Where Did That Come From?

Where Did That Come From?

Psalm 51:5-6
by Bob Burridge ©2012

When we do stupid or sinful things, and we begin to feel the guilt or suffer the consequences, we often look back on it and wonder, “Where did that come from?” “Why did I do that?”

Our fallen nature does not like to admit the truth of it, so it comes up with some very creative attempts to explain it away more acceptably.

One very popular excuse is the “blame the teacher” approach. Perhaps we do wrong things because we were taught to behave that way by our parents, school teachers, friends, and those nasty movies and television shows to which we were subjected. So it’s not our fault. We blame it on those who have influenced us.

Then there is the “blame laziness” approach. We say, “I’ll just have to try harder next time.” There is a little more personal responsibility in this explanation for our transgressions, but it also minimizes the seriousness of the matter. It is as if we are saying, “I am better than it appears. I just slacked off a bit. I just needed a little more effort is all.”

A nice dodge of accountability can be found in the “blame the circumstances” approach. This is where we convince ourselves we had no other choice but to do something technically wrong. Since God is sovereign over all his creation, it amounts to a “blame God” approach.

Another very creative set of excuses is found in the “It’s not really wrong” approach. Blame is placed upon the church, overly strict parents, or a society with unrealistic standards. It is very common and acceptable to the fallen heart to say we only seem to sin because the standards are unfairly set too high.

These tragic misunderstandings of where sin comes from leave us locked in its grip and discouraged. They never deal with the cause. They only attempt to cover up the problem, and explain away the consequences.

Rather than acting surprised or victimized when we do wrong, a better question to ask is, “Where does God say our sin comes from?”

King David had sinned horribly in his lust and adultery with Bathsheba. He made repeated efforts to cover it up, including risking Israel’s national security by having his troops pull back in battle to leave Bathsheba’s faithful husband to be killed. David paid a heavy price for that one night of sin.

When God’s prophet confronted him with it, we see how a true believer responds to his sin. David admitted that what he did was wrong. He grieved and humbly repented before God. He did not make excuses or put on a display of sorrow to win the sympathy of the people. His heart was broken. He repented, and wrote this moving Psalm from which we all can learn.

We have already studied the first four verses.

Psalm 51:1-4
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight — That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

Then David continued by owning up to the real source of his sin.

Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”

When a verse begins with the word “behold” we know we are about to look at something important. He was not telling God to behold something his all-knowing Lord had not noticed. He was humbly saying to God that he was no longer going to try to hide the depth of his own depravity.

The poet Robert Burns around the end of the 18th century was in church when he noticed a bug crawling on the bonnet of a well dressed lady in front of him. He wrote his famous poem To a Louse. It was about how differently we might come across to others while thinking we look quite impressive. In old English he wrote: “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us; To see oursels as ithers see us!” Today we would approximately translate it, “Oh would some power the gift he give us; To see ourselves as others see us!”

Here David sees a greater gift, to see ourselves as God sees us. David had seen the awful corruption of his own human nature. He knew that it had infected his heart from the moment he was conceived in his mother’s womb.

David admitted where his sin came from. God assigned Adam to represent all the humans who would naturally descend from him. When he sinned, guilt and moral corruption spread to everyone who would be ever born. The only exception is the birth of Jesus who was specially conceived by the Holy Spirit. We call this inherited condition original sin.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes this biblical fact in Question 16, “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.”

More simply, the old New England primer said, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”

The Bible is clear about this. Paul summarized how we got to be sinners in his letters to the early churches. In Romans 5:12 he wrote, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men …” Then in 1 Corinthians 15:22 he explained, “For as in Adam all die …”

Our guilt and the corruption that moves us to sin are inherited. Sin is a congenital disease of the soul, and a universal infection of all souls. Psalm 58:3 says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.”

By saying that he was a sinner from his conception, David was not excusing his sin as if he could not help it. David was confessing that he had done wrong because he was responsibly corrupt from the beginning and in need of a Savior.

Original sin leaves our souls morally inclined to displease God. We are born in sin. We all know that the fruit of a tree reveals its true nature. Apples being produced proves we have an apple tree. Sin being produced, proves that we have a corrupted heart.

Some are quick to say, “But, I’m a Christian! Isn’t that corruption taken away now?” It’s true that believers are forgiven for their sin because Jesus paid the penalty for it in their place. He clothes them with his own perfect righteousness by crediting it to those who have not deserved or earned it. He also renders them able to have truly God-honoring motives, and to be able to honor God both outwardly and inwardly, but always imperfectly in this earthly life. The infection of sin is not yet fully removed. Even redeemed hearts still sin. Only in our glorification after death is sin’s power eradicated from us. Until then we struggle as did King David when he wrote this Psalm.

We have conflicting moral desires. On the one hand we want to do good because of God’s love at work in us. But there is that not yet eradicated evil present within us too. We sometimes do what displeases our Savior. This reminds us that we are only sinners saved by Grace. This was Paul’s experience as he explained in Romans 7:23, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

David realized that his recent flood of sins exposed what had been there all along. It was only God’s merciful restraint that had sometimes put chains upon his depravity. God never withdraws our salvation, but he does at times leave us to ourselves to see what we would be without his constant provision.

In this life, there remains some corruption in our hearts no matter what we do. No one can perfectly remove all selfish motives and purely do all for God’s glory alone, or always keep from wavering in times of stress or temptation. So sometimes God lets us see those remains of sin at work in us.

One of the hardest things for parents to do is to let their children make their own mistakes. Certainly they never let them do dangerous or fatal things. However, there are times when they lovingly step back to let them learn the limits of what they can do. God as our loving Father sometimes lets us see how much we need to rely upon his grace.

When we discover the depth of sin in us, it drives home the truth that all the good we do is purely a result of his merciful work in our hearts. We learn that since sin is in us from birth, we cannot blame our circumstances, our upbringing, or our human choices. This also means that our victory over it does not come by the efforts of men. For God’s children it is more sure than that.

No one has a natural advantage or disadvantage before God. Those brought up in a godly surrounding are greatly blessed, but no less corrupt from birth. Those deprived of good surroundings, are no more depraved in their souls. Refinements do not make a Christian. If you refine a depraved sinner with all the culture and manners imaginable, all you end up with is a very cunning and skillful sinner who believes he doesn’t need a Savior.

Our depravity is not overcome by our efforts or refinement. It is conquered only by grace through God’s application of the work of Christ.

In that inner place where we have in-born sin,
God desires to insert his truth and wisdom.

Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”

Again, here is something David calls God to behold. This time it is not the fact of his original sin that David so humbly holds up before God. Here it is God’s own holy expectation which is satisfied in us only by grace.

What God desires is what ought to be found in man’s innermost being. The place he speaks of here is where our desires and motives lie. God is not impressed merely with our outward show, or our words.

To Israel, David looked like a godly king all the while this cover-up was going on. But the king knew that what he appeared to be was not what he really was. We can often fool those around us for awhile, maybe for a long while. We may even fool ourselves for a time. In 1 Samuel 16:7 God warned Samuel not to look at a man’s appearance or stature, “… For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

That’s where the corruption lies, deep under the appearances we put up to make us look good. It is the heart that is corrupt, and that continues to tempt us even as believers. While we remain imperfect in this life we are potential sinners even as David was. James 4:1 asks, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” The desires deep inside us are what cause the moral conflicts that often snare us and hurts others.

David shows us an important contrast in these two verses. First he confesses the problem of his inherited iniquity and sin. Then he turns the spotlight to what ought to be there in its place, God’s desire for truth in our hearts. He does not want to find imaginings or false beliefs there.

We need to have in our hearts an awareness of our real inner nature. If we do not admit that we need a Savior, we are lost in hopelessness. Even as believers we need to admit our need to continually rely upon God’s grace. Otherwise we are living a lie.

Truth is that which agrees with what God knows. For us, it is that which conforms with what has been revealed to us by our Eternal Lord. We need to replace the lies with honesty. If we hope in fantasies about our moral nature, or rely upon mere wishes of what we would like to be true, we will never find real solutions. If we look to our own imagined abilities to overcome our problems, we will never discover God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and deliverance in Christ.

Next David pleads with God that he would come to have wisdom. He does not mean that he wants his IQ to increase, or to improve his memory. He does not mean he wants a more analytical mind or a more creative genius. The wisdom he means here is of the heart, not of just the head. One ancient writer spoke of a “full head and an empty heart.”

David wanted God to improve his ability to accept the truth and to follow after the right path. On that night of temptation he thought that a moment of sin with the beautiful Bathsheba would give him a good moment of pleasure. Godly wisdom would have judged that there is no real pleasure in things that displease God.

Moses showed this wisdom when he sided with the calling of God in Hebrews 11:24-25, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,”

Wisdom is found in those desires which conform to what God says is true and good. God does not want outward show. He wants inward truth, holiness, and devotion to moral purity. So we must have our hearts united with Christ if our outward behavior is to be enabled to truly honor God. When obedience is externalized the most we can hope for is to put on a good act.

Because of the inner origin of sin, an inner cure is needed. God wants truth and wisdom in there where sin tries to dominate our lives from birth. Though in Adam we were created in holiness, ever since his fall humans are conceived as sinful beings. We must be redeemed to inward holiness if we are to enjoy God’s blessings in this life and forever.

Our fallen nature’s answer is like the plan of a cheap handy-man. When the wood of a wall or fence is rotten and brittle, it can sometimes be covered over with heavy coats of paint. Though that might make it look acceptable or even beautiful from the outside, the fence or wall is rotten at its very core and will not hold up when it is stressed.

In the same way we can often put on good outward behavior, even religious behavior, while inwardly the heart is deceptive and self-centered. There can be no hope or confidence before God until there is a changed heart. This transformation by grace will show itself in humble confession and repentance and by seeking God’s provision in Christ.

There is an important and encouraging message for us in this Psalm. Though the setting is one of tragic sin and its discovery, David points us to the wonderful cure.

Before we get to the remedy, we need to realize that there can never be real spiritual progress or confident inward assurance until we are brought to see the real problem. By understanding the source and nature of our inward corruption we can begin to deal with it at the source. A polluted stream cannot be cleaned up if the source of pollution is not stopped.

Our own behavior and that of those around us can be confusing and discouraging. We do things we know are neither wise nor moral, and when the fleeting moment of imagined pleasure is gone we ask ourselves, “Where did that come from?” “Why did I do such a stupid thing?” When our eyes are opened to see where sin originates in us we can finally understand the moral struggles we face daily without searching for foolish excuses.

When we understand the impossibility of moral progress on our own, we can begin to understand the amazing work of grace in our lives. We can also have hope for those around us who seem irretrievably lost. The most evil people on earth can be transformed by the work of our Redeemer. Believers who fall deeply into sin as did King David, can also discover a sense of complete forgiveness when the appreciate what our Savior accomplished on the Cross of Calvary.

We learn from this Psalm to own up to our sin, then to deal with it effectively by coming to the Lord, our only hope for restoration, forgiveness, and the promise of victory.

John Calvin began his Institutes of the Christian Religion with these words, ” … We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him. On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also —He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. …” (Institutes 1:1:1-2)

Paul wrote in Romans 6:17-18, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Our War with Sin

Lesson 24: Romans 7:13-25

No one has to be told that all humans have an on-going struggle with sin.

Our own experience, and the direct statements of the Bible, confirm that even the redeemed in Christ struggle with the continuing influence of a fallen nature. This struggle leads some to doubt their salvation and fall into discouragement. It makes some give up the battle in their war with sin. It instigates others to devise strange remedies of mystical awakenings and insights as if sin could be conquered by just the right attitude, experience, or knowledge.

These are tragic errors. They mislead and hurt people who care about their Savior. So Paul deals with this problem in these middle chapters of his Letter to the Romans. There is a right way to engage the enemy of sin as the war wages on.

Paul had just explained that before he was regenerated by God’s grace, he had lived superficially. He thought he was able to keep the law well enough to earn God’s blessings. Of course, only a very shallow view of God’s law could lead to a conclusion like that. He saw himself as very much alive spiritually and innocent before God. He was completely blind to the sin that condemned him and made all his pious deeds worthless.

Then something revolutionary happened in his soul. The Holy Spirit came and changed his heart. The Spirit used the law of God to show Paul that he was not as good as he supposed. Sin was thriving in places he had not expected to find it. Not only was it wrong to steal or to commit adultery, the law now showed him it was wrong even to covet such things. With his spiritually opened eyes he saw the inner spiritual nature of the law of God. What he thought was proof that he was spiritually alive proved the opposite. So when the law came in its real meaning sin revived and he found himself to be spiritually dead.

The Holy Spirit made the gospel known to him. Once he saw his own depravity he could appreciate the wonders of the work of Jesus Christ. He realized that Jesus was God’s promised Messiah who died in place of his people to remove their guilt and to restore them to fellowship with God.

The law took on a whole new meaning for him. Instead of thinking of it as a way to earn his way to blessing, he saw it as God’s guide for showing his thankfulness for his salvation by grace alone. He found that the law was never a way to life. Instead, its moral principles were, are, and always will be the way of life for those redeemed by the work of the Savior.

Paul begins this next section of Romans 7 with a question:

Romans 7:13, “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”

The law works a wonderful achievement in the sinner touched by God the Holy Spirit. He is humbled before God to see things as they really are. He sees the depth of his own sin and is driven in repentance to the Savior. He sees that Jesus Christ fulfilled all that which the laws of sacrificial worship promised. He paid the debt of sin in the sinner’s place. There, by trusting in this work of the Redeemer alone, the rescued sinner finds great comfort and peace as the weight of his guilt is lifted. The law is not the cause of death. It exposes a death that was there all along. It reveals the true state of things, and becomes the backdrop against which the redeemed behold the full grandeur of grace. God’s law not only reveals our sin, it also provides a continuing guide for grateful and victorious Christian living.

Paul explains the struggle that is so real to every believer.

Romans 7:14-23, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

This can be a difficult passage if not taken in the context of the flow of Paul’s reasoning. Its basic meaning is very simple and obvious. Paul is dealing with our agonizingly familiar struggle with sin. However, some want to take it in a less self-condemning way. They invent ways to explain away the personal conflict we all face as the redeemed children of God.

Some suggest that Paul is only talking about the struggle of unbelievers. Since he uses himself as an example, they imagine he is speaking of his life before he was a Christian. But the unbeliever never struggles against sin in the way described here.

In the previous section (6:1-7:12) Paul explained how the felt about sin before the Lord changed him. Back then he was a leader among the Pharisees. He saw no spiritual problem in his life. He imagined himself to be spiritually alive and morally good. It was not until the Spirit opened his eyes by the law that he realized sin was the enemy within. It is only the regenerated believer who struggles in this way against sin. The unbeliever has no inner love for the law of God. Therefore this section cannot possibly refer to the struggle of the unbeliever

Others suggest that Paul is speaking of different classes of believers. They imagine that there are some believers who know Christ as Savior, but not as Lord. They invent a system where a person can be cleansed from the guilt of sin, but not changed within. To them this section is only speaking of those “carnal” christians who have not yet discovered the secret of moving up to being “spiritual Christians”.

The Bible never speaks of different classes of believers. Either you are redeemed by Christ and changed, or you are not. All who are redeemed struggle with sin in this life, and each progresses differently, but no one gets a special rank that elevates him above the others. Only the spiritually proud would imagine themselves to be a special class within the body of Christ.

When Paul says he is “carnal”, and calls the Corinthians “carnal” in his letter to them, he is not saying they need to get some second work of grace. He is simply saying what we all know to be true: though we are born again, and released from our condemnation, we still struggle with the remains of sin. There is no simple and quick solution to our struggle. Instead of trying to explain away the battle, we need to learn how to fight battle.

Paul shows us that there are two opposing principles at work.

1. the principle of righteousness
The believer is assured that the guilt of his sin is paid for by Christ. He understands that his guilt is deserved and very real, but it is paid for. By his life and death, Jesus took on the penalty the believer deserved so that he could be forgiven without violating justice. The holy life of Jesus is credited to the believer so that God views him as holy. The believer wants to thank God for that grace by living an obedient life. Once fellowship with God is restored by Christ, an inner change takes place. Sin is no longer defended. The believer begins to want to live obediently. This engenders a love for the law and a desire to honor God by it. Clearly Paul shows that inwardly he wants to do what is right. There is now a principle of righteousness at work in him. Though he does evil, he doesn’t desire to be a sinner (verse 19). In verse 22 Paul wrote, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.”

God’s law is spiritual. It is applied by the Holy Spirit to the inner part of man. In contrast, Paul still struggles with the former ways of sin.

2. the principle of evil
There is another principle at work, the principle of evil present with him (7:21). Though the believer wants to do right he finds that he does not always do it. The remains and habits of sin are not gone and are hard to overcome. Paul sees himself caught in a struggle, a true spiritual war (7:23). The war is not just against the world around him. He finds that it is also in his own heart. The believer, though redeemed and regenerated, is in one sense in bondage to sin (7:23). The imperfection of our souls will never be removed until we are united with Christ in eternal glory.

Obviously there are different ways in which we are in “bondage” here.

The scope of captivity or bondage is always specific. It rarely includes everything imaginable. For example, Israel was in “bondage” in Egypt. However, even as slaves they were free to pray. God used their prayers to end their slavery through his deliverance by Moses. Their bondage was only outward. Satan is said to be bound in this age in Revelation 20:1-3. That does not mean he is inactive. Far from that! He is only said to be locked up in bondage so that he will no longer deceive the Gentiles (Revelation 20:3). When the Gentiles started becoming the main part of the church, it proved that Satan no longer held them in his deception as a whole group. So also, the bondage Paul speaks of here and in the previous section is limited. Therefore in one sense we are free from bondage to sin. In another sense we are still bound to sin.

In the last section Paul said that we are set free from bondage to sin. He did not mean that we are now free from ever sinning again. That much is obvious. He was making it clear that we are no longer under sin as our master in two specific ways:

1. We are free from the condemnation of sin as demanded by God’s justice. The law demands that sinners die. This death is not just physical. It includes spiritual death, total separation from fellowship with the Creator forever. Jesus paid that infinitely large price in place of his people. Believers are set free from the horrors of damnation which they deserve. They are no longer bound to the legal penalties of sin because those debts have been paid.

2. We are also set free from the disposition that always inclines the lost person away from honoring God. In our lost condition we are unable to do anything truly good. No unredeemed person is motivated by a love of God and directed to live for their Creator’s true glory. In Christ we are set free from that evil master, and bound to a love for righteousness. We are made able to do truly good things for God’s glory. Obedience is not for self-benefit. It is done humbly out of love for the Redeemer. We never contribute to our redemption. Jesus alone does that. In this sense we are no longer in bondage to sin as our master.

Here, just a few verses later, Paul says we are in bondage to sin. He obviously means it in a different sense. In this section he is not talking about the legal debt of sin, or the spiritual deadness of our captive heart. Here he is talking about the on-going influence of sin in our lives. Clearly no one can claim that we are totally set free from ever sinning by trusting in Jesus Christ as his Savior. The Apostle John put it this way in 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

Since sin is our continuing enemy, we better know how to fight the battle!

We need to fight sin as those who trust in the power and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The unbeliever fights against the consequences of his sins, not against the sins themselves. He wants to avoid the bad outcome, but not because it is wrong and offends God. He knows that if he steals he might go to jail, but he fails to see it as stealing when he keeps extra money he gets because of a mistake at the checkout counter. He knows he should never murder because of the bad results if he gets caught. However he justifies his hatred of people he sees as annoying. He is willing to kill unborn babies rather than control his sexual urges. He knows that if he is unfaithful to his wife he might get thrown out of the house, not be able to visit his children, or have to pay alimony. He avoids abusing alcohol and drugs because it might cost him his job. He knows that if he lies people might not trust him anymore. If he believes he can keep out of trouble or get away with it, he will gladly mislead and deceive. He knows he should worship and go to church because he fears hell and damnation, but he wants worship to be entertaining, worth his time, and for the sermon to stay away from pointing out sin and responsibility too clearly.

The reason he is so hypocritical is that the undredeemed person is still in bandage to the guilt of his sins, and his disposition remains inclined toward self-interests over the glory of the true God. The unbeliever has not only the principle of evil in him, but in place of the principle of righteousness he has a principle of unrighteousness. He battles sin only so that things will go well for him in conscience and for personal gain.

The believer looks on the battle with sin very differently. He wants to do right because he knows that sin offends the God who has redeemed him. The principle of unrighteousness has been replaced with the principle of righteousness. When he sins he grieves because he knows that his loving Shepherd is grieved. As Paul explains here, he has learned to “… delight in the law of God according to the inward man,” (7:22). He wants to do good for God’s glory, not for harps, halos, or a home in the clouds. His sin bothers him greatly. He confesses it most sincerely, and by the power of his risen Lord he works hard to overcome it.

These are important promises for the believer. He has the power of the living Savior at work in him to enable him to do what is truly God honoring. He has the assurance that when he sins, his guilt is paid for. In light of the enormity of the Redeemer’s work on his behalf, grace overwhelms him. He knows he does not receive the penalty he deserves. He knows by God’s own promise in the Scriptures, that while he battles all his life to overcome sin, yet he cannot lose the forgiveness and new birth he has by God’s grace.

The remains of sin are not the chains of sin.

Of course there will not always be a steady and clear day by day improvement. Sometimes he will sin most disappointingly and grievously. To him, the inner-sins seem so much more offensive as he matures spiritually. His awareness of his sin increases. However, in the overall view of things, he is growing in Christ.

How is it that in 7:17 Paul says, “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”? Obviously he is not excusing his sin as if he wasn’t to blame, or that another person in him did it. He is expressing that inner battle we all know when we come to love God’s moral principles, but are humbly convicted about our lapses into sin. Paul is saying here that he is not altogether behind it. While he sins most willingly, yet part of him is deeply upset by it for God’s sake. So it is not the whole person that is running after sin as it was before his redemption. It’s that sin part in him, his yet unsanctified remains of sin, that drive him to do wrong.

Finally Paul cries out in agony, but not in despair.

Romans 7:24-25, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”

He finds relief, comfort, and hope in the promise of his living Savior.

The battle with sin is not a mystical clash of impersonal forces that pull us against our will. It is a simple matter of us who are yet imperfect fighting with all we can to grow in Christ. We draw from the power of our Creator, having been restored to fellowship with him by the righteousness imputed to us from our Savor.

This is truly a war. The enemy is not only out there trying to bring us down. He lies within. It is a battle we each will fight all our lives. There is no easy escape. We have all the weapons we need to wage the war, and we have the power of Christ which ensures us that the war is already won.

One day the moral struggles of this life will be over. We will enjoy complete victory. For the rest of eternity that struggle with sin will be over. Heaven is far more than a tranquil resort for harp loving cloud dwellers. That pagan view of glory has little appeal to the true believer.

What God promises is far far better. One day each of us will know what it is like to no longer be at battle with indwelling sin! There will be no more habits of evil to overcome or to fight off. We will struggle no more with offenses from which to repent.We will know no more weeping because we have grieve our God. We will live in a sin-free state in the glorious presence of God for all eternity.

Meanwhile, never lose heart. By using all the means God has given you, keep up the battle resting by the power of Christ which alone enables his children to progress toward the Savior’s likeness, and to be dying more and more to sin’s presence.

by Bob Burridge ©2011

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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One For All

One For All

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 19 – Romans 5:12-21

An article in Time magazine reported an incident like so many we hear about in the daily news. Police detectives had arrested four teenagers for beating up some homeless people in a park. When they were taken into custody the boys confessed to a whole list of violent crimes. The boys were ages 18, 17, 16 and 15. In just 16 days they had beaten an old man to death, beaten several other elderly men but came short of killing them, had used a whip on two teen-age girls, had tied gasoline soaked cloth around a man’s legs and set it on fire, and had dragged a man 7 blocks before dumping him in the river where he drowned. To the shock of the neighbors these 4 teens had good school records, came from good homes, none belonged to gangs, they were active in organized sports, and 3 of the 4 had been summer camp counselors.

We shake our heads over such an article and ask ourselves, “What is our world coming to? Look at what modern ways are doing to our children to make them do such things!”

But — this Time magazine article was published in the early 1950’s. Has this kind of behavior been around that long? Even before violent video games, cable-TV and the internet? I doubt that many would disagree that crime reports are expected to rise as the population grows, but we need to be careful that we do not blame corruption so much on society that we forget its real source.

200 years after Jean Cauvin (we know him as John Calvin) succeeded in shaping the city of Geneva to operate by a biblical model, Geneva produced another man with the same first name, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The Renaissance had spread humanism world wide challenging the Reformation, but there was a problem with its message. The problem was with people themselves. Instead of becoming more noble, they still tended to do selfish, dishonest, violent and greedy things. The humanist had no way to explain how man could be so bad deep inside since he denied that there is any sin nature in him.

The philosopher Rousseau blamed culture. He believed that humanity’s bad ways had to have been learned. He wrote about the “noble savage” whom he saw as the superior primitive man not influenced by greed, commerce or Christianity. With no standards he was pressured to obey, a person would have no reason to become greedy or selfish. He thought that if man was really allowed to be free, he would be noble. He dreamed of a utopia where there were no rules, no authority — just pure natural freedom.

But the results of his thinking proved him tragically wrong. The French Revolution attempted to impose this freedom upon a whole nation. Those who would not go along with it were to be silenced by force. The guillotine became the answer to resistance. Blood flowed horribly in the streets. The quest for nobility and freedom brought totalitarianism and violence.

One of Rousseau’s students, a painter named Gaugin, decided to seek out the noble savage. He left his family and all he had to run off to live in primitive Tahiti. What he found there was not consistent with his teacher’s theory. As Gaugin got to know the primitive culture he found it anything but noble. He found despair, cruelty and greed was there in Tahiti as well. He painted his utter disappointment into a depressing painting, then he attempted suicide. His suicide attempt failed, just as did his search for the “noble savage.”

Humanists have continued to try to explain away this obvious flaw in their system. Man and his societies have been far from noble. History tends to expose an inner corruption. At first the modern humanists continued to seek innocence within, but with Hitler, World War Two, and a deteriorating national and world situation, a Second Humanist Manifesto blamed it all on society and its standards for corrupting man. It names industry, profit making, faith in God, revelation, salvation and belief in a final judgment as the evils. It ignored the fact that man is the one who makes up his societies. That’s the common element that corrupts it all.

God has explained clearly in his word that man is himself sinful, and it explains how he got that way.

Sin isn’t something we need to learn or discover. The Bible tells us that no one is without sin. We are born with it. King David knew that when he wrote Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”

David did not mean that his mother sinned in conceiving him. The wording of Psalm 51 shows that David understood that he was corrupted by sin from the moment he was conceived.

The first four chapters of Romans clearly show that sin is universal and corrupts all men. Now in chapter five it goes on to explain how things got this way.

Sin came to infect us all through the one sin of Adam.

Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”

That first man who lived in Eden did not just act on his own. Adam represented the whole human race. By God’s design, he stood for all of us when he sinned. The basic idea of being represented by another person is not that strange. It was the foolish anger of Pharaoh that sent so many Egyptian citizens to their deaths. Today, Ambassadors make treaties that effect whole nations. Our representatives in congress may commit us all to war where we might have to fight and die. Parents make choices that effect their children’s entire lives.

However, this representation in Eden was of a special kind. Adam stood as the head of the human race by the covenant God had announced when our race was created. When he sinned, through this one disobedience, by this single transgression, sin, its guilt, together with its punishment passed upon all his natural descendents. The only exception was Jesus Christ who was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was a true and complete man, but not by natural birth. Therefore he is the only one who did not inherit Adam’s sin and guilt personally.

God had warned Adam in Genesis 2:17 about the penalty for sin. He was told not to eat from the one tree in the garden. God said, “… in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Death is the penalty for sin, and death has ruled over mankind since the time of Adam. This is why sin has been around from that beginning.

Romans 5:13-14, “(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”

Since Adam stood as the head and representative of the human race, the Bible says we “all sinned” in Adam. We are all guilty, and inherit the corrupt nature that came from that sin We all deserve physical and spiritual death, eternal and complete separation from God.

However, God did not make things that way just to leave all mankind in a fallen condition. Adam is called a “type of him who is to come”. What Adam did was a hint of something far greater. Another representative would come. Adam’s sin laid the tragic foundation upon which an amazing deliverance would be displayed and accomplished.

The other representative of which Adam was the type was Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:15-21, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Paul calls Jesus the “last Adam”. Just as Adam stood for those he represented, so also Jesus stood to represent all those God had given to him. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus came to redeem his people. By his perfect obedience, by his righteousness, by his taking their place in death, he represented his people to make them holy. He satisfied the demands of divine justice when the perfect one died for the depraved.

The technical term for the transfer of guilt and holiness is “imputation”. The guilt of Adam was imputed to all those he represented. They are all considered guilty in him. The guilt of the one is credited to, and really belongs to, those represented. So, when Adam sinned, we all became guilty and deserving of eternal damnation.

The righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to all those he represented. They are all considered to be justified in him. The Christian is truly counted as innocent before God. It is not that his guilt is simply overlooked or just arbitrarily pardoned. The pardon is based upon real justification. For them, their debt is fully paid off.

Just as the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to the believer, the believer’s guilt was imputed to Jesus on the cross. When he died he really became sin for us. The guilt that he bore was real.

Adam represented the whole human race that would descend from him. That was the point of these first five chapters of Romans. Many other parts of Scripture teach the same thing. No one is excluded from the guilt and corruption of Adam except for Jesus Christ.

It would be reasonable then to ask who Jesus represented. If Adam condemned all people, did Jesus redeem all people? The plain answer of Scripture is, “No.”

The word “all” in 5:18 and throughout this passage, is used as it is elsewhere in the Bible. It is always limited by what is being spoken about. The context defines each use of the word. For example the Bible says that the decree of Caesar was that “all the world” was to be registered (Luke 2:1), but that tax census obviously only applied to the Roman Empire. The Bible also speaks of “all Jerusalem” and “all Judea” when only a specific group involved is meant. So also here, the “all” that Jesus represented did not include all that Adam represented. Each represented all the Father had assigned to him to uniquely represent.

Jesus directly explained who he came to represent in his lesson to the disciples in John 6.

John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
John 6:39, “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”
John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:65, “And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

Clearly, there are those the Father gives to Jesus to be raised up to life at the last day. Those are the ones who show the Father’s blessing by coming to Jesus in faith. All those who come are redeemed to everlasting life, and none of them are lost.

Just as clearly, some do not come to him. They are not redeemed. They are not given to Jesus by the Father. They were not represented by him on the cross. In fact, in John 6:66 some did not like this difficult doctrine and left Jesus, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

Not all came to him and persevered with him. Some showed they were not his people. In his prayer of John 17 Jesus showed clearly who it was he represented when he came to be the Savior. There he prayed …

John 17:1-2, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
John 17:9, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”

Jesus represented those the Father had set him to represent. This did not include all fallen humans.

Could it be that Jesus represented them all but does not save them all for some reason? The Puritan pastor and Bible Scholar John Owen wrote, it is “a monstrous assertion … that any should perish in whose place the Son of God appeared before his Father with his perfect obedience …” it is simply unthinkable, “… that his satisfaction in their behalf could be refused.”

If Jesus came and died to rescue all humans, and even one human is sent to hell, then Jesus would have failed!
But he did not fail. He succeeded to do exactly what he came to do.

Our fall into sin as a race was something unique as far as we know. It was not that way with the angels. They were not led into sin by a representative. Each angel that fell did so on his own. Jude 1:6 “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;” Since they did not fall as a race, they can have no redeemer to represent them either. No fallen angel is ever redeemed.

We humans are different. We were designed by God to be represented in one person who would stand for all of us. Loraine Boettner commented, “It is as if God had said, ‘if sin is to enter, let it enter by one man, so that righteousness also may enter by one man.’ ” This is the great benefit of being part of a race that can be represented by one person. Though fallen in Adam, individuals are also redeemable by a Savior.

Notice the things in Romans five which Jesus secured for us as our representative: by his obedience, his great act of righteousness, we receive …
:15 the gift of grace, abounding grace
:16 justification
:17 abundance of grace, the gift of righteousness, the promise of reigning in life by Christ
:18 justification to life
:19 righteousness
:20 grace abounding
:21 reigning grace through righteousness to eternal life

What a glorious and amazing blessing is ours by the work of Jesus, the second Adam!

There is no mystery about where corruption comes from. We have a corrupt society because it is made up of individuals who have inherited the corruption of Adam. Sin is not the only condition that is imputed by a representative appointed by the Father. We become children of God by imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

So can we introduce real change into our corrupt society? Is there anything we can do to turn around its influence? There is a way.

It is not by tearing down rules and authority to look for the “noble savage”. It is not by forcing all men to throw off moral and religious convictions by the guillotine. It is not by building up expensive and cumbersome government programs to control society. It is by bringing individuals the gospel, by telling the truth about Jesus Christ. When God changes the heart of one man, that one part of society is transformed.

You cannot build a great fortress out of crumbling bricks, even if you clean them up and paint them. If the bricks are corrupted, they will not hold up. You have to start with good, solid blocks.

Making a strong family, a sound church, a safe community, or a godly nation is done in basically the same way, by making sure the individuals that make it up are growing in Christ.

When you go out with the gospel hope you bring with you the remedy God provides for re-structuring your family and community. While you cannot change the hearts of those who show they are not Christ’s, it will keep you busy enough seeking out those for whom Christ died. Tell them the good news. Pray with and for them. Bring them into Christ’s church. When they believe and become changed you will know that they too are redeemed by grace.

For all who are with us in the family of God’s covenant, they are here by that grace alone. We who were in Adam, rightly condemned and deserving of eternal damnation, are made righteous in Christ by having what he did imputed to us who deserve nothing. This is cause for joyful worship and thankful living. As Paul concluded in 5:20 “… but where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,”

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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When It’s Hard to Agree With God

When It’s Hard to Agree With God

by Bob Burridge ©2010, 2018

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The word confess can mean different things to different people. We need to be careful that we don’t confuse what John is writing about in this First Epistle by understanding this passage in a wrong way.

Confession is not just listing our sins in prayer, or reciting them to a Priest or Pastor. Sometimes people think that doing something good or giving up some pleasures for each sin on the list helps to get God to forgive them. But, forgiveness isn’t dependent upon something we say or do. Its foundation is God’s grace alone which sent our Savior to pay the full price for his people’s sins on the cross of Calvary.

The word for “confess” in the original Greek text of 1 John 1:9 is homologomen (ομολογωμεν), from the root word homologein (ομολογειν). It’s a compound word meaning, “same-saying” or “to say the same thing”. The closest word in English is “to agree with”.

When we confess our sins to God we are saying the same thing about them that God is saying. We are “agreeing with God” about how morally wrong we are and have been. It’s more than listing our sins. It’s recognizing our moral unworthiness in the eyes of a perfectly holy God. While we should address the individual sins of which we are aware, we also should be agreeing with our Creator that we are lost in Adam, and that aside from the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ being credited to us by grace, we are undeserving of the forgiveness for which we pray.

It’s the work of Christ as our sin-bearer that pays the horrible price our sins deserve. He purchased forgiveness and restoration to fellowship with God.

In true confession of sin we are agreeing with God that our sin condition makes us worse than we can fully appreciate in our creaturely limitations. We admit that there is real guilt and offense against the one to whom we owe all that we are and ever hope to be.

This is the hard thing: agreeing with God that we are sinners, unworthy of forgiveness, and that our only hope is in the work of Jesus Christ, and that there is nothing we can do as fallen creatures to atone for our sins.

This wonderful Bible verse then goes on to tell us about God’s promises. He is both faithful and just.

God is faithful to all the promises he has made. He will always be and do what he tells us about himself in his word. No promise ever fails or is turned aside by a power outside of himself. When God stirs his redeemed people to admit their offenses against their Creator, they can be assured that there will be forgiveness. This admitting of personal sinfulness is an evidence of God’s saving grace at work in the lost heart.

This does not mean that we are forgiven only if we remember each sin we have committed. The context of this passage shows a contrast. Those agreeing with God about their sinfulness are set in contrast with those who deny that they sin (1 John 1:8,10).

Failure to remember a sin, even if a person dies while committing it, will not prevent forgiveness to one who puts all his hope in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The promise here is the assurance that this sincere admitting of our sins as God brings them to our minds will result in forgiveness for all those who have first placed their faith in God’s grace and the atonement of the Savior.

God is not only faithful to his promises, he is also just. He always upholds the demands of justice. Forgiveness is based upon justice being satisfied by the perfect Redeemer. Guilt isn’t simply set aside or ignored. That would violate God’s basic attribute of Justice. Instead, the good news, the Gospel, is that Jesus has fully paid the debt of justice for his people.

This doesn’t make confession unimportant. It means something more profound than making a “please forgive me for the following sins” list. It’s admitting the horrors of your sin and guilt before God himself. It’s admitting that your thoughts, words, and deeds include things offensive to him. It means that you are sincere and fully agree with God about all he says in his word about your own sins and how offensive they are. It means you sincerely grieve for all you have done and want to overcome your sins.

When you pray, remember what God says about you and about the righteousness of Jesus Christ with which you are clothed by grace as you come to him. Be assured that no matter how horrible your sins have been they are fully satisfied by the life and death of your Loving Savior who took your place in all the suffering he endured. Rest assured that God’s forgiveness cannot fail.

[The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.]