Saturday, January 6, 2018

When Tradition is Held in Higher Esteem than God's Word

One of the main themes of the musical Fiddler on the Roof is “tradition.” There is a song that begins with those words, “Tradition, tradition! Tradition!” In Judaism, tradition is paramount even over the Word of God. It was this with which Jesus had a serious problem. The Pharisees and scribes had over the years added their own traditions (supposedly oral instructions from God that Moses never bothered writing down), as well as pagan Babylonian Mystery traditions (learned during the Babylonian captivity) to the Word of God. Instead of studying the Tanakh or Old Testament, they chose to write down their own oral traditions and commentaries and then each generation studied those instead of strictly studying the Tanakh, as they felt one could not understand the Scriptures without the insights and teachings of the “great rabbis.” The Mishnah and the Talmud became more important than the Torah (the first five books) or the Tanakh.

Jesus had this to say about their traditions. [The following two passages relate the same event.]

Matthew 15:1-9 “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Mark 7:5-13 “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

Notice that the Pharisees themselves state that they expect Him (and everyone) to follow the traditions of men. Jesus replies that they are not only rejecting, but also transgressing the commandments of God by holding to their traditions. They are making God's commandments of no effect, or null and void by their traditions, and even worse they teach their traditions to the people as doctrine in place of God's Word. Their traditions have superseded God's commandments and laws. They have set themselves up as a higher moral authority than God. Jesus also uses Scripture, or God's own words to point out that God has said that their worship of Him is in vain, since they are only teaching man's laws, not His.

In this particular passage, as an example of their hypocritical heart condition, Christ relates their tradition regarding the care of their parents, for the Pharisees had by their traditions given themselves a loophole to taking care of their parents, as God had commanded. They would “consecrate” their goods to the temple as Corban which meant it was designated as a gift for the treasury of the temple and thus could not go elsewhere, but they arranged that they could hold onto it as long as they wanted and give it when they wanted, for there was no prescribed time limit to have to fulfill the vow. So essentially they could have it done upon their death or if preferred, the gifting could expire upon their death, making it null and void, so that it could become an inheritance. This enabled them to keep their money, and nobody could say anything to them about it, for there was (deliberately I assume) nothing forcing them to take action upon their word. It was a phony promise to the temple and a way of ignoring their parents' needs. It is kind of like our politicians today. Plenty of promises, giving themselves raises and nice retirements, etc. and keeping what they owe the people they represent, from the people. History repeats itself.

Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites over and over for their multitude of traditions and man-made laws which they inflicted upon the people. Note the verse above in Matthew 15:7-8 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” There are many more verses where He is referring to them either directly or indirectly as hypocrites.

Matthew 6:2 “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Matthew 6:5 “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Matthew 6:16 “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

Matthew 16:1-3 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Matthew 22:15-18 “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.......But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?”

Matthew 23:13-15But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

Matthew 23:23-29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,”

Matthew 24:51 “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Luke 11:42-44 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”

Matthew 16:3b-4 “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas ”

Luke 12:56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”

Luke 13:15 “The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?”

Jesus had a few other choice names for the Pharisees and scribes other than hypocrites. He also calls them vipers, fools, and He says how they are blind and an evil and adulterous generation and wicked within.

Matthew 3:7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

Matthew 12:34 “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

Matthew 12:38-39 “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: ”

Matthew 23:16-17,19 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?... Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?”

Matthew 23:33 “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”

Luke 11:37-40 “And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?”

John 9:40-41 “And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”

Lawyers also tempted Him and came under condemnation, although many if not most of the lawyers were also Pharisees. He accuses them of laying burdens upon people that were too great for them to bear, while they themselves did not practice what they preached. He also accused them of taking away the key to God's knowledge and while not studying themselves, they also prevented those who would study from studying.

Matthew 22:35-36 “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”

Matthew 10:25 “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Luke 11:45-47 “Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.”

Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

The Pharisees were always looking for a way to find fault with Jesus or tempt Him in some way. They sought to trip Him up so that they could accuse Him and put Him to death, as He was a thorn in their side with His flaunting of their traditions and showing the people that they were not the righteous leaders they claimed to be. It undermined their authority.

Mathew 9:10-11 “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

Mark 2:16 “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”

Luke 5:30 “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?”

Luke 15:2 “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

Matthew 11:19 “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.”

Luke 7:34 “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”

Matthew 9:34 “But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.”

Matthew 12:24 “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”

Matthew 12:2 “But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.”

Mark 2:24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”

Luke 6:2 “And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?”

Matthew 12:10 “And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.”

Mark 3:2 “And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.”

Luke 6:7 “And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.”

John 9:16a “Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.”

Matthew 12:14 “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”

Mark 3:6 “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”

Mark 10:2 “And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.”

Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”

Luke 13:14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. ”

Matthew 21:45-46 “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.”

Matthew 22:15 “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”

Mark 12:13 “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.”

Luke 11:53-54 “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.”

Matthew 22:34-35 “But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him,”

Matthew 16:1-3aThe Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.”

Mark 8:11-12 “And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.”

Luke 5:21 “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

Luke 16:14 “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.”

John 7:32The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.”

John 8:3-6a “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”

John 8:13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

John 11:47, 53 “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles..... Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

John 11:57 “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”

Matthew 20:18 “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,”

Matthew 26:65-67 “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,”

The Pharisees wielded a lot of power over the people, and disagreeing with them meant making yourself a target and outcast. Because of this many people, including some of the chief rulers and Pharisees who believed, were afraid to confess Jesus.

John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

John 7:47-49 “Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

Jesus warned His disciples about the Pharisees and their traditions and teachings.

Matthew 16:6, 11-12 “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.,,,,How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Mark 8:15 “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Luke 12:1 “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Matthew 23:2-7 “Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”

Luke 18:11-14 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

As can be seen from the many passages above, Jesus had absolutely no use for the traditions of men and those who upheld them as being higher than God's laws, commandments, or Word. This should be a warning to us, but it seems that many have not learned the lesson. Today a great number of churches and denominations teach their traditions, some of which are actually transgressions against God, in place of God's Word, yet do not see the parallel between themselves and the Pharisees. They mock the Pharisees as being blind and full of sin, yet are as blind and as full of sin themselves, putting the traditions of men before the Word of God. Just as the Pharisees measured a man's spiritual life as a Jew by how he kept their traditions, far too many churches, pastors, and just regular Christians measure a person's relationship with God through Jesus Christ by how well they observe the traditions of the church, even when the tradition might be a transgression of God's Word. Or they do the reverse and take freedoms that God has given as a blessing and turned them into sins. They call evil, good and good, evil just as the world is doing, yet are completely oblivious to it.

Recently I came across a saying which I cannot remember the quote exactly, or who said it, so I will paraphrase what I remember and add to it what I feel is needed to complete the thought.

When you find that your favorite and strongly held views clash with the Word of God, do not start debating it. If you do, a sense of self-righteousness will emerge and pride and hypocrisy may be the end result, rather than a learning of the truth.

Over the years I have attended a variety of different types of churches, whether as a visitor or congregant. The one thing that seems common to all of them is that each has their own traditions. Whether it is the liturgical church with all of the pomp and ceremony that goes with the ecclesiastical times of the year, a non-liturgical church which has no formal order to the worship service at all, or anything in between, they all still have their traditions or things which they feel are a necessary part of being a Christian and without those things, you either aren't a good Christian or aren't a Christian at all.

I recall, after moving to our present home, something that I saw when searching for a church to attend. I walked into the foyer of a local church and a huge sign over the door into the sanctuary said, “Visitors welcome, members expected.” And indeed they were. Members expected, that is. They had Sunday morning worship service and Sunday school, youth group, and Sunday evening services on Sunday, mid-week prayer service on Wednesday, revival services yearly, choir rehearsals weekly, meetings of all sorts, conferences, retreats, etc., etc., etc. The church was a constant flurry of activity, as was the day of worship. No rest for the weary. And the members were expected to attend all services or meetings which were universal, as well as those which were specific to them. In fact, church took up their whole life. Church was and is their spiritual life, their social life, their family life (or in some cases replacement for family), their financial dictator, their babysitter, their substitute for their parental duties toward their children's spiritual education, their substitute for personal evangelism, and in whole, their entire life. This particular church also had an academy, so the school sports meant that members should, as much as possible (to support the school) show up for those games, so it was their recreational life as well, not only with the school games, but with inter-mural church games. It also provided their entertainment in the form of school concerts and programs. It took a grave (pardon the pun) excuse, for instance death, to have your absence overlooked and not have it brought to your attention as a lapse. But I also noticed that most of the members were content to have their entire lives be controlled by and revolve solely around the church. It provided a safe haven for them to not have to extend themselves to reach out to the world. They barely interacted with the community at all. It was as if they were a closed and gated community. Visitors were really only welcome if they were ready to embrace the church and let it control every aspect of their lives. There were other understood requirements as well as the attendance requirements. No socializing outside of the ranks with the heathen, no attending non-approved colleges, and absolutely no participating in unapproved activities. Things such as no alcohol, no dancing, and other such rules were unwritten, but known to be the standard by which a person behaved or they were outright said to not be Christian and became outcasts of the membership. It did not take me more than one visit to decide I was not going to attend that church as a congregant.

I have heard from the members of this type of church, that the reason for these extra man-made rules is not only to prevent people from sinning, but that they believe the forbidden things are actually sin (which they aren't). They are under the impression that to do these things, which are not forbidden by God (such as have a glass of wine with dinner, go ballroom dancing, or women wearing slacks for example) will without question lead to abuse of the privilege, and therefore sin (such as drunkenness or lasciviousness), as of course people cannot be trusted to use their own judgment on the matter or have self-control. So the freedom was removed and rules were created and enforced to make sure that people did not ever get close to the sin about which God did warn us. This did not occur with this generation, this occurred many years ago and has been handed down as the doctrinal truth or position of this church denomination. Is this not exactly the reason the Pharisees of Jesus' day gave for their traditions? They added numerous and onerous rules on top of God's rules making people's lives miserable, and taught them generation after generation. And if people did not keep the rules, they were not in good standing with the clergy or considered a good Jew. It didn't matter that these Pharisees were, as Christ put it, white-washed sepulchers themselves, and doing sinful things behind closed doors. They lorded it over the populous and held themselves up as righteous (self-righteous) examples. So too do the churches of today.

It is not just the type of church I described above that has this problem. As odd as it sounds, that church says that salvation is by faith through grace with no works required, yet they have all these works and rules that they insist upon. There are other denominations which do not preach born again salvation, they preach works, and so people's lives are tied up with attending services, observing all the ceremonies of induction into the mysteries of God, doing the works the church offers or approves, praying the prayers that they are taught to pray for penance, making sure they give the required amount of money, and etc. etc. etc. It seems that at either end of the spectrum, as well as in between, the traditions of the church tend to be the most important thing. Reading, studying, knowing, and obedience to God's WORD seems to be, if not irrelevant, at least not all that important.

What is also of interest is that while the churches teach that if you do not adhere to their traditions, you will not only not be a good Christian, but you will be a bad witness, it is not the unbelievers outside of the church who look upon you as being a bad Christian or witness. It is the people within the church that judge you so harshly. I have found that by following God's rules alone, that when I witness I have more respect from people for not being a hypocrite, by not having added a bunch of rules of my own. They are presented with a God who is not the hyper straight-laced and joy depriving God that He is presented as being. They learn that He wants self-control and obedience, but that His yoke is easy, not burdensome when it is understood correctly. I never compromise God's Word by saying that a sin is not a sin, but I show why the sin is detrimental to their lives and why God forbids it. It is a much harder thing for a person to defend their traditions through Scripture, (since they are not defensible) and so that leaves a bad witness behind as them being a self-righteous hypocrite, for nobody is sin free, and people watch you to see what your life presents. If you have sin in your life, but hold yourself up as morally superior to God, you will not make a great impression. Self-righteousness is not something that impresses unbelievers.

God wants love, mercy, and obedience. While that may sometimes include taking a Christian to task for a bona fide sin that is taught in Scripture, it does not mean that we have the right to judge a person's relationship with Christ by our own traditions and viewpoints. God's Word is clear about sin and how to deal with it in the body. Beyond that, we should not judge others freedom in Christ, nor should we expect them to live up to our own man-made rules. Nor should we make our churches into social clubs and gated communities. We are to go out in the world and spread the gospel. That means we have to interact socially with unbelievers, as Christ did. We should not partake of their sins (and there is a distinct difference between sin and freedom in Christ) any more than He did, but we should be befriending them, so that they get to know our relationship with Christ, so that we can lead them to Him. We should not be accusing the brethren who are doing this of not being Christians, because they don't adhere to our traditions.

As an example of this, I know a pastor who decided to hold a Bible study at a VFW. The church had strict rules against alcohol, and this VFW had a bar (of sorts). Well, the pastor came under condemnation for being in the building. Seriously people? You condemned a pastor for trying to bring the gospel to our veterans just because he was in a building that housed some alcohol? It wasn't like he was serving it nor was it even available at that time of day. (Not that serving alcohol is a sin anyhow. Only drunkenness and alcoholism are the sins that would apply here and they didn't in this case.) It was a ridiculous accusation against him and it wasn't long before he gave up the Bible study. I don't know if that was because of the controversy and condemnation or the lack of interest, but no matter, it was wrong to condemn him bringing the gospel to the world. This is what bad traditions do. They get in the way of salvation.

Now that bad traditions have been discussed, it is important to recognize that there are God's traditions and rules, and they must be kept. We have only two ordinances or traditions. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We should be observing those traditions, because God has told us to.

We also have rules for obedience. We should give of our money to the Lord (although each person is to determine in their heart what to give) because we are told to by God. We should gather with other believers for fellowship and worship, especially as the Day of the Lord approaches, but nowhere did God specify that it had to be in a church, or on a Sunday (I will get to this problem in a minute), or that it had to have a certain kind of order of service, or had to be multiple times a week. He just said to gather with other like-minded (that's a hard thing to find) believers to give us fellowship, corporate worship of Him, growth in knowledge as we study, and to support and help one another. We are to pray, and when two or more are gathered in His name, He is there too, but nowhere does it say that we have to attend the weekly prayer service on a particular night of the week. We should pray without ceasing. What pastors should be teaching on prayer is not the traditions of attendance, but the need to have a relationship with God where praying is akin to breathing. You do it automatically all the time without even thinking about it. It should be that effortless and continual. Prayer times with others is a bonus, but not a weekly mandatory requirement. The more you learn to make it a part of your life like breathing, the more inclined you would be to gather with others to pray. And you would not have to beat people over the head to put in an appearance for the sake of appearances. That is not being there because of a heart desire, it is merely fulfilling an obligation.

We have many other things we should be doing – witnessing, using our talents, working on bearing the fruits of the spirit, confessing our sins, and other things which God has told us to do. We are to be obeying the Ten Commandments. Now as mentioned above, I want to address one of those things. Most if not all Christians will agree that nine of those ten are things we absolutely should or should not be doing. We should have no other gods before Him, we should not take His name in vain, we should not make graven images, we should not kill, or commit adultery, or steal, or bear false witness or covet. We should honor our parents, and lastly the one commandment that tradition has taught us to sin against for practically two millennia, we are to keep the Sabbath holy. Man's tradition, NOT God's Word has said that we are to forsake the commandment of God (which is an eternal covenantal sign as well as a commandment) and adhere to man's tradition instead. If you do not believe this, then read my article on this here Man took a commandment of God, just as the Pharisees did, and rejected it and transgressed it replacing it with their own tradition and then made it into a doctrine.

The argument is made that people cannot be trusted to not sin, therefore rules must be made to create a hedge for people. This takes away the instruction that God gave us to learn to have self-control. How can a person learn self-control if they are never challenged to have to exercise it. These traditions keep people from growing. Then instead of preaching and teaching self-control, to work at a relationship with God that is so part of one that one doesn't know a moment without His presence, they preach against the objects of “sin”, such as alcohol, or dancing, or slacks on women, or buttons, or electricity, and the “sin” of not attending services or praying the requisite prayers for penance or whatever the so-called “sin” is. What they need to teach is how to grow in the Lord and study His Word, not just read it through a hundred times. Preaching rules only gets outer conformity to traditions. Preaching how to grow in a relationship with Christ teaches how to not sin against God's commandments by the heart's choice.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Should We Use the Greek Text When Studying the Bible?

In the past two days, I was told by no less than five different unrelated people that one should not look to the Greek for help when one is in need of further enlightenment about a word or phrase that might be ambiguous or need further clarification. In fact, I was told by several of those people that God meant for us to rely only on the English version. Further comments told me that it cannot be trusted, and it cannot be understood unless you are a scholar who has studied it, therefore you are better to leave it alone, and other such comments. I have heard it jokingly said that there are people who say, “The King James Bible was good enough for Paul, so it's good enough for me.” Sometimes I think people really are that lacking in knowledge, when I hear some of the comments they make.

First of all, to say that the Greek cannot be trusted seems to be a ludicrous statement. The Bible in English is a translation of the Greek, so if the Greek cannot be trusted, how can the English? Secondly, one does not have to have a degree in ancient Greek in order to pick up an interlinear Bible and a concordance and look up what the word is in Greek (or Hebrew for that matter) and its definitions. Why should we leave it alone as a study tool, as if it were a forbidden book, when it is so available to enhance our studying? Can it be misused by wolves who want to teach heresy? Of course it can, and so can the English. Most people are so unfamiliar with their English Bible that they can be fooled without ever having to go to the Greek to convince them of something, as they never check what information they are being fed against the Word of God.

Is it really necessary? Can't one get the full intent of something from just the context and grammar? Well, most of the time you probably can, but there are times when you miss something, if you don't look to the original language. Let me give an example. Let us look at John 21:15-17 in the English. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
I have heard sermons on this passage, with all kinds of speculation as to why Peter was grieved and why Jesus said it three times. One is that Jesus knew Peter was going to deny Him three times, so He asked him if he loved Him three times. Another says that Jesus wanted Peter to understand the importance of preaching the gospel so He emphasized it three times by telling him to feed His sheep. I don't know that I ever heard an explanation for why Peter was grieved, except that Christ asked him three times. Now let us consider the Greek. We only need to look at one word, the word “love.” In English we have only one word for all kinds of love. In the Greek there are at least four - “Agape” the kind of sacrificial love that God has for us and we as Christians should have for God and others, “philia” brotherly love (hence the city of Philadelphia being the the city of brotherly love), “eros” sexual love, and “storge” the kind of affection families have for each other. In this case we are going to focus on the words “agape” and “philia.” When we rewrite this passage substituting the appropriate Greek word, we find that the passage reads like this.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, agape thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I philia thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, agape thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I philia thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, philia thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, philia thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I philia thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

Now let us look at it the way Christ might have said it in today's English. “Peter, do you love me? Yes, Lord, you know I love you like a brother..................No Peter, I mean, do you really LOVE me, like you'd die for me? Lord, you know that I love you just like a brother.....................Peter...... so...... you love me like a brother then.” And Peter was grieved that Jesus accepted and acknowledged that he loved him like a brother, but not to the point of sacrificial love. And Peter said, “Lord, you know everything there is to know, so you know that I love you like a brother.”

It makes much more sense to understand why Peter was grieved, when you understand that Christ had changed the word from agape to philia, for it was a downgrading of the relationship on Peter's side that Christ was acknowledging. It was a disappointment. You would never get that from the English. And it does not take a degree in Greek in order to gain that knowledge. Merely a copy of Strong's Concordance.

What initially brought on this entire discussion was a disagreement over, of all things, the word “men.” Now who would think that the word “men” would need to be defined, but it did. The verse in question said that “they were redeemed from among men.” Now I had always taken that in the English to mean that the word “men” meant from among all of mankind. The other party was of the opinion that the word literally and specifically meant adult males. So to answer the disagreement, I went to the Greek word in the concordance and looked it up. In this particular case, the Greek word was “anthropos.” Now that word should be recognizable as the root word of our word “anthropology.” I am very familiar with the word, because my one son is an anthropologist. Anthropology is the study of humans, as in mankind. And the Greek definition of the word was “human beings,” not specifically adult males. So going to the Greek proved that I had indeed interpreted the phrase correctly that they were redeemed from among mankind or human beings. Unfortunately this person was one who fell into the category of people I mentioned at the start. The Greek was not trusted, therefore my going to the Greek did nothing to end the debate.

One of the arguments given to me by one of the aforementioned group of five, was that the original manuscripts were inspired by God and without error, but the copies were merely that, copies that were suspect as to accuracy, but God has told us that He would preserve His Word (the intent more or less) so the KJV was the Bible we are to use and God will tell us everything we need to know through that, as since we don't have the original manuscripts, this is as good as you can get. I would take issue with that. Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled. Now the law is the Masoretic Hebrew text which is far, far older than the Greek New Testament. Yet here is Christ telling us that a copy (as they probably did not have the original either) of the Old Testament is still perfectly preserved word for word, even to the jot and tittles on the words (Jots and tittles are the equivalent of the dots over the “I's” and crosses on the “T's”.) and it would continue to be until all is fulfilled. If God could preserve that, and continues to, why could He not preserve the Greek New Testament as well even in its copies. In this case, the copies that I would say are the accurately preserved ones are the copies of the Received Text, which was circulated around the area of Antioch and Byzantine. They are very different from the Alexandrian texts, which were found in Egypt. For more on this and why the difference, read my article on the KJV Bible.

The copiers of the original manuscripts were very exact in how they copied it. They checked in every way possible to make sure that there were no mistakes. And the large number of extant manuscripts that we have of the Received Text show extremely little differences, meaning that they kept any mistakes to a bare minimum. Any mistakes have been easily caught by seeing upon what the greater number of manuscripts agree, thereby giving us a very accurate Greek version of the New Testament. The same can be said of the Masoretic Hebrew texts as well. So while we may not have the actual originals, just as we may not have the originals today of some things, but copies made from a computer or copier machine, the content is just as accurate as the original. Therefore it can be trusted. And as pointed out at the beginning, if you cannot trust the Greek, how can you trust a translation of it, when no translation is perfectly word for word, although the KJV does that as much as a translation possibly can. There is a slight loss of information though, to a certain extent, as pointed out in the passage of John that I quoted above, as English does not have as precise a language as Greek had. To be able to check into the Greek can only bring greater understanding, unless it is your deliberate intent to want to make a passage say something other than it intends, because you want to try to push a theory or private interpretation which is not actually taught there. And there are people who will do this. But they do that with the English as well. It requires being studious, discerning, and a Berean, and checking what people teach against the Scriptures to catch things like that. And for the record, yes, I encourage people to check anything that I write against the Word of God. I want people in their Bibles learning what it says, and I am not afraid of being challenged, as so many who want to deceive are. If everybody were in their Bibles as they should be, I could quit writing.

So, in conclusion, while true understanding does come from the Holy Spirit teaching you, it makes His job easier if you use all the tools at your disposal. If you want to get a little deeper into your study of the Scriptures, by all means, get yourself a KJV Bible, Greek interlinear Bible using the Received Text, a Hebrew text (Masoretic) , and a good concordance, along with a good Bible dictionary, lexicon, maps, and etc. Don't listen to those scholars who say that you can't possibly understand how to use them. They just don't want you being able to study the Bible on your own without their input. You might find out that they aren't always right, and that might put them out of a job.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Can a Christian Have a Tattoo or Body Piercing? What Does God Say?

Of late tattoos seem to be in your face everywhere you turn. It isn't just the usual and expected people that have them, (military, gang members, etc.) but now, because it is a fashion trend, all manner of people from all walks of life are getting them, including Christians. Many men and women are getting entire legs and arms tattooed with tattoo sleeves, as they are called. Some of these tattoos seem innocuous, but some of them seem very demonic in nature. Christians who are getting them seem to be giving the excuse that they are honoring the Lord or somebody important in their lives, so therefore it is okay with God. In fact, I am seeing over and over, articles on how it is perfectly okay for a Christian to get tattoos, but is that true? Does God not care, or does He have an opinion on the matter? From strictly a personal opinion, God's Word aside, I find all of them unattractive, regardless. That's just my personal opinion. I also see the body piercings that way, but I will deal with those later on in this article. The reason that I do find them unattractive is that it reeks of pagan ways and customs, and it simply seems very unattractive to me, the way far too much makeup or jewelry, or especially hideous attire detracts from a person's attractiveness. It is distracting and the demonic tattoos especially seem to desecrate the image of God in which we were created. It just seems wrong by nature. But my personal taste and opinion are not the ones that matter. It is God's opinion that does, and so it is God's opinion that we must look to as the determining factor as to whether or not these things are acceptable for a Christian to have.

Well, as much as some may not like it, it seems that God does have an opinion on the matter. Leviticus 19:28 says, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” We are told that God does not want us marking up our body by making cuttings (which people did for mourning), carving things into it (which some tribal cultures do to mark their bodies for various reasons) or to get tattoos (marks). And it not just that we should not do it to honor the dead. He apparently does not approve for any reason. “Ah,” but the opposition says, “that is the Old Testament, and those laws were done away with.” Were they? Were they really? All of them? Many of them were reiterated in the New Testament. The Ten Commandments still stand, as do all the moral laws. A discussion of that issue can be found in another of my articles, but suffice it to say, if God gives us some indication in the New Testament that an Old Testament mandate still stands, we should pay attention.

In 1 Cor. 6:19-20 we read, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” We are to glorify God in our body. But the opposition says, “But that is what we are doing. We are glorifying God by our tattoos.” But that begs the question, are you glorifying God when you do what He has already made clear that He does not approve? How exactly can you glorify God by disobeying Him? Clearly He does not like tattoos, and one of the reasons is that it imitates the pagan nations. Leviticus 20:23 “And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.” God has said that we are not to emulate the customs nor behave as the pagan or unsaved world does, and the unsaved world loves their tattoos. So do we have permission to do it to honor God or some other person in our lives? No, we don't. 1 Corinthians 10:3 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” If God does not like tattoos, if for Him they represent your alignment and compromise with the world, can you really say that you are doing it for the glory of God? No, you can't. You are doing it for yourself.

The truth is that most people do it, as it brings attention to themselves, or they believe it makes them cool and trendy with the world. Some even have the erroneous idea that it makes them more attractive. In other words, they want it because their flesh lusts after it. For the unsaved, that might be a reason that can work for them, for they have no concern with glorifying God and they live for the flesh, but Christians are supposed to live for God and deny the flesh. To desire a tattoo for vanity's sake is to live for the flesh. Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” If you feed the flesh, you deny the spirit. They are in opposition to each other. How can feeding the flesh glorify and honor God? It can't.

Are there any other concerns that should make a Christian stop and really consider taking this very permanent step of getting a tattoo? Yes, a very dangerous one that virtually no Christian seems to understand or know about. Tattoos were used by pagans for a very specific reason and purpose. One that should frighten Christians, and it is the real reason why God forbad them. Tattoos were and are used by pagans to bond themselves to a demon overlord or spirit guide, as we call them today. They would take the sign or name of the demon on their body by tattoo, which was a lifetime commitment to this demon, and in return the demon bonded itself to them, controlling or helping them as it desired. Now, Christian reader, if you have a tattoo, think about that for a minute. Have you bonded yourself to a spiritual entity without your knowledge? Have you give a demon oversight over some parts of your life without realizing it? You may answer, “I tattooed a Scripture verse on myself so how could it be demonic?” It is there by disobedience, and what verse did you choose? Is it one you are twisting for your own benefit? I know someone who has “Judge not lest ye be judged” on her neck. But she has no idea what the verse truly means and has twisted it to mean that nobody should judge HER for her sins, while she hatefully berates anybody else who takes a stand on God's Word against sin, as being hateful and bigoted. Irony at its best.That is how Satan uses Scripture.

Have you had guilt over getting a tattoo? The Holy Spirit is telling you to repent. Have you had problems that you can't explain since getting it? Maybe you got a demon along with it. Or maybe God is trying to make you aware that you disobeyed and need to repent. So what do you do, since tattoos are permanent? (short of very expensive laser removal, which can leave scars) You do the only thing you can do at this point. You repent, and you renounce the demon that came with your tattoo. You cast them away in the name of Jesus. And then you tell every Christian you know to not get one, because of this danger it poses. You become a poster boy (or girl) against this sin.We all have regrets for sins we have committed, and some of them come with lifelong consequences. This is one of those sins.

Why should it be so important to warn others? Well, the answer to that comes, in not just avoiding demon overlords, but in a verse in Revelation. Chapter 13:16-17 “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” While most of the Christian world has come to the hypothesis that the mark is a chip under the skin, and I won't say it isn't possible, there is a slight problem with that and Scripture. First of all, the word “mark” is in Greek “charagma.” This word means an etching or scratching in the skin as a badge of servitude. Clearly this is speaking of a tattoo, not a chip under the skin. The argument is that John didn't know what a chip was, so how could he designate it as such. The only word he could use was “mark.” While that could be true, the next problem is that a chip comes in one form. It would contain all the computer knowledge needed to transact business, not merely be a mark, a name, or a number. This mark comes in three forms. One is just a mark, possibly a logo or sign representing the beast, the second form is his name, and the third is the number of his name. There are three “tattoos” from which to choose, if we read it just as written. What may transpire is that to get a chip, whether implanted or in a smart card, so that one can transact business, one must take the mark or tattoo to bond themselves in servitude to the beast first.

For those who have read my endtimes blog, you will know that I believe Hitler was the last incarnation of the beast. And what did he do? He tattooed all the Jews with a number. To this day, we know what and for whom that number stood and represented – Hitler -  the seventh head of the beast of Revelation. And those who took it could not buy or sell. They were rounded up and put to death. History has a way of repeating itself, but this time it is sort of in reverse. Taking the mark saves your life and allows you to buy and sell. However, also this time taking the mark is an eternal death sentence, not an immediate physical one (I won't speak to the eternal state of the Jews who died), so I believe people will have a choice, die or take it. Revelation 13:15 “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” Those who refuse to take the mark of servitude, bonding themselves permanently (eternally) to the beast, will be killed. By God's grace and forgiveness, you may be able to unbond yourself from any demon you might have acquired unintentionally through taking a tattoo now, but you will not then.

Leaving aside the spiritual significance of doing this, let us take a look at the health issues involved. Getting a tattoo can be dangerous to your physical health.

Below is a list of health issues that can occur when getting a tattoo.
  • Allergic reactions – tattoo dyes can cause allergic reactions even years after getting the tattoo. The reactions are due to the dyes used. Some red inks used for tattoos contain mercury, while other reds may contain different heavy metals like cadmium or iron oxide. These metals have been known to cause allergic reactions as well as eczema and scarring, and can cause sensitivity to mercury from other sources like dental fillings or consuming some fish. While red causes the most problems, most other colors are also derived from heavy metals including lead, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt nickel and arsenic. These metals can cause further damage when one gets an MRI. The metals may cause swelling and burning in the tattooed area during an MRI exam. The pigments can also interfere with the quality of the image.

  • Skin infections – skin infections, if bad enough, can result in serious procedures, like removing the area of the tattooed skin to stop the spread of the infection, which will result in a deformity where the skin has been removed. Worse, one can get a staphylococcus infection which could lead to death. There has been at least one person who died from an infection caught while going swimming, after having a tattoo instead of waiting for it to heal.

  • Blood-borne diseases can be caused by contaminated needles. The diseases that one might contract are Hepatitis B or C, HIV, tetanus, syphilis, mycobacterium, tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, and some of these can lead to liver cancer.

  • Other skin problems are bumps called granulomas which form around the tattoo ink, or keloids, which are raised areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.
According to a research group, about 1 in 10 people who get tattoos experiences problems with the tattoo, including infection, itching, swelling and redness, according to a small study in the June issue of the journal Contact Dermatitis. The study showed that many had complications that lingered for years after the tattoo was inked. To understand how common these complications were, the researchers randomly chose about 300 tattooed people in New York’s Central Park and asked them whether they’d had any problems with their tattoos. About 10 percent of the people said they’d had some complications. For some, these complications were short-lived, such as bacterial infection right after the tattoo was inked, or temporary swelling and itching. But of those who had complaints, six in 10 suffered from chronic problems. And many had suffered from unpleasant itching or swelling for years. Their conclusion after talking to people on why they get tattoos was that they don't do it thinking about being worried about safety, they do it because it is a way of showing rebellion against our society. (For a Christian, rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. 1 Samuel 15:23a "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.")

More current literature and studies have shown that more serious tattoo-induced skin disorders are showing up such as sarcoidosis, lichen planis, and a disease that resembles lupus. These are more long-lasting diseases and leave permanent scarring. Of interest is that laser tattoo removal services are rapidly growing across the nation, becoming a multi-million dollar business with great potential growth. This seems to speak to the regrets of people's decisions to get these tattoos.

As for body piercing, the Bible talks a little about piercing. Exodus 21:5-6 “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” Having one's ear (one only) pierced (assuming that to keep it open one had a ring put in it), was a way to signify that a servant did not want his freedom, but wanted to continue to serve his master for life. Other than that, there are many references to the women wearing earrings, which also would most likely have been via pierced ears. The Bible seems to be fine with having one's ears pierced. There is one verse that mentions nose jewels, but it is in chastisement for the way the woman are presenting themselves and behaving, which does not leave the impression that God is approving this particular decoration. So basically the only piercings mentioned are for women's ears for earrings, and a single earring to designate a lifelong servitude.

As for piercing the other parts of the body, we have to refer back to the verses used for tattooing. The pagans pierced various parts of their bodies, and we are told that we are not to emulate the pagans, so it would seem that doing this is not going to please God.

As for the health issues, these can be very bad.
  • Infection - Piercing the skin can cause bleeding and open wounds which can get infected. Infections at the pierced site can cause permanent deformity, scarring, severe illness, and even death if the infection is a staph infection. There are serious infection concerns related to piercing some parts of the body (e.g., ear cartilage, tongue, eyebrows, nipples, navel, genitals). There is an increased possibility of infection when cartilage is pierced because the blood supply is less. While ear lobes are fine, further up the ear there is cartilage which can cause a problem. Noses are also cartilage. A bacterial infection can develop into an abscess. This pus-filled mass can develop around the piercing. This is a serious side effect. If left untreated, there’s the risk for sepsis or blood poisoning. Sepsis is a life-threatening response to an infection that can result in organ failure and death. Symptoms of blood poisoning include a high fever, chills, a fast heartbeat, and rapid breathing. Infections are more common with mouth and nose piercings because these areas contain more bacteria.

  • Blood-borne diseases – the lack of cleanliness of the equipment can lead to Hepatitis B and C, HIV, tetanus, and tuberculosis.

  • Mouth piercings can be very dangerous. The mouth is a home to a huge amount of breeding bacteria and an ideal place for an infection to develop. If not treated promptly, an infection here can become life-threatening. An oral (mouth) piercing is a small hole in your tongue, lip, cheek, or uvula (the tiny tissue at the back of your throat). Your mouth is filled with bacteria that can lead to infection and swelling. A swollen tongue can block your air pathways, making it hard for you to breathe. In some people with heart disease, bacteria can lead to a condition that can damage your heart valves.

  • Tongue piercings also can put you at risk for bleeding and blood loss. You have a lot of blood vessels in the area. You may also have trouble speaking, chewing, swallowing and may end up drooling from increased saliva production.

  • The jewelry can cause issues as well. It can break off in your mouth and be swallowed or make you choke. You can chip, scratch, or crack your teeth or make your teeth sensitive from it while you eat, sleep, talk, or chew on it. If the break goes deep into your tooth, you can lose it or need a root canal to fix it. It can make it hard for the dentist to take X-rays of your teeth. It can also damage your fillings and gums, leading to gum disease. And finally it may lead to an allergic reaction to the metal in the jewelry.
  • Nerve damage is possible. After a piercing, you may experience a numb tongue that is caused by nerve damage that is usually temporary, but can sometimes be permanent. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste, or how you move your mouth. 

  • Nipple piercings have been associated with partial removal of the breast due to infection. It can also scar the breast tissue limiting the ability to breast-feed later on. 

  • A genital piercing can cause painful sex and urination. The risk of complications is higher if you have other medical conditions like: diabetes, allergies, (especially if you’ve ever had a reaction that caused breaking out in red bumps, swelling of the throat, or difficulty breathing), skin disorders (such as eczema or psoriasis), and a weak immune system. Jewelry in the genital area may cause injury to you or your sex partner. It also can cause condom breakage, increasing the risk of pregnancy and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Piercings in the penis can decrease a man's ability to get or maintain an erection.

  • The skin can be split or torn which would cause scarring, not to mention being painful and can lead to a bad infection.

  • Jewelry in the navel can get caught on clothing and linens. This constant irritation can delay healing. Navel piercings can take up to a year to heal completely.

  • Piercing can easily cause keloids, greatly enlarged scars that project above the surface of the skin.
Unlike tattoos, piercings can easily be reversed by merely removing the jewelry, which allows the hole to close. There may be a small scar, but it shouldn't be that noticeable, as long as there has not been an infection causing scarring. As for the statistics on infections, they are pretty common. Some reports have 20 percent of patients reporting infections. Most of these are smaller infections. In that case, maybe you’ll see a little crusting around the piercing site, some erythema or redness. However, there are reports of infections that have spread to the whole body - distal infections, severe infections, systemic infections, life-threatening ones. So piercings can also be very dangerous.

So as it can be seen, God has a good reason for not wanting us to tattoo ourselves, nor should we pierce ourselves all over our body, if only for health reasons. Tattoos, though, carry an added spiritual dimension that is very concerning. As a Christian, one should want to live according to God's Word. If one already has a tattoo, then repentance and making sure you do not have a demon is the thing to do. Then as Christ said, “Go and sin no more.” And pass on the lesson learned to others who are considering sinning against God.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Are Christians Still Capable of Sinning?

More and more lately I have become aware of how Christians are not understanding how we are made in God's image and what our response to God is to be in our relationship with Him. I have already written an article on living a holy and obedient life, for those who take freedom in Christ as a license to live in disobedience or licentiousness, but now I feel I need to address the other side of the coin, where it is taught that once saved, one can no longer sin. I was first introduced to this concept in college when I attended a Christian college. The college was affiliated with a particular denomination, and the pastor of that denominational church in town was often called upon to lead our chapel services (which were held daily). At one point he mentioned that he no longer sinned, since being saved. That brought quite a bit of a stir, as there were a number of denominations represented in the student body, and most of them did not agree with that concept. I understand why he believed in this concept, for I now know what he based it upon, however I disagree with it, as in my understanding of Scripture, he was ignoring a a big piece of the story, which he needed to address. That is what I intend to do in this article. I am going to look at that part of man (and the Scriptures) which he was ignoring.

On the sixth day of creation, God created man. He created man in His image, but His image was not just “My” but “Our.” Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." God was not just creating man in the image of the Father, but also of the Son and Holy Spirit. Man was made in the image of God, but God is a Trinity, so when He created us, He created us as a trinity also. People find it hard to grasp how God is a Trinity, but it becomes a little easier to understand when one sees how our own trinity works.

Man has three separate parts to him, body, soul, and spirit. When man was first created, he was perfect. He was perfect in body (we would have lived forever), perfect in soul (the soul is our will, but also our intellect or mind, which is essentially our personality), and perfect in spirit (that part of us which connects to God, which at the beginning was alive and sinless, sometimes referred to as our heart in Scripture). Our soul is that part of us that is the go between, between our spirit and body. The spirit in its perfect and sinless state, being in connection with God, would influence the soul (the intellect/mind and will) to do righteously, and the soul or will would translate (decide whether or not to obey) those instructions to the body to carry out those ideas. Our brain and our soul (or mind) are not the same thing. Our soul is that part of us, the mind and will, which transcends the body, as does the spirit, which is the connection to God (when it is alive). The body is the material part of us, the shell which houses our soul and spirit, and the brain is merely an organ in the body which carries the message that the soul gives it to the rest of the physical body to make the body work in accordance with the will of the soul. The body, though, does have a will (so to speak) of its own, just as each of the divine Trinity has a will of their own. But just as the Son (God's “body”) and the Holy Spirit (the “spirit”) submit to the will of the Father (the “soul”), our soul dictates to the other parts of our trinity what decision will be made, regardless of their influence. This can be seen in Adam and Eve.

To see how these three parts of us, body, soul, and spirit work together, we need to look at what happened at the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, their soul (their intellect and will) chose (note that they were perfectly sinless in all ways when they chose this, so to say that once the spirit is redeemed it is impossible to sin is disproved in the first chapter of the Bible) to depart from the inclination of the sinless spirit, (which would be to obey God) and instructed the body to carry out an act of disobedience against God. The soul was deceived in Eve's case. Adam made a willful disobedient choice. God created man sinless in all ways, but He gave our soul the ability to exercise free will choice apart from the influence and choice of the sinless spirit or the body. We still have that ability. Satan can deceive us (in our case he can also use our body's carnal inclinations), so that we find ourselves in sin without having malicious intent to sin, or we can willfully disobey. In disobeying God, whether intentional or not, the connection the spirit had with God was broken, not only for Adam and Eve, but for all their descendants, as we were born out of that corruption. Not only did the spirit die on that day, but their body began its descent into death. Their disobedience had corrupted all three parts of them - their body, their spirit, and their soul. To really understand how redemption works it is first necessary to understand what took place.

God had told them that the day they disobeyed they would die. They died spiritually by severing the connection they had with God, for sin or lawlessness (they had only one law and they broke it) cannot exist in God's presence. He cannot look upon it. So their spirits entered into the realm of Satan's control. They were spiritually dead to God, just as Satan is dead to God. In other words, disconnected from the source of true life. Next their bodies were forfeit to Satan also. He had won the battle for their lives when he got them to listen and obey him, for in so doing, he became their god. Not only did he become their god, but the god of this world, as they also forfeited their stewardship of the world to him. 

As God tells us the life is in the blood, Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,” their life and therefore their blood was forfeit, because of the decision their soul made. It needed to be sacrificed to make atonement for the sin of their soul. But if they died physically right then, all of God's creation and plans would come to naught. God did not want them to die right then (although they did begin the process of death), for He had a plan in place before He even created man to be able to redeem man, which was why Christ died for our sins. The body, however, was not redeemable. It had to die, because the blood or life force was forfeit. This worked for our benefit though, so that we would not end up with a redeemed spirit trapped in a sinful body for all eternity. That is why God barred them from the tree of life. By dying, God could then provide us with a new sinless body upon the resurrection, so that a redeemed spirit could live in perfection, as being born again, our soul would have chosen to want to be with God, so now all three would be sinless again by mutual agreement.

So God offered in place of their blood, the blood of an innocent victim. One whose blood was not forfeit, but because of its innocence could provide a temporary reprieve from the demand for the righteous justice of their blood. In this case God used animals. Animals have not sinned against God, so their blood could hold Satan's demand for the life blood of the person at bay, giving the person time for reconciliation with God by faith. And so animal sacrifices began as a temporary way to stave off immediate death, so that people would have a chance to have their spirits and souls redeemed. But an animal's blood was not the same as their blood. It could never really atone for their sin, nor hold off the demand for justice forever. (Hebrews 10:4) There needed to be a more perfect, sinless, innocent offering. One that would fulfill the requirements and yet free them of the penalty. What better substitution than God Himself offering His own blood, which was not forfeit, as a replacement for ours. And that is what God had planned. Christ would become a man, for only a man's blood, a son of Adam, a kinsman, could atone for man's sin of the soul and redeem him. But only God's blood would be perfect, sinless, and innocent enough to qualify and satisfy the punishment that sin wrought, the offering of the life's source, the blood.

But while the offering of blood, especially Christ's, would atone for the sin of the soul, it would not redeem the spirit without something more, for another penalty of sin is the spirit's eternal separation from God. The spirit had to be reconnected, so someone had to suffer that separation from God. Christ also paid that. When He hung on the cross, He cried out to God asking why He (the Father) had forsaken Him (the Son). God had to spiritually separate Himself from Christ or turn His back and break the connection in order to lay upon Christ the sins of the world, for God cannot look upon sin or have it in His presence. As God does not live in time, but in eternity, what appeared to us as just a momentary separation between the two of them, was in fact an eternity of separation, for God does not experience time as we do. The past, present, and future are all one to Him, so a moment of separation would essentially be experiencing an eternity. I sometimes get the impression that those who no longer think they can sin believe that somehow the actual commission of their sins are considered as Christ having committed the acts Himself, totally alleviating them of all guilt, when they say their sins were laid upon Him, so therefore they do not see any of their actions as sinful and do not think they are held responsible for any of their wrong actions (if they even consider them wrong actions) after conversion. It was not that Christ was held responsible for committing the sins in our place, and so no matter what we do now, we are not held responsible for the temporal consequences of those sins, big or tiny, as He took them from us. It was that Christ had the sins themselves laid upon Himself, taking the blame for them, so that God would see all of them at once and separate Himself from them, and so Christ suffered the penalty of eternal separation from God which needs to be paid for those sins, for us.

The spiritual penalty, the eternal separation from God was what the issue here was, not the making it impossible for us to ever sin again, for God had to place the sin where He could turn from it, as it could not be in His presence. It would be as if we robbed a bank, and Christ stepped forward and took the money and was holding it when the police came, and He took the blame, and suffered the penalty of jail, but He did not commit the crime in our place. We still committed the crime and we still had to live with the consequences of that knowledge. We might even have to suffer temporal  consequences, such as someone saw us and no longer wants to be our friend. Then if we were to shoplift later on, even something really small and insignificant, Christ is still standing there holding the object, and taking the blame and paying the jail time for our theft, but He still has not committed the crime. We are responsible for committing it, even though the crime itself is not laid at our door and we don't have to pay the penalty. It does not mean that we can never commit a sin of some kind again. We still have free will choice to do that if we want. In this way, even now if our soul chooses to sin, once we accept Christ, our spirit is not separated from Him, for Christ already suffered that on our behalf taking the blame and penalty, but we do suffer the temporal consequences of those actions, and also the spiritual problems, such as causing obstacles in our relationship with God, that they bring. Christ did not negate our free will and the ability to choose to not live every moment perfectly in accord with God's will. If it were so that we cannot sin, because Christ took all the sin including the commission of it, then once He took the world's sins on Himself, nobody should have ever sinned again. It should have been finished for all time that anybody could sin, but the fact is, people do still sin. Not just unbelievers, but believers too. If you don't think so, then take a closer look at the churches and congregations. We can still choose to sin, although as one grows closer to Christ, one will choose less and less to follow the carnal inclinations. The “big” sins aren't even a temptation for most. However, as one grows closer to God, they also see the teeny tiny sins that they once didn't even know existed, so they never really see themselves as being sinless. They always are aware of how far short of Christ's perfection they fall. 
We are told that salvation is by grace through faith, (Eph 2:8-9) and it has always been so, not only after Christ, but also before. The atonement would be offered when Christ came, but it also had to be believed in and accepted, for it to be applied, both before and after. God gave the promise to Eve that He would send a redeemer to atone for their sins, and they had to have faith in the coming of that redeemer for God's grace of forgiveness and atonement to be applied to their spirit. Belief and faith would redeem their spirits, whether before Christ's coming or after it. We know this to be true, for in Hebrews 11, otherwise known as the faith chapter, many of these people are listed as heroes of faith. They had faith in the promise that was afar off, not having seen it come to pass in their lifetimes, but their faith by God's grace saved them and upon death they entered Paradise, as until the final atonement was actually sacrificed, they could not have it applied to allow them into the presence of God. We on the other hand look afar off to the past and believe by faith, but the atonement can be applied immediately for us. 
The difference between those before and after Christ was that after Christ, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and write the law on our hearts, being an internal Reminder and Conscience for us to guide and teach us. We need no outer trappings or rituals to be a constant reminder to obey God's laws. On the other hand, before Christ, God provided external reminders that they had to keep God's law. It wasn't written on their hearts internally, but God told them to bind them to their foreheads and arms, and rituals, feasts, and sacrifices abounded to try to keep them on the straight path. Jews literally do bind them to their foreheads and arms using phylacteries, even though God may have meant it more in a spiritual sense rather than physical one. It isn't that we don't sin, because we have the Holy Spirit. That isn't what He does. He guides and directs and chastises us, but He doesn't make decisions for us. He does not keep us from sinning, for we can quench His voice. Nor did the lack of indwelling of the Holy Spirit keep those from before Christ from obeying God's laws. They were not unable to keep them, because they weren't indwelt by the Spirit. They had external reminders that they should obey, and they had a soul that decided which path to follow. Some obeyed and some didn't. We have an internal Reminder that we should obey, but we still have a soul that decides which path to follow. It may be somewhat easier for us, having it be internal, but it was no less of an expectation for them than for us. And it is just as easy for us to quench that internal reminder as it was for them to ignore the external ones. I will elaborate further on this Old Testament vs. New Testament situation later.

Now for a closer look at our trinity's three persons. Let's start by discussing the spirit. Because of the fall, we are all born spiritually dead. This is why Christ died, to restore that connection with God, by taking upon Himself the penalty (sacrificing the life force of the blood and suffering separation from God) to atone for our sins. The result of that is that when we accept that payment Christ made, or accept Him as our Savior, our spirit is redeemed and made sinless. But it is the only part of us that is made sinless. The soul still has free will choice, and the body will die in its sinful state. The spirit no longer desires to sin against God. It no longer has the stain of sin. It is reconnected to God and wants to be obedient to God's will. It will do its best to influence the soul to always make the same choice.
Next we have the body. At the fall, God cursed the body and said it would die. It became corrupt and non-redeemable. Because the body is sinful and cannot be redeemed, it will always lust after carnality and not righteousness. There is no good thing in it. When someone speaks of the residual effects of sin that Christians still have, and have to deal with, they are referring to the flesh and its carnal desires, which can influence our soul's choices. Paul spoke of this struggle that he (and we all) had. He tells us that sin still dwells in us (in the body of flesh) and it wars against the redeemed spirit, which is the inward man. We have a war waging inside us that we must constantly fight and strive to win. The closer we draw to God and the more we resist the devil, the more our soul will choose rightly. However it is a race that must be run to finish the course. We must endure to the end. 

Romans 7:14-25 " For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Hebrews 12:1-13 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” 
Paul was telling us that we have two natures inside us and we need to strive against sin and run the race to partake of His holiness. Why would God have to chastise us if we were not wandering off from the path? He would not if we were sinless. If we never receive chastisement, then it is doubtful that we are truly children of God, for whom He loves, He will chasten, as a father does his child to keep them on the path. If a redeemed individual cannot sin, as some believe, they would not be able to stray from that path. But we are told we can stray, which is why God chastises us. He purges us and prunes us so that we will produce good fruit. John 15:1-2 tells us that He must do this for us to bring forth good fruit. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Luke 6:41-43 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” These passages are not saying, as some teach, that if you are a good tree you will never bring forth corrupt fruit. Ask any farmer if he can get some bad fruit off a good tree and he will say, yes. The adverse affects of weather can affect it; lack of pruning will affect it. I see it on my own farm, where the branches were not pruned on old apple trees, so while they were once good trees, producing abundant fruit, the previous owner stopped pruning them, and they went “wild,” as they say. The fruit is no longer of a good quality. In Luke, Christ was telling His disciples and the multitude that they shouldn't be so quick to judge others sins, for if they took a good look at themselves they might find their own sins were actually bigger. A corrupted tree (one that has gone wild or was never tended to begin with), will never bring forth good fruit. And a good tree, which is being tended, fertilized, and pruned (pruning is essential for getting good crops of fruit) will bring forth good fruit. But to believe that a good tree can never bring forth bad fruit is to simply to close one's eyes to reality and Scripture both. God prunes us (nips our bad fruit in the bud), so that we will hopefully only bring forth good fruit. It is essential and necessary if we are His children, because the truth is, we will sin on occasion. If not, why would God say all these things to us and tell us about all this? 
The third part of us is the soul. What some people and teachers/preachers and theologies do not seem to understand, is that the soul is separate from the spirit and can act apart from and even in opposition to the spirit, just as it did with Adam and Eve. It is our free will which can always choose to either obey the redeemed spirit or listen to the carnal body. It is caught in the middle of the war of the two opposing forces. If it were not so that our soul can still choose to sin, even once our spirit is redeemed, then Adam and Eve could not have sinned to begin with, for they were without sin even in body, so there was no struggle to be righteous as we now have between body and spirit. But they did choose to sin, and so can we. How much easier is it for us, who live in a sinful body, to be influenced to have our will choose to sin against the spirit than they who were totally without sin and connected to God? 

While the body dies, and the spirit is either connected to God or not connected to God, our soul (intellect and will) is very much a separate part of us that is self-aware and understands that we make choices. It is as much eternal for people who die and go to hell (those whose spirit is dead or disconnected from God) and who are very much aware of where they are, and how they got there (free will choice to disobey God and repudiate Christ), as it is for those who are redeemed. Free will means that. Free will. It can choose to obey God or not to obey God. It is not under blind subjection to the redeemed spirit. Now, should a person who has been redeemed be choosing sin? If they are walking with the Lord in complete harmony, I would think that they would not do it regularly or with malice aforethought or that their sins would be “big” ones. However if one allows sins (no matter how small) to accumulate, allows apostasy to creep in (due to lack of study) and does not repent (or turn from) these things, it will lead one further and further from a close walk with the Lord, and then sin begins to grow in a person's life. The more the Spirit is quenched, the easier it becomes to listen to Satan, the world, and the body. To think that one is not capable of being deceived into that state is to set oneself up to be deceived, for Satan likes nothing better than to convince someone that it is not possible for them to be deceived or sin, for then they are just ripe for the picking. And it is not just the sins of commission that cause us to have relationship problems with the Lord. It is sins of omission. Things such as not praying, not studying God's Word, not doing the positive things we are supposed to be doing like feeding the hungry, helping the needy, etc. 

Some theologies teach that once we accept Jesus, we are completely sinless. They focus exclusively on that one third of our trinity as if it is the only part of us, and ignore the other two-thirds, one part of that two-thirds being completely, irredeemably sinful. While our spirit is redeemed and without sin, we still have a free will soul and a carnal body to contend with. Some other theologies teach that Christ set us free from the law, so they ignore God's laws and live with free abandon to licentious behavior. If one ignores all the Scriptures that tell us about these other two parts of our body, that we need to mortify our body and bring it under subjection to the spirit, they risk the very thing of which they do not think they are capable. They can sin. Romans 8:13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” I Corinthians 9:24-27 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

If we are born again, our spirit wants to serve God. If we are born again, our will or intellect has also chosen the path of God and wants to serve God, but it can sometimes be deceived and convinced that sin is okay, and it allows the body to have its way. The odds of a Christian's mind giving into the "big" sins, such as murder, adultery, etc. are very slim, however we are easily convinced by the flesh that "little" sins are not really sins. I hear people calling them faults, mistakes, immaturity, being impatient, lacking in the fullness of fruit, freedom in Christ, or whatever term they like to use to justify what God actually sees as sin. We must remember that Christ said that if we hate (even if it only lasts 30 seconds), it is the same as murder. Lust (if you get momentarily aroused by someone – other than your spouse) for only 10 seconds is still adultery. Gossip can actually "murder" someone's reputation. Coveting is an easy sin to fall into. Who doesn't see things that they would like to go out and buy? There are a myriad of "little" sins one can commit without even thinking about it. Did you provoke someone to anger by insisting on your own way, when God would have had you sacrifice your own way instead? That's the sin of selfishness. Do you see yourself as spiritually superior to someone else, because you see their sins but not your own? That's the sin of pride. I could go on all day listing these types of things. So while some like to pretend that these are not sins, that they are just not bringing in the fullness of the fruits of the spirit, or an example of immaturity, they do what John says in 1 John 1:8 & 10 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.... If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." John was speaking to believers, not unbelievers about receiving salvation. We know this from the next verse in Chapter 2:1 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." He warned us that we are capable of still sinning and gave us the remedy for this in 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." For us to sin, the body, the world, or Satan's forces can entice us, but the soul is responsible for choosing sin, as the spirit is now without sin due to being redeemed. Therefore these sins are still held to our account, because they are committed by our trinity, regardless of the opposition of the spirit who refuses to sin with them, as it is redeemed. It still resides in a sinful shell. So therefore we must confess these sins to repair the damage done to our relationship with God in grieving Him. They are not faults, they are not mistakes, they are not immaturity, they are not "not quite the fullness of the fruit," they are sins. And sin disrupts our relationship with God and allows Satan to then continue to deceive us away from the truth. And the more we deny that these "little" things are sins, the easier it is for them to become bigger ones. In fact to believe that one is incapable of committing a sin is the same sin of the Pharisees, self-righteous pride, pride being one of the big sins. The one that felled Satan in fact.

For those who do not believe that Christians can sin, they will point to verses that say that our spirit is redeemed and sinless as the final say on the matter. I concur. It is, on the matter of the spirit, however they ignore all the verses that tell us that our spirit is not our entire being, as they pose a problem for their desired theology. One must take all of Scripture together to arrive at the truth. When there is a contradiction, it means that there is something between the two opposing thoughts that reconciles them. 1 John is an example of this contradictory problem for this subject, for in 1:6-7 and 2:3-5 it says “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.....And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” That is the argument given for the “we do not sin anymore stance.” The argument is made that it says we cannot have any darkness in us (no sin) for if we do, then we are not of Him and lie if we say we are. Yes, when we are saved, we have no darkness in the spirit, we desire to keep the commandments, we are cleansed from sin, and we have fellowship with Him. But that is in the spirit. The problem comes in verses 1:8-10 and 2:1-2 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.....My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The argument is made that this is speaking to unbelievers, that they can confess their sins and be saved, but that is not keeping in context. John is writing to believers. The entire book is directed at believers. He didn't write a couple verses to believers, then a couple to unbelievers, then a couple to believers and a couple to unbelievers. It is all aimed at believers and is in the same context of the letter. To reconcile this, we need to just acknowledge and understand that we have a sinless spirit residing in a sinful body and that the two war with each other and that we must strive to have our soul always choose to side with the spirit, so that we walk with the Lord. Once you understand that this is how our trinity works, then these verses are no longer contradictory. John is telling us that we have no sin in our spirit and as such should strive not to sin, but there will be times when we do, and when we do, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus, for He is the propitiation for our sins. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us. It is only in this way that these contradictory verses make any sense at all. Or any of the other passages, such as what Paul wrote in Romans 7.

A couple more passages that are not understood are found in Hebrews 6 and 10. Some say that one slip up or major sin (and some of those “small” sins really are bigger than you'd like to admit – hate/murder, lust/adultery for example) and you have lost your salvation. This is another defense that we must not be able to sin, for if we could, we would all be condemned, because one sin and you've had it. That is not what these passages are saying. Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” To fall away means to walk away from Christ, to become apostate, to not seek repentance anymore or a relationship, to simply stop believing. There is a huge difference between deliberately turning away for all time in unbelief, and committing a disobedient act in the flesh. Committing a sin does not translate into a state of unbelief. The parable of the seeds in Matthew 13 would show us how to interpret the idea of falling away in this passage in Hebrews 6. This is the person who loses all interest due to no depth of commitment, lack of understanding, the cares of the world, persecution, and produces no fruit as a result. The only fruit he ends up with is unbelief. He simply walks away from Christ.

The other passage is Hebrews 10:26-29 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” This is speaking of deliberately, willfully, and continually considering Christ's blood an unholy thing and doing “despite” or in other words, doing something in a hate-filled spiteful way as a means of repudiation, because of despising God. It has been my experience that people turn from God in this manner when they blame Him for something that has deeply hurt them. They possibly have been told the lie that God only wants you to be happy and will give you all the good things in life, and then tribulation hits. Since they didn't get what they wanted (health, wealth, and happiness), they decide to get even by hating God. Even more than simple unbelief, this is out and out hatred that manifests in deliberate stomping on Christ, so to speak. They repudiate Him. This is much more than just falling away in unbelief. This is hate-filled vengeance. In both cases the act is one of deliberately turning from God in unbelief for all time, not a momentary letting down of one's guard against the enemy and committing an act of disobedience. These passages are speaking of the unforgivable sin. All other sins can be forgiven when repented. This cannot.

There are several passages in Scripture that list sins as the ones keeping one out of heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is one of those passages. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Another is Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” And another is Galatians 5:5 “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” There are a number more of them, which list sins. What is overlooked, as is stated in the first verse above, is that these people are “the unrighteous”. The unrighteous are those whose spirits have not been redeemed. These sins are listed as those of unrepentant, unregenerate sinners who never had Jesus' blood applied to their lives. There is really only one sin that leads to spiritual death. 1 John 5:16 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a (note the use of a singular article) sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it (again singular).” First of all, any sin that does not lead to spiritual death, is a sin which God will forgive and still give the person eternal life. The sin which leads to death (spiritual death) is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is the same thing as repudiating Christ, for the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals Christ to us. This is the unpardonable sin. All other sins against God and Jesus can be forgiven, but not repudiating Him. Mark 3:28-29 “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:” The key here is - are you an unrepentant, unbelieving thief, murderer, etc., because if you are, then the sin that sent you to hell was being unrepentant and unbelieving, not the sin for which you will be judged as to your level of punishment. These people kept out of the kingdom who committed these sins are identified by their sin, but it is not the sin which condemned them to eternal damnation. They could have been forgiven, had they repented. They did not. Therefore they cannot enter the kingdom and must be judged by their sins. That is why there is a Great White Throne Judgment. The unbelievers are judged according to their works, good and bad.

Earlier I had said that I would address the Old Testament vs. New Testament situation in this matter. In the Old Testament we see an example of someone, who was a believer in God and the promises of the Messiah coming to save people from their sins, in the person of King David. That means that his spirit was redeemed by grace through faith in God's eyes. Now remembering that the Holy Spirit does not make us sin-free, and that we still have a will to choose good or evil, we can see that while some think that a Christian may be able to commit “little” sins without worrying about calling them a sin, but the “big” sins will condemn them to hell, we can see that it is not the size of the sin, but the repentance of the heart that makes all the difference. King David was a man after God's own heart - Acts 13:22, one of whom God said that he kept all of God's commandments and statutes - 1 Kings 3:14, yet David was guilty of murder and adultery. Two sins that are listed in the sins that are in the “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” list, yet clearly David made it to heaven, and not only that, God called him a man after His own heart and one who kept His commandments and statutes. Clearly David did not keep them all the time. In fact, he committed two that had the death penalty. The excuse is given by some that well, David was under the law and we are under grace. He didn't have the Holy Spirit. I guess that means it didn't count, because he couldn't help himself? Of course it counted. He had a free will choice just as Adam did or we do. He knowingly chose to sin, knowing they were sins with the death penalty. David meditated on God's Word day and night. It wasn't something he didn't know. He didn't need the Holy Spirit to nudge his heart and tell him that. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not make us impervious to sin either. Our faith and Christ's redemption of us makes our spirit sin-free. The Holy Spirit is simply there to help, guide, direct, etc. He does not make our choices for us. He merely influences. If we sin, no matter the sin, if we still believe and repent, God forgives us. We will have to suffer the temporal consequences, but our spirit will not be damned.

The penalty for the sins David committed under the law was death. Yet God did not have David executed. Instead He forgave him when David repented. David's spirit was still redeemed. God still saw him as keeping the commandments and statutes, just as He still sees us as redeemed and law abiding when we sin. Did David suffer the consequences of those sins? You had better believe he did. Just as we suffer the temporal consequences of our bad choices and sins of the flesh. The difference between before and after the advent of Christ is not in what or how much is forgiven and what is not. It is, as said before, that instead of having to have constant visual and physical reminders of the law and our sin before us in the way of offerings and sacrifices, the temple, the phylacteries bound to forehead and arm, the rituals, the feasts, the memorizing of the Torah, etc., we have the law written on our hearts by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We don't have external reminders of God's law, we have an internal reminder in the person of the Holy Spirit who guides us and acts as our conscience. People were not saved by observing the law, people were saved by having faith in God and the Messiah to come. They looked forward, we look back. They went to Paradise until Christ shed His blood, we go directly to heaven upon death. They were beholden to walk with God and be obedient to Him just as we should, but just as they failed on occasion (as David did) and had to offer sacrifices in repentance and suffer the consequences, we fail on occasion, need to repent and ask forgiveness, and look to the sacrifice that was already offered as covering that sin. But we should not pretend it does not exist, nor ignore it by chalking it up to immaturity, or failure to exhibit the fullness of the fruits of the spirit, or just a lapse, any more than they could. We should go to God and confess that we allowed the flesh to overcome our spirit's directions and that we are sorry. When you love someone and you hurt them, do you not owe them an apology? It doesn't mean that our spirit has lost its connection to God, or some sin has been laid against our spirit as a debt unpaid, it means that our soul has made a free will choice to be lazy and give in to the flesh rather than striving to conquer the inclination. We owe God an apology for that.

In conclusion, we can see that Jesus told us that we are more than just our spirit. Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Notice that Jesus said we need to worship God with our heart (our spirit) our soul (our will) and our mind (our intellect). He did not include the body, because the body cannot worship God, now being totally corrupt. We are not just our redeemed spirit; we are a body, soul, and spirit and must worship Him with the latter two while bringing the first under subjection. This is the part that too many people ignore at their peril. It is because these other two parts of us are ignored that some believe they no longer sin, or some believe that they can sin with impunity. Neither is what God's Word teaches.