Among popular radio Bible teachers still heard on the radio some years after his death is Dr. J. Vernon McGee. Dr. McGee taught through the entire Bible in five year intervals in a style that was plain, folksy, and straightforward. In one particular broadcast featuring the book of Leviticus, Dr. McGee made a casual and passing remark to the effect that amongst the various sin offerings described in Leviticus there was no sin offering to cover the case of deliberate or willful sin. I immediately thought of the famous warning found in Chapter 10 of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament:
"For if we sin deliberately (hekousios = willfully) after receiving the knowledge (epignosin = full knowledge) of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice of sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who has said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:26-31)
A reference check of Numbers, Chapter 15, shows the Old Testament situation the writer of Hebrews had in mind,
"But if you err, and do not observe all these commandments which the LORD has spoken to Moses, all that the LORD has commanded you by Moses, from the day that the LORD gave commandment, and onward throughout all your generations, then if it was done unwittingly without the knowledge of the congregation, all the congregation shall offer one young bull for a burnt offering, a pleasing odor to the LORD, with its cereal offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the people of Israel, and they shall be forgiven, because it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their error. And all the congregation of the people of Israel shall be forgiven, and the stranger who sojourns among them, because the whole population was involved in the error.
"If one person sins unwittingly, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who commits an error, when he sins unwittingly, to make atonement for him; and he shall be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unwittingly, for him who is native among the people of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is a native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." (Numbers 15:22-31)
The writer to the Hebrews also draws his illustration in Chapter 10 from the conditions that prevailed under the law of Moses as recorded, for example, in Deuteronomy 17:
"If there is found among you, within any of your towns which the LORD your God gives you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it; then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abominable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring forth to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses he that is to die shall be put to death; A person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from the midst of you." (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)
One immediate contrast between the Old Covenant and the New can be seen in New Testament passages such as Galatians 6:1-2 and Matthew 18:15-18 where, under "the new arrangement for living" (the New Covenant) with God which is now in effect, every possible effort is to be made by the congregation to correct and restore the spiritual health and vitality of any professing member who is found to be engaging in sin. Great care and compassion for the flock is urged upon the pastors of God's church, in fact - to assure that all the sheep reach Home Pastures safe, whole, alive, and well. Through the actual blood sacrifice of Christ, as Antitype, his new priesthood after Melchidezek, the believer's greater access into God's holy presence, and the fullness of the Spirit (provided to us now as opposed to then) give us fuller, richer resources to help us, the New Covenant believer's accountability before God is actually greater. Ours is the higher calling, the greater privilege, and the greater danger of falling away, because sin is measured against the much greater amount of enlightenment received. From the New Testament (e.g. Romans 1-3) we learn that it is mercy we need, not justice or vindication, or our "well earned reward in heaven for a good job well done on earth." However, it appears, based on the scriptures mentioned thus far, that God's attitude towards "high-handed" or presumptuous sin is unchanged under the New Covenant as compared with the Old. Whatever deliberate sin really is, if it is truly persisted in, implies that such a sinner is lost and will be found in the end to have never been part of the believing camp after all.
All sin is sin by choice in one sense or another and God always makes it possible for us to not sin if we are willing to ask for his help and, if we will set out to undertake the hard work and self-discipline of resisting temptation, (1 Corinthians 10:13). Many of us struggle with "besetting sins," habits, weaknesses and many among us suffer discouraging and disheartening defeats, year after year in fact. Giving in to a bad temper or carelessly over-spending beyond our means might be two examples. One should never condone nor justify even the smallest sins---what King Solomon called the "little foxes that spoil the vineyards," (Song of Solomon 2:15). Rather, we ought to stand amazed at the infinite patience of our Lord, his understanding of our infirmities, and His willingness to help us, if we will but make the slightest effort to cooperate with Him.
Many Christians do come to fear that they have lost their salvation because of repeated failure in some area of their lives, others add self-punishment or penance to their lives hoping to cover the bases more effectively, and others are quite certain they are beyond hope having surely committed "deliberate and willful sins" for so long they may well have no hope for any change in this life. Yet even serious sins that don't go away all at once are not necessarily sins actually in the category God calls presumptuous. God permits many things He does not desire and "his kindness is meant to lead us to repentance." In each of our lives, however, we can expect God to take the initiative from time to time to reveal to us that He has given us, at that point in time, full and adequate knowledge on a certain subject and henceforth He expects and insists upon obedience.
To sin "unwittingly" as the RSV has translated the Hebrew word shagaga, (which means "to err or go astray,") has elicited the following helpful remarks by Harris, Archer, and Waltke in their Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, page 904:
"Protestant theology has been dominated by two basic concepts of sin. One concept is that sin is the breaking of the law knowingly or unknowingly. This is the objective view of sin or the legal interpretation. And certainly the illustrations...from Leviticus 4-5 and Numbers 15 buttress this approach. Sin was a positive violation of the covenant relationship, whether voluntary or involuntar. The presence or absence of volition did not alter the objective situation. Sins done in 'ignorance' were still sins and needed atonement.
"The other concept we may call the ethical understanding of sin. By this is meant the involvement of the human will and personal responsibility. The emphasis here is on the subjective. Neither view is correct to the exclusion of the other. Both are biblical and must be held in tension...A sin of this type may result from two causes: negligence or ignorance. Either the perpetrator knows the law but unintentionally violates it as in the case of accidental homicide (Numbers 35:22ff; Deuteronomy 19:4-14; Joshua 20:2-6,9), or he acts without knowing he did wrong. Some illustrations of sins in this category would be: Genesis 20:9 (Abimelech's complaint to Abraham); Numbers 22:34 (Balaam: 'I have sinned. I did not know you were standing in my path'). In opposition to these are sins committed with a 'high hand' (Numbers 15:30) for which there is no atonement by any means of sacrifice."
Highlighting the tension described above, the Editors of the Harper Study Bible (1952) have this comment on Leviticus 4:2:
"Sins of ignorance were sins wrongfully committed by an Israelite out of weakness or waywardness without any intent to renounce the sovereignty of God. Sins committed with the intention of rejecting God's sovereignty were to be punished by cutting off their perpetrators from among the people (Numbers 15:30-31). That atonement should be required for sins of ignorance demonstrates that ignorance is no adequate excuse for failure to keep the Laws of God. Believers are enjoined to study the Scriptures (II Timothy 2:15) and failure to acquaint themselves with the commandments of God affords no excuse. This kind of sin must also be confessed and forgiven (I John 1:9). Even in the case of unbelievers, ignorance is basically willful, according to Romans 1:21,28."
When moral standards in the church gradually weaken, as they almost always do over a period of time, it becomes much easier for individual members to excuse compromised personal conduct that is actually seriously offensive to God. We sin because we love the temporary pleasure and delight it brings; we believe the lie of the Tempter that we shall be better off for accepting his enticing offers, and no worse off because God is so forgiving. Often we do not set out to commit a sin but do feed vicariously on the fantasies or imaginations that grow in our hearts until actual sin is inevitable according to the process described in James 1:13-16. The Tempter appeals to natural, and normal, and healthy desires, as well to our selfish and fleshly lusts. Our own thousand rationalizations play an important role in the process by which we decide to chose the path we know is wrong. Unfortunately, sin takes us further than we intended to go, makes us temporary slaves of our Enemy, (rather then free men in Christ) blinds us to the entire process of what is happening to us, and weakens our defenses increasing the likelihood of further failure in the same area the next time round:
"...the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows that he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly; while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about good and evil: bad people do not know about either." (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.87).
Unless we become serious about knowing who God really is as a Person and what He likes, dislikes, hates, and abhors we all make up our lists of sins and standards supposing that this will be sufficient to satisfy a God who is full of mercy, patience and understanding. It may surprise us to find out that God is different than we imagined Him from our childhood bedtime Bible stories, but in actual fact He has given us a rather thorough body of information about those things that offend his Person and His holiness.
Writing to the Romans Paul says,
"...Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it..." (Romans 6:1, 2)
The writer includes himself ("we") as needing this warning also for it encompasses those who have received a full knowledge (epignosis) of the truth. It is directed to those who deliberately keep on sinning after they fully understand the way of escape in Jesus. It adds seriousness to the exhortation of verse 25 not to abandon meeting together with other Christians (as the initial Greek gar, "for," indicates). This recalls John's warning in 1 John 2:19 concerning those who "went out from us." "Their going," he says, "showed that none of them belonged to us." They had known the way of life, but had not chosen to avail themselves of it, and one early sign of heart apostasy is an unwillingness to continue association with true believers.
Yet despite the advantage of full enlightenment, if there is no change in behavior and sin continues to dominate the life of professed believers, they will find no other hiding place from God's wrath, for there is no other sacrifice than Christ's which will avail for sin. Since by unchanged behavior such individuals give evidence that Christ's sacrifice is rejected, the one way of escape is rejected also. Only judgment and "blazing fire" after death awaits, as one of the enemies of God (2 Thess 1:7). This behavior parallels those "having fallen away" of 6:6, where apostasy also led to irremediable judgment.
The NIV has properly translated the opening phrase of verse 26 as, if we deliberately keep on sinning. It is not a sin one can stumble into suddenly. It is not the normal falterings of a Christian still learning how to walk in the Spirit. It has been well termed "the leukemia of non-commitment." It is choosing to live for self behind a Christian veneer and refusing to be delivered from sin's reign by the past sacrifice and present high priestly ministry of Jesus. It is not continual sinning from ignorance as many church members manifest, but occurs after full enlightenment. Such people know of the power of Christ to deliver, but have not chosen to avail themselves of it. Their life may appear to be fairly respectable when judged by the world's standards, but what it is like in God's eyes is described in verses 28-30. (35)
The argument proceeds from the less to the greater, very much as the writer had done in 2:2-3. If immediate death was the penalty for violating the law of Moses (which was but a shadow or picture), how much more should one expect severe judgment for continually repeating, knowingly and deliberately, the reality which is Jesus and his sacrifice! What they have done is threefold:
1. They have trampled the Son of God underfoot! The writer chooses a title for Jesus which emphasizes his right to be Lord over all. To trample him under foot is to spurn his right to govern life. Lip service is paid to Christian truth but life is lived as one pleases, even adopting the world's values and standards. As one poet has described it:
2. They have treated as something common or trivial the blood of the covenant which has power to make one holy. They have regarded the blood of Jesus as having no more value than the blood of any other man, and therefore, in practice, insisted that religious activities ought to be enough to satisfy God. And they are saying this even though they have previously acknowledged that the death of Christ has ruled out such means. Once they regarded themselves as holy (sanctified) by the blood of Jesus, but now they deny this and reject the cross as unnecessary for acceptance before God.
3. They insult the Spirit of grace. The full understanding of redemptive truth, the awareness that the blood of Jesus can make one holy, the pleasures of meeting together with other Christians; all have been a gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit to the individuals considered here. Now these are being rejected and treated with contempt. It is an egregious insult to the One who was sent to draw men and women to salvation. It usually means to become guilty of the sin which Jesus called "an eternal sin," unpardonable in any age (Mk 3:29).
Verse 30 supports this view of coming judgment with two references to the Song of Moses, found in Deuteronomy 32. The first refers to the destruction of apostates and is quoted also by Paul in Romans 12:20 in a possibly similar connection. The second quote, however, looks more to the severity of God on those of his own who presumptuously play with sin even when knowing better. Such a case is that of David in 2 Samuel 24, who is given a choice of three painful penalties because of his sin in numbering the people of Israel against the express prohibition of the Lord. If even a greatly beloved believer like David could be dealt with severely by God, how much more would the apostate feel the full extent of divine wrath!
In either case, says our author in verse 31, It is a dreadful
thing to fall into the hands of the living God. To encounter
the living God in the full majesty of his holiness is a terrifying
and awesome experience. In the first case cited, it is to experience
after death the eternal judgment of raging fire "that will
consume the enemies of God." The second case is to know
in this life the heavy hand of God's displeasure because of deliberate
and sinful choices which one is reluctant to give up. Only God
can tell the difference between these two cases, for in human
eyes they may appear indistinguishable. But that is the purpose
for such warnings as we find in Hebrews. As the writer has said:
"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving
heart" (3:12), "Let us, therefore, be careful that
none of you be found to have fallen short" (4:1), and "Let
us make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will
fall" (4:11). God is not a power to trifle with, for he
can do what we cannot do, namely, read hearts. He can be ruthless
if it is necessary to waken those sinners to the evil results
they are embracing. That ruthlessness is a hidden blessing when
the heart is unaware that it is ignoring the death of Jesus as
the only adequate sacrifice for sin. Behind his severity is mercy
toward those destroying themselves in unbelief God lovingly seeks
to waken them to what they are doing before they reach that stage
of heart-hardening which deliberately reject Christ. Beyond that
point lies the unpardonable sin. -- Ray C. Stedman
The thought that leaps out of the page in this section of scripture dealing with the Christian's full identification with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection, is that continuing in a sinful lifestyle is shocking and unthinkable! In Ephesians he is even more clear:
"But immorality (porneia) and all impurity (akatharsia = "lack of being purged") or covetousness (pleonexia = the desire of having more and more of something) must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness (aischrotes = dirty, disgraceful or shameful conduct), nor silly talk (morologia = dull, stupid or idle talk), nor levity (eutrapelia = facetiousness, crude joking), which are not fitting (appropriate); but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience..." (Ephesians 5:3-6)
This passage covers both sins of outward action, and the inner self indulgences that we hope will escape detection by others and be overlooked by God as well. Actually as the Sermon on the Mount reveals, the motive and purpose of the heart is more important than the outward appearance and many of our serious sins can occur in the privacy of our own thoughts and fantasies.
To further add to the indictment against our careless conduct as professing Christians, James give reminder concerning sins of omission, that is, our failure to act when we see the need and have the resources to solve a problem presented to us:
"Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:17)
He also reminds us that,
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God (here referring to Jesus) and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27)
Fortunately for us the New Testament tells us to come freely and boldly before our God for help in time of need. We do well to appreciate our need for mercy as much as our need of grace, to take one day at a time, and to re-examine ourselves often so that we should not be found wanting in the eyes of God. The chastening, corrective hand of our God, and even his stern rebukes we should learn to welcome since "he disciplines us for our own good."
Although there is widespread difference of opinion among Bible scholars as to what class of people are being addressed in the warnings of Hebrews 6 and 10, I am part of the company of those Christians who hold to the view that the warning of Hebrews 10, quoted above, and the similar warning of Hebrews 6:1-8, are addressed to those professing believers in and around the church who are still in actuality outsiders to the faith and have not yet fully entered in to the fellowship of the family of God by subjection of their hearts, lives and wills to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In this view, the true believer will correct his life after discovering the importance of being fruitful (Hebrews 6) as proof that salvation has in fact occurred, and the true believer will in fact repent and correct his life when he or she learns that sinful conduct carelessly indulged in has become presumptuous sin as far as God is concerned (Hebrews 10). My point of view lines up with those scholars who hold to the eternal security of the believer and to what is commonly called "the perseverance of the saints." Those who really are born again, those in whom "Christ is fully formed" will make the right choices that lead to life, at those periodic great trials and crises of decision God brings into all our lives. This does not mean that Christians never sin, for many of us do, and grievously so. But, because being in and around Christian fellowship brings many blessings, joy and benefits, it is easy for many to believe they are Christians when in fact they are not, and in the case such a person does fall away "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins...", just as was the case for high-handed sin as described in Numbers 15.
The New Testament does say that careless and persistent fake, hypocritical Christian lifestyles do invite the judgment of God in the form of a special kind of chastening, namely, a shortened earthly life. This is to say nothing of the pain, suffering, lost blessings, and the reaping of the consequences all sin brings! Sin which brings the particular judgment of God of early physical death is known as "mortal sin" (or "sin unto death") and is described for us in the Apostle John's First Epistle. Because the passage meets with a variety of interpretations by commentators, I have quoted (with kind permission) Ray C. Stedman's comments on this subject. Ray says,
"...John comes to the specific illustration of this principle (of prayer) in a passage that troubles many:
'If anyone sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those who sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.' (First John 5:16,17)
"These two verses are an illustration of a request that is in the will of God, as contrasted with one that is not in the will of God. He (John) has been urging us to pray only concerning that which is in the will of God, so he gives us these two illustrations, one of which is in the will of God, one which is not. The 'sin which is not unto death' is the kind which permits a concerned brother to ask God for deliverance from that sin for an erring brother, and the will of God is to grant that request. The 'sin which is unto death' is the kind to which God has already determined upon a certain response, and no prayer is going to change His mind. Therefore, it is useless to pray. That is why John gives us this illustration.
"Now let us come to the moot question, what is this sin unto death? There are three major explanations of this passage and particularly of this phrase, 'the sin unto death.' The first view regards it as some specific sin which is so terrible as to be unforgivable, such as suicide, murder, idolatry, or even adultery. This view (which has been held by many through the Christian centuries) gave rise to the Catholic distinctions between mortal and venial sins. This is, perhaps, why the RSV translates this 'sin which is mortal' and 'sin which is not mortal.' But that translation is unquestionably wrong. It should never be translated, 'mortal sin' for it has nothing to do with the question of salvation. There is no warrant whatsoever in Scripture for distinguishing between mortal and venial sins - sins which can be forgiven (venial), and those which can never be forgiven (mortal). Scripture makes no such distinctions. As a matter of fact, this sin is not any one specific sin. The Greek makes very clear here that it is simply sin in general. It is not a particular sin which is unto death; any sin can become sin unto death.
"There is a second view which links this with the words concerning the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Remember that on one occasion He warned that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. The death which is mentioned in this passage in First John is thus taken to mean spiritual death. This is a description of what we generally call apostasy. An apostate is someone who has made a profession of faith in Christ but begins to drift away and ultimately comes to the place where he actually blasphemes the name of the Lord Jesus and the things of the Christian faith, denying them and turning his back upon them. Hebrews 6 and 10 and other passages make clear that such an apostate is in a terrible situation. He has committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the flagrant rejection of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ, and this is unpardonable.
"But it is equally clear that this sin can never be committed by a genuine born-again Christian. It is only committed by those who have made a profession of faith but have never entered into new birth in Jesus Christ. But the word here is, 'if anyone sees his brother committing what is not a sin unto death,' and the term brother is reserved for other Christians. John says that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the child (I John 5:1). That is, such a one is my brother. He, like me, is a member of the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore it seems likely that the sin unto death mentioned here is limited to Christians, and cannot refer to apostates.
"That brings us to the third view, which I believe is the correct one, which views death here as physical death...There is sin which a Christian can commit which will result in God taking him home in physical death...Certain examples of this sin unto death are given in Scripture which, if one studies them carefully, will reveal the element that turns ordinary sin into sin which is unto death. 'All wrongdoing is sin,' says John. All unrighteousness is sin, let us not misunderstand that, but there is sin which has a certain element about it, a certain characteristic which will result in physical death, physical judgment. Let us look at some of the instances of this in scripture.
"Moses, for instance, committed a sin unto death when God commanded him to speak to the rock in the wilderness so that water would come forth to meet the needs of the children of Israel. Previously he had been commanded to strike the rock for the water to come out, but on a second occasion he was told to speak to the rock. This change was important because the rock was a type of Christ and to strike it was a picture of the judgment of the cross. "The cross is the way by which the refreshing water of grace first comes into our life as Christians, but after we have become Christians we are not to strike the rock (crucify Christ again) but to speak to it. We are simply to ask of him and out of the Rock will flow the rivers of living water we need. But Moses broke the significance of that type when, in anger, he struck the rock twice. Though God in grace, allowed the water to come flowing out, He said to him, 'Because you have disobeyed me and not sanctified me in the eyes of the people, you will not be allowed to lead these people into the land of promise.' Later on, when they came to the borders of the land, Moses said to God, in effect, 'Lord, allow me to go on in. Forgive this, and let me go on in.' And the Lord said to him, 'Speak no more to me about this matter,' that is, 'Do not pray about this, but get up to the mountain and I will let you see the land, but that is as far as you can go.' Moses had committed a sin unto death, although in his case it did not occur right away. Nevertheless, he died prematurely, before his work was really completed.
"A little further on, in the Book of Joshua you find that Achan commits a sin unto death. As the children of Israel crossed the Jordan and surrounded Jericho, they were told that when the city became theirs they were not to touch anything in it, for it was all cursed of God. But when the walls came tumbling down and they came into the city, one man among them, Achan, saw a beautiful garment and a wedge of gold and he coveted these and buried them in the dirt beneath his tent. As a result, judgment came upon Israel. In their next battle they met with utter and complete defeat. Searching out the camp in obedience to the Word of God, Joshua found out that it was Achan who had done this. He was brought out with his whole family, and by command of God they were put to death. That was a sin unto death.
"In the New Testament, in Acts 5, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, pretended to a devotion that they did not really possess, and, wanting a reputation in the eyes of other Christians, they lied about the money they received for certain land. As a result, they were immediately put to death by God, one by one, and buried. They too had committed a sin unto death.
"Also remember what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians about their conduct, saying,
"Some of you are drunken, some are selfish, pushing your way in and eating before others, showing no concern for others, and above all not discerning the meaning of this table, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause, many are weak and sickly among you, and many have died. " (I Corinthians 11:21, 29, 30, RCS translation)
"Certain ones had committed the sin which was unto death.
"Note that in all these examples the sin was not the same, by any means. It was simply sin which resulted in the judgment of physical death. What, then, is the element that turns ordinary sin into this kind of sin? It is the element of wanton, presumptuous action in the face of clear knowledge that it is wrong. It is willfulness, a willful presumption to pursue something when you know that God has said it is wrong. That is sin unto death, and the result is physical judgment. Now it does not always come suddenly. It did with Ananias and Sapphira, it did with Achan, but it did not with Moses, and it did not with the Corinthians. With them it came in stages: first it was weakness, then sickliness, and finally death. Perhaps much of the physical weakness that is apparent among Christians today may arise from this very cause. Not all physical weakness comes from this, not all premature deaths arise from this, but some very likely do. It is persistence in a determined course of action when you know that God has said it is wrong that constitutes sin unto death.
"Now let us look again at what John has said, 'If any one sees his brother committing sin which is not unto death,' sin which arises largely out of ignorance, with no understanding of the implications of it, no awareness of how bad it is, 'he will ask, and God will give him life...' Young Christians often stumble into things they are not aware of. They do not understand what they are getting into, and they do not realize the danger. Then, if you see your brother committing that kind of sin, ask of God, and God will give life for those whose sin is not unto death. God will withhold the judgment of physical weakness and grant opportunity for the renewal of life.
"You can see that in the Old Testament in the case of King Hezekiah. Remember that in a very unwise moment he allowed the King of Babylon to send visitors into his palace to investigate all that was going on and to see the riches of the palace. The prophet Isaiah warned Hezekiah that these men only wanted to see how much money he had and whether or not it was worth sending an army to take it. He said, 'You have sold yourself into the hands of the Babylonians.' As a result of that King Hezekiah received a sentence of death from God. God told him to prepare himself, to get everything ready, because he was going to die. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed, beseeching the Lord. As a result of that prayer of confession and repentance, God stopped the prophet Isaiah as he was going out the door, having delivered the sentence of death, and said, 'Go back to the King. I have granted him fifteen more years of life.' As a sign that it would happen, the sundial in the garden went backward ten degrees. That is an example of God granting life for those who do not commit a sin which is unto death. Repentance reverses the judgment. Those who willfully determine to go in a way that is wrong commit sin which is unto death, and when they do God says do not pray for that.
"Paul, writing to Titus, says something very similar. In the closing part of that little letter he says,
"As for the man who is factious (hairetikos = divisive, self-willed), after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted (lit., 'turned inside out') and sinful (sinning); he is self-condemned." Titus 3:10,11)
"Here is a brother determined to go on his way. Therefore there is no need to pray for him. There is nothing you can do but let God's judgment wake him up. Perhaps God in grace will deal patiently with him, give him a time of sickness or weakness, and that will bring him to his senses. But if not, God will take him home.
"Dr. H.A. Ironside used to illustrate this as follows: Sometimes you see children playing outside, and when quarreling breaks out the mother says, 'If you don't behave yourself, you will have to come in the house.' Her child says, 'Don't worry, Mother, I'll be good.' But a little while later quarreling breaks out again and the mother comes out and says, 'Now that's enough. You've got to come in. I can't trust you outside anymore.' The child begs his mother to let him stay out some more, 'Oh Mother, I'll be good. I promise I will.' But she says, 'No, I gave you a chance. Now come on inside. I can't trust you out there anymore.'
"That is what God sometimes says to us. Do we realize, Christian friends, that God's whole reputation is at stake in our behavior? Everything we do and say is reflecting the character and the being of God to the world around. No wonder he watches us so assiduously. No wonder He judges us so precipitously at times. If there be a willful determination to disgrace Him in the eyes of others, as Moses had, God will say, 'All right, that's enough. I can't trust you out there any more. Come on home.' And home we go." (Ray C. Stedman, in Expository Studies in First John: Life By The Son, Waco, Texas,: Word Books, 1980, pp.364-371).
It is a life-long process by which every child of God comes gradually to know and be aware of his or her sins, to take responsibility for them and to confess them. This is quite apart from the initial major changes most of us make upon conversion when we see ourselves as new creatures in Jesus and gain a first glimpse of the depths of our need as sinners. Along the path way to adult sonship in Christ there are many perils including arrested spiritual development, a-thousand-and-one enemy diversionary tactics to unbalance us and render us ineffective, the dangers of a seared conscience and/or a hardened heart, the real possibility we shall make "shipwreck" of our lives and so on. Mediocrity in the church is the majority lifestyle, we shall have to work hard to excel and thus be sure we are really in the "believing remnant" after all.
We are assured by the Bible that full and complete forgiveness may be obtained for any and all sins we discover in our inner selves or in our conduct. (Often these discoveries are only made when we have friends willing to tell us what we ourselves can not see, and often we may actually be like the emperor who had no clothes on, but because of vanity and pride thought of himself as "doing very well, thank you".) Even what we come to admit are really deliberate and willful sins that somehow must be dealt with, these, too, can be confessed and cleansed if we will but bring them to God and be amazed by His grace one more time. If we are to forgive one another "seventy times seven" surely that is only a mini-picture of God's forgiveness for us down the years of our lives.
Repentance, which means a deliberate change in life style, is usually very hard work. "Long hard obedience in the same direction," does not come easily for creatures of habit, accustomed to years of self-indulgence and the preservation of the status quo---creature comforts and luxury at all costs. We are told by our Lord, however, not only to turn away and flee from life-threatening sins but to take whatever radical steps may be necessary to guard ourselves from further failure, through accountability to others and to the church for example. As Ray Stedman has reminded us, our honest confession of sin moves the judgment of God ahead in time and restores us to life and joy and peace immediately. Rather than adopting a defensive posture of merely holding the battle lines against sin in our lines, we also should recognize that God expects us to wage war offensively against all the enemies "dwelling in the land," or suffer the consequences in our lives. If we are complacent we pass even worse problems on to our children than those we have inherited from our parents before us, (Judges 1:27-2:5).
"Walking in the light," i.e., maintaining a close, loving, personal and intimate daily relationship with our Lord Jesus brings a wonderful form of automatic cleansing, described by John,
"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship the One with the other, and the blood of Jesus his Son (continuously) cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and the truth is not in us." (I John 1:6-10, my paraphrase)
Forgiveness and cleansing from sin, do not, however remove the consequences of sin from our lives:
Indulgence in sin therefore does bring irreversible losses into our lives. We must continue to experience the inevitable "law of the harvest" which, to say the very least, may handicap even a thoroughly repentant sinner for a long period of time so that it is difficult to be preoccupied in his new life with the fruitful work of "sowing to the Spirit." The consequences of King David's sin of murder and adultery, (which lasted the rest of his life) are awesome to read about in the record of his life, preserved for our admonition. Another aspect, then, of mortal sin could be that set of circumstances (such as the harvest of long term walking in the flesh) which catches up with us, and the consequences of the past overwhelm us so that we can not be fruitful in the service of God, nor honor him with our lives beyond a certain point in time no matter how much we might desire to do so. Going home early in such a situation could be one of God's severe mercies, but we are going home, not to destruction, and that is actually far better for us and often for others, than hanging around and doing more harm than good! For the sake of balance I should add that God may take some Christians home early as an example for others, or for reasons of his own that have nothing to do with mortal sin or conduct in this life that has displeased the Father.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)
Whether a Christian dies before his time due to mortal sin, or whether he or she lives out a normal life span of 70 or 80 years, each and every one of must, at death, pass a special reviewing stand of God known in Scripture as the "Judgment Seat of Christ." The Greek word, (bema), basically means a law tribunal where defendant and accuser stand in front of a magistrate in a court. Many Bible commentators use the analogy that the bema is the evaluation of athletes in competition passing the judges' reviewing stand in order to win the rewards appropriate to how well they have run the race. This "athletes' reward ceremony" aspect of the Judgment Seat of Christ is based upon such Scriptures as 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
John's Gospel, and Romans 8, promise that Christians have passed out from under all condemnation and will not fail to pass the test of the Judgment Seat of the Christ. Without in anyway negating the notion that this judgment does involve the rewarding of all those running the race, the notion of a legal tribunal is surely also implied by key passages in Corinthians:
"According to the commission of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble - each man's work will become manifest (openly visible), for the Day (of the Lord) will disclose it, because it will be revealed (unveiled) with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." (I Corinthians 3:10-15)
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men..." (II Corinthians 5:10-11)
While the prospects of endless delights, joy, and freedom of sin forever "when we all get to heaven" are held before us in the Bible and vividly pictured for us by inspiring Christian writers such as C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce, none of us shall "reach the other side" without passing through a process of seeing ourselves as we really always were and have finally become. The hurt and harm we have done to others and to God will have to be looked at and seen for what it really was, the depths of our depravity will come out into broad daylight as well as "the thoughts and intentions of the heart." All those activities in our lives undertaken in the energy of self-effort will be burned up and lost to us forever. It is perhaps because he knew more than we do about the awesomeness of facing God and leaving our present world of darkness and illusion for the blinding light of holy reality, that the Apostle Peter urged his readers to look forward to, and count upon the "extra" grace that is coming to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 1:13). Our Lord himself spoke of the end of life, and the end of the age as carrying with it great agony like that of a woman in travail, but He said,
"...your sorrow will be turned into joy...you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you". (John 16:20-22)
It is far better for us to grow more and more aware of our sins through diligent pursuit of holy living, through prayer and fellowship, through study of the Word of God and that self-judgment that averts the judgment of God, than for us to drift away with the crowd into that compromise that leaves us in the end no different from the pagans around us, and places us in jeopardy at least with regard to the fullness and richness of all God wants to give us. We most throw away our illusions that this present life is where our goals, hopes and dreams are to be found and remember that God's purpose is for us to regain our lost humanity. It is not for this life only that God is preparing us, but for something far more glorious and splendid. This is all made possible not by our best efforts but by the grace and mercy He has already lavished upon us and is ready to supply anew if we will but ask. As C.S. Lewis writes in this connection,
"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
"All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors." (from The Weight of Glory)
The One Hundred Third Psalm(A Psalm of David) Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is in me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!
The subject of deliberate sin often stirs up unnecessary fear and anxiety. Here are a series of email comments on the subject which hopefully will help bring more balance to the original article.
I have just finished reading an article that you wrote concerning deliberate sin. I have many questions regarding my salvation or lack or salvation due to years of willful sin. I would like to know if I am eternally lost or destined to a short life due the the sin unto death. If, possible, can I reach you via cell phone to discuss my issues? I have a lot of unanswered questions. My sorrow, grief is hard pressed upon me every day (thinking I'm eternally lost) May God continue to richly bless you and your family with His grace and mercy.
Response to LP: Good morning LP,
Thank you for writing me. We should certainly talk in more detail about your fears and concerns. Many people who worry about losing their salvation are not in any danger at all. The people who ought to be worried about their dubious standing before God usually are indifferent to that danger.
I work with a great team of men and women called the Paraclete Forum. We work together in answering many-faceted questions such yours. My brief article on Deliberate Sin dates back to 1984 and leaves much to be desired.
I believe the place to begin is to consider that anyone, anywhere, can be saved simply by accepting a free gift from God. God is self-giving in His Love. He offers love, forgiveness, eternal life freely to everyone. He is a Personal Being. Personal relationships require two individuals who consent to work together in a relationship. Our part in this great transaction with God is to reach out and take the free gift God offers. What He offers is Himself.
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
In assenting to allow Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord, we do need to have an understanding of who He is. Salvation takes place as one allows Jesus to be Lord of all areas of our life. We usually do not do this all at once. As we grow in our experience with God, we all see that our initial cooperation with Him was based on what we knew about ourselves at the time. As we grow (over a whole life time) all of us us see Jesus more clearly, and we see that our need was much greater than we first supposed. We start out as self-centered persons, God is rebuilding us thoroughly so that we eventually become like our Lord.
If a person has once truly accepted the free gift of God, they need not worry about losing their salvation -- for example by committing the unpardonable sin. There are many warnings in Scripture letting us know that we all sin, and that any sin is serious. Many times Christians do sin deliberately. We stumble, we fall. However, generous application of 1 John 1:9 should help immensely.
As Christians we belong to God's family. None of us does well apart from close fellowship with other members of this family. In many churches today, many in the congregation may not be true Christians. We should seek out the believing remnant. A prayer group or home Bible study class can be a big help. Find a church where the Bible is faithfully taught, where Jesus Christ is at center stage.
We have a real enemy the devil who is out to destroy us if he can. He also lies to us and as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10-11) is at work day and night discouraging us, berating us, and bringing up old sins which God has long ago forgiven and dealt with.
"Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.'"We all have grown up with inherited flaws and weaknesses and bad behavior patterns. These can lead to what used to be called 'besetting sins.' We all need others we can confide in and pray with when dealing with problems that persist and continue.
The Bible is a supernatural book. God intends that we feed upon God's Word, mediate on it and cling to its many promises. God's goal for us is wholeness, (well-roundedness, holiness) which we can reach by saturating ourselves in God's word, by associating closely with other Christians, by confessing known sins and moving on by faith. I am forwarding to your email to our small team. Very often others on the team have more insightful answers than I do. Please do write back and tell us the specifics of the issues you struggle with' we do want to help. Sincerely, Lambert
Reply from LP
Thanks for replying to my email. For many years I professed to know Christ, asking Him to be my Lord and saviour. However, for many years after coming to the knowledge of the truth, I willfully sinned by committing adultery. I was a slave to that horrible sin. I have since asked the Lord to cleanse me, and to give me a clean heart, mind and spirit. I use to think that I am saved (maybe I really wasn't), so I can just commit this sin, and just go to God and ask for forgiveness and everything would be ok. Very Presumptuous on part. I now know that true repentance doesn't work the way I thought It did. I now realize that God is a God of great mercy, kindness, and love. He is also a consuming fire and not to be played with. I have since turned from my adulterous ways, and I have asked God to cleanse me of all unrighteous, to remove form my being whatever is false, and not of Him. But since I sinned so horrible, and for so long..wilfully, it appears that I am now eternally lost. The Bible says that there remaineth NO SACRIFICE for willful sin. In Numbers 15:30 the man gathering wood on the sabbath was put to death...no 2nd chance. Some people even tie numbers in with Hebrews and say that willful presumptuous sin is the same as blasphemy of the Holy Ghost. If I understand your Deliberate Sin article correctly, I am also going to have a shortened life span for committing a sin unto death. I very much want to follow God and to obey him completely, but I am tormented daily by thinking that I am eternally lost. I don't have the Spirit bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God (romans 8:16) I should have that if I am saved correct? Also, If i didn't disqualify myself from salvation in Christ, what other reason(s) would there be for me to feel like I do? I no longer want to be an enemy of God, But am I just fooling myself am I really lost? Why would numbers15:30 & Hebrew 10:26-31 not apply to me and my heinous sins? God Bless you Lambert, LP.
Response to LP from Lambert
Hello again LP,
I assume you were already a Christian when you slipped into adultery? If you were not a Christian, then receiving Jesus into your life NOW has Lord brought you full forgiveness of your sins and a new start in life. This would be consistent with Ephesians 2. You were previously dead in sin (and unresponsive to God), so you could not please God by your former life style. If you did not have a relationship with Jesus before, you could not live a life acceptable to God...”those who are in the flesh can not please God.” (Romans 8). I assume you were a Christian when the adultery began? Then coming back to the Lord is what He wants for you. This is not easy because you need to end the adulterous relationship totally, once and for all. You indicate that you have done that. You also need to seek the forgiveness of your spouse. That may or may not make it possible for your marriage to be restored and healed? You need to seek the forgiveness of others in the circle of family and friends who were harmed by your adultery. If children were involved, they will have experienced injury psychologically, spiritually, emotionally. You have not committed an unforgivable sin and you have not lost your salvation. You probably now realize that your former ideas of what it means to be a Christen were naive and superficial. All sin is forgivable once a person is clearly a Christian. Most all of the warnings in Scripture are about not finding salvation in the first place. These warnings are directed towards people who are not taking God seriously—not really entering in. You certainly are taking Jesus seriously now I would say? It seems to me you have entered into true faith now, even if you were not a believer before? All sin has consequences. See Ray Stedman’s helpful article, "The Scars of Sin."
If you have confessed your recent sins to God then He has forgiven you and are restored in his sight as a righteous person. The next actions in your life should be to get back into a good church, rebuild your languishing prayer life, reconnect with sound Christian friends. Spend as much time in the Bible as you can. We are all weak in areas of past failure, so guard yourself from all sexual immorality. If your marriage can be restored that would be great. Seek out a godly Christian marriage counselor or pastor and allow them to guide you and establish accountabilities with you. Why did your marriage fail in the first place so that you sought a “fix” in adultery? That needs to be examined with the help of a godly counselor. The Psalms should bring you a lot of encouragement at this time.
I hope others on our team will write you also. Sincerely, Lambert Dolphin
Fred Field writes to LP.
I'm a member of Lambert's team, the Paraclete forum. I think we need to take this slowly, so I hope you can correspond with me/us a little bit more. This is just a first attempt to find the real issues.
Yes, it was very presumptuous of you to sin deliberately knowing that the sin of adultery was one sin punishable by death. But, it is my understanding that we are ALL condemned to death under the law. It can be very very confusing when you mix Torah with grace because of that one simple fact. Jesus died as a propitiation (payment) for all of our sin, past, present and future. The Psalmist concluded that 'there are none righteous, no not one' and that no one truly seeks after God. It is by his grace that we are drawn into his presence.
So, that is one very big issue. We are all, with no exception, condemned under the Law. Jesus came and fulfilled that Law. When he died on the cross, the payment was paid. When he said, 'It is finished,' he was not talking about the crucifixion itself. He was talking about the battle against evil. By rising from the dead, Jesus illustrated once and for all that he has the power to forgive sin. So, the first issue is forgiveness.
Another major issue that I see in your dilemma is that of condemnation. You feel condemned, and you've found some legalistic teachings that back up that particularly biased view. It ignores grace. It ignores that fact that God does know you and what you're made of. Perhaps you did not understand what repentance meant. There are a lot of Bible people who don't even think that repentance is a pre-condition for salvation. After all, the thief on the cross didn't really have a lot of time to repent, and he is with Jesus in paradise (or Jesus was lying).
I think that it is pretty clear from the Old Testament (e.g., Job) and New Testament that we have a real, spiritual enemy. He's known as Satan (the enemy). He has all sorts of provocative names, like 'accuser of the brethren,' 'the father of all lies,' 'Liar,' and so on. It is his job to make every believer struggling with grace feel rotten and worthless. So far, he has totally succeeded in making you look away from the cross and onto yourself. He loves it when you are so totally self-absorbed that you can't see God for your own filth.
But, that's exactly what Paul writes about, 'the renewing of your mind.' I'll bet you that while you were involved with sin that you didn't bother to do much reading in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit uses God's Word to cleanse our rotten, self-focused thoughts so that we can be more and more like Jesus. We will never make it, or be perfected in our own strength. But, a total reliance on the Holy Spirit does start the process. It is subtle and gradual. The fact that you acknowledge your sin proves to me and Lambert that the Lord has been dealing with you indeed. So, why stop now? Why let self-loathing keep you from the freedom that God has promised you: You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Rather than pick just those verses that seem to condemn you, why don't you focus on the Big Picture and read the entire book?
e.g., David was a violent and bloody man. He, too, committed adultery (more than once, by the way). You haven't told us yet what constituted your adultery--that went on for a long time. Does it have anything to do with being married to or having sex with a divorced woman (who had no biblical reason to divorce her husband)? But, David went a huge step farther. He also had his rival (Bathsheba's righteous husband) killed. God dealt with him directly through Nathan the Prophet: 'Thou art the man!' David was not allowed to build the Temple--that fell to his son, Solomon (Bathsheba's son). Nevertheless, David is named as a man after God's own heart. Jesus is referred to as the Son of David. Why? Because David learned the meaning of repentance, something that you sorely need to learn, as well. The third issue is, therefore, repentance.
I hate to use old cliches, but there is the saying: If you feel far from God, guess who moved? You did. God's still there, right there by your side. 'Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!' At hand means right there at your finger tips. Maybe you'll also learn why Jesus said that much love comes from great repentance (when speaking of the woman who was anointing his feet with expensive oil and wiping them clean with her tears and hair). Mary Magdalene was a reformed prostitute, as was Rahab. So, sexual sin is nothing new or novel to the King of Kings and Creator of the heavens and earth. He made you and all the rest of us. He lived among people just like you and just like me.
In my opinion, and that includes almost 40 years of walking with the Lord, that to equate willful sin with the unforgivable sin is totally wrong-headed. All of us willfully sin, and on a daily basis. The Bible says that anything that is not of faith is sin. I even wrote a piece about it once. Jeremiah wrote that the heart is deceitfully wicked. 'Who can know it?' We can't even know our own hearts. All we can do is trust and obey. Jesus even expanded the Law by saying that thoughts can be sinful: lust = adultery; hate = murder.
We all dance as close to the fire as we can. (Think for a second about the golden calf that Aaron made.) We walk into places willingly (whether conscious or not) where we can be tempted. But, God has promised either (a) the strength to overcome or (b) a way of escape. There are some sins that I know I cannot beat--so, plan b works for me a lot. (I'm a university professor, and young, pretty, and conniving young women can be a real distraction. That's why we must keep all office doors open all the time, particularly when talking to the opposite sex--and for some, of course, same sex. And, believe me, the cute ones just love to flaunt their assets.)
No matter what we do, we are never completely free from sin or the potential for sin. We are self-deceived if we think that somehow we can be perfect or better than anyone else. So, it just does not make sense to me that you should feel that you are so bad that God cannot forgive you. Wake up and smell the forgiveness. Follow the words of Jesus and learn of him. Feel the cleansing power of his Word, and how the Holy Spirit can comfort you (his job) and teach you (also his job).
Or, you can keep doing what you're doing and get the same results. NOW is the day of salvation, not 10 years ago or tomorrow.
Blessings to you. And, please write back to us so that we can see this to some kind of resolution that honors God. His mercy endureth for ever. --Fred
Response from LP to Fred.
Hello Fred I have again read your reply to my previous email. It makes me feel better knowing that If I am seeking forgiveness and restoration from God, that means He is calling me, and hasn't given up on me. Thanks and God Bless, LP. (From 1984)
Dr. Jonathan McLatchie
added June 27, 2022.
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