The Gluttony of Our Appetites Part One: Origin

Written by Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theology

ALCOHOL. POWER. MONEY. FOOD. SEX. All of these are capable normal appetites which can morph into full-blown addictions. From a personal perspective, my desires were out of hand, and were causing ruin in my life. As hard as I struggled, getting my problem appetites under control had proved out of the question. Desire had literally taken over my body. Depression and anxiety grew to be increasingly debilitating. Euphoria was unreachable, so I began to find my “warm and fuzzy” through booze, opiates, cannabis, and cocaine. I was chasing a “feel good” release through chemicals, yet the chase proved to be extremely unfulfilling. Appetites once held in healthy balance were now compulsions. I was living in Hotel California—I could check out any time I’d want, but I could never leave. My original God-given appetites were now painful addictions.

Although the apostle Paul was likely not an “addict,” he said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15, ESV). He added, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (7:19). This passage became my mantra; unfortunately, it also became a huge loophole. I would often say to myself, “How can I expect to win out over my ruined appetites if Paul couldn’t?” Paul, an apostle, a converted Jew, who received direct discipling from Jesus Christ (see Gal. 1:11-24) was unable to control his appetite for sin; or so I thought. And voila, instant loophole! (See my blog article “Do You Look for Loopholes as a Christian?”).

Gluttony is “habitual greed or excess in eating or consuming.” From the Latin, gula, “to gulp down or swallow,” gluttony is over-indulgence. In this instance, greed involves an intense or selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. The most common type of gluttony, uncontrolled eating, leads to obesity and a litany of related health risks. Because gluttony is closely related to drunkenness, drug abuse, greed for money, or a desire for excessive power, it is considered a sin in Christian theology. Gluttony involves living for self, putting all others second. It can be said that gluttony shows contempt for society and for one’s own body. Paul said, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” ( 1 Cor. 6:19-20, ESV).

Unfortunately, gluttony seems to be a bad habit Christians like to ignore. Some teachings say the word “gluttony” cannot be found in Scripture. Yet, we read “…and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard'” (Deut. 21:20). John states in his first epistle, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16) [italics added]. Paul said in Philippians, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Phil 3:19) [italics added]. Proverbs 28:7 says a glutton “shames his father.” Paul writes, “One [of them], a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons'” (Tit. 1:12) [italics added]. Ben Giselbach of writes, “…’gluttony’ does not appear in any of the Bible’s big this-will-keep-you-out-of-heaven lists… New Testament writers are particularly nonchalant about one’s diet and portion control. Food neither commends nor condemns us before God” (1).

It is likely Giselbach is referring to the “legalistic” approach of dietary matters, indicating New Covenant Christians are not bound by dietary laws. However, gluttony, as addressed by Scripture, is not a dietary concern; rather, it is an orientation of the heart toward an excess appetite for the desires of the flesh (1 John 2:16). Let us examine Paul’s language in Romans 7 and see how it relates to a lack of control over one’s sin nature. He first establishes a truth for all believers: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (7:14). This is the springboard for Paul’s rant: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (7:15-17, 19-20).

The following is from Peterson’s translation The Message:

I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise… I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge (2).

I cannot share accurately enough how convicted I felt as I typed the above quote, realizing my tendency in the past to look for excuses for my behavior rather than changing it. Some biblical scholars believe Paul is speaking about the sin dilemma in man rather than a personal struggle within himself. However, studies during my master’s in theology and collateral readings have convinced me otherwise. Paul, as depicted in the motion picture Paul, Apostle of Christ, directed by Andrew Hyatt, became very humble following his conversion to Christianity. He counted his rabbinical education as nothing; rather, he wanted now to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). His ministry to the non-Jews of the world was critical, and his lessons on God’s grace in face of our sometimes deliberate sinful rebellion (clearly presented in Romans 7) was necessary for his ministry to the Gentiles.

After becoming a Christian, Paul was painfully reminded often of his past persecution of Christians, even having some of them executed. Now, he was a member of the Body of Christ, and an heir to the promise God made to Abraham. Paul taught often on the true purpose of Mosaic Law and subsequent rabbinical laws—to reveal the sinful nature of man and his inability to obey God under his own power. Although the Law was good and holy (Rom. 7:12), it did not provide salvation for the nation of Israel. Paul wrote, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:20-24). Paul’s central argument in his letter to the Romans is the eternal plan of God for the salvation of sinners.

What purpose, then, is the Law? The extent of sin would never be fully known apart from the Law. We would not know sin except through the Law (see Rom. 7:7).

We read in the Recovery Devotional Bible, “[It is a myth that] Christians have victory over sin, [making sin] a problem only for those with weak faith. All Christians struggle with sin… we see believers throughout the Bible struggling with sin. We find special comfort that the apostle Paul described his struggle as a war (Rom. 7:23) [italics added] and agonized over it” (3). Paul was not, however, avoiding responsibility. He was not saying, “Hey, I didn’t do it—sin did.” Paul realized we only find freedom from our sinful nature when we accept the fact that we will never be completely free. The urge to sin will live in our flesh until we come into the fullness of our redemption and receive a new glorified body. These urges are sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. As a minister of the New Covenant, Paul never once indicates that his status as a Pharisee among Pharisees provided any assurance of his salvation or his standing before the Father.

The Choice Factor

Choice is an interesting word. It implies free will. Augustine of Hippo rightly believed evil cannot exist within God, nor be created by God; rather, it is a by-product of man’s ability to choose his behavior. Augustine maintained that it is vital for us to have free will because we cannot live well without it. Admittedly, no greater question has been raised (both for and against the existence of God) than the freedom to do evil. Why would God permit evil to exist? According to Augustine, human nature was originally created blameless and without any fault [Latin, vitium]. As a result of sin, everyone born of Adam “requires a physician, because [he] is not healthy.” Augustine clearly states that the weakness which darkens and disables the good things did not come from the blameless maker but from original sin, which was committed by free will. He said, “For this reason, our guilty nature is liable to a just penalty” (4).

According to Gonzalez, Augustine concluded that evil, though real, was not a thing, but rather an orientation away from that which is good and toward that which is not good. This seems to help Augustine understand that God did not create evil. He believed only that which man decides of his own will (rather than that which is dictated by circumstances or directed by a separate entity) is properly called “free.” It is the will that is created by God, not evilness itself. This is no mere matter of semantics. Free will allows man to make his own decisions. As Gonzalez notes, “The origin of evil, then, is to be found in the bad decisions made by both human and angelic wills—those of the demons, who are fallen angels” (5). Augustine’s position is akin to theological determinism, but not in the manner we might expect. He argued that man prefers the joy of “doing good.” Origen of Alexandria thought that affirmation of free will distinguishes Christianity from deterministic accounts of the human condition and constitutes the basis for man’s moral responsibility. Suffering comes from human choice, not from a cosmic clash between good and evil. In this manner, free will is a rational capacity to choose between what is good and what is not good. Admittedly, freedom is likely an attribute of the agent rather than of the will itself.

Regarding our God-given appetites, the danger is not in seeking to fulfill them; it is when we choose to fulfill them with something that does not belong there. Attempting to fill one thing with something that does not fit causes our appetites to begin the cycle of becoming unhealthy or dangerous. To satisfy an appetite completely, we need to choose the actual thing that is being desired. A great example is the choice to view pornographic images for satisfaction of one’s sexual urges outside of an established reciprocal relationship with someone. Pornography provides an inroad for something utterly destructive. Under control, appetites help us to exist; an out-of-control appetite destroys everything in its path like a runaway brush fire. Consequently, there is a battle between flesh and spirit; man and God; self and others. The flesh wants to feel good no matter the cost. Frankly, we want pleasure and we want it now.

Our enjoyment of food, music, sex, drugs, alcohol, affection, all stimulate a common pathway in the brain that leads directly to our “pleasure center.” This reward center, physically located in the lateral hypothalamus, causes us to feel pleasure when stimulated. This is a good thing; life without pleasure or reward would be rather daunting. Yet, when pleasure becomes the thing we are searching for, we soon find ourselves crying, more, more, more! We learn that there is never enough to satisfy. Sin is the result of an appetite going astray and being filled by something other than what God intended it to be filled with. There is a hint of idolatry in this concept. For me, poor choice was rooted in self-indulgence and obsession with self-entitlement. I indulged in pleasure to avoid pain. I was concerned only with reducing my physical, emotional, or psychic pain, and did not care about the consequences of my choices. Self-indulgence is the excessive satisfaction of our sensual appetites and desires for the specific purpose of pleasing the self.

In the second of this two-part lesson we will examine change: how it begins; how to take responsibility; how to stop blaming everyone else. Change cannot happen until we stop making excuses. We need to stop believing our own lies! We will look at “purpose” over mere “existence,” which will aid in our developing and nurturing healthy relationships. We will learn how to cultivate “divine” desires, let go of guilt, and live a surrendered life. It is through this surrendered life that we become the arms and hands and legs and eyes and ears and mouth of Jesus. We yield our will in service to our neighbors. It is not possible to be like Christ while maintaining an I am first position. God is the key to any success we may have in learning to control our appetites. Jesus Christ must be the force behind all we do; the one directing and controlling where we are headed; the foundation upon which we build our life.


(1) Ben Giselbach, “The Evil of Gluttony, and Why You Might Not be Guilty of It,” (July 13,2015). URL:
(2) Eugene Peterson, The Message//Remix: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress: 2006), 1653.
(3) Recovery Devotional Bible: NIV Edition, Verne Becker, general editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973, 1978, 1984), 1241.
(4) Augustine of Hippo, “On Fallen Human Nature,” in The Christian Theology Reader (Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2017), 349.
(5) Justo L.Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. I: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (New York, NY: Harper One, 2010, 247.

Overcoming Temptation (The Jesus Way)

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15, RSV).

By Steven Barto, B.S. Psych.

PERHAPS YOU’VE HEARD IT SAID “sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” There is a basic concept at work here which involves obsession and compulsion. Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was a Christian leader and teacher who worked in China during the 20th century, helping to establish numerous churches in that region of the world. Nee wrote, “It is a pitiful and tragic thing to be obsessed. Those who are obsessed are in a very abnormal condition.” He said obsession encompasses lying and deception. The obsessed Christian lies to himself, pretending there is no problem with his behavior. This self-deception becomes thick like fog, making it nearly impossible to see beyond obsessive thought and habitual action.

What is Obsession?


I have been prone to obsessions throughout my life. Psychology teaches us that obsessions are “recurring thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced as intrusive and unwanted and, for most people, cause anxiety or distress. The individual tries to ignore them, suppress them, or neutralize them with a different thought or action.” The specific details of obsessions can vary widely. For example, they might include thoughts about contamination, a desire for order, taboo thoughts related to sex or religion, or a compulsion to harm oneself or others. Obsessions can revolve around activities that provide pleasure or escape, especially relative to alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, watching pornography, or eating.

At this stage, the brain is typically focused on the so-called benefits of a particular action or habit rather than the negative consequences. One hallmark of an obsession involves what some addictions counselors refer to as euphoric recall. At first blush, this might sound “warm and fuzzy.” Relative to substance abuse, however, this is associated with remembering past drinking and drugging experiences in a positive light, while overlooking negative experiences associated with it. I heard someone at a 12-step meeting say, “Play the tape all the way through.” Huh? He expounded: “Look past the high and the fun and the escape, seeing the eventual consequences of taking that first drink or drug.” In other words, remember the ugly results. 

What is Compulsion?

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Compulsions are “repetitive behaviors or mental acts that one feels compelled to do in response to an obsession or based on strict rules.” Typically, such behaviors are meant to counter anxiety or distress or to prevent a feared event or situation, but they are not realistically connected to these outcomes, or they are excessive. Although rare, obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions can lead to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). A person suffering from OCD is often plagued by obsessions or compulsions that take up more than one hour a day or cause clinically significant distress or impairment for the individual. In order for this diagnosis to stand, all other potential disorders involving similar symptoms must be ruled out. Psychiatrists and psychologists call this procedure differential diagnosis.

The Book of James

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James 1:13-15 explains the process of obsessive thoughts in the believer that lead to temptation and sin. The apostle gives us a few key points to think about.  We must remember that James said when we’re tempted, not if we’re tempted. It is inevitable that we’ll be coaxed or seduced (essentially “baited”) to disobey God’s Word. The foundation of such temptation can be demonic or fleshly. It can have physical or psychological roots, or, frankly, both. For example, the enticement to take a drug or to watch pornography has a physical component of pleasure and escape, but it might also have an emotional or psychological component. Depending on your circumstances, such as severe physical pain, the enticement can be nearly impossible to resist. From a psychological viewpoint, the inducement can be pride, anxiety, depression, or boredom. In my experience, both physical and psychological enticement can be equally compelling. The perfect storm, especially for me, is when both mechanisms are at play!

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James is quick to tell us that temptation is a solicitation from the devil to do wrong, and is never directed by God (1:13). Satan doesn’t want us to think about the how of our temptation. Instead, he wants us to obsess over the temporary pleasure to be gained when we give in to what is baiting us. The devil will deceive us about the results of taking the bait. Perhaps we’ll buy into this action as having some type of relief or benefit. That’s why deception is his “go-to” device. Our habitual sin is rooted in automatic (compulsive) behavior, focused only on temporary pleasure or escape. Hand-in-hand with the thought that God does not tempt us to sin is the fact that temptation is strictly an individual matter (1:14).

Eugene Peterson places verses 2 through 18 under the heading “Faith Under Pressure.” In his translation The Message, he writes, “Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, ‘God is trying to trip me up.’ God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets us pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” It’s critical that we see what James is teaching us on temptation. He is saying we are lured away from God in the midst of trials by our own desires. It is my experience that temptation is specific to that which I personally find pleasurable. Not everyone is prone to finding relief at the bottom of a bottle or from a handful of opiate painkillers, as I have been. Not all men or women are enticed by pornography. These wiles are specific to each of us, which makes them harder to resist.

On one level, we simply want to sin. Paul taught us this in the seventh chapter of Romans. He says, “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead” (7:8, NIV) [italics mine]. He reminds us that the law is spiritual, but at our core, that is in the flesh, we are not spiritual. We’re sold as a slave to sin (7:14). Prior to giving his life to the Way of Jesus, Paul was a “Pharisee among Pharisees,” well-educated at the feet of the renowned rabbi Gamaliel. He knew the Law front-to-back. He felt justified in persecuting and murdering Christians as members of a heretical sect of Judaism. No doubt he believed he was helping to protect Israel from the wrath of God.

It is important to note that Paul, a highly-educated Jew who was called to preach the Good News to the Gentiles, and had undergone spiritual conversion on the road to Damascus, still recognized his struggle in the flesh. Exasperated, he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (7:15-18, NIV).

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Be careful, though, for it is possible to allow Paul’s struggle to become a loophole with which you will excuse your own wilful sin. I’ve been there, thinking, If even Paul can’t resist the flesh, then how can I? (See my blog article Do You Look for Loopholes as a Christian?) Wilful sin, however, is anathema to repentance, which literally means “to turn away from.” To repent is to do a 180 and never look back.

So Now What?

Repentance involves having the will to change; to never be the same again. If temptation is so difficult to resist, then what is its purpose in the life of the Christian? We know that sin occurs when we yield to enticement and make a wrong decision regarding our behavior. The dynamics of that mental and emotional process is complex. Although we’ve been freed from being a slave to sin (see Romans 6), we haven’t completely lost our taste for sin. Desires will remain in our flesh for as long as we live in a physical body. What we cannot excuse, however, is the practice of sin. Paul notes this problem in Romans 1:32, using the Greek word prasso to describe wilful sin. This refers to performing sin repeatedly or habitually. One definition specifically states, “to exercise, practice, to be busy with, carry on.”

If we are aware of a particular desire personal to us that entices or lures us into sinful behavior, we are responsible for addressing that behavior. Instead, many of us (me included) agree to be tempted, and we get on with practicing the sin. Looking at it this closely truly exposes the mechanism (the “come-on” if you will) and the chronic, repeated behavior associated with that temptation. Let’s be real: We simply “give in” once again and fail to resist the devil.


Temptation that leads to sin always follows the same process.  There are four steps involved in giving in to temptation:  (1) the bait is dropped, (2) our inner desire is attracted to the bait, (3) sin occurs when we yield to temptation, and (4) sin results in tragic consequences.  To be aware of these principles is to be armed in the face of struggling with temptation. But can a true Christian habitually sin? Many believers wrestle with this question, and often give up and give in, thinking they must not be saved if they cannot stop sinning. Some will even teach that if you have habitual sin in your life you are not really a Christian. One pastor put it to me this way a few years ago: “You don’t have God in your heart.” Ouch! But unfortunately we can have head knowledge about God and Jesus, yet not have the required heart knowledge needed to act according to our beliefs or our intention to do that which is right.

Thankfully, the Bible takes no steps in hiding the sins of key Old Testament figures. Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and David were not super heroes. They were normal men who sinned as Adam did. There is no question that David is one of the Bible’s more prominent figures. Jesus Christ came from the House of David. We are easily inspired by his youthful willingness to fight Goliath, his tender friendship with Jonathan, his worshipful Psalms, and his enduring patience under wicked King Saul. It’s almost hard to believe that this beloved character who’s spoken so highly of in more than half of the Bible’s books would also be guilty of breaking half of God’s commandments. David coveted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-3), committed adultery with her (11:4) effectively stealing her from Uriah (12:9), lying to him (11:12–13), and eventually having him murdered (12:9).

Others come to mind as well. Noah was a drunk (Genesis 9:20-21). Sarah doubted God and allowed Abraham to have sex with her maidservant in order to help fulfill God’s promise of a son (Genesis 16). Jacob was a pathological liar (Genesis 25, 27, 30). Moses had a bad temper (Exodus 2, 32:19; Numbers 20:11) and killed an Egyptian. Solomon was said to be the wisest man in the world, but he was a sex addict who took over 1,000 sexual partners (1 Kings 11). The prophets, even as they spoke for God, struggled with impurity, depression, unfaithful spouses and broken families. Looking to the New Testament men of God, we see Peter’s denial of Christ (John 18:13-27). Paul persecuted Christians, often sending them to death, before God chose him to lead the Gentile world to Christ (Acts 22:1-5).

Handling Temptation the Jesus Way

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Paul said God intends for us to work out our salvation daily with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Unfortunately, the importance of this verse is lost on many Christians today. It is often used by certain teachers and preachers to instill fear into people, wrongly warning them that they can lose their salvation. (I am working on a blog article on this subject, which will be based on diligent exegesis, to be published at a later date.) Paul was certainly not encouraging believers to live in a continuous condition of nervousness and anxiety. That would contradict his many other exhortations of peace of mind, courage, and confidence in Jesus, the author of our salvation. The answer lies in the Greek word phobou (from phebomai) which Paul uses for the word fear, meaning “to be put to flight.” Paul was likely telling the believers at Philippi to work out their deliverance (salvation) from sin by fleeing from it or, in the alternative, by telling it to flee. This dovetails nicely with James’s admonition, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NIV).

The Greek verb for “work out” (katergazesthe) refers to continually working to bring something to completion or fruition. This sounds a lot like the ongoing process of sanctification by which we are “set apart” from our sinful nature for God. Paul describes himself as straining and pressing on toward the goal of becoming like Christ (Philippians 3:13-14).  He teaches that the very essence of salvation is holiness—what he calls sanctification of the spirit. He says good works find their only root in salvation and sanctification. In other words, we are not saved by our good works, but rather we are saved for our good works. It is true that genuine Christians are identified by their fruits. Jesus reminds us that He is the Vine, and God is the Vinedresser (John 15:1). The Vinedresser cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while pruning the ones that do, making them more fruitful (15:2). This is a great description of the process of sanctification through being pruned and made fruitful.


The means by which we are able to work out our salvation and resist temptation is grounded in Jesus. If we want to participate in the salvation and restoration of the world, we must live in a manner that works toward that end. We follow Jesus. This includes coming to understand the power in the Name of Jesus: power to break chains, heal minds and bodies, build the Body of Christ, and rely on the Holy Spirit to clarify the truth of the Gospel. Accordingly, we must not cherry-pick the Gospel. We cannot decide to follow Jesus in some aspects of our lives, but go our own way (or, worse, the way of the devil) in others. If we are going to follow Jesus, we must learn the ways in which He leads. Moreover, we need to examine His relationship with the Father. We have to lock on to these methods and follow them with consistency and completeness. Paul reminds us that this is not easy, and James tells us it can only be accomplished by resisting Satan.

Concluding Remarks

The ways and the means promoted and carried out in the world today are designed to take God completely out of the equation. It is no coincidence that America is suffering at the hands of gun violence, murder, terrorism, hatred, bigotry, increased rates of abortion, brokenness (especially regarding the home), addiction, deception, selfishness, illness, and heartache. Surely, wars are fought and won, wealth is accumulated, elections are won, diseases are cured, and victories are posted, but at what cost? The means by which these ends are achieved leaves a hole in the soul of our country. Many people are killed, others are impoverished, marriages are failing apart, addicts are dying at an alarming rate, our schools and other venues have become soft targets for violence, children are being abandoned and neglected, and worldly churches are hawking their watered-down message in the name of Christ. As a result, we’re not moving toward spiritual maturity.

Simply stated, Jesus said, “I am.” He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the Word in the flesh. The salvation of the world. The Head of the Body of Christ. He said we must repent, believe, and follow Him. We repent by making a decision to turn away from everything we were in the flesh and walk toward Jesus. This must include a change of heart and mind, which is the first step in becoming a new creation in Him. This requires a personal, trusting participation in the reordering of our reality. Lastly, we must follow the Way of Jesus. This involves every aspect of our daily lives, including what we think, how we speak, the manner in which we behave, and how we pray and interact with Christ. To follow the Way of Jesus implies that we enter into a brand new reality that necessarily shapes our character. We cannot separate what Jesus says from what Jesus does and the manner by which He does it, nor can we fail to walk in that same manner.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013.

Nee, Watchman. The Holy Spirit and Reality. Hatfield, South Africa: Van Schaik Publishers, 2001.

Peterson, Eugene. The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus is the Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eeardmans Publishing, 2007.


Why Do Christians Still Sin?

If we really knew God, our behavior would change radically and instantly.

Many Christians are living under half a Gospel. Christ died for our sins. When we pray to receive Him, believing in our heart that He is the Messiah, we die with Him, and are buried with Him. If we leave it there, where is our resurrection? If we do not repent from continual, deliberate sin, do we not act as if His death and resurrection was a worthless gesture? Think of it this way. If you came across a dead man lying along a road and you had the power to save him, what would you do? Give him life? If that is all you did, then he would merely die again one day. You would have to cure the disease that caused him to die in the first place.

The True Definition of a Christian

Regardless of how overused the word Christian has become, the biblical definition of a Christian is one who is a follower of Christ; a disciple of Jesus (see Acts 11:26). A Christian is not merely someone who has ascribed to a particular set of religious beliefs or practices, joined a church, said a penitent prayer, or participated in certain sacraments or rituals. A Christian is a person who has responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and has put his or her whole faith in the finished work of the cross of Christ for salvation. Christians have repented of their sin and have made Jesus Lord of their lives. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV).

We Can’t Deny We Still Sin

The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a, NIV). Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins. Is the whole Gospel simply curing the disease that caused us to die? Not at all. Finish reading the verse: “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23b). When we forget the entire Gospel, we remain fleshly. We are forgiven yet not redeemed. Sounds strange, right? Almost counter-intuitive. Surely, we’ve been ransomed from the wages of sin by the death of Christ. However, full redemption provides a number of benefits we need in order to live righteously. Redemption provides us with eternal life; forgiveness of sins; a right relationship with God; guidance from the Holy Spirit; adoption into God’s Holy family. When we’re redeemed, we become different people. We are truly alive in Christ. We are now free to choose to live in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

The First Epistle of John was written to Christians. We’re told in 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (NIV). God tells us not to deny that we sin, saying if we do, we’re actually calling Him a liar. Verse 9 indicates what we’re to do when—not if—we sin. He promises to forgive us and cleanse us of the unrighteousness associated with our sin.

1 John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (NIV) [Italics mine]. These types of seeming contradictions confuse new Christians and drive agnostics and atheists crazy. This, however, is not a contradiction. John’s idea of committing sin on a permanent, habitual basis is further explained in 3 John 1:11: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (NIV).

In 1 John 3:6-9, the apostle is examining the question of whether a person “born of God” can commit sin. In verse 6, he writes, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.” In verse 9, he emphatically shares, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin.” John seems to say it is not possible for those who are really  born again to continue to sin. If that were true, there would not be many genuine Christians. This is not what John means. Remember, every believer still possesses a fallen, sin nature, as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit. This reminds me of the old Cherokee saying that we all possess two wolves inside us. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, truth, compassion, and faith. Which wolf will win the fight? The one you feed.

The correct translation of 1 John 3:8 should be, “The one who practices sin.”

What Does It Mean to “Practice Sin?”

Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (NIV). The Greek word for committing sin (poieo) means to be seen sinning, or to display a sinful behavior. Certainly, this will present a poor witness, making the Christian appear hypocritical. I’ve been there, my friends. Far too many times. I’ve often said, “If I don’t start behaving better in public—stop raging at stupid tailgaters, for example—I’m going to take the Jesus First plate off the front of my car.” The Greek word for practicing sin (prasso) means to perform repeatedly or habitually, and hints of deeds, acts, or using arts. Notice the plurality and repetition here.

In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, we read the following regarding Hebrews 10:26-31:

The sin here mentioned is a total and final falling away, when men, with a full and fixed will and resolution, despise and reject Christ, the only Saviour; despise and resist the Spirit, the only Sanctifier; and despise and renounce the gospel, the only way of salvation, and the words of eternal life… all this does not in the least mean than any souls who sorrow for sin will be shut out from mercy, or that any will be refused the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice, who are willing to accept these blessings. Him that cometh unto Christ, he will in no wise cast out” (pp. 1212-1213).

The Nature of the Problem

The Bible teaches we are dead in our “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3) [Emphasis added]. In other words, we were born physically alive but spiritually dead. We had no access to God’s presence in our lives, nor knowledge of His ways. We simply lived our lives devoid of God, unless and until someone introduced us to the Gospel. Paul plainly explained, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (NIV).

The flesh can be described as existence apart from God—a life dominated by sin or a drive opposed to God. Obviously, the flesh considers itself self-reliant rather than God-dependent; it is self-centered rather than Christ-centered. Mankind, accordingly, is sinful by nature and spiritually dead. But, at the moment of salvation, God transfers us from the domain of sin and darkness to the Kingdom of His beloved Son (see Colossians 1:13). Additionally, sin’s dominion through the flesh has been broken. As believers, we are no longer in the flesh—we are in Christ. We have to believe that our new identity is in the life of Christ and commit ourselves accordingly.

If you are a new creation in Christ, have you ever wondered why you still think and feel at times the same way you did before? Because everything you learned before you knew Christ is still programmed into your memory. Unfortunately, there is no mental delete button. Surely, this is why Paul says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NIV) [Emphasis mine]. We have to renew how we think, not delete our old way of thinking.

Concluding Remarks

God’s work of atonement changes us from sinners to saints. No doubt this is a hard concept to comprehend as a new Christian. The radical change—aptly called regeneration—is effected at the moment of salvation. The ongoing change in the believer’s daily walk continues throughout life. The progressive work of sanctification, however, is only fully effective when the radical, inner transformation by regeneration is recognized, accepted, and appropriated by faith.

New believers are dominated by the flesh and deceived by the devil. It takes time and practice to renew the mind and overcome the patterns of the flesh. We have to believe we have a new nature. Our “new self” is oriented toward God. Being a child of God and being free in Christ is positional truth and the birthright of every believer. However, because of a lack of repentance and ignorance of the truth, many believers are not living like liberated children of God. Our freedom from sin’s domination hinges on knowledge of the truth.

Hmm. In other words, the truth will set us free. Where have I heard that before?




Where Did We Get Our Sinful Nature?

Stop! Just stop it right now! Why do you do these things? Why can’t you behave?  Of course I had no answer. I never knew why. I just did whatever came to mind. My biggest problem was self-centeredness. Throw in a pinch of poor impulse control and you have the ingredients for the making of a hellion. This, of course, is nothing we haven’t seen a thousand and one times before. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Left to our own devices, we live in the flesh. People lie, cheat and steal. They feed their vices at the expense of others. They argue and fight. They fail to love and refuse to forgive. They hate and “give paybacks” to those who have wronged them. They take the Lord’s name in vain. They covet. They judge others while failing to “take the plank out of their own eye.”

Is man innately evil? Why do we sin? Has it always been this way? Or did humanity inherit a “sinful nature” when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden? God placed Adam and Eve in the midst of a veritable paradise. “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:9) God gave Adam dominion over everything as far as the eye could see. God had just one condition. He said, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) God did not create the human race sinful, but upright. We fell into sin and became sinful due to the disobedience of Adam.

Paul talks about man’s rebellious human nature. He describes our flesh as being in an unregenerate and sinful state. The New International Version of the Bible consistently translates this meaning of flesh as “sinful nature.” Paul teaches that the fallen human nature is inherently rebellious against God. We inherited this nature from Adam and, unfortunately, it was not eradicated when we became Christians. It is still within us, but we no longer have to be under its thumb, following its dictates. We don’t have to be led around by the nose. As stated in Romans 8, once our spirit has been reborn, we have the Holy Spirit within us Who is strong enough to keep the flesh from getting the upper hand.

Our flesh motivates the selfishness we sometimes feel, the whining about our circumstances, the petty jealousies, the jockeying for power in the office and in our marriages, the lure of pornography, the desire for money and possessions, and all the rest. Galatians 5:17 tells us that the flesh and the Spirit are in conflict with each other. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

As Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Man in his present fallen state is not basically good. He is deceitful and conniving. Yes, there is some good in him. But the good is corrupted. No part of man is any longer perfectly good. All is a mixture of good and evil. And certainly man’s “flesh” is corrupt. In Romans 7:18, Paul says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”

Unrighteousness is often spoken of in Scripture as something belonging to the human race as a whole. This implies that it is the property of our species. In other words, sinfulness is considered a property of human nature after the fall. Thus, it must be concluded that we are all born sinners, since we are all born human and sin is regarded as a property of humanity. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Your flesh is the tangible part of you where sin resides. Sin lives in your flesh, not in your soul and spirit. It is important to recognize this, or else your identity is all about sin management. If you can believe that you are now a child of God, that your nature is reborn, then there is hope to live a victorious life. You can conquer the flesh, because Christ did. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

But I still sin, you might say. So do I. As long as you are alive, your flesh will be prone to sin. But, God somehow uniquely separated your soul and spirit from your body when you became a believer. Your body is dead to sin. Romans 8:10 says, “If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” In Christ, God considers your body dead because of sin. So, we are encouraged to do the same: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)


A New Nature

God’s word teaches us that when we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, He gives us a new nature. (See 2 Cor. 5:17) He gives us His nature. He also gives us a spirit of discipline and self-control, which helps us to choose the ways of our new nature. We are given a sound mind. (See 2 Tim. 1:7) This means we can think about things properly without being controlled by emotion. Of course, this is not an automatic waving-of-the-wand change we go through. What it means is that Christ did the work on the cross which gives us the “equipment” needed for a brand-new way of behaving. We have been set free. We are healed by His stripes. The devil is defeated. The unfortunate part for us is that our intellect and our emotions get in the way of walking in this complete victory.

The Bible frequently uses the term “flesh” when referring to a combination of the body, mind, emotions and will. The word flesh is used synonymously with the word carnal. We’ve heard it said that to be carnally minded means death. Both words come from a root definition that means to be animalistic. In other words, if the flesh is not controlled by the Spirit of God, then it can behave quite like a wild animal. Without God’s help, we have a difficult time doing things in moderation. We frequently eat too much, spend too much money, talk too much. This happens because we are behaving emotionally. We feel like doing something, so we just do it without any thought as to the consequences. I know I’ve done things many times, then wanted to take them back. Like they say though, you can’t unring a bell.

When we act impulsively, we end up leading a life of regret. Thankfully, God gives us His Spirit to enable us to make right choices. He leads us, urges us, even suggests through divine inspiration, but we still have to decide to behave properly. Forming new habits will require making a decision to not do what you feel like doing unless it is sanctioned by God’s will. We have to learn to say no ourselves quite often. Not all of our impulses are good ones. We have to learn to die to ourselves and to live unto God. Certainly, we may not feel like doing the right thing. It is not always easy to do the right thing. The Apostle Paul describes this struggle in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” In this example, Paul wants to do good, but he ends up doing bad, and he struggles to know why.

Through Christ, we can choose to not be ruled by emotions and impulsive behavior. Quite often, Christians are carnal. They believe in God and have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but their whole lives seem to center around the impulses of emotions. Fear and sadness was at the root of my return to drug addiction. I had been set free from all drugs and alcohol in 2008, but fell again in 2012. I forgot that I was already delivered from the bondage of addiction. I allowed my emotions to rule me. Feelings are often unreliable and not to be trusted. Our emotions lie to us. They tell us we’re sad, lonely, dejected, worthless. Emotions are not facts. Moreover, they are fleeting. Many of us, however, have developed the habit of following our emotions.

We all have days when we feel more emotional than other days, and there may be many reasons why.  It could be lack of sleep, lack of intimacy with our spouse, our blood sugar may be off. Sometimes we feel emotional because of something that happened to us. If we stuff our emotions, they can come back to haunt us. Stuffing how we feel denies us closure. Without resolution, we are vulnerable to emotional “triggers.” If we avoid confronting our feelings, we can end up full of unresolved issues that need closure before emotional wholeness will come.

Back to Paul’s dilemma in Romans 7. He says in verse 17, “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” All the blame goes to sin, not to Paul, and that’s why he can say that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Whatever bad they do is blamed on the sin within them, not the new person they have become in Christ. It is as if Paul explains the problem by splitting himself in two — there is the old person, in the sphere of sin, and there is the new person in Christ. The new person is enslaved to Christ, but the sinful nature is still enslaved to sin, and they are both active. Being freed from sin and enslaved to righteousness is not automatic — it involves a struggle. Galatians 5:17 describes the same Christian struggle: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

Paul continues in Romans 7:18, saying, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” Paul qualifies his statement by saying that he’s talking about the flesh, the sinful nature, not his new nature in Christ. All the good in Paul’s life comes from Christ living in Paul, rather than originating in his own nature. The good comes from the new nature, the bad comes from the old, and the Christian life involves fighting against the old. In verse 19 he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” He wants to do good, but he sometimes sins. The sin within him is hijacking the law, making him do things he wouldn’t otherwise do.

Paul describes in the Book of Romans a deep frustration. One with which all Christians can identify. The Christian’s agony comes from realizing that our sinful flesh refuses to respond to the requirements of God’s Law. Those things which we as Christians despise, we find ourselves doing. Those things which we as Christians desire, we fail to accomplish. No matter how much we may wish to serve God in our minds, we find ourselves sinning in our bodies. As Paul describes his frustration in Romans 7, with his mind he desires to serve God. He agrees with the Law of God and rejoices in it. He wants to do what is right, but his body will not respond. He watches, almost as a third party, as sin sends a signal to his body, and as his body responds, “What would you like to do?” Paul finds, as we do, that while our fleshly bodies refuse to obey God and do that which we desire and which delights God, they quickly and eagerly respond to the impulses and desires aroused by sin.

Paul writes in Romans 8:37, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” I like the fact that the Apostle Paul did not write that we will become conquerors if we work at it; rather, he said we are more than conquerors right now. This simply means that the work has been done by Christ. The enemy is defeated. We died to sin when Christ died on the cross, and we are raised up in life with Him. If we start acting like it, seeing ourselves as more than conquerors, we will live a prosperous and victorious life. Start looking through the eyes of faith. See yourself prospering, and keep that image in your heart and mind. Realize that a new nature has been placed inside you through the death of Christ.

Confession is Good For the Soul

We’ve all heard the saying “confession is good for the soul.” We know the word confession has several meanings. It is an acknowledgment of guilt. The act of admitting or disclosing one’s misdeed, fault or sin. Psalm 119 is a long chapter. It begins at verse 1 with “Happy are people with integrity, who follow the law of the Lord. Happy are those who obey His decrees and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths…” Verse 26 says, “I have told you my plans.” (NLT)

The KJV says, “I have declared my ways, and you have heard me..”Verse 28 says, “My soul melts for heaviness: strengthen Thou me according to Your Word.” There is often a heaviness, a genuine sadness, that comes with doing wrong. We sometimes feel very bad when we do wrong. It is understandable that we often want to get things off our chest, so to speak. Verse 29 says, “Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me Your law gracefully.” You see, not confessing your faults is a form of deception. Open confession is good for the soul. Nothing brings more ease and more life to a man than a frank acknowledgment of the evil he has done. Evil weighs heavily on the heart. It can color your opinion of yourself. It can sap your energy, your drive, your ambition, and leave you lethargic. In fact, it can stop you from moving forward, from succeeding, as you believe the lie that you are no good and will amount to nothing. Not confessing your faults and cause you to retain them. Even repeat them.

If a man has the guts to admit his faults, his misdeeds, his sins, such a confession proves that the man knows his own condition. Our confessions are not meant to make God aware of what we’ve done wrong. He knows already. Our confessions are meant to make us truly aware of who we are. We can know, however, that God hears our confession. Our admission has been heard and accepted. Pardon follows upon sincere confession. It is in God’s nature to forgive our sinful ways when we from our hearts confess our evil ways.

Let’s look at 1 John 1:9. It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This pertains to the acts of sins, whatever they might be; the sinner is to believe he has sinned as part of this confession. And a note about the word “all:” All means not some. All means all. Every sin. All sin was remitted, paid for, and put away on the cross when Jesus died for us. Let’s not forget, now, that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We all need this great forgiveness. This substitution. Jesus Christ is that substitution. He is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

It is interesting to me that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous include two steps for dealing with our sins, our defects of character, our wrongs. The Fourth Step instructs us to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. We are told to look deep. To leave out nothing. In fact, we’re warned that we are as sick as our secrets. This inventory must be written. We’re creatures who tend to rationalize and quantify our behavior. We also have a selective memory when it comes to judging our own bad behaviors. Besides, as the A.A. literature teaches, this written list of our wrongs will be our first tangible evidence of our intention to truly face ourselves and change.

So surely God sees our hearts when we come to the place in our lives where we want to confess our sins and put off our evil nature. I don’t know about you, but I have grown tired of being evil and rotten. Constantly misbehaving. Always lying, cheating, stealing, drinking and drugging, serving my flesh. Giving it whatever it wants. All it got me was a feeling that I am lost and broken and dirty.

The Bible tells us in 1 John 2:1. “My little children, these things I write unto you, that you sin not.” Now this verse presents the fact that the Lord saves us from sin, not in sin. This passage tells us that as Believers we don’t have to sin. Victory over sin is found exclusively in the Cross. The verse goes on to say, “…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” In other words, Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, signifying that his mission is complete, and His very presence with the Father guarantees intercession on our behalf. Verse 2 says, “And He [that is, Christ Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” That word propitiation means substitute.

Leviticus 5:5 tells us, “And it shall be, when he shall be guilty of one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.” What I like about this verse is it tells us to be specific when we confess. Simply saying, “Father, forgive me for being in a bad mood today” is not very specific. If, however, our being in a bad mood caused us to gossip about someone, or to curse someone, we need to be specific in our confession rather than generic.

The Prophet Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 1:6, “Let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thine servant, which I pray before Thee now, night and day, for the children of Israel, Thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which have sinned against Thee, both I and my father’s house have sinned.” We are to be vigilant about our our sins and iniquities, and we ought to pray for forgiveness night and day. There is much Biblical instruction for praying for the sins of our fellow Believers as well as our own. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

We cannot help one another if we keep our sins to ourselves. We are not so unique that we are the only one who has committed certain sins. Our weaknesses are man’s weaknesses. They are as old as the fall from grace that occurred in the Garden of Eden. Our strength lies in admitting our weaknesses and seeking God’s help in conquering them. We are responsible for sharing our faith and our faults with one another. We are instructed to edify one another. We are never to speak ill of our brother. James 4:11 says, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaks evil of his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law…”

If we build one another up, share our evil, or our wrongdoings, our mistakes, if you will, we contribute to the edifying of the saints. Jesus said this is a good thing. Remember when you were little and your mom or dad told you the stove was hot. Don’t touch. Remember that? That’s a prime example of passing knowledge and experience on to a younger or inexperienced generation in order to help that person avoid pain. We share our sins and our mistakes much in the same way. It teaches the body of Christ which behaviors don’t benefit us.

A.A. Meetings often have speakers come to tell their story. The person will introduce himself and admit to the group that he is an alcoholic. He has come to terms with the truth that he cannot handle alcohol in any amount. He is being honest with the group. He is confessing his faults to another. He continues in his talk describing what kinds of things happened when he drank. The bad behaviors, the evil, or, if you prefer, his sins. I for one misbehaved badly when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. My behavior was definitely sinful. I did so many bad things that they locked me up in state prison for three years. I was given an evaluation and told that I was a “sociopath.” I didn’t like to hear that, but it sure seemed true. What is a sociopath? It’s a person who exhibits antisocial behavior. I was insane with alcohol and drugs. I did not keep man’s laws. I did not keep God’s laws.

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I felt a huge weight lifted off me. I suddenly realized I didn’t have to rot in prison for the rest of my life. I didn’t have to die for my sins. I remember confessing my crimes to a state trooper and feeling much better. I didn’t like going to jail, but I felt relief. I was free from all my secrets. There was nothing else I could do but be honest at that point. I believed in God and understood the Cross and forgiveness. When I strayed from the path in my later years, I remembered how sweet it was to be forgiven and washed clean.

But how does confessing my faults now as a born-again Christian help the body of Believers? Today, I don’t confess robbing gas stations, committing burglary, setting fires. Today, I confess things I consider character defects, such as lying or getting angry at a tailgater behind me in traffic and wishing they’d go to you know where. Today, I admit to being selfish and impatient. I admit to gossiping or judging. But why is this necessary?

Bringing our faults to the attention of the church gets them out in the open where they can be dealt with. Strength certainly exists in numbers. Strength comes from knowing as well. We know the Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The Statutes of the Lord are right. The Commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes. God has advised us that there is great reward in keeping his commandments. But who can understand his own errors? Who can cleanse himself from his own evil faults? There is no strength in aloneness when it comes to forgiveness and understanding. When we confess our faults one to another, we help build up the body of Christ. We teach each other why we are failing and miserable.

Remember, the Lord will hear you in the day of your trouble. He will send help your way. But who are you to tell God who he can use to help you? When you keep your evil thoughts to yourself, you rob God of the use of another member of the body of Christ for your troubles. God wants to see you succeed. He wants you to reach out. To edify one another. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” In other words, let’s share with one another. Let’s not judge, or shun one another. Righteousness, peace and joy are acceptable to the Lord, not contention, quarreling, fighting, judging. Do not look down your nose at another Believer. Remember your own faults and secrets. Be willing to build up the body of Believers and not tear it down. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Wherefore, comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as you also do.”
It is fitting in a moment of weakness to lean upon one who is stronger. Help does not always come automatically, without asking. Confession is a form of asking for help. It is a biblical axiom that without confession there is no salvation; no help for our sinful condition. Thankfully, through open, honest confession we can be saved from our sinful death. Psalm 32:5 says, “I acknowledge my sin to you, and my iniquity I have not hidden…I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Acts 2:21 simply says, “Whosoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

For the Christian, confession is not an option. We sin, and we confess, and our life with God goes on. It can’t be otherwise. The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. If we have a good relationship with people in our church, and are willing and strong enough to confess our faults when we’re doing badly, this is the start of our having a good work to report. When asked how we’re doing, we can truly answer that we are doing good rather than doing evil. People who cover their sins will not prosper. But those who readily admit their faults to God and to another, and who seek prayer for their weaknesses, will receive mercy. Oh what a joy it is to have your secrets out, to have your rebellion forgiven. God says he will separate us from our sins as far as the east is from the west.

When we refuse to confess our faults (our sins), we become weak and miserable. We tend not to socialize with other believers as much. We feel like phonies. We sit around and groan all day long, feeling evil and dark. When we confess, however, and stop trying to hide our character flaws, our misdeeds, and confess our rebellion to the Lord, we are accepted, we are forgiven, and our guilt is gone. We once again feel like we are worthy of love and friendship and we tend to be more open and more full of joy.

In Psalm 51, David pours out a prayer for forgiveness and cleansing. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving kindness; according unto the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

We simply cannot get this type of blessing from God if we hide our sins one from another. If we wrong a brother in the faith, we owe it to him to confess our offense and ask for his forgiveness. If we keep the offense hidden, we are cut off from him. If we fail to take that fault before the Father, we can cut ourselves off from His grace and power. God will not have fellowship with iniquity. He hates sin. Fortunately, he provided a way out of that iniquity by virtue of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. I’ve heard it said before that our bad behavior, our sin, can cut us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. Once cut off, we feel lost and alone. We cannot learn. We cannot grow. No man is an island. This is especially true of us Christians. We are not to forsake the gathering together of ourselves. We are to watch out for one another. Pray for one another. Lay hands on and heal one another. Confess our faults one to another. It is through these selfless acts that we build up the church itself. The stronger the church, the more likely it can perform as Christ has instructed. Lean on one another, confess your sins one to another, forgive one another, and help one another to perform the perfect will of God. This is why confession is good for the soul.

Free Will

Any discussion about free will has to include the origin of sin in mankind. As we know, Eve was deceived by the serpent and basically talked in to eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve then convinced Adam to eat the same fruit. Shame and conviction and separateness from God were the immediate results of this disobedience. You see, God told Adam and Eve they may enjoy everything in the Garden of Eden, eat to their hearts content. But God established one commandment. God said do not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God was not tempting man or teasing him into disobedience. He was giving man “free will” to choose.

When the question of free will arises, it is important that we define the term very carefully. If we mean that we have the power to choose to do good or evil, to obey God or not obey God, or at least to believe or not believe His Gospel, as many people intend to suggest by the term “free will,” then we are in direct contradiction to the Scriptures. Truly, we are free to do what we want to do, but we are bound in what we want by our sin nature and our desires. We may do as we please. We cannot, however, use our will to shape our nature. Rather, our nature determines how we will use our will. This nature was decided when Eve partook of the forbidden fruit.

The Bible says in many places in Scripture that we are bound by sin. In our flesh, we cannot please God. Let’s turn to Romans 8:5-8. It says, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the Spirit [do mind] the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” This is a serious conflict for us as human beings. Even as Christians.

We cannot understand the things of God. Turn to 1 Corinthians 2:14. This scripture tells us, “But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Now let’s turn to John 14:16-17. It says, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever: Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him: but ye know Him; for He dwells with you and shall be in you.” While in our sinful nature, we cannot even seek God. Turn to Romans 3:9-12. It says, “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

We cannot do any good at all of ourselves. We are utterly captive to our sin nature. In fact, in John 8:31-34, it says, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how say thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” We are prisoners of the devil and constrained to do his desires. Jesus says in John 8:43-45, “Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”

A question which is often heard is, “How can I be sure of what God’s will is?” Not many experiences in life are more baffling to the Christian than to be faced with a troubling problem and to be unable to find clear assurance as to what God’s will is concerning the problem. Life is sometimes complicated, and sometimes help is greatly needed. Disturbed days and sleepless nights are often had in the process of trying to discover God’s will. Our own faith is greatly strengthened by hearing of the personal experiences of other Christians who have learned to interpret God’s will in the middle of troubling problems. We don’t want vague theories about the matter of God’s guidance.

God’s guidance is not limited to times of emergency or crisis. Divine guidance is a daily need. It is as important as food. This is true because of our sin nature and our tendency to live by the flesh. Our instincts and our emotions tend to run riot sometimes, leading us down paths we should not be going. This is exactly how we end up in trouble. We follow our own will, disregarding God’s will for us. The question about God’s leading in your life brings up one of the most difficult questions in the Christian walk. Let’s look at a few principles taken from the Scriptures, from some things I’ve read, and from my experiences.

The first step is to seek to get our own heart right in every respect with the Lord, and make sure that we do not want our own way, but are really ready to do God’s will. If we ask the Lord in prayer to show us anything that may be standing in the way of His will, I believe He will do it by the Holy Spirit. Then we need to lay our problem frankly before the Lord, talking to Him as we would to a Christian friend, reverently of course, but telling God our problem. He knows all the factors involved, our limitations, our needs, our abilities, and what the future may hold, not only for us but for our families. We may need to keep praying for several days or weeks in very important matters, waiting patiently on God’s answer.

We have to be on the lookout for guidance that may come through the Word of God, through an inner conviction of the Holy Spirit, through the advice of Christian friends, or perhaps through the advice of our spiritual counselor or pastor. The advice of worldly or unsaved people is not usually of much value in spiritual matters. Here’s the thing: Those of us who are impulsive by nature need to guard against impulsive actions or decisions. It is hard for such people to wait on the Lord. Impulsive people are often self-centered, and tend to lean on their own understanding. They believe they have all the answers.

God tells us plainly in His Word that He is willing and able to guide us. Here are a few Scriptures that I have found helpful. Turn to Psalm 62:5. It says, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him.” We sometimes fail to receive blessings intended for us because we forget to trust God. We forget that He is interested in us at all times, and in all things great and small.

How do we make good decisions? What does God really want from us? Does God care about every little choice we make? Of course, the big question behind all of this is “What is God’s will for my life?” Do our decisions really matter to God? God cares about what is going on in our lives. In any decision we have the opportunity to choose who we will worship. Will we worship God or will we worship ourselves? God wishes to be the highest priority in every part of our lives. In some areas of our lives it is clear that there are right decisions and wrong decisions – like the choice of whether or not to cheat on an exam. In other areas, we need to make choices between two good things – like choosing which college to attend. Other times, the choice may have to do with a gray area – something that’s not necessarily right or wrong. These are times where we have to apply wisdom. For example, spending a lot of times talking on the phone or texting friends may be a good thing. But if there never is a time when we’re just quiet and still, it can be harder for us to be aware of God’s presence, or to hear Him express His will for us. Being wise might involve us turning off the phone from time to time to quiet our hearts so we can be more attentive to the presence of God in everyday life.

How do we discover God’s will? First, we must be sure that we’re seeking to obey what God has already revealed in Scriptures. This includes things like obeying our parents, or not stealing, or not worshiping any other gods or things instead of the Lord. The Scriptures are clear instructions from God. It doesn’t really work to ignore God’s revealed will, but yet expect God to answer specific questions like whom should I marry, or what should I do for a living.

As we study God’s word and spend time in prayer, our relationship with God will grow and we will begin to understand God’s character. We will then need to be in the right place to hear God’s instructions for other areas of our lives. In addition to Bible study and prayer, we have to be willing to seek godly direction from a mentor, pastor or other spiritual adviser. If we’re serious about following God’s will, we have to recognize that it’s not about getting what we want, but doing what God asks. We must trust that He is faithful and good, and that His will is what’s best for us.

Will God ask us to do things we don’t want to do? God may ask us to do things that don’t feel natural to us at first. But as we listen and respond to the call of God, we get connected to our deeper desires. After all, the things God calls us to do are things that He created us to do. There is no set formula for knowing God’s will. Instead, think of discovering the will of God in your life like viewing a constellation. When we look into the sky, we need to see clusters of stars in a pattern in order to observe a constellation. Only by looking at the overall view of stars will we see Orion or the Big Dipper. Focusing on one star does not give us the big picture.

In the same way, learning God’s will involves looking at the big picture. When everything comes in to view, we begin to understand the big picture we call the will of God for us. We can count on Biblical guidance to show us the way. God will never ask us to do something contrary to his written Word, but he demands obedience in the clearly revealed things, and obedience to the commission to make disciples. We can also look for God’s will through the opinion and counsel of others. Especially older, wiser church leaders who know us well. Also, God has entrusted us with certain unique personal resources. How will we use them?

As the big picture starts to get clearer, whatever the picture, we are all called to obey. But how do we get started? First, start small. Our small efforts matter. We belong to the God of the mustard seed, who takes the smallest of actions and makes them significant. Have you heard it said that if only you had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed?

I can just hear you saying, “These are great ideas. I’ll have to try them out someday.” We will never find out what God’s will is for us if we put off asking Him. If we are to grow in our vision of God, His world, and our part in it, we need to make it a priority. We need to start today.

The first action we can take is to submit ourselves DAILY to the Lordship of Christ. If we realize that we belong to Him, that we are bought with a price, then we will desire to grow in our ability to see the world as God sees it. Our desire to understand and care for our world and those around us will arise out of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If we do not start now to open ourselves to God as His living sacrifices, we may never hear Him call us into an exciting opportunity to serve Him in a big way.

Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” This verse means that whereas in times past man brought animals unto the Lord for sacrifice upon an alter, men are now supposed to bring themselves to God. They are now to be wholly the Lord’s as were the sacrifices of old. Romans 12:2 goes on to say, “And be not conformed to this world: But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Be not conformed literally means do not follow the example of others. We are to be transformed in our minds. This is a supernatural metamorphosis. This change is accomplished by a renewing of the mind and spirit.

We are instead to live in the acceptable and perfect will of God. What does that mean? Well, we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God. We are to make our bodies holy. We are to make ourselves acceptable to God. We are to render our reasonable service unto the Lord. We are to not conform ourselves to the world and its example. Rather, we are to be transformed from the world.

It is important to realize that the devil attacks us in the mind. He wants to stop or slow the renewing of our minds. He knows as long as we are walking in the flesh, we are not renewing our mind. We are not acting in the will of God. We are instead acting in our own will. Our instincts and our sin nature will then dictate our behavior. We will in no way be thinking about what God’s will or His plan might be for us. As we lose our minds and our spirits to Satan, we walk farther and farther away from God. We can’t hear the gentle voice of the Lord instructing us in how we should act. Where we should go. We’re like a ship on a violent sea, tossed to and fro. We are vulnerable to vain philosophies and incorrect doctrine. We make decisions that are totally self-centered. It’s our own will running riot.

If you want to hear the voice of God, you have to be willing to sit and listen. If we want to know God’s plan or will for us, we have to examine his written Word. We need to pray and listen faithfully for a response. We have to come out from among the world and take up our heavenly citizenship. We are a chosen generation. A peculiar people. We remember that our fight is not with others, as in the flesh; rather, we fight against powers and principalities. The battle takes place in our minds. If Satan creates enough confusion and chaos in our lives, we will be distracted from getting to know God’s will. We will remain a slave to our sin nature. What free will? There is none when we’re driven by our sin nature. But if we turn to Jesus, He will surely set us free. Then we can clear our heads and come to the Word and learn God’s will for our lives.