Sunday, February 1, 2009

Practicing or Besetting Sin?

Practicing Sin

Q. Is willful sin the same as practicing sin? If not, then what is the difference?

A. To willfully sin is to do it consciously, with volition. The concept of practicing sin is similar to that of practicing medicine or law. It means the person is actively engaged in it on a consistent basis. A person can willfully sin on an infrequent or inconsistent basis and therefore not be thought of as practicing it. So it’s a matter of how much it becomes a part of the person’s life.

For example, if a married person becomes attracted to someone other than his or her partner and has a one time sexual encounter, that person has willfully committed adultery. But if the relationship becomes an ongoing extra-marital affair, then he or she is practicing adultery.

Besetting Sin Or Practicing Sin?

Q. If one has a bad habit (tobacco) and has the habit from before they are saved to while they are saved, it is a besetting sin or is it practicing Sin? Regardless, I’m OSAS since day one and more secure with the help of your answers to questions in the past. I love God’s Word and love telling people about the Lord when I get the chance and look forward to His return, my conscience is sharp when I know I’ve hurt someone or done wrong. It sometimes feels as if I’m not changing much though. How can I tell that God is still making me holy (sanctified)?

A. If a person truly wants to stop doing something and has prayed for the power, but can’t stop for very long, it’s a besetting sin. If they enjoy it and don’t really want to stop, it’s a practicing sin. Either way, the inability or unwillingness to stop will not endanger a person’s salvation. And even though it’s a nasty habit with potentially serious health consequences, there’s some doubt as to whether smoking is a sin or not. Personally, I don’t think it is.

Sanctification is an ongoing process that will only be complete in the Rapture/Resurrection. You can tell it’s working if you’re growing closer to God in your heart.

Remain In Me

I’m confused about John 15:2 where Jesus says, “He (The Father) cuts off every branch in me (Jesus) that bears no fruit…” On the surface it appears as a strong encouragement to remain in Christ’s love. But what are the consequences of not remaining in His love? Do we lose our salvation?

Q. I’m an avid reader of your website and a firm believer in the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. However, I’m confused on John chapter 15, where in verse 2 Jesus says, ” He (The Father) cuts off every branch in me (Jesus) that bears no fruit…” Then in verse 6, Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” This verse does not sound like a “fellowship” verse to me.

On the surface John 15:2 appears as a strong encouragement to the disciples to remain in fellowship with, or rather remain in Christ’s love. But what are the consequences of not remaining in His love? Do we lose our salvation?

A. The Lord is speaking to believers here, and since He’s already promised that He will never lose or drive away any of those who come to Him (John 6:37-40) He can’t be talking about our salvation. The context is bearing fruit and how remaining in Him is necessary to bear fruit. Being saved is not the same as bearing fruit.

He’s saying that only those things we do in His strength will be considered valuable. Things we do in our own strength are not worth anything to Him, and those who insist on working in their own strength are like unproductive branches on a vine.

The word “like” is meant to show a comparison in value. Any branch of a vine that that doesn’t bear fruit is of no value to the gardener, so it’s cut off from its fruit producing source. So it is with us. Working in our own strength is of no value to Him. It makes us vulnerable to being cut off from His power, and apart from Him we can do nothing. But when we remain in Him, our lives can be filled with His power and we can accomplish anything we ask.

Think of the countless numbers of believers who go through life without giving anyone the slightest indication that they’re Christians either by word or deed. They never give the Lord a thought between Sundays and by the way they live and work it’s impossible to tell them from their pagan neighbors. Then they go to church and make loud and impassioned prayers for deliverance or healing or relief from their afflictions and blame God when nothing happens. The sad truth is that they haven’t remained in Him and are cut off from His power. They’re still saved, but they can bear no fruit, either in their own lives or the lives of others.

Paul described this same situation in 1 Cor. 3:10-15 where he said that while much of our work might be burned up in the judgment fire, we will still be saved. He was talking about things we do in our own strength or for our own glory. They don’t endanger our salvation but neither do they qualify us for any reward. They’re of no value.


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