Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Once Free Always Free?

Here is a question on freedom from sin that a member of our book discussion posed recently. I thought it would be good to post it and invite others to address it. It's a great question!

Just a few days ago (after I asked the question about degrees of sin) I did a study on sin. Although I have been a Christian basically my whole life, I came to a deeper realization that Jesus is the way to freedom, (I realized that I hadn't really grasped the concept that we can be free. Before this I had never "experienced" freedom.) Do you think that once you're free you're free? Or is it a daily struggle against sin? Day after day I struggle with my eating habits but now since I'm free do I "stay free" or do I need to ask for freedom every day?


Bird said...

Here was my response:

I think Galations 5:1 can help here: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."

I think, based on that verse and life experience, that it is possible to be "entangled again." If you have time, read Galations 5 -- the whole chapter is great! It talks about walking in freedom and liberty, etc. So even though we can become entangled, that only teaches us all the more that we have to daily crucify our flesh and turn to Him, every day.

dani said...

I think Bird is right - that we can become "entangled" in sin again, but I think that once you are free you are really free.

Freedom in Christ means that sin is no longer enticing to you. I think Ray Comfort said something like this...that people who are truly saved fall into sin - the implication being that it is accidental not premeditated. Christians do not want to sin – it is distasteful to them - and when they do it grieves their spirit. If there is no pain, no repentance, no grievance over sin then we need to question whether or not we are truly saved. That said, I think that it is just common sense to stay away from whatever sin you have trouble with (including people and things that can lead you into sin/temptation) ...even once you are free… at least for awhile...so that you can grow stronger in the faith and so that you don't get re-entangled in it. Why put yourself in the place of temptation?

But, again, I don’t think that you should feel any enticement for the sin that once lured you in. This gets sticky talking about this on this blog because it is about food and overeating…and I hesitate to say that eating one cookie too many is such a huge deal…you simply need to get rid of the cookies…but if it is a larger eating problem…like you are cleaning out your fridge every night…then at that point you have to ask what is at the root of my overeating or whatever…a lack of self-control, not letting Christ be my fulfillment, some un-confessed sin, etc.

Just a note: I personally believe that God made us in all shapes and sizes and that it takes a great deal of overeating to fall into the serious sin category. (Although sin is sin and this can get very sticky.)

Like I said earlier the sin isn’t eating the cookie the sin is a lack of self-control or something else but you have to remember that we are still human and as such we still sin. Our response to sin should be confession, prayer, committing ourselves to Christ, and trusting that He has heard us, forgiven us, and that we are no longer in bondage to the sin.

Layna said...

"Freedom in Christ means that sin is no longer enticing to you."

Can you explain this more?
Do you think Jesus was enticed by temptation? I believe temptation is not a sin, since the One Perfect man was tempted and never sinned.

"I think Ray Comfort said something like this...that people who are truly saved fall into sin - the implication being that it is accidental not premeditated."

A few days ago I came to the realization that sin can be broken down into two categories: deliberate and natural. As I was studying the Reformation/Renaissance period I learned about the selling of indulgences. Basically, a person could buy forgiveness for the sin that they planned on committing later that day. Sometimes we deliberately disobey our Heavenly Father, but others just swiftly happen.
All worldviews except for Christianity build their foundation from the belief that man is basically good (thus man can save himself). But Christians believe that man is born with sinful nature (thus man needs a savior). You don't have to teach a child to steal a toy from his sibling, or fuss over not getting his way. (it comes naturally, as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden).

Missy said...

Layna, you are right, I've never thought of that before! (your last paragraph there)

I kinda think of this freedom as being technically free from sin - but not yet out of the habits that the sin created. Christ has purchased me out of slavery - but I haven't quite gotten out of the mentality of being a slave. Does that make sense?

When I quit smoking years ago, it took more than a year to stop fantasizing about just having "one" more. I knew I never wanted to smoke again, but I found myself putting my hand to my lips in the same way - when digging around in my purse I'd inadvertantly begin looking for that pack - looking up at the clock anticipating 10, 12 and 2'o'clock smoke-breaks - rolling my window down two inches everytime I got in the car. Eventually each of those habits faded. I had been free from the nicotine addiction for a long time - but not the habits it created.

Now I might one day, in a desparate or stupid moment, smoke another cigarette - that's a slip, not a return to slavery. But I could also fall right back into the addiction with a little effort - but I would be making a much more informed decision because I know the true cost of my fall and I am far less likely, especially after many years of victory, to fall so easily. BTW, it's been 8 years now smoke-free, and about 6.5 years of that temptation free!

I think Dani has a wise point, too, about removing the temptation - even permanently if necessary. The flesh is weak, and Jesus illustrates in prayer to ask God to remove temptation from us so we do not have a chance to give in.

God knows what is best - and what weaknesses will remain in us. I've always been mightily rewarded when I give my sin-habits to Him, but I won't start carrying cigarettes around with me just to prove I am a victor!

dani said...

Layna, Sorry for not being clear. I think Missy did a great job of explaining what I was trying to say. I didn’t mean that as Christians we couldn’t or wouldn’t sin, but that sinning should no longer be something that we desire to do. We should desire to be holy and when we do sin (which we will) we should feel sorrow over the sin. As we grow in Christ we should desire to sin less and less it should become more and more distasteful to us…and our spirits should become more and more sensitive to sin.

Spurgeon says this, “Where Christ works a saving work, He casts Satan from his throne and will not let him be master any longer. No man is a true Christian if sin reigns in his mortal body. Sin will be in us; it will never be utterly expelled until the spirit enters glory, but it will never have dominion. … Christ will be master of the heart and sin must be mortified.” He goes on to say that Christ should sanctify us, renew us and give us a hatred for sin and a love for holiness (Hebrews 12:14 and 2 Timothy 2:19).

We will be tempted. But, through Christ we have the power to overcome the sin we are tempted to do. Temptation is not the same as sin…but it is kind of like standing on the edge of the cliff and contemplating a jump. We shouldn’t even be placing ourselves in the place of temptation.
To answer your other question, no, I don’t think Christ was enticed by temptation. He was not tempted to sin. He was sinless and completely holy. He would not have ever said “yes” to any of the devil’s enticements. He didn’t need to. Everything already belonged to Him.
I also believe that if we are faithful and pray Christ will deliver us from our temptations as well…they will cease to be temptations and will become as dirt in our mouths.

But Christians believe that man is born with sinful nature (thus man needs a savior). You don't have to teach a child to steal a toy from his sibling, or fuss over not getting his way. (it comes naturally, as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden).

I agree.

dani said...

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has this to say about sin... “Not until we mortify – put to death – our sinful flesh can we experience the freedom, forgiveness, and fullness for which our hearts long. Once we have been cleansed and have experienced the joys and satisfaction of His mercy and grace, we will find we no longer want those things we once craved and felt we could not live without. To walk in the light with Him will be our greatest treat.” (from Holiness, by Nancy L. DeMoss)

Our goal should be holiness. As we pursue that goal, with Christ's help/the power of the cross, we become free and are no longer slaves to sin.

Layna said...

Thanks for encouraging me and giving me hope:)
By the way, in July my church did a wonderful VBS and one of the songs we sang(and signed to in sign language) is called "In Christ the Cross" Here are some of the lyrics:
Before the earth's foundation was ever laid in place, my God had a perfect plan for me, to save me by His grace. His only Son would come for me to die and take my shame.
In Christ, the cross I am free,
In Christ the cross now I see
My sins forgiven, my soul set free
In Christ the cross I am redeemed

This song means so much to me now!
You can listen to a clip of it here:http: //www.answersingenesis.org/cec/vbs/amazon-expedition/

dani said...

Okay, it is me again. Sorry. This is it I promise. I just wanted to say one more thing...I was talking to my dear hubby about whether or not Jesus could have been tempted and he said that because Jesus was 100% man and 100 % God He was tempted but He wouldn't have sinned because it would have gone against His divine nature - the 100% of Him that is God. So yes, Jesus was tempted, but no He couldn't have sinned.

My dear hubby also talked about how when we become free of a certain sin we need to replace that "space" the sin occupied with good things so that the space where the sin was isn't filled up with sin again. i.e. spending time in our bible, praise, prayer, etc. (Romans 12:2)

Okay, that is it.

Brandi, every time Bess sees your picture she says, "That is Abby." :)

Missy said...

Dani, I've been thinking about what you said all day. I think I understand what you mean, and although I agree there should be a great desire for holiness in us, I don't know that that our goal should be holiness. I mean, that is unattainable on our own. Holiness only comes through Christ - and that is free, no effort required, just faith.

I think our goal is surrender. (Go, Brandi!) Only by surrendering our heart, mind and soul to the One who truly loves us, while we are still sinners, are we freed from the bondage of sin. God's goal is to make us holy - my goal is to trust that He will - He does. I find the greater my love, trust and gratitude for the Lord, the less sin has a hold on me. I can live by: "I love God more than ________!"

I think I can, and have, led myself in an altogether new and often more insidious kind of slavery to the sin of self-righteousness when I focus on the goal of holiness. A goal of holiness often leads to legalism - and the law increases the trespass.

I hope I am making sense? I'm not trying to argue - just settle this in my heart.

Layna said...

Here's my two cents worth:)

My ultimate goal and purpose in life is to glorify my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This earth we're on is not all about us; we were created for our Creator (certainly not the other way around) A potter forms a vase for the purpose of holding beautiful flowers, the vase serves the master.
It's amazing to think that our Master actually serves us (I think of Jesus washing His disciples feet) and gave the Ultimate gift: His life. My Lord gave His life for me, the least I can do is give my life back to Him.

Bird said...

because Jesus was 100% man and 100 % God He was tempted but He wouldn't have sinned because it would have gone against His divine nature

I believe that is right on, and it jibes with Hebrews 4:15 that says that He was tempted in every way we are, yet He was without sin.

Brandi said...

Here are a few of my thoughts on the matters of temptation, sin and holiness.

First of all, I agree that we can knowingly or unknowingly put ourselves in tempting situations. If we do it knowingly, that is foolish. It's like playing with fire. I also believe that we can be tempted "out of the blue." Meaning that it is through no fault of our own. It is a test. I firmly believe being tempted is not bad at all. Sinning, of course is.
In fact, I find that the more closely I walk with the Lord, the more I am tempted. He uses it to purify me. I'm not talking about stealing or murder, of course. But sins of the heart.

Secondly, I believe that sin is enticing...that's what makes it sin. And sin really is only sin for a believer. They don't know any better. Now, I also believe that our goal is to put our flesh to death. But that is a life-long process. I don't believe it happens because we are saved. We have to keep in mind that there are lots of sins that are acceptable in the Church that we all engage in regularly: pride, judgment, greed, discontentment, etc. Just when you think you are "over" a particular sin of the heart...watch out because that's when the mother of all sins, pride, rears its ugly head. I genuinely hate the sins I listed. But I also deal with them (both in temptation and in actual sinning) on a regular basis. That does not mean that I love the Lord or desire holiness any less. And it doesn't mean my salvation is in question. It means I am a weak human who desperately needs Jesus on a minute-by-minute basis.

About holiness. I believe our goal is intimacy with Jesus. Holiness is the vehicle. But I have found that if I focus completely on "holiness," pride is there waiting because my focus is on me...MY holiness. While meditating on this predicament recently, the Lord showed me the solution:

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

It does go on to tell us to die to our sins, but I believe it is critical to focus on Jesus as the means and the reason. That is the only way He will receive all of the glory in our hearts and lives.

Great discussion, everyone!!

And, Dani, that is so cute about Bess!

Jared said...

My 2 cents is that sorrow over sin is the litmus test for the Spirit's presence in your life.

I sure hope finding sin enticing or even choosing to sin (I don't believe one can "accidentally" sin, except in so far as by accidental one means "practically automatic") isn't indication of a lack of salvation, otherwise I lose my salvation every day. I very frequently choose idols over Jesus, and I don't know many people who don't, even "good Christians."

Jared said...

I genuinely hate the sins I listed. But I also deal with them (both in temptation and in actual sinning) on a regular basis. That does not mean that I love the Lord or desire holiness any less. And it doesn't mean my salvation is in question. It means I am a weak human who desperately needs Jesus on a minute-by-minute basis.

Brandi, that is beautiful.
And a wonderful illumination of the importance of the gospel for all of life.

dani said...

Ladies, I’m sorry. Once again I seem to have been too quick with my words. (I’m trying to write while I have multiple other things going on so I’m desperately trying to get my thoughts written down before they disappear or I get called away to some other task. The problem with this is that I often don’t have time to think through what I’m writing – a course of action I somehow need to remedy… although with my busy life I’m not sure how to accomplish it.)

Of course I think our ultimate goal in life is to glorify God, but I think that one of the ways we glorify Him is by becoming more like Him which means seeking to be Holy. (Missy, I agree, we should also be surrendering ourselves and our desires to God, but I think that surrender might be part of the process of becoming more like Christ – which is part of becoming holy.)

1 John 2:6 “He who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

1 Peter 1:15-16 “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.’”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I’m not sure I know how to explain this, but choosing to live a holy life is a heart decision.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship.”

I don’t know if this is a completely true statement, but I wonder if holiness becomes a flesh decision when we turn it into making X number of rules to live by. Maybe it is when we start living by X number of rules that it becomes legalism. I think that legalism is what happens when we live in the flesh and is brought on by pride. (I think that pride is at the root of all our sins…it leads to almost every other problem that we have.) A legalistic person says, “Because I do this…wear a head covering…I am more holy than you and because you don’t wear a head covering you are not as holy as me/spiritual as me.” Or “Because I read my bible every morning and you don’t, I am more holy than you." (Extreme examples, but hopefully you get my point.) The non-legalist wears a head covering/reads her bible and never tells anyone because it is something between her and God that she has chosen to do as an act of obedience to God and as a way to get to know Him better/draw near to Him.

Missy you are right – becoming holy isn’t something we can do ourselves. I can’t make myself holy. But, thankfully the Holy Spirit has been sent to help us. Christ has already given us everything we need to live holy and godly lives. Becoming holy isn’t so much about us…as about a love response from us that seeks what is good instead of what is evil.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. “

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Choosing to be holy should be an outpouring of our love for Christ – our hearts desire. Holiness isn’t a flesh decision of saying I love God more than________. (In the life of the believer there should be no question of this. We should love God more than everything. He should be the desire of our heart; our one true love. Of course this is rarely how we live, but it should be.) It is more of a decision that we make in our hearts to love God (more than anything else) and to obey Him in everything because we love Him. As we seek to love God above all else, our desires for those things that keep us from holiness begin to fade away. For example, we should no longer be comfortable getting into an argument with our neighbor. Harsh and cruel words should stop coming out of our mouths. We should no longer have a desire to smoke, drink (excessively), party, gamble, watch inappropriate television shows, etc. As we grow more like Christ our marriages and families should become more stable and loving…we should not be arguing with our spouses 24/7 or on the verge of divorce. We should be seeking peace, love, joy…the fruit of the spirit should be evident in us (most of the time). In short, our desire for physical things should decrease and our desire for godly things should increase. But this is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. And of course we aren’t lost (unsaved) if we make the wrong choice or say the wrong thing or fall into sin. We all do, but as Christians we shouldn’t be comfortable when we fall…and our response to falling should be to crawl straight to the cross (get on our knees) and say, “Lord, I have sinned. Forgive me.” And He does and we get up and try again. And praise God for forgiveness and for falling because the fall (hopefully) has taught us something about ourselves and what we still need to learn…and probably a lot about pride and humility. It is through this process that we become more like Christ unless we put up the brick wall that I mentioned earlier and don’t allow these lessons to teach us and grow us. If we say, “Okay, my sin was okay, no big deal. It didn’t hurt anyone. That person deserved it. They need to come to me first and say sorry. They sinned against me and I’m not going to forgive them, or that show (rated X) is okay, it isn’t as bad as everyone says it is, or I’m strong in the faith I can handle it… etc.” Then, when we excuse sin, instead of becoming more like Christ we start to build up walls between us and Christ and we become hardened to the things of God and to God Himself. And at that point it becomes very hard to hear His voice or the voice of the Holy Spirit. Grudem says this, “…sinful desires within us are like soldiers in a battle and their target is our spiritual well-being. To give in to such sinful desires, to nurture and cherish them in our hearts, is to give food, shelter, and welcome to the enemy’s troops. If we yield to the desires that “wage war” against our souls, we will inevitably feel some loss of spiritual strength, some diminution of spiritual power, some loss of effectiveness in the work of God’s kingdom.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Romans 8:5 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot.”

God created us in His image. He created Adam and Eve and when they fell they introduced something artificial into our lives. But God didn’t create us to be sinful…He created us to be Holy – to be in His image. (Not little gods…we are not God!) We ingest the gospel and fill our lives with good things (the Word of God, praise, worship, Christian friendships and mentors, accountability, consistent church attendance, etc.) and as we do so we connect back to the true nature that God created us to be.

John 15:4 “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Sorry this was so long.

Missy said...

Thank you Dani that it was so long! I understood you completely and agree wholeheartedly. You took it to another level much deeper than I, and I appreciate it so much!

"As we seek to love God above all else, our desires for those things that keep us from holiness begin to fade away."

This is exactly what I mean about surrendering. A love so deep that I trust Him above all else, and that I know His love for me is so pure that His desires for me are far greater than my own desires. It truly is a process - we don't typically start our walk with that kind of trust. It grows - then our dependence on Him grows - and our holiness increases based on that dependency.

And going back to the original question - I feel like each thing I surrender to God - every sin I drop to my knees about because I cannot figure out how to defeat it myself - well, that trust has never been broken. (And the answer He gives almost always surprises me and totally reveals my lack of wisdom!) When He defeats the sin for me, I have never fell back into it. I haven't stop to think about that before - how exciting!

Great discussion!