Behavior Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lie: All our righteousness is imputed.

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

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

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

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

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

Lie: Repentance means feeling sorry.

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

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

Lie: God sees us through Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lie: Works is right behavior.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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" (Gal 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 (second 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).

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? In the Bible, grace usually means an ability, or help, or power from God. Examples include: Acts 4:33 "and great grace was upon them all." referring to the power on the apostles.; Second Corinthians 8:6 "...finish in you the same grace also." and Second Corinthians 8:7 "see that you abound in this grace also.", both referring to the ability to donate money. Grace in its broadest sense is everything we need to become a son of God. In the beginning, it’s forgiveness. And later, it includes the power to serve Him in various ways, as the examples above show.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says "For by grace you are saved through faith, and that is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man 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.

Grace is all forms of God’s helping us to become a son of God. It starts with forgiveness, then includes teaching in righteous behavior, and His help in overcoming sin, and many other things, such as ministries. If you refuse 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 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.

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? But Paul says we are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). Does this mean we’re free from the ten commandments, and that it’s okay to commit adultery? Satan says so, but he says it by inference with this lie, not explicitly.

Romans 3:27 asks, "By what law?"Then he goes on to mention the "law of faith", as well as the law of Moses. So there are different kinds of law. We need to understand them.

In chapters 3-7 of Romans, Paul establishes that we are not under the law of Moses. In Romans 7, he adds that the law of Moses makes us aware of sin, but can’t help us overcome it. In fact, the "law of sin" pushes us into sin. Then in Romans 8:2 he says, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Here he introduces "the law of the Spirit". And it enables us to overcome the "law of sin", so we don’t have to sin.

What is this law of the Spirit? That phrase is not used elsewhere, so we need to look for what law we are under, and how the Spirit is involved. The remainder of Romans 8 is revealing. For example, "but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live". This says the Spirit helps us to kill the deeds of the body, so an important part of the new law consists of getting rid of our bodily sins.

And not just bodily sins. In the beatitudes (Matthew 5 through 7), Jesus compares the new law with the law of Moses. For example, the old law 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. This was not true of the old law. And "You shall not murder", but in the new law, unjustified anger against a brother makes you guilty. So the new law is stricter than the old.

The above example of lust shows an important part of the new law. As I say it, "You would have sinned if you could have sinned." If this is true of you, God says, "You’ve already sinned." That is, if you would have sinned given the opportunity, but you didn’t sin because you couldn’t (because for example, the IRS would have caught your cheat), then as far as God is concerned, you did the deed. You have sinned with your will, even though you couldn’t sin with your body.

So watch your intentions. The new, strict law requires it. Read my discussion of God’s judgment for what happens if you don’t.

With this lie, Satan is saying the new law is soft on sin, whereas it’s actually more strict than the old. Under the new law, we must not sin with our wills. That was not true of the old. We see this required mental self-control in Second Corinthians 10:5, "Casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

So we are under strong law. But we have more grace with which to obey this new law.

Ultimately, He is our law. Being an obedient wife (i.e., faith in Christ) makes Him our law because wives obey their husbands. We look to and obey Him, instead of looking to and obeying the law of Moses written in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. So we must pray and hear Him. "My sheep hear My voice", Jesus said (John 10:27). But before we’ve learned to hear His voice reliably, we must force ourselves to not commit sins that are listed in the Bible. This is why Second Peter 1:19 says, "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."

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 Second Corinthians 11:15 says, "Therefore, it is no great thing if his (Satan’s) ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall 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 after the flesh." Satan’s lie sounds plausible, but directly contradicts this verse. We don’t have to sin. What sin must be 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. First John 4:17 says, " 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.

I go months without sinning. My last sin was so long ago that I don’t even remember what it was.

Be aware that 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 "to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past". 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, of 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. 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." All this is based on human reasoning, and ignores the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) that shows that the divine life in us can indeed be killed.

Lie: We’re 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, some 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 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, please show me if you want me to change anything. If you want me to stop or start doing or thinking something." And if He doesn’t show you anything, be at peace.

Lie: Nobody is righteous.

The lie continues by saying that because nobody has ever been righteous, 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 no one righteous, no not one", and expanded it beyond its boundary. Paul meant that everyone has sinned at some point, and he makes his point by quoting the extreme. But he states his point in the prior verse, "both Jews and Gentiles, that they are both under sin." Yes, everyone has sinned. Yes, there is sin in all of us. But this does not mean that nobody is overcoming this temptation. 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 come short of God’s glory." And this means we need something to cover that sin. That’s was Jesus’ death on the cross. That 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 all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." "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.

But Jesus said, "Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect." Do you suppose he meant that? Do you suppose it’s possible? Do you think God’s grace is strong enough to make this possible? Is God perverse, so that He would command us to do the impossible? Why did Paul write, "As many as are perfect, be thus minded" (Philippians 3:15)? It’s because 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’re 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 "because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (Second Thessalonians 2:9). 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), 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 do iniquity" (Matthew 7:23). And from the context, that was obviously spoken to Christians. To get Christ to accept us, we must not "do iniquity."

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. 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 signify 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 understanding the consequences of sin, such as we reap what we sow, provides us with a strong wall against sin.

Lie: Christians won’t reap what they sow.

Galatians 6:7-8 is usually clear, "Whatever a man sows; that he shall 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 considers to be corruption?

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 there 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 dislikes 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, "Those who are considered worthy to obtain that world 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 will 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 right and are certainly not saying that we must out-do Christ.

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 cover some sins by doing righteously in another area. God does not accept such sneakiness. 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 reasoning based on facts. Actually, resorting to name-calling probably means that the name-caller is wrong, having no other argument, and simply refuses 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, and following rules instead. Yet there are lists of sins in the Bible, and we must carefully avoid committing them.

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 as a result 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 that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone."

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 deliberately..., there is no sacrifice for sins) does not apply to gentiles because the book of Hebrews was obviously written to the Jews (that’s why it’s called "Hebrews"). Indeed, any verse in the Bible that requires right behavior can be assigned to the Jews in this manner.

This is correct. Actually, all the Bible is 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 Christian, we are actually converting to true Judaism in God’s sight. So Jewish ground is our ground.

Lie: David got away with sin with Bathsheba.

Did he? As a result, God said, "The sword will never leave your house" (Second Samuel 12:10). And it didn’t! Read the things that happened to David 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 several 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 judgements 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 Mount (Matthew 5-7), and you’ll see that Jesus made the New Covenant stricter than the Old. For example, under the Old, you were not allowed to commit adultery, but under the new, even looking at a woman lustfully is sin. The New is stricter.

So 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 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 into their minds and write them on their hearts." So the New Covenant is all about 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, "...we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh." And Romans 6:6, "...that we should no longer be slaves to 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 (First 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 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 (Rev 3:3), of having their name blotted out of the book of life (Revelation 3:5), 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, you’ll 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, " filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions". Regarding our own sufferings, Romans 8:36 says, "For your sake we are being killed all day long, we are considered as sheep for the slaughter." And Romans 8:17, "if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him". 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 where God’s purpose for us is good works. This lie ignores God’s judgment which is based on our behavior (Second Corinthians 5:10).

Lie: We’re perfect by identification with Christ.

The phrase and concept of "identification with Christ" is not in the Bible. Romans 6 comes somewhat close when it says "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." But nowhere does the Bible say that God considers us to be perfect just because we’ve "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 is based on Romans 12:1, "that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect". 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 12:1 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. Second Corinthians 5:10 says that "We must all appear before the judgment seat of God, to receive the things done in the body, 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, and that was courtroom for trying accused criminals. "Beema" is the 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 First 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 deal with a sin we’ve committed. First 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 only to merely recite the sin, it means also to forsake it, to say "never again" in your heart. So the procedure is this: (1) Repent of the sin, (2) Tell God that you never want to do that again, (3) God will help you to not yield to it in the future.

Lie: We’ll be saved but as through fire even if we don’t live the life.

First Corinthians 3:15 is describing the judgment of everyone’s work, and says "If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall 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 through 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 pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few." The words "slave" and "master" in this context are referring to Christian and God. So a Christian who didn’t live godly will punished harshly. "Cut him in pieces" and "many lashes": God’s punishment is severe, and I want to stay far away from it.

The Feeling

I count 37 lies above. And they all say that it’s okay to sin. 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 now that I’m 51 years old, I 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. These many lies have shot down most Christians it appears.

Second Peter 2:21, "For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment...." If you substitute "right behavior" for "righteousness", you get "the way of right behavior". In the first century, this 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 painful, 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. Search for "heaven" in your computer or concordance. Amazing, but it’s 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’s temporary? So what is the goal? I’m aware of two main goals.

The first goal is described in John 14:23. This verse was revealed to me when I was about 24 years old, and it’s been my goal ever since: "If a man loves me, he will keep my commandments. 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 any man opens the door, I will come in to him, and eat with him." 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 bride 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 invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." This is when you "eat 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 bride. 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 considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like 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 on 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 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. "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain 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.

Why not?

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 new body (sowing and reaping).

- I refuse to risk the outer darkness (which is reserved for sinful Christians).

- I don’t want to suffer in this life for this sin (chastisement). I know God is rough.

Quickly: Why not?


I’ve covered an enormous amount of material in this booklet, 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 man deceive you" (KJV). 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 booklet. 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 so as to be saved" (Second 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 would 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 booklet, and you’ll feel fine, even as you commit a sin here and there. "...for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction." 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 wishes 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. Almost all 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.

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Overton