Overcoming sin.

Another Gospel

In Galatians, Paul pronounced a curse on anyone who brought a “gospel” that was different from the one that he (and the other apostles) proclaimed. Since this is a serious matter we need to know exactly what the apostolic message was lest we find ourselves under that curse. There is indeed another message being proclaimed today and we will see later just what it is, but first let us establish what the apostles proclaimed.

The True Message
When we look at the writings of Paul, Peter and John we find one thread running through them all, and this thread is easily defined. The power of God's salvation has invaded our lives so that we can and should lead lives free from sin. Look at a few sample texts.

Peter's Message
As obedient children do not be conformed to the former desires of your ignorance but be holy (1P 1.14-15)
In obedience to the truth you have purified your souls (1 P 1.22)
Putting aside all evil (1 P 2.1)
Abstain from carnal desires...keep your conduct upright (1 P 2.11-12)
Christ left behind an example for you to follow; he did not sin (1 P 21-22)
Let him who intends to love life turn away from evil (1 P 3.10-11)
No longer live the time remaining in the flesh unto the desires of men but for the will of God (1 P 4.2)
Time past was sufficient for you to have carried out the will of the Gentiles (1 P 4.3)
His divine power has given us everything for life and godliness (2 P 1.3)
What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness (2 P 3.11)
Be earnest about being found blameless (2 P 3.14)

John's Message
If we say we have fellowship with him but walk in darkness we lie and do not practice truth (1 J 1.6)
I write these things so that you do not sin (1 J 2.1)
By this we know that we know him – if we keep his commandments (1 J 2.3)
He who says “i know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar (1 J 2.4)
The one who abides in him is obligated to walk as he walked (1 J 2.6)
No one who abides in Him sins. No one who sins has seen or known him (1 J 3.6)
The one who practices sin is of the devil (1 J 3.8)
No one who is born of God practices sin (1 J 3.9)
Anyone who does not practice righteousness or love his brother is not of God (1 J 3.10)
Whoever is born of God overcomes the world (1 J 5.4)

Paul's Message
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1.16)
Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? Never! (Rom 6.1)
Reckon yourselves dead to sin (Rom 6.11)
Do not present your members to sin... but present yourselves to God (Rom 6.13)
You were slaves to sin but you became obedient (Rom 6.17)
Having been freed from sin you became slaves of righteousness (Rom 6.18)
You died to the law so that you might become another's and bear fruit for God (Rom 7.4)
What the law could not do, God did, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us (Rom 8.4)
If you live according to the flesh you will die (Rom 8.13)
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6.9)
Such were some of you but you were washed, you were sanctified (1 Cor 6.11)
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. The old things are past (2 Cor 5.17)
Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh (Gal 5.16)
Those who practice (the works of the flesh) will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5.19-21)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh 9Gal 5.24)
Do not be led astray; God is not mocked; a man will reap whatever he sows (Gal 6.7)
Walk in a manner worthy of the calling (Eph 4.1)
No longer walk as the Gentiles walk (Eph 4.17)
Renounce the conduct of the old man...and put on the new man (Eph 4.22-24)
Fornication, impurity or greed must not even be named among you (Eph 5.3)
Such people have no inheritance in the kingdom of God (Eph 5.5)
It is on account of these things that the wrath of God comes (Eph 5.6)
Do not fellowship in the unfruitful deeds of darkness but rather expose them (Eph 5.11)
Watch carefully how you walk (Eph 5.15)
Effect your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2.12)
Prove yourselves to be blameless (Phil 2.15)
Put to death your earthly members (Col 3.5)
This is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Th 4.3)
God has not called us to uncleanness but sanctification (1 Th 4.7)
Walk decently before outsiders (1 Th 4.12)
Keep away from every brother who walks in a disorderly manner (2 Th 3.6)
Exercise yourself unto godliness (1 Tim 4.7)
Pursue righteousness (1 Tim 6.11)
Keep the commandment spotless and blameless (1 Tim 6.14)
Avoid such as have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim 3.5)
The grace of God disciplines us to deny ungodliness and live righteously (Titus 2.11-12)

The writer to Hebrews
We have become sharers in Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our resolution firm to the end (H 3.14)
Let us be diligent to enter that rest so that none of you fall (H 4.11)
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts (H 8.10)
How much more will the blood of Christ cleanse your consciences from dead works? (H 9.14)
If we sin voluntarily after recognising the truth there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (H 10.27)

The message of the apostles is quite clear, reinforced a hundred times. They taught their converts that having come to Christ their lives had been changed. The days of sinning were past. They were new creations now so they should not be sinning but be living lives of righteousness and holiness that adorned the gospel they proclaimed.
Now let us look at a message proclaimed today and see how God's powerful word has been watered down so that it is weak and ineffective. Sadly, so many of us have been brought up with this wrong message that for years it prevented us from discovering the real gospel. It held us back in weakness and defeat because what was proclaimed was not the apostolic message.

What was Proclaimed?

The Gospel that is no Gospel
There is a focus on justification and forgiveness, as in “come to Christ and have your sins forgiven and get your ticket to heaven.”. Sometimes it is worse than that, with the offer being of worldly prosperity or happiness, but that is another subject. So what is wrong with this “altar call” evangelism? It misses the point. The real message is not a ticket to heaven and an escape from hell. This false message makes no attempt to tell people that they have to leave their sins behind. Instead, they are told that God accepts them just as they are. Now there is a measure of truth in that, for we do not have to change to be accepted. But the apostles were quite clear that having been accepted, you will be changed.
Now the statement is often made that we are “work in progress; Don't worry about your sins, God has not finished with you yet; we are on a journey”. Do you see such a statement in the apostles' writings? Of course not. These statements are wishy-washy excuses for continuing in a life of sin while claiming to be redeemed. It is so sad that people are not told about the power of God, being left in ignorance of the apostolic message. This offer of justification without sanctification is not the gospel. The real message is that God's power has invaded my life enabling me to live a life of overcoming sin. Sin is not the norm for the Christian; it is the exception, which is why John says, “IF a man sins we have an advocate with the Father”. Note the message well. We do not expect you to sin but if you should slip up there is a remedy.
If I had one wish for the past it is that I had heard this real gospel years ago. It would have saved years of up and down struggles. If only I had realised that I could have had victory from day one – but no one told me. I had been told that my sin was forgiven, but no one told me it had been defeated. The guilt of sin is gone, they said, but it still has power. What nonsense.! It only has power if we let it, the apostle says.

Why then was Paul pressing towards the mark? Some people use that as an excuse, claiming that even the apostle still struggled. They then twist Rom 7 to try and prove the same thing, not realising that he was talking there about his experience as an unsaved Pharisee. Rom 7 is just a parenthesis between chapters 6 and 8 in which he explains how defeated he was before Christ redeemed him. He was not pressing on trying to overcome sin; he had already written that sin shall not have dominion. He was pressing on to the high calling, he said. There is far more to the Christian life than salvation, just as there was more for Israel than coming out of Egypt, there was an inheritance in Canaan. Paul wanted it all, everything that God had for him. That pressing on had nothing to do with learning to overcome sin but everything to do with gaining his full inheritance.