BEHAVIOR MATTERS (BY MARK OVERTON)
Copyright © 2008-2019 by Mark Overton.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. I highly recommend the NKJV as it’s easy to read and my Greek-checks show it’s the most accurate popular translation.
Many popular doctrines imply that sin will not bring you pain. They are Satan’s way of weakening your resistance to sin, because he knows that if you slip into sin, you will be no threat to Satan’s rule, and that at the judgment you’ll be in danger of hell.
Let’s start by asking, what is sin? Sin is any action that angers God. For example, having sex before marriage is called “fornication”, and it’s sin because it angers God. By the way, many churches are failing so badly that some Christians think that marriage means being in a relationship or engaged. They don’t know that to be married, one must have an ordained minister or a justice of the peace marry the couple. Until you officially marry like this, you are not married. Sex before marriage is sin—it angers God.
The purpose of this article is to prevent you from sinning by giving you solid reasons to overcome temptation. When tempted, you might think, “I really shouldn’t do this, but maybe nothing bad will happen to me if I do.” That “maybe” is rooted in many lies embedded in modern doctrines. This article will help you replace that weak “maybe” with a strong “no!”
Many modern doctrines say that it’s okay with God if we sin. Now, Satan is wise enough to not be that blunt, so he has given us subtle doctrines which on the surface appear true and scriptural. But they surreptitiously imply that it’s okay to sin. Most people don’t think of the logical implications of what they are taught. So these doctrines, with their sneaky message that sin is okay, lodge into the back corners of their minds. Satan knows that these lies remove the reasons people have to say “no” to temptation. They will have no answer to “why not?” when tempted, so they are likely to sin. Their defense against sin has been removed by Satan’s popular lies that covertly teach that nothing bad will happen to us if we sin. If we believe that sin brings pleasure without pain, we are likely to sin.
Satan’s goal is to make Christians sin. He knows that a sinful Christian can not enter God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:21, “those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God”). Thus, Satan is removing rulers who will replace Satan’s rule on earth, thus delaying the overthrow Satan’s kingdom. To prevent his overthrow, Satan desperately wants to destroy those who are to replace him. Thus, he desperately tries to make Christians sin.
I must admit that he has been surprisingly successful. America and Europe have reached the point where even many Christians do not know that fornication is sin. Because the Christians’ light of good behavior (righteousness) has gone out, non-Christians have no concept of sin, and assume that sex outside of marriage is fine. The AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is due to rampant fornication, and the decades of missionary effort there have clearly failed to prevent that. Why? Because the missionaries unwittingly taught the Africans that it’s okay to sin. So they are sinning.
As a result of the lies, we Christians have lost the fear of God. Jesus told us to “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). We have lost this healthy fear of God’s judgment, so our country has lost it too.
Many years ago, the following words entered my mind. I don’t remember the exact words, but these are close:
Religious leaders are usually wrong.
They were wrong in Jesus’ day, and Jesus blasted them.
They were wrong through the middle ages.
And they are wrong today.
So you must think for yourself.
The conclusion is that we must not naïvely believe what religious leaders tell us. I don’t know whether this was the Lord speaking to me or my own thoughts, but I think it’s true either way. Much of what religious leaders teach these days is wrong. We must not unthinkingly believe them, because Satan has mixed and supplanted God’s truth with his lies.
Let’s look at some of the lies which Satan has infiltrated into Christian teaching. Most of these lies have the same logical conclusion: Nothing bad will happen to you if you sin, so it’s okay to sin.
Most of the remaining sections of this article were written in 2008, and refute specific doctrines. But as of this update in 2019, I’ve noticed that many churches no longer teach any doctrines at all. Instead, they preach about how God will help you improve your present life. It’s as if God exists to make man happy, rather than the opposite. Obviously, churches are realizing that people don’t want to hear doctrine; they want to know how to live a happier life. So churches are fulfilling II Timothy 4:3 by preaching what those itching ears want to hear, instead of the truth. But the Bible emphasizes joy and glory in the future, and the costs we must pay in this life (Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:26-33). Expressed simply, the Bible stresses costly happiness later, but today’s preaching stresses free happiness now. Happy-later versus happy-now. Today’s preaching consists of only the positive, with no negative, turning God’s truth into lies.
Much of the preaching I’ve heard consists of a disorganized (but interesting) stream of thoughts, with entertaining anecdotes, but no organization into clear concepts. So the overall message is foggy, but the individual spoken sentences are usually about making us happier. Some preaching follows an overall theme (the title of the sermon), but is applied mainly to how we can improve our happiness in this life.
Such happy-now preaching seldom mentions sin, and when it does, instead of defining sin clearly, it leaves the impression that sin is regarded as “anything you do that makes you unhappy.” The correct definition of sin is “anything you do that makes God unhappy.” Neglecting or misrepresenting sin like this week after week eventually leaves the additional impression that “it’s okay with God if we sin.” Righteous behavior is treated the same way: By not talking about the necessity of righteous behavior, churches give the impression it’s not important to God. Did you notice the frequent use of the word impression in this paragraph?
Deception by Impression
This is Satan’s work: He is teaching by vague impression rather than by clear precept. He is concealing his lies in fog. Satan is letting the false happy-now teaching leave false impressions.
The result of such deception-by-impression is that you will have no answer to “Why not?” when you face strong temptation. You will be defenseless, with no wall against sin, because you won’t know what sin is (Galatians 5:19-21) or that God harshly punishes deliberate sin (Hebrews 10:26).
The solution is to:
- Pray much.
- Read the Bible regularly and attentively.
- At church, listen carefully to the teaching. Does it emphasize happy-now or happy-later? Are its impressions biblical (especially regarding sin)? Are its doctrines biblical? Does it adequately emphasize our costs? Teaching should never omit the requirements God imposes on us, including forsaking sin, behaving righteously, and patiently enduring the sufferings that God allows for us (i.e., carrying our cross).
- Watch your heart. You must be willing to suffer in this life in order to gain eternal joy later (Romans 8:17). In this life, God supplies sufficient deep joy that we need. But if you choose the pleasant lie over the unpleasant truth, God will ensure that you are deceived (II Thessalonians 2:11). Remember Jesus’ requirements of a Christian: You must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).
Lie: All our righteousness is imputed.
The concept of imputed righteousness is only taught by Paul in Romans chapters 3-5. Romans 4:7-8 equates imputed righteousness with forgiveness. And that is because forgiveness is important. How else could we get a fresh start when we repent and turn to God? Romans 3:25 states that he has forgiven our past sins. Imputed righteousness is needed at the beginning to get the guilt behind us so we can get started with serving God righteously.
But Satan has pushed imputed righteousness far beyond its boundary of a fresh start after repentance. Interestingly, Paul teaches us about imputed sin in Romans 3-5 also, but you’ve never heard it taught in your church. Look at Romans 5:13, “but sin is not imputed when there is no law”. The flip side of this verse says that sin is imputed when there is law. That is, if you know an action is sin, and you do it anyway, God will consider you guilty of sin (i.e., impute sin to you). The Bible explicitly says this in James 4:17, “to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin”. And also Hebrews 10:26, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”
An important question is: What happens if we sin accidentally? Let’s say you were suddenly tempted and before you knew it, you had sinned. I John 1:9 gives the answer: Confess the sin (repentance is implicit in this), and God will forgive you and clean that sin out of you. I discuss this process in more detail below.
What is imputation? Imputation is how God regards us. God imputes sin when we knowingly sin. God imputes righteousness when we repent of sin. He also imputes righteousness to us when we do His will, whether the task is large or small. For example, in Romans 4:22-24, righteousness was imputed to Abraham because he did what God wanted of him, which was to believe His promise.
Finally, what about deliberate sin (which God imputes as sin), if we repent afterwards? If we deliberately sin and repent, He might forgive us, He might not. Deliberate sin is a dangerous area, as King David discovered the hard way after sinning with Bathsheba, when God said, “The sword shall never depart from your house.” David suffered badly for that! If God is good to you, he’ll give you so much suffering that you’ll sorely wish you had never sinned. If God is not good to you, He won’t forgive you of the deliberate sin, and will let you deceive yourself into believing that you are forgiven.
Lie: Righteousness means right-standing with God, regardless of our behavior.
The apostle John stabbed this lie with a dagger when he wrote:
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous… (I John 3:7)
The context of this statement consists of blunt statements of what sin is and why we must not sin. You should read it. Some scholars believe that John was reacting against the heresy of Gnosticism which claims that our beliefs and knowledge are important and that our behavior is unimportant (sound familiar?). John corrected this deception by saying our righteousness (in God’s sight) depends on our behavior.
In this verse, John is saying that we’re not righteous unless we’re living righteously. Where does imputed righteousness fit in? Above, I said that “God imputes righteousness when we repent of sin.” That is, when we start behaving righteously, God regards us as righteous.
Lie: Repentance means feeling sorry.
Wrong. Repentance means that you refuse to sin again. In fact, there will probably be no feeling at all associated with your repentance. There wasn’t for me when I started serving God, nor when I repented of a sin later. In fact, rather than feeling sorry, your flesh may be feeling good about having sinned. Ignore feelings.
What is repentance? Repentance is the decision of “never again” in your heart. “I will never do that again.” I’ll warn you that you can decide this at a shallow level, but deep down in your heart you might be saying to yourself, “I’ve had it rough and I deserve some X,” where X is your sin. Ask God for help in digging to where that deep indecision is located. That deep indecision must change to “never again.” Drunks, drug addicts, and fornicators often go through a turbulent repent-and-sin cycle spanning months and years because they have not made up their minds deep in their hearts to never sin again.
Lie: God sees us through Christ.
The Bible does not say or imply this anywhere. It’s something new that Satan has sneaked into Christian teaching. In contrast, every letter to the Christian churches in Revelation chapters 2-3 says “I know your works.” God was not seeing those Christians through Christ. Nor does He see us through Christ. He sees everything we do, just as He stated. But think about what this lie is saying: Suppose God were to see Christ’s righteousness when we are sinning. Then we would not be punished for our sin, which in essence means that it’s okay to sin. So the logical conclusion of this doctrine is that it’s okay to sin.
Lie: Faith means believing things about God. Only believe.
What is belief? What is faith? In the Bible, we see that faith means far more than mental beliefs. It means believing that God told the truth. And if you actually believe what He said, you’ll live consistently with what He said. Or to put it differently, faith is confidence that God will keep His threats and promises, based on your deeds. It helps to consider an example of sin: If you know that God has said that the righteous will inherit eternal life, and the sexually immoral will go into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), and yet you fornicate, then by your actions you are saying that God will not cast you into that lake. You don’t believe His threat. You don’t have faith in Him. You are saying that He lied.
Hebrews 11 is the faith-chapter, and yet it mostly shows how people acted (their works) due to their faith in God. They lived consistently with what God said. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice…” And “By faith he (Abraham) dwelt in the land of promise…” The faith-chapter mostly describes obedience. But the obedience was living consistently with what God said, because they believed what God said about consequences. That’s faith. To disobey God shows a lack of faith in God because you don’t believe what He said. This is why James 2:26 says, “faith without works is dead.” You can not have faith and disobey.
Satan says that faith is only mental (or intellectual) belief. James 2:19 answers this by saying, “You believe that there is one God; you do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble.” So mental belief in facts is not belief. In the Bible, faith and belief are similar. Both require right behavior that’s consistent with God’s words. If you’re not obeying what you (supposedly) believe, then you don’t actually believe it.
Here’s another aspect of faith. The central issue is: Who controls your life? You or God? When the Bible says “the just shall live by faith”, it contrasts faith with the opposite, which is pride (Habakkuk 2:4). This is the pride of self-reliance, of controlling one’s own life, which goes along with haughtiness. You control your own life because you don’t have confidence in God’s control. You think your way is better than His, hence the haughtiness. So faith is letting God run your life, because you believe what He said (His promises). That is what Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
I often pray, “Lord, what do you say?” I pray this about everything, and I tell Him everything I’m thinking and desire. I hide nothing. As far as I know, He has authority over every aspect of my life. I’ve made myself His slave. Romans 6:17-23 speaks of such voluntary slavery. This is faith. It is far from belief in doctrine.
Lie: Works is right behavior.
Satan is correct: Your works is your behavior. Satan’s lies are most effective when they are mostly true. He injects a little poison into a lot of meat, as one reader of this essay commented. He’ll put much bait around his hook. Satan’s little lie is surrounded by much truth, to deceive as many as possible. But the little hidden lie destroys what is most important. Merely cut one critical wire, and your car won’t run. So be careful about everything.
Your works is your behavior. We saw that above in James 2:26. But works is also following religious rules, and the Law of Moses in particular, which are listed in Deuteronomy and Leviticus in the Old Testament. So when you read “works” in the Bible, you must ask, “Which kind of works?” In Romans and Galatians, Paul usually uses “works” to mean following the Law of Moses. Elsewhere in the Bible, “works” usually means your deeds.
In Romans 3:28, Paul wrote, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” In the prior verse, Paul compares faith and works, so here “works” means “observing the law”, which is the Law of Moses in the Old Testament. In Galatians, Paul consistently uses the phrase “works of the Law”, so it’s clear that he’s referring to the Mosaic law.
But in James, “works” means behavior, as in “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). This is why there is no contradiction between Paul writing that we are not saved by works, and James saying we are. These are two different kinds of works.
Nonetheless, we get a fresh start solely by forgiveness, and not by any good deeds we’ve done. Satan has enlarged this beyond its boundary to become everything, pushing out the necessity of good works. For example, Acts 26:20, “…repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Do you remember what you read above, that repentance means deciding “never again” to sin? Here we see that: If people have repented and turned to God, their works (behavior) will agree with their repentance. Faith brings repentance which brings good works.
Lie: We’re saved by faith and not works.
Above, we saw how Satan has distorted the meaning of “faith” and “works”. This lie is a paraphrase of Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” In light of what faith and works really are, we see that Paul is saying that we’re saved by living consistently with our belief in God’s promises, instead of following the regulations of the Law of Moses (such as the feast days and dietary laws).
James 2:14 asks rhetorically, “Can faith save him?” The assumed answer is “no”, faith alone can not save, “being alone” as James says. If you have faith in God’s promises, such as “whatever a man sows, that shall he reap” (Galatians 6:7), then you will do good works because you want to reap good and not pain. Therefore, if you are not doing good, your faith is not genuine (“dead”, as James put it).
God said He will judge you (II Corinthians 5:10). Do you believe that? Are you living so that you’ll get a good judgment? If you have faith in what God said, you’ll live appropriately (good works).
In light of what faith and works really are, you are now able to understand James 2:24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
Lie: Grace is forgiveness. We’re saved by grace, so my behavior doesn’t matter.
This lie is one of Satan’s big guns, and it’s a good example of a lie that’s partly true. Yes, grace includes forgiveness. In fact, when we first repent and turn to Christ, His grace is entirely forgiveness.
What is grace? Grace is God’s power and help. Grace is all forms of God’s empowering and helping you to become a son of God, and it includes the following:
- Forgiveness. You can’t get started without forgiveness. You also need forgiveness after you repent of a sin.
- Help provided by other ministries and spiritual gifts given to others. One such gift is teaching. This article you’re reading is a grace. Grace includes prophecy, counseling, comfort, and other gifts given to your fellow Christians for your benefit.
- God speaks to you in various ways, but speaking to your thoughts is common. Often you’ll think these are your own thoughts, but sometimes He speaks so strongly that it’s obviously not your own thoughts. This happens to me only about once a decade. Be sure to test any spirit that speaks to you (I John 4:1).
- The divine nature implanted in you (i.e., being born again) helps you in various ways. God’s law is an expression of His nature, so implanting His nature in you is how God fulfills Jeremiah 31:33: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.” This important verse defines the new covenant. Notice the centrality of God’s law.
- The Holy Spirit dwelling in you. The Spirit will remind you of things you need to know, teach you, reveal the Bible to you, and help you in other ways.
- God strengthening you.
- There are certainly other areas I didn’t think of or am unaware of.
Some examples of grace include:
- Acts 4:33: “and great grace was upon them all” referring to the power on the apostles.
- II Corinthians 8:6: “…complete this grace in you as well.”
- II Corinthians 8:7: “…see that you abound in this grace also.”
The second and third items above refer to the God-given ability to donate money, which is the grace of giving.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Satan has twisted this to mean that we’re saved by forgiveness and that our actions don’t matter. It actually says: Your faith and your ability to serve God are gifts from Him. You are living righteously due to your faith in God, but these are not by your own power, so don’t become proud by thinking you’re obeying God’s laws yourself.
If you refuse to progress or to be corrected at some point, then you are refusing His grace just as the wicked servant refused to invest his master’s talent (Matthew 25:30). You’ll become a servant who didn’t serve, and you’ll end up in the outer darkness. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the talents are graces. Use them, and don’t bury them.
Lie: We’re under no law but the law of love.
In God’s sight, love consists of caring with your actions. But our culture ignorantly thinks of love as scarcely more than good feelings toward a person. Because love means almost nothing nowadays, Satan crafted this lie to give the impression that we’re under no law.
What law are we Christians under? The Ten Commandments? The law of Moses? Does this mean we must keep the Old Testament feast days, the washing of pans, and so on? In chapters 3-7 of Romans, Paul establishes that we are not under the Law of Moses. In Romans 6:14, he clearly says that “…you are not under law but under grace.” Does this mean that it’s okay to commit adultery? Satan says so, but he says it by inference, not explicitly.
The new covenant imposes a new law on us, and Satan (through deceived leaders) opposes this fact viciously. Romans 8:4 says that, with the help of the Spirit, we can fulfill the “righteous requirements of the law [of Moses].” This statement implies that we are under a portion of the Law of Moses—the portion relating to righteous behavior. We see this portion when Jesus told the rich young man that to obtain eternal life (to be saved), he must “keep the commandments.” And then Jesus listed only the moral laws and not the whole Law of Moses (Matthew 19:16-19).
In addition, in the sermon on the mountain (Matthew 5 through 7), Jesus made these moral laws stricter. For example, the Law of Moses says “You shall not commit adultery”, but in the new law, lusting after a woman makes you guilty of adultery. So in the new law, you can sin by craving sin, which was not true of the old law. And the old said “You shall not murder”, but in the new law, unjustified anger against a brother makes you guilty before God. So the new law is a portion of the Law of Moses, but made stricter.
Romans 7 reveals that we can’t keep the Law of Moses, so how can we possibly keep the stricter new law? Romans 8 explains that through the death of Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can keep from sinning. A key verse is Romans 8:2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Also, Romans 6:14 says “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.“ Remembering that grace is God’s power and help, we can paraphrase this verse as “you don’t have to sin because (1) you’re not under the Law of Moses (which has no grace), and (2) you now have grace to assist you.” The Spirit is the grace that helps us to overcome the “law of sin”. We don’t have to sin.
Romans 7 says that the Law of Moses traps us in sin. Romans 8 says that the new covenant liberates us from sin. Romans 8:1-14 details why we don’t have to sin. I suggest reading that passage carefully.
We are under strong law. Ultimately, God’s nature is our law. Our behavior must agree with God’s pure nature. But we have more grace with which to obey this new law, including being born again, which is the implanting of God’s nature (and thus His law) in us in fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:33. The question of what law we are under is so important that I have written an article on the subject. Read it here.
Lie: We are not under law but under grace.
This is a quotation of Romans 6:14, so how can it be a lie? It’s a lie because Satan has redefined the terms “law” and “grace”. Satan says that law is all of God’s law (not just the Law of Moses), and that grace is only forgiveness, which would make Romans 6:14 say that we are not under any of God’s laws, but have been forgiven of everything.
As explained above, “law” usually refers to the laws given to the prophet Moses in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and “grace” refers to divine assistance (power and help) in obeying God. So Romans 6:14 is actually saying that we are not expected to keep the Law of Moses under our own fleshly power (“not under law”), but are expected to rely on God’s help in serving Him and in keeping the stricter new law (“under grace”).
Lie: God gave us strict laws that we cannot keep, such as the Sermon on the Mount, to show us our need for forgiveness through the Savior’s blood.
The sermon on the mountain (Matthew 5-7) indeed contains strict laws. Examples include loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and being perfect as the Father is perfect. Keeping these stricter laws appears hopeless, and it would be hopeless in our own human strength. But God also supplies us with more grace under the new covenant which empowers us to keep the stricter laws. We can obey God’s laws with the help of His grace.
This is yet another satanic doctrine that subtly says that it’s okay to sin. It also implies that God is unreasonable by making impossible demands, and makes Him look like a monster. So a secondary purpose of this doctrine is to repel us from God.
Lie: You should (not must) do right.
Satan has no problem teaching Christians that they should behave righteously. This is another lie that’s mostly true (the deadliest kind). With this lie, Satan appears to be teaching righteousness. As II Corinthians 11:15 says, “Therefore it is no great thing if his (Satan’s) ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” Paul is referring to teachers who teach righteousness, but subtlely alter a critical piece, making righteous behavior non-essential.
The critical piece is the change of “must” into “should”. Satan says “you should do right.” God says “you must do right.” When Satan says “should”, he means that if you don’t, nothing particularly bad will happen to you. When God says “must”, he means that if you don’t, the results will be dreadful. Thus Satan is saying that it’s okay to sin.
Lie: As long as we’re in this body, we have to sin.
Romans 8:12 says, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” Satan’s lie sounds plausible, but directly contradicts this verse. What sin must we commit? Fornication? Cheating? Murder? Lust? Pornography? Name a sinful behavior or thought which we are forced to do and that God’s grace isn’t strong enough to overcome. There are none. We don’t have to sin. I John 4:17 says, “…as He is, so are we in this world.” The context says this is why we can be bold in the day of judgment. It’s because we lived like He did in this world. We don’t have to sin.
The oft-quoted I Corinthians 10:13 ends by saying, “…but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Because of that way of escape enabling us to bear temptation (instead of yielding to it), we don’t have to sin.
I go months without sinning. My last sin was so long ago that I don’t even remember what it was.
I John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…” Doesn’t this mean we must sin? No. John is saying that we have sinned in the past, as he makes clear in verse 10. Also, I will speculate that John knew that we might be committing sins that we are presently unaware of. John states (in verse 9) that God will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Note the word “all”. That “all” means we don’t have to sin.
Regarding sins we are unaware of: As we live life, God can point out to us things He wants us to stop or start doing. There’s a transition from obvious sins such as fornication, into character flaws such as yelling at the kids, and into issues of holiness such as the music we listen to. It’s not clear to us which are sin. Rather than label which are and aren’t sins as in a rule-book, you must simply obey God: If He tells you to change something, change it. If you don’t, it will be sin to you (James 4:17). If you obey, you’ll remain in good standing with God. In this area of being led by the Spirit, what is sin for you might not be sin for somebody else. But a sin that’s listed in the New Testament is always sin. We must overcome those. The others come after that baseline.
Lie: God has forgiven all our sins, past, present and future.
Romans 3:25 says “…God had passed over the sins that were previously committed”. So based on our repentance (deciding “never again” to sin), our past sins are forgiven. As discussed above, present and future sins are only forgiven if done out of ignorance, or if done accidentally and we repent. Again, Satan has taken something (forgiveness) and pushed it beyond its boundaries.
Lie: Eternal security.
I believe in eternal insecurity. Yes, insecurity. We can always decide to sin. Even in God’s kingdom, we could decide to sin, just as Satan decided to sin when he was a covering cherub over God’s throne. The only security we have is our decision to never sin.
Teachers promoting eternal security use logic such as, “After you’re born again, how can you be unborn? When God’s life is in you, how can man kill it? Man can’t kill God.” Such arguments are based on analogies and human reasoning, and ignore the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) that shows that the divine life in us can indeed be killed. Stay with the Word, and be skeptical of human reasoning.
Lie: We are constantly sinning.
What is sin? Sin is specific behaviors such as drunkenness, adultery, murder, etc. It also includes “wish I could” intentions, such as lust. You probably did not do any such thing today. You probably did not sin today. You are not constantly sinning. Satan teaches us that we’ve sinned dozens of times already today, so we need His constant unconditional forgiveness. That’s wrong on both counts. You are not constantly sinning. And His forgiveness is conditional (upon repentance).
It’s important to know that temptation is not sin. Most of us men have strong sexual pressure on us. In addition, most people have other weaknesses, such as violence, greed, glory-lust, and whatnot. All of these things are pressures on us. Experiencing such pressure is not sin. We have not sinned when we are tempted by these things. We only sin when we do them (or wish we could).
So be at peace. If you’re serving God the best you know, and are not committing any sin that you’re aware of, then you’re fine. Every day, I pray: “Lord, if you want me to change anything I’m doing or thinking, please show me, and by Your grace I’ll change it.” If He doesn’t show you anything, be at peace.
Lie: Nobody is righteous.
The lie continues by saying that nobody has ever been righteous, so God gave up on the old covenant and gave us the new covenant with unconditional forgiveness. The truth is that many people have been righteous. In fact, in many places, Psalms and Proverbs contrast the righteous with the wicked.
But Satan has taken Paul’s writing in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no, not one”, and expanded it beyond its boundary. Paul meant that everyone has sinned at some point, and states this in the extreme for emphasis. But he makes his point in the prior verse, “…Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.” Yes, everyone has sinned. Yes, there is sin in all of us. But this does not mean that nobody is overcoming his temptations. Sinning in the past does not mean that God expects us to be sinning now. Romans 3:23 restates his point, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And this means we need something to cover that sin. That was Jesus’ death on the cross, which takes care of past sins, as Paul says a couple of verses later in Romans 3:25. Satan says nobody lives righteously and so this covering of past sins must also cover present and future sins. That goes beyond the boundary of past sins. Regarding the present, we are expected to live righteously (Titus 2:12).
Titus 2:14 summarizes everything well, “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” The salient phrases in this sentence are:
- “Redeem us”: This is the forgiveness of the past.
- “Purify”: This is the removal of present sins.
- “Good works”: God requires that we live righteously.
Lie: Nobody’s perfect.
Here are a few passages that say perfection is expected of us:
- You shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
- If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have… (Matthew 19:21)
- …that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)
Do you supposes these passages mean what they say? Do you suppose perfection is possible? Do you think God’s grace is strong enough to make this possible? Or is God perverse so that He would command us to do the impossible? These passages show that becoming perfect is normal and expected.
What is perfection? Perfection is having a pure heart and right behavior by God’s standards, not by our standards. Our standards can be too high, requiring for example, that we not feel temptation, or that we never feel angry when wronged. Satan is tricky. He has made the standard too low by teaching (through all these lies) that it’s okay to sin, and he has also made the standard too high by teaching that if we feel tempted or anger or we’re not evangelizing people around us, that we’ve sinned or are below God’s standard. Satan did this to discourage us, and make us believe that it’s impossible to be perfect, and give up trying. Be at peace. If you are not committing any sin that you’re aware of (and temptation and feelings are not sin), then you’re probably doing fine.
Lie: Just accept Christ.
The phrase “accept Christ” is not in the Bible. But it does say “…among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (II Thessalonians 2:10). So it would be more scriptural to tell people that to be saved, they must love truth. A love of truth is essential to escape being deceived by Satan’s many lies, and thus falling into sin. In Acts, people were told to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38, ESV), not “accept Christ.”
Actually, it’s easy to accept Christ. The challenge is to get Him to accept us! We don’t want to hear, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). And from the context, that was obviously spoken to Christians, and miracle-working Christians at that. These unsaved Christians accepted Christ, but Christ did not accept them. To get Christ to accept us, we must not “practice lawlessness.”
Lie: We should avoid sin out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us.
The Bible never says or implies this. Again, Satan is appearing as a minister of righteousness. This lie sounds righteous and holy. But Satan knows that it’s weak, providing no motivation to resist a severe temptation. When tempted, we will forget about gratitude and will only ask ourself, “What bad thing will happen to me if I do this?” We need strong motivation to resist temptation, not this weak thing.
In the Old Testament, walls defended cities. In Revelation 21:12, the wall is a prominent feature of the New Jerusalem. Walls symbolize defense against sin. We must have a wall against sin in our personality, or we will yield to temptation to sin. But due to these many lies, our wall has been destroyed. This idea of gratitude is a paper wall that provides no defensive strength. A temptation will easily push over this paper wall of gratitude, and Satan knows this. But knowing the painful consequences of sin, such as we reap what we sow, provides us with a strong wall against sin.
Lie: You shouldn’t sin because you are not worshiping God when you sin.
This lie is clever because it’s half true. Everything you do should be a form of worshiping God, and sin is not worshiping God. But Satan tries to make this truth your only motive to resist sin. Like the gratitude lie above, it sounds holy and commendable, but in practice gives you no resistance to sin.
Suppose you are being tempted severely (often with sex or money). You are asking yourself, “What bad thing will happen to me if I do this?” You don’t care that you won’t be worshiping God. You only care about future pain. So “not worshiping God” is a paper wall because it provides no effective motivation to avoid sin. Like all the lies in this article, this lie says that nothing bad will happen to you if you sin. But Hebrews 10:26 says:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation…
That provides a strong pain-based motivation to avoid sin.
Lie: You shouldn’t sin because it will make your life difficult.
This lie is saying that you should avoid sin because it will bring misery to your present life. You probably won’t hear a sermon say this directly. What you’ll hear is the ways that some sin will bring you pain in this life. But you will not hear about how it brings you pain in the next life. And the next life lasts far longer than this life, so our state in that life is more important. By focusing on present pain and omitting future pain, this lie is subtly saying that God won’t punish you for sinning; that is, sin won’t bring you future pain.
Note that this lie makes you equivalent to an athiest. The athiest has only one motive to not sin: to avoid the resulting pain in this life. But if he thinks he can get away with a sin (i.e., not suffer for it), he’s likely to commit that sin. The same is true of you: If you think a sin won’t bring pain now, you are likely to do it. This is often true of fornication. Satan knows that pain-in-this-life is a weak motivation because we can often avoid that pain. So Satan preaches this lie to appear righteous, though he is actually subtly promoting sin.
Lie: Christians won’t reap what they sow.
Galatians 6:7-8 is clear, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Removing the farming analogy, “Whatever you do, you will get.” Or bluntly, “You get what you do.” Paul goes on to say that if one sows “to his flesh”, meaning fornication, hatred, etc., then he will reap “corruption”. But if one sows “to the Spirit”, he’ll reap “eternal life.” Reaping corruption… Have you wondered what that means? It’s talking about your new body! The body we’re in now is bad enough (Paul called it “vile”), but how would you like a body that God regards as corruption? Live cleanly, and you’ll get a clean body. Live corruptly, and you’ll get a corrupt body.
II Corinthians 5:10 says the same thing: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The phrase “receive the things done in the body” is saying you get what you do. It does not say “repaid” or “recompensed”; the Greek literally says you get the things you did. If you did corrupt things, you will get those corrupt things.
Lie: Only Christ is worthy; we are not worthy.
This lie is unusually diabolical. When Christians say “You are worthy but I am unworthy,” Satan is with them spitting in God’s face. We can imagine Satan bowing in mock worship to God, saying alongside the Christians “you are worthy” and then laughing at God because he knows that God rejects worship from people who are sinning.
There are a number of places where Christians are required to be worthy. An important one is Luke 20:35, “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead…” So those who are unworthy will not obtain the goals of Christians! Colossians 2:12: “that you would walk worthy of God…” Revelation 3:4: “they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” We must be worthy.
Lie: If you require righteous behavior, you’re trying to improve on Christ’s perfect work.
This is similar to the lie, “Only Christ is worthy; we are not worthy.” But by requiring righteous behavior, we are merely saying that God requires that we behave rightly and are certainly not saying that we must out-perform Christ in some way.
However, I John 4:17 says, “…as He is, so are we in this world.” God requires that we live like Jesus: righteously.
Lie: All our righteousness is filthy rags.
This comes from Isaiah 64:6. Isaiah was speaking about Israel at that time, which was committing sins, causing God to ignore whatever they were doing right, including following the Law of Moses. I suspect that this is a warning to us to not try to compensate for some sins by doing righteously in another area. For example, a fellow might donate more money to his church to compensate for looking at porn. God will not accept such sneakiness, and in His judgment of such a person, He might say, “You are a snake and you will go where snakes belong.” Instead, stop sinning.
Lie: If you require righteous behavior, you are a legalist and a Pharisee.
Name-calling is a common method of pressuring people. “If you do X, then you are a Y.” There is no thinking based on the facts in the Bible. Actually, resorting to name-calling probably means that (1) the name-caller is wrong, (2) he has no other argument, and (3) he is rejecting the truth.
The word “legalist” is not in the Bible. But by saying this, Satan is implying that one is following a strict written code. So what’s wrong with obeying the Bible? Jesus said, “Bless those who curse you.” What’s wrong with obeying that? In fact, God requires that we obey Him.
Some churches make the mistake of making over-restrictive lists of do’s and dont’s. While that’s better than the permissive sin we have now, such a rule-list tends to distract people from following God by directing their attention to following rules instead. Nonetheless, there are lists of sins in the New Testament, such as Matthew 19:18-19, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:3-5, Colossians 3:5-9, and Revelation 21:8. We must carefully avoid committing these sins.
Lie: If you require righteous behavior, you’re teaching works.
Actually, this is true. We often hear Ephesians 2:8-9 quoted, but not Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:9 says “not of works”, yet Ephesians 2:10 says that works are God’s purpose for us. Paul is saying that everything we have and do are gifts from God (graces), so we’re not serving God by our own wit and power. But God requires that we do good works (Titus 3:8). Search for “works” in the New Testament, and you’ll see many references to the works of the believers. For example, every letter to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 says “I know your works.” James 2:24 summarizes this question of works by saying, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
Lie: That’s Jewish ground.
Satan tells us that some verses in the Bible apply only to the Jews, and not to gentiles (which is most of us). For example, theologians might claim that Hebrews 10:26 (“if we sin willfully … there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”) does not apply to gentiles because that verse is “Jewish ground.” In fact, any verse in the Bible we dislike can be assigned to the Jews in this manner.
Surprisingly, the entire Bible is Jewish ground. All of it was written to the Jews. The Bible (and God) considers gentiles who follow Jesus to be Jews! For example, Revelation 3:9 (“who say they are Jews and are not”) is talking about false Christians. Paul makes it clear in Romans 12 that the gentiles have been grafted into the Jewish olive tree. So when we gentiles become Christians, we are actually converting to true Judaism in God’s sight. We become Jews. So in the Bible, Jewish ground is our ground—all of the promises and warnings.
Lie: David got away with sin with Bathsheba.
Did he? As a result of his sin, God said, “The sword shall never depart from your house” (II Samuel 12:10). And that prophecy was fulfilled. Read the things that happened to David and his family after that. Eventually, David was the victim of a coup by his own son, and was in desperate circumstances as a fugitive. No, he didn’t get away with anything. He brought plenty of trouble and pain on himself. Sin brings pain because of God’s judgment on us when we sin. And the painful consequences can be eternal. It’s not worth it.
Lie: The thief on the cross got away with sin.
Did he? He was crucified by the government’s justice system, doing what God wanted it to do: Punish lawlessness (Romans 13:4). So the thief didn’t get away with anything. He stole, and was crucified for it.
Lie: The Old Testament God was harsh, but the New Testament God is forgiving.
Actually, the Old Testament was based on forgiveness and obedience. And it really forgave. For example, Leviticus 5:10 says, “So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” The phrase “it shall be forgiven him” occurs eight times in Leviticus 5. It meant it.
Yet, when Israel persisted in sin, God brought dreadful judgments on them, consisting of “pestilence, famine and sword.” Is the new covenant any different? Read some of the judgments in Revelation, and you’ll see that God has not changed. “Pestilence, famine and sword” describes them well.
It’s often taught that under the old covenant, people were required to live righteously, but they couldn’t because nobody is righteous, so God gave up and made the new covenant consist of only forgiveness. But read the sermon on the mountain (Matthew 5-7), and you’ll see that Jesus made the new covenant stricter than the old. For example, under the old covenant, you were not allowed to commit adultery, but under the new, even looking at a woman lustfully is sin. The new is stricter. You can learn more about God’s law in section “Lie: We’re under no law but the law of love” and in this article.
In what way is the new covenant better than the old?
Lie: The new covenant offers a better forgiveness than the old covenant.
No, forgiveness is not what makes the new covenant better than the old. We just saw that there was plenty of forgiveness under the old. What makes the new covenant better is that God gives us more grace (i.e., more power and help) so that (read carefully) we don’t have to sin. Hebrews 8:7-12 says the new is better because God will “put my laws in their mind and write them on their hearts.” So the new covenant is centered around God’s laws. You’d never know that from modern doctrine. The new is better because we can obey Him (his laws) by nature (by heart) instead of by our own will-power. It’s better because God changes our heart to love good, and He gives us more grace to perform the good.
Read Romans chapters 6-8 carefully. You’ll see that one of Paul’s main points is that we don’t have to sin. For example, Romans 8:12 states, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” And Romans 6:6, “…that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” You’ll see that freedom from having to sin is a major theme of these chapters.
Lie: The overcomers in Revelation are super-Christians; the rest of us will come out good enough.
Satan gives us the impression that we are a bottomless pit of sin, and that overcoming it is hopeless. Not so. The sin in us is finite, and with God’s help, all of it can be cleaned out (I John 1:9). Revelation 2-3 repeatedly says, “To him who overcomes” when making promises to those who overcome their temptations. Overcoming sin is possible and expected.
The non-overcomers (sinning Christians) in Revelation 2-3 also have promises and implications given to them. For example, they are in danger of hell (Revelation 2:11), of great tribulation and death (Revelation 2:22), of Jesus coming on them like a thief (Revelation 3:3), of having their name blotted out of the book of life (Revelation 3:5), and of being spit out (Revelation 3:16). Elsewhere, Jesus says such Christians (“servants”) will be put into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). So yes, there are promises made to those who fail to overcome sin. Promises of pain.
Lie: Salvation comes from our relationship with Christ, and is not affected by our actions.
This sounds true. And we do have a relationship with Jesus. But Jesus himself said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We see this connection between love and obedience repeatedly in John 14-15. John 15:10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Implying that if we don’t keep His commandments, He won’t love us.
The culmination of disobedient Christians is Matthew 7:22-23 where Jesus tells miracle-working Christians “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” These Christians were sinning, and Jesus threw them out. Their supposed relationship made no difference. “I never knew you” means that there was no actual relationship there, and that was due to their lawlessness. Sin blocks relationship with Him.
Lie: Jesus suffered for my sins so I won’t have to.
And if you don’t suffer because of your sins, you got away with them. This makes it okay to sin. As I’ve said, His sacrifice covers our past sins when we repent, but we may or may not suffer because of those past sins.
Actually, Colossians 1:24 implies that Christ’s sufferings were not enough. It says, “…and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ”. Regarding our own sufferings, Romans 8:36 says, “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” And Romans 8:17, “if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” No suffering, no glory. I hate it as much as you do, but I refuse to deceive myself. Suffering is a required part of following Jesus.
Lie: Jesus has done it all, so we don’t have to do anything.
Not in the Bible. But this lie is based on human (and diabolical) logic. By saying you don’t have to do anything, it’s referring to making an effort to do good and avoid sin. It’s saying that it’s okay with God if you sin some. This lie listens to Ephesians 2:8-9, and ignores Ephesians 2:10 which says God’s purpose for us is good works. This lie ignores God’s judgment which is based on our behavior (II Corinthians 5:10).
Lie: We’re perfect by identification with Christ.
The phrase and concept of “identification with Christ” are not in the Bible. Romans 6:5 comes somewhat close: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” But nowhere does the Bible say that God considers us to be perfect merely because we “accepted Christ” or “identified with Christ” or whatever. God is practical. He looks at our behavior. If it’s not perfect (by His standard), then we’re not perfect.
But keep in mind that His standard changes as we grow in Christ. At first, the standard is low: To stop the gross sins that we repented of at the beginning. As time goes on, we become aware of other behaviors that must change. God is raising our standard. As long as we are passing His standard today, we are perfect in His sight.
Lie: God has three wills: Acceptable, good, and perfect.
This lie is based on Romans 12:2, “that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The lie says that God has three standards for us: The lowest is merely acceptable, and next is good, and the highest is perfect. The lie says it’s okay to sin by just satisfying the lowest standard.
But Romans 12:2 is actually saying that God’s will is all of those things: Acceptable and good and perfect. There is only one will of God and one standard.
Lie: God will not judge Christians (only the non-Christians). A Christian will hear nothing bad at the judgment.
This lie says that God is partial and biased in favor of Christians. Yet the Bible says in Romans 2:11 that “there is no partiality with God.” Even in the first century, some Christians were getting the idea that God would apply an easier standard of judgment to them, so the apostle Paul reminds them that they will be judged the same as everybody else. II Corinthians 5:10 says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” We Christians will be judged based on our behavior, just like everybody else.
Some theologians have claimed that God’s judgment area (“beema” in the Greek) will be like a sports award banquet. However, Jesus appeared before the “beema” of Pilate, which was a court for trying accused criminals. “Beema” is a place of judgment, and God’s “beema” is where we will be judged based on our deeds.
Lie: We don’t have to fear God because perfect love casts out fear.
That’s an example of what happens when you apply human reasoning to the Bible. You go into error. Even one step of human reasoning is suspect. It’s best to ask God for understanding and see what the Bible says directly. In this case, the lie is quoting I John 4:6 which is not referring to the fear of God when it says “perfect love casts out fear”. In Matthew 10:27, Jesus commanded us to fear God. In the next breath, He tells us to not fear God. With this paradox, Jesus is contrasting two kinds of fear: First is the healthy fear of a stern but loving Father. Second is the cowering fear of an arbitrary monster-god. Perfect love casts out the second kind of fear, not the first.
Lie: I sinned, so I’m doomed.
Satan tells this lie to Christians who want to live righteously, but who recently sinned. Satan tells them that they’ve lost everything and there’s no hope in going on with God, so they might as well give up and keep living in sin. This is the lie of hopelessness. The question here is how we should deal with a sin we’ve committed. I John 1:9 provides a good procedure: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But when it says “confess”, it doesn’t mean to merely recite the sin, it means also to forsake it, to say “never again” in your heart. So the procedure is this:
- Repent of the sin, which means deeply deciding “never again.”
- Tell God that you never want to do that again.
- God will help you to not yield to that temptation in the future.
As part of overcoming sin, you need to do what is possible to avoid temptation. For example, if you have a weakness for alcohol, then stay away from bars, liquor stores, and the alcohol sections of grocery stores. Likewise, if lust is your weakness, avoid sexily-dressed girls, such as in beach or pool areas. Due to the strong hormonal and demonic pressures on them, I suggest that teens and young people never be alone with the opposite sex. If you fornicate, it’s because you violated this never-alone rule.
Lie: We’ll be saved but as through fire even if we don’t live the life.
I Corinthians 3:15 is describing the judgment of everyone’s work, and says “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Have you ever been in intense pain? If you’ve birthed a baby, you know what pain is. Do you want to experience the painful fire mentioned in this verse? How long do you think that pain will last?
Luke 12:46-48 provides some insight into the destiny of Christians who don’t live godly lives: “…and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.” The words “slave” and “master” in this context are referring to a Christian and God. So a Christian who didn’t live godly will punished harshly. “Cut him in two” and “many stripes”: God’s punishment is severe, and I want to stay far away from it.
Lying with False Analogies
Analogies are a subtle and sneaky way of lying because they don’t explicitly say what they are saying. So they lodge into your mind unexamined, creating false impressions that weaken your resolve against sin later. Whenever you hear or read an analogy, you should take the following two steps: (1) succinctly summarize the impression given by the analogy, and (2) compare that sentence to what the Bible says. Here’s an example from a sermon I heard:
We are all broken in different ways. Imagine a sinking boat judging another sinking boat because its hole is a different shape.
Summarize the impressions this analogy gives you.
This analogy gives me the impression that we all have emotional problems and we shouldn’t criticize each other for them. That’s fine. But being “broken in different ways” also includes the pull of various sins, so this analogy also encourages us to accept each other’s sins.
What does the Bible say about accepting each other’s sins? Galatians 6:1 tells us that someone “overtaken in any trespass [sin]” should be gently restored. Ephesians 5:3 tells us to ensure that some sins are not even named among us. In I Corinthians chapter 5, Paul tells the church to throw out a fellow guilty of sexual immorality. Throw him out! That is not acceptance.
Here’s another example of an analogy:
We are all on a journey. Nobody has reached the destination.
This analogy tells me that it’s impossible to be perfect in God’s sight because “nobody has reached the destination.” That’s about the same as saying “as long as we’re in this body, we have to sin.” I think Satan likes this lie because it implies that God will forgive us no matter what we do, removing our fear of Hell, thus greatly weakening our resolve against sin.
Here’s another example I heard:
Our life in Christ is a doctor’s prescription, not a job description.
“Not a job description” says that God doesn’t care about our behavior. But Jesus gave us many commands (our job). In fact, Jesus said that to be saved we must “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). So our life in Christ is a job description.
In general, an analogy is strong because (1) it attaches an abstract concept to a memorable picture of something physical, such as a boat or journey, and (2) its message is indirect, so you can be lazy and not put the effort into thinking conceptually. These two reasons are why Satan likes analogies—they are an effective way to deceive people. You must stay alert and question their impressions.
I count 45 lies above, although two are actually techniques of lying. That large number reveals how badly Satan wants us to sin and thus destroy our futures. All of these lies encourage you to sin by implying that sin will not bring you pain.
The result of all these lies is the comforting Feeling that “it’s okay.” The Feeling says, “you’ll come out fine.” I was taught these lies in college, and I’m now 51 years old and still haven’t completely shaken off the Feeling. It’s a false comfort. It makes Christians weak and thus unable and unwilling to resist temptation. The Feeling allows Christians to sin. Since some temptations are strong, Christians sin, and Satan is glad that God has lost another king. Satan’s rule continues. And such Christians will be shocked at the judgment.
Because the Christians’ light of good works has gone out, the world doesn’t fear God because they don’t believe in His judgment. These lies have given the world the impression that God is a kindly old man who wouldn’t hurt anybody. He’s the Santa-god. So the world has fallen into sin, just like we Christians have.
Picture an old-fashioned war with a long row (array) of canons, all firing at once. At us. It appears that these many lies have shot down most Christians.
II Peter 2:21, “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment…” If you substitute “right behavior” for “righteousness”, you get “the way of right behavior”. In the first century, Christianity was known as the way of right behavior. Now it’s the opposite.
Goal: To have Jesus and the Father come to us.
There are two motivations to live righteously: To avoid the pain, and to get the joy. We know about the outer darkness and hell. Let’s look at the joy.
First, going to heaven is not a goal! The Bible nowhere says “go to heaven”, nor is that concept there. You can verify this claim by searching for “heaven” in the Bible and seeing how it’s used. Amazing, but that concept is not there. In the first century, people had no concept of going to heaven. And that’s because heaven is temporary until a resurrection of the body occurs (more on this below). Why value what is temporary? So what is the goal? I’m aware of two main goals.
The first goal is described in John 14:23. God revealed this verse to me when I was about 24 years old, and it’s been my goal ever since: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” This promise (if we keep His commands) is amazing: Jesus and the Father will both come and dwell in us! And it can happen in this lifetime.
Another verse for this personal coming is Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Although this verse is wrongly quoted to non-Christians, it’s actually talking to Christians, and is a wonderful promise of God coming to us personally and dwelling in us in special closeness. The sooner the better!
I suspect that this personal coming to us is the marriage of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 19:7, “…for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” We make ourselves ready by keeping His commandments, which the next verse describes as fine linen which “is the righteous acts of the saints.” Those “righteous acts” are our keeping His commandments. It goes on to say, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” This is when you “dine with him” spoken of in Revelation 3:20. If the idea of His coming to you and dwelling in you makes you respond “Yes! I want that”, then I’d say it’s likely that He is inviting you to His marriage supper, and to be His wife. Keep His commandments and press into Him, and He will marry you in this life.
Goal: The first resurrection.
Luke 20:35-36, “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” Resurrection means getting the body back. The physical body. Jesus was resurrected in the physical body. He ate honeycomb and fish. That’s physical. Everyone will be resurrected for the judgment in Revelation 20:12. But in Luke above, Jesus is referring to a different resurrection. A better resurrection.
Hebrews 11:35, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” God obviously revealed this better resurrection to some, and it was such a powerful motivation that they refused release from torture. What’s better about it? Jesus is our example in all ways. And His new body shows the better resurrection. Jesus could change His appearance (Mark 16:12). He could suddenly appear places (John 20:26). He could travel in the air (Acts 1:9) and live in heaven. So He can do anything He wants on Earth, and anything He wants in heaven. He’s immortal, so military power, disease, age, famine, cold, etc. won’t affect Him. That’s a desirable body. That’s the better resurrection.
Where else do we see this resurrection in the Bible? Revelation 20:5 bluntly says, “This is the first resurrection.” First means there’s also a second, and this first one is the resurrection of God’s rulers. It precedes the general resurrection at the end of the age (Revelation 20:12). And it’s clearly a special group.
In John 6, Jesus says several times, “And I will raise him up at the last day.” It’s only true of those who eat Jesus’ flesh and blood. That is, those who seek and rely on Him constantly.
Are you motivated to get this powerful body? Read Philippians 3:10-20 carefully. Paul says he wants to “attain to the resurrection of the dead” (obviously referring to the first resurrection), and goes on to say “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21, KJV). Think about “vile” versus “glorious”. That’s our present body compared with the better one. If you attain to it. If God considers you worthy of it.
Finally, Matthew 19:16 contains a remarkable thing that’s easy to miss. “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” The fellow wanted “eternal life.” He’s not referring to going to heaven. He talking about an immortal body. So people were aware of the better resurrection in those days, but this knowledge has been lost over the centuries. Yet it’s clearly scriptural. God is restoring this important goal.
Temptation hits us suddenly. When it does, we ask “why not do this?” We must have quick answers prepared ahead of time for that “why not?” Here are a few answers:
- I refuse to wreck my life (God’s chastisement makes us bitterly regret sinning. God is rough).
- I refuse to wreck my new body (sowing and reaping corruption).
- I refuse to risk the outer darkness (which is reserved for sinful Christians).
Quickly: Why not sin?
I covered much material in this article, so there wasn’t space to delve into issues such as grace and works in detail. You’ll need to read the appropriate verses carefully and prayerfully, and decide whether God actually requires righteous behavior. Satan has deceived the theologians, and history shows that they are usually deceived, so you can’t follow them. Indeed, it’s dangerous to follow anyone. In Matthew 24:4, Jesus’ first remark about the end-times is “Take heed that no one deceives you”. Based on this, we know that deception will characterize the end-times, and they are certainly here today. You’ve read about many of them in this article. But you must decide who is right and wrong, and behave accordingly. Be careful, this decision will set the direction of your life, and will determine your destiny. There’s a good reason Paul wrote, “because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (II Thessalonians 2:10). A love of truth will help keep you from deception, resulting in your behaving righteously, which results in your salvation. Pray that God will help you to love truth more than pleasure.
That’s a core issue: Which do you love more? Truth or pleasure? If pleasure, then you’ll find a church that teaches a comforting gospel consisting of the lies in this article, and you’ll feel fine, even as you commit a sin here and there. “…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” In the context of Matthew 7:13, Jesus was talking to Christians, so the narrow and broad gates are warning Christians to not take an easy route. So it’s Christians who are destroyed by taking the broad gate. Be careful that you take the narrow gate, even though most of your Christian friends take the broad gate.
If you love truth more than pleasure, you’ll force yourself to take the painful narrow gate that requires righteous behavior, because you know the future joys will be better and far longer lasting than the temporary pleasures of sin in this lifetime. The choice is: pleasure now or pleasure later. Satan and theologians teach that you can have both. While there are joys and pleasures in this life, the main purpose of this life is an investment into future joy. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24). That is a life whose goal is future joy, not present joy.
Be careful. Fervently pray every day about these things. Most of Protestant Christendom is teaching these lies that say it’s okay with God if we sin. By rejecting them and obeying the Lord, you may feel that you are the only one serving God. Remember the song, “Though none go with me, still I will follow.” Decide that you will follow God alone, though all other Christians follow the deceptions of sin.
(“Behavior Matters”, 4352, 20190330)