conversion

Habitual Sin

I have come to the conclusion I am not "truly" saved.
I hope that rattles you. Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion: Traffic.
Yep, traffic.
You see, I consistently get irritated when other drivers fail to use their turn signals. I get a snarky attitude, and I often make some obnoxious comment about said driver (which does not please my wife, by the way).
I am stuck in habitual sin. Sure, I confess.... but then it pops up again. And again. And again. Probably has for decades. Even after deciding to write this post, fully aware of my tendency, I still responded poorly to traffic. While driving through a little town outside Seattle, it took us 30 minutes to go two blocks through two lights. My attitude was stinky, my comments were not kind. My wife was, rightfully, not pleased with me. And then again today, I gave a snide "gee, thanks" to someone who failed to use their blinker.
So here's my problem. As one well-known writer puts it, "The apostle John ... wrote an entire epistle about the marks of a true believer (1 John 5:13)... Scores of ... passages throughout the epistle confirm the same truth, that the one who is truly saved cannot continue in a pattern of unbroken sin (1 John 3:6-10)." Others use the term "habitual sin" rather than "unbroken sin", but the idea is the same.
Habitual sin means I'm not 'truly' saved. And I am a habitual sinner (at least behind the wheel).
Maybe I can read your mind at this point. "That's not really unbroken sin, Roger. You may slip into it again and again, but the pattern is broken. You probably even confessed it" Or, you may think "Really? You think that sin is serious enough to prove you are not 'truly saved'?" And, at this point in your reading, some of you might have already called me or texted me to straighten me out. But keep reading before you react!
Here's the truth. I do not believe what I said above about the consequences of habitual sin. I have no doubt that I am "truly saved". I think what the above writer and others like him say about habitual sin is wrong.
Think about how subjective and troubling the "habitual sin" or "unbroken sin" trap is. It is easy to look at someone else's life; it is tougher to look at my own. It is easy to think of "big" sins (like addiction to pornography); it is tougher to think of "little" sins (like attitudes towards obnoxious drivers - oops, there I go again). It becomes very subjective! And of course, how does one define "habitual"? What sins? How often? 
Over how much time (days, months, years)? I hope you get my point.  If habitual or unbroken sin of any kind means I never "truly believed" I have a problem and so do most of you (probably all of you). Maybe the sin is as "minor" as anger while driving. Maybe it's our attitude towards certain politicians (I told you this is a problem for most of us). Maybe it is as serious as addiction to something (coffee doesn't count). And if only certain kinds of habitual or unbroken sins cause the problem (instead of any habitual sin), I'm still in trouble, because I don't have a biblical list to differentiate which-sins-are-which. I only have the opinions of people.

Here's the whole truth: When I react poorly to another driver, my actions, words, and attitude are not the result of "walking in the light". They are not a reflection of following Jesus. They are, well, sinful! And I need to let God work on my heart so that the next time that guy fails to signal..... well, you get the idea.

I am saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus alone. My security is based on the objective truth that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, was raised from the dead, and gives, as He promises, eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Thankfully, confirmation of my salvation is not based on how I respond to those drivers. Or on any other "habitual" or "unbroken" sin. Those sins are growth issues, not identity issues.  That's the beauty of grace. My confidence lies completely on what He has done for me, freely, as a gift. 

Refreshing Grace: The First Book from Biblical Framework Press!

RefreshingGraceFrontCoverOnlyHave you ever wondered how God can be in control of everything and still allow people to have free will? I think that for many Christians, this is a real conundrum. Sure, there have been “fights” between Calvinists and Arminians over this issue for 500 years; Calvinists argue that God is great and in control, and Arminians counter that God is good and offers salvation to all.  

For many Christians, though, neither answer is sufficient because God says both in His Word. But how can both be true?  Well, this week John Correia, an FGA executive Council member, published a new book titled Refreshing Grace. This book takes a new approach to this often emotionally charged issue and explains the issue, and a fresh biblical solution to it, in an understandable way.

 

If you’re interested in the issue of God’s sovereign control and our free will in salvation, our prayer is that Refreshing Grace will help you understand the issue with more clarity and passionately pursue Christ with that new knowledge.

 

The book is available on Amazon.com in paperback as well as on Kindle. It will also be forthcoming on the FGA resources page and available at the FGA national conference!

 

Amazon.com paperback edition.

 

Amazon.com Kindle Edition.

Antinomianism and Free Grace Theology

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser, FGA Executive Council member and the pastor of Burleson Bible Church in Burleson, Texas.  Dr. Fankhauser can be reached at rsfankhauser@bellsouth.net. Antinomianism.

A fancy word meaning “lawless”.

Many who don’t get the free grace message accuse us of practicing and teaching antinomianism. They think – wrongly – that the free grace message is light on sin and light on obedience. The author of a recent best-selling book describes the message that he alleges some present this way: “We have been told all that is required is a one-time decision, maybe even mere intellectual assent to Jesus, but after that we need not worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory. We have a ticket to heaven, and we can live however we want on earth. Our sin will be tolerated along the way….” Another well-known author put it this way: “What is no-Lordship theology (the author’s name for free grace theology) but the teaching that those who died to sin can indeed live in it?”

So, let me interview myself (yeah, I know that’s weird) and clarify what I really believe and teach:

Q: Does free grace teach that sin will be tolerated along the way?

A: Absolutely not. Sin is serious; it is an affront to God (Ps. 51:4). It has serious consequences.

Q: What kind of consequences?

A: For the believer who sins, consequences can include physical issues (e.g., sexually transmitted disease), relational issues (e.g., loss of trust from someone we hurt), loss of reward (2 Cor. 5:10), guilt and shame, loss of the experience of “abundant life” (John 10:10), discipline from God (Heb. 12:5-7), and perhaps even physical death (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:28-30).

Q: But doesn’t habitual sin in someone’s life mean they aren’t really saved?

A: That’s a loaded question. How do we define “habitual” biblically? We can’t. So, if that’s the scale to evaluate one’s salvation, we’re left in an arbitrary mess. It leaves us in the position of evaluating our standing before God based on the subjective evaluation of my life rather than the objective person and work of Jesus.

Q: So what would you tell the person in “habitual” sin?

A: I don’t want to assume someone is a Christian just because they say they are. I want to find out why they think they are a Christian. The issue isn’t what we say, what we think, even what we pray. The issue is in whom do we believe? It might well be they didn’t understand the gospel and are not, in fact, Christians. But let’s assume they are. In that case, I’d try to find out why they choose to live in sin. They could give a thousand different reasons, ranging from “I just want to” to “I’m stuck and don’t know how to get out”. Then, depending on the answer, I might talk about the consequences of their choices, and I would definitely try to help them see the way out (Gal. 6:1-2).

Q: What about discipleship? Is it optional? I know one writer who thinks the grace position promotes discipleship only for “the higher level Christian”?

A: No, discipleship is not optional. Obedience is not optional. We are urged to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:12). God expects all of us to live a life following Jesus. Having said that, failure to follow Jesus as His disciple does not prove we were never a believer. It simply proves we are disobedient believers. Discipleship is not optional if we want to live life the way God desires, if we want to grow, if we want to glorify Him, if we want to hear “well done”.

Q: Maybe some people think the cost of following Jesus is too high. How do you respond to that?

A: Following Jesus may very well cost us a great deal in this life. Jesus said the world hated Him; we shouldn’t be surprised if it hates us. Or, maybe, like Moses, who must choose “to endure ill-treatment with the people of God” rather than “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). However, when we look at the big picture, the long term benefit of following Him far outweighs the temporal costs. Even Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2).

Q: Has anyone accused you of watering down God’s Word because of the free grace message?

A: Yep! Someone said I wasn’t serious enough about the warnings in Scripture. He said some of the warnings sound like a Christian could “go to hell” for a reason. But Paul faced the same accusation (Rom. 6:1).

Q: So what would you tell other free-grace proponents to say in their ministry?

A: First, keep the gospel message simple, clear, and correct (faith alone in Christ alone). Don’t muddle the basic message. Second, clearly teach the seriousness of sin, the warnings directed to disobedient Christians, and the consequences of sin. Third, teach that our security in Christ rests on the objective work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not on the subjective evaluation of our faithfulness. And fourth, continually call people to “walk in a manner worthy”. Help them to see that God desires – and expects – this of His people.

Q: Thanks, me, for the interview!

A: You’re welcome, me!

Antinomian? Not at all. Sin is serious and the call to follow Jesus is real.

Progress of Revelation?

By Dr. Roger Fankhauser, FGA Executive Council member and the pastor of Burleson Bible Church in Burleson, Texas.  Dr. Fankhauser can be reached at rsfankhauser at bellsouth dot net.
 
A great puzzle pops up when we think about John’s purpose statement: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31). The puzzle is, what about the cross and resurrection?
 
My disclaimer: I am not trying to tackle the so-called “cross-less gospel” (I don’t like the label, but it identifies the problem). I simply want to point out five ideas that, to me, connect the death and resurrection with the many passages in John prior to John 19 that say “whosoever believes” and don’t mention the resurrection!
 
1. The death and resurrection are not “signs” that Jesus performed (20:30). The signs He performed confirm His identity, but are not part and parcel of the gospel. So, the fact that John doesn’t identify the cross and resurrection as “signs” doesn’t change his argument.
 
2. John’s record of the death and resurrection account occurs before the purpose statement, so by the time the reader gets to the purpose statement in chapter twenty, he or she would know the whole story.
 
3. The theological truth “whosoever believes in me has eternal life” is timeless. Early in the story, John identified Jesus, through the words of John the Baptist, as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” By the end of the story, we know how He took away the sin of the world (e.g., “It is finished”, John 19:30). The progress of revelation adds content to the identity of “Me”. The fact that neither Jesus as the speaker nor John as the writer add the resurrection in the “whosoever believes” passages reflects that these crucial events had not yet happened in history and John accurately recorded the pre-crucifixion events and conversations as they unfolded. Even though John was written after the resurrection, he recorded events and conversations that happened before the resurrection.
 
4. The disciples did not understand Jesus when He did tell them He must die (e.g., John 14:28-29, 16:16-20, 20:8-9). To require faith in a future event – one they didn’t grasp - seems unreasonable. By the time we come to the end of chapter twenty, however, they do believe in His resurrection (e.g., John 20:8, 29)
 
5. Post resurrection, Paul connects Jesus’ identification as the “son of God” with the resurrection (Rom. 1:4). He also connects the gospel the Corinthians “received” (a synonym for belief, John 1:12) and the death and resurrection when he says is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures… and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The burial and post-resurrection appearances confirm the death and resurrection. I know some take the passage as referring to sanctification issues (“if you hold fast”), but I don’t believe it is limited to sanctification – it is both / and.
 
Including the death and resurrection of Jesus in the description of the “Me” of “whosever believes in Me” does not violate the message of John. It simply recognizes the progress of revelation, even within the book of John, that adds with clarity the story of the death and resurrection.