Jim, you recently posted a discussion you had on Facebook regarding choice
Yes, my friend Mark and I have had numerous discussions in the past few years, many of his recent questions regarding how choice figures into our Christian life have been triggered by articles he has read from respected teachers. He has made a couple requests that you and I do an audio on the subject. So, are you up to it, my brother?
I am! By the way, let’s use the title from the article you posted from that Facebook discussion. I thought that the poster might enjoy seeing the audio titled the same.
Now, you didn’t include any quotes from the articles when you posted the dialog on the website. Why is that?
Well, that because it’s really not about the people who write the articles — or even the articles themselves — but rather it’s about the basic premise upon which the argument is built.
Now, you said “argument” … in the singular. Did you mean to say “arguments” … because there are many different arguments put out there.
I purposely use the singular, because when it comes down to it, there is really only one basis for every argument against the truth of God’s grace. All other arguments merely stem from that one basic premise, and they all testify to that which spawned them. Truth and reality, for me, has become simpler and simpler as the years go by. The stuff I used to argue about simply has no appeal, as I’ve come to see the emptiness of it. As a matter of fact, right around the turn of the century, I wrote an article (that I never actually finished) called “The Argument.” If you’re interested, you can find it at http://theshovel.net/the-argument. Anyhow, let’s jump in:
You started the article out with this paragraph:
*No doubt the guy makes some good points, but the whole thing is built upon the fallacy that since unbelievers have the power to not choose sin, we have even more power to do so. That means he missed the whole picture describing what it is to have been freed from sin and made alive to righteousness in Christ.”
Wow, how many of us were left at the very doorstep of this logic while submerged in the Christian world engaged in natural thinking? In fact some denominations are set up on this whole premise! It is the founding principal of their religion and is expected to be common insight within all.
Exactly! It is EXPECTED to be common insight within all. What if we were to realize that it is the expectation of the natural mind that intimidates us into acquiescing to that which appears to be of God?
Where did we ever get the fleshly idea that WE had power in our body to cease sin? Do we not know that this is a setup for living up to standards? Do we get surprised by the sense of shame and judgmentalism coming out of us when we are caught in that trap of the religious mind propelled by this teaching?
Do we REALLY just CHOOSE not to sin? CAN we actually do that? If we could, would we NEED a Savior? Conversely, can we just CHOOSE to do good? Again how does this match up with passages like “we are His workmanship created for good works in Christ”?
Those questions go to the very heart of the whole issue of how choice might or might not fit in the way we’ve so often perceived it should or shouldn’t. Of course, when we’re trying to wrap our understanding around the whole thing, it can seem so confusing … because there are some very good points made by those who base a successful Christian life upon free will.
Our brother made a statement to you that suggests a totally different kind of life in Christ:
Jim honestly can some one will themselves out of sin…i remember a time in my life when i enjoyed a lot of porno, i even thout it was impossible not to watch porn…when i stopped it was like a dream….i honestly did not decide myself out of that desire…it just fell off
Wow! It “just fell off”. Could that be the testimony in his words to the power of the Gospel of the Good news working in him? Note that most often we perceive God as One who works “on” us and not really “in” us. For if He works ON us, then we are simply pressed down and made to do things we don’t really wanna do. Ah but if he works IN us, then we are talking about the realm of POWER and that of glory and likeness flowing out from within the believer. Hey but wait, that would cut out mans efforts to be good enough, behaved enough and to CHOOSE rightly in his life enough to be saved, pleasing to God, righteous, clean, okay, totally loved and in God’s will.
it just fell off…
What if it was Paul’s main thrust to have this in mind in many of his “obedience” verses in the New Testament? Read Acts:
[the very thing I was ALREADY eager to do]
The reality is that we are NOT in sin. And that can’t help but cause a conflict when we believe that we have to get ourselves out of it.
*”Not in sin” Hmmm..how many times do we let this statement of encouragement pass by us without full understanding? Isn’t “being in sin” the thing we are totally preoccupied with trying to avoid everyday? [also known in our present day wording as “sin consciousnesses”] We might not know exactly what “being in sin” means, but it is shameful enough of an implied concept for us to do anything and everything to avoid being in it.
So if we are not in a state of sin with God, then how free are we to think, relate and rejoice in God no matter how much we have screwed up things according to our perceptions?
As unbelievers, we were able to choose one kind of a sin over another, and it could seem as if we were choosing against sin, and yet it was merely a transference. When we as believers get caught up in that same sin-shifting mentality by which we decide on a less obvious sin, we all too often assume that we got free of sin because of our choice. We can even point to the date and time where we made the choice, and this religious habit gives rise to the false basis of our reality as having already been set free from sin and made alive to God.
My story of obedience ..”God search my heart”…similar to the Rich Young Ruler.
Jim, here’s something else Mark had written:
What frustrates me is the fleshly mind thinking that if am given an inch, i will run a mile. As in it thinks, i love sinning and being out of line…as the guy says, “people are choosing what they want to do”„,Jim really?…your honest reflections please
My friends, this is the exact nature of the fleshly reasoning of the world that has been projected upon us. We’ve been indoctrinated by various religious leaders and/or teachers to view ourselves accordingly. Rather than building up those who are in Christ by exposing the lies of the world that opposes his amazing grace, the church seems hell-bent on reinforcing the vomit that’s being spewed out by the defiled mind. Why aren’t these leaders standing up to remind the believers that we cannot fight the traps of the flesh by the mind of the flesh … unless, of course, it’s fleshly reasoning that keeps them harping on sin in the first place. The fear of taking things to the extreme comes from the law-based mind, the same that we’ve been supposedly delivered from in Christ. But we’re not actually expected to believe that, are we?
Fears of the natural mind (aka. the flesh, the world):
afraid of the consequences of its actions.
afraid of being caught and punished.
The mind of love has no intention of doing harm to another and is only concerned with how consequences might cause harm to another. In other words, love being not sin-conscious is only concerned with another’s well-being. The fleshly mind, upon which most choice-centered arguments are pushed, revolves around keeping sin to a minimum.
Choice-based arguments can come across as sounding spiritual, but in effect they are built upon man’s wisdom.
For us, choice is about being free in Christ as those who have been made bound to righteousness. We keep having it pounded upon us to regard choice as being between good and evil, and that’s why we feel the need to conform to the fleshly mind that is always struggling with its false perceptions of good and evil.
As we recognize that we have been brought into a new life that is found within the realm of righteousness, we see that our choices are all of life. Don’t let that fleshly mind convince you that your choices are tainted by sin.
There is an amazing statement of the radically different life to which the believer has been called, and it’s found in Titus. Adam, if you wouldn’t mind…
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” Titus 1:15
QUESTIONS ON THIS VERSE TO DISCUSS:
Where do we really live?
What does the religious institution say about this?
Is there a mixture of the two?
What about our choices in view of this?
Now … how does it fit in with the passage, and does the passage reveal anything as to how we’ve been lied to by modern-day Christianity?
…holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. Titus 1:9-16
The perversion of the good news message pushes the lie that says we are caught between the two. The lie is the only perception that seems rational to the defiled mind, and of course our history in it often leaves us wondering if maybe we’re the ones who see it wrong. However, the truth is that we ARE the pure, we ARE the righteous. All things are pure to us. We choose between good and good and good, etc.
He was instructing Titus how to lead men from among the believers to stand against the lies of those who saw all things according to the defiled mind … especially those among the circumcision. Those were the religious lawmen of the day. They were the ones who professes to know God, and yet in reality they denied him in everything they did. Consider the example he brought up:
One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
This might seem a little disconnected here, but go with me on this, okay? I remember years ago hearing it pointed out that Paul was agreeing with the testimony because he said, “This testimony is true.” But that view misses the point entirely. Paul wouldn’t have suggested that the Cretans as a people needed to be reproved severely, but that the “rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision” needed to have their mouths shut.
The lying teachers had made an across the board judgment against all who lived in Crete. Paul didn’t say that the empty talkers (that is, the religious legalists) were accurate in what they prophesied, but that his OWN testimony was true. In other words, because one of their own prophets actually made this bold-faced lie, Paul wanted Titus to expose the religious teachers for the liars they were.
One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true.
In other words, he is saying that “it is true” that one of these “prophets” of the circumcision DOES INDEED say these kinds of things ..and that Paul testifies to this too.
If you think about it, Paul does similar things in his other statements…
Paul’s point is made clear by how he followed up with his famous statement, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure…” After all, how could they agree on such a viewpoint unless their own minds were defiled? In other words, THEY imposed their OWN false view on ALL Cretans because their mind and their conscience was defiled.
What do the defiled leaders prophesy today regarding believers? That all are sinful, all want to get away with their own lack of responsibility. This is the true testimony regarding what the actually teach, and this is the defiled perception Paul would have us expose in them.
You want to know why you have such difficulty with what you read about choice, and I tell you that it’s because you let their basic premise that is built upon these lies slide under the radar. You see, if it’s built upon a lie, then it makes no difference how convincing it is.