Christian Perfection vs. Perpetual Sinfulness
by Jesse Morrell
I would like to bring up the “Westminster Catechism.” I would like to quote this to you. The Westminster Catechism says this…
“No man is able, either of himself or by any Grace received in this life to perfectly keep God’s Commandments, but does daily break them in word, thought and deed.”
So here the Westminster Catechism says that no man is able, either because he is just naturally able or because of any supernatural ability through Grace received in this life… NO man is able to perfectly keep God’s Commandments, but has to actually break them on a DAILY basis in his words, his thoughts AND his deeds. It doesn’t say in his words, thoughts or his deeds, but it says in his words, in his thoughts AND in his deeds.
So I would like to examine this issue and a lot of people believe this. I remember as just a new convert running into folks who believe like this. I wanted to see if the Bible does really teach this or does the Bible teach something contrary to this?
First of all, I would like to make a few points as an introduction… I believe that when a person is truly speaking for GOD and when a person is truly preaching from the Bible, then they are going to be attacking sin and not attacking holiness. But I have seen some people from the pulpit and some people in leadership positions within the church, instead of attacking sin and ungodliness, they attack holiness and right living.
For example, when I became a Christian and I started to obey GOD and live for GOD and gave up all the sin that was in my life, I started being called by some of the other religious people in the church names… They called me a “Pharisee,” because I believed in obeying the law of GOD. “You are legalistic” – that is another thing I used to hear a lot to describe me. Then, after a while, they compromised and just called me, “self-righteous.” They would say you are self-righteous if you actually believed in living a life of obedience to GOD.
So these are some of the types of attitudes I have encountered in the church. If you believe in obeying GOD and loving GOD, and you believe in living a life free from sin, you are either a Pharisee, legalistic or self-righteous or you are just deceived. This is a terrible attitude. The pulpit was meant to be a place where the body of Christ would be edified, not a place where you endeavor to strengthen people in their sins. A preacher is meant to attack sin and to come against sin and confront sin… not to encourage it. He is certainly not to attack the Laws of God or to attack GOD or to attack living a holy life.
People seemed to be more afraid of what they call “sinlessness” than they are of falling into sin. I think people ought to be afraid of sinfulness. I don’t think GOD really has a problem with us living sinless. I don’t think GOD would ever have a problem with that.
GOD has a problem with people living sinfully. GOD doesn’t have a problem with people living disobedient, but rather HE has a problem with people living disobediently. This type of attitude that I have encountered – I believe it is truly detrimental to the soul and that it is detrimental to the Kingdom of GOD. It’s surely not going to advance the Kingdom of GOD. It is certainly not going to convert the world for Christ. It is certainly not going to make the world a better place to live in. It is not going to establish GOD’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
So my experience in life is that a lot of people sympathize and agree with what the Westminster Catechism says. You know, no man is able either by himself, or by any Grace to keep GOD’s Commandments. We daily break them in our words, and in our thoughts and in our deeds. That’s why I call it the “Westminster Corruption.” It’s really not accurate. It’s not Biblical. It’s not beneficial and it is not edifying. What this says, justifies and excuses every sin – whether it is in your thoughts or in your words or in your actions. This justifies every sin that there is.
I was talking once to David Ravenhill who is the son of Leonard Ravenhill and we were talking about this subject of holiness and of course, Leonard Ravenhill was a holiness preacher. And Leonard’s children went to a Christian school and I believe that David Ravenhill went to Bethany Bible College and he told that there was a speaker there who was talking about this idea that we all sin every day in word, thought and deed and the preacher said, “the devil couldn’t do worse than that.” The devil couldn’t do any worse than that. If you are sinning EVERY day in word, thought and deed… then the devil can’t do any worse than what you are doing. I certainly think we ought to be living better and different than the devil. I don’t think that Christians are supposed to live a demonic type of life.
So let’s break it down… this idea of living free from sin. You know about whether we are sinning every day – I think it all begins with definitions. We need to define our terms; define our meanings. If we don’t, we can’t have any type of effective communication.
First of all, sin is defined in 1 John 3:4 and it says that sin is transgression of the Law of GOD. So when we are talking about living a life free from sin, we are talking about living a life of obedience to GOD’s moral Law… to GOD’s revealed will as to how we are to conduct ourselves and behave. GOD’s Law specifically tells us what type of choices we should make. GOD’s Law never tells us what type of body to have, GOD’s Law never tells us what type of nature we are supposed to be born with, or what kind of nature we are supposed to have. GOD’s Law tells us what sort of choices we are supposed to make and what kind of choices we are not supposed to make. You know… thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not have any other gods before Him and so on.
Ultimately, the Law is summed up with “love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength” and also with “love thy neighbor as you love yourself.” So anything that is contrary to these is what the Bible calls sin or it is synonymous with transgression. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. So really the questions are … Can a man go without sinning? Can a man fulfill the Law? Well, the Bible says that love is the fulfillment of the Law. So the question really is… Can a man love? Can a man love GOD? Can a man love his neighbor? Is that possible? Do you suppose that is attainable in this life?
But if love is the fulfillment of the Law, selfishness is the opposite of love. Love, by definition, is the commitment of your will for the benefit and welfare, of another person or entity. “No love is greater than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” the Bible says. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” When you disregard the welfare of another person, and you establish your own self as the supreme interest in your life, that is selfishness. So in essence, holiness is love and sin is selfishness. Sin is for the detriment of other people in the establishment of yourself as the only important thing. It is the establishment of yourself being the center of your universe.
So can a man go a single day without living supremely for his own self? That is ultimately the question. Can a man go a single day with his eye focused on serving GOD supremely and loving his neighbor equally? That is ultimately what the question is. So sin is a violation of GOD’s Law.
What sin is not… I think there are a lot of misunderstandings of sin… There are a lot of misunderstandings about what sin is. Therefore, it is very necessary to address some of these issues. First of all, sin is not physical. Sin does not have to do with what is physical… it is not matter or material. It is not something you put under a microscope and examine. Sin has to do with not the physical, but with morality. Immorality has to do with the will. Immorality has to do with the human heart. When the Bible says a person is sinful, that does not mean he is made up with sinful substance. It means, rather that they have a selfish character. It means that their internal heart is in violation towards the Laws of GOD.
Remember, GOD’s Law does not tell us what type of substance we are supposed to made of. GOD’s Laws tell us what sort of choices were are supposed to make and what sort of choices we are not suppose to make.
So, sin is not physical. Sin is not what the Gnostics considered to be the “sinful flesh.” That is why the Gnostics denied that Jesus came in the flesh. And the Bible says that any man that denies that Jesus came in the flesh is an anti-Christ. You see, the Gnostics didn’t separate the physical from the moral. The Gnostics said that not only the human body, but all matter was and is essentially sinful. And so, this flesh is sinful. This body is sinful. Jesus was not sinful, because, according to them, Jesus did not have flesh. That was the Gnostics reasoning.
But the Bible, I believe does not teach that your body is sinful. As a matter of fact, the Bible says that GOD made us out of the dirt. Dirt cannot be sinful. Matter cannot have moral qualities or moral character. However, the human will can and does have moral qualities. The human heart, so to speak, can also. GOD looks at the heart because it is out of the heart that proceeds fornications and adulteries. Out of the heart, comes sin. So when you are talking about sinfulness; when you are talking about disobedience, you are talking about disobedience to GOD’s Law. And when you are talking about disobedience to GOD’s Law, you are dealing with choices. Morality always has to do with the realm of choices. Morality always has to do with the human heart… not with the human body.
Also, sin is not just ignorant action… ignorance has nothing to do with the heart. Ignorance has to do with the mind. The Bible does talk about in the book of Leviticus, if a man commits a sin out of ignorance, but this of course, was dealing with the Levitical Laws. They had so many Levitical Laws and those Laws were not written on the hearts of men; those type of laws were not written on the conscience. An Israelite who didn’t memorize all 300 Levitical Laws that they had, was therefore capable of committing a sin or a transgression of ignorance.
This is not something we see ever carried into the New Testament nor is it ever dealt with in relation to the moral Law. In fact, Jesus said that if you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you see, your sin remains. And the Bible says that to him that knows to do right and does it not, to him it is sin.
So when you are dealing with rebellion, which is the essence of sin – rebellion is a conscious, intentional violation of GOD’s Law. When a person knows the Law of GOD and they refuse to submit to what GOD tells them to do. If a person commits an ignorant action, that is a mistake. That is not an act of rebellion. If they did something that they genuinely and truly did not know was wrong… that is not a blemish on their moral character. That shows the faultiness of their mind, the faultiness of their knowledge, but it doesn’t show any type of rebellion that is in their heart because they didn’t know what they were doing. They obeyed GOD to the best of their knowledge… there was no fault with their heart… No fault with their character and that is what the Bible talks about… those who are perfect in heart… King Essa… He was perfect in heart… That doesn’t mean he was perfect in knowledge. It didn’t mean he never made any mistakes. It didn’t mean that he never did something unintentionally that might have caused someone some hurt. It doesn’t mean that. It means that as far as his heart was concerned, he was in submission to GOD. His mind might have been faulty and certainly as a finite being, it was limited and faulty… but as far as his heart was concerned, there was not rebellion against GOD.
So the question is… Can a man live without consciously disobeying GOD? Can a man live without intentionally rebelling against GOD? That is ultimately, the question. So now that sin is defined and we know what it is and what it is not… we need to define what is perfection and what is victory and what is Christian liberty or freedom from sin?
If obedience to the moral Law is what our moral obligation is requiring, then moral perfection is doing just that. Moral perfection is obeying the moral Law of GOD. It means you are doing exactly what GOD wants you to do. You are obeying GOD as far as He revealed unto you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Ultimately, moral perfection is simply defined as supremely loving GOD with your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. It is very simple. I believe in the simplicity of moral action. I believe in the simplicity of morality. It is simply love. If you love GOD, you want to promote the Glory of GOD. You want to promote even the happiness of GOD, because GOD is grieved over sin and GOD is angry with sin. You certainly don’t want to displease Him in any way.
And in loving your neighbor as yourself, you want to promote the happiness and well-being of your neighbor.
What perfection is not, because people have mistaken views of sin. They have mistaken views of perfection. Ah, if a person doesn’t understand the sin issue, they are not going to understand the perfection issue. So we need to also define what perfection is not.
Perfection is not, first of all … and this is an accusation that you will hear… Perfection is not something you attain on your own. It is not something you attain without the help of GOD or without the aid of GOD. Usually, people when you mention perfection, or holiness… they call you “self-righteous.”
A self-righteous person is someone who thinks he is righteous by his own efforts alone. Someone who is supposedly self-righteous without the help of GOD. Someone who is righteous without GOD’s aid or influence. Someone who is righteous just because of themselves and of something they have done alone, not dependent on GOD. And that is not what the Bible says. When the Bible says, “Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” the Bible is not telling us to be self-righteous. The Bible doesn’t tell us to be holy and righteous independent of GOD’s aid. Ultimately, all of the elements that are involved in perfection include GOD.
First of all, you need to have a conscience. If you are going to do what is right; if you are going to do what is good, you need to know right from wrong and that knowledge comes from GOD. So, if we know right from wrong, it is not because of ourselves, it is because GOD has revealed it and He has written His Law upon our hearts.
Another element of perfection is the will. The will is always involved and the will is not something that we gave ourselves. It is something that GOD as our Creator has endowed us with. So have a will to obey our conscience or a will to disobey our conscience. Now that involves our own free choice, but those elements are endowed to us by our Creator.
And then, of course, we also have the influence of the cross of Jesus Christ. It was not the Law of GOD that brought me to repentance. It was the cross of Jesus Christ. The Law of GOD convicted me and I felt shame, guilt and remorse and I felt miserable in sin. I felt condemned and convicted, but I wasn’t converted until I had a revelation of Jesus Christ and what he had done for me on the cross. It was the influence of the cross that subdued my rebellious and disobedient heart. I loved GOD because He first loved me. And… of course, the cross was given by GOD. The moral influence of the cross is also presented by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will take that cross to the minds and hearts of men in order to bring them to submission and surrender.
So when a person yields themselves to the conscience that GOD has given them, the influence of the cross is revealed by the Holy Spirit. They begin to live a life of obedience unto GOD not because they did it on their own or without the help of GOD, but because of the orchestration of GOD in human affairs.
So perfection is not something we do on our own, we are completely dependent on GOD, our Creator for guidance, for help, for encouragement, for correction, for the Holy Spirit. Perfection or moral perfection is not the inability to sin. Some people define perfection by saying, “If you are truly morally perfect, then you cannot sin any more, as far as your ability is concerned.”
Perfection is not the inability to sin, it is the unwillingness to sin. It doesn’t have to do with your faculties or your abilities. It has to do with how you use your faculties and how you use your abilities. It is not the absence of free will, it is the proper use of free will.
Moral perfection is not having a glorified body. You see, I have heard it said before that we cannot be perfect until we get our glorified bodies. You know, as long as we are in this flesh, we are imperfect and we can’t be perfect until we get our glorified bodies. And that ultimately assumes a Gnostic moral philosophy. A moral philosophy that has not to do with the human will, but deals with matter. It deals with the body; it deals with the flesh.
Now, the flesh is an influence to sin and GOD gave us natural desires that we can gratify in a natural way. That is what Eve did. Eve was tempted, not because she had a sinful flesh. Eve was tempted because she had natural desires that GOD gave her that she realized she could gratify in an unnatural and unlawful way.
But you don’t have to wait to have a glorified body in order to be free from sin. Your body doesn’t make you to sin; your body doesn’t force you to sin. You don’t need to have a new body to stop sinning.
Now, if we get a glorified body, I agree that we will be delivered and freed from some of these temptations that our bodies tempt us with, but again… temptation is not sin. The Bibles says every man is tempted; he is drawn away by his own lusts and enticed; but when lust is conceived, it brings forth sin.
So, through our flesh, we have temptation. But sin is the yielding to those desires and the gratification of those desires in an unlawful way. Ultimately, I believe that if a person is waiting until bodily glorification to start obeying GOD, they are going to die and go to hell, because they are putting the responsibility upon GOD. GOD puts the responsibility upon us and death is not the savior, Jesus Christ is the savior. But if a person says, “I am just going to sin my little heart out; I can’t be perfect and I am just a human and I have this sinful flesh. I’m just gonna go and sin and wait until I get my glorified body. They are going to die be and they are going to go to hell.
The Bible says… “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still. He that is righteous, let him be righteous still.” Glorification is only going to change your physical body. It is not going to change your moral character. Glorification will give you an uncorruptable body that is no longer subjected to death and to disease and these sorts of things… but glorification will not correct the human heart. The human heart needs to be corrected in this life. The human heart needs to be transformed in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So we need to properly distinguish between the moral and the physical. We can now see how if a person believes that sin is physical, then they believe that perfection is physical. If sin is something that you have in your flesh and your body, then you can’t get rid of it until you get a glorified body. You received it by no choice of your own… therefore you can’t get rid of it by any choices that you make. It is a Gnostic philosophy that doesn’t include any kind of will or choice in the matter.
Perfection is not just a one-time choice. It is not a once and for all type of experience. The Bible says you need to deny yourself, pick up your cross DAILY and follow Jesus. It is a daily choice. Paul said I die daily. It is not something like where you say, I became a Christian twenty years ago and I have been perfect every since. I have never sinned since. Hey, that would be great if that were true, and maybe it is true for some, but certainly, it is not true for all of us. Some of us when we were converted and we submitted to GOD to the best of our knowledge and to the best of our ability and then maybe after that, we sinned… intentionally and deliberately sinned. And then, we needed to repent of our sins, or perish. So, it is not just a one time choice. Now, you can develop a habit of choice. It gets easier over time.
I remember, as a new convert… You know, when I was a sinner, I would go out and party every Friday night and I would go and hang out with my friends. Of course, I would party every day. I would smoke marijuana every day. I would get drunk almost every night and then the weekend was for the hard core drugs. But when I got saved and when I gave up all my drugs and I gave up all my sin and all my drunkenness, I had these habits I needed to break. You know, Friday night would come along and I would have a severe temptation to go out and party. Now, I loved GOD and I was submitted to GOD, but there was still this internal struggle that I had, just because of the habits I had formed over the years.
As I just said, No and then I said, No and I had Bible Studies on Friday nights and I just denied those temptations, eventually it was a temptation any more. Now Friday nights I can go out and preach in front of a nightclub and I have never even had the slightest temptation to go inside, because over time I had developed new types of habits. So, moral perfection is a daily choice. You choose on a daily basis… I am not going to disobey GOD today. I am not gonna sin. I am going to obey GOD. I am going to deny my flesh; not indulge my flesh today. I am going to do what GOD wants me to; not what I want to do today. As you form these daily choices, you develop a habit and a nature of obedience. And it becomes, I guess you call it … your second nature. You know, it just becomes so natural to you and so normal to you that then it would be unnatural for you to live the way you used to live. It would be contrary to my now habits for me to go out to a club and to drink some alcohol or to listen to some foul music… You know, those things are contrary to my current habits… they would be abnormal and unnatural to the good habits I have formed.
Of course, I am not arguing for the actuality of perfection, but for the possibility of it. The Bible says that no temptation has overtaken you, but such that is common to man, but when you are tempted, GOD never allows you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear and He always offers the way of escape. Now whether you take that way of escape or not is up to you, but because of the fact that that way of escape exists, then it is possible for you to obey GOD. Then, it is possible for you not to give in to temptation.
So, even if the whole world sins, every day in word, thought and deed, that does not negate the fact that GOD does not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we are able. That does not negate the fact that there is always a way to escape. So, even if the whole world sins and goes to hell, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t possible to live a life of obedience unto GOD.
Of course, I have noticed that the Bible says ye are able. No temptation has overtaken you but that which is common and when you are tempted, YOU ARE ABLE to bear it; He never allows you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear. So the Bible says, “You are able…” The Westminster Catechism says no man is able… So, I see a TOTAL CONTRADICTION between the statements, “No man is able” and what the Bible says when it says, “You are able.” So which one is right and which one is wrong? GOD is right and it certainly does not surprise me that men will create doctrine that excuse sin. That is one of the reasons that the Bible was revealed to me early on as the real deal, because it made no excuse for sin.
I have met men who always make an excuse for sin. GOD never makes an excuse for us to sin. So, if you ever hear a preacher, or you read a book or you read a catechism that makes an excuse for sin, then you know it is NOT FROM GOD.
So now, we have defined sin. We have defined perfection and we have argued for the attainability for perfection in this life. Just consider the wording of the Law. The Law says, “love GOD with all your heart, mind and strength” and “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Now, nowhere does GOD require us to love Him with something we do not have. He doesn’t tell us to love Him with strength that we don’t have and He doesn’t say to love Him with an ability that you don’t have. We are suppose to love Him with all that we do have… with just 100% of what you have. If your obligation is to love Him with all that you have… you are capable of doing that because you have that strength, you have that ability, you have the mind and heart that you are obligated to love GOD with.
So by the very wording of the Commandments, our abilities are proportionate to our moral obligation. And of course, the Bible also says to love your neighbor as you love yourself which again shows that our obligation is in perfect proportion to our ability. If a man has this much strength (he shows his hands apart about three feet) then, how much is the man supposed to love GOD with. The Bible says that he is supposed to love GOD with all of it. If a man has this much strength (he has his hands about six inches away from each other), then he is obligated to love GOD with that much strength. If a man loves GOD with all the strength he has, then he is perfect in GOD’s sight. They are then obeying their obligation of the Law of GOD. So every man is obligated to love GOD with whatever abilities they have. So, by the very wording of the Law of GOD it is possible to obey GOD; it is not impossible to fulfill the Law.
Of course, we also have a natural free choice between obedience and disobedience. GOD spoke to Cain after the fall… He said, “Why are you downcast? If you do well, will it not be accepted of you? But, if you do evil, sin knocks and he desires to rule over you, but you must rule over him.” So, GOD spoke to Cain as a free moral being, a free moral agent who could choose to obey GOD or to disobey GOD. The reason Cain was guilty and why he was punishable was because he didn’t obey GOD when he was capable of doing so.
The fact that we experience regret and remorse – all that presupposes a free moral will or a free moral agency. If you didn’t have a free choice between obeying GOD and not obeying GOD, how could you ever regret your past actions? And… if you don’t regret your past actions, you cannot get truly converted.
I know when I got saved, I regretted every sin I had ever committed. When I got saved, I felt so guilty and so shameful and I regretted everything I had ever chosen to do in my life, because before that, I never chose to serve GOD. I never chose to do what I should have done. But, if I was incapable of doing those things, how could I regret not doing them? If I could not avoid doing the sins I had committed, how could I ever regret doing them? So, regret and remorse presuppose the possibility of disobedience.
And since the Bible says that temptation does not exceed our ability to bear it and escape it, then we are able to obey GOD.
Jesus Christ obeyed GOD. Now, Jesus Christ is the only one who obeyed GOD from the cradle to the grave… from the womb to the tomb. Jesus Christ is the only one who obeyed GOD all of His life. But the Bible says that never the less, He was made in all points like his brethren… that in all things, He was made like us. The same faculties that He had, we had. The same abilities He had, we had. Now GOD gave Him supernatural abilities… you know, walking on water and all the other things. But as far as His human nature was concerned, we are one and the same.
And if Jesus obeyed GOD and the Bible says that He is our example to follow after. So then, we can imitate and mimic Him and if He had abilities that we don’t have, as far as obedience is concerned, then how can He really be our example? How can we really follow Him? It would be impossible. It would be absolutely impossible. But because of the fact that Jesus is our example and that we are supposed to follow Jesus, this means we can live a life of perfection and obedience like He did.
Of course, the Bible says that Job was a perfect man. That wasn’t something that Job just said of himself. GOD said, “Have you considered my servant, Job? He is a perfect man.” Now, I wish that GOD could look upon us and boast in front of the devil how obedient His saints are today. Can you imagine GOD boasts about you and how obedient you are unto Him? You know, rubbing it in the face of the devil. I think too often, people give occasion to the devil to boast to GOD. You know he says to GOD, “Have you seen Your church? The others serving me and disobeying You?” But, Job was not that way.
Of course, the Apostle Paul said that he always exercised himself to have a conscience void of offense. Paul said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” So, Paul was living an obedient life. He said, “I crucify my body. I die daily.”
The Bible says about the parents of John the Baptist… it says they were blameless and walked in all of the Commandments of GOD.
So, another point to consider is that GOD wants obedience. I mean, why did GOD give us the Law? Why did He tell us not to sin? Why? – Because He doesn’t want us to sin. Well, if He doesn’t want us to sin, why would He not give us the ability not to sin? If GOD does not give us the ability to obey Him, then GOD must not want us to obey Him. If GOD truly wants us to obey Him, then He will give us the ability to do so. If GOD makes it impossible for us to avoid sinning, then GOD must want us to sin. You know, when you consider the logical conclusions we could come to if we are not capable of not sinning is that GOD wants us to sin and that is ridiculous.
Ultimately, if holiness is not attainable in this life, then we would all have an excuse on Judgment Day. GOD would turn to the disobedient on Judgment Day and say why didn’t you obey my Law? Why did you disobey My will? Then the sinner could justify himself before GOD and GOD, Your Law was impossible for me to keep. The nature You gave me was not capable of obeying it. You know, there would be a justification of disobedience on Judgment Day. There would be an excuse on Judgment Day. But, the Bible says that “all are without excuse.”Those who rebel against Him have hardened their hearts before GOD. They refuse to obey Him. Jesus Christ will say on that Judgment Day, “Bring those enemies of mine that would not have Me to reign over them and slay them before Me.” He won’t say bring those enemies of mine that couldn’t have Me to reign over them… The problem was not with their faculties. It was how they were using them. The problem was not with their abilities, but with how they were using them. The problem was not that they couldn’t obey GOD. They were just unwilling to obey GOD and that is why they will be criminals, deserving of punishment.
If it is not possible to keep the Commandments of GOD, then don’t waste your time and don’t waste your energy. People say, “You need to try to be perfect, but you can’t be perfect. Well, why try, if you can’t? I would never try to jump to the moon. I can’t jump to the moon so why would I ever try, if I know I can’t? I don’t want to waste my time; I don’t want to waste my energy. Why try to obey GOD, if you can’t obey GOD? You are grasping for straws. You are reaching for nothing. I never try for something that I don’t reasonably believe I can do. I only try to do something that I know I have a possibility to attain. If you can’t live a life free from sin, if you don’t believe you can, then don’t even try. Why feel bad when you don’t obey GOD? Why feel bad when you are imperfect? You can’t be otherwise.
I never feel bad about having dark hair. I never feel bad about having brown eyes. I have no control over the matter. I couldn’t change it, even if I wanted to. So I never feel bad about it. I never waste my time feeling bad about it. If I can’t obey GOD, I wouldn’t feel bad in disobeying GOD.
Our minds are so constructed by GOD that we have a natural understanding of justice. We see how just GOD’s ways are. And because of our natural sense of justice, we see that if we are unable to keep GOD’s Commandments, then we could not be justly obligated or responsible or accountable to His Commandments. That is just how GOD made us. We know that if GOD holds us accountable to an impossible set of Laws, then that would be tyranny. So, that is ultimately the question… Whose fault is it that there is disobedience to GOD?
Here are some closing remarks. Number one… If GOD wants obedience, then He would give us the ability to obey. Listen… GOD’s Law is good and if GOD’s Law is good, like the Apostle Paul said, then obeying GOD’s Law is good. And if obeying GOD’s Law is good, then the ability to obey GOD’s Law is good. And the Bible says, all good gifts come from GOD. So obeying GOD’s Law is good, because GOD’s Law is good. Why wouldn’t GOD give us the ability to obey Him? GOD’s Law promotes the well being of His Universe. GOD’s good Laws promotes the well being of His Creation. I mean I can only dream of a world that would be free from murder and stealing and of a world that loved GOD and had no idols. That world would be like what we would call Heaven. Heaven will be Heaven because there will be no sin there. Heaven will Heaven because there is no disobedience to GOD’s Law there. There will be peace and harmony, because GOD’s Law will be perfectly obeyed. So why would GOD withhold from His Creation the ability to obey His Law, when His Law is for the good of His Creation?
Another consideration is, like I said… Glorification is not going to bring any moral change. The Bible says that he that is filthy, will be filthy still. If you put off obeying GOD until you die, you are going to be in big trouble. If you put off obeying GOD until you die… and I think many people have a FALSE HOPE that they are going to get to Heaven, when in fact, they are going to end up in hell. Another idea is that GOD wants Heaven to be full of people who want to voluntarily obey Him… freely. That is why GOD even allowed the angels the ability to be holy or to rebel. GOD even let one third of the angels rebel against Him. He could have made all of Heaven full of machines or puppets or robots or zombies. He could of done that, but He didn’t because always wanted Heaven to be full of people that freely love Him and freely worship Him. GOD will not take away your free will when you get to Heaven. If He took away your free will, there would be no love there; there would be no worship there. There would be no service there. There would be no genuine loyalty there. No, you will still have your free will. But if you cannot go a single day without sinning, how could you expect to go all eternity without sinning? If you can’t go a single day without disobeying GOD, how can you expect to go all eternity without disobeying GOD?
And you can’t just put the responsibility upon GOD. You can’t just say, GOD will make me obey. GOD wants you to obey now and He is not making you to obey now. He gives you the ability to obey; He doesn’t force you. He doesn’t coerce you. He persuades you, but He has given you the ability to obey now. If you are not using that ability rightly now, you are not going to use that ability rightly later. “He that is filthy, let him remain filthy.”
People say in the open air, “Well, you can’t stop sinning.” I say, “Which sin can’t you give up? Which sin can’t you stop? Which sin can’t you stop committing? Now they love sin so much, they can’t conceive of living without it. It is like a child who loves his video games so much, he can’t imagine life without a video game. People that are so addicted to television, they can’t imagine a household without t.v.. You know, it is not that they can’t do without those things. It is that they so love them, they can’t imagine living without them. Sinners love sin so much, they can’t imagine living life without sin. It is not that they can’t live without it… it is just that they love it so much. It is idolatry.
Which sin can’t you stop doing? You can’t stop fornicating? You can’t stop lying? You can’t stop stealing? And they never give me an answer. Sometimes they might say, “Well, do you ever speed?” Even if speeding is a sin and I did speed, it doesn’t mean I could avoid speeding without much hesitation. And that is not an argument. Even if you do speed… it doesn’t mean you have to speed.
So they say, well, it is the internal sins that are the problem… sure, you can get rid of the external sins, but not the internal sins. They say, you can change your external sins but on the inside, there is still going to be pride, there is still going to be greed, there is still going to be selfishness on the inside. Jesus said, first clean the inside of the cup and then the outside will be clean also. If the inside is clean, then the outside will be clean. You need to get your heart right and then… if your heart is right, then your actions will be right.
Also consider… that moral change of behavior and character and conduct… it is a condition for there to be a pardon. The Bible says, “Let the wicked forsake his ways…” The Bible says that he who confesses and FORSAKES HIS SIN will find mercy. Ultimately, if you cannot stop sinning, then you can never be pardoned by GOD. GOD by His Grace and Mercy pardons those who FORSAKE their disobedient life. GOD by His Grace and Mercy will pardon the individuals who wave the white flag of surrender (to Him). GOD would be unjust to the Universe if He pardoned a hardened criminal who refused to change.
Can you imagine what it would be like if the government pardoned all of the criminals in our jails and say, “Well, we are such a loving government that we are going to pardon all of the criminals in America. That wouldn’t be love; that wouldn’t be just to the society; it wouldn’t be just to the community. It wouldn’t be just to the Law abiding if all the disobedient were freed and pardoned without reformation or change.
But if you can’t stop sinning, then GOD can’t justly pardon you. It would be destructive to His Creation… It would be destructive to His Universe… It would be unjust for Him to do such a thing. The Bible says that GOD is faithful and JUST to forgive us of all of our sins… His forgiveness is always in accordance with public justice.
GOD’s Law is good. GOD gave us a good Law. It should be obeyed. People speak of the Law of GOD in derogatory ways. They speak of the Law as a “bondage.” The Law is not bondage; sin is bondage. I love the Law. I love GOD’s Law. It’s my delight. I delight in the Law of GOD. There is always, it seems a problem where people speak derogatorily of the Law of GOD; the Bible never does. The Bible says it is good; it is just; it is holy – the Bible never speaks derogatorily of GOD’s Law.
If it were not possible to stop sinning; if it was not possible to obey GOD’s Law; if it is not possible to obey GOD’s Commandments… then I would be the most miserable man in all of the earth; I couldn’t be happy. I couldn’t have peace of heart. I hate sin so much. Sin is such a burden and it is grieving my spirit. If I believed that I could not live free from sin until I died, I would want to die now. I wouldn’t want to live any longer. I would want to go another day, if every day of my life on earth was going to be full of sin. I wouldn’t want to be here. I would be the most miserable, depressed man on the face of the planet.
If it is not possible to live free from sin, the Gospel is not Good News at all. The Gospel would simply just be forgiveness without freedom. And if, there is no freedom, that is not good news to the Universe and it is not good news to someone who hates sin.
How could we call our Salvation, “so great a salvation”, if it doesn’t even save us from sinning? Sinning was the problem from the beginning. Sin separated us from GOD; sin is what makes us worthy of hell; Sin is what is bringing all the death, misery and pain to this planet. You know, it is like when you take an Advil and it gets rid of your headache, but it doesn’t really solve the problem (or stop the root cause of your headache). Does the atonement just get rid of the symptoms or does the atonement get rid of the problem?
Is the atonement just going to save us from hell and from death, but not from (our current) sinfulness when sin was the thing that gave birth to (the need for) hell and death? GOD doesn’t just treat the symptoms. If GOD just treats the symptoms, then He is not a Good Physician. We call Him the “Great Physician.” Listen, a great physician CURES His patients. If a physician does not treat and cure His patients, then He is not a great physician.
How can we call Jesus our Lord, if we do not obey Him? How can we call Jesus our Savior, if He doesn’t change us? What is the difference between a sinner and a Saint? They say, “Well Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” Is that really the only difference? You know, one is Heaven bound and the other is Hell bound, but they are both disobedient? They are both wicked? One is forgiven; one is condemned, but they are both equal in their character and equal in their conduct?
The Bible says that by this, the children of the devil are manifest… when they break GOD’s Commandments. ‘’He that sins is of the devil.” “By this we know that we know Him IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.” Keeping His Commandments is the definition of moral perfection. We know that we know GOD if we keep His Commandments! If any man says the he knows GOD and does not keep His Commandments, then that man is a liar and the truth is not in him. Sin keeps you from knowing GOD and eternal life involves knowing GOD. So you can’t know GOD if you are breaking GOD’s Commandments. If you think you are having a relationship with GOD, but you are breaking His Commandments, then you are a liar. You have a relationship in your imagination, but you don’t have a real relationship with GOD.
And of course, I believe an understanding of this doctrine is essential for open air preaching. In closing… if you do not believe this. If you do not preach this… the sinner is going to call you a hypocrite. They will say, “Well, don’t you sin? Aren’t you a sinner?” They say it all the time. And of course, it is a Catch 22… if you say, “Well, yeah… I am a sinner. I sin all the time.” They are going to say, “You hypocrite!” and then they are going to discredit everything you say. And then, if say… “Well, I am not a sinner any more.” They will say, “You are a liar.” So, it is a Catch 22… They are never happy. I mean, you can’t satisfy them.
John the Baptist didn’t eat or drink… they said he had a demon. And just because Jesus ate and drink… they said He was a glutton and a wine-bibber. And so sinners, they try and put you in a “Catch 22,” but I would rather be called a liar, than to be called a hypocrite when it is true.
So this doctrine… living free from sin; living obediently to the Law of GOD; living holy, I think it is essential for the open air preacher and it is essential for the Christian life, but particularly for this Conference of open air preachers, because there will be no moral authority to your preaching and no moral influence to your doctrine if we don’t hold to a Biblical understanding of living free from sin.