The aim of not sinning at all

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Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
I posed the question on my blog: Do you aim to not sin too much, or to not sin at all?

I received some interesting responses! Some good some very bad.

1) not sinning too much

2) i'm aiming to see how righteous and wise i can be

3 Not sure how to answer this one. I guess my aim is to glorify God and please Him while knowing I will fall short

4)I'm asking the best question ever. "is it the wise thing to do?" rather than... "is it wrong?" :)

5)Hmmmm.....First question makes me think of relativism. The second question, perfectionism. Neither is a favorable choice.

6)I aim to give up every selfish desire, everly lustful thought, and every evil want that my flesh desires. I aim not to sin at all, I aim to give up what I think I am and who I think God wants me to be for what God really wants me to be. I also wish to remind people that doing God's will and "not sinning" are two very different things. We should get to a point where our goal is beyond wishing to not do wrong and to the point of wanting to go and do right. Doing right includes many thing such as converting, the way we think, the way we feel about others, and just so many other things.

7)I'm aiming to please God in everything I do and in everything I am. I think that's the best attitude I have for my own life. Each has to live according to the measure of their faith God has given them. 'Cause it's not about sinning or not sinning, it's about our relationship with God which we must nurture, develop, grow, and mature.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
A lengthier response by Tim Potts:

There are two major focuses you can have with right and wrong. One main focus would be on not doing bad. The other main focus would be on doing good. Visualize a quarter. One side is the focus of doing good while the flip side is the focus on not doing bad. They are both equally important. However, you can only focus on one side at a time. The Pharisees focused on what not to do. This caused them to be indifferent about helping others and to be legalistic, which blurred their love and vision for God. Jesus, on the other hand, focused on doing good deeds and loving others. The result of this was enjoyment and love, but ultimately the glorification of God.

God created us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the greatest commandment. This is how we were actually designed to be until the fall of man messed that up. With love you fulfill all the commandments, and by setting it as the main focus of your life, you will never have to worry about what not to do anymore, because in love you complete both sides of that "quarter." You will experience the freedom you have in Christ and enjoy God more which in turn, will lead you to loving Him more and more everyday and fulfilling the greatest commandment better. With the other focus on what not to do, you will have tendencies to be legalistic and to be afraid of God. If you were uptight with fear every time your mom or dad walked around you couldn't enjoy them or love them. Same thing applies to God.


To the Christians: Do you live your life indifferent, with the motive to just get by without sinning?

It would be refreshing if everyone would live each day focusing on doing good deeds and loving God and others. I encourage all of us to try every day to help someone: tell someone about the grace of God, help out the poor, take care of the sick, volunteer somewhere, show genuine interest in someone, encourage someone, smile(and if you think you have no reason to smile, then count your blessings).

The more you can love God the more you will please and glorify Him. Being indifferent does nothing, but loving and helping others will reinforce your love for God, and consequently make sin uglier to you, allowing the flip side of the coin of trying not to sin, much easier to do. So if you didn't get anything out of this post then get this: Seek to love and enjoy God more everyday.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
And finally my full treatment of the issue:

THE AIM OF NOT SINNING AT ALL

In my last post I posed a question that Jerry Bridges poses in his book The Pursuit of Holiness.

"Many Christians have a basic desire to live a holy life but have come to believe they simply cannot do it. They have struggled for years with particular sins or deficiencies of character. While not living in gross sin, they have more or less given up ever attaining a life of holiness and have settled down to a life of moral mediocrity with which neither they nor God are pleased"

And later on he writes:

"The apostle John said," My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin"(1 John 2:1) the whole purpose of John's letter, he says is that we NOT sin. One day as I was studying this chapter I realized that my personal life's objective regarding holiness was less than that of John's. He was saying in effect," Make it your aim not to sin." As I thought about this, I realized that deep within my heart my real aim was not to sin very much. I found it difficult to say," Yes, Lord from here on I will make it my aim not to sin." I realized God was calling me that day to a deeper level of commitment to holiness than I had previously been willing to make.

"Can you imagine a soldier going into battle with the aim of "not getting hit very much"? The very suggestion is ridiculous. His aim is not to get hit at all! Yet if we have not made a commitment to holiness without exception, we are like a soldier going into battle with the aim of not getting hit very much. We can be sure that if that is our aim, we will be hit-not with bullets, but with temptation over and over again."

Mr. Bridges then quotes the great preacher Jonathan Edwards "Resolved to never do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life."

I think that one of the major problems with people illogical complaints is this. Having a goal to not sin does not logically mean that that's all one should aim to do. That's bad logic. Terrible logic. If I say I plan to take a nap, would you cry in anger "YOU SHOULD PLAN TO PLEASE GOD!!!"? I would hope not. If you did I would probably roll over and fall asleep. Having one goal does not mean that one can't have other goals of greater, equal, or lesser importance. But aside from that I wanted to present a thorough encouragement to have "not sinning at all" as a priority. As well as defeat some of the objections that people presented.

First I wish to address what I perceive to be the assumption of some that this aim reeks of legalism, and that it is against a mind that is positively concerned with pleasing God. 1) I want to attack the erroneous definition of legalism. 2) I want to excavate God's hatred of sin 3) I want to illuminate the absolute necessity of our personal Holiness.

I. Legalism is not to be confused with a serious concern for not sinning.

Legalism is one term in bible that most people have twisted and soiled to their harm and God's displeasure. Legalism is best defined by the Pharisees of course that my opponents in this argument know well enough! The term Pharisee is hardly far from a Christian's lips these days. I propose that it should be used with far more scrutiny. We had best gather a right definition of a word before we employ it! If we misuse the term Pharisee, or Legalist, we have likely misunderstood the very conflict between the Pharisees and our Lord. In fact if we misunderstand it we even stand the risk of siding with the bad guys!!!

Look at the words of our Lord, when he heals a man of his infirmity he tells him later: Behold you have become well, do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you! And who could forget the very serious teaching on Lust and Hatred in the Sermon on the Mount? If a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart he has committed adultery? If your hand causes you to sin cut it off it would be better to enter into the Kingdom with one hand then be sent to hell with two hands? Ring a bell? These aren't my ideas; these are the words of our Lord. This is only a very small sample of Christ's moral teachings so we can certainly banish far from our minds the notion of Christ not caring about sin.
Nextly we must exile the deception that Christ cared about sin less than the Pharisees. Is Christ coming to destroy God's moral law? No! "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." So it was neither a concern for sin, nor a lessening of the law that was Christ's interest. What then caused the Pharisees to conflict with Jesus? Have you guys ever heard of the Talmud? Today Jews have a large collection of writings from Rabbis throughout the centuries. They use this book of commentary to interpret scripture, sounds helpful right? Wrong. The Talmudic writers were not all good interpreters in fact very early on BEFORE Christ's birth the Talmudic writers began to seriously skew the writings on Moses. For example where Moses delivered the command from God: Love your neighbor, the Pharisees in their commentaries added the note: AND hate your enemies. They actually dared to add to scripture. Remember the fourth commandment in Exodus 20? Keep the Sabbath? Well the Pharisees felt that God's own explanation was not specific enough so they started making up all kinds of ridiculous rules to go along with the simple commands of God. For example the Pharisees wrote that man could not do works of mercy on the Sabbath. This Christ said was a poor interpretation of God's law. The Sabbath was made for man, he said, so works of mercy like helping a sick friend to the hospital are not wrong. Most of this information is probably new to you right? This isn't new thinking this information was known to the early church and beyond. Unfortunately now nobody thinks it's important to study these things out! In fact I wouldn't be surprised to find that most people had already stopped reading my post by now.

What is a result of people not having all this "theological understanding" of what the Pharisees had done to the law? They assume to their error that Jesus was against God's law! But he wasn't against God's law he was against the Pharisees perversion of God's law. They had tried to build a fence around the laws of God. This fence was to keep people from even coming close to breaking God's commandments. So they made rules in other words to make sure you couldn't even come close to breaking a command of God. Sounds good right? No way people. These burdens showed pure arrogance on the Legalists part they thought they were wiser than God himself who gave the commands! Whenever we take God's rule for example: Don't take my name in vain. And add rules: Don't ever say God's name. We have sided with the Pharisees! This happens all the time today! People say don't drink! Don't watch TV! Don't listen to secular music! Hello? Sounds pretty familiar now doesn't it?

Therefore a proper definition of Legalism is this: Adding burdensome rules that God has not commanded. This is the Legalism that our Lord Jesus hated. Not a serious concern for the law, not a desire to see God's people live holy, because all of these things remain! Yes that's what I said. We should be concerned with God's moral law, which is perfectly described in Exodus 20, and then summed up in the words of Jesus: Love God, Love your neighbor. God is concerned for these things! This takes us to our next point:
II. Concerning God's violent hatred of sin.
You shall be holy, for I am holy. This sentiment rings throughout the bible from the mouth of God himself. It's found in Lev 19:2, 20:26, and echoes all throughout the Old and New Testament. Peter brings up this "archaic sentiment in his first letter "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "BE HOLY, BECAUSE I AM HOLY."

The author of Hebrews shares these words: "without holiness no one will see the Lord."(Heb 12:14) and then "Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and we, for our God is a consuming fire. It is very helpful then to meditate on God's holiness. As the scriptures point out it is the very motive for our own holiness! We are to imitate God who is pure and holy. Separate and distinct. God is glorious in his moral perfection. This completely perfect moral aspect of God is too easily passed over today. We hear a lot of rhetoric about a God of love and it is by no means my idea that he is not a God of awesome love! BUT, we must not emphasize the holiness that makes his love so much more amazing. Let me be clear, we cannot properly grasp a God of love until we understood his purity. That means that his love is a pure love. It is not mingled with weakness or compromise. When we look at the Cross we see how big God's love is truly! It overcomes the great distance created by sin! So let's not be afraid to press in to this particular subject.

God is holy. It only took one sin to qualify Adam and Eve's ejection from heaven. One act of disobedience sent mankind on a downward spiral! Why? Why so strict? Silence those thoughts, instead ask a better question. Why did Adam have to disobey a perfect command? Adam sin was spurred by a critical and questioning view of God's law. God says to Adam effectively "Obey me and you will live". The Creator of all existence presented this covenant of works to Adam with conditions. The God who made truth brought facts into being spoke these words "Do not". It was Adam's heinous error, his grotesque treason to walk over that authoritative command. It was his foolish decision to doubt God who cannot lie, and who should be trusted. In fact trust, or faith as we sometimes call it, is required for righteousness. As it is written again and again "the just shall live by faith" and elsewhere "without faith it is impossible to please God." That in mind it appears that sin really matters to God. In fact you would be just in saying that God hates sin! It would also not be wrong to say God hates sinners! "Whoa you lost me there Ian, you are a heretic!"

Am I really? Yes today it is often said that God "Hates the sin and loves the sinner!" This is a classic half-truth. Even our handling of this statement is riddled with error. We like to linger over the warm and fuzzy "loves the sinner" but we often do not spend serious time considering God's expressed hatred of sin. God is not just angry with acts but with the people that execute them as well.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." Psalm 1:5, 6

It is the wicked whom perish here. Not just actions. That's why sinners cannot stand before the Holy One of Israel. Their guilt is on them. God hates wickedness. He sets himself against the proud.

Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD. Psalm 16:5.

Here is an excerpt from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary from their section on hate: The response by God's people needs to mirror God's attitude toward evil. We are to hate evildoers (Psalm 26:5), idolaters (Psalm 31:6), the false way (Psalm 119:104), falsehood (Psalm 119:163), and anything that is evil (Psalm 97:10; Prov 8:13; Amos 5:15).

I could certainly go on and on with this topic that no doubt some are offended by already. But I am not concerned about placating the desires of those would abandon the faithful teaching of scripture here. Let it be abundantly clear that God hates sin will have nothing to do with the foul acts of men, nor wicked men themselves. He only, only, receives men into divine fellowship through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ paid the debt and makes us positionally righteous before God. He reconciles us to God, having absorbed the full fury of God's wrath and anger for us upon the cross. He bore our sins in his body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, which leads us to our next and final point:

III. Holiness is an absolute necessary condition for God's people.

If these arguments do not convince you we ought to aim for not sinning then perhaps this one will. Aiming for not sinning some have wrongly asserted is a lesser aim than aiming to do God's will positively. This is certainly poor logic. Aiming to not sin is simply the negative expression of the positive statement do God's will. Can anyone really deny this fact? When God says "Do this" there are positive implications. The positive is active obedience to the command. The negative is not to obey the command. To sin. Anything that is sin is not doing the will of God. Therefore by aiming to not sin the believer is positively seeking to do the will of God. What could be any more clearer than this?

X is sin. Y is the will of God. Everything that is not Y is X. Therefore by aiming to not perform anything that is X one must be performing an act that is Y.

If we are a people who would like to have a relationship with God, if we would seek to nurture and grow in knowing God we must be committed to growing in holiness! Holiness as Mr. Bridges writes is "not an option". Again let's remember the words of the author of Hebrews "without holiness no one will see the Lord". "Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments."(Deuteronomy 7:9). God's covenant with mankind is with a holy people! Christ saves us from sin right? We die to sin and become alive to righteousness! Christ came to save us from sin. What originally separated us from God? It was his anger at what? Our sins! Sin is not peripheral issue! Wasn't it our God who declares that the wages of sin is death? Sin is an obstacle to relationship! Until we see that we will have no relationship with God. And all our lovey-dovey talk about God will go spiraling into shambles before a God who is holy. We must pursue holiness! We must put to death sin, because we are Christ's body and Christ is holy. We must be holy because God is holy. Holiness is not an option. It isn't a distraction, or a legalistic preoccupation!

I end this point on the words of Jesus: "If you love me keep my commandments!"

The arguments presented against aiming for not sinning are all erroneous. God commands us to live holy. Aiming to live holy does not preclude living to honor God. It is synonymous with living to honor God. Aiming to live holy is not a legalistic deception it is the aim of all true members of Christ. We must have this motive! Aiming to live holy is not our only aim; certainly some of us aim to be good cooks. We aim to have good jobs, have happy lives. We aim to enjoy God. It is completely irrational to assume one can only have one goal. And it is wrong and I say dangerous to attack the aim of not sinning at all. Yes, I feel that I have presented a good argument to the contrary. May we all aim to not sin all, Amen!

[Edited on 5-24-2004 by Ianterrell]
 
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