How To Gain Victory Over Sin – Additional Notes

Here are some additional notes that didn’t make it into the book, but may appear in a second edition. How To Gain Victory Over Sin was intended to draw attention to the most neglected, yet essential part of resisting temptation, but it isn’t the only important part. You should also spend time with other like-minded believers where you can share each other’s struggles and burdens, pray for, and encourage one another. Each member of the Body of Christ needs the others to grow.

Book location Notes
Page 4
“He begins with our need for salvation…”
Our need can be seen in Romans 2:1-6, our inability to save ourselves in Romans 3:9-20, and God’s solution to our problem in Romans 3:21-26.
Page 6
“Only after salvation…”
Another clue that Paul is saved is in verse 17: “So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.” It used to be Paul sinning, but it was no longer. This can only be said by the regenerate.
Page 7
“We all need…”
Some believers, by God’s grace, recognize from the beginning of salvation the futility of living in the flesh. They rely on the Holy Spirit right away. But this is not true of most believers. It wasn’t true of Paul.
Page 8
Footnote 13
Also remember Paul wanted to do good, and chapter 6 shows it is God’s will that we do good. So this victory is a practical one.
Page 9
Footnote 15
Some translations include an additional phrase in verse 1: “…who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” This verse begins with the word “therefore,” which always looks back to what has already been said. Paul refers back to the last time he mentioned the Holy Spirit in Romans 7:6. The verses between there and here contain a parenthetical argument showing the insufficiency of the Law to restrain sin, and hence our need for the Spirit. Also, remember this condemnation is self-condemnation (as in 1 John 3:20). Paul had just spoken of his sense of wretchedness in conquering sin, not about God judging him for his sin. Walking in the Spirit has nothing to do with justifying us in God’s eyes. That only happens through faith in what Jesus has accomplished.
Page 10
“He condemned sin in the flesh”
I take this to mean Jesus condemned sin in His own physical body. He kept Himself from sin.
Page 10
“The Mosaic law… empowers sin…”
The Law empowers sin like food empowers cancer. Food is always good, but if you have cancer, those cancer cells feed off the same nutrients as your healthy cells… and the cancer cells eventually take over the healthy cells – never the other way around. The Law does not cause sin, just as food does not cause cancer, but it does empower it. That’s its purpose, so that sin might become “exceedly sinful” (Romans 7:13).
Page 10
“…this law of sin and death that is already in us…”
Justification does not remove the sin nature. Suppose you are a kleptomaniac – someone with the urge to steal things. You go to court because you got caught stealing. If the judge pardons you, you have been justified from the crime… but you still have the urge to steal. In the same way, you still have sinful desires even though you have been justified of your sins. The Holy Spirit was given to enable you to overcome those wrong desires.
Page 11
Footnote 23
As much as we would like, the Spirit usually does not remove the lusts of the flesh. But it is sufficient that He enables us to resist them.
Page 11
“…because the mind of your natural self is an incorrigible rebel against God…”
This will seem shocking to those not familiar with Romans. The flesh will revolt against this! I’m uncomfortable with this! But that is what the following scripture (Romans 8:7-8) says.
Page 12
Footnote 24
Romans 7:18 is the point I’m getting across: “For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing…” Also, in Romans 7:23, Paul writes: “I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.” (Some translations say “carnally minded” in Romans 8:7. “Carnal” is the same word elsewhere translated “flesh”. Unfortunately, translating the word differently here tends to obscure the meaning.)
Page 12
Footnote 26
Be careful that you don’t view the Holy Spirit as a tool in your hands. The Holy Spirit is God. You don’t wield His power, you submit to Him.
Page 13
“While it’s certainly better…”
Resisting sin deals with the manifestations of the flesh, while sanctification deals with the flesh itself. Both are needed, but in terms of sanctification, we must place all our hope in God’s power.
Page 13
“…unless the root is dealt with, sin will keep coming back.”
James 1:14-15 says the lust (desire) of the flesh leads to sin, but sin when it has matured leads to death. This is why Paul says if you live by the flesh, you must die. It is the end result of this natural progression.
Page 13
“Just as…”
And both are appropriated through faith.
Page 13
“Your sanctification is God’s on-going work”
See Philippians 2:12-13 “…For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” Also, Colossians 1:29: “…according to His working…” Following Jesus is both easy (Matthew 11:28-30) and difficult… the difficulty lies entirely in the struggle with the flesh – putting it to death. But this the Holy Spirit equips us to do (Romans 8:13).
Page 13
“We’ll look…”
Another shocking paragraph. The “Don’t beat yourself up…” sentence is probably the most of all, but it is the logical conclusion when you consider God is the one who sanctifies us.
Page 13
“I’m not against works…”
We must learn to recognize the source of each of our works. Whatever we do, we need to ask ourselves: “Is this of the Spirit or the flesh?” If it is of the Spirit, then don’t quench or down-play it. But if it is of the flesh, it needs to be put to death by the Spirit.
Page 13
Footnote 27
Again, Paul not interrupting his topic with something totally out of the blue, i.e. the resurrection of our physical bodies. “Mortal bodies” means the bodies we are living in right now. Our resurrection bodies are immortal.
Page 14
“A chapter 6 believer…”
Some believers never even make it to chapter 6. They are the ones who presume on grace, and live like the world. Works of any kind are seen as unnecessary – even wrong. Yet, God saved us so that we could do the good works He has planned for us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Good works do not lead to salvation, but they do procede from it.
Page 14
“A chapter 7 believer…”
If you think lawkeeping is easy, read Matthew 5:17-43. The Law primarily deals with the heart, which is desperately wicked.
Page 14
“A chapter 8 believer…”
This believer is also enabled to live up to the Chapter 6 standard. Real victory happens for him. He realizes we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, compare with Romans 7:24-25).
Page 15
Footnote 35
You will always serve a master – either the flesh or the Spirit. If you are not submitted to the Holy Spirit, then you are in slavery to the flesh. You cannot make the flesh your slave or make your fleshly mind serve you.
Page 16
“If your focus is…”
Not that trying in general is bad. It is the law-focused variety that is bad for believers because we live by faith. But law-focused trying for non-believers can be good if it leads to conviction of sin and the realization that law-keeping is impossible. Romans 3:20 says, “…through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” This is not just the knowledge of what sin is, but the revealing of the sin that is in ourselves. The Law is an essential part of the gospel (Galatians 3:24, 2:19, Romans 7:7).
Page 16
Footnote 37
“Flesh” here is easily seen not to be our carnal desires but simply our natural power, will, ability, etc. The flesh is what I can do, as contrasted with what God can do.
Page 16
“…there’s a war…”
Remember Romans 7:23 (“I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind…”). Also, Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire.” (This ties with the earlier note for page 12.)
Page 17
Footnote 38
The next verse is also important to remember: “Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.” We do not reap what we sow right away. This principle works both ways. We think because we haven’t suffered any consequences of living in the flesh right away, we got away with it, but that is not so. Sowing to the flesh will eventually come back to bite us. And as is with nature, the harvest is always greater than what was sown. (Remember these three principles of sowing and reaping: you always reap of the same kind, there is a gap in time between sowing and reaping, and you reap more than you sow.)
Page 17
Footnote 39
It is easy to focus too much on grace or too much on the Law. The Bible must be understood as a whole, without focusing on pet doctrines. For example, Jesus said not the slightest part of the Law would pass away until the end. Paul said the Law has been abolished. Both are correct, for Paul was speaking of the Law in relation to living for God’s approval – for salvation. The Law is the standard, but it is not a means. Arguments arise when each party looks at only a portion of scripture instead of the whole. You must understand that no biblical doctrine conflicts with another, so don’t set one passage against another. Instead, study to understand it so that it all harmonizes together.
Page 17
Footnote 39
Also see Galatians 2:19, 5:18. The Mosaic Law applies to the flesh. When the flesh dies, the Law is no longer needed to control it.
Page 17
Footnote 40
The effort we expend in sanctification is focused not so much on keeping commands as on denying ourselves and crucifying the flesh through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-13). Without this, we won’t be able to keep His commands. Sin is the outward manifestation of an inner problem. As long as we allow the mind of the flesh to operate, sin will result. To gain practical victory over sin, the fleshly nature needs to be addressed. Otherwise, we’re just attempting to cover up the symptoms.
Sanctification involves active dependence upon the Spirit to become aware of the fleshly mindset behind the sins in our lives (like Psalm 139:23-24). It includes confession of those areas as they are revealed, and trust in God to not only forgive those things, but to sanctify us (1 John 1:9). It involves relying on the Spirit to be able to say “No!” to the flesh – to put the flesh to death. It involves the ‘reckoning’ of Romans 6:10-11, and the ‘presenting’ of our bodies as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13, 12:1). It involves relying on His power to obey. All of this requires some effort on our part, but it is the Holy Spirit who grants the success in these efforts. As such, keeping Jesus’ commands is the result of walking in the Spirit, not the means to walking in the Spirit.
Page 18
“It is the Spirit of Christ actually living through us…”
The Greek word for actor is ‘hypocrite’. Don’t act like Christ. Be real: Let Christ live through you by His Holy Spirit.
Page 19
“Fruit is the evidence…”
You cannot fake this fruit. No amount of self-effort will produce it. But you can produce counterfeits that might convince yourself or others.
Page 19
“We can’t do it on our own.”
Our dependence on the Spirit to live as Christians is sprinkled throughout the New Testament. Many of us (myself included) tend to gloss over the phrase “in the Spirit” or “by the Spirit” is superfluous in passages such as Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 1:8, Philippians 3:3, 1 Peter 4:6, and Romans 8:13. But we need to realize we can’t do it on our own. This takes mental discipline, which comes in the continual, conscious reliance on God’s power in us to live holy lives. There’s awareness that without Him we can do nothing, but with Him we can do all things. We must continually look to God to daily provide what is needed in us to live in the manner He desires. We never come to the point where we think we’ve matured enough to obey on our own. And we seek to avoid whatever hinders (grieves) this dependent relationship with God.
Page 20
Footnote 51
It is possible to think we have let go of the flesh when we haven’t really. Sometimes God lets us struggle on in our own strength until we truly give up on our flesh before He empowers us with the Holy Spirit. It is dishonest to intend to give credit to God for what you attempt in your own strength (Luke 18:11-12).
Page 22
“Romans 6 will no longer appear to be full of impossibilities.”
Romans 8:20 says the creation has been subjected to vanity. As a result of man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse (Genesis 3:17-19), we find our efforts in bettering and preserving ourselves continually frustrated, and ultimately unsuccessful, especially in regards to spiritual matters. (This ties with the condemnation of the Law in Romans 3:19 and the curse of the Law in Galatians 3:10.) But now we have received the “first-fruits of the Spirit” (verse 23). The Holy Spirit undoes the work of the curse, and our effort is no longer subject to frustration as we walk in the Spirit. It is now possible to successfully resist temptation. This benefit is only the beginning of what we will eventually receive, leading to the redemption of our bodies (verse 23).
Page 23
Footnote 58
A sacrifice is always of something good, not of evil. This sacrifice is not just the giving up of one or more sins, but the giving up of what you want to do to God.
Page 24
Step 1.c and 1.d
When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). Outside of Christ, I can do nothing (John 15:4-5). In Christ, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Page 24
Step 3
“You don’t have, because you don’t ask.” (James 4:2)
Page 24
“God always provides a way of escape from temptation.”
Jesus told us to ask our heavenly Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Some translations say “evil one”, but “one” is not in the original language. We need God’s help to protect us, not only from the evil that can happen to us, but from the evil we can do.
Page 25
“…real fellowship with God…”
“the Spirit of truth … You know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17)
Page 26
Footnote 64
If you have been born again, there should be evidence of the Holy Spirit in you. What evidences do you see in your life? Do other people notice you are becoming more like Christ? (Don’t be self-deceived into thinking you are making progress if nobody can see it.) There should be spiritual fruit developing, progress towards Christ-likeness, an increasing grief and abhorance of personal sin, and increasing love, trust, and obedience for Jesus Christ. The world should have less of a hold on you, and there should be an increasing burden for the lost. There won’t be perfection, and you may have occasional setbacks, but there should not be stagnation.
You should be able to perceive the Holy Spirit in you, just as you can perceive you are alive. One purpose of the Spirit is to testify that we are children of God (1 John 5:10, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19). The word for “know” in that last reference is eido, which means the knowledge of perception, not the knowledge of doctrine or learning. Eido means to see. You should be able to detect the Holy Spirit in you, not as a feeling, but through His work in your life.
If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, but you think you should, are you truly saved? Were you ‘saved’ as a result of something you did (i.e. agreed with a doctrine, asked Jesus to come into your heart, etc.), or because of something God did in response to your faith? Are you born of God?
Page 46 Taking on Christ’s yoke and carrying His burden implies effort on our part. However, the thing about His yoke (as with any yoke) is that it makes the work we are to do easier. Many Christians act like the yoke or burden is the Law. But Peter basically ruled this out in Acts 15:10. I understand His yoke to be the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness, and the burden to be the work God has for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Page 71
Footnote 147
The things these people did was not how they came to be Spirit-led. It was the result of being Spirit-led.

If you get a chance, I recommend some other books that may be more helpful to you in your walk with Jesus and struggle with the flesh:

Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray

The Calvary Road and/or We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

– Luke 11:13

The Blessing of Leaving All

And Jesus again answering says to them, “Children, how difficult it is that those who trust in riches should enter into the kingdom of God! … Verily I say to you, There is no one who has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, that shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time: houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the coming age life eternal. But many first shall be last, and the last first.”

– Mark 10:24,29-31 JND

How rich is too rich to enter the kingdom of God? It’s easy to look at the story of the rich young ruler and think he was over the limit, but it’s not a question of how much he had, but of how much his possessions had him. You don’t have to be in the top 1% of the wealthy for it to be difficult to go through the ‘eye of the needle’. Anyone, even the poor, can be hindered from coming to the Lord by their possessions. Whatever you are unwilling to freely give up can be your downfall. You don’t even need money to reap the evil that comes from the love of money.

The things listed in verse 29 are temporal. Yes, they’re important, but not as important as Jesus. It’s a matter of priorities. We are to love the Lord our God in a higher way than we are to love others (Mark 12:30-31). We show this love, not by what has been taken from us, but by what we have freely left to follow Jesus. James and John left their father to follow Jesus (Mark 1:20). The rest of the disciples also left all to follow Him (Mark 10:28). No, they didn’t ‘divorce’ their family… but they did obey Jesus’ call when it came. They put Him first.

Jesus promised that those who left family and possessions for His sake and the gospel would receive 100 times more in this life (…not as possessions, for we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth). Among those blessings we receive when we leave our temporal belongings is something that seems out of place: persecutions. It’s easy to think of mistreatment as a downside to our following Jesus, but it’s not. Elsewhere, Jesus said we are to view persecution for His sake as a blessing, and we are to leap for joy when it happens to us… because it means we have great reward waiting for us in heaven.

“Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from them, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as wicked, for the Son of man’s sake: rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in the heaven, for after this manner did their fathers act toward the prophets.”

– Luke 6:22-23 JND

Persecution isn’t something to fear. Jesus didn’t fear it, and neither did the apostles. Don’t you fear it either.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to go through anything His didn’t go through first. Jesus gave up all when He came to earth. He was first, but placed Himself as last, serving sinners. He was persecuted and ‘lost’ His life for the sake of the gospel. And now God has raised Him higher than all and put Him over all, and His name is blessed above every name. Let us follow Him.

Beware Of Leaven

… When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” … Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

– Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV)

The Pharisees and Sadducees are no longer with us, but their leaven is. You can’t see it, but you can see its effect.

Most bread today is leavened with plain yeast. But yeast in packets or jars was not available until relatively recently. Leavening in Bible times was accomplished by using a bit of dough from the previous batch to seed the next batch. We know this today as sour-dough. Chametz is the Hebrew word for bread made this way, which means sour, fermented.

Sourdough starterBread dough is inflated through the action of yeast and bacterial spores which produce carbon dioxide by converting the sugars in the flour to alcohols. Yeast is a living organism, and as it reproduces, it takes over the whole lump of dough (1 Corinthians 5:6 “a little leaven leaves the whole lump”).

In the Bible, leaven is first mentioned in connection with the Passover. God told the Hebrews to bake unleavened bread, because in the rush to leave Egypt, there would not be enough time to let the bread rise. 1

Once a year at Passover, the Jews got rid of the old sour-dough. God had commanded Israel to do this, but He gave no such command to the Gentiles. Today there are some famous sour-dough cultures that have been alive for tens or hundreds of years. The most famous is probably the one used to make San Francisco sour-dough bread. There are also well-known cultures from Naples that upscale pizzerias use.

In Matthew 16, Jesus was not condemning physical leaven. He was using leaven to represent teachings that ‘infect’ our thoughts – that start out small but eventually take over our whole mindset. The leaven of the Pharisees was one of hyper-legalism. It probably began hundreds of years before Christ with a few small commands intended to help people avoid sin, but it quickly expanded to the point where it virtually replaced the Law. Similarly, even today with our secular law, we see it is very easy to add more and more laws and regulations to the system, but very hard to remove them. (And the laws we add seem powerless to reduce crime.)

Natural leaven comes from the air. You can make leavened dough by mixing equal parts of flour and water, then leaving it out in the open for a while. The air is full of yeast, and eventually some will take residence in the dough, causing it to ferment. (For this reason, today’s Jewish dietary regulations consider dough to be leavened 18 minutes after it comes in contact with water.) But bread made with this dough might not taste good, depending on what variety of yeast takes up residence. Not all ‘wild’ yeast is the same. Some is good for baking and some is not.

Jesus compared the growth of the kingdom of heaven to leaven in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21. But most of the time leaven is used in the Bible to symbolize sin. I think there’s an interesting analogy of yeast coming from the air. Satan is called the prince of the power of the air. In a spiritual sense, his bad “yeast” is all around us, and if we’re not careful, it will readily take over our hearts and minds. We must not let it do so. We need to remain unleavened…

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

– 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (ESV)

Christians have a Passover to remember. When we share in the Lord’s Supper, we remember what it cost for Jesus Christ to free us from our sins. But we should also examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28) for the leaven of malice and evil, hypocrisy and fleshly regulations, and so on. Let’s cast out the old leaven of sin, and not follow the Pharisee’s example of adding to what God has said.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

– Colossians 2:16-23

Notes:

  1. You can also see this as a picture of separation from life in Egypt.

Be Holy

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts in your ignorance; But as He who called you is holy, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16

The command to be holy is one God always gives to His people. In the Old Testament it was given to Israel. In the New Testament it is given to us believers. We are a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), God’s people, and we are to be like Him in this way. To understand the call to holiness, we must first define what holy means.

Many people have a vague idea of what holiness means. In art, it is portrayed by a halo or glow around a person’s head, and sometimes a particular pose. (Whenever I see a painting of Jesus, I have this silly mind picture of Jesus posing for the artist as he paints the picture… perhaps two fingers pointing on his upraised hand… eyes focused upward… holding this supposedly “holy” pose for an hour or two until the painting is finished.) But this is man’s idea. Holiness is not about appearances. You can’t sense it physically.

There are various definitions of the word ‘holy’. Among the more well known are to be set apart to God, and to be morally perfect. These are good definitions, but neither one of them applies to all usages of the word. It is somewhat meaningless to say that, because God is holy, He is ‘set apart’ to Himself. And moral perfection can only apply to people, not to inanimate objects like the holy anointing oil used in the Old Testament temple.

While these two different definitions are adequate in their proper contexts, I think there is another way to understand holiness using a single all-inclusive definition, summed up by the phrase “No compromise.” We can see how this applies to the holiness of God, His people, and objects.

God is holy. He has absolute integrity. He will not compromise His character in any way. “Holy” describes the degree to which God is who He is. God is 100% righteous. He is 100% just. He is 100% loving. We think of the holiness of God as something to be afraid of, but it is also a source of great comfort. Because God is holy, we can trust Him to be 100% faithful to His promises. He will not deny Himself (Malachi 3:6).

The Old Testament tabernacle was made up entirely of holy things. Not only were the prominent items like the ark and the altar holy, so were the accoutrements such as the wash basin and various utensils used in the service. Every item was to be used only for the worship of Yahweh, and only in the way that was prescribed to do so. You could not borrow a pan from the temple to make a cake for your friends. That would have treated the item as common, compromising its purpose.

As Christians, we are God’s people, set apart for Him. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and we must not compromise ourselves, living for the world, our friends, or ourselves – even the slightest. We have been bought with a price, and we are no longer our own. We are no longer common. Let us not compromise ourselves.

Titanic

The world is like the Titanic. When Adam disobeyed God, we struck the iceberg. At that point the ship was doomed, even though things didn’t look too bad on the surface. But now the end is near. The ship is up-end and sinking fast. The opportunities to get into the lifeboat are drawing to a close.

But even with the world falling apart, people are still trying to enjoy the cruise. They’re ignoring the danger and refusing the warnings of those who really care for their well-being.

Satan has this world convinced that Christians hate sinners. But we don’t hate sinners. We love sinners. If we really hated them, we wouldn’t warn them of the consequences of their sin. We wouldn’t tell them about Jesus. We’d let them go to hell.

It is every believer’s responsibility to warn the lost in love, directing them to the Lifeboat (Jesus) with humility, gentleness, and urgency. Most will not listen (Revelation 9:20-21). They prefer to listen to the one who really does hate them (Satan). But a few will listen, repent, and turn to Jesus.

Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.

– Acts 17:30-31 HCSB

I don’t judge anyone because I am not qualified to do so, but soon it will be time for the One who is. Be ready!

Second-Hand Faith

“…I am left, I alone…”

– 1 Kings 19:10

Hypothetical questions: If the person who led you to Christ suddenly told you, “I’m sorry. I misled you. I was wrong. There is no heaven or hell. Jesus is a fairy tale. God does not exist. … I have proof, and here it is…,” how would your faith fare?

What if all of the great Christian preachers, teachers, authors, apologists, radio and TV personalities, etc. you look up to suddenly said the same thing? What if everyone in the world abandoned Jesus and urged you to do so… what would you do?

I’ve thought about questions like these off and on for many years as a way of identifying whether my faith is real or not. It’s somewhat hypothetical: there will always be true believers. But there may come a time when it seems everyone around me has abandoned the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It has happened to some degree before and will happen again.

Since the early church, there have been those who appeared to be saved, and even had leadership roles in the church, but who fell away (2 Timothy 4:10). John tells us they left because “they were not of us” (1 John 2:19), meaning they were not really saved. These are somewhat isolated examples, but 2 Thessalonians 2:3 speaks of ‘the apostasy’ of the last days. There will come a time when there is a mass defection from the faith. I believe this speaks of people in the church that we would identify as believers, maybe even strong believers, because you can’t fall away from the truth unless you first have the truth. Some will fall away completely, while others will be seduced by a different gospel. I think we’re seeing this happen in America today. 1

I think one reason people fall away is because they have a second-hand faith. They believe in the doctrines of the Bible, and they say they believe in Jesus, but they don’t really trust in Him. They think they are saved because they agree with what the Bible says, but God hasn’t given them new birth. They don’t have the internal Witness, the Holy Spirit, who convicts of sin and helps them become more like Christ. They’ve heard or read inspiring stories of other people’s faith, but they haven’t stepped out in trusting obedience to the Lord and seen Him work in their lives. Then, when someone comes up with a convincing-sounding argument, or when difficulties arise, they easily fall away. Their faith is built on sand, not the Rock.

Do you believe in Jesus only because you’ve been taught to? Do you have a second-hand faith? Or have you stepped out in obedient faith and seen God prove Himself to be true?

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, supply with your faith virtue, with virtue knowledge, with knowledge self-control, with self-control perseverance, with perseverance godliness, with godliness brotherly affection, and with brotherly affection love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the full true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his sins of the past. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make sure of your calling and election, for if you do these things you will not ever stumble; for so an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.

– 1 Peter 1:5-11 (VW)

Notes:

  1. I don’t believe this has anything to do with losing salvation. Salvation cannot be truly lost if you have it. But there are many in the church who think because they did this or that at some time in their lives they are saved. Although repentance and faith are necessary prerequisites, salvation is not based on something we do. It is entirely the work of God, and what He does, He carries on to completion.

I See Dead People

In the movie The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis’ character meets a boy who is ‘gifted’ with the ability to see ghosts – dead people. But these dead people don’t realize they are dead. They go on with their ‘lives’, moving around their old haunts, talking to those they knew… all in ignorance of their condition, until they suddenly realize what has happened. The movie is fiction, but the concept is real on a different level.

I see dead people every day. I pass them on the highway. I work with them. I talk with them. But they don’t realize they’re dead. They see the stars in the night sky, they hear the birds sing, and the feel the wind on their face. They talk among themselves. They have physical life in them, but they’re dead all the same.

They are cut off from the living God because of their sin.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

– Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

Do you see dead people, too? …or are you dead yourself – dead in your sins? A dead person is not aware that he is dead. He has no idea that his sins have separated him from God. He thinks he is okay and sin is okay. But a living person is aware that he is alive. He remembers the time when God forgave his sins in Christ and gave him new birth. He perceives the life of God in him. It is not just a doctrine he believes, but God actively assures him of it through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16, 1 John 4:13, 5:10). And he seeks to avoid being in that sinful state he was in before because he values his new relationship with God.

Has God given you new life in His Son? Do you have the internal Witness?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

– John 3:16 (KJV)

Cerebro Consciousness Argument

(The following is another approach to my argument for the necessity of the human spirit given in More Than Matter, and Independently Conscious.

Imagine you are an X-Man like Charles Xavier, but with much more extreme capabilities. You also have a Cerebro-like machine that allows you to see every human being in the world and know everything there is to know about them. With your superhuman powers, you look at Cerebro’s screen and see billions of human beings at once in infinite detail. You know each person’s exact physical makeup. You can see their every neuron firing. And you fully comprehend what you see.

You also know virtually every human being on the screen is self-aware. Each has an independent conscious that allows them to experience the world around them from their own unique perspective. Virtually every one of those billions of bodies is not yours, but you could in theory experience reality through any one of them, because they are all capable of consciousness – because they are conscious. However, one of those bodies is yours, and you experience the world through it for the lifetime of that body. What is it about your particular body that allows you to perceive reality through it and no other?

You see that the neural activity in your brain is different from, say, Body A. It is also different from Body B, and different from all other the bodies. But the same thing can be said of Body A: It is also different from Body B, Body C, and all other bodies. Every body has this thing in common: they all have neural activity that is different from each other, yet not in any fundamentally unique way. This is to be expected, as each brain is thinking different things and working in different ways. But what a brain is thinking or doing has nothing to do with which body you are self-aware through or which body your neighbor is self-aware through. Neural activity differences can explain various mental processes going on in different brains, but they don’t explain why your self-awareness is tied to your particular body. If you could somehow force Body B’s neural connections and activity to exactly match yours, you wouldn’t suddenly start perceiving reality through both bodies!

Your self-awareness remains bound to your body for as long as your body lives. It does not change, even though the material that makes up your body changes over time. Most of the atoms and molecules that make up your body as a newborn child are gone when you reach old age. Your neural connections also change as you learn and age – your brain processes information differently over time. The firing of your neurons also constantly varies. You are different than you were as a child, or even a day ago. But your awareness stays the same. It doesn’t occasionally leave your body and maybe move to someone else’s.

If you believe the physical universe is all there is, can you give any scientific reason for why you are aware through your particular body, other than pulling groundless theories out of the air?

How can you prove that your particular consciousness is a product of neural activity, and not (at least to some degree) the other way around. I’m not talking about mentally processing information such as doing a math problem in your head, remembering something from the past, telling a story, and so on. A brain can theoretically do these things without requiring self-awareness – just like a computer. But self-awareness goes beyond this. How do you explain your personal self-awareness, as distinct from others’ self-awareness, purely as the result of physical processes?

I’m not asking for proof. There are many things that we can’t prove because of the limitations of time, money, energy, etc. But if the only things that are true are things that can be proven scientifically, then there must be a scientific way to prove your self-awareness is purely a physical phenomenon.

I do not think self-awareness is a purely physical phenomenon. I believe it is due to the interaction of body and spirit. Without a spirit, you would be no more self-aware through your body than you are self-aware through anyone else’s body.

The reason we are self-aware is a very important thing to find out, because if consciousness requires more than what is physical, the whole foundation of Godless scientific materialism falls apart.

Knowing God Through The Psalms

The path to greater faith is to know God better, for how can you trust someone you don’t know, and how can you trust someone more if you don’t know him more?

For the last 9 years I’ve kept a journal of my Bible readings. I keep track of each date, passage, and thing I’ve discovered. My primary focus is to know God better, so when I find something in my reading that directly or indirectly describes who God is, what He does, why He does it, to whom He does it, and so on, I write it down so I can remember for the benefit of my relationship with Him.

Psalm 18 is one of those psalms that contains much of who God is and what He does. It begins with David saying, “I love You”, and then continues with his reasons why. Here’s what the first verse tells me about my God…

He is to be served. David, the king of Israel willingly served God. But Yahweh is a kind and loving master who does more for us than we can do for Him, as the rest of the psalm shows. He is worthy to be served…

God saves us from our enemies. This is not to say that we will not be persecuted, but that we can trust that He will bring us through those trials. David was persecuted by Saul, but God delivered him. God delivers us from Satan, our enemy.

God is our strength. He doesn’t just give us strength – He is our strength. Rather than taking matters into his own hands, David relied on God for deliverance. He proved God through trust, and God came through. Ultimately, this is also the experience of those who also trust in God.

What else does this psalm tell you about God?