License to Kill ??
The Challenge of Sins by Christian Believers after Conversion
This discourse is written for and to you who are "saved", "born again", Believers in the life, teachings,
death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ for the full remission of all sins for mankind.
If you have been convicted by the Holy Spirit that you are inducted into the family of God, walking in the light you have been given, yet finding yourself again and again committing sin, welcome to a large community worldwide. Every Christian struggles with sins of the flesh and of the spirit.
If you are not a bona fide Believer this will be of merely intellectual interest ... something to chew on and dispute.
First, a definition of what it means to be "Saved".
Endureth how? In what way? This means to BELIEVE until you pass through death's door into eternal bliss. No matter what happens, you BELIEVE. Believe what ?
Simply put, no man is capable of "saving" himself. Only God can save. God sent His incarnated Son to tell us what and how. There is nothing a human can do, or avoid doing, that will lead to salvation except BELIEVE.
Take special not of the contrast between the first and second parts of Mark 16:16, The baptized believers will be saved but the nonbelievers, baptized or not, will be condemned.
BAPTISM - what it IS, what it DOES
In the time of Jesus on earth the Jews were ruled by the Roman Empire. Rome ruled many parts of the known world but allowed local tribes and nations to operate freely within Roman law. The Jews were free to practice their religion. They tried and convicted Jesus but needed Pilate's approval to execute him.
The universal official language of Rome was Latin but because they utilized educated Greeks in many functions, Greek was a common second language. The Jews used Ancient Hebrew in temple matters because the scrolls they had were written in Hebrew. It is generally believed, but not proven, that the Jews spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew which developed during their Babylonia captivity. This matters here because ...
Jesus spoke the common language, presumably Aramaic.
Jesus knew the entire Bible, Genesis through Malachi in its language, Hebrew. He could, and did, often quote from scripture.
Paul, a Roman citizen, and a Pharisee, spoke and wrote Greek. It is to my mind highly unlikely that Jesus was unable to converse in Greek (or any earthly language He chose) but that does not matter for the point I am going to make.
The gospels could have been written in any known language of the time but the earliest copies which came down to us were in Greek, as was the entire New Testament.
The word BAPTISM is today associated with religious experience or ritual. In the time of Jesus it was a commercial term, the Greek form being "baptizo". According to the lexicon at biblestudytools.com, baptizo meant, "to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe to overwhelm."
This word was used for the process of dyeing fabric, notably making purple cloth, but inclusive of other dipping and dunking applications. Uncolored cloth was dipped into a dye solution until it took on the color, or "identity" of the dye. This is a matter of change in identity but not form or substance.
Likewise, the baptized Christian has been spiritually immersed in Christ and is a new creation in progress under the power of the Holy Spirit. The form or ritual of baptism is merely an outward indicator. You were plain natural and afterward you are purple. You are still you. The immersion in Christ happens when you BELIEVE and PROFESS that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior. He stands at your heart/soul's door knocking. He said if you open to Him He will come in dwell within you (through the Spirit).
No one can stand in for you and open your heart, soul, and mind to invite Christ into your life. You must be mentally capable of comprehending what God has done for you through Jesus Christ and at the same time have faith "like a little child". Baptism can occur at any age when the candidate has made the decision to accept Christ as Savior.
Baptism is the cure for Original Sin. It is the only cure.
The definition of Original Sin can be discussed endlessly, especially by people with a theological (and argumentative) bent, but there is only one definition which fits the entire content of scripture.
Original Sin is Unbelief.
According to Genesis, Adam and Eve had an idyllic life with access to more than adequate food in the garden. They could freely eat from the Tree of Life, but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they could not eat for in the day they did so, they would surely DIE. Choosing to believe the serpent (tempter, evil one, devil) instead of believing what God said brought sin and death into the world and made Satan the Ruler, the "Prince of this World", as Jesus labeled him.
Since that moment, everything that lives on earth dies. More importantly, the Spirit which God had breathed into the man died as well, and remains dead in trespasses and sins until a human awakens to the spiritual truth, professes Christ, and is baptized as a witness to his profession. This is a one-on-one event between God and an individual. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.
Read John 5:24 in any translation you want. They all give the same meaning. Some use 'condemned' or 'condemnation' instead of 'judged'. The act of believing, powered by the Holy Spirit, rebirths the soul killed in the garden. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote (I Cor 12:3) "and no one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit." Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to enable and empower the faith by which the dead spirit is reborn, made ALIVE again. Just as He had the power to raise Himself from the grave, He has promised the same for those who believe. Conversion eliminates the curse of Original Sin and cleanses the believer of all sins.
So after your spirit is brought to life in Christ, you receive the light of the Holy Spirit to affirm, convict, guide and lead you on the path to becoming "conformed to the mind of Christ", but the light you receive is according to His purposes and your responses. You are, however, still you with all your human desires and appetites, so from salvation, or the moment of being born again, you are saved, in the kingdom, but you still are a sinner.
WHY CHRISTIANS CONTINUE IN SIN
From here on in this discourse I am speaking directly to you who regard yourselves as genuine Christians, fully convinced you are saved, born-again in the spirit children of God, stuck living in your body on earth while trying to become conformed to the mind of Christ. You receive light from the Holy Spirit and your carnal nature resists the guidance of the light while your soul hungers to be all that you believe God wants you to be.
Your struggle is no different from that of the great evangelist Paul. Mine is like his. When first I read the following verse as a converted Christian, it frightened me.
I took it to mean I must follow the law to be on the path. Years later, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit I realized that the Law of God illuminates the path. It tells me where the path leads and encourages me to look for, and be grateful for, the lamp showing the way. This was a very freeing experience.
How do I know when I have sinned or am about to sin ?
I know because of the light on my path.
The LAW is for me the original Decalogue handed down on tablets to Moses on Mt Sinai. Known as the Ten Commandments, Jesus answered a challenge on the most important commandment of God. He said ...
If you compare the OT Ten Commandments with what Jesus said, you realize he showed that the first commands have to do with the relationship between man and God; the rest have to do with relationships among humans. The commandments elucidate both the mind-set God wants from man and the mind-set and behaviors God wants among men. Meditating on these commandments shows us that we are separated from God but He welcomes us back. The OT books are filled with the record of man's failures. A few characters stand out so we can see how a man can be in relationship with God.
Adam's descendant Enoch was so close to God that God took him to Himself. Noah was so close to God that God chose him to father a new human race after the deluge. Abram, whom God renamed Abraham, was so close to God that God made a covenant with him and all his descendants to provide a future redemption for all mankind through his descendant Jesus.
David, one of the best known serious sinners, was so close to God he was made King and given a throne to last forever. This is a man God said was "after his own heart" but look at his sinful life. There are many others in the OT Bible who followed the greatest commandment but failed the second greatest command.
So I know the law is in force until "all be fulfilled" which I believe means the end of this world. In any case the law is in force throughout my lifetime and it is responsible for my angst, and yours. The law exists to make it possible for man to be redeemed and live peacefully in society until redemption. It is a burden to the spirit because it constrains the flesh. No one can keep the law. God provided an escape.
I am NOT under the Law.
The natural part of the law, that dealing with human interaction, has consequences. If I commit murder there is a chance I will be convicted and punished by society which has adopted part of God's law as criminal law governing you and you and me. But, and I know this is tough to swallow, God will forgive my behavior and forget it. Men, and Satan, and myself, will mark it down and remind me as long as I live, but God washed it away when I confessed my wrong to him and asked for fogginess.
How and why does He do this? I am his spirit child stuck in a flesh existence where I am weak. He keeps no record of wrongs. He may chastise me in some way spiritually but will not condemn me for I have already passed from death into spiritual life and do not come under judgment. [John 5:24].
Do I have a license to kill ??
This is where the true Christian Believer and the wanna-be religious person separate. It is not possible for a semi-believer who is not filled with the Holy Spirit to comprehend how this works.
Let's say I am in a situation where there are numerous unbearable people; perhaps a family of down and out hateful trouble mongers who terrorize our neighborhood. I've prayed for them to my limit. They need to be taken off the planet. They always get away with their crimes by luck and failure of authorities to put them away. I decide to kill the one I fear most. The Holy Spirit knows this. He is counseling me to not do it; find some escape route but not resort to murder.
I am finally at wit's end. In a rage I pull the trigger. One bad guy down. The way I premeditated it leaves no evidence I am the murderer. I am home free. Now what?
Am I kicked out of the kingdom, salvation revoked ?? No.
You don't go to hell for murder. You go to hell for unbelief. There is no place in heaven for spirits who do not believe.
I can't hide this from God. I don't want to lose communion with Him and live a darker spiritual life because of my sin. The most important thing for me to do is face god and admit my wrongdoing and tell Him I know I have grieved him, even though I feel my action was justified. I judge me. He does not. HE tells me to make amends in some way if I can, then soldier on along the pathway home to Him.
You and the quasi believers might buy this scenario so far. But let's say the bad guys are not calmed by knowing someone wants them dead. In fact, they get worse. Time to kill another one. Same process. Suppose there were seven of them. Every other month I kill another one until they are off the planet.
At what point does God say to me, "That's it. Too many sins for me to forgive. I don't want you in my kingdom. I revoke your free gift of grace for eternity." ?
If you study scripture with any depth, you will know for certain the answer is NEVER.
I made this same point in a clergy led Bible group and was surprised that most of the believers agreed with the premise. A couple were doubtful. People somehow think that sin is judged quantitaively by God. Not so. It is us who judge people more sinful or less sinful.
STILL SUBJECT to CARNAL CRAVINGS
Being born again in the spirit does not erase your human condition. It does give you light to see in what ways you can try to change your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.
Nicotine is one of my addictions. I smoked from age 14 until age 60 ... 46 years ... and have the COPD, emphysemia, fibrosis, and at this moment, lunger cancer as a result. I prayed diligently for release from the addiction. I know people who have been instantaneously delivered from tobacco addiction but I am not one of them. At age 60 I switched from cigarettes to gum. Fifteen years later I am still chewing nicotine gum. My thorn in the flesh ? Is smoking sinful ? It could be so judged because of the consequences it produces in life.
Gambling addiction afflicts some believers. They can't seem to shake it off regardless of how much they pray. Many think gambling is a sin. I don't see that it is but I do see that out of control it destroys lives and families, and surely that is not what God wants for His children.
Alcoholism is a clear example of inability to control appetites. Society considers it an actual disease. Christian are subject to invasion by all manner of organic and psychic illness. It goes with being human. All sorts of desires manifest as sin in the life of the believer. Paul admonished us to recognize that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and should be treated as presentable to God, a living sacrifice. A living sacrifice really means denial of carnal appetites; fighting back against desires you know do not enhance your closeness to the Spirit. Do what you are empowered to do and let God handle the rest.
When you invited Christ to be your Savior, He took you as you are. He will help you to grow in spiritual love and strength but He warned that you will suffer trials and tribulations because of Him ... your following Him. The warning is not only regarding demonic attacks on your life but also your struggle with your own passions. You will never be perfect while living in the flesh. Surrender everything, especially recurring sins, to Him for forgiveness and healing.
GOD NEVER GIVES UP ON ANY PERSON.
The lifelong heathen criminal sinner can on his deathbed come to repentance and be saved. The parable of the vineyard workers describes this. All who come to Christ, early or late in life, receive the same wage ... eternal life with Him.
The law remains and it is our guide to living in the Spirit, walking in he light of Christ. We who are saved are still sinners. Those we judge the most devout, 'good' people, holiest men and women we know, living saints, outstanding examples of Christian faith and behavior, ... all are sinners. No human is without sin as exposed by the law.
There you have it my born-again brothers and sisters in Christ. You are set free from the law. Saved is saved. Maintaining your love relationship with God is entirely up to you. He loves you no matter what. Be open with Him, freely acknowledging your failures and thanking Him for His constancy in helping you avoid egregious error. Never turn your back on God because you are ashamed of your sin. When you know you are guilty is when you need Him most. He will continue to cleanse you of sin as long as you live and BELIEVE.
Faith, your gift from God by His Holy Spirit will take you home to Him. No one can take this from you. No one can snatch you from His hand. Nothing that happens or that you do can separate you from Him except the one unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit ... your personal decision to NOT believe.