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Behavior Matters

Many modern doctrines say that it’s okay with God if we sin. Now, Satan is wise enough to not be that blunt. So he has given us subtle doctrines which on the surface appear true and scriptural. But logically they infer that it’s okay to sin, but they never explicitly say that. Since most people do not logically think through consequences, but simply accept what they are taught, these doctrines lodge into the back corners of their minds. Satan knows that when such people are tempted to sin, that they will have no reason to say "No" to sin. Their defenses have been removed by Satan’s popular lies that surreptitiously teach that nothing bad will happen to us if we sin.

Satan’s goal is to make Christians sin. He knows that a sinful Christian can not enter God’s kingdom (Gal 5:21, "those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God"). Thus, Satan is removing rulers who will replace Satan’s rule on earth, thus delaying the overthrow Satan’s kingdom. To prevent his overthrow, Satan desperately wants to destroy those who are to replace him. Thus, he desperately tries to make Christians sin.

And I must admit that he has been surprisingly successful. American and Europe have reached the point where even many Christians do not know that sex outside of marriage is sin. Because the Christians’ light of good behavior has gone out, the non-Christians have no concept of sin, and simply assume that sex outside of marriage is fine. The AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is due to rampant fornication, and the decades of missionary effort there have clearly failed to prevent that. Why? Because the missionaries unwittingly taught the Africans that it’s okay to sin. So they are sinning.

As a result of the lies, we Christians have lost the fear of God. Jesus taught, "I’ll tell you who to fear: Fear Him who has power to cast body and soul into Hell." We’ve lost this healthy fear of God’s judgment, and so our country has lost it too.

Many years ago, the following words entered my mind: "Religious leaders are usually wrong. Jesus blasted the religious leaders of his day. They were wrong through the middle ages. And they are wrong today. So you must think for yourself, and not merely believe what they tell you." I don’t know if this was the Lord speaking to me, but I think it’s true either way. Much of what religious leaders teach these days is wrong. We must not unthinkingly believe them, because Satan has mixed and supplanted God’s truth with his lies.

Let’s look at some of the lies which Satan has infiltrated into Christian teaching. These lies all have the same logical conclusion: Nothing bad will happen to you if you sin, so it’s okay to sin.

Lie: All our righteousness is imputed.

The concept of imputed righteousness is only taught by Paul in Romans chapters 3-5. Romans 4:7-8 equates imputed righteousness with forgiveness. And that is because there is a place for forgiveness; how else could we get a fresh start when we repent and turn to God? Romans 3:25 states that he has forgiven our past sins. Imputed righteousness is needed at the beginning to get the guilt behind us so we can get started with serving God righteously.

But Satan has pushed imputed righteousness far beyond its boundary of a fresh start after repentance. Interestingly, Paul teaches us about imputed sin in Romans 3-5 also, but you’ve never heard it taught in your church. Look at Romans 5:13, "but sin is not imputed when there is no law" (KJV). The flip side of this verse says that sin is imputed when there is law. That is, if you know an action is sin, and you do it anyway, God will consider you guilty of sin (i.e., impute sin to you). The Bible explicitly says this in James 4:17, "to him who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin". And also Hebrews 10:26, "If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there is no more sacrifice for sin."

An important question is: What happens if we sin accidentally? Let’s say you were suddenly tempted and before you knew it, you had sinned. First John 1:9 gives the answer: Confess the sin (repentance is implicit in this), and God will forgive you and clean that sin out of you.

What is imputation? Imputation simply means how God considers us. God imputes sin when we knowingly sin. God imputes righteousness when we repent of sin. He also imputes righteousness to us when we do His will, be it large or small. For example, in Romans 4:22-24, righteousness was imputed to Abraham because he did what God wanted of him, which was to believe His promise.

Finally, what about deliberate sin (which God imputes as sin), if we repent afterwards? If we deliberately sin and repent, He might forgive us, He might not. Deliberate sin is a dangerous area, as King David discovered the hard way after sinning with Bathsheba, when God said, "The sword will never leave your house." David suffered badly for that! If God is good to you, he’ll give you so much suffering that you’ll sorely wish you had never sinned. If God is not good to you, He simply won’t forgive you of the deliberate sin

Lie: Repentance means feeling sorry.

No, repentance means that you refuse to sin again. In fact, there will probably be no feeling at all associated with your repentance. There wasn’t for me when I started serving God, nor when I repented of a sin later. In fact, rather than feeling sorry, your flesh may be feeling good about having sinned. Ignore feelings.

What is repentance? Repentance is the decision of "never again" in your heart. "I will never do that again."

Lie: God sees us through Christ.

The Bible does not say or imply this anywhere. It’s something new that Satan has sneaked into Christian teaching. Instead, every letter to the Christian churches in Revelation say "I know your works." God was not seeing those Christians through Christ. Nor does He see us through Christ. He sees everything we do, just as He stated. But think about what this lie is saying: Suppose God actually were to see Christ’s righteousness when we’re actually sinning. Then we would not be punished for our sin, which in essence means that it’s okay to sin. So the logical conclusion of this doctrine is that it’s okay to sin.

Lie: Faith means believing things about God. Only believe.

What is belief? What is faith? In the Bible, we see that faith means far more than mental beliefs. It means believing that God told the truth. And if you actually believe what He said, you’ll live consistently with what He said. Or to put it differently, faith is confidence that God will keep His threats and promises, based on your deeds. It helps to consider an example of sin: If you know that God has said that the righteous will inherit eternal life, and the sexually immoral will go into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), and yet you fornicate, then by your actions you are saying that God will not cast you into that lake. You don’t believe His threat. You don’t have faith in Him. You are saying that He lied.

Hebrews 11 is the faith-chapter, and yet it mostly shows how people acted (their works) due to their faith in God. They lived consistently with what God said."By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice...." And "By faith he (Abraham) sojourned in the land of promise...." The faith-chapter mostly describes obedience. But the obedience was living consistently with what God said, because they believed what God said about consequences. That’s faith. To disobey God shows a lack of faith in God. This is why James 2:26 says, "faith without works is dead." You can not have faith and disobey.

Satan says that faith is only mental (or intellectual) belief. James 2:18-19 answers this by saying, "A man will say, You have faith and I have works....You believe that there is one God; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble." So mental belief in facts (like the demons) is not belief. In the Bible, faith and belief are similar. Both require right behavior that’s consistent with God’s words. If you’re not obeying what you (supposedly) believe, then you don’t actually believe it.

Here’s another aspect of faith. The central issue is: Who controls your life? You or God? When the Bible says "the just shall live by faith", it contrasts faith with the opposite, which is pride (Habakkuk 2:4). This is the pride of self-reliance, of controlling one’s own life, which goes along with haughtiness. You control your own life because you don’t have confidence in God’s control. You think your way is better than His, hence the haughtiness. So faith is letting God run your life, because you believe what He said (His promises). That is what Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "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 your paths straight."

I often pray, "Lord, what do you say?" I pray this about everything, and I tell Him everything I’m thinking and desire. I hide nothing. As far as I know, He has authority over every aspect of my life. I’ve made myself His slave. Romans 6:17-23 speaks of such voluntary slavery. This is faith. It is far from belief in doctrine.

This faith is also being "under grace", as Paul puts it, instead of being "under the law". Paul was contrasting being under the law of Moses versus being under direct obedience to God.

Lie: Works is right behavior.

What is works? Satan is correct: Your works is your behavior. Satan’s lies are most effective when they are mostly true. He injects a little poison in a lot of meat, as one reader of this essay commented. He’ll put much bait around his hook. Satan’s little lie is surrounded by much truth, to deceive as many as possible. But the little hidden lie destroys what is most important. Merely cut one appropriate wire, and your car won’t run. So be careful about everything.

Your works is your behavior. We saw that above in James 2:26. But works is also following religious rules, and the law of Moses in particular. So when you read "works" in the Bible, you must ask, "Which kind of works?" In Romans and Galatians, Paul usually uses "works" to mean following the law of Moses. Elsewhere in the Bible, "works" usually means your deeds.

In Romans, Paul wrote, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." In the prior verse, Paul compares faith and works, so here "works" means "observing the law", which is the Old Testament law of Moses. In Galatians, Paul consistently uses the phrase "Works of the law", so it’s clear that he’s referring to the Mosaic law.

But in James, "works" means behavior, as in "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).This is why there is no contradiction between Paul writing that we are not saved by works, and James saying we are. These are two different kinds of works.

Yet, we get a fresh start solely by forgiveness, and not by any good deeds we’ve done. Satan has enlarged this beyond its boundary to become everything, pushing out the necessity of good works. For example, Acts 26:20, "...repent and turn to God, and do works fit for repentance." Remember what you read above, that repentance means deciding "never again" to sin? Here we see that: If people have repented and turned to God, their works (behavior) will agree with their repentance. So faith always results in good works.

Lie: We’re saved by faith and not works.

Behavior Matters

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