"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sinning From The Beginning

It rhymes, but it's not pretty. I John 3:8-9 from the New International Version says:
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
        Here is a passage that has plagued me from the first moment I read it many years ago, as it seems to negate my precious, evangelical Christian tradition. But tradition be hanged, the Bible says what it says ... right? Oh, great! Now I have to take off on a tangent to deal with Scripture inerrancy. Thought I had that one in the bag already. This won't take long, I promise ...
        In answer to your rather inconvenient question: Well, yes, the Bible sorta says what it says. The Bible says what the original manuscripts say in the language in which they were written. And God preserved those inerrant words for us with virtually perfect accuracy. I say virtually because some early copies differ from others in a very few passages, demonstrating humankind's ability to mess up even what's perfect.         Now that I've stated one of the most popular excuses for the Bible not saying what God originally meant, I have to insist that it does, in fact, say what God means, when approached prayerfully, in faith. God cannot speak falsehood, whether lying or self-contradiction. What he says is, by definition, Truth. Hebrews 14:12(ESV) states, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."         As Mary Shelley quoted Doctor Frankenstein's exultant statement, "It lives!" Though the words themselves may not change, as God's living, active Word, it conveys truth to those who in faith, seek his truth.
        So, as it is indeed God's living word, a second look at I John 3:8, a look from faith, is in order. An alternate rendering of the first few words would be, "He who does sin is from the devil." This verb is present tense and active voice, meaning now, deliberately, if only once. It does not mean, as some want to believe, "He who continually practices sin ...." So that still leaves the Evangelical Christian with a sour, doctrinal tummy.         True to religious practice, however, your faithful blogger continues searching for that Golden Excuse to make the word say what he wants. Let's take a look at the offending predicate of verse eight: " ... does sin ..." Other renderings might be commits, performs, or executes, all of which indicate the most deliberate, premeditated of actions. Whew, at least that eases some of the pressure. Now, we can safely say that we are of the accuser when we fully know the sinfulness and consequences of an action, but do it anyway.         "But, how can one simultaneously be a child of God and still, 'of the devil?'" Won't let it rest, eh? It's the same conundrum as recognizing the sinless condition of our first parents before they sinned; if they were sinless ... and God affirmed that fact by pronouncing his creation "good,"... how could they sin? The Greek preposition denotes the source or originator of the act which, in this case, is offending God by deliberately disobeying his known and understood will for us; an act whose source is the devil, or accuser.         Hey, when put that way, a picture falls into place: This is a portrait of a shyster plaintiff filing suit for an offense he set up. Yes, the enemy of our souls is quite clever enough to work us into a lose-lose, sting situation where we have no good options. It's "Sin if I do, sin if I don't." The practical reason it's still counted a sin is, without exception, such situations arise through our own cussed fault. If we had applied half the sense we were born with, we would have taken any number of escape routes before reaching that point.         Oh man, after all this explaining I've only proven why this problematic verse means what it says. But, I've only examined this one passage. Perhaps another passage will give us an excuse for sinning.         Sorry Charlie, there are no excuses for deliberately sinning.         Christ Jesus' New Covenant is many things, but simple isn't one of them. And the fact that every truth in that Covenant interrelates with every other Covenant truth, effectively preventing our isolating just one under a critical microscope, makes interpreting them even more problematic. There is a Scripture passage, however, that carefully examined and applied, gives us the reason faithful followers of Christ Jesus cannot sin.
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. Romans 4:13-16 NIV
        As hard as it is to wrap one's noggin around that passage, bottom line is: By grace, through faith(Ephesians 2), God's law does not apply to Christ-followers. But in other passages the apostle Paul goes into vast detail explaining why we must, nevertheless, obey God even more perfectly than law-followers. But that's a discussion for another tome.         So, we hit yet another bottom line(yes, there will be one eventually). The great thing is, we have a remedy for our deliberate, premeditated sin.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:5-10 ESV)
        I can think of tons of stuff I'd rather do than make God out to be a liar. Might he take offense at that? Obviously, the answer is, "YES."         In this passage we deal with a couple of conditional "ifs," one potentially negating the other. Walking in "darkness" is stumbling about as if blindfolded, unable or unwilling to perceive and practice God's truth, which gives us all we need to find our way in this life. So, we make him out to be a liar "if" we say we have fellowship with him while morally stumbling about in spiritual darkness. Next, "But if" we in fact walk the straight path of God's truth, Jesus' blood "cleanses us from all sin." This continual cleansing not only produces spiritual righteousness, but rewards us with the corporate fellowship of friends that "sticketh closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)         I John 1:9 gives us true encouragement by concisely stating the remedy for our sin: confession. I was raised Catholic, where confession is a sacrament that includes telling a priest what one did wrong and how many times he did it. Did that absolution require repentence? Not that I heard about. The Greek word, however, rendered confess is a compound of same and say, which tells us of the honesty and transparency with which our confession must be executed, inferring brokenness and repentence.         What a beautiful promise! With it in view, Christ-followers suffer no hopelessness and dispair, which would definitely be the case if God required Christ-likeness without providing us with a reverse gear for when we inevitabely put ourselves in the wrong driveway. What a beautiful salvation! What a beautiful Savior!

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