How to change the world, without trying

gladIf you’re a fan of the movie, Gladiator, you might remember the elderly emperor, Marcus Aurelius. The movie was, of course, historical fiction, but here’s a piece of real history — a letter thought to have been written to Marcus’ tutor, when Marcus was a young boy, circa A.D. 130. The letter was written to give an account of Christians, and is believed to have been written by a direct disciple of the apostles, perhaps one of Paul’s. Unfortunately, history records that Marcus was hostile toward Christians, especially toward the end of his reign. But as we read, the early Christians rejoiced as ‘men who receive life‘ in the midst of their persecution. The early church, in the first couple of centuries, had no thought of transforming this present world through earthly government — they only had a ‘theology of suffering’, yet their lifestyle and sacrifice changed the hearts of men over the whole known world.

Chapter 5
For the distinction between Christians and other men, is neither in country nor language nor customs. For they do not dwell in cities in some place of their own, nor do they use any strange variety of dialect, nor practise an extraordinary kind of life. This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the intellect or thought of busy men, nor are they the advocates of any human doctrine as some men are. Yet while living in Greek and barbarian cities, according as each obtained his lot, and following the local customs, both in clothing and food and in the rest of life, they show forth the wonderful and confessedly strange character of the constitution of their own citizenship. They dwell in their own fatherlands, but as if sojourners in them; they share all things as citizens, and suffer all things as strangers. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign country. They marry as all men, they bear children, but they do not expose their offspring. They offer free hospitality, but guard their purity. Their lot is cast “in the flesh,” but they do not live “after the flesh.” They pass their time upon the earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven. They obey the appointed laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all men. They are unknown and they are condemned. They are put to death and they gain life. “They are poor and make many rich” they lack all things and have all things in abundance. They are dishonored, and are glorified in their dishonor, they are spoken evil of and are justified. “They are abused and give blessing,” they are insulted and render honor. When they do good they are buffeted as evil-doers, when they are buffeted they rejoice as men who receive life. They are warred upon by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks, and those who hate them cannot state the cause of their enmity.
– Epistle to Diognetus, from Lake’s Apostolic Fathers in English

Going Beyond Red Letter Christianity

There’s no such thing as a Red Letter Christian – the idea among some political activists who attempt to blend their brand of progressive, social justice with (some of) the words of Jesus. Never mind that Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”, the term itself is an oxymoron, since the disciples of The Way weren’t called Christians until Acts 11, several years after the death and resurrection of our Lord, well into the black letters.

John 18:36 – Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Apparently, the disciples didn’t get the memo that the gospel wasn’t about social activism. But we can’t be too hard on them, because at the time when Jesus was being handed over to Pilate, the disciples didn’t have full knowledge of exactly what the gospel was. They had been banking on this idea of political overthrow and were ready to fight for that kingdom (even ready to cut someone’s ear off to resist Jesus’ capture). But, they would have to wait for Jesus to die and rise again, to put an end to the Red Letters, then wait again for the black letters, where Jesus would send the Spirit of truth to guide them into all the truth.

John 16:12–14 (NASB95) – 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

The word ‘bear’ above means ‘to carry, to pick up’, and when applied to concepts, takes on the meaning of ‘to comprehend, to accept’.

31.55 βαστάζωf; φέρωk: to accept, but with the implication of the truth being difficult to comprehend or to respond to properly—‘to accept, to receive.’ – Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, Louw, Nida

Jesus was saying, about the things which the Spirit would reveal to them later, that the disciples couldn’t accept them now… couldn’t receive them… couldn’t comprehend them at that time.

The disciples in Jesus’ earthly ministry could not fully comprehend what Jesus had yet to say to them through the Spirit, who would come later, after the cross. In other words, there is no such thing as a “Red Letter Christian” because Jesus’ pre-cross message was incomplete — there was more to come! Anyone who restricts their base of doctrine to only the words spoken by Christ during his earthly ministry to the Jews, is getting only partial revelation because the Lord had much more to say, and he wouldn’t say it until after the red letters came to an end!

Acts 9:15 (NASB95) – 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;

When our risen Lord called Paul and confirmed his calling through Ananias, the Lord explains to Ananias that Paul is a ‘chosen instrument of mine to __bear__ my name before the Gentiles’ — to bear — to pick up, to carry, to make my name comprehensible to the Gentiles.

Thus, that which was incomprehensible to the early, Jewish disciples would later be ‘carried’, ‘picked up, ‘made comprehensible’. Our risen Lord, chose Paul to make comprehensible to the Gentiles that which the other disciples could not receive before the Spirit. If we disregard the message that Christ has sent to us through his Apostle Paul, then we are willfully disregarding Christ’s own, complete message.

willful ignorance: The practice or act of intentional and blatant avoidance, disregard or disagreement with facts, empirical evidence and well-founded arguments because they oppose or contradict your own existing personal beliefs – The Urban Dictionary

But God first revealed to Peter this fact that Gentiles are saved by grace and continue to live by grace apart from works and without being circumcised in accordance with the law of Moses (Acts 10 & 11). Imagine the conundrum if Paul had appeared out of nowhere and said “Here I am… your former persecutor … here to take your message to the Gentiles!” They would have laughed him out of town! But Peter’s authority was well-respected, so it had to be revealed first to Peter. Even then, the Jewish Christians were ready to give Peter a verbal lashing, until Peter recounted what the Lord had showed him and said to him in a vision — beyond the red letters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Winsome Grace

One definition of grace, as used in the bible, is a winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction — graciousness, attractiveness, charm, winsomeness.
I conclude therefore, I know the grace of God when my thoughts of him lead me to love him, when I see him as winsome.
By and large, the main view of the Western Church has missed this for a long time, teaching directly or indirectly a ‘god’ who is demanding, angry, distant, off-putting (not winsome), using the wrath of God as a fear motivator, instead of revealing the God who is all love, all good, all the time. (Even his ‘wrath’, properly understood, stems from his love and is corrective in nature, in that he lets us have the consequences of our own choices for the purpose of bringing us to a place where we are open to see our need, and open to seeing him as he truly is).
Grace is … good. Grace is attractive. The religious say repent! while non-believers ask why would I? The answer, for those who know him, is “because God is good – taste and see!”
To know him is to love him… to love him in such a way as to want to know him more, to give ourselves to him, voluntarily, willingly, without holding back — because his qualities have invited a favorable reaction from us.

Perfecting Holiness

Have you ever seen a small child pick up an iPhone and start using it like a pro? I’ve even heard stories of small children who make emergency calls when mommy or daddy is in trouble. The iPhone is truly a wonder — it has a computer that is more powerful than those that were used to fly to the moon, yet a child can use it with ease.

Just looking at an iPhone, one can see that it’s pretty much perfect all on its own. It’s a beautiful piece of work. But when a child picks it up and starts flipping through pictures or making calls, it then becomes useful.

But these things are durable too. I dropped mine on the ground after it had rained and it was a little muddy. So I wiped the mud off, and my iPhone was in perfect shape for another phone call.

This is a metaphor, of course; the iPhone is like a follower of Christ, created perfect. But it’s only useful to those around it when it is activated and used to do what it was created to do.

And all of us who are in Christ — who have died with Him to live with Him — are new creations. We have the mind of Christ. We ourselves are not schizophrenics, with a good side and a bad side. We are new creations housed in a fallen flesh. Sin from the flesh is like mud. Mud is immediately visible and undesirable to anyone who sees it. And, sin in the flesh seeks always to muddy our mindset, our worldview, our paradigm. Sin speaks to us in the first person, with “I” and wants us to be infected and preoccupied with self-focus, self-preservation and self-love. It says “I hate this person; I love this sin; I love my worldly attitude; my sin is not my fault; why can’t others be like me!”. This is defilement of Spirit, and if we, in grace — powered from knowing God in His goodness and mercy — actively and intentionally refuse sin’s influence, then we cleanse ourselves and perfect our “iPhones”, making them able to be used for their intended purpose. We have confidence and know we are refusing sin’s influence and choosing to think like Christ when we submit our thoughts to the teaching of the Apostles found in the New Testament. The more we know what they taught, the more confidence we have that we are reasoning like Christ.

Everything that’s good comes to us from our Father in heaven. Knowing God leads us to love others, to live upright lives, to actively and intentionally be good and do good in this world.

We know this:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,” (Titus 2:11–12)

So let’s do this…
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

… so that this never needs to be said about us:
“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16)

Happy New Year


I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, so this is not that – this quote from 2nd Peter (below) just happens to be one of my favorite passages of scripture.

I always have room to grow in this life. When I consider my shortcomings, I’m not condemned by them. As a Christian, I’m free to consider them because my own sense of worthiness and righteousness, while based on God’s standard, isn’t earned by my own abilities to do well or be good, but on Christ’s. I judge myself freely.  When I see faults in others, I come back to seeing my own faults, free and clear of guilt, deflection, excuses and denial, I can be honest with myself because I am in Christ, secure in my relationship with my heavenly father.

But beyond my shortcomings, I also have the Spirit in me who molds my thinking, my attitude, my desires to be like His. My shortcomings — my sins – aren’t what drives my relationship with God. Overcoming them is not my motivation (daily or yearly). My motivation is in the positive – to be like Christ in thought and deed. I get a real kick out of the attitude that says “be kind to other people – have joy, peace, patience, self-control, and above all put on selfless love” (Galatians 5:22-23).

At any given moment, someone might examine me and see more or less of Christ in me. I’m okay with this – I have no claim to personal, fleshly perfection. But I hope and aspire to be like Him while in this world, and I can judge myself objectively and freely, having no need for fleshly righteousness. I am growing within His righteousness, and it is producing fruit in me, in my thoughts and reasoning, which flow out into actions that benefit others. In learning about His free grace and growing in that, I’m free of the trap of self-righteousness, able to move beyond that snare, and able to think of others for their benefit. And being free – growing in that – I see my heart and mind desiring more to “love God and my neighbor”. I’m understanding more clearly that if I love God, it means loving my neighbor also, and that the two go hand-in-hand.

Lastly, I want to say I’m so encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am fortunate to know. So many of you have blessed me in ways you may not be aware of. I see some struggle with this world and the flesh in different ways, yet you are always on top, you always win. In Him, you can’t lose, you are more than conquerors. Thank you all for sharing yourselves with me and my family. Thank you for being kind to me and showing me Christ’s love, even when it may have looked like I wasn’t receiving it, or when I was difficult to be around. Thank you for walking in Christ with me in this world.

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:3–10 HCSB)



Promises, Promises. Taking Hold of Hope

When our heavenly Father makes a promise, you can bank on it. He has shown Himself trustworthy time after time throughout history. For our benefit, He has doubled-up on His promise, so that we can be doubly sure and confident in taking hold of the hope He has set before us in Christ.

Note to Self: Every day, take hold of the hope I have in Christ. The rest I have in being set free from a law of works Hebrews 4:10; the assurance I have in knowing that, even though I am not perfect in behavior, my High Priest Jesus sympathizes with me because He was made weak too, even though He remained free of sin Heb 4:15-16; the confidence I have in knowing the message of righteousness is The Big Idea for those who are mature Heb 5:13; the encouragement I have to TAKE HOLD of that which is mine — freedom to walk boldly into my Father’s presence in the throne room… The God of the universe, who exists outside of time and space, having created all that exists, who is eternally self-existent and holds everything in His own power, who is Holy and Pure, in whom there is no darkness – Yes! THIS GOD wants me to enter into His presence with CONFIDENCE Heb 10:19. This is the anchor for my soul… me, in His presence. HE wants ‘me’ to DRAW NEAR in full assurance of faith Heb 10:22.  That’s why He doubled-up on his promise Heb 6:17 — so I would have no doubt, so I could come near and receive help and mercy in my trials

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Heb 6:17-20

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; Heb 10:19-23

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Heb 4:10

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:15-16

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Heb 5:13-14

Questions on Having Been Completely Forgiven – #2 : Don’t I need to confess every time I sin?

Don’t I need to confess every time I sin?

The word confess has become a loaded word in Christianity. Through tradition it has become to mean something other than what it means in context of the apostles’ teachings. So let’s start with a basic definition.

In Greek, to confess is homolegeo. Homolegeo is formed from two parts, homo (same) and legeo (to say, to speak). The combination of these parts means literally, to say the same thing. In biblical usage, the word can have a range of meanings, including: to proclaim, to profess, to agree, to admit, to say something that is true, to concede that something is factual or true, to share a common view about a matter.

So when the apostle John uses homolegeo in his gospel account, recounting John the Baptist’s confession that He is not the Christ, he wrote: “And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed ‘I am not the Christ’. So John the Baptist admitted he was not the Christ, he proclaimed as true that he was not the Christ, he acknowledged that he wasn’t the Christ. Note also, in the apostle’s usage, confess is often used as an antonym for deny.

In the apostle John’s 2nd epistle, he writes about deceivers who do not confess that Christ came into the world in real flesh:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 NAS95)

In his 1st epistle, John writes:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NAS95)

The statement is clear enough: If we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The problem that this one verse causes for Christians is the way we filter the context of the passage – we read it as though John is writing to us about our experience as Christians and come to the conclusion that each new sin we commit causes us to be in a state of needing to be forgiven again. But the truth is, John is not writing about Christian experience, rather he’s making distinctions between true Christians and false Christians – deceivers – who have infiltrated the church, are in leadership positions, and are teaching and doing things that aren’t congruent with the Christian faith. They are heretics, and anyone who follows the teaching of these deceivers leaves the truth.

Consider the context and theme throughout the letter: John begins by writing about himself and the early disciples who were present during Jesus’ earthly ministry. From the very outset, he starts by challenging the lie that says Jesus didn’t have a real, fleshly body:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

John doesn’t mess around; he gets straight to the point. Jesus was a real person with a real body. We heard him, we saw him, we watched him, and we touched him. He is the Eternal Life and he was with the Father, but then he was revealed to us.

Why is it important to take on the false teaching that Jesus didn’t have a fleshly body? Historically, we know there were groups in Judaism and early Christianity (now referred to as Gnostics and Docestics)  who taught that the material world was evil, therefore Jesus, if he were truly the Son of God, couldn’t have had a material body – that he only ‘seemed’ to have a material body. Along with that false notion, some of these practiced unrestrained indulgence in fleshly lusts, since —  in their thought —  only the ‘spiritual’ realm was good, and the ‘fleshly’ realm was evil because YHWH created it, and He was an evil, lesser God to Sophia the goddess of wisdom. So a ‘spiritual’ person could be saved through secret knowledge, irrespective of his behavior on earth.

So John also wrote:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16 NAS95)

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses (acknowledges) that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;” (1 John 4:2 NAS95)

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 NAS95)

John wrote his letters in this historical context. Deceivers were going out into the world, not acknowledging Christ as having come in the flesh. Why does it matter whether or not Jesus had a real body? Because if his body were merely an illusion, then he didn’t really shed his real blood on the cross as the sacrifice for sins, and we are still condemned and unclean in our sins.

In this context, John explains one of his purposes:

“These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” (1 John 2:26 NAS95)

But it gets worse. The situation isn’t just that there are many deceivers in the world, but that these deceivers are in the church!  And then it gets even worse; it’s not just that there are many deceivers in the world and that they are in the church, but that they are leaders in the church!

“I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.” (3 John 1:9–11 NAS95).

Diotrephes was in the church, first among the church (leader), and he had enough authority to excommunicate Christians from the local church. The ‘beloved’ were then told not to imitate evil, and that the one who does evil has not seen God. Diotrephes slandered John and the apostles with wicked words. He was evil, had not seen God, and was a leader in the church. John had a very serious problem to deal with.

The example of Diotrephes that John gives in his 3rd epistle gives light to what he means in his 1st epistle when he says,

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” (1 John 2:19 HCSB)

They were us. But they weren’t really us, that’s why they went out from us (left us, opposite of abiding).

In the historical context and in light of the totality of John’s letters, we see that there was a very serious error in the church with deceivers teaching that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh and practicing unrestrained indulgence in fleshly lusts. The problem was inside the church, being propagated by leaders in the church.

So after explaining what we have seen and heard and touched, concerning the Word of Life, John continues with

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself 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 that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5–10 NAS95)

This passage is a distinction between those unsaved deceivers and the authentic Christians who submitted to John’s teaching. John isn’t writing about a Christian’s experience and how to deal with sins we commit as authentic Christians; he’s writing about the difference between heretics and believers so that the believers wouldn’t be deceived.  This isn’t about performing rituals to get new forgiveness, rather it’s about distinguishing an authentic Christian who doesn’t walk in darkness, who walks in the light as compared to those who walk in darkness, who do not practice the truth, who say they have no sin, deceive themselves, and do not have the truth in them. This is not about the experience or condition of the true Christian as he lives his life of faith in this world. When an authentic Christian sins, he does so in the light. He has been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God (Colossians 1:13). An authentic Christian walks in the light, the blood of Christ cleanses him from all sin, and he acknowledges (or confesses) his sins, knowing that God is faithful to forgive him and to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. He does not have to be concerned that his sins put him in darkness and undo the work of Christ that forgave him of his sins and cleansed him from all unrighteousness.

The point here is that a true Christian acknowledges his sins, is forgiven, walks in the light and has fellowship with God in a state of having already been cleansed from all unrighteousness. And when he does sin, he has an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1–2 NAS95)

Knowing the real meaning of homolegeo (to confess), with the context, purpose and historical back-drop of John’s letters, we confess that genuine Christians agree with God (pardon the pun).

When it comes to sin, we say the same thing, we agree, we admit, we say that it is true, we concede that our sins are factual, we share a common view with God and other Christians about sins. In short, we acknowledge our sins rather than denying them. We don’t justify ourselves by claiming that our sins aren’t really sins or saying that our bodies are evil so it doesn’t matter if we sin (compare to the modern gnostic proclamation, “I was born this way so it’s okay”), but we admit them and trust in Jesus Christ, the Righteous one. We always acknowledge our sins, but we don’t make confession into a ritual that absolves us of guilt.

Questions on Having Been Completely Forgiven – #1

Aren’t we supposed to be sorry for our sins?

Being sorry or saying sorry for sins is not the same as asking for forgiveness. And sorrow is not the same as repentance, but godly sorrow leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10) — a change of mind, opinion, attitude and heart that results in a turning away from sinful actions. An authentic Christian has already changed his mind and ceased from a lifestyle of continuing in sin (Rom 6:2). His new mindset from the Spirit of God has put him on a course-correction from death into life (Rom 8:5-6). His new Attitude directs him like a rudder directs a boat (Gal 5:16, 25) His aim is now in line with the will of God.  The problem for Christians is not the mindset or the turning away from continuing in a lifestyle of sin, the problem is that we still sin even after having turned away from our former manner of life. We do this because the flesh wars against the Spirit and we get carried away by the lust of the flesh and do things that are contrary to the Spirit of Christ in us (Rom 7:15). When an authentic Christian sins, he doesn’t need to change his mind (repent) because he has already agreed with God (confessed) about faith and unbelief, right and wrong, good and evil, dependence on God and independence from his Creator. His spirit is aiming in the same direction as his Lord’s life — in submission to the will of his heavenly Father in thought and deed. He sins, but he no longer ‘practices’ sin (1 Jn 3:4-6) — he no longer lives in the lifestyle of pursuing sins. He may be continually tempted with the same lusts of the flesh, whatever those may be, whether it’s the gluttony of eating Coconut Cream Pie or the proclivity toward homosexuality, but he does not run in the same wild abandon to sin that he did formerly (Eph 4:22).

An authentic Christian detests all that is contrary to God’s character, will and purpose. Whether it’s the darkness of the world or the darkness that lives with him. Sorrow for sins? Consequences for sins? Yes, but there’s more.  Our sins can cause us sorrow, but that doesn’t mean we need new forgiveness.  The problem is our conscience, and the answer to our conscience is the blood of Christ, by which we draw near to God in full assurance of faith, having already had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (Heb 10:22). Asking for God to do something again that He has already done once for all time is unbelief and rejection of the perfect one-time sacrifice (Heb 9:25-26). There is no forgiveness without blood (Heb 9:22), and Jesus died once for sins, never to die again, and nothing can earn new forgiveness (Heb 10:18); now He lives to God and intercedes for us. The solution is to apply faith in the one-time sacrifice already offered, to draw near to God on the basis of Christ’s work (Heb 10:22) and to thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 7:24-25)

There’s the Sabbath rest of God where we cease from our works to obtain righteousness (Heb 4:9-10) and trust the Rudder to guide us in life. (Jn 16:13).

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NAS95)

“May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2 NAS95)

“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,” (Romans 8:5–6 NAS95)

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 NAS95) “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 NAS95)

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing (accomplishing) what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NAS95)

“Everyone who practices (making, doing, actively producing) sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” (1 John 3:4–6 NAS95)

“that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” (Ephesians 4:22 NAS95)

“let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, [having had] our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22 HCSB) (note: the Greek tense is ‘having had our hearts sprinkled clean – perfect tense, meaning it was done once and its effects continue)

“nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:25–26 NAS95)

“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22 NAS95)

“Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:18 NAS95)

“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.” (Romans 7:24–25 NAS95)

“So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9–10 NAS95)

““But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13 NAS95)

Complete, Total and Final Forgiveness — Again

repentI often hear Christians reject the notion that we are already, 100%, completely and totally forgiven in Christ without any need for new forgiveness. The Lord’s prayer and 1st John 1:9 are typically presented as the proof-texts to maintain that we need to keep asking for new forgiveness. The argument is that John wrote to Christians, so verse 1:9 must be a for Christians to practice, over and over again. Sometimes Christians even claim that we have to keep repenting again and again when we sin. But is that what the apostles really taught as they were moved along by the Spirit of God to instruct the churches?

I agree that John is writing to believers about Christians, but just consider for a moment the possibility that John is writing about ‘false Christians’ — people in the church who aren’t really Christians, but they call themselves Christians.

When John writes “If WE confess our sins” he seems to be making a black and white distinction. It appears there is a group of people (Christians) who do not confess their sins and are in darkness. The idea isn’t that true Christians must go to Mass or Confession weekly, or that true Christians have to have their eyes on their sin all the time (in order to confess and get new forgiveness), but that a true Christian “says the same thing” God says about sin. The Greek word for “confess” is homo-legeo, and it means, literally, “to say the same thing, agree, admit”.

If we don’t agree with God about sin, we walk in darkness and are not truly Christians. This reminds me of a present situation in America where some ‘Christians’ don’t agree about the sin of homosexuality. But if we do agree, we are in the light, and we have fellowship with the Father, and we are forgiven.

It’s an oxymoron to repent every day. Repentance is a ‘change of mind’ that results in a turn from sinful behavior. If we’ve already changed our minds about sin, do we really need to change our mind again? In the norm, ‘repentance’ is something that unbelievers or false Christians need to do.  The problem — for an authentic Christian — is not that he needs to change his mind again, but that he walks around in an unredeemed body, housed in flesh that will not inherit the Kingdom of God and is tempted by ‘sin’. The flesh wars against the Spirit, but the answer is NOT to keep asking for forgiveness, it’s to THANK GOD through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25) Christians are in this position of ‘futility’ and groaning so that their hope will be on the resurrection instead of this world (Rom 8:20-25).

But confession — since it is ‘agreement / admitting’ and not a ritualistic prayer that brings new forgiveness — is something authentic Christians continue in. Agreement with God about sin is a sign of an authentic Christian. Any Christian who doesn’t agree with God about sin is a lawless anti-christ.

So repentance and confession go together. We change our mind from making excuses for sin and justifying it and in doing so, we agree with God about our sins. We go from disagreement and excuse-making to agreement and admitting our faults – i.e., we change our minds.

John is distinguishing between true believers and heretical ‘Christian’ leaders who are in positions of authority in the church. Consider 3rd John, where he wrote to ‘the church’ about supporting those brothers who went out for the faith, but Diotrephes didn’t accept what John wrote and excommunicated believers from the fellowship if they supported the brothers who went out for Jesus. John tells the readers not to imitate what is evil. It’s clear that Diotrephes was a leader in the church (ie, a “Christian”) with enough authority to intercept John’s letter and to put other Christians out of the church.

John always writes about these same heretics in all his letters. Even in his gospel, he addresses their error when he says “The Word became *flesh*”. He addresses their error straight on (One of their errors was that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh).

So instead of reading first John as though he’s telling authentic Christians what ritual they need to perform to get new forgiveness, try reading it from the perspective that he’s addressing damaging heresy and heretics *inside the church*… that’s he’s making distinctions between true believers and heretics. He’s writing about people “who went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

Immediately after John makes his black and white distinction between believers and heretics, he addresses his ‘little children’ in one of the most overlooked passages on this topic. And he says:

“My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1–2 HCSB)

So if we sin… as true Christians… “we have an Advocate with the Father”.

So the issue isn’t about confession — but about new forgiveness. We are currently 100% forgiven in Christ, in faith. And that forgiveness, which we now possess by faith will be pronounced and shown to be true at the judgement when we receive the crown of righteousness. In Christ, we are righteous and forgiven now, through faith. At the resurrection, when our hope is realized (and we hope no more, since we will have the realization of our hope), we will be pronounced righteous and forgiven formally.

Forgiveness doesn’t come via confession / agreement of sins. It comes through the blood of Christ. Christ died once for sins and there is no longer any sacrifice for sins.

Heb 7:27 — [our High Priest] does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did *once for all* when He offered up Himself.

Heb 9:26 — Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now **once** at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Jesus has put our sin away. Done deal. Nothing more to do about it!  But if we don’t accept that reality, and instead cling to ritual sacrifice (and that’s basically what we’ve turned confession into — a ritual sacrifice that earns new forgiveness) then we run the risk of

going on sinning willfully (by rejecting the one-time sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness and reverting to a system where continual forgiveness is needed) after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, (by rejecting the one-time sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness and reverting to a system where continual forgiveness is needed) and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-28)

Asking for forgiveness over and over is the same as regarding the blood of the covenant as unclean.

Sometimes Christians quote Romans 8:13 and the dangers for the Christian “walking in the flesh”. But here Paul is also distinguishing between believers and non-believers (though in a different context), not giving a prescription for how to make the flesh better.

… For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

Those who are in Christ Jesus do not walk according to the flesh are not the same as those who walk according to the flesh. An authentic Christian has already put to death the deeds of the body:

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? (Romans 6:3)

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:6-7)

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Those who are in Christ Jesus are those who do not walk according to the flesh. This doesn’t mean that authentic Christians don’t sin — this is not a so-called holiness doctrine that teaches that a Christian can stop sinning — Paul had just explained in the preceding verses that Christians do sin, and he detailed the war that goes on between the flesh and the Spirit. Here, he’s giving the answer to that problem.

The righteous requirement of the law (complete righteousness or death for sins) is fulfilled already for those who do not walk according to the flesh. An authentic Christian walks according to the Spirit.

To be in the Spirit is to have a new mindset (weird that repentance means ‘change of mind‘, eh?) The body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness! Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Those who live according to the flesh are those who walk according to the flesh and are in the flesh. They have the mindset of the flesh, which is death. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5, HCSB)

Thus … you (dear Christian), are not in the flesh! You are in the Spirit.

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9)

To be in the Spirit is to have a new mindset — a changed mind, a repented mind.

The condition is real:

… if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, (Romans 8:10a)


… the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10b)

The body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness! Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ! That’s why there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Nowhere do any of the apostles ever refer to a true Christian as having the capacity of “walking in the flesh” (though we tend to throw that phrase around a lot in modern Christianity as though it could pertain to true Christians).

In repentance we became united with Christ in His death and put to death the deeds of the body. (Romans 6:1-4, 8:4, 8:13, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9) and we are led by God’s Spirit and are God’s children. Anyone living in or walking according to the flesh needs to die (be united with Christ in His death) and put to death the practices (usual, everyday normal practices) of the flesh. Thus repentance, “change of mind” includes an agreement with God about sins AND a turning away from those sins.

Consider the difference in the Old Covenant, under the law of Moses, when Jesus (who was born under the law) was speaking to Jews under that law and gave the model prayer to the Jews under the law. He prayed “forgive us our debts AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS” and then said, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father WILL NOT FORGIVE your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14–15 NAS95)

The law was a covenant that gave blessing based on ones own personal righteousness. “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.” (Deuteronomy 6:25 NAS95)

Grace gives blessing in Christ’s righteousness, given to those who are IN HIM.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS95)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3 NAS95)

But later in the new covenant which became effective at the cross, being instituted in Christ’s blood, the Spirit of Christ moves Paul to write about those who are in union with Christ:

“WE HAVE REDEMPTION in Him through His blood, THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR TRESPASSES, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7 HCSB)

“And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just AS GOD ALSO FORGAVE YOU in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:32 HCSB)

“We HAVE REDEMPTION, the FORGIVENESS OF SINS, in Him.” (Colossians 1:14 HCSB)

“And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and FORGAVE us –>ALL<– our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13 HCSB)

“accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as THE LORD HAS FORGIVEN YOU, so you must also forgive.” (Colossians 3:13 HCSB)

“Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin”  (Hebrews 10:18 HCSB)

After the cross, forgiveness is a DONE DEAL for those who are in Christ.

Not even confession can get new forgiveness because there is no new forgiveness needed (though every true Christian agrees with God about sin and sins).