Believers in the Book?

Why is it that Christians struggle continually with sin in their lives? Why is it that believers – both ones who are new to the Christian faith as well as some who have been walking with the Lord for a long time – seem to be constantly and willingly living in sin? Yet they are believers in the Book.

The Bible states that:

“No one who abides in Him (habitually) sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”

How come the younger generation who declare themselves to be born again find nothing unsettling about living together before marriage? And those who are married – immediately declare they want a divorce when things are not working out to their liking? Yet would declare themselves believers in the book.

Whatever happened to the concept of “holiness … without which it is impossible to see God”. And, righteousness? And, “becoming a new creature in Christ”when asking Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour? “Behold old things are passed away and all things have become new”.

It can be frieghtening to think about what the Bible really says:

1 John 2:29 “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness if born of Him.”

So, if you are not “practicing righteousness” as defined by God’s Word you should be questioning whether you really have a personal relationship with Him who is righteous. We receive “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” when born again – but God expects us to live it out in practical, daily life.

1 John 3:6 quoted above: “No one who abides in Him (habitually) sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”

1 John 3:9 “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

Do we really believe this stuff? Are we really believers in the Book? If we are, this verse should frighten those who are deliberately living in sin – shacked up with someone they are not married to, committing adultery on their wife (as they await a divorce settlement and are thus still married), excessive drinking (or as God would call it – drunkenness), or whatever the issue is.

1 John 5:18 “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

So, in other words, we can’t even blame the devil for our problems with sin. It is really the flesh running wild and a will (soul) not yielded to the Holy Spirit or submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Believers in the Book? True Christians (wheat) or tares? Dare we even ask that question?

I have been reading recently (and again) on the Church in China. No, not because of the olympics which I totally ignored other than a major write-up in one issue of Maclean’s Magazine (like Time Magazine but Canadian). In one of the books I am reading the author wrote:

“Without a deep experience of repentance in our lives, we will continually struggle with basic sin and never mature as believers.” [Page 19 Living Waters by Brother Yun and edited by Paul Hattaway]

Is this what is missing in the western Church today? I think so. Maybe even more basic to that is a clear understanding of what constitutes a sin. And, maybe more foundational to that would be an understanding of the character and nature of God (holiness) and His view on sin.

Can a person be born again without an understanding of these concepts and the true nature of God and sin?

Maybe what we have are people who are false converts and are really not believers in the Book but, instead, have created a god in their own image who smiles on sin and forgives everything and everyone without any need for repentance and responding by making permanent changes in your life.

Are we allowed to even say that today?

Well, the Book, for those who still believe in it, states:

Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

Matthew 4:17 (Jesus speaking) “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Maybe it is time for the Church to start preaching a serious message on sin, repentance, and the holiness of God – and not on “God has a wonderful plan for your life”. Maybe we need to focus on these heart issues and take the focus off healing, prosperity, ministry, anointings, miracles, signs and wonders … Afterall, the biggest miracle, sign and wonder is when a life is totally transformed by the power of the Gospel.

And there seems to be a lack of this transforming miracle in the Church today.

10 replies
  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I love the way your mind works! You are sooo right! I get so sick of the nievity of people and the way people tippy-toe through the tulips and dance around the issue of being truly saved. Just last night while talking with a loved one and discussing this exact issue, I made a comment about another loved one and how I find it difficult to believe they are saved. Instantly excuses came flying and reasons as to the other person’s actions (or lack of). CRAP! If a person loves someone they show it to that person. Therefore, if a person is in love with Jesus they would show it! Logical! Do we sleep through our children and life events making excuses that we just needed that extra time in bed? Do we ignore our husbands and wives thinking ‘oh I’ll pay attention to them when I feel like it’? Do we show our committment to loved ones by saying ‘hi’ once a week as a lip service and nothing more? SAD! If we really believed the message in ‘the book’ then we wouldnt need to be reminded to come to church; to read it daily; to pray and to have a REAL relationship with Jesus. We would be desperate with out it. We would fight for it and give our lives for it. This relationship…it should mean everything!

    Reply
  2. Bob MacDonald
    Bob MacDonald says:

    Ralph –

    Is it possible we are living in a new Gnostic age (gnostic = belief that only the spiritual is important so we can live any we want in the physical because it does not really matter => my paraphrase)?

    Believers believe in the book regarding the “spiritual” aspects of salvation. But I think they view the lifestyle directives as old ideas from a time past to people who lived way back then. They believe that their lifestyles and conduct of life are somehow separate from their spiritual life. They believe we have moved ahead as a society and don’t need these old legalistic ideas – not realizing they are God’s commands and He has not changed.

    So we get people treating the Bible like a Sears catalogue – they believe they will get the things they order – but they ignore the things that they do not like or order. Yes they “Believe” the book – that is the parts they choose.

    Also the preaching of God’s grace without the balancing truth of God’s justice has deceived many to live any way they want and they think God is okay with it.

    I sure hope this is just a North American problem! Surely all of Christianity is not in this much trouble!?

    How do we turn it around?

    People won’t come to listen to a preacher who preaches so “harshly”. There are all kinds of preachers who teach a soft and easy message.

    Bob

    Reply
  3. Sharon Kuhn
    Sharon Kuhn says:

    The blinding of the eyes and heart are more clever than they used to be. It is the “no absolutes” that make it so hard to reach anyone even with the gospel because what is “right for you is not necessarily right for me!” Attitude! Most people, Christians and none Christians do not like being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. It seems that the conviction THAT COMES FROM CORRECTION AND DISCIPLINE HAS BECOME an open door for the formulation of more excuses instead of true repentance.
    Sharon

    Reply
  4. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    Well put Elizabeth,

    It is all about a relationship with God – and this relationship expresses itself by others seeing change in the life of the believer. When we don’t see change and appropriate behaviour – like being connected to a Church and being invilved in worship on Sundays, Bible study, and prayer – then we have the right to question if this person is really born again.

    Being a Christian is more than saying a sinner’s prayer and coming to events when you feel like it. Being a Christian means a radical life change which starts with repentance and continues on a daily basis through the believer having a heavenly perspective on everything – God’s perspective.

    This means we think differently, look different, act differently, speak differently, and behave differently than those who live in the world and are not part of the Kingdom and are not saved or born again.

    It is good to call it as we see it. We can always apologize afterwards if we are wrong – which we probably won’t be. But, at least then people will know where we stand and what the Bible expects of them if they truly are believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Reply
  5. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    Bob,

    Interesting that you should mention Gnosticism. The letter of 1 John was written by the elderly apostle John to counteract the problem and teachings of Gnosticism in the life of the early Church.

    In this letter he states a number of times … “If you are born again”, “If you are born of God”, “If you are born from above”. When you take all these comments and bring them together they collect up into 6 main headings or issues. I call these the 6 biblical signs of being born again. These are the signs we can expect to see in a true convert’s life.

    I stumbled across these truths (and summary) many years ago in my Bible reading time and have since used it as a standard by which to judge my own life and to weigh the actions and lifestyle of those who declare they are born again. It was when I discovered these points that I came to realize, many years ago, that there are a great number of false converts in the Church and a lot fewer true believers. The real Church is a lot smaller than the visible church.

    I have been so impacted by these points from 1 John that I am currently writing a book based on my discoveries.

    Yes, I believe we are fighting Gnosticism (a separation of the spiritual from the physical – and salvation based strickly on knowledge) as well as ‘cheap grace’ as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it … We can sin and live as we want because God is a God of gace and will forgive us.

    This message has spread all over the world – because when nations like the Ukraine where I work look at the western Church they want everything we have – including the life-style. They buy into everything that is happening wanting to be like the west – so they end up with the good and the bad and all of the extremes.

    Reply
  6. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    Sharon,

    You certainly mention one of the major – if not THE major problem today in the Church. No absolutes. People have decided to make up their own set of standards which, of course, are often not biblically based. They create and adopt a set of standards that justify their own personal life-style which results in them “feeling” that everything is okay between them and God when it really is not.

    This means that as leaders in the Church we will need to express God’s standards – the Ten Commandments – more frequently and have enough integrity to actually speak the truth into the lives of so-called believers even if it means the possibility of offending them.

    If we do not uphold God’s standards in every situation; if we bend the standards in even one situation – then others can look at us and be justified in calling us hypocrites. We live in a season when strong moral leadership is required in the Church in North America.

    Reply
  7. Bev Wensel
    Bev Wensel says:

    H-m-m-m, a very pointed & necessary question!
    And as always (oh, that’s a very dangerous word ‘always’) we need to apply it to ourselves first…letting the Holy Spirit examine our lives to show the areas we are ‘blind’ to + allow those God has placed in our lives to also speak to these same areas that need realignment &/or correction &/or removal/deliverance.

    RELATIONSHIP…the key to any healthy walk, with God & also with each other…and I believe that trust is at the bottom of all strong- loving relationships, & TRUST is missing today.

    When you see rampant divorce numbers, church splits { a spiritual divorce} + a lack of committment in the work place {not showing up for work/changing employment over & over} Or, is this a sign of a lack of Godly character – a not ‘putting off of the old self’ that Eph.4:23-29 speaks of …?

    H-m-m, an interesting but serious dilemma.
    Bev

    Reply
  8. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    Bev,

    So true – we need, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word (as well as mature believers) – to be examining our own lives.

    There should always be a time to take a daily spiritual inventory so that we keep short accounts – forgiving where necessary and dealing with offenses that arise in the normal course of life.

    Not sure if the situations we see today are a result of a lack of godly character or a refusal to “put off our old self”. It seems to be more a “I don’t care what you think or what God thinks – this is what I have decided to believe and I’ll run with it, thanks!”

    Of course, that leaves us with little choice but to release them to “run with it”. The trouble is the path they are running leads straight to Hell.

    Although we can’t stop them running – we are responsible to be erecting billboards all the way down that path to Hell warning them of the consequences of sin and that there is a judgment day and a real Hell. I’m afraid the Church, in general, is not doing a very good job of erecting billboards these days.

    Reply
  9. Bob MacDonald
    Bob MacDonald says:

    “This is what I have decided to believe and I’ll run with it, thanks!”

    That pretty much sums up a lot of what I am running into to lately in non-Christians and many Christians. Thanks for putting words to the attitude I have seen.

    I wonder if it is part of the fruit of our no-absolutes society. What that really means is – “If something is absolute to you – good for you – but it is not absolute for me.”

    Such individualistic relativism!!

    Reply
  10. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    It’s interesting because all conventional definitions of sin – even the Bible one of “transgressing the Law” – simply are meaningless in the world in which we now live. Although the Bible says certain behaviours and attitudes are sin – because people decide for themselves what is sin for them it becomes almost an irrelevant term. So, they are, of course, not living in sin (by their definition) and thus don’t need forgiveness and voila – don’t need a Saviour.

    “Take a hike Jesus!” is basically ther attitude of most today … and not just the young people. In fact, I find the young people I talk to more open to Jesus’ message than those in the late twenties and up…

    Quite the challenge, eh!

    Reply

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