Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to Kill Sin in Your Life?



Dr John MacArthur, Grace to You Ministries, wrote an article entitled How to Kill Sin in Your Life. First off it is refreshing to see someone speak against the sins of the heart as treated as not being all that bad. The sin usually addressed is the gross outward acts which destroy the person doing it and those around them. Whereas sins of the heart are not known to those around the believer unless he or she makes them known. These are sins which God can see and finds as repulsive as the most heinous murders.

As loving children of God we desire to rid our lives of sin. We are constantly at battle with it in our lives. Sins which are outward actions or words spoken are relatively easy to control. An unbeliever with proper motivation can curb the desire to say inappropriate things, obey the speed limit, not steal from his or her employer and to be a faithful spouse. A believer when he or she curbs those actions does, by the grace of our Father in Jesus, have proper motivation. As far as sins of the heart is an entirely different matter. Yes we are to resist those as well but can one kill them?

Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. ESV

We see from the above passage that we do not kill sin but rather we are crucified with Jesus in baptism and are dead to sin. We were crucified with him that the body of sin be brought to nothing. So we have no desire to sin and when we, as always, fall short of the glory of Christ it seems like death to us. That is the one crucial thing missing from the article. Jesus crucified for us. This is what destroys sins power over us is to repent and receive forgiveness for sin. This is given freely with no strings attached but rather out of love and gratefulness to Jesus we strive daily against sin. However in Jesus we are dead to sin and that with no effort from us but we receive it passively. Instead of having to put sin to death Jesus puts us to death and raises us to walk in newness of life.

This section of St Paul’s letter is wonderful soaring stuff. So, it may seem, to keep us from fooling ourselves that we will become more and more perfect as time goes on we see later what the Christian life is like.

Romans 7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ESV

There you have it. The Christian life with all its warring inside and also the cure. So it is not using our will power, the words of Jesus as a help, hours of prayer seeking to know our sin or any other such flexing of muscle but rather the finished work of Jesus. As always it is not about you but rather Jesus for you.

Praise to you O Christ. †

13 comments:

Dawn K said...

Hi David,

I read MacArthur's article and, like you, found it to be lacking Christ crucified for our sins - which is the only thing that can ever give us victory over sin. MacArthur's solution is more Law:

"...in order to gain victory over sin, you must have a heart fixed on God. You must love Him more than you love your sin. The Psalmist said in Psalm 57:7, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” What did he mean by that? He was speaking of undivided devotion to God! He was referring to a wholeness in spiritual life where he was given wholly to God. This attitude must be true in your heart if you are to conquer sin. You must be wholly devoted to God in every area of life. You cannot tolerate sin in any one area, even if it seems like a relatively small area. You must eradicate sin everywhere."

This basically sanctification by one's own efforts. Which is why I am puzzled as to why some Lutherans repeatedly give MacArthur a pass just because he stands up for the preaching of God's Word as opposed to the purpose-driven/seeker-sensitive preachers. Yes, he might stand up for preaching from the Bible, but as seen above and in the rest of the article he confuses Law and Gospel with the best of them. Someone's gotta say it. This stuff is deadly poison if you get enough of it. There are only two possible outcomes to hearing this sort of thing week after week: self-righteousness ("I'm pulling it off - I really am wholly devoted to God in every area of my life") or despair ("there's no way I could ever do this so why should I even try?"). He even has a self-inventory checklist at the end of the article. I can hear the creaking of the rat wheel.

Acroamaticus said...

David,

Very good. I haven't read Macarthur's article but I appreciate what you have written here in response. Please consider continuing your exposition on to Romans 8 & 12, I'd like to see what you make of those chapters - you know, Lutherans are always accused of "shouting justification but whispering sanctification".

Anonymous said...

Dawn,

There’s a reason you don’t hear of grace in Dr. MacArthur’s writings. His work is as bad or worse than others when it comes to taking away with the left hand what the right gives.

Having been an ex-follower of Dr. MacArthur’s for a long time you will find that “Grace To You” is a grossly misnamed ministry. Generally Dr. MacArthur is of that camp that takes away with his left hand what his right hand gives to the sum total of another gospel entirely. He mixes the worse theology of the puritans with the worse theology of Calvin with the worse theology of Baptist. His famed book “The Gospel According To Jesus” is anything but what the title states.

Within it’s pages you will find among other things an unofficial and unwitting return to the Roman system of mortal versus venial sins. But it’s not named that and shifted to “post conversion proofs” as opposed to “what sin makes you fall away”. Since you cannot fall away in that system a mortal sin (not so named in Protestantism) is not one that “makes you fall away” but one that is of sufficiency to prove you never were born again, saved, etc…(remember you are in a can’t fall away system now instead of Rome’s system). A venial sin (not so named in Protestantism) is a sin or good work that though stained with sin is sufficient to prove you are reborn or saved. And the other difference is that the protestant “moral/venial” proof sins/works are more nebulous than Rome’s which were listed in particular, which makes it worse in determining which is it so that “I might know.” Same Popish ideal different paradigm without the same names of mortal and venial.

MacAruthur’s battle with the “cheap grace” crowd only ups the cost we have to buy it with, making it, from our end, an “expensive grace”. Either way we pay for it and his relatively more expensive grace – more expensive on our end than the “cheap grace” crowd’s “cheap grace” in the dispensational world - is still paltry dung (in the Word’s of Paul) and no grace or gospel at all. It’s exactly the same thing Luther said of the Pelagians versus the Semi-pelagians. He said at least the Pelagians require more of you than the semi-pelagians, that withstanding, both are false teachers.

Many being good protestants who have long learned the art of the “right answer” to say, “I believe and teach and preach grace alone”. However, as Pieper, Sasse and Luther all warn one must look into the actual doctrine being taught, and not just an upfront catch phrase that is providing camouflage for deception.

I would not recommend his ministry nor his writings to ANYONE suffering anfechtungen. In fact I wouldn’t recommend him to anyone unless they are studying the differences between heterodoxy and orthodoxy.

Yours,

Larry

Anonymous said...

"...in order to gain victory over sin, you must have a heart fixed on God. You must love Him more than you love your sin. The Psalmist said in Psalm 57:7, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” What did he mean by that? He was speaking of undivided devotion to God! He was referring to a wholeness in spiritual life where he was given wholly to God. This attitude must be true in your heart if you are to conquer sin. You must be wholly devoted to God in every area of life. You cannot tolerate sin in any one area, even if it seems like a relatively small area. You must eradicate sin everywhere."

Yes how does this antichristic quote square up with Scripture which states that the heart is desperately wicked above all things who could know it? Who could KNOW the depths of their sins to even begin with which Dr. MacArthur’s religion presupposes? Even a man from his own confession, Charles H. Spurgeon once said, “You do not know the measure of your sin nor can you measure, but there has been One Who has plumbed its depth, width and breadth” (paraphrased from memory – lh).

In JM’s quote you see an underlying principle that answers the questions, “What is your problem?” “Sin”. And “What do you mean your problem is sin?” “I need to get it reformed, cleaned up, killed, etc…”. That’s VERY different than Luther and Scripture who saw the answer to the second question to be, “Forgiveness of my sin, I need forgiveness and nothing else will do.”

How do you kill sin? Baptize it! But of course you will not hear that from heterodoxy, you will not hear of Christ alone, not really…maybe an up front fa├žade of Him to lure you into the spider’s layer but not the real Christ alone.

Again Sasse is proven correct when he said that if you get the sacraments wrong you will NECESSARILY get the rest of Scripture wrong. Time and time again this proves itself so. Have you ever wondered why when the sacraments are viewed other than how Luther returned them to Scripture that somewhere at length down the doctrinal road, be it the Pope, Calvin, Methodist, Baptist, PCA, Reformed, dispensationalist of all kinds and many others who view the sacraments in another way you end up returning to moralism? No matter how much they huff and puff about “grace alone” up front. See what Sasse means!

Larry

Anonymous said...

The irony of Lutherans shouting justification and whispering sanctification is that THAT is exactly what John Wesley accused, falsely, Luther of.

Luther once said that many, most, men will speak much on faith and good works, but actually not know either one. And that shows itself all the time. The irony is when sanctification is understood as basically “getting use to your justification” both are being shouted, we might even rightly say only being truly spoken of. Because only from the freed heart does sanctification issue, it doesn’t try to sanctify itself it IS sanctified, Christ is our sanctification which Scripture explicitly speaks of.

Luther also said once (paraphrased), “I’m not against good works, I’m trying to show you the ONLY place they come from.”

Larry

Anonymous said...

Dawn,

You are one of the few people that sees that about MacArthur, it puzzles me too. Christ was not ripped from me by bungling doctrinal buffoons like Rick Warren but John MacArthur.

When Luther battled Zwingli he called him on his doctrine point blank. Keep in mind Zwingli was no ‘bungling doctrinal buffoon’ either. Zwingli as to his gifts and effort was brilliant and diligent, so was Erasmus. I say that because Luther’s strongest rebukes, no right hand of fellowship and a lot more where against that type of doctrinal error, not the more or less “jokers” of doctrine we find say in Warren, Olstean or Hinn. To be sure those last three are false as the day is long but even pagans see straight through them. They are almost as silly as witch doctors and fortune tellers at a carnival by comparison.

Yours,

Larry

David Cochrane said...

Thanks for all the response. Look at how he misuses scripture. That should give Lutherans reason to no longer tolerate his so called teaching.

Dawn K said...

Larry,

Error is the most dangerous when it is dressed up in respectable clothing. A highly respected teacher who is known for his expositional preaching of the Bible is way more dangerous when teaching error than some purpose-driven pastor who preaches from one verse a week and that out of context.

When I was reading the "you cannot tolerate sin in even one area" section of the article, it eerily reminded me of Luther having to recall and confess every sin. MacArthur has come full circle to Catholicism. It's very ironic since he is not exactly sympathetic to Catholicism. But his teachings basically end someone up in the same place.

Yet, if I had a choice between sending someone to MacArthur's church and to a Catholic church, I'd send them to the Catholic church. At least there they still have the Sacraments. Didn't Luther say that he would rather partake of the Lord's Supper with a Roman Catholic than with a Zwinglian?

Blessings,
Dawn

Steve said...

I had the pleasure of meeting John MacArthur almost 30 years ago when my client wanted to purchase JM's house in the San Fernando Valley (So. Cal).

We negotiated the deal at his dining room table, which ended up falling apart anyway.

He was a very nice man.

Personally, I can't stand his preaching and teaching and feel as though he's trying to slap the shackles on me (and everyone else).

He's one of those guys that hands the gospel over with his right hand and then takes it back with his left.

And he does not understand the Sacraments (of course).

Plus, he ruined one of our good players on our high school football team who was really mean (on the field) and a great player. After going to Grace Community Church, this guy became a pacifist type (not that MacArthur teaches that)who was never the same kind of player.

David Cochrane said...

St Dawn,

Yes that is a major part of repenting in evangelicalism. Constantly searching to root out all sins one has committed. If each and every sin was not confessed that sin is not forgiven. That is a terrifying life indeed. I remember as a young boy afraid to go to sleep at night thinking in my nightly prayers I missed a sin and if I were to die would Jesus let me into heaven. Would I get in right away or rebuke me for my unconfessed sin. Or would he cast me away eternally.

St Steve,

I have no doubt that JM is a very personable man. This is never ad hominem but rather exposing his teaching for any who would happen upon my humble blog. I despise his type of teaching that it is difficult to not make it personal.

Sorry about the football player being ruined. However, I was as mean as nails on the field. I repented, or tried to repent, later for my cruelty. Even when trying to repent I was joyful at the pain I inflicted. Youth is wasted on the young. Would that I had all that energy now with more wisdom in using it. Hopefully. :P

God's peace. †

Dawn K said...

Hi David,

In the version of evangelicalism I grew up in (OSAS Arminianism) it wasn't that you wouldn't be forgiven (and thus go to hell) if you didn't confess all your sins. But there wasn't really such a thing as a general confession - you had to confess specific sins or it somehow "didn't count." Praying "forgive all my sins" was no good. "God have mercy upon me, a sinner" was only for your entrance into the Christian faith, not as something that you might pray on a regular basis as a Christian.

Rather than being in danger of hell if you had "known sin in your life", it was more like your fellowship with God would be in jeopardy, or that God would "put you on the shelf" because He couldn't use you for His purposes if you weren't completely surrendered to Him (some versions of "Free Grace" Arminianism even have a sort of "Protestant purgatory"). And you hadn't REALLY repented of your sins if you sinned in the same way after you had repented. MacArthur goes a bit further than this in tying assurance of salvation to this kind of self-introspection. But both versions end up being a rat wheel of "am I dedicated enough to God?"

Dawn

Anonymous said...

Of course MacArthur isn't the only one guilty of this. Piper, Washer and a few other are right in the dock with him. They just have different names for it, Christian hedonism, Lordship salvation, etc. But it all surmounts to the same thing, straighten out or else!

Martin

Dawn K said...

You're absolutely right, Martin ... I think folks like Piper just wrap it up in a more attractive package - Christian hedonism is basically using one's own pleasure as an incentive to obey God rather than just naked Law. But CH turns "delighting in God" into Law as well. Both of them ultimately come down to "if you are not seeing X, Y and Z in your life then you should question your salvation." The answer is not to question your salvation and worry about "when you got saved" but to turn to Christ in daily repentance and faith.