12/09/2007

The Ministry of Sinning

What do you think of the theology behind this excerpt from a student paper?

15 comments:

Robin said...

The student seems to be confusing "sin" with "temptation", which is probably an all-to-common mistake.

Glen Asbury said...

I would need more information on what the "sin" was before I would feel comfortable using it as an illustration (and how exactly would I elicit that information? Hmmmm....:) probably not likely.)

My hunch is that the student may also be fuzzy about the distinction between sin and weakness? But again, I wouldn't know unless I inquired further.

If, on the other hand, we are talking about a genuinely sinful pattern here, and the result is a reluctant contentment to live with it, rather than seek deliverance, then that is truly alarming!

Ken DePeal said...

i would want to know...

what is it that is being defined as sin? is it truly sin as defined in God's word? or is it something perceived to be sin?

and if it's something perceived to be sin, why is that so? because the student personally feels that way? because a parent, friend, or pastor said it was? and if so, was that person correct to say it is sin? (just curious, since i've met people who were told that buying doritos on sunday was a sin, or that wearing anything other than culottes would send them straight to hell...)

on the surface, though... let's say it really is sin. let's say this student is planning to continue on a clearly sinful path in order to "relate to others going through the same thing"...

by the way... this story reminds me (just a little) of a youth volunteer i once knew... he smoked pot with students after youth group in order to "relate with them and get them to open up about God's work in their lives." not long after this was discovered - and he dismissed - one of the girls in the group ended up pregnant with him as the father.

i would remind this student of the words from Romans 6:1-4...

"(1) Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? (2) Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? (3) Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? (4) For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives."

Additionally, i would direct this student to hebrews 4:15-16...

"(15) For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (16) Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

God's call is still to holiness. are we perfect? no. 1st John 1:8 says, "If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth."

YET, we know from various sections in scripture that we are not to continue in sin. romans 6:11, "So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus."

i would imagine this student needs...

a) a clear definition of sin... is this in fact sin?

b) a clear understanding of holiness... does he/she know God is not pleased when we live in sin or accept a lower level of living?

c) someone to care... this student needs a prayer partner/mentor/encourager, someone who won't hurry to judgment but will patiently love, encourage, and challenge the thinking presented

d) time... like you said, this student is a freshman... i thought i had it all figured out when i was a freshman... haha! 20 years later, i'm finally getting a handle on how much i still don't know. and i'm glad people were patient with my sometimes ragged theology and lack of consistency between faith and practice.

interesting topic, since it's a question/thought that taps into what several "people in the pew" are wondering about/wrestling with in everyday life...

Richard Brannon said...

It almost sounds like she is looking to sacrifice her own salvation, in part, for the salvation of others. It’s noble, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Anyway, not knowing the exact nature of the sin, I’ll agree with these other posts. Without all the information, there are several different ways to interpret, but there is something I’d like to add.

There is obviously something lacking in her understanding of prayer, and I think that clearing that up should be addressed in the local church setting. It sounds like she has given up on her request, assuming that if it hasn’t happened as a teenager, it will never. Not that it’s an easy lesson to learn, but learning to “wear a path” in the direction of your request is something every believer should come to understand. Unfortunately, we don’t exactly get to put time limits on our beggings of God, but we can make the decision to continue begging.

David Drury said...

Without knowing anything else than what you posted I'd say her philosophy is not that different than many that are coming up these days... or the vast majoriy of those in the bondage of not only sin... but a theology of Sin that is "Calvin-Lite" and in a practical sense distorts the Christian message into a "let's all just cry in our beer together" pity party till heaven.

Am I being too harsh?

If so, to lighten the mood, I'd say: if you adopt this theology and philosophy of Sin I would think you'd prefer to have more than just ONE sin to relate to others about with such brutal authenticity. You'd rather say, "bring them all on"... so that you may Sin More... so that Grace May Abound. Why not be a Sin Expert in all areas of sinfulness?

Eric Roemer said...

I think this is a common and troublesome view that more and more people tend to be sharing. Having been a youth pastor for the past 6 years, I am willing to question what some of our young people have been being taught about sin... if anything (and maybe what some of our old people too, but that really isn't my place to ask.) I am fearful that we have limited the power of Christ to the mere forgiveness of sins... striped it of the power of full salvation.
I personally don't like "holiness" language, but being slightly obsessive I favor "Christian perfection" a little more. But regardless of the terminology, and possibly despite the terminology, I think the people of God need to know that we are able to live free from sin. I am not saying that everyone must live absolutely sinlessly, lets not have that argument (but if you asked me if I think it is possible and a goal that is worth living for I would say yes to both), but here is a girl at a Wesleyan University who it sounds like has grown up in, or at least spent some time in, the church...And I wonder, has she never heard the message of sanctification? Or if she has, hasn't it been made clear? I am so grateful for the education that I received from IWU, but there may be a problem. The only time I recall hearing the message of Christian perfection (freedom from sin) was in Theology II, Wesleyan Church History and one time in chapel when Dr. Bence spoke. I started going to a Wesleyan Church when I was in high school, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I heard this message taught. So for literary effect I will be redundant… there may be a problem. I don’t think the problem is what the girl wrote; I think she is just a symptom.
I hope she finds the truth that I believe God wants her to know. I hope she learns to help people climb out of the pits they find themselves in… I think that would be great definitions of what ministry is suppose to be.

Jim Schenck said...

There's not much I can add to the comments here. I would like to respond to Eric's comment that this student's issue is a symptom of a larger problem.
I agree. IMHO, The Wesleyan Church has run head-long from the doctrine of holiness/ Christian perfection. Reading our vision and mission statements, we find that The Wesleyan Church is more Warren-lite than Wesley-lite.
There is no mention of holiness/ Christian perfection/ perfect love! I guess we are not a holiness denomination anymore. So, if we aren't a holiness denomination anymore, then I guess the student's beliefs are consistent with the practical theology of The Wesleyan Church.
I'm a "young" boomer, ordained in 1989, and my generation led the charge away from legalism and the holiness it so incorrectly represented. Too bad.
The good news for the student is that Coach and the other folks at IWU have 3 1/2 years to fix her!

tricia said...

My reaction...I appreciate the young lady is trying to make sense of the turmoil in life and at the same time I am sad for her.

What would I preach the next week if I pastored the church that had raised her or that she attended...I would preach that God absolutely loves us where we are, but that he loves us to too much to leave us there. He invites us into a process of transformation. I would preach that maturing in Christ is slow, intentional work and the results are sometimes very small and slow in appearing. I would share my hope that a life spent on that journey of transformation would eventually lead to a life more transformed, and the process of walking with Christ through it would have made the journey richer than it could have been any other way.

a fellow sojourner said...

As I reread the original post, it struck me that this isn't a unique view or understanding of sin. Unfortunately this freshman's voice cries loudly a message that rings routinely in our society and has become all-too-common among followers of Jesus Christ.

As proud people it is tough for us to admit that we have a problem with sin. Admitting that we have sin in our life shows us to be weak people who don't have our act together. No one wants to be known as weak.

We try our best. We work hard and do everything in our power to overcome this sickness of the soul, and we fail time and time again. We're incapable of helping ourselves and we don't like that.

But God doesn't give up on us. He keeps prodding. He keeps reminding us about the area(s) in our lives where sin separates us from Him and His glorious standard.

Eventually God chips and chisels away. One day we reach that point where we have to admit that we have a problem (sin) which we can't deal with or take care of on our own. That's a humbling realization.

But we're spin doctors. Even then- having realized that we're sinful people who need God to cleanse us from the inside out- we try to put the best possible spin on things.

We live in a culture that encourages us to rationalize our sin. I've spent time talking with folks who after years of counseling excuse their sin on the basis of the way that they were treated by a parent or loved one. We try to pass the buck when it comes to our sinfulness (much like the first man and woman did in the garden).

One of the most recent trends I've noticed regarding sin is that like this freshmen, people try to excuse their sin by saying that God will take our sin and work all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8.28).

It's an argument filled with holes to be sure. But it is revealing.

Such a view of sin reveals that as church leaders we need to spend some time talking openly and honestly about sin- no matter how uncomfortable and unpopular it may be to talk about and preach a biblical view of sin.


I am quickly finding that this view of sin is not only all-too-prevalent in our culture but among those who publicly proclaim faith in Jesus Christ. That alarms me and makes me wonder if somewhere along the line we as pastors and leaders in the church have failed to accurately proclaim the whole gospel. In many ways I think this person's understanding of sin underscores the fact that in many churches a dumbed-down gospel is proclaimed; one that is devoid of REPENTANCE.

Such a view of sin diminishes our understanding of salvation. Ephesians 5.1 tells us that we are to "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..." The view of sin which this freshman's paper highlights (a view that many in our churches put into practice) turns salvation into a prayer said at an altar, rather than a lifelong relationship where God perfects us in love toward both God and neighbor. Such a view of sin forgets the standard of Christlikeness which is the aim of the Christian life.

In addition, Romans 8.28, stresses that "God works for the good of those who LOVE Him, who have been called according to his purpose." Verse 29 goes on to speak about being "conformed to the likeness of his son." Yes, God can indeed take a past that we were ashamed of and redeem it for His honor and glory. However, to continue sinning in an effort to make yourself more marketable- seriously?!

The bottom line is this. As men and women who are following Jesus Christ we are to love Him. If we truly love Him we will strive, with His help to keep His commandments and be holy as He is holy.

Michael R. Cline said...

Call it pessimism, but I don't think any sermon we would preach in the church as it is set up today would sink to the level it would need to in order to clean up bad doctrine. We are no longer an oral society, and yet, we continue to think we can preach like we are. She probably will not HEAR the message being delivered like most of us never HEAR anything anymore. We download it, talk over it, drink to it, jog to it, and never HEAR it.

I think the best thing that could happen to this freshmen is being under the counsel of a few wise men and women (especially women) who can lay claim to the theology espoused by everyone on this blog post. Good theology as preached won't make a difference...but interacting with people who claim to be sanctified and truly demonstrate such a life...that will change her attitude and help her to strive towards the goal of perfect love.
In my time at IWU, I can only think of only one prof. that openly ever discussed his/her personal sanctification with me, not to brag, but to be honest. To this day, I'm not sure how many at IWU could demonstrate to her such a life, because no one seems to really claim it anymore.

When I would tell some of my more "wesleyan" friends that I was pretty much Keswick in my understanding of sanctification, that would grow frustrated. But when I would ask them to bring me a few representatives of "entire sancticiation" from all our lectures, the room would go silent.

I'm not saying it's not present in the IWU faculty, but we should be more open about it. Doctrine isn't going to change the situation. She is being authentic in her walk, but ultimately making steps in the wrong direction. We all should be so authentic in front of her, and make larger footprints that will lead her to a better path.

Jared Henry said...

Enjoy the blog!

I may not preach from this scripture next week, but it would definitely be helpful to the young lady's understanding of sin and its effect on a relationship with God:

1 John 3:4-10

I would not:

1) ...Try to convincer her that she's okay. She has a problem, she admits it, & she has finally admitted defeat and resolved herself to it.

2) ...Try to convince her that sinning regularly & repeatedly the same sin is not a big deal. It is!


I would:

1) ...Explain that the conviction of the Holy Spirit may make you "feel bad" at first, but is for the best. However, if you ignore the Spirit long enough your heart will grow hard toward the voice of God.

2) ...Tell her about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the victory that we have, not only from sin, but over sin! In Christ we are more than conquerers.

It's disheartening to think about how many discouraged and defeated Christians are unaware of the power of God that is available to work in their lives through the Holy Spirit.

Thankfully it sounds like the lady that wrote that exerpt is willing to do something about it, as she has at least tried before.

Dean said...

Having come from a long line of habitual sinners and having had a substantial measure of spinning on that nasty merry-go-round, I have found only one way to overcome a cycle of defeat in any area of personal sinful weakness. That way is a lifestyle of practicing dependency on Someone other than myself. (i.e. AA)

I ultimately found accountability partners and self-help books and Scripture memorization and impassioned prayer and shielding myself from environments where I was prone to slip inadequate. It was when I aknowledged that the route to overcoming is not in human effort but in reliant relationship that the bonds were weakened and dissolved.

It sounds like this young lady recognizes the pattern of failure but has taken an exit ramp of personal disicpline to try to overcome a basic spiritual deficiency. I'm not criticizing because I've certainly tried that out many times too.

But any sin is nothing more than trying to satisfy my spirit with something other than God's love. This always occurs because we have a flawed image of God. We always run from God either to seek what we think we want in some other way (because we don't perceive God as good) or because we've already tasted that dirty water and are ashamed of ourselves (and perceive God as basically punitive). But running away from God only deepens that sort of cyclical failure.

Cultivating the awareness of the loving presence of of a good God wherever I am is key. Wherever I go, that God is with me. Will I take such an Abba Father into an experience that disappoints Him? Not likely if I have experienced His genuine love for me and I am walking heart in heart with Him. If I trip and take my heart off him but I recall His unconditional love for me, am I not likely to return literally running to Him like the prodigal son.

There is no ministry to support others in being content to accept slavery to sin. That lie simply won't hold any water. But there is a ministry for "the soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose. He will not, He will not desert to his foes; that soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake, He'll never--no, never--no, never forsake!"

JustinJNierer said...

I was talking to a church planter once in our district and he said to me, "it would be cool to be able to say, Im addicted to pornography but I still love Jesus, at least I am being authentic in my walk." I didnt call him an idiot to his face but I did walk away shortly after that an never talked to him again.

What would I preach on? That faith is hard work. I dont think this girl was dealing with temptation. I think this girl is sinning...a lot and she refuses to give it up.
I dont blame her though. I blame her youth pastor.

What passage would I use? Any where Christ teaches and people start leaving and yet...Christ still teaches.

You hit me in a bad mood but I hope this helps.

Dustin and Miriam AhKuoi said...

I do think that this student’s view is distorted...and I understand that many people take sin very lightly...but I do believe that authentic and safe community is greatly lacking within our church. Most people do not want to be fixed up front...they want to be listened to...to know they are normal...to bring darkness into light. I may be a bit radical on this...but I would love to hear more of us ministers be honest about our struggles and still feel like we can say we love Jesus. As long as someone is showing forward momentum in their journey...even while struggling in the same sin...I think that there is freedom in that. Now don’t get me wrong...If a pastor is deep in an addiction...I do not feel like he or she should be feeding a flock. I think they should go work in a grocery store or something like that and find healing for their heart.

Often times I see well meaning believers attempting to "fix" the problem on the surface...or "stop it"..."get rid of it"...and all the while they are not focusing on the main thing...which is a relationship with Jesus Christ. People come into our churches and express a problem...and we try and fix them...and get rid of it immediately. They are not allowed space to feel...so they think they are not normal.

God's kindness leads us to repentance...and don't get me wrong...there are consequences for our actions. If someone has an affair...a divorce is often the consequence. If someone gets caught in an addiction...getting fired is often the consequence. And if a person is open and honest yet continues in their sin with no willingness to surrender...then I believe that the wages of sin is death.

Keith Drury said...

Thanks for the interesting responses this week (and good sermon fodder). It has me thinking...

--about the changing view of sin among Christians.

--about what kids get when we preach--not just from the wrods we say but the over all impression.

--about youth pastor's preaching.

--about gender and sin and if we might respond differently if this were a male student.

--about the decline in the deliverance model regarding sin.

--and about a dozen other things you raised in your responses...