Sunday, September 7, 2014
Thoughts and questions on the sinning Christian
Arminian theology. Among other differences from Calvinism, I grew up being taught, and believing that Christians do not sin daily, and that one can live a sinless life.
If that seems ludicrous, imagine my shock when I ran across the idea that Christians DO sin daily, and cannot go a day without sinning.
I was working at a Christian bookstore in 1999-2004, and the idea of Ash Wednesday was fairly new to me. I had never been around people who put ashes on their foreheads, and was discussing it with my coworkers. I asked why people do it, and one replied it is for the sins they have committed. I asked "what if you haven't committed any lately?" They all looked at me like I had turned into a pink unicorn, and one of them said "everyone sins!" I was taken aback, especially when they all agreed. I was the odd man out.
I brought up the woman caught in adultery, and pointed out that Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven, and to "go and sin no more." One of my coworkers came back with "Well, that is the only person He said that to." Wow. Out of all the people who ever lived, God only expected her to sin no more. Interesting argument.
It wasn't too long after that, I was reading a book by Max Lucado. I believe it was In The Grip of Grace. He asked a question if you could go a certain amount of time without sinning, and got down to a day, and eventually an hour, and said you can't. And he can't. This preacher/author made the claim that Christians cannot go even an hour without sinning. I was beyond shocked. I remember thinking "Even a sinner can go an hour without sinning!" Granted, by refusing Jesus, they are in a constant state of sin, but I am referring to committing an actual sin.
And then I read verses in the Bible that say things like this:
Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in H=him, and he cannot sin, for he has been born of God. (I John 3:9) (NKJV)
Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin, live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2) (NKJV)
My little children, I write these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)
So, who is right? Max Lucado, and countless others who say and believe the same thing, or God's Word. And there are other such verses in the Bible.
I'll admit, when I was in Bible college and realized what I was struggling with, I thought I was bound for hell and living a life of sin just for having the struggles, and it has taken me many years, and a lot of thought, reading, and praying to realize that isn't true. Having temptations or desires for something that the Bible says is wrong, does not make one a sinner. It is acting out on those desires and temptations that is sinful. And I still don't have all of the answers, but in light of God's Word, a sinning Christian still doesn't sit with me well.
Could it be the defintion of sin is different for Calvinists and Arminians? I had catechism as a kid, though we didn't have the emphasis on it that some churches do. I'll never forget the one question, and the answer:
What is sin? Sin is a willful transgression of a known law of God.
That puts a different spin on things. Have you willingly broken a known law of God today? Within the last hour? I haven't.
I get the idea that for some people, any mistake is a sin. That we can sin without knowing it.
We live in a world where nothing is sin anymore. Christians can do anything in the book and still be Christians. But there is a difference in sin, and in making mistakes. The Bible sure seems to indicate that Christians don't sin - at least not regularly and habitually. Disagree with that? Then how can one deny the verses I quoted. And there are more just like them.
This question has come to me over and over, and I have asked it, and never got a satisfying answer to it: We believe Jesus blood can not just cover, but deliver from many sins:
There are many sins, that if a person keeps committing them after being saved, we would rightly say there is no way they are a Christian. So what about other sins?
Are there some sins Jesus can't totally deliver us from?
Why do we expect Christians to stop some sins, but not other sins?
What sins can Christians commit daily and still be a Christian, and what sins CAN'T they commit daily, and still be a Christian?
Can someone really sin, and not know it? (Oops! I stole $1000 from someone, but I didn't know I stole it.....)
And no, I am not making fun. These are just honest questions I have about this idea that Christians sin daily, and can never get to a point that they don't sin daily.
I looked up the definition of sinner. The very first definition that is given, is "a person who sins, a transgressor". Touche'.
I don't have all of the answers. When one deals with a "besetting sin", there are more questions than answers, but the question does remain: If the Bible says that Christians do not sin, should not sin, then why do so many believe and teach that Christians sin daily?
Definition of sin is probably one major thing that comes into play, but the verses still stand, even with differing definitions of what sin is.
We are commanded to be like Jesus, and He never sinned. Is that the one part of Him that we aren't to strive to be like Him in?
And are we any better than a sinner, if we sin daily like them?
These are questions that may have no answers. I myself, believe as a Christian I am to strive to live above sin and not give in. Maybe that means doing some things those of Calvinist beliefs would call sin. But if I am clear with God and am not breaking a known law of God, am I sinning?
And one might say it is pride to believe you could live a sinless life. If that is the case, then God Himself has told us to do so, and He condemns pride, so that cannot be.
Maybe no one of the sinning persuasion has good answers to my questions. That is OK. We can still live in peace and harmony, and though we disagree, not condemn each other.