Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You can't or you won't?

We had a special speaker at church this last Sunday. He is a Christian counselor and he talked of his need to be able to make theology practical for Christians who are really struggling with sin. The title of his sermon was Understanding our Struggle with the Flesh.

I appreciated a lot of what this fellow had to say, and my mind latched on to one particular point he made. Then, as I cogitated over it, it expanded.

He was talking about how Christian people are sometimes caught in a sin. They keep on doing it while they tell their couselor that they can't help themselves. They seem given over to it. The counselor is to remind them that they have all they need for life and godliness. He counters their claims of I can't live godly. He puts the responsibility squarely on their shoulders and asks them You can't or you won't? As the speaker said these words, the question seemed pertinent to anyone in the congregation who has been telling themselves I can't."

You can't or you won't?
I kept thinking about this question. I thought that it could be turned around and asked about the opposite ... living in sin. "You can't or you won't?" Some say that a true Christian can't live in sin. It is impossible for a true believer to go on continually in sin, they say. If one has given themsleves over to abandoning the things of God and living for Him, then they aren't really saved because a Christian CAN'T do that. That is a really a dogmatic thing to say and it seems to take the idea of living for self etc.. out of the realm of choice. Maybe this works psychologically for some, but it is not realistic.

It is a conscious choice we make to fellowship with the saints, read our Bibles, pray to our God, meditate on His Word and yield to His Holy Spirit, IS IT NOT? If we neglect these things (which we CAN) we CAN fall into terrible places. This is not what God would have for us. That is why we should say, We won't! when it comes to going the wrong way. We mustn't use We can't as a crutch.

To say I can't (live godly) can be used as a license to sin and this is terribly false! We are blessed with every Spiritual blessing in Christ and we have the armour of God to wear! We have Christ Himself that we are to clothe ourselves in. We can live godly lives and strengthen the inner man who is born of the Spirit.

However, if I can't (continue in sin) is used as a dogmatic statement, I believe it can set Christians up for big falls and terrible indecisiveness. If this statement is tested and a Christian sees that HE CAN go on sinning and sear his conscience, what is he then to conclude? Couldn't the teaching of "True Christians can't go on sinning" push him further away from repenting and from the hope that he has in Christ? He should rather have been taught personal responsibilty for his Christian walk. Perhaps then the I won't (live godly) would turn to I won't (go on sinning). This is repentance!! How does repentance work out in a Christian if he has "I can't have done this..." in his paradigm? How does that look?

Telling oneself I can't (be overtaken by sin) seems like it would either lead to a false sense of security, lack of preparedness for temptation, insecurity if one does get caught up in something, confusion as to one's justification before God, and, if sin besets him, an unsure pathway home. Wouldn't it also promote pride and judgement of others who have fallen?

1 Corinthians 10
12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.


  • I think we would all agree that we can't stop sinning. But I would imagine he was talking about over sin habits. You raise good points about the pitfalls. Your verse is exactly what I was thinking too!

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at 10/10/2006 11:07 AM  

  • That should be, "overt sin habits."

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at 10/10/2006 11:08 AM  

  • This is a good post, Rose. I think it connects nicely with what you wrote recently concerning the dual nature. I believe the part of us that is saved can't sin. This should have enough influence upon our flesh that we won't.

    By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at 10/10/2006 11:21 AM  

  • Hi Jonathan and Gordon,
    Interesting how you have both brought up two opposite ends of the truth here. On the one hand, we won't stop sinning totally while we are in the flesh. The old man loves it. On the other hand, the new man doesn't sin. When we think of ourselves as one person with two competing natures, it really makes sense. We must strengthen the new man and we can put away overt sinful habits. It is also imprtant to recognize that sin is in our being in the old man and that it is really a part of who we are as a son or daughter of Adam. Won't it be nice someday when that capacity for evil is gone ... when the "old" man is departed from us ... when the struggle is over?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/10/2006 11:37 AM  

  • The title of your post reminded me of Jay Adam's nouthetic approach to counseling - something that we had fun with in our Pastoral Counseling Class in Bible College. Often the Christian life is portrayed by well-meaning people in such a way that it seems to be no more of a futile attempt at will-power. Overcoming pain and destructive habits are more about healing and control than it is will-power.

    By Anonymous Kansas Bob, at 10/10/2006 12:18 PM  

  • Hi Rose, this is a good post,
    you do have to watch it when you say, you can't or won't do it !

    it will turn on you, and you will end up doing what you said you wouldn't do!

    take care!

    By Blogger jel, at 10/10/2006 12:22 PM  

  • This is a very good post. I agree with you. Have I used enough words?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/10/2006 3:28 PM  

  • is there a limit to the words you can use here?

    By Blogger jel, at 10/10/2006 5:07 PM  

  • Hi Bob,
    No futile attempt at willpower. I don't see the Christian life that way. I agree that healing is a part of the Christian life.

    Thanks for the visit. There is no limit to words. DF says that because sometimes I (and others) have told him that he is a man of few words. He will say "good stuff" "excellent reasoning" or other two-word comments. It is his trademark.

    Then again, if you had some of your own thoughts to add ... and you neglected to do so, then your breif comment would not be enough. I like to see your thoughts! :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/10/2006 5:14 PM  

  • Very pertinent for a lot of christian men as well as pastors who are falling to internet sin. The Wilds has done a series on the devastion of what is going on in churchs. It is monolithic. They call it a weapon of mass destruction. In order to get victory in this area you must lay down hedges and deliberately avoid temptations. Many believers won't unfortunately. If it were not for the ministry of Dr Erwin Lutzer and his book..."How To Say No To A Stubborn Habit." I don't know if I would ever have recovered...but I have and it was his grace based teaching that strengthened me to that point. I will be forever grateful to how the Lord used that man of God's books in my life as well as his sound teaching.

    God is good. He has indeed armed us with what we need to perservere, and at the same time warned us not to think we cannot fall into a horrid place of no return in the sin unto death.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/10/2006 6:52 PM  

  • BTW,

    I want to clarify so no one is afraid of me. I never got into any chat type stuff or those dreadful red light stories I have heard about. It was just a viewing thing from time to time that I justified having a I can't help it attitude that you mention Rose. But for those who have fallen into horrible depths...I am no better just because I haven't and there is no pit where God's grace is not greater still.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/10/2006 6:56 PM  

  • I just thought it would be helpful if some men were struggling out here. You need to get that series from the Wilds. It is dreadful what is happening to godly men around the nation and they are falling like flies.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/10/2006 6:59 PM  

  • If one says that he can live either without or outside of sin, he is committing sin by being both prideful and by lying (which, last time I checked, was a sin).

    I John 1 would not have been necessary if Christians did not sin.

    That's my humble, but correct, opinion (he said pridefully).

    By Blogger Joe, at 10/10/2006 7:36 PM  

  • Rose, this is a hot topic with me and I intend to pursue it as time permits. It seems those who are persuaded that foreknowledge is equivalent to foreordination will also fail to acknowledge the authority (power and means) that God bestows with each of His commands. This philosophy usually results in a failure to fully comprehend the necessity of repentance and submission.

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/11/2006 4:47 AM  

  • Hi Rose~
    Very thought provoking post. Keep it up!

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 10/11/2006 7:05 AM  

  • Hey Brian,
    I appreciate your transparency. I don't think ill of you for that. I know men who have given in to the same temptations. From what I understand, it is very easy to do and then hard to get away from it. I also understand that like many sins, it doesn't satisfy, only making the soul hungrier for more of its poison. I am glad you have gotten away from it. God bless you.

    Hi Joe,
    Who loves you? We do! That was a great comment and so true! I just used your little phrase, "in my humble but corrrect opinion" recently, maybe in the previous post. I love that! It is so stinkin' prideful sounding!

    Hey KC,
    Thanks for stopping by! I am glad that I hit on something that you have been thinking about. Great minds think alike? (she said pridefully) ;~)

    Hi John,
    I will keep posting as I can. I am glad you think it was thought provoking. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/11/2006 9:20 AM  

  • Thanks Rose,

    I hope it can be helpful to any other brethren out here.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/11/2006 5:24 PM  

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