My book, Jesus Crushes Sin, is described as “a down-to-earth, Jesus-centred holiness for those who keep losing.” This tag-line explains why I wrote the book, and why I think I had to write it.
For many years I suffered with a particular sin issue in my life. The reason why I don’t really go into the details of what it was, either here or in the book, is because I want the book to encourage people with all sorts of issues with sin. Some might think, “Well, his struggle is different to mine.” I don’t think that’s true. I really think that the book helps anyone with any sin issue to rethink the way we approach God, and see Christianity. In fact, I think that even those people who are “winning” against sin ought to read it, especially if they are preachers or teachers or pastors or some kind of leader in the church.
This is because, by and large, we’ve made Christianity for winners, when in fact it’s for the poor and the weak and the weary. But it’s also for the winners, because the winners might not realise just how badly steeped in sin they actually are: the much more subtle, and much more dangerous, sin of self-righteousness.
To break the tag-line down, this book essentially tries to uncover:
A down-to-earth approach to holiness. A lot of writing and preaching on this topic overly idealistic, exhorting us to be this or that, to do this or that, and to basically pull up our bootstraps. The goal of holiness, as it were, is put so far away for most of us that we despair when, after many years, we realise we’re just not getting there. Is there a there, anyway? We might begin to question that there is! But instead, what we need is a theology of holiness that tells it like it is (down-to-earth) without leaving it as it is (focusing us on Jesus).
A Jesus-centred holiness. Much writing and preaching on this topic is about you. How well are you doing? Have you put your holiness programme into place? Don’t you realise that you need to clean up before the Holy Spirit pours out on you? Don’t you know that God won’t fellowship with an unholy vessel? So you better sort yourself out! These sorts of approaches make holiness into some sort of self-improvement human programme and take our eyes off of Jesus, fully God and fully man, who is more down to earth with this topic than most of us are.
An approach for those who keep losing. If you’ve found the holiness programmes, the theories and the formulas and the disciplines and all that stuff is something you just keep sucking at, welcome to the club. If, like me, you find you keep losing at the Christian (supposed) life and the good news just isn’t so good anymore, then it may be that the “good news” you’ve been hearing isn’t actually the “good news” at all! What we have today is a sanitized Christianity, not a sanctified one – which is why it so often feels like it runs out of power. But the scriptures and Christian theology, when you dig deep, tell a different story.
Hitting deadlines as a writer isn’t always easy. I was supposed to finish my supernatural thriller The Butcher’s Shadow by June this year, after which I was going to pick up writing the sequel to my fantasy book When Twins War. Neither of those happened, because we writers tend to get easily distracted. I picked up the work on my forthcoming book on sin and holiness, Holy Sin, which I’ve managed to finish but still need to edit. I also got distracted with revising my first proper book, Single (which I wrote in 2004) after someone asked me for a copy and I was a bit embarrassed to give them the original!
But those of you who were enjoying the weekly updates of The Butcher’s Shadow serial are asking (and wondering) “What happened? Are we ever going to see what the heck happens?” The answer is yes. With renewed vigour and inspiration, here are my plans for the next twelve months in writing:
1. Finish The Butcher’s Shadow (due the end of this year)
2. Finish my complete revision of my book Single within the next month.
I’m almost there. I’ve thus far managed to edit down the original manuscript from 90,000 words to 58,000 words! My goal is to edit it down to 50,000 or less words. It’s amazing how I’ve learned, since 2004, to say things more clearly! The original work is ultra-verbose.
As its title suggest, Single (I might give it a new title) is about how to enjoy your singleness as a Christian. Marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all of our existence! I’m also going to look for a publisher for this book.
3. Finish my book Holy Sin within the next three months
“Holiness for losers, washouts, and other people who don’t cut it.” That’s the subtitle for this book and it pretty much sums it up. All that’s left for this one is an edit and then a perusal by pastors and those I respect to give me honest feedback and their theological concerns. I’m also going to look for a publisher for this one.
4. Begin writing my next instalment in The Rise of the Kings (and finish next year)
It’s high-time I write the sequel to When Twins War and get busy with my five-book fantasy series. This is a series I’ve been working on since I was a kid – and it needs to come to life!
With a rich and layered fantasy world akin to the classics, When Twins War mingles traditional Western fantasy with middle-eastern adventure and African folklore. It’s something of a mix between The Lord of the Rings and Arabian Nights, with an African edge.
5. Begin planning for a sequel to Treasure Island (still in concept stages)
Yes, that’s right – a sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island. Since I became a fan of Monkey Island when I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to write a piratey tale. I’m thinking of bringing a supernatural twist to it. That might make some fans of the original upset, but it might make some others interested! We’ll see. One thing that Stevenson’s tale always lacked, in my opinion, was a good ole ghost ship!
Will I manage?
Well, it’s good to set goals. These aren’t impossible. When I consider how much writing I’ve actually done this year (ghostwriting for clients; collaborative writing for Cornerstone Church’s resources) this is possible. But motivation is always another story – especially during Winter! Now that it’s Summer, things are rather different!
Work has been keeping me incredibly busy and it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I was stirred enough to write something after reading another one of John Ellis’s interviews, so during my lunch break today I thought I’d quickly slap something together.
Those who know Ellis will know he was the front man for the “Christian band” Tree63 for many years. He has written some wonderful worship songs, some of which we sing in church. I also wrote about his new album in my last blog post.
Now Ellis has taken to swearing and saying things like “There is religion and there is reality. God lives in reality, assuming he exists at all” and “I will never lose that spirituality that I happened to find in the orthodox version of what God is. But I don’t believe that jesus-is-fine-and-everything-is-fluffy.com.” (More at the interview link above.)
There is religion and then there is Jesus. Jesus is not religion. I think Ellis is fighting his way back to his ‘first love’, trying to get out of religion and just find Jesus. I have this inkling because I think I’ve been in his position before.
What Ellis experienced in America, in my opinion, is religion. So much of religion rules that country. When people assume you’re going to hell because you don’t believe that God created the earth in six days, that’s religion. When people think you’re the biggest heretic ever because you don’t believe in their interpretation of Hell, that’s religion. When people compartmentalise, divide, and judge you based on even the smallest amount of doctrinal discrepancy, that’s religion. And so much of America seems that way. It’s all about who’s side you’re on and where you sit. It’s never about relationship, it’s about which bullet points you nod your head at and claim to believe, and whether or not you’ll tow the party line.
I came to the realisation many years ago that I would sooner follow a dirty pastor than a clean one. Let me explain what I mean. A clean pastor is the guy where everything is so wonderful and perfect, his teeth shine whiter than Obama’s, and he always has the perfect thing to say. His theology is clean cut; his preaching is clean cut; his family are perfect; and of course his hair is so clean cut it’s unbelievable.
A dirty pastor is the guy who makes mistakes and is real about it. He’s open about his mistakes. His theology is jumbled; he doesn’t always have the answers; he is just a fellow traveller on this narrow, dirty, rocky road that is finding his way and finding Jesus. The only difference is that God has called him to lead others on the road. That’s not an easy thing to do.
This whole “don’t hang your dirty laundry in public” idea (echoing a comment at the article) is crap. If you don’t hang your dirty laundry out then people will assume you have none; and then one day it all comes tumbling down when they discover that their ‘perfect pastor’ is actually just bluffing his way through it all. Pastors who don’t hang out their dirty washing don’t build people to Jesus, they build people to themselves, or rather to the image they’ve set up for themselves; pastors (or, should I say Christians too) that do hang their dirty laundry out are like Paul from the Bible – boasting in their weaknesses so Christ may be glorified. I’ll follow a guy like that any day.
When I picture Jesus I picture a dirty guy with mud on his clothes and having maybe forgotten to brush his teeth that morning. He’s not worried about his image — after all, if you clean others you’re going to get the dirt on you. Jesus walks with us through the muck and crap of our lives and so he is bound to get dirty.
Give me dirty Jesus, who isn’t afraid to get mud on his clothes and sand in his hair. Give me dirty Jesus where sin isn’t some sort of kryptonite that makes him run away. Holiness isn’t idealism. Holiness isn’t clean teeth and ironed clothes. Holiness is wild, free, and prepared to get dirty.
A dirty Jesus equals a dirty Christian, who, like Jesus, isn’t afraid to waddle through the muck and help those who are stuck in the muck. I think this is what Ellis might be getting at, although I think an academic degree will never teach anyone that. This is something that we have to live through to understand.
I’m also thankful to the many dirty pastors I’ve encountered in my life who’ve gone against the usual flow and just been real. Many of them have really shaped my life in a wonderful way — Marcus, Alan, Barry, Shaun, and others. You know who you are. And of course Dave now too as I get to know him. I know many of you won’t even get to read this because you’re too busy getting dirty with those that need it. Good. That’s what I’m talking about!
One of the hardest things to believe in Christianity is that, quite simply, all our sins are forgiven and washed away through simply asking God to forgive us.
We complicate this endlessly. But the Bible is emphatic — our sins are washed away by the blood of the Lamb.
If they are washed away when you become a Christian, they are washed away as you live as a Christian.
Listen to this: THEY ARE WASHED AWAY. If you sin and sin and sin and sin constantly, doing the same thing, these are WASHED AWAY by the Blood of the Lamb. You can sin now and ask for forgiveness and then sin in the next moment and then ask for forgiveness. God doesn’t count your sins, He washes them away. We count them. He doesn’t. When God looks at you He sees you as righteous because you are in Christ.
Your sins are washed away. Washed away, washed away, washed away.
It’s so hard to really believe it, isn’t it? We want to constantly add conditions. Are you sorry enough for your sins? Are you determined to stop doing them? Did you repent properly? Did you do all the acts of penance correctly?
The promise is that Jesus washes away our sins if we ask. It’s really simple. When I first decided to believe in Christ I asked God to forgive me of my sins and he did so. I didn’t have to worry about all this other stuff. I simply repented and that was that. Why should I have to worry about it now?
His mercies are new each morning. His steadfast love never fails. (Lamentations 3:22, 23.)
One of the things that I have struggled with in my own faith, and I know others struggle with in regards to my faith, is this thing of a being called the Devil, or Satan.
See what 1 John 3:8b says:
“The reason the Son of God (Jesus Christ) appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
It’s become helpful in understanding how the New Testament in particular deals with the devil. Firstly, the name “Satan” means “Accuser” — this is a first clue as to what “the devil” is about. He is “the accuser” who brings all sorts of accusations against us with regards to who we are, our identity, how guilty we are etc.
These ‘accusations’ don’t come from a little red man sitting on our shoulder, however, they come from the families, societies and systems of thought we find ourselves in. So “Satan” is not just a real being, but represents the accusations we find running through our lives and even in our own conscience.
And here’s how ‘the devil’ works, by implementing harmful systems and cycles and thinking patterns in our lives that cause us to think of ourselves in certain ways and act in certain ways.
I believe that “the demonic” is real because I’ve seen some crazy stuff happen. Guys doing crazy things that seem humanly impossible. I’ve seen stuff. I can’t deny there is something out there working against us because of what I’ve seen and experienced.
At the same time, I don’t believe there’s a devil sitting on our shoulder trying to get us to do naughty things or telling us how to think about ourselves. What ‘the devil’ and ‘the demonic’ have done is implement a wicked system in our world, through deceiving us in many ways, that runs its course unless God steps in to break it. This is what God did do in Jesus.
It’s helpful to understand how the New Testament talks about Jesus destroying the devil’s “works”. The book of Revelation shows how Jesus will eventually destroy the devil himself, but at the moment it’s his works that are destroyed and being destroyed.
Peter in Acts 10:38 says this:
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and … he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power (or oppressed by) of the devil, because God was with him.”
And finally, Ephesians 6:12 says that our battle is not against “flesh and blood” but against “the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
So, Jesus came to destroy his ‘works’ — the cycles and systems we see working in our own thinking, in families, and in societies. As Christians we implement his victory over the devil and his works into all these aspects of living.
From a scientific point of view, I’ve found it interesting how many sceptics are happy to accept that intelligent life could exist out on other planets but are not happy to accept that angels and demons exist. Angels and demons are simply an intelligent life, although they are not visible to our eye directly. So? Why should we assume all intelligent life has to function in the same material sphere as we do?
I’ll expound on this later this week. I’ll also talk about some things I believe Jesus came to break, such as sickness, poverty etc.
I believe that non-Christians (please excuse the term) can receive forgiveness from God for sins and wrongdoings just by simply asking, if they want forgiveness because they’re sorry for those sins.
If you aren’t a Christian you may think that God only forgives people who lead a religious life, if they try hard enough. Consequently, you might think that God only forgives Christians, as they lead a religious life. This might not make sense to you – surely God can accept you for who you are?
Well, you’re right about that — he does. Christianity is not about leading a religious life in order to get God to forgive us for things we’ve done wrong. God does accept you for who you are, but sins are not necessarily who you are, and sins are sins — they do need to be forgiven. We know this in our own relationships with our parents.
Luke 24: 46, 47 says this (Jesus speaking): “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations…“
The Christian Gospel is good news (“Gospel” means good news in ancient Greek). God forgives all who are sorry and ask for forgiveness.
But then it goes further than that. If you put all of your trust (faith) in Jesus you are given eternal life, effectively ‘saved’.
This is probably more for the theologians now, but anyway it’s worth a mention. I think God always forgives those who repent. That’s the first step. The next step is to put complete trust in Jesus for your ‘salvation’ — that you will have eternal life.
Non-Christians can ask God for forgiveness because of Jesus, and get it. But they only enter into eternal life when they believe in faith, which is when they become Christians.
Creating this difference between those that ask for forgiveness and those that believe is perhaps not necessary, and the Bible doesn’t always provide a clear distinction. Yet, at the same time, it can help us to simplify our message of good news.
Forgiveness is for non-Christians. We might complicate the message by adding “believe Jesus is Lord” to it at first, without saying to guys, “Look, you can be forgiven today for your past sins. Great! But what will you do about the future? Believe in Jesus as your saviour and the future is covered, you can enter eternal life and receive the rewards of God.”
John the Baptist preached a message of repentance, and had a baptism of repentance. Jesus’ message is more than that, and his baptism is one that enters us into eternal life. John the Baptist was called to prepare the way. Repentance and forgiveness perhaps comes first, then people must decide if they want to go further — if they want to accept Jesus as saviour and enter eternal life.
I believe in once saved always saved, but I also believe that there could be a distinction with those who ‘believe’ and those who just want forgiveness. Perhaps this is why the early church seemed to have only allowed those who were baptised in the name of Jesus into their worship services, and only those were allowed to take part in the Eucharist (communion). The non-baptised weren’t allowed in to all these services, but were allowed in prayer services or other types.
Baptism is a sign of not just repentance but entering into the life of Jesus. That’s what Romans 6 indicates. (See also 1 Peter 3:21.) Effectively, it’s a sign of our acceptance of Jesus as saviour, Lord, and our decision to become a disciple, to follow The Way, amidst some other things.
This is just something I’m developing and thinking about at the moment.
Not exactly the most pleasant of topics this, but it was milling around my mind this morning.
God commanded in the Old Testament that people be stoned to death for various sins. Stoning is an incredibly brutal way to die, and it seems rather crazy that God should ask people be stoned — sometimes for some pretty unusual things.
Atheists love to harp on this point. It comes up in almost every heated conversation I have with an atheist. However, I think they (and for a long time me too) fail to see what God is doing here.
Stoning requires a community of people to throw stones at someone, meaning that they all agree the person is guilty and they all condemn the person. Over and above that, they all have to carry out the sentence, together.
The person’s blood is on them all. So, if the person was innocent or the situation was a complex one, everyone in the community is guilty of that person’s death. God can hold them all accountable, not just a judge or even a jury.
Jesus highlights this fact in John 8, where the Jewish scribes and Pharisees drag out a woman caught in adultery and ask Jesus if she should be stoned. (Well, it’s more like they insist that she should, and they want to force Jesus into doing it.)
They missed the point. They wanted to carry out the sentence for the sake of the law, rather than trying to get at the heart of the law and carrying out the sentence based on its heart. It was all just words to them, like a mathematics formula (woman caught in adultery = stone), rather than a heart issue (we all have to condemn her here. Where are the facts? What were the reasons? Where is the man for goodness sake, there is only a woman here).
So Jesus drives it home for them — “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In pt. 2 of my ‘original sin’ blogs, I said that I would get to pt. 3 the following week.
That certainly didn’t happen! But, I guess I felt that the real jist of what I wanted to say was said, and pt. 3 would serve as a summary.
Actually, I’m going to use pt. 3 in a way that represents – more practically – what I am trying to say through my discussion, and see how it would apply to one of the hardest issues of the ‘sinful nature’ that we all seem to experience : sexuality.
In particular, I’m going to look at homosexuality at the end, as it’s my opinion that this has become a problem because of the following issues:
A real lack of understanding that a sin does not equal an identity (ie. if you struggle with homosexuality, that does not mean your identity is ‘homosexual.’ Your identity is in Christ, if you have believed in Him for salvation.)
A lack of understanding about Grace. God is not here measuring how ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ we get things, but is in the process of growing us into Christ- of being (becoming) conformed to the image of His Son. This thing is a process, and within the Christian life sin may lead to death (Romans 6) but does not lead to eternal destruction (the whole New Testament!) ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ is now an issue of growth: we discipline our children to grow them, and to bring them into something better; not to judge and condemn them. God is now the same with us (but, let me say, the Christian life is NOT one that’s all about discipline!)
A lack of understanding about Original Sin. (summarized below.)
A lack of understanding about sexuality and sexual desire (the core of my blog entry.)
I’ll try to keep things short!
Okay, so the first two posts have really been centering on point 3 above – original sin. So far, I’ve come to the following very real conclusions :
Sin is not a natural phenomenon; it’s unnatural.
The sinful nature is a twisting of the human nature. In other words, the human nature (as it was created by God) is not the sinful nature. Rather, the sinful nature is a corruption of the created human nature.
The Christian life is one of healing our nature, not one of killing it. In other words, Jesus ‘untwists’ and ‘uncorrupts’ our nature to line up with the original created form and intention. He is perfect in every way, and we are to be conformed to this perfection as we walk the Christian life. This is another way of seeing point 2 above. The Christian life is one of healing. Biblical reference? The life and person Jesus. He makes us ‘whole.’ Mortification of sin does not mean mortification of humanness. In fact, it’s intention is to lead to the very opposite.
Our desires are all good and natural, created by God, beautiful and wonderful in every way. But since we are born without God, our desires and body begin to control us instead of the other way around. The only way to put things back into the proper order (which is far more beautiful and enjoyable) is to submit them to the creator himself. The only way that happens is through the Holy Spirit. The only way that happens is to trust Jesus Christ for your salvation, which means you place all these matters AND your eternal destiny in the hands of Jesus. How? Simple. You ask Him, and He does it.
Because we are born into death, our natural desire to live goes haywire. We inherit death from our parents, which results in a sinful nature. Why? Because we are born into death, not born into or with God. Since we were created to be in constant fellowship with God, our creator, being born without that fellowship and relationship results in the created being (us) twisting and turning on itself; resulting, I think, in the body becoming the focus/control rather than the body being a servant. As another writer (I can’t remember who) put it : the body is a wonderful servant, but a horrible master.
Okay, that summarizes things to the best of my ability without getting too technical and deep. So, it’s easy to see how sexuality now fits in with this.
Firstly, the above then says that our sexuality and sexual desires are all GOOD and wonderful; God created them, and he created pleasure, and I think God is delighted when we enjoy his creation (why wouldn’t He be?)
This is part of the reason why He is so serious about how we express our sexuality, and how we satisfy our totally normal and good and natural desire for sex or intimacy. Because, he wants us to enjoy his creation. But when our desires control us, instead of us controlling our desires (ie, our desires become our master instead of us being master of our desires) we actually find ourselves enjoying His creation less. Things become a mess : we lose relationships, family; things become tainted with guilt; we struggle to understand ourselves and our identity etc. We basically live lives that are far less enjoyable and delightful than God intended. Although having our sexual desire control us may be pleasurable, it is far less pleasurable than being in control of our sexual desires. Besides, anyone with half a brain knows that having your sexual desires control you becomes an absolute nightmare, and we ALL end up going further than we originally ever intended. A porn addiction always starts with ‘just a peek’ but ends up in a mess of watching violent sex and desiring to be a part of what you watch. From there, it can go a number of ways; all of them horrible in their consequences. I don’t know of any man who has gone down that road who doesn’t wish (now) that he didn’t have control over his sexual desires. Despite what TV or porn may tell us, no one is truly enjoying it, especially in the sense of COMPLETE enjoyment – ie. no one is enjoying their sexual addiction on spiritual or relational levels (amongst others.) Porn stars like Jenna Jameson insist that “they’re enjoying their life” but that’s a real relative statement. Are they enjoying living as much as God, their creator, does? I doubt that. “To each his own, whatever blows your hair back” some say, but I disagree with that and agree with CS Lewis here (taken from The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses) :
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us; like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
When it comes to sex and sexual desire, the problem is that many are living in a cave when God wants to take them out of their cave and see, enjoy, smell, experience, taste, feel, hear the big wide world; and enjoy it! In other words, he really wants to satisfy our desire, but he wants to show us how we can be truly satisfied.
So, we see that our sexual desire is not wrong: how we satisfy it is the problem. We can see that we are not created with an internal dualism of ‘sinful nature’ and something else, but we are born as corrupted beings whom Jesus wants to uncorrupt. So, in this case, God wants to HEAL our sexual desire and bring it into his original intention. He doesn’t want to kill it, he wants to heal it so that we can truly enjoy it; and truly enjoy who we are.
We are sexual beings, but that’s not all we are. How we express our sexuality does not clarify our gender either. Since we are created beings, our creator has already decided how we are to express our sexuality. If this wasn’t the case, then homosexuality would be a gender, not an expression. And, if homosexuality is a gender, then I don’t see how a Christian could argue against it. But it seems evident to me that homosexuality is not a gender, regardless of what any physcologist may say.
What about hermaphrodites? Well, most of the world aren’t hermaphrodites and therefore we can’t try and apply our situation into theirs. I can’t say “well, if God creates hermaphrodites, then he creates homosexuality.” I think we do a little bit of a jump in that case.
Okay, but if there’s nothing wrong with sexual desire is there anything wrong with the desires of the homosexual? I know that most homosexuals didn’t ask to have a desire for the same sex, but I didn’t ask for the desire to have sex with as many women as possible either. That is an issue of lust, which has come as a result of my true nature and real desires being corrupted and twisted. My struggle with that is also not where I place my identity. My identity is in Christ, the perfect human, not in a twisted and corrupted nature.
Is homosexuality an issue of lust? Yes, and no. My desire for intimacy and for a woman isn’t an issue of lust. However, it is most certainly an issue when that desire is expressed in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s created order; when it is expressed in an ‘unnatural’ way. The key here is getting to the core of our sexual desire, which is a desire for intimacy and closeness and pleasure and acceptance and a whole lot of things that aren’t really bodily. Yes, there is a bodily part of sexual desire, but that bodily part needs to be secondary; if it becomes primary, I allow my body to decide for me how I should act and behave, and that’s hardly beneficial to me or anyone. I’m not saying the body is evil (this is my point, it isn’t!) and I’m not saying the body doesn’t count. What I’m saying is that we are whole beings, and therefore our desire for sex is not JUST bodily, but a whole lot of other things too. We need to approach sex holistically, not on separate levels. True, the church has quite often made it all a spiritual issue. Also true, the world and psychology makes it all a bodily issue. All of these things need to be in proper balance in order for my desires to function correctly. So, these other issues are really my true desires within sexual desire, and the same is true for the homosexual.
Therefore, my conclusion is that the person with homosexual desires struggles with lust differently to what I do. Both of our sexual desires are the same, but the way in which we struggle to submit them to God, and the way we struggle to express our sexuality in a natural way (ie, the creator’s way) is different. Homosexuals were not created to have homosexual desires; I was not created to have totally overboard and animalistic desires for women. We were both not created to be lustful beings, even though we were created as sexual beings. We were created to express our sexuality within the created order of God, and we were created to truly enjoy our sexuality and enjoy who God created us to be. I was created to enjoy being a man. Homosexuality actually destroys me truly enjoying who I was created to be.
Your desires controlling you is not a natural situation; it’s unnatural. We all have to struggle with our unnatural state, and we trust Jesus to heal it and form it back into what he originally intended : so that we can truly just be human, which is what God intended us to be. In Christ we can relax and just be, and just be who he created us to be, and allow him to heal us into true humanity; humanity as he created and intended.
I know that many homosexuals may see this as an overly simplistic look, and that it’s easy for me to say this since I don’t desire for the same sex. Well, it’s not easy for me to say. I’ve had to struggle to submit my own haywire sexual desire for women to God; and that aint easy either. It’s wholly unfair to me for a homosexual to say their struggle is worse than mine. I don’t think it is. I think it’s just different. I don’t think the paedophile’s struggle is more difficult either. I think it’s the same : just different. We ALL need Christ to take our sexual desires and heal them into his true, created, human, way. For this reason, any person who passes judgement on someone else’s sexual struggles has missed the point. Justice and righteousness is important; all of us should be treated equally. Therefore, don’t judge the homosexual. Love them as God does.
As for justice and righteousness, we ought to be moving our society into a place where God’s original created intention is expressed. But that (in discussing homosexual marriage) is for another post.
So, I leave us all (me too) with a challenge that is in love and, I believe, on God’s heart. Submit your sexuality, your sexual desire, and your body to God. Let him restore all of these things to his original, most pleasurable, most delightful, most enjoyable, intention.
Allow Him to make you truly man, or truly woman : truly human.
To read Pt 2. of Original Sin and The Sinful nature, click here
To read Pt 1. of Original Sin and the Sinful nature, click here
In Romans 5 it talks about how sin brought death into the world.
It then goes on to say, on vs 17 that “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
Romans 6 talks about how we HAVE died to sin, and now live to righteousness. That we WERE slaves to sin, but have become slaves of God (see Rom 6:22, but notice how most of the chapter is in past tense – we HAVE died to sin. We have BECOME slaves to God.)
The section about being a slave to whom you obey (vs 16) needs to be seen in this past tense context, because the whole chapter is in past tense.
I want to say something significant here. Notice, we have died to SIN (Not sinful nature.) Second, notice how there is never a part in the Bible that commands us to kill (or mortify) or sinful nature, but rather the DEEDS of this ‘sinful nature’ or this ‘flesh.’ Rom 8:13, “… if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
In my studies of original sin, I’ve stumbled upon the Eastern Orthodox view (called “Ancestral Sin”) which places death and satan squarely in the middle of the original sin problem. I’m not going to talk much about Satan (yet), and I’ll admit I don’t know all of the Eastern Orthodox view entirely, so I can’t say whether I agree with it or not. So what I’m going to discuss is death, and putting ‘death’ in the center of this issue right now.
Logically, and Biblically, speaking, I have a sense that they are on the right track. Think about this. In Genesis the sin resulted in death in to the world. What is death? Death is a corruption of something.
I think the key word in this original sin problem is ‘corruption.’ Corruption came into the world because of sin, and not just man but the entire creation has been subject to this corruption (see Rom 8: 19-25.)
Consider this, that also the sin of Adam meant that God was no longer in relationship with him. Perhaps, even, God withdrew his Presence or Spirit from him (which seems obvious, and also may explain why Gen 5:3 says Adam’s son Seth was in his own likeness.) God has not withdrawn his Spirit entirely, but certainly in an intimate way. Now, under the New Covenant, this has been undone with the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit.
How do you match something like Psalm 139: 14 up with Original Sin? “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Think of this : what happens when a being who was created to live eternally with God is now made mortal and no longer with God?
And think of this, what happens when a being who has a natural (and created) inbuilt ‘instinct’ for survival, has a limited number of days and does not have God inside them?
Is that instinct for survival wrong? No. God created us with a will to live. Would it have made sense if we were created without a will to live? Of course not. So, what happens when a being is created with a will to live but is, in fact, made mortal AND does not have the spirit of God from birth?
That being’s natural will to live goes haywire, and ‘survival of the fittest’ certainly takes over. It becomes about me and my, and I’m going to have to clamour and tramp on everyone to get ahead. I need to live, and if you’re in my way, you need to get cut down so that I can live.
What if this is what the ‘sinful nature’ is? What if everything that is natural about us isn’t evil? Say, our desires. I desire to live. I desire to eat. I desire to procreate. I desire to be loved. I desire to be happy.
Are any of these desires really evil? No. The desire to eat, for instance, isn’t evil. But what happens when this desire goes haywire? What happens when it becomes corrupt?
The simple, good, wholesome and godly desire to eat (remember, when God created human beings in Genesis, he said it was ‘good’) turns from something natural and good to something unnatural and corrupt – it turns into gluttony. There’s certainly nothing natural about gluttony. What has been natural here has been corrupted.
We’re not born, it seems, with this corruption entirely in place. We learn more corruption from a corrupted world (see 2 Peter 1:4, and 2:20.) But we are born without God, and we do inherit death which is what Romans 5 is telling us.
What’s the big deal here? The big deal is we are (mostly) taught that we are supposed to be killing the sinful nature as Christians, and – by implication – our desires are evil. This is not the entire truth, it’s a usage of words that (perhaps) is totally misunderstood. Our desires are GOOD, and NATURAL. Everything about me as a human is good and natural. These good and nature desires have been corrupted, and become more corrupted throughout my life. We are facing a disease of sorts on the human race, a corruption of what is natural and good.
Jesus makes the link between sickness and sin when he says “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matt 9:12) when questioned as to why he dines with sinners.
What if we are only believing for half the story here? We believe that God will kill our sinful desires. But we think this in the context that God is changing our NATURE, our very make up and being, making us something more than what we are – perhaps something more than human. However, when we read the Bible, God promises to resurrect our BODIES and wants to make a NEW Earth and a NEW Heaven. Wanting to be something more than human is not a Christian idea– more like a Platonic one.
We believe God will kill our desires (through our willpower, perhaps, or through our submission and obedience) when in fact he may want to heal our desires instead. He wants to take what has been made unnatural – what has been corrupted – and make it natural again, make it uncorrupted.
There’s no single verse in the Bible that says God is going to change our nature. It always puts the ‘sinful nature’ (which, now, may mean a corrupted nature) vs the Spirit (Gal 5:17, is a good example of this.) What if this is because your very nature, everything that makes you ACTUALLY human is perfectly good, holy, and wonderful. It is the corruption of this nature that Jesus saved us from through his death, having taken this sin and the corruption of this sin upon him by suffering what the corruption brought – death.
THEN, to show his victory over this corruption, he is raised on the third day. And, when we believe in Him, we die too to this corruption and are raised up with Him – spiritually speaking, now, but completely when He returns. The Spirit in infills us, to work towards our healing from the corruption of death, sin and Satan’s influence. The Holy Spirit heals us from our old thought patterns, our old bodily cravings (which are, in fact, just normal and good bodily cravings that have gone haywire and become corrupt.) I mean, he is more than just healing us of the issues in the mind – he is healing our entire beings. This healing process is called ‘sanctification’ and it happens slowly throughout our lives, because we’re still in mortal bodies – and still corrupted.
See, Jesus set us FREE from the corruption occuring even more, and wants to heal us from it. But he hasn’t taken us out of the corruption, because all of creation needs to be healed too and probably a whole lot of other things (which we can maybe look at some other time.)
My point, for this post, is to say that there is a possibility we’re believing God for the wrong thing. We want him to change our NATURE, when in fact he wants to HEAL our nature and make us MORE natural, and more who we actually are as human beings. Everything about sin is unnatural – lust is unnatural, jealousy is unnatural, coveting is unnatural. God wants to make us natural again.
It is easier to trust for healing of what has been corrupted than to trust that God would change my nature. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense that God created me this way, and then wants to change me. This is a problem many non-believers have with Christianity. It’s just too ascetic. A non-believer sees his desires as natural – and they are actually right. The problem, is, however, that non-believers see their SINFUL desires (like, gluttony, for instance) as natural and the church has largely agreed with them here too. We’ve said that the sinful nature is ‘human,’ because we’re all born with this ‘sinful nature’, and God wants to take away our desires and replace them with… no desires at all? We haven’t said it directly, perhaps, but certainly by implication.
If even the Church calls these sinful desires natural, then God should accept me for who I am – because he created me. This is the argument non-believers use. And I think they’re right to think this.
It must be that my sinful desires AREN’T natural, but that sinful desires are the corruption of natural desires.
However, if my desires are natural but my living them out is unnatural – and my body, mind and spirit is in need of healing and becoming natural again… well, I think many non-Christians would agree that this is in fact something they would want.
Jesus didn’t change a single person’s nature, instead he healed people and made disciples who followed Him and changed slowly. Should we be trusting for our nature to change? Or the healing of our nature? Uncorrupting what has been corrupted? Mending what has been broken? Changing us back to His Children. The second seems to fit within the biblical framework. The life of Jesus may just show us what the life of a Christian is – it shows that God wants to bring us healing (and certainly, he wants us to bring this healing to others.) We are often quite focused on the DEATH of Jesus, but we forget there’s a RESURRECTION too – and it’s not within His death that we LIVE, but it’s in His resurrection – the old has been taken away, and the new has come. We are new creatures, living in the resurrection of Jesus, the anticipation of the entire full healing of our bodies, minds and spirits. Slowly, as we live, we experience this eternal life now – we are inheriting it. We are being saved, as much as we have been saved. God brings our salvation not just through justification, but through sanctification. We are justified once, we are sanctified in increasing measure through life. Salvation has a beginning, a middle, and a final glorious end. You can’t lose your salvation, but you are still BEING saved from sin and corruption. You are being healed.
There’s so much more I would love to say here, but this post is already too long! Perhaps we should move to a pt 3 next week… would love to hear comments on these ideas, and see if the Spirit speaks to anyone through what I’m saying here ?
I notice that there are certain well accepted doctrines within Christianity that really bug me, and my propensity to find alternative answers can put me on the border of heretic, or – at the very least – hetero-orthodox or something.
I take no real pleasure in being controversial, to be honest. Although, I love making people think because I enjoy thinking. And I take pleasure in being free, and seeing others free, which is what I hope my writing would do.
So why do these issues bug me? Because they greatly affect the way I relate to God, and they greatly affect the way in which I live out my Christian life – the way I love, and what makes me sin.
One of these issues is hell – which took me about two or three years to come the conclusion that I believe in the (eventual) annihilation of the wicked. I am not dogmatic about my belief, but my studies of the Scriptures has brought me to this conclusion.
I hardly voiced my opinion amongst friends for some time due to the reason that I feared being seen as weird and heretical. I’m a Deacon at my church, and Deacons ought to have their theology straight (apparently.) At least, though, my salvation is still OK and I’m in the company of some great theologians (John Stott, Michael Eaton, and others.)
Eschatological doctrines are the other one, and if I tell people that I don’t believe in a pre-trib rapture, a great deal of them still look at me funny. But it’s ok to have different eschatological views these days.
My biggest dilemma, however, is one that can place me in a very dangerous position. This one has more implications for me, personally, than my belief in hell or eschatology. Those things can still be discussed within most circles without much of an eyebrow being raised. But my next issue involves the doctrine of Original Sin (as it’s taught, or how I’ve understood it) and any denial of this doctrine has other implications.
For instance, if I say that original sin is all false then I would have to relook at my doctrine of the virgin birth. Not only that, but I also have to then look at the atonement. Why did Christ have to die? Something like Penal Substitution would come up, and any denial of that would place me out of reformed circles by a long mile. Now, I don’t see anything wrong with Penal Substitution, because I don’t think the atonement ought to be limited to one theory, but certainly the way I look at original sin would greatly affect the atonement – the cross and the resurrection – and the atonement is the crux, the center, of the Gospel message.
Why does this doctrine bug me?
Because this is basically what the doctrine says (in various forms) : Adam and Eve sinned, and because of this I have inherited a sinful nature, and am unable to do anything about it. I will sin, because sinning is part of who I am, a part of my very make up and being.
My very being rejects God, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Well, the doctrine says that Christ has come to set us free from this. But my problem with this doctrine is that I still sin. If Christ came to set me free from my sinful nature, why do I still sin? Because I choose to? But the very ‘choice’ of choosing to sin is the very thing the sinful nature makes me do. How can God hold me accountable? Not only that, but is there ANY promise of being free in this life? What if I’m not actually a part of the elect?
Just from the above sentence I have problems. Firstly, there are issues of sanctification – and this leads into issues of eternal security, or – subsequently – issues with the Gospel message itself.
Paul talks about this in Rom 7 and then says “who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This can either mean that Jesus HAS rescued us, or he still WILL rescue us. If the latter, then the Gospel is only ‘half-good news’ because we are unable to enjoy anything of the Eternal Life we’ve been given now (an idea that is starkly against what the Bible is saying – and the doctrine of the indwelt Spirit.)
In reading Romans 6-8 carefully, as well as many other scriptures, it seems to me that the victory Christ made over the sinful nature is quite final. Romans 6:22 says that I WAS a slave to the sin nature, but am NOW AM a slave to God. It speaks in absolutes – I DIED with Christ, and was RAISED with Him. So, how can I go on sinning?
The fact that I have both the Spirit and the sinful nature still operating within me puts me in a divide – a sort of dualism within. Truthfully, I haven’t been told by the Bible that God has given me a new nature – but His Spirit seems unable to FULLY get rid of the sinful nature within me, and this internal dualism is both confusing and a little depressing to me (if I’m going to be honest.) I have problems with thinking of myself with this dualism, because I am a saved man – Christ lives within me. God Himself. Surely that counts for something?
My other issue, which goes hand in hand with the above, is that God created me, and I am made in the image of God. But if this is so, why do I have a natural inclination to sin? I will be told that this inclination is an inherited nature from my parents – but the problem is the word “NATURE.”
This means that sin is ‘natural,’ but any reading of the Bible places sin in the category of ‘un-natural’ because sin goes against what is good, and God called creation ‘good’ in Genesis 1. Sin cannot be natural – otherwise, it would mean God created evil. Surely it is the most unnatural thing in the world to go against your Creator. It’s the most unnatural thing in the world to hate instead of love.
Just because we hate easily doesn’t make it natural. But what it DOES mean, I don’t know.
In essence, I am fighting a fight against NATURE. Must I live my entire life with my very own body beating against me to fulfil its evil desires? The result of such thinking makes nature (or the body) sinful, and anything that is spirit good. Another form of dualism. And this in itself sounds more like greek philosophy than Christian thought – that material is bad, and spiritual is good.
My life is now all about fighting against what is human within me, until the day when I am made no longer human but some spiritual heavenly being.
Yet, the Bible says my body will be resurrected. Yes, a new body, but nevertheless a BODY. Not only that, but God created me as a human – why am I fighting against what is human?
Is the sinful nature human? Or what is it exactly?
How we see the creation is paramount for understanding what is holy and what is not, and how we are to live our salvation out. I need to know what to trust God FOR. Do I trust Him to change my nature? If so, why can’t he seem to do it in certain areas of my life? Or, why do I have to wait for Him to do it? Is it because he is teaching me patience? Alright, but in the meantime the sin could be hurting others in my life. Does he not care about that? Can he change what is part of my very make up and being? Does this mean he wills for me to be something other than human?
Why is he teaching me patience any way? Why doesn’t he just kill my nature in the beginning and allow me to live a life that’s free from such hinderences, and that allows me to take the Gospel out more effectively? Why is he happy to let the sinful nature do what it wants, and greatly taint the Gospel message due to bad testimony of people’s lives?
Can God really blame me for something my parents did, as well as to hard code me with the inability to do anything else – and then give me His Spirit which doesn’t appear to be able to defeat this thing within me? But rather requires a process? There was no process in attaining this nature, why a process in defeating it?
Does anyone else see that it appears that, within this doctrinal view, death and sin seem like quite the victors? Even though I am going to heaven, death and sin still reign in my mortal body, and God insists I don’t let it. But how? His Spirit? In this view, the Spirit is there to help KILL what is natural. But the Bible doesn’t really say that, it says that we have died to sin (past tense, not current tense!) So, again, why do I still sin?
The only answer : ascetism. Laws. Rules. How else do I kill this nature? By the Spirit? But, what does that mean exactly? And then, Gospel says we’re saved by Grace and not Law.
I’m being dead honest about the honest questions, and I know that I know the Bible is God’s Word. My problem is our interpretation. Some of these questions I have some answers on, some of them not. But join me as I look at the doctrine of Original Sin and form my own premise as to what original sin REALLY means, biblically, and with the Holy Spirit. And pray that I don’t veer away from the Gospel of freedom into false teaching that will inevitably bring only more death and not life.
Soteriology (the theology of how we are saved, so to speak) is not an uncomplex discussion. You’ve got “Calvinists,” “Arminians,” “Free Gracers,” “Catholic,” “Orthodox” and the more recent “faithfulness” guys (they haven’t found a label yet. But, what they believe, in the end, is that your salvation depends on how faithful you were to God… it’s a sort of mixed Protestant and Catholic view. NT Wright is a good example of someone who is leaning towards this view.)
At any rate, I’m more of a “Free Gracer,” (but I hate placing myself in these boxes, because there are many views within the views) but still find the work of guys like NT Wright helpful and fascinating. Also, I’m a big fan of John Piper (a notable calvinist.)
However, I’m beginning to come up with some of my own little thoughts and views and am beginning to see ‘salvation’ in the Bible as pertaining to a whole lot of things. If you, like me, struggle with certain sins you will most certainly know how to cry to God for ‘salvation’ from your sin – because it keeps ruining you and your relationship with God, others, and yourself. It’s a big stuff up, to put it in cheesy (yet real) terms. I desperately want salvation from my sin.
Consider the poor, for instance. They’re the guys who seem to face sin head on. Let’s be honest, some of the poor are definately lazy – a sin that has been ingrained into them from childhood, perhaps. This sin of theirs effects every part of their life, not just their relationships, but their stomach too. Only the Spirit of God can save them from this sin that is ruining their lives.
But they are also, often, the victim of other’s sin. Injustice, for example (consider the Caste system in India.) Here the poor are not the victim of their own sin, but the sin of others. They desperately need God to save them from injustice.
What is salvation, then? Is it merely the assurance that you are going to heaven? When I fall into a persistant sin, the issue is no longer “Lord, please don’t count this sin against me,” but it rather becomes, “Lord, please save me from this destructive sin! Somehow! Please!”
When you’re the victim of injustice, you cry out to God for salvation. You don’t cry out, “Lord, please make sure that I get to heaven, so I won’t have to endure this forever…” but rather, you cry out, “Lord, save me, now! Please!” Imagine you’re being tortured. Though the joy of God and his eternal promises may sustain you through any process, you still cry out to God to save you from your torture. Sometimes, when we have brought salvation to people, we have not brought the entire message of salvation – the liberating, vindicating side of God saving you NOW.
He is our salvation, through and through. When I read the Bible, I see this coming through. God promises to be the salvation of the poor and oppressed, the hated and the victims of injustice. “Salvation” covers more than just “going to heaven.” It means that Today is the day of salvation – Today he will save you, restore you, vindicate you, and justify you before himself and before men. Though I believe justification happens when you believe that Jesus died for your sins, I also believe that your justification STARTS there. In one sense, that you live out your justification and discover your vindication. This is why the Bible always seems to speak in ‘already, but not yet’ sort of terms. You’re saved when you believe, but you RECEIVE your ENTIRE salvation in every practical sense when you die. You receive your entire salvation now, to be sure, but you still need to live it out and die to receive it in it’s fullest sense. I’m saying that everything is now, but the now needs to be lived out. This is why we know we are saved, but can also ‘hope’ for our salvation (as the Bible puts it.)
God has come to save us from hell, to be sure. But also to save us from sin. To save us from injustice. To save us from sickness – physical, mental, spiritual. To save us from sadness – he will give us joy. To save us from poverty – he will bless us, and we will be a blessing to others. To save us from the evil one, and his systems. He saves us, and then gives us authority to tramp on scorpions, so we can bring His salvation to others.
He is truly my light and my salvation – I am saved by grace, absolutely freely. I have no relation to the law. Yet, I am to live a life of love which is not in conflict with the law (see Gal 5:22) And there are plenty of things I am still to be saved from – and God will save me from them all. This is salvation, too.