Reprinted with permission from Paraklesis, Summer 2011.
Some years ago, a young wife clinging to her husband hung her head in tears as she shared about her adulterous affair. She had confessed her sin to her husband and to the church some weeks prior. I gently raised her head and shared, “please do not lower your head in shame to anyone in this church—we have all been saved, are being saved, and one day will be saved by the blood of Jesus.” We then began to construct a redemptive solution for this couple.
Scripture portrays a believer’s relationship to sin in a multicolored fashion. We are portrayed as sinners who are completely forgiven and stand completely accepted and loved by God and, at the same time, we are portrayed as saints who continue to struggle with sin. A redemptive paradigm allows this sinning saint identity while avoiding a guilt-driven or grace-distorting double-mindedness.
To engender a redemptive environment, Pastors and counselors should emphasize the threefold sense of salvation: We have been saved (Acts 16:31; 2 Tim. 1:9) from the very penalty, and all penal guilt, of our sin. This past sense or tense of salvation is summed up as justification. Justification entails God pronouncing a judicial verdict and acquittal of all our sins so that each of us stand before Him in Christ’s imputed (not imparted) righteousness and not by our own works (Rom. 3:20-25, Gal. 2:16).
Men and women, young and old, rich and poor—they all gathered at the square by the water gate. They wanted to hear the Book of the Law read. Ezra was more than willing and read from dawn to noon while everyone stood with rapt attention. Teachers helped translate and explain words grown unfamiliar after decades of neglect.
As they listened, some began to cry. They heard about the life God had offered His people and understood how badly they had failed to keep the terms of the covenant. They saw why they had been taken into captivity and had only recently returned to ruins and chaos and had struggled to rebuild the walls. And they felt deeply why, even now, they were vassals under a mighty empire.
Soon more were crying, then more. Guilt and shame filled hearts and overflowed in tears.
But Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites cut it short. “This is a holy day,” they insisted, “not a time for weeping! Go home and rejoice! Celebrate with good food and drink. Make sure everybody has plenty. This is not a sad day, but a holy day, a time for joy. The joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Neh. 8:9-11, author’s paraphrase.) The people were reluctant, but finally did as they were told.
Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit, November/December ‘05
This view teaches that one earns or keeps salvation by good works, and thus that the person who chooses to sin has forfeited any right to heaven. This view contradicts the Bible’s clear teaching on salvation as God’s gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), purchased for us not by our works but by the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross (Romans 3:24-25, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24).
This view states that it is possible for a believer to have an experience following conversion in which the principle or root of sin is removed and replaced by love for God. 1 John 3:9 does not support this view but, rather, argues against a second work of grace by implying that one who sins has never been born of God.
This view recognizes that believers occasionally sin but argues that, because they have been regenerated, it is impossible for believers to habitually practice sin. This view has much to commend it but is not entirely satisfactory upon consideration of a literal rendering of the verse (see Five Factors, 1. The text).