the power to not sin?

Posted: March 30th, 2011 | Filed under: God, life | Tags: , | 18 Comments »

What a person believes about grace influences everything. Some believe that grace gives the recipient the power to not sin. Others believe that grace is forgiveness for sins. What a person believes about grace may be the most crucial operating system in the life of a Christian because it affects the levels of love, fear, and pride. Love evicts fear and is the key to getting it right, and pride is the pretentious bride of sin.

It may help you to understand where I’m coming from if I tell you that I equate grace with the finished work of Jesus.  The finished work of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian faith. Therefore, it influences everything.

However, grace is an issue that divides intelligent people. With so much at stake, the believer has to examine their faith to see if it is actually Jesus that they believe in, and not some form of religious superstition.

The best way to examine what you really believe is to explore the implications.

If grace gives you the power to not sin, then what does that imply? Off the top of my head…

  • There are people who do not sin.
  • There is a point, given enough grace, when you will not sin.
  • Anyone who sins is not under grace.
  • People possess the power.

These implications give the individuals, who hold this belief, the power to condemn those who sin because they are not under grace. It also spurs them to teach that grace must be earned by not sinning. This perpetuates the appearance-based religion that buries the person who must hide their shortcomings in order to remain in the Christian community.

Those who know that they cannot measure up to the impossible standards of never failing end up rejecting a system that makes them feel inadequate. Their refusal to lie about the deepest parts of their flawed condition will cause them to turn away from Jesus because, in reality, what they are being taught about Him has turned out to be a lie. It is a lie because they have not received, though they have tried to muster up the faith and do everything they can to avoid sin, the ability to not sin. They live buried in defeat and hopelessness. They feel abandoned by God and doubt the power of the finished work of Jesus.

If grace is forgiveness of sins, what does that imply? For starters….

  • People will still sin.
  • There is never a point when you will not sin.
  • The more sin, the more grace.
  • Jesus possesses the power.

These implications give the individuals, who hold this belief,  the power to forgive and show mercy to those who sin. It also spurs them to teach that grace cannot be earned. This perpetuates the power of the finished work of Jesus Who has the ability to remove the sting of death that sin delivers. This teaching sets sin’s captives free to get up with they fall and do their best, even while knowing their best is not good enough. They teach that Jesus does not just make up for their lack, but that His power is made perfect in their weakness.

Those who know that they cannot do it on their own end up being conduits of grace in the lives of others. Inadequacy is crucial to understanding need and need is the reason Jesus rescued them. The deepest parts of their flawed condition no longer have the power to keep them separated from God.  They no longer have to hide in shame.  It keeps them at the feet of Jesus. What they have been taught about Him is the truth that keeps them connected to Him. They are no longer buried and condemned by their sin because they live in the hope of salvation. They do not want to sin, they try to keep that sin nature in check. The evidence that grace does not give people the power to not sin is found in the fact that they still sin. However, they are no longer buried in defeat or feel abandoned by God. Their hope is that Jesus is Who He says He is and grace wins over what sin attacks.

So, which is it?

I looked for any sentence with any combination of the words, “power”, “sin”, and “grace,” in ESV, NIV, AMP, KJV and The Message Bible translations and there were none. I could find no scriptural support for the belief that grace gives the person the power to not sin.

I also did a word search for every place in the New Testament where the Greek word “charis” (grace, translated to English words) occurs and found it in at least 163 scriptures. This helped me find the use of the word in context.

The scriptures where the power of grace is discussed refers to the ability of a person to boldly share the Gospel of Jesus because of their understanding of grace.

And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. -Acts 4:33 ESV

But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God. -Romans 15:15 ESV

In at least nine times in the book of Romans, grace is referenced in direct contrast to sin. It talked about the power of grace over sin, but it is not referenced as the power to not sin. It says that grace wins in spite of sin.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. -Romans 5:20 ESV

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:14 ESV

The message of the free gift is so profound that there are several places where the writers of the New Testament feel the need to make sure the readers understand that grace is not an excuse to sin. If the message were that grace gave you the power to not sin, then that reminder would not be necessary.

Grace cannot be earned in any way. It is a free gift, so if you were able to earn it, it would not be free. The message that teaches that grace must be earned, or that a sinless life is the only way to be under grace, is false. It undermines the power of Jesus, giving the person the power, thereby making the person equal to Jesus and causing Him to be useless.  This is a very blatant anti-Christ theology designed to either make you feel, at best, hopeless or, if you are deceived enough, make you feel self-righteous.

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. – Romans 4:2 ESV

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. – Romans 4:4 ESV

I hope this helped you understand what grace is and what it isn’t, what it does and what is doesn’t. It is important to understand because it changes everything. We do not have the power, Jesus does. It is only because of faith that you can live in the open spaces of a free life, flaws and all, and still have hope. Do not ever let someone tell you that you are beyond grace. The only thing that can take grace away from you is you, and you do that by not believing.

The man who is fully aware of his inability to measure up to the impossible standards of righteousness has this message:

But [God] said…, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

Belief about grace will still divide intelligent people, but you have to stick to the finished work of Jesus. Let that message do the dividing. Remember, they are not rejecting you. They’re rejecting Him. Be patient, full of love, and drenched in grace. Those qualities are what God uses to call His children to Him.

‎…When we preach the gospel to every creature, the gospel makes its own division, and Christ’s sheep hear his voice, and follow him. – Charles Spurgeon

shp


18 Comments »


18 Comments on “the power to not sin?”

  1. 1 StephenT said at 7:53 am on March 30th, 2011:

    To debate this issue with someone involves navigating some difficult terrain. But I think perhaps there is a tangential issue at play here that has a straighter path towards resolution.

    Some will argue that to whatever degree you do stop sinning, it's the stoppage that makes you "more fit for heaven".

    And this is utterly false.

    By grace through faith is our only means of justification and of having a seat at the marriage feast.

  2. 2 Julie R. said at 7:54 am on March 30th, 2011:

    I agree with "grace is the forgiveness of sin". I also believe that the one thing the finger pointers have failed to realize is that because I believe I have a better understanding of grace, because I believe in its true power, I don't , no… I CAN'T view grace as a 'free ticket' to do whatever I want. My understanding of grace causes me to believe that if I sin with intent, then I trample the message of grace.

  3. 3 Judy said at 3:47 pm on March 31st, 2011:

    I spent the first 20 years of my adult life living under system #1 and can attest to the feelings of abandonment and despair at never being able to "measure up". Understanding that God loves me unconditionaly not only set me free but inspires me to live in response to that love. Grace has allowed me the freedom to be me and the ability to learn from my mistakes, flaws, failures and sin. It allows me to see myself honestly.

  4. 4 Donald Borsch Jr said at 5:38 am on April 1st, 2011:

    >>It undermines the power of Jesus, giving the person the power, thereby making the person equal to Jesus and causing Him to be useless. This is a very blatant anti-Christ theology designed to either make you feel, at best, hopeless or, if you are deceived enough, make you feel self-righteous.

    ——————————

    Bingo. This is why I maintain, strongly maintain, that I have never "accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior". No. Instead, it is He that accepted me, through His Sovereign will and manifested grace of the New Covenant. This way, I can never claim any leverage or insert myself into the Salvation gift.

    Justin Falls recommended your blog to me via Twitter. I'm glad I came.

    Donald in Bethel, CT

  5. 5 Michelle said at 8:05 am on April 1st, 2011:

    I've never thought grace was the power to not sin. Grace is the state in which we stand. The power comes from the Spirit.

    "If we walk in the Spirit, we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh."

    But, then the question: Do any of us continually walk in the Spirit?

    The answer: No.

    He abides within. The power is continually available, but do we ask for the power to overcome? No, not always, if ever, much. And when we don't, when we choose to take steps that are "of the flesh" (since we live in these earthly tents…still…) we are still in a perpetual state of forgiveness: Grace.

    We're covered…in Him.

    (That's the way I understand the scripture…the complete gospel. He took our sins on the cross, died, was buried and resurrected. The power to overcome is in God's Spirit, which we receive at the point of salvation. We stand in grace until The Day we are completely free from our sinful flesh…when we see Him face-to-face.)

  6. 6 Michelle said at 8:27 am on April 1st, 2011:

    The resurrection part of the gospel being the power…as Paul said:

    I count all things to be loss (those "good deeds" done in the flesh) in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

    Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

    (I wasn't sure I made the point clearly in my former comment, that the power comes from the power of the resurrection…which is God's power, right? It seems to me Paul is saying he has NOT obtained perfection, but he presses on…as we are called to do. However, perfection is NOT defined as sinlessness, but maturity.)

    Am I muddying the waters?

  7. 7 Brandy said at 8:43 am on April 1st, 2011:

    I don't think you are muddying the waters, Michelle. I think you are expanding upon what Serena is saying. You did a great job!! I love this blog. 🙂

  8. 8 Michelle said at 8:56 am on April 1st, 2011:

    Thanks, Brandy. 🙂

  9. 9 Brian said at 9:43 am on April 1st, 2011:

    I would like to join the conversation, Michelle, if you don't mind? I guess by doing that, I only have a couple of questions. In Galations 5:16, what is 'walking in the Spirit'? And what are 'things of the flesh'? Interpretation of parts influences interpretation in whole.

    I really hope Serena adds her thoughts here, as well. More conversations, of the edifying sort, need to be had like this. Like minds, with varying understanding, coming together to share, glean, and find depth is what I love about this place.

  10. 10 Michelle said at 11:23 am on April 1st, 2011:

    Hey, Brian. I believe Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would come to us as our Helper. One of His ministries is to convict us of sin and help us walk in righteousness. (John 16:5-15)

    "To walk in the Spirit," taking the Greek tense, is to "keep on walking" in the Spirit. It is a constant deliberation on our part. It is an exhortation to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (the Author and Finisher of our faith), listening to His voice within as He urges us forward in this walk of faith (to scrunch a couple of passages together).

    I think we can choose not to listen. I know I do. If I want something more than I want Him, or His ways, many times, I'll go for it…

    Sigh.

    But then, I think we can choose not to sin…if only a brief moment in time…His Spirit will help us. Just as He exhorted Cain before killing Abel, "Sin is crouching at the door, don't let it master you."

    Deeds of the flesh are listed in Galatians 6, but I've also come to see that is NOT an exhaustive list, as we can take pride in our "good deeds" thus rendering them deeds done through flesh, instead of the Spirit. As Paul is discussing in Phil. 3 (the passage I quoted in my second comment).

    All Christians has the Spirit within, thus the definition of a Christian. Do we quench Him through not listening, not caring, not heeding…? I think we do more often than not…which is why we are exhorted again and again to walk worthy of the gospel…to excel still more in love.

    That's my understanding…

  11. 11 Serena Woods said at 3:24 pm on April 1st, 2011:

    Michelle,

    Thank you for adding so much to this conversation. I have something I would like to point out and I’m going to quote a sentence so you know which one I’m talking about.

    “I believe Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would come to us as our Helper. One of His ministries is to convict us of sin and help us walk in righteousness. (John 16:5-15)”

    In that verse, the word “Helper” was changed from “Comforter” and that was translated from the Greek word “Parakletos”. It means ‘advocate’, as in: ‘He pleads your case before the Judge.’ He also serves to “guide you into Truth” and help you withstand persecution when your faith is attacked.

    My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. -1 John 2:1 ESV

    Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. -Romans 8:34 ESV

    <font color="38bdd3">What are your thoughts?</font>

  12. 12 Michelle said at 11:26 am on April 1st, 2011:

    Sorry…that's Galatians 5. 😕

  13. 13 Serena Woods said at 12:21 pm on April 1st, 2011:

    I love it when you guys dig deep. I'll share some initial thoughts and leave room for conversation…

    <font color="38bdd3">To walk according to the Spirit is to live under the New Covenant (Grace).</font>

    "…our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter [Law] but of the Spirit. For the letter [Law] kills, but the Spirit gives life." – 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV

    It brings your thoughts back to grace. The effects of walking according to the Spirit <font color ="999999">(Spirit life, grace, freedom, guiltless)</font> are found in Galatians 5:22.

    <font color= "38bdd3">love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control</font>

    These are effects, not requirements. You can emulate these things, but that is according to the flesh. Walking according to the spirit produces these things. A time <font color= "999999">(or more)</font> even exists when there is a reason for these fruit producing branches to be pruned, but that is a much deeper subject. See the scripture here:

    I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, <font color= "38bdd3">and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.</font>John 15:1-2 ESV

    Walking according to the Spirit means that we walk in assurance of Salvation and offer ourselves up to whatever purpose He has. It is trust on our part and action within us and through<font color ="999999"> (as in: a container to be poured into, then lifted and tipped to pour out)</font> us on His. There is no room for fear in the Spirit. When the scriptures talk about 'fearing the Lord', I think it means the kind of fear that comes from being a piece of clay in whatever form He chooses to mold. Fear and trembling, yet still trusting…

    You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called… -Romans 9:19-24 ESV

    This leaves us in complete submission and dependance which are only possible by faith… only possible by walking in the Spirit. <font color ="999999"> (not relying on your own understanding…)</font>

    Walking according to the Spirit gives fresh light to things we thought we already knew. It's redemptive in more ways than one <font color ="999999">(meaning: it doesn't just redeem us, it redeems His word in us, too)</font> because it dusts off some of our favorite truths.

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

  14. 14 Steph said at 1:08 pm on April 1st, 2011:

    Serena PLEASE write a Bible study. I learn so much from you!

  15. 15 Brian said at 1:10 pm on April 1st, 2011:

    Beautiful, Serena. Profound and, yet, clear.

  16. 16 Michelle said at 4:16 pm on April 1st, 2011:

    Hey, Serena…I've taken the definition from Vine's, and yes, I do see the definition as an advocate in a court of law…and in the simplest meaning it is translated as helper…one who comes alongside to aid. Jesus speaks of having "another" Helper (parakletos) which seems to mean, One like Himself:

    I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. ~John 14:16-17

    I understand this word (parakletos) is one of the hardest to interpret since it is only found in John's writings. However, the nuances of the word can be used as helper, comforter, or advocate.

    I absolutely LOVE the fact that He comes to my aid against the accuser (and his minions) before the Father and that He will guide me into all truth.

    Also, I see in chap. 16 that the Spirit's ministry as three-fold:

    To convict the world:

    ~of sin — because they do not believe.

    ~of righteousness — because Jesus is going to the Father.

    ~of judgment — because the ruler of this world is condemned.

    And then, 1 John 2:1…WOW…just wow…so amazing…SO thankful!!

    (those are some of my thoughts… 🙂 )

  17. 17 Robyn said at 2:18 am on April 6th, 2011:

    Serena,

    Thank you for sharing the truths that God has shown you. My father is a minister and I emailed him your post. He said, "She is expressing a complete understanding of the Truth!"

    Now, to me, that is a great compliment! 🙂

    Robyn

  18. 18 Serena Woods said at 12:16 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    I'll take that compliment. 🙂 Thanks, Robyn.


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