Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rob Rufus on Indwelling Sin

Sometimes I get questioned on why my particular "bug-bears" in theological discussion are as they are. Subjects such as the meaning of the Song of Solomon, biblical manhood and womanhood and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are all guaranteed to get me going! Why so? Because I think each of these subjects have got the potential to cause great harm and damage - or taught rightly great blessing to the body of Christ. Indwelling sin is a more recent topic of discussion mainly since my days within SGM but has become equally important in thinking through.

I'm deeply indebted to Ryan Rufus's book; "Do Christians still have sinful nature?" for helping me to re-think through the correct Biblical perspective on this. It actually DOES matter how we view our new standing and nature in Christ! So I was greatly encouraged to hear Rob himself address the issue while speaking at the Sydney "Glory and Grace Conference". Here's what he had to say;

"Let me deal with this question of whether Christians have a sin nature or not ... I do not believe that Christians have a sin nature anymore. Under first Adam and law, you did. Rob are you saying that a Christian can't sin? You shouldn't even have to ask that question. Of course a a Christian can sin but that is not sin nature.

A sin nature is a nature that hates God and loves sinning and hates anything to do with God. A sin nature loves sinning, desires and wants to sin. We are telling Christians when you are born again and now have a new righteous nature that doesn't want to sin but you have got a sin nature as well and they are fighting each other and the one you feed the most will win the fight.

We don't have a sinning nature! We can sin but we are not under the control of a sinning nature".

I've had some quite recent very helpful dialogue with Janelle Phillips on this (about which we differ a bit in our views!). The key issue of course is that we are all seeking to become as Christ-like as possible and we all have a desire to grow in holiness! However I have been quite surprised at some Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotes that show a slight differing from the classic views on holy living that are being circulated at the moment (but at the same time, Dr Lloyd-Jones sounds so similar to Rob Rufus!) For example;

"When we sin, we should not feel that we are back under the wrath of God, but that we have hurt a loving Father. What a difference! "There is no condemnation" but we have wounded and hurt a loving Father. So we go back to Him as the prodigal son did, and find that all is well".

Not the breaking of rules! But the breaking of a heart. What a far greater incentive to not sin. I think Terry Virgo said something similar at the Brighton Leaders Conference in 2005. But the quote that really surprised me was this one;

"No one has ever been cured of immorality by reading books on the control of sex - never has been, never will".

I must admit I never read "Not Even a Hint: Guarding Your Heart Against Lust". I wonder if any who have can vouch that they have made major strides in the battle to get their minds pure. But the overall emphasis of the Rob Rufus quote to me is that we needn't worry that we are "feeding" some sin nature that may grow or get weaker depending on how strictly we adhere to the spiritual disciplines. That was all triumphed over at the Cross! We now stand in resurrection newness of life.

(PS: After this quote Rob went into some quite graphic descriptions of the meaning of circumcision and it's relevance here. If the comments and debate gets too heated - I will post it to make the emphasis a bit clearer! Be warned!).


lydia joy said...

"bug-bears" ??? hmm...well this issue of indwelling sin gets me heated also.
We simply can't identify any longer with a sinful nature, our old nature died, we have a new nature a heart of flesh and not stone, in otherwords a heart that is soft and pliable towards God.
"How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?"
It really does matter how we view our new nature and right standing with God. Believing the truth of God's word - taking captive every thought matters so much!!
I love Rob's quote! "A sin nature is a nature that hates God and loves sinning ......" Whoa, now how quick will be people be to defend the "doctrine of indwelling sin"

Dan Bowen said...

Hey Lydia!!

Ah hah well "bug bear" is defined as this:

"An object of extreme dislike: abhorrence, abomination, anathema, aversion".


Hope that helps!! I agree - I think I found Rob's distinction really helpful. The issue isn't about whether we DO sin or not. The issue is that a sin nature WANTS to sin, and actively HATES God. Can THAT really co-exist within us with God the Holy Spirit?

thebluefish said...

My memory (which could be very selective) of 'Sex is not the problem: lust is' is that it's basically a light re-write of part of Piper's Future Grace on treasuring Christ.

Can we say our sinful nature is now dead and put off, but that there are times when we sin when we're living as if it's not dead - even though it actually is dead?

Not sure anyone is trying to defend the sinful nature - the whole point is it's horrible. And dead. And we better remember that.

I suspect that historically what you're talking about is what people mean, but that it's not always applied rightly. In the same way that Christian life is enjoying grace but frequently you wouldn't think so from looking at Jesus' bride.

Sin stays dead when we pursue the Spirit... fight sin or embrace it and it grows. Thus rules are the same as indulging sin. Similiarly, it seems to me, we preach Jesus to the world rather than 'the law'. But that's another topic.

Dan Bowen said...


"Not sure anyone is trying to defend the sinful nature - the whole point is it's horrible. And dead. And we better remember that".

Is the whole problem that we are interpreting Scripture in the light of our experience? So hence Romans 7 seems to match how many of us feel struggling with sin. But shouldn't we be using Scripture to interpret our experience and guide our steps?

I don't think (and wouldn't try to argue) that any genuine Christian would defend the sin nature. But it's just too easy to live with a defeatist attitude that the "sin nature" is in there somewhere (btw - WHERE is the sin nature exactly?!)rather than replace that temptation with a passionate pursuit of God's Presence and His glory.

Surely that positive replacement is a more effective way of combating sinful behaviour, rather than finding a list of rules, laws etc.

I do agree - I think the problem is a matter of applying biblical truth. Christian life is indeed MEANT to be enjoying grace! But take a look at the Church - how happy do we look!?

thebluefish said...

It's what I'm loving about being part of newfrontiers, everything is based on enjoying grace... which is what I've known in UCCF for years but hadn't really found in the church.