Monday, February 04, 2008

It is TRULY Finished!!

I know that the issue of "indwelling sin" has had a bit of discussion on various blogs recently and I think this is very positive. For too long now the evangelical world has perhaps taken the traditional view - "that's what we have always believed". But revelation is progressive and we must be open to the fact that God may be slowly unravelling mysteries to us that our fore-fathers didn't or wouldn't receive. I have been collating some Rob Rufus quotes recently for a new project I am working on with some other friends and was struck by a logical argument that Rob made. Many Scriptures have been thrown around - some defending the fact that we still as Christians have "indwelling sin" and some against. But this logical argument is interesting.

Before I quote it, here's a brief summary of some of the various discussions that have been going on.

1. Ryan Rufus (Rob's son) has provided a valuable resource in an online book called: "Do Christians Have A Sinful Nature?". He argues quite persuasively that we do not.

2. The blog that is examining the untold stories of SGM has posted an interesting blog called; "Sinner? Listen up!". She makes the point that many within SGM speak of being "the worst of sinners" or the "chief of sinners". C J Mahaney's new PA is an example of this (check his sidebar on his blog) - "Who am I? My name is Tony Reinke but call me “chief of sinners". Yet the question is asked if the person saying that was sitting in the same room as their child's murderer would they still say that? It poses some interesting concepts.

3. Jesse Phillips from the USA did a job at examining both sides of the issues while holding to the traditional SGM position. His post was called; "Do Christians have Indwelling Sin?".

4. Finally my dear friend Julie from Canada probably wrote the best summary of where I am theologically called; "The Doctrine of Indwelling Sin". She concludes her arguments strongly and persuasively;

"What I'm trying to say is that I believe the doctrine of indwelling sin is actually legalism dressed up as pious and humble sounding doctrine. I believe it is very deceptive and will lead to spiritual ruin".

So with those few links provided, here is Rob's logical take on the argument (from the 2nd main session of the Glory and Grace Conference);

"If you are in first Adam, then you cannot "backslide" out of his fallen state through good works. Just so if you are in last Adam you cannot "backslide" out through unrighteous acts"

Does that make sense? We all as good evangelicals would agree that Adam's fall had consequences for the whole race. Adam fell and there is absolutely nothing that we - his descendents can do about it other than "the only way" through the Cross. Non-Christians can spend their entire lives doing good works but they cannot get out of the fact they are fallen in Adam's race.

Well if that is true then suppose they do give their lives to Christ and are regenerated totally and utterly by His once-for-all sacrifice on the Cross. Is the last Adam's once-for-all act on Calvary somehow weaker than the first Adam's taking of the apple from the tree? I can hear the shudders of outrage from those who champion the Cross. Of course it isn't. Why then are we so reluctant to truly investigate the true characteristics of the "Cross-centred Life"?!

When Christ shouted; "It is finished!" - was it in His mind that all who believed in Him by faith would be condemned to a life of legalism trying to mortify the sin He had just triumped over at the Cross "trampling on principalities and powers" through "spiritual disciplines"? I read a charismatic book recently that I enjoyed when the writer argued persuasively that actually rather than calling them "spiritual disciplines" we should call them "spiritual privilidges"!

Rather than trying to take away from the Cross, I want to argue again for a "Gospel of Words AND power". Nothing less will do. Leonard Ravenhill called the Cross;

"This, I say, was the most momentous moment in history. Hell had feared this moment for centuries, for millenniums!".

Why did Hell fear this moment so much? Because Ravenhill says;

"It is finished. What was finished? The tyranny of the devil. I don't think the church has wakened up to that yet, but it is finished. It is so. I believe that when Jesus cried with a loud voice it echoed down every corridor in hell. IT IS FINISHED!! I can almost hear the demons in hell say, "What? He's broken our power." "You mean that Satan doesn't have...?" "No, no, no. Satan is bound. And not only that, death has lost it's sting." "What?" "Yes, death has lost it's sting. And more than that... 'The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus his pardon receives".

The Church needs to wake up! It is finished! We need to wake up from the nightmare dream that we are condemned to a life of struggle and strife attempting through "spiritual disciplines" to kill something within us that is desperate to sin. In one fell swoop when Jesus Christ entered our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit we were changed, we are being changed and we will be changed. But the essence of glory is within us now! The Bible says we are seated and reigning with Christ NOW! And we have every right to begin to act and move with authority. When temptation arrives attempting to steal our joy - we have the right from heaven to speak with the authority of heaven and say "Get behind me Satan - it is written ...".

Satan is bound! Hell has lost it's power! Death has lost it's sting! It is time for the Church to begin to truly believe in a "Gospel of Words and Power". Words - yes. But power - something we can SEE and HEAR.

To make anything less the "compass" of our gospel will condemn us to a miserable existance where we wait anxiously for our "escape" to heaven where it will all be over. That was never Jesus Christ's final instruction - to wait for heaven! His final instructions to His church was to go and bring heaven to earth in the authority that He had been given after He rose again from the dead.


lydia joy said...

Wow Dan, stellar job! Yes "IT IS FINISHED!!" let's stop focusing on the cross as it points to our sinful state, our old man, we are new creations- we have been forgiven of ALL sin, past, present and future, YAHOO! Maybe we can look at the benefits the cross provided instead....focusing on sin so much does not produce freedom,we are not meant to be conscious of sin it only makes us focus on ourselves...we are meant to be conscious of the grace of God, that is a free gift ....Oh I could go on and on....I think you will love the notes from the "Presence of God" message, I will put them up....all about the power and the glory, AWESOME!

thebluefish said...

The worst of sinners is of course how Paul describes himself, though you have to ask what that means... and what's meant by indwelling sin for that matter.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.... Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires

Galatians 5 would seem to say, I do have a sinful nature. Since I'm a Christian it's a dead sinful nature. So long as I live by the Spirit I stop feeding it. But, it's desires have the ability to stop me doing what I want (i.e. to stop me from living by the Spirit)

The remedy is of course very positive - sow to the Spirit. Keep in step with the Spirit. Keep in step with the gospel. Keep with God.

Sean Green asks a similar question, having read Humility

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Lydia! :) Interesting you quote from Galatians 5 Dave - I think a lot of emphasis depends on what translation you use! Rob Rufus put a very interesting slant on it when I was in Hong Kong. He was reading from the KJV (I think) and read; "If you live by the Spirit you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh". Now I am not an expert in Greek, but Rob said that the Greek word is "sarchs" (?spelling) and apparantly there are a number of different translations for "sarchs". The word "flesh" is used in conjunction with Jesus Christ who OF COURSE cannot have a sinful nature - I think we would all agree on that!

But Rob asked the question - what if the context leant itself to "sarchs" in this case meaning "human effort outside of the Gospel". Suddenly rather than supporting a doctrine of indwelling sin it reads; "If we live by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desire to live essentially a legalistic life trying to attain a position of acceptance with God by our works".

Interesting isn't it?

As I say I am no Greek scholar but a change of emphases in that verse in Galatians 5 presents a very different perspective and conclusion.

lydia joy said...

Thanks for that link Bluefish.....!
Yeah Dan, the translation is helpful, my bible says walk by the flesh, not the sinful nature....then it later says you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature,,,,hmm....I believe it may be helpful to understand the difference between, spirit, soul and body- if our spirit(our sinful nature) is gone and now new, I like to say I have an indwelling Christ - how can we say we have indwelling sin....however our soul and body didn't change at salvation.....anyway, check out Julie's post at Voice of Grace, she posted Ryan Rufus notes for his new book.....I think it will be so helpful to understand how our soul and body operate now that we are in Christ.......does this make any sense?!

Dan Bowen said...

I think that's right Lydia - we Westerners tend to be a bit uncomfortable discussing the difference between spirit. soul and body because our Greek emphasis is on the "mind". You know the old hymn; "God be in my head and in my understanding". Well interesting isn't it that the Bible starts off by saying "Love the Lord your God with all your HEART ..." and then the others follow!! Suggesting that if our emotions are stirred in response to His complete and wonderful love and sacrifice, then our thoughts will follow suit!!

Yet I remember being told sternly a few years back in the old church that I should not trust my feelings - that I just had to "covenant" to come to church even though I didn't feel like it, and didn't experience God there and then eventually my "feelings" would get in line!

Well what if it is the same situation with sin? That the issue is not filling our lives frantically with spiritual disciplines so that we are too busy to sin!? Because there will always come a moment when we just can't quite find that monthly book we MUST read on the Cross or get access to that weekly sermon we MUST hear on the Cross? There will be those moments in the lonely hotel room in Seattle (or somewhere) when it feels like just us and the temptations.

THAT'S the moment when we need our hearts flooded with love for the Lover of our souls. That's what will enable us to dance away from temptation because as Terry Virgo says;

"It is NOT about breaking rules - it is about NOT breaking His Heart".

Chris said...

Here's a real life illustration next time you are ill. You've probably experienced this for yourself..but what better way to show our different layers.
When we feel ill, at the feeling level, we are rubbish...At the thinking level the last thing we want to do is do much heavy thinking...yet if we turn to the Lord at such moments and with an effort of our will, decide in our heart to praise Him, focus on Him,
maybe sing, maybe speak in tongues...maybe we are not instantly better, maybe we are still not up for some heavy thinking,but there is this warm glow sets up on the inside of us.
That's why what Dan just wrote is a bit fuzzy...because really this all happens below our feeling level, although people looking on just ascribe what we are doing to just being on a feeling level. (How often have you heard that put down from some high Anglican/Episcopalean)But the illness example really shows all our levels...and the extreme reality with which we relate to a Living Lord on our insides...even when we're really physically low.

Dan Bowen said...

Chris, I'm not quite sure what exactly you thought what I wrote was "fuzzy"? Can you elaborate a bit? Thanx!

Steve said...


I really appreciate you posting this topic on your blog. It is good to have this discussed. I am leery of all this focus on "sinful nature" and "indwelling sin" that I hear about in certain circles. I will study the links you gave here.

I have seen where people have taken the position that Paul in I Tim 1:15 was saying he was STILL the chief of sinners. My take on it is that he is referring to his life before Christ.


Dan Bowen said...

Hi Steve, thanks for your comment - yes I too am swiftly coming to the conclusion that Paul was referring to his life prior to the Damascus Road encounter. He spoke elsewhere about being an expert in legalism and law yet persecuted and killed the Christians - surely this is what he is referring to when he calls himself the "chief of sinners".

After all, to consider that statement within the conversion experience is to suggest logically that Christ's sacrifice and atoning blood didn't do "quite" the cleansing job it did on every other Christian pre and post Paul himself. How can any Christian, apostle or not - make such a statement?

I've searched the New Testament for Paul confessing "indwelling sin" post his conversion and dynamic reception of the Spirit and all I can find is his reference to a thorn in the flesh - which I don't think refers to sin either.

We've got to be so careful how we speak of ourselves. We were brought at a high, high price and we are not our own but His. We are His property and part and members of His royal family. To accept demeaning terms and apply them to ourselves is to surely bring shame on the One who brought us. Didn't Moses use how the nations viewed the people of God in his intercession with God?

What will create more attention in the world? A Church who don't act or claim to be any different aside from a historical event 2, 000 years ago or a people who recognise that the power generators of Christian life are in the EMPTY Cross and the EMPTY Tomb and the FILLED throne? And we lay claim to this royalty by grace and grace alone!?

Steve said...

Thanks for responding to my comment. I posted this same question on another blog.

I am curious if all this focus on indwelling sin is more of a trait of groups with a Reformed/Calvinistic philosophy such as Sovereign Grace has gone to? Their name "sovereign grace" implies Calvinism.

It sounds like it someone taking the "t" in "tulip" that stands for "total depravity" to an extreme. My guess is the two are quite related.

I don't believe in Calvinism. I consider myself a Calminian.

I would be curious to hear what your and others thoughts are on this.