The Two Wages of Sin

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The Two Wages of Sin

James R. Aist

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

A great many Christians find it much easier to accept God’s forgiveness of their sins than it is to live free of the stains of those sins: guilt, shame and condemnation. In Romans 6:23, Paul correctly declares that the wages of sin is death, but, for many, these lingering stains are another wage of sin that needs to be dealt with. In this article I will show that a better understanding of how God responds to our confession and repentance of sins can help remove the stains of sin once and for all.

Let’s begin with the key verse, above. Notice that if we confess our sins to God, He will respond by doing, not just one, but two, things: first, He will forgive our sins;  and second, He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness associated with those sins. These are not two ways of saying the same thing, but two very different, but related, things: forgive and cleanse. So, let’s focus on this cleansing from the stains of sin for a few moments.

In Isaiah 43:25, God says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins, and Hebrews 10:17 says, “Their sins and lawless deeds will I remember no more.” Here again, we see two things that God does in response when we confess our sins and repent: First, he no longer remembers our sins, meaning that He will no longer bring them to mind and hold them against us; and secondly, He will “blot out our transgressions”, meaning, in effect, that He will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In the book of Hebrews we find the same process of removing the stain of sin referred to as “cleanse your conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14) and “cleanse them from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). Finally, we see the same theme recorded in Ephesians 5:25-27, “…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, and that He might present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” And, concerning specifically the stain of condemnation, Paul had this to say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1a).” Clearly, God has promised to cleanse us from the lingering guilt, shame and condemnation when we confess our sins and repent, and He has surely done it. So, God, for His part, has released us from these stains of sin, but the question is, have we accepted His release as the final word on the matter and released ourselves from the stains?

How, then, can we be released from these stains left by sins? I believe that the first thing we must do is to forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us. This means that we must “remember our own sins no more.” In other words, we must no longer bring our sins to mind as if God still holds them against us! After all, it is to God, and Him alone, that we must give account (cf. Psalm 51:4), so why not let Him have the final say in the matter? And, we can have a very active part in letting go of the stains. Satan likes to remind us of our sins by putting evil thoughts about them into our minds, thoughts of guilt, shame and condemnation. But we do not have to allow ourselves to dwell on these evil thoughts until they consume us. Remind the devil that God has cleansed you from all unrighteousness. James exhorted us in this way, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7b).” Keep on resisting these lies of the devil until he doesn’t bring these accusations to mind any more. In this way you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), and you will no longer have to struggle with an “evil conscience.” You can do this; God will help you, if you will trust Him!

(To read more of my articles dealing with biblical topics, click HERE)

When “All” Is Not “All” At All!

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When “All” Is Not “All” At All!

James R. Aist

“The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Unfortunately, within evangelical Christianity, there have spring up over the years, several teachings that seem to be biblical and sound right and true at first glance, but, upon closer study and more thorough examination, are found to not really be biblical teachings at all. One such example is found in 2 Peter 3:9. Many have erroneously interpreted this verse to be saying that God does not want “any human beings” to perish but, rather, that He wants “all human beings” to come to repentance (and be saved). While these may be outcomes that God would prefer, that is not at all what this verse is saying, and here’s why:

  1. Any correct reading of this verse must provide an explanation of why Jesus has not already come again, as He promised He would (2 Peter 3:3-4);
  2. 2 Peter 1:1 makes it clear that this letter was written to all and only to Christian believers of his day. 1 Peter 1:2 reinforces this identification of Peter’s audience as “the elect” of God, which, by extension, would include those elect who were not yet saved;
  3. Throughout 2 Peter, Peter refers to his audience as “us”, “we”, “you” and “brothers” and consistently speaks of their heavenly inheritance;
  4. By contrast, unbelievers are referred to as “they” and “them” throughout, emphasizing their eternal punishment in hell;
  5. So, we can see that when 2 Peter 3:9 speaks of “us”, he is referring to only God’s elect, both the already-saved and the not-yet-saved, not all of mankind;
  6. Thus, a more explicit and scripturally harmonious rendering of this verse would read something like this, “But He is patient with the not-yet-saved elect, because He does not want any of His elect to perish, but all of His elect to come to repentance.”
  7. Further confirmation for this rendering can be gleaned from 2 Peter 3:15, where Peter makes reference to Paul’s explanation of why the Lord is tarrying; namely, so that all of God’s elect, in particular, the chosen Gentiles, will be someday included among the believers before Jesus comes again (Romans 11:25, and click HERE). That is what Peter means here, in verse 15, when he writes, “…the patience of our Lord means salvation”, meaning salvation for those elect who have yet to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

One could also point out that if it is not God’s will that “any human beings” perish but, rather, that “all human beings” come to repentance (and be saved), then He is not doing a very good job of saving sinners, because, as Jesus said, the majority of people do not take the narrow path that leads to life, preferring, instead to take the broad path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Finally, if you want to make a biblical case for God bringing “all human beings” to repentance and salvation, then you will have to look elsewhere. Such a doctrine is a heresy called “Universalism”, and that is not a biblical doctrine.

For a more comprehensive treatment of 2 Peter 3:9 “rightly divided”, click HERE.

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

Homosexual Born-Again Christians: They Do Exist!

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Homosexual Born-Again Christians: They Do Exist!

James R. Aist

(Note: the numbers in parentheses refer to specific references listed at the end of the article)

“The Lord is…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

Introduction

The Bible repeatedly and consistently condemns homosexual behavior as sin (Genesis 19:5 with Jude 1:7; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; and I Timothy 1:10). This fact has led some to conclude that it is not possible to be a born-again Christian and, at the same time, a practicing homosexual person. But there are limited circumstances in which this seeming impossibility actually does exist for a relatively short time.

Before I delve into this topic further, let me state clearly and unequivocally that I do not believe that one can die an unrepentant, practicing homosexual — so-called “Christian” or not — and spend their eternity in heaven. The Bible is also unequivocal on this point (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Hebrews 10:26-27). So, please read on and hear me out. I believe there is something important here that all born-again Christians should realize, as we seek to gain a better understanding of homosexuality from a biblical perspective. But first, I need to lay a foundation upon which to construct the points I want to make.

Three Stages of Repentance

The first step on the road to repentance is to agree with God that what you have done is wrong, i.e., that it is “sin” (1 John 1:9). This may be experienced as Godly sorrow and/or a change of heart regarding your sin (2 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Kings 8:46-47). As a result, you will feel compelled to confess in your mind and with your mouth that you have sinned (2 Samuel 12:12-13).

The second step on the road to repentance is to actually turn from your sin (2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 3:8, Acts 26:20). That means that you make a quality decision to stop doing the sinful thing you have been doing and then follow through on your decision and stop doing it. This is where the genuineness of your commitment to your decision is tested and proven; it’s the really hard part. Without turning, your confession is, at best, questionable and to no avail.

The third and most rewarding step on the road to repentance is perseverance. It is common experience to be tempted to return to some of our old, sinful ways after we have turned from them. Unfortunately, it is also common experience to give in to such temptations by choosing to do so (James 1:13-14). To really conquer sin means not only to confess and turn from it initially, but also to persevere in our repentance to the end.

Justification and Sanctification

When we become born-again, all of our past sins are instantly forgiven. We refer to that wholesale forgiveness event as “justification.” But, sadly, we remain vulnerable to various temptations that can lead us to sin again (1 John 1:10). For purposes of illustration and later reference, here is a partial list of specific sins mentioned in the Bible: covetousness, drunkenness, envy, gluttony, gossip, greed, hatred, hypocrisy, idolatry, jealousy, laziness, lust, lying, murder, pride, profanity, rage, selfishness, sexual immorality of all kinds (e.g., adultery, fornication, homosexual sex), slander, theft and vengeance. Can you identify any sins in this list that you are still having trouble with? I can see a few that I am still struggling with.

Over time, the Holy Spirit, with our cooperation, cleanses us from more and more of our remaining sins in a process called “sanctification”, whereby we are convicted of a residual sin, confess it (1 John 1:9), turn away from it and, eventually, conquer it. This is why we born-again Christians often detect sin in both ourselves and in our fellow believers, even though we are already “saved”; these are simply sins that we have not yet allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse us of. The presence of such sins in our lives does not mean, necessarily, that we are not yet saved; it may just mean that we are still a “work in progress.” This is not at all to minimize or trivialize our need to be sanctified; God did not call us to a life of compromise; rather, He called us to a life of holiness.

Same-sex Attractions

Same-sex attractions are powerful temptations, but biblically speaking, they are not sins. To have such attractions is akin to a married heterosexual man having opposite-sex attractions to women other than his wife. These attractions are temptations to sin and nothing more; they are not sin, although they would lead to sin if acted upon, either mentally or physically. Apparently, same-sex attractions are not something that many choose initially. Rather they seem to occur initially in most homosexual persons without their volition or intent. This is an important distinction that Christians need to be aware of. The Bible condemns homosexual sex acts, but it does not condemn the initial experience of being tempted by same-sex attractions. If the Bible did condemn the experience of being tempted, then Jesus would not have been without sin, would He?

Furthermore, Jesus said “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28). Thus, “acting” on either opposite-sex or same-sex attractions includes “looking lustfully” as well as the physical, sexual act itself; both are sin, and, as such, they are to be renounced, resisted and repented.

And finally, same-sex attractions are not of God; they are of the devil and are evil, as are all temptations to sin (click HERE). There is nothing good about either same-sex attractions or the practice of homosexuality in any context.

Who Are these Homosexual Born-again Christians?

Now let’s see if we can identify just who these homosexual born-again Christians are, keeping in mind that born-again Christians already have eternal life and will spend their eternity in heaven with God (1).

There are many born-again Christians who are homosexual in the sense that they experience only same-sex sexual attractions and feelings, and they have chosen to live a life of celibacy in order to maintain their sexual purity. They are tempted to sin sexually, but they do not actually sin by acting on those temptations, either mentally or physically. Their same-sex attractions will not keep them out of heaven, because they are not sinning sexually. It is relatively easy to recognize that these folks are truly born-again, homosexual Christians who will be in heaven with us. Who among us does not struggle with temptations of our own, having to refuse to give in to them in order to maintain our Christian integrity? But none of that disqualifies us from heaven. Take another look at the sins I listed above, and see for yourself if I am not right about this.

But there is another situation in which we can recognize truly born-again, homosexual Christians. I am talking now about practicing homosexuals who have been born-again and have not yet repented of their homosexual practices, but they will soon (“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” – Ezekiel 36:27, and “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” – 1 John 3:9). This situation is not unlike that of a heterosexual man who is fornicating with a woman, gets born-again, and continues to fornicate with the unbelieving woman for a while. Because the man is now born-again, the Holy Spirit will begin to convict him of his sinful lifestyle, and eventually, he will stop fornicating with her, thus repenting of his sexual sin. In the same way, a homosexual person may get born-again and continue to live in a sinful, homosexual relationship for a while, until he/she is convicted by the Holy Spirit and discontinues the practice of homosexuality. In both of these cases, the person who was involved in a sinful, sexual lifestyle, continued to live in sin for a while, even though he/she was already a born-again Christian. Now reflect back on what was said above about repentance and sanctification, and you will see that, after they were saved, their lingering sins were of a sexual nature, whereas for the rest of us, lingering sins may be of a different nature, such as rage, gossip, slander, greed, or lying. We must keep in mind that the lingering presence of such sins in our lives does not mean, necessarily, that we are not yet saved; it may just mean that we are still a “work in progress” and in need of additional repentance. And, this truth applies regardless of the particular nature of one’s sins, including homosexual sins. My assumption is that, among those homosexual people who identify themselves as Christian, there are always some who really are born-again believers. These are the ones who will soon repent and leave their homosexual lifestyle behind because the Holy Spirit in them will not allow them to continue to live that way, and many have already done so (2).

The Arch Enemies of Homosexual Born-again Christians

We should all be aware that there are many people who name the name of Jesus but are not helping homosexual born-again Christians become who Christ really wants them to be. I will not belabor this point, but I will call out these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” for what they are, based on what they are doing, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be. Firstly, there are those who seem to have only condemnation, and no compassion, for those who have turned out to be homosexual. They are quick to point out the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, but seem to ignore the fact that God loves homosexual people and wants them to repent and receive the good news just as much as He wants the rest of us to do so. Secondly, there are the purveyors of “gay theology”, who tell homosexual people that God approves of homosexual sex and that it is not necessary for them to repent in order to spend their eternity in heaven (3). And thirdly, there are those who teach the “gay gospel”, saying that, although God considers homosexual sex to be sinful, he does not require repentance in this case because His grace somehow gives homosexual people a dispensation, or exemption, that will enable them to spend their eternity in heaven despite their sinful lifestyle (4). Many of the homosexual, born-again Christians have believed these heresies and will, therefore, have to reject them in order to repent and become the men and women that God intended them to be all along.

Demonstrating the Love of Christ

So then, how can we show the love of Christ to homosexual born-again Christians? Perhaps we can best do this is by doing what Jesus would do (5). Jesus would be willing to spend time with homosexual people when he had the opportunity to do so (cf. Matthew 9:10; Luke 7:34), and He would treat them with kindness and respect, without approving of their homosexual behavior (cf., Romans 12:9 and 1 Corinthians 13:6). He would further demonstrate His love for homosexual people by encouraging them to repent of (turn away from) their homosexual sins (6). In the same way, if and when the opportunity presents itself, we can discuss with a homosexual friend God’s plan of redemption and point out that it is for them just as much as it is for us. The personal testimony of Rosario Champagne Butterfield (7), an ex-lesbian turned pastor’s wife and mother of many, provides a powerful and instructive example of how to go about demonstrating the love of Christ to a practicing homosexual.

(For more articles on HOMOSEXUALITY, click HERE)

References Cited:

1. Aist, J.R. 2012. What Does “Born-Again” Mean?   (click HERE)

2. Aist, J.R. 2012. Homosexuality: Good News (click HERE)

3. Aist, J.R. 2012. Gay Theology: Did God Really Say “You Must Not…?” (click HERE)

4. Aist, J.R. 2012. The “Gay Gospel” (click HERE)

5. Aist, J.R. 2012. Homosexuality: What Would Jesus Do?” (click HERE)

6. Aist, J.R. 2012. Repentance: Confess, Turn, Persevere (click HERE)

7. Butterfield, R. C. 2013. My Train Wreck Conversion. Christianity Today, January/February.  (click HERE)

 

Abortion: Biology, Bible and Forgiveness

A 3D ultrasound taken of a fetus at 17 weeks.Abortion: Biology, Bible and Forgiveness

James R. Aist

 “I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.” (Psalm 37:25-27)

Introduction

There is no moral issue that grieves and saddens me more than abortion. I believe that abortion is, perhaps, the most egregious example of man’s inhumanity to man. But I am not writing this article to preach, judge or condemn. My purpose and motivation are to have a positive influence, to help save the life of at least one unborn child and to encourage at least one regretful mother to find forgiveness and peace.

Biology

When I took my first formal course in high school Biology in about 1960, everyone seemed to know that human life begins at conception, the union of a man’s sperm with a woman’s egg. Without uniting in the womb, the egg and sperm have no human life at all and do not develop into anything; they remain just an egg and a sperm and soon die. The part of the human “life cycle” that we universally agree includes all of the developmental stages of human life from babies to teens to adults actually begins with conception in the mother’s womb. Those are the basic, biological facts of human reproduction. So, from a biological perspective, human life begins at conception and proceeds on an uninterrupted continuum of developmental stages, first in the womb, and then outside of the womb. There is no identifiable point in this continuum at which an unborn child becomes suddenly human; the unborn child is a human being all along. The idea that there is a moment when a developing child changes suddenly from non-human to human is a fantasy that has no basis whatsoever in the science of biology. Rather, it is purely a figment of the human imagination, designed to rationalize the termination of innocent human life in the womb and, thus, avoid the enormous emotional toll that routinely follows in the aftermath of an abortion.

Ultrasound images or videos — especially the new 3-D versions, see above — of a developing child in his/her mother’s womb will provide conclusive and convincing evidence that the unborn child is, indeed, a human being in the early stages of development.

Bible

To receive the guidance of the God of the Bible – the Creator of human life — let’s have a look at some Scripture passages relating to abortion:

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

How could David have been sinful before he was a person? If he was sinful from the moment of conception, then he must also have been a person from the moment of conception!

  • “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
  • “I have been a Nazarite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb.” (Judges 16:17)
  • “… God… set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace…” (Galatians 1:15)

God has a plan for each of us, before we are even born! What is God’s plan for your unborn child?

  • “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them….” (Genesis 1:27)
  • “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:6)

Abortion is an attack on the very image of God himself.

I would guess that very few people are aware that the Bible has stern rebukes and dire warnings for those who approve of sin or encourage others to sin, but it does (Leviticus 19:1; Isaiah 5:20; Malachi 2:17; Matthew 5:19-20; Matthew 18:6; Romans 14:22). Thus, anyone, including born-again Christians, who even approves of or encourages the sin of abortion will, someday, have to answer to God for it. If that’s you, then now is the time to repent!

Forgiveness

Abortion is, first and foremost, a sin against God (see above). So, forgiveness and peace will come only through and from Him. Here’s how you can receive God’s forgiveness and peace:

  • Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
  • Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It’s important to keep in mind that there is no sin that is so big and so bad that God will not forgive it. In fact, God wants to forgive you and bring you peace. He has made this promise to you: “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). He is “faithful” to forgive you because He has promised to do so, and God does not lie or break His promises (Numbers 23:19); He is “just” to forgive you because Jesus paid the full price for your sins when He suffered and died for them, in your place, and, therefore, it would be unjust to not forgive you. And He doesn’t stop there. He will also cleanse you from the stain of your sin and of the guilt and shame associated with it; God will separate your sins from you “as far as the East is from the West” (Psalm 103:12), and he will not keep bringing it up and holding it against you (Isaiah 43:25). You have God’s word on it (Numbers 23:19), so take Him at His word, receive His forgiveness and move on with the peace of Christ; God has a wonderful plan for your life.

An Appeal for the Rights of the Unborn

If you want to make me cry, then remind me of the accidental traffic death of my daughter, Liesel, when she was only 20 years old. Or, remind me of the accidental drowning deaths of twin toddlers in Knoxville a few days ago. But, if you really want me to weep and mourn deeply, then remind me of the intentional deaths of tens of millions of innocent, helpless, unborn babies, murdered in their mother’s womb, in America since Roe v. Wade. The United States will have no claim whatsoever to any moral high ground concerning anything, unless and until we, as a nation, rise up against this, the most despicable of man’s inhumanity to man, and legally declare it to be what it is: murder of the worst kind. And that’s why we need more and more pro-life justices, judges, governors, legislators, presidents and God-fearing voters to lead the charge against abortion. America, bless God and stand against this national tragedy!

(For more articles on ABORTION, click HERE)