say what you want it to say and I can make the Bible say what I want it to say.”

For all I know, he still professes allegiance to the authority of Scripture. But what real authority can God’s Word have if you don’t believe its meaning is clear?

Because God Said So

That’s not to say the Bible does not contain passages that are difficult to interpret—it does. Some prophecies are mysterious. Some instructions are shrouded in cultural obscurity. And sometimes our English translations bury the profundity of the original languages. But when it comes to matters of essential doctrines, Scripture could not be clearer.

The fundamentals of the Christian faith are not only fundamental because they are biblical, they are also fundamental because the Bible sets them forth clearly. John MacArthur makes that point in his book Reckless Faith:

If an article of faith is to be regarded as fundamental, it must be clearly set forth in Scripture. No “secret knowledge” or hidden truth-formula could ever qualify as a fundamental article of faith. No key is necessary to unlock the teaching of the Bible. God speaks clearly in His Word—it has perspicuity.

The truth of God is not aimed at learned intellectuals; it is simple enough for a child. “You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants” (Matthew 11:25). The Word of God is not a puzzle. It does not speak in riddles. It is not cryptic or mysterious. It is plain and obvious to those who have spiritual ears to hear. “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7).[1]

The Whole Bible Tells the Whole Story

But what about fundamental doctrines like the Trinity? The word is not mentioned in the Bible, nor will you find a comprehensive statement on it from any single passage of Scripture.

In that particular case, God’s Word teaches the doctrine of the Trinity with clarity because it is a doctrine that can be deduced from what the whole of Scripture clearly says about God. There is one God and no other (Exodus 15:11Deuteronomy 4:356:432:391 Samuel 2:21 Kings 8:60Isaiah 44:6–8Isaiah 45:21-22). That one God is a plurality of persons (Genesis 1:26Genesis 11:7). And the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God (Genesis 1:1Matthew 28:19John 1:1John 10:30Acts 5:3–51 Corinthians 8:6). The totality of how the Bible presents who God is would make no sense without the fundamental doctrine of the Trinity.

God’s Clarity Is Not a Democracy

Those with a strong ecumenical bent tend to put the cart before the horse when it comes to defining which doctrines are fundamental. Rather than treating Scripture as the source of fundamental doctrine, Scripture is subject to the consensus of church denominations. This issue has not escaped John MacArthur’s attention: 

Some would argue that the only test of whether something is essential to true Christianity is whether it is affirmed by all the major Christian traditions. Perhaps this is the very idea behind appeals for ecumenical unity. But as Witsius points out, according to that rule, hardly anything of any substance would remain to distinguish the Christian Gospel from the “salvation” offered by pagan morality or Islamic theology. “There is much truth in the remark of Clement of Alexandria; ‘No Scripture, I apprehend, is so favourably treated, as to be contradicted by no one.’”[2]

Fundamental doctrines are not obscure, nor are they defined by ecumenical consensus. They are fundamental because they represent what Scripture clearly teaches, and as we’ll see next time, they represent everything essential for salvation.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B151113

VIDEO Everyone Deserves A Second Chance

by America DeFleur September 26, 2019

Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog. But growing up on the streets has a way of depriving you of a lot of things that other people take for granted, so a dog was never on my list of necessities. It was just something I dreamt of.

Bouncing between broken homes and shelters before entering foster care, I never had the opportunity to have a dog. And as an adult, it wasn’t high on my priority list either. I became too wrapped up in trying to survive. No, scratch that, STRUGGLING to survive that I didn’t have time to even think about a furbaby.

Most foster youth and former foster youth lack resources and the parental guidance that it takes to become a successful and productive member of society in today’s world. It’s sad, but it’s true. We need more mentors, foster parents, friends and family to make it through this journey we call life. It’s one of the main reasons why you see so many youth branded as a “statistic” or labeled as “troubled” because there are not enough resources and support. Period. Had there been more people to reach out and offer me guidance, protect me when I needed it, support my transition into adulthood or been someone that I could talk to and ask advice from, I would have avoided so much pain, drama and a hundred different and treacherous paths. Paths that most foster youth succumb too. Why? Because pain, neglect, confusion, PTSD, Depression, lack of family members and years of boiling trauma can break anyone.

It takes a special kind of person to be there for you when no one else has, take your hand (or paw) and lift you up when everyone else let you down. It takes time, patience and unconditional love to heal anyone or in this case, any creature. Which brings me to my point, I spent the majority of my life wishing for a family that never came. It wasn’t until I was able to grow up and create a family of my own, through friends, co-workers my husband and my daughter, did I realize that no matter where you come from, You are capable of being loved. EVERYONE deserves a second chance. So can I have a drum roll please…Everyone MEET DOTTIE!

Dottie needs a second chance. She is a pit bull mix and desperately in need of a loving home. I had the opportunity to spend time with Dottie today through the Front Street Animal Shelter – City of Sacramento“Doggie Day Out” program. If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s basically the coolest thing since sliced bread and helps so many animals find loving homes. You basically “borrow” a shelter dog and go on an outing. You can take the shelter pups hiking, jogging or even have them spend the night at your house. The idea behind the project is that these dogs have more exposure to loving individuals, burn off energy and spend some time away from the shelter. You can take pictures, leaves notes, advice or tips and hopefully all of this helps get the doggie get adopted.

When I first heard about this program I instantly thought that it was an amazing idea but never acted upon those “wanting to help instincts” Today, I said no more and decided to give it a try and honestly it was the best thing I could have done for myself and for Dottie. I’ll tell you why.

1. Animals are therapeutic, they have a way of making you feel better.
2. It motivated me to get out of the house, lately I’ve been a lazy slob.
3. I felt so much better after doing it (and so did she) Physically, mentally, emotionally. It was great!

For the past while now, I have been struggling with depression and have been trying to figure out a way to stay motivated and positive while impacting others and making a difference. I usually find that volunteering helps keep me distracted because let’s be real, when I have too much time to myself I overthink EVERYTHING and can’t escape my past. I need to stay busy. Which is why I’ve been excited about that writing workshop for foster youth I’ll be hosting! And now, more recently “Doggie Day Out” I’ve decided that at least once a week I will be at the Front Street Shelter “borrowing” dogs until I can have one of my own. Until then, check out my latest adventure with Dottie.

PS: She needs a home. NOW.

 

© 2018-19 All Rights Reserved America DeFleur

Fun Fact #18 – Everyone Deserves A Second Chance.

Bible Contradiction? Is God the author of confusion?

 

For today’s post we will tackle the question the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: Is God the author of confusion?

Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes indicate a Bible contradiction:

Yes

Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called [c]Babel, because there the Lord confused the [d]language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:7-9)

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

No

for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)

Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:

 

  1. When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction.  A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time.  To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.
  2. One should be skeptical of whether this is a Bible contradiction given the Skeptic Annotated Bible’s track record of inaccurately handling the Bible.  See the many examples of their error which we have responded to in this post:   Of course that does not take away the need to respond to this claim of a contradiction, which is what the remainder of this post will do.  But this observation should caution us to slow down and look more closely at the passages cited by the Skeptic Annotated Bible to see if they interpreted the passages properly to support their conclusion that it is a Bible contradiction.
  3. A bit of background of each verse in its context might be helpful for readers.
    1. Genesis 11:7-9 in a chapter that is about the tower of Babel.  Humans were trying to gather and build a Tower that reached heaven but then we see God frustrate that attempt.
    2. Both 1 Corinthians 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 14:33 are verses in a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a church in Greece at a major city of Corinth.  Here he writes to them even as the church is in chaos and confusion about right doctrines and practice.
  4. The skeptic cited 1 Corinthians 14:33 as denying that God is the author of confusion.
    1. Note in the context it is talking about the necessity of having church service in an orderly fashion.  Verse 33 appeals to the basis for that is because “God is not a God of confusion.
    2. The Greek word for “confusion” here is ἀκαταστασίας.  In the NASB ἀκαταστασίας in Luke 21:9 is translated as commotion, in 2 Corinthians 6:5 is translated as tumults, in 2 Corinthians 12:20 as disturbance and James 3:16 as disorder.  We thus see here from the lexical range that 1 Corinthians 14:33 is denying God is any of those things in His attribute of who He is within Himself (the genitive case is showing an attribute of God here).
    3. To be technically correct 1 Corinthians 14:33 says “God is not a God of confusion.”  It does not say God is not an “author” of confusion, whatever that means by the skeptic.  This is an important distinction in that God within Himself in His character is not confused but that does not mean God might ordaining confusion outside of Himself for His own purposes.
  5. The skeptic cited 1 Corinthians 1:27 as denying that God is the author of confusion but the skeptic hasn’t properly interpreted that verse.
    1. 1 Corinthians 1:27 talks about God shaming the wise and the strong people of the World because of God’s election of the unwise and the weak.
    2. Here the skeptic is making a categorical fallacy in interpreting this verse: God shaming sinful prideful people is not the same thing as somehow God being the author of confusion.  Shaming someone is not the same thing as bringing about confusion per se (you can shame someone without confusing them).
    3. Moreover part of shaming them means that they will have some understanding adequate enough to feel ashamed.  And that understanding is contrary to confusion.
  6. The skeptic cited Genesis 11:7-9 as asserting that God is the author of confusion but it still does not contradict with 1 Corinthians 14:33 when both verses are properly interpreted.
    1. Remember 1 Corinthians 14:33 is talking about God’s attribute not being a God of confusion within Himself and it is not about God not being able to bring about confusion in circumstances outside of Himself, for His greater purposes.
    2. Genesis 11:7 and Genesis 11:9 clearly reveal that God did confuse the people’s language at the tower of Babel.
    3. However that does not mean that God Himself is a God of confusion as His internal attribute.
      1. That is because God can bring about confusion upon others as an act of punishment.  Within the Biblical worldview a just punishment doesn’t mean the judge is somehow the attribute related to those punishment in other contexts divorce from acts of justice such as being a sadistic pain giver, etc.
      2. Likewise God is a God who is acting in judging sin in Genesis 11 with the story of the Tower of Babel.
      3. So this does not contradict 1 Corinthians 14:33.
      4. Also it might seem paradoxical but it not an actual contradiction to say that God in a penal way brought about confusion of language and yet He is not a God of confusion.  For example I was in the Marines and knew a sniper who saved the lives of four other Marines.  He was a life saver.  Yet in saving the life of others he taken the life of those who were violently trying to kill those Marines.  He’s a life saver, because he saved lives of his fellow Marine; yet to do this he did have to act in the capacity of taking lives.  Still given the context it would still be proper to say he’s a life saver.  Likewise God is not a God of confusion and since He is orderly He has to judge sin and frustrate the plans of sinners.
    4. Patrick Hawthorne also added this insight: ” God confused their language but not their minds. By that I mean, God’s intent was not to confuse the people through deceit. He stayed true to His Word without any violations or contradiction. The people were still able to think and act according to the plans and purposes of God which never changed. The only difference was that the were unable to communicate with each other at the present moment.”  Think of a riot.  Those in law enforcement might hinder the communication of rioters (use of tear gas, specific removal of riot leaders, etc) by means that seems chaotic but one wouldn’t say the law enforcement group are breaking the law of being disorderly when they are trying to bring about order.
  7. We shouldn’t miss that worldviews are at play even with the skeptic’s objection to Christianity.  The worldview of the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible actually doesn’t even allow for such a thing as the law of non-contradiction to be meaningful and intelligible.  In other words for him to try to disprove the Bible by pointing out that there’s a Bible contradiction doesn’t even make sense within his own worldview.  Check out our post “Skeptic Annotated Bible Author’s Self-Defeating Worldview.”

https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2019/07/11/bible-contradiction-is-god-the-author-of-confusion/