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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Turning From Sin.

In a few of my last blogs I gave an impression that one does not attempt or try to turn from his sins to know God but to believe in the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This I wrote about the meaning of the word repentance - which literally mean "to change your mind" - in this case from doubting who Jesus Christ was to believing that he is the risen Lord who atoned for our sins by dying on a cross.

So let's take a look of what sin really is, a brat which is a lot more subtle than the overt misdeeds that readily comes to mind - fornication, adultery, murder, stealing, drunkenness, telling coarse jokes, getting into fights and whatever. The sort of things Christians don't generally get up to.

Most evangelical Christians, when asked how one can be saved, normally give this formula: "Repent and turn from your sins and believe the Gospel of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, calling on his name." That seems fair enough. Only that repentance (turning from sin) and believing can be seen here as two separate stages, when the truth is; Repentance simply means to change your mind about Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. In my last blog, A Letter To Church of Christ Members, I gave two examples of this kind of repentance, first to the three thousand-plus Jews who were at the Temple precincts on the day of Pentecost, and then of Cornelius and all who were present in his house. On both occasions, Peter never said, Turn from your sins, especially to Cornelius, who was already seen by God as a righteous man. Yet he had to believe in the resurrected Christ, whom God sent Peter to announce. The same can be said for the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) where Philip arrived at his chariot to find him reading a portion of Isaiah, but was unable to understand it.

Philip and the Ethiopian

There is no hint that Philip instructed the eunuch to turn from his sins, but instead Philip gave an explanation who this servant the prophet was referring to; himself or someone else. When Philip revealed Jesus to him, the eunuch believed and was baptised.

In the dramatic conversion of Saul, he was not told to "turn from your sins" when the Lord appeared to him. Instead, he was asked why this religious Jew was persecuting him. In response, Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?"
"I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. Is it hard to kick against the thorns?"
Immediately Paul believed and was saved from that moment on. The Lord then proceeded to instruct him what he must do, including baptism. By "kicking against the thorns" Saul was aware of Jesus Christ condemned on the cross. He was also aware that rumours of his Resurrection were widespread. He had heard all about it, but had put it down to a group of fanatics who wanted a way out from the responsibilities in keeping the Law of Moses. When the Lord revealed himself to him, everything about his Resurrection fell into place, and he believed - so much so that he was willing to lay down his own life for this truth.

In Acts chapter 13, we read how Paul performed a miracle in condemning a sorcerer which led to his master, Sergius Paulus, believing in Jesus. It was the miracle by which he was convinced, not a list of his sins he had committed.

And there are more examples of the preaching of the Gospel as found in Acts. In Thessaloniki (17:1-9) Paul spoke to some Jews at the synagogue there, emphasising the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of his listeners believed, others did not. In verse 18, while Paul was in Athens, some philosophers were discussing about "his strange gods" because of his preaching of Jesus and his Resurrection.

Paul in Athens, preaching Christ Resurrected.

Paul's defence against Festus and King Agrippa was centred on his conviction that Christ died and rose again, Acts 26:8, 23. His only exhortation was to turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God, verse 18, which was something only the power of the Gospel was able to accomplish, the Gospel being that Christ has risen from the dead and believing this brings this deliverance.

So we can see, mainly through the book of Acts, that conversion involves a change of mind about Jesus Christ. But we tend to say to prospective converts that they should turn from their sins and call upon the name of the Lord. Other Christians may even emphasise "the sinner's prayer" which involves asking Jesus Christ into their hearts. Checking over the tales of conversion found in the Bible, I have not come across any of these. The emphasis always seem to be Jesus Christ: His death, burial and rising from the dead. Especially the latter.

As mentioned earlier, sin is a much more subtle brat than what we often imagine it to be. If you were a thief in the past, it is relatively easy to stop stealing. This sort of thing is an overt act done out of choice, and one can choose not to steal any more. But getting sexually stimulated is another matter all together. Not so easy to control. In fact, sexual stimulation is rather enjoyable. Yet is it sinful? Jesus taught that one only has to look at a woman with a lustful heart, and he has committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28.) Or if you call someone a fool, it is murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Can you as a Christian man lay your hand across your chest and honestly plead that you had never felt sexual stimulation over someone not your own wife, or hated another person because he does not meet your expectations? If you can say yes to both these questions, then congratulations! You are well ahead of me. If I were to believe that, because these feelings are very much alive in me, therefore I'm still lost, then such a burden becomes impossible to bear. There is no way that I have assurance of my salvation.

And to be honest, I do still have these questioning thoughts. Thinking that as a believer, God expects perfection in my life, and if and when I feel lusty, I wonder if I'm really saved. That is the reason the statement turn from your sins I have found to be binding, not liberating.

In preparation of this article I read carefully the 18th and 20th chapters of Leviticus. Now if there is a book giving such detailed instructions on holy living, then this is it. This is a chapter about sexual relations, and it deals with forbidding having sex with a member of the same family, whether your stepmother, an aunt through marriage or your brother's wife, your nieces or daughter-in-law. Even bestiality is mentioned and forbidden, along with same sex activity (sodomy). All these sins were sentenced with a death penalty. But reading this chapter, I have found that all these sins were overt and of choice. They did not deal with the condition of the heart. For example, one may have a crushing desire for a niece or sister-in-law, but the death penalty would only be applied if one choose to fulfil such desire by carrying out the act itself. So for one to say that in order to be saved, one must turn from sin - if such overt sins of choice were meant, then I can see some justification in this. But if I'm in church and I see someone that stimulates my desire - well, that's quite a different matter, even if I know perfectly well that nothing overt will come out of this. But does this prove that I'm still lost?

Then there is that other form of sin - hatred and murder. As with sexual sins, no Christian in his right mind would go around with a knife under his belt in readiness to stab someone. But before his conversion, he could well have been a gang member toting a knife, although unfortunately, converts from such backgrounds are far and few between! Rather, they tend to end up in prison. But it still remains within his power of choice to put the knife away or even dispose of it once such a gang member experience regeneration.

But Jesus said that only calling someone a fool is enough to call that murder. And I wonder how many Christians have done that throughout their lives, especially as mentioned in my last blog, the anger felt by a driver of a car who was cut up by another driver. Or for that matter, (common here in the UK where many rural roads are narrow and twisting) being stuck behind a slow car driver, trucker or even a tractor, unable to overtake. As the patience of the driver stuck behind runs out, his feelings of frustration and anger starts to mount up, and a torrent of expletives is thrown out of his mouth. If the car is shared with an unbelieving passenger, the driver would have fallen from grace as the passenger sees it. His Christian credentials would never be restored.

Road rage can be the end result of such pent up frustration, when the driver takes physical revenge on the offending driver or vehicle. This could lead to physical murder. The fact is, anyone can hate or feel anger towards another human being, and being a Christian does not free us from such emotion. Therefore to say that turning from sin is essential to salvation has put me under an impossible burden to bear, and such emotional turbulence is enough to question whether I'm really saved.

And we can take this issue of murder even further. According to James 2:11, it looks like favouritism or snobbery is a form of murder. This verse appears after a rebuke against favouritism was delivered. Yet I have seen this sin not only overlooked but condoned in church life over the past forty years. If an elder in the church, or a group of elders evaluate one person over another due to his higher level of education or profession, then isn't this a form of favouritism? And furthermore, this sort of thing is quite acceptable in churches in this country. Therefore this turning from sin to be saved becomes even a greater problem. According to this formula, isn't there anyone in our churches genuinely saved?

The idea that a sinning saint can lose credibility among unbelievers is certainly true. As a believer myself, I want to be honest enough to admit that I am not unfamiliar with such experiences. In James' letter, we read of a believer shutting up his bowels of compassion against the needs of a poor, naked or hungry fellow human. How would the poor man evaluate the believer's faith? Dead, as far as the poor man is concerned.

Therefore, I suppose, sin can be defined as a lack of love for God or fellowmen, particularly believers. We as humans will go through such negative emotions, being natural as they are. Such life experiences has helped me understand the Bible better, and I have found, particularly through the stories recorded in the book of Acts, that faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to salvation. It is the sanctification process which follows salvation is where sin can be exposed and dealt with, although all our sins, past, present and future, are totally forgiven by God at conversion. The exposing and cleansing of sins is for the benefit of the believer living in a world of unbelievers.

Hence, we are disciples, or learners. Learning on how our faith in Jesus Christ can make an impact on unbelievers, for the sole purpose of winning them to the Lord, so they too can be saved. And the only answer for dealing with our sinful nature is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and letting him do a work in our lives which will not only be a fragrance towards God, but also to the world around us.


  1. I love all you have written here.
    That statement of Paul's,(not written here) who said, "The thing that I hate is the thing that I do." Romans 7:15.. this is me!!! I want to be humble but every time I open my mouth I seem to boast.
    I pray, please Lord, guide my mouth...and He does, WHEN I remember to pray that. Yes, there are many sins we commit that we shouldn't.
    When Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dead of night and asked what he must do to be saved. Jesus told him, "he must be born again." Yes, we need to be born of the spirit and walk daily in the spirit..and even then, we still fail. I honestly believe, there is salvation in knowing we want to do the right thing, and yet fail. How puffed up with pride would we be, if we could honestly say we were perfect. I have a constant battle within myself. I see myself as horrible and so imperfect. The more we look at Jesus and His righteousness, the more we see our own short comings.
    Blessings from Oz.

  2. The Versatile Blog Award Nominations
    The 15 nominated Blogs (in Alphabetical Order):

    1. A Clockwork Pomegranate
    2. According to the Book
    3. Andrew's French Polishing Forum
    4. Being a Christian Today
    5. Bible Adventuring
    6. Bible Gems For Friendship
    7. Eden And Proverb
    8. Grace On the Narrow Path
    9. Lighthouse Vision
    10. PJ Prayer Line
    11. Pure Unadulterated Grace
    12. Saved by Grace
    13. Spirit Food
    14. T.Child's Christianity Blog
    15. Unyielding

    The seven things about me.
    1. My favourite food is pasta.
    2. I dislike garlic and turnips.
    3. I always have fresh fruit for afters, not a cooked dessert.
    3. My three fave cities in the world: London, Jerusalem, San Diego.
    4. My first camera I ever owned was a Woolworth item costing a few shillings in 1967.
    5. I dress in casuals as much as I can. I find neck ties too restricting and rather "snooty!"
    6. As a boy, I had family relatives living overseas. I use to love writing letters to them.
    7. The Beano, Dandy, Topper and Beezer were my fave comics during the 1960s.

    1. That I snuck into the top 15 is wonderful! Thanks for voting for me!

      I love pasta myself. I make a carbonara with single cream, bacon bits garlic and chestnut mushrooms; it's really nice.

  3. Hi Frank,
    yes Jesus can help us overcome our weaknesses as we shelter under the umbrella of His grace and love for us can't He. I love Him.
    I also like curries, stir fries, pasta, cheeses and olives, dates, love garlic and fresh fruit and jeans. (ha ha, sorry Frank you got me going talking about food.

  4. The sin that prevents one from entering heaven is that of not believing in Christ, according to John 3:15-18. The sins, such as fornication, murder, etc., are the symptoms of that rejecting Christ. Unfortunately, we often focus on treating the symptoms, rather than the disease, with the result that people often don't get saved. When we treat the disease of unbelief, the symptoms of different sins tend to make us extremely uncomfortable and to disappear spontaneously in a short time.

    Instead of repenting of adultery or some other overt sin for salvation, people need to repent of their unbelief.

  5. The sin, in the very first instance, is simply disobeying God by doing something, anything, that God simply does not want us to do.

    Ah food. I love curries, stir fries, pasta, noodles, Mediterreanean food, Spanish food, adore olives, sundried tomstoes, crusty bread and butter, American fast food; all this talk of food is making me H U N G R Y!!!

    By the way Frank; great post as usual.

  6. Frank,
    I just realized, after reading Laurie Collett's post, what that list is at the bottom of your post. I don't know what that nomination award is but thankyou for the humbling fact that you have my blog on that list. It is so nice to see that you enjoy reading my blog as I do very much enjoy reading yours. God bless

  7. Frank, thank you for commenting on my blog, it really blesses me...or rather, you bless me. Very good post here too!! Thank you for speaking about the sins no one talks about!! Also, can you let me read the post/article you told me about in your commnet?
    Thanks!! Jenny

    1. Dear Jenny,
      You can read my articles in anyway you wish, including commnet.
      God bless,