Friday, May 02, 2008

Assurance We Are Righteous!!

Janelle wrote a very provocative and honest post recently called; "Condemnation, Anyone?". I really appreciated her openness - in a Christian world that is tempted to put on the mask of religion and smile glassily when asked how one is and say that wonderful adjective; "Fine!" - it was so refreshing to read. I've interacted with Janelle a couple of times which has been really helpful - and mainly around our area of disagreement concerning "Indwelling Sin". But I left a comment on her latest post expressing the view that despite our disagreements what is wonderful is;

I must admit - while I am very persuaded by Rob Rufus's awesome teaching on us being the righteousness of God in Christ - and therefore condemnation has NO hold on us - my heart still very much (although increasingly less and less) is very much experientially with Janelle's blog. Especially if my sin has been a "whopper!". But I do think whatever our conclusions - both arguments carry dangers we should be aware of.

Rob Rufus's teaching carries obvious dangers that apparantly Rob never hears the end of! "You are giving them a license to sin if you preach this gospel of grace!". I think Rob's reply is classic;

"People don't need a license to sin - they are sinning anyway in your church!".

But I have recently been enjoying reading through my collection of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones books and have been posting some quotes for those who are interested over here. I found this quote which I think highlights the danger of teaching the Puritan-esque "Indwelling Sin" and life-long eternal morification of the same.

"So let us be clear about this. It is no sign of humility, no mark of saintliness, to go into the Presence of God doubting whether God is forgiving you".

I am concerned that there may be a danger (and I stress 'maybe') that we can develop distorted views of mortifying sin and how we behave when we do sin - that we can start to feel "good" about feeling "bad". Or that we can effectively start to glory in condemnation. Surely that is re-living Old Covenant life! Why stop basking in guilt and condemnation? Why not get out the sackcloth and ashes? Dr Lloyd-Jones is clear. It is NO sign of humility to either come into the Presence of God doubting whether God has forgiven you - or even worse not come in at all.

I remember in my home church one of the things that used to irritate me the most was when we would be having a time of corporate worship or maybe a prayer meeting - which really was a highlight of our church life. My senior pastor was (and still is) an incredible man of prayer. To hear Stanley Jebb pray is to hear a psalmist pray! I really do think a book can be made of his prayers. Anyway ... I digress. I remember frequently entering into the Presence of God experientially and feel God drawing near in response to our worship and praise. And then ... a dear, sincere, well-meaning person would stand up and pray something like this; "Oh God ... we are such worms ... how dare we even crawl into Your Presence?!". And I swear - I would feel the Presence of God move off and away.

Please understand I am not saying there is not a place for real grief at our sin. Not because we have broken a law but because we have broken His heart. But let's make sure that we do not "glory in condemnation" and live as though there is a spirituality in proclaiming how sinful we are (which I do think is an inherent danger of accountability groups). Surely to live as such is to be in danger of trampling under foot the Son of God and somehow feeling that our sin is "too big" for the blood of the covenant to cover and thereby insulting the Spirit of grace?


janelle said...

Hey Dan,

Thanks for the "plug". Though, I'm glad that we agree more than we disagree on subjects!!!

I'm a little confused again (not surprising:-D) I'm having trouble drawing the connection between this quote "So let us be clear about this. It is no sign of humility, no mark of saintliness, to go into the Presence of God doubting whether God is forgiving you" and indwelling sin. The concept of indwelling sin is not one of doubting God and His forgiveness, but being aware of the reality of sin still present in our lives.

ianmcn said...

Hi Dan

First of all, let me say I've been introduced to Rob Rufus and his teaching through your website and I've loved working my way through the Invading the impossible series - it's been spot on for me. It's also really challenged my view on grace. I have a question regarding the indwelling sin issue, which I'd be interested in your thoughts on. Personally, I see there are 3 possible conclusions to the issue:

1. Christians do have indwelling sin
2. Christians don't have indwelling sin, but generally in my experience this leads to a downgrade of what is considered sin so that only so called BIG sins are counted, and sinful attitudes, spiteful remarks, gluttony, lustful thoughts etc... are ignored.
3. Due to the fact we are no longer under law, and that it is the law that defines what sin is - the "sins" we commit are not actually SINS! Of course our new nature within us is holy and will not sit comfortably with unholiness, so these "sins" will trouble us and lead us to repentance - but they do not count as SINS against us, because the law by which sin is judged no longer has any power over us.

Personally, option 3 is very much where I'm at at the moment. In other words, if my life is judged according to the law, I am shown to be a dirty rotten sinner - but thanks to Jesus that is not what is going to happen!

Dan Bowen said...

Hey Janelle! What I was trying to highlight was that I think both points of view have dangers of excess. Rob's view of "no indwelling sin whatsover" clearly has the danger that some may take it as license to sin. But I felt that Dr Lloyd-Jones was warning that there is also a danger that we may actually become "proud" of our condemnation. Or "proud" of our guilt. I could be wrong! But that's how I interpreted the quote.

The majority of Christians I don't believe may do this. However in Rob's defence I also don't think the majority of Christians will take his grace teaching as license to sin!

But I was trying to point out that I think there may be excesses on both sides. And Dr Lloyd-Jones quote made it perfectly clear to me that there is nothing humble whatsoever about not making full and appropriate use of the blood of Jesus Christ to gain experiential access to the Father.

Does that make it a bit clearer?! Hope so! Be aware, I'm thinking aloud often as I blog - I see my blogs as "theological hand grenades" that I lob out and see from comments if there is anything I have spotted!

Hey Ianmcn! Great to have you here, and thanks for reading and for the comment. I'm so thrilled that you are benefiting from Rob as I am! Forgive me - I wasn't quite sure of your question! But I do agree and think your 3 categories were very useful and a helpful assessment of where things are at.

Absolutely; "If my life is judged according the law, I am shown to be a dirty rotten sinner"! So why oh why under heaven would Christians want to put themselves under the law when Jesus Christ has pronounced that the law and the preaching of the 10 Commandments is a "Ministry of Death"!!?!!?

Come back to me if I missed your point!

ianmcn said...

Sorry, not really a question - more of a comment! No, I don't think you missed my point, just got confused by my clumsy wording! Thanks for your reply.