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Defining Sin

Posted on December 18, 2019 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The book claims “Sin is not defined by just breaking the law. Sin’s real danger occurs when it leads to separation.”  Doesn't the Bible clearly define sin: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness?” (1 John 3:4)


In the next verse John says “In him there is no sin.” How can those two things be reconciled? I say that vs. 4 is talking about the life outside Jesus Christ in which we are lawless and apart from God. It is not just talking about breaking a Rule Law. If you interpret vs. 4 as merely breaking a law then you will have a hard time with verse 5. How can you and I not be in sin if sin is defined as simply breaking the law. We don’t discuss verse 5, but talk a lot about verse 4. The problem is that we define sin too narrowly. God is interested in the overall choices and results; he is not making up laws to trap us. Let’s go back to the Garden. The problem wasn’t just eating the fruit. The problem at its root was the choice to live apart from God. That choice was manifested in the act itself, but there was no bad magic in eating fruit. The sin was leaving God.

 

Furthermore, isn't ALL sin except those repented of lead to separation - thus, needing grace?


There is some truth to that, but I might be careful of such a blanket statement. It might be interpreted that every sin for a Christian will separate us from God without and unless we specifically repent of that particular sin. Again, we tend to dwell on each sin and make that the focus. In Christ, we are living in repentance and his blood is continuously washing us. Remember “In him there is no sin.” Does that mean there is no breaking of a rule by Christians? No. It means there is no sin because we are no longer sinners and are not in the state of sin. That state of sin is the state of lawlessness.

 

God's Rules vs Man's Rules

Posted on December 18, 2019 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

What are the criteria one must use to ascertain the difference between human made rules and God’s rules?


My opinion is the Bible is not always clear in this area. There is some ambiguity. We must follow every law or we must not? That is not easy to answer. Jesus did not follow every law and yet said not one bit of the law will disappear! How clear is that? In the book I did not give a list (criteria) for when we must do one thing and not the other although we discussed he need to work from the godly principles. I believe that sometimes the solution is fuzzy and is not always consistent from time to time or people to people. Certainly, none of us want to say anything goes, but if we are honest, we must admit that Christians do pick and choose and modify rules and laws. I do not require animal sacrifice and I do not require circumcision. When did God say those requirements went away?


Let me address what I think is one problem. Because there is not always a set answer then we want to come up with a way of determining that elusive set answer. For some of us, we have decided that the solution lies in knowing what are God’s laws and what are man’s. To ask about the criteria related to ascertaining the difference, we may be asking the wrong question. We are assuming, perhaps, that deciding what is God’s law and what is man’s law is the key. The point I was trying to make was that there is precisely not always a list or criteria for that either. Asking such a question reduces what we want to have in relationship down to following the right list. There is, however, no right list of God’s rules. The Bible nowhere gives us a complete list of rules and laws nor does it give us always immutable laws. We must make decisions not just on what God said or didn’t say. Trying to decide everything on the basis of God’s law verses man’s laws works sometimes, but often (or at times) does not do enough. The Jews got in trouble all the time with Jesus over this. We often say that they had the right idea, but just didn’t have it all together. They simply missed the right list. We all think we know what that list is. But we don’t. We sometimes try to say that God had old rules that didn’t work, so he gave us new rules in the NT. Honestly though, the NT does not give a list of rules. It does not tell us always how to decide what are man’s laws and what are God’s laws. So we then create ways like “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” "apostolic example equals direct command," or “In matters of faith unity and in matters of opinion liberty.” Those have some value but aren’t from Jesus. They are from Christians trying to get the list right-to be able to have set answers.


However, we keep arguing over what is faith and what is opinion. You and I probably don’t even fully agree on the list. And I know we would have opinions on what are opinions. What I am saying is that we need to work more on the principles and less on laws themselves. It is not about trying all the time to interpret what rules God may or may not have given us. It is not about the difference between human made rules and God’s rules. It is about how we can go beyond all rules to be the kind of person we were created to be. Jesus and Paul are clear that we are not bound by law, but unhappily we want to keep binding ourselves. Rules are primarily for the ignorant and those who don’t want to follow God. That is what Paul said. 

Choice of Hell?

Posted on November 15, 2019 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

There simply can be no eternal conscious torment, and certainly nobody who would choose it!!  Do you agree?


While the book is not primarily on heaven and hell, I did discuss them.  We always must be careful to avoid too strong of a position on heaven and hell for two reasons.  One, while the Bible does speak of heaven and hell, we must admit that we don't have a lot of details.  I am sure most Christians would like to know more.  Two, because relatively little is said, opinions therefore vary considerably among Christians.  I take three positions about hell.  First, hell is either a synonym for being in the not God state or else closely tied to that.  Anyone who is said to be in hell is one separated from God.  Second, hell is not a physical place and does not have associated attributes like literal fire or gates.  However, the state of hell is very unpleasant and bad indeed because it is the state of being away from God and all of his wonderful qualities.  Third,  all of us have the choice to select God or not God so therefore have the choice to select heaven or hell.


The criticism noted at the beginning says there cannot be an eternal conscious torment.  The Bible does not actually use the phrase "eternal conscious torment" nor do i in the book.  I will say that although hell may not be a physical torment of a lake of fire it could be described as torment.  The Bible uses the term torment.  What better way to describe what it is like to be out of the presence of God?  So I would have to say there is a torment.  Fire, darkness, gnashing of teeth all suggest torment.  I am not sure what the critic means by conscious torment.  It seems to me that would be the only kind.  Wouldn't unconscious torment be no torment at all?  Now, is there eternal torment?  Without going into verses that might deal with that, I would say that the torment of separation from God will last as long as there are people separated from God.  Does there come a time when all people will be saved regardless of their choice?  I know some Christians do advocate a Universal Salvation.  I did not argue for or against that in the book, but I am not yet convinced that God will override our choice to not be with him.


That brings us to the other point asserted: that nobody would choose this eternal conscious torment.  It does baffle Christians as to why anyone might choose hell over heaven.  But in the same way we are baffled as to why there is a choice of God over not God.  The choice is the same.  So to certify that nobody would choose torment is to say nobody would choose to be separated from God.  However, the Bible seems clear to me that people, and a fair amount of them, do choose to not be with God.  To deny that is to take the position that either God does not allow us a choice at all or that at some point God will override our negative choice.  The alternative view is that while we may have choice and make bad choices on earth, but when we come face to face with God every single person will change their mind and choose God.  I have to say that any of these positions are hard to support biblically.  For example, the parable of Lazarus seems to indicate that God provides everything we need to make sensible choices while we are on earth.  Christians  who say that any choice of opposing God here on earth will be reversed at judgment are basically saying that God does not give us adequate tools on earth to make the right choice.  It is baffling that people prefer the state of sin and hell over the state of God and love.  But it does happen, does it not?



Body Blows

Posted on September 28, 2019 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Doesn't 1 Cor. 9:27 sounds a lot like a “struggle” in which Paul is presently and [at least to some degree] engaged?

I may miss your question, but I don’t see this as related that much to what I am addressing. My claim is that God’s forgiveness and salvation are complete and that we longer need to struggle daily with sin as if sin is about to overcome us at any minute.  This passage is not really addressing Paul’s salvation or any battle or struggle with sin. Rather, he is discussing his preaching of the Gospel and what he must do to reach people. He picks up on the idea of slavery to show to what extent he will go to be successful. In verse 19 he says he will become a slave to everyone in order to win them to Christ. What does being a slave involve? It involves in some respect giving up something like control or freedom. Here, Paul gives up his freedom in Christ in order to live under some of the restrictions that the Jews or the Greeks lived under. He is willing to take on some duties of the law when he is around those who follow the law meticulously. Again, he is not talking at all about his salvation or his wanting to avoid sin. In the 19-23 section sin is not even mentioned.


Paul does like to mix metaphors so he throws in about training. But he is still talking about preaching the gospel and does not leave the slavery idea. In vs 27 he says, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV).” How is he becoming a slave? He is giving up his time and freedom to train hard. This is still tied to his preaching and he claims again to make himself a slave as he did before. He does not want to miss the prize. What is the prize? We tend to think that is salvation or heaven, but again there is nothing here in this passage about those things. Why did he want to make himself a slave in verse 19? To win as many as possible. Why did he want to make himself a slave in verse 27? So he will not be disqualified for the prize. Logic would say these two goals are the same thing or very related. He did not want to lose the prize of winning as many as possible. The prize is not his personal salvation, his entering heaven, or freedom from sin. Training your body to preach and struggling with sin may seem to sound alike but really are two different things.


Notice in Romans 7 Paul really is not talking about a struggle with sin either. He is discussing a struggle to try to be perfect through keeping the law, a struggle that was behind him.

Confession of Sins

Posted on September 26, 2019 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

How do you fit I Jn. 1:5-10 into your reasoning?


I am not surprised to have this brought up. Originally, I included a treatment of this passage with the intention of anticipating objections. I tried this treatment in a couple of places in the body of the book and even in an appendix. However, I finally decided to leave it out, thinking my answer to a supposed question was perhaps too much and probably unnecessary for what I wanted to do. We do tend to read the Bible and particularly “hard” verses in light of our interpretations as a whole. In this passage, I think many scholars and Christians see a confirmation of the idea that Christians still are sinners and so interpret accordingly. Once one starts to understand that perhaps Christians are not sinners and, as John says elsewhere, either do not sin or else stop sinning, then I think a fair approach is to see how we might need to reexamine verses that seemed so plain to us before.


My deleted thoughts on this passage:


In 1 John 1 doesn’t John say we all have to admit that sin is in Christians?  John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, 10 NIV)   In the middle of that section he adds “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“ (1 John 1:9 NIV)  Does John say Christians are in sin? Some say that he implies it by the use of the theoretical “we.” This verse is also used to support the argument that Christians who sin need to confess to each other. Maybe they do need such mutual confession, but John is not making that point at all in this section. He is not talking about Christians who sin and then need to confess. Rather, he refers to the people who are still in sin but deny sin altogether.


In this passage, John contrasts two kinds of people. One group are the ones who say they have no sin and, therefore, do not need Christ. The other is made up of those who admitted that they have sinned, recognized they were separated from God, and now have turned to God. Consider the two groups:


1. Those who claim they have no sins/deny (“if we” Verses 8 and 10.  Deceiving themselves.  Not having truth.  Making God a liar.  Not having God's word in them.


2. Those who admit/confess they have sins (“if we”  Verse 9.  Receiving forgiveness.  Being purified from unrighteousness


Does group 1 refer to Christians who don't confess and group 2 refers to Christians who do confess? No. Group 1 are non-Christians who deny sin and therefore still have a need for a savior. The Group 1 descriptions can in no way apply to Christians. John did not consider himself or other Christians as not having truth, not having God’s word, and making God a liar. Group 2 refers to Christians who have admitted sin and accepted Jesus Christ as savior.


I will point out the light /darkness metaphor (see Chapter 2 of Erased) just as John does in this section. Compare this secondary grouping to the one above:


A. Those who claim fellowship with him but walk in darkness (“if we” Verse 6.  Lying.  Not living in truth.


B. Those who walk in the light (“if we” Verse 7.  Fellowshipping with each other. Being purified from all sin.


In verses 6-7, John uses the “we” not as inclusive of his Christian readers and him, but the “we” is inclusive of everyone in a supposed group. Another way to do that is to use “one.” One might do this or one might do that. Notice John says, “if we walk in the darkness” and then, conversely, “if we walk in the light.” He certainly is not saying that he and his Christian readers are walking in darkness and light at the same time, but rather he is alluding to the supposed “anyone” who does one or the supposed “anyone” who does the other. Those in darkness are liars and not in truth while those in the light are purified from sin. Then in verses 8 and 10 he picks up the same contrast. Those who claim to never have sinned are the ones deceiving themselves and not having the truth. It is plain these are the same as the ones in verse 6, i.e., the ones who are in the darkness. In contrast to the ones in darkness are those who confess their sins and are purified from unrighteousness. Again, these confessors in verse 9 are the same as the ones in verse 7, the ones purified from sins and walking in the light. John is not saying in chapter 1 that Christians are in sin and in chapter 3 they are not in sin. Rather, in both chapters, he is affirming those outside of Jesus Christ are sinners and those in Jesus Christ are not sinners.


People who argue this passage teaches Christians are in sin key in on John saying "we.  John never says we Christians deny sin and walk in darkness. He did say if we do deny sin exists and we do walk in darkness then we are lying, not living in truth, deceiving ourselves, and making God a liar. On the other hand, he says if we do admit sins and walk in the light, we are receiving forgiveness, being purified from sins, and fellowshipping with each other. Which group do you think Christians are in? I am betting on the latter.


In summary, those who claimed to be without sin and therefore to have no need for Jesus Christ were liars and deceivers. John was in no way saying Christians need to confess up and admit they are sinners. Instead, he says that Christians, in contrast to the imposters, had already admitted they were sinners and in need of Christ. They had accepted Christ and forgiveness of those sins. John confirms what we have been saying. We are not sinners because our sins are being forgiven.