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Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

Somebody please ask me what I’m doing blogging at 6:10am on Thanksgiving morning. I think I’m supposed t be sleeping. Somehow I’m wide awake, thinking about Black Friday adds, the theological ramifications of Wall-E (which I watched last night) and competing models of the transmission of Adam’s sin.

Well, first things first. As I am working my way through a quarter’s worth on lessons of the topic of evil and suffering in the Bible, I’m trying to connect the dots between what Adam did in the Garden of Eden and who we are today. I’m finding that Scripture says precious little about exactly how (key word, now) we can be caught up in Adam’s sin, or as Douglas Moo puts it “What is the relationship between Adam’s sin and ours?”

Seems that I have run smack dab into a bit of mystery here. The primary proof-text that most people would reference is Romans 5, especially verses 12, 18 and 19.

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”

“But the free gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned )through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

It is not enough to say that we inherit Adam’s sin simply because we were physically present in Adam when he sinned. This is known as the “seminal” model of transmission or the “realistic” theory. I see a major problem with this because Eve sinned first, and certainly everyone born shares their physical substance with her too. Yet it is Adam who brought death to all men. Adam was a representative, federal, head in some way in addition to his paternal relationship to everyone. Additionally, the Bible indicates that people are considered sinners even before they are born (see Romans 5:8).

There seems to be some imputation of sin at work here. Wayne Grudem explains imputation in this way, “to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to someone.” That is, Adam did it and God counts it to you.

Now, to be sure, imputation is not the whole story. We have also inherited a corrupt nature from Adam that ensures that we will personally sin as well, but this fact does not cancel the truth of imputed sin. What Adam did brought condemnation on everyone long before they brought condemnation on themselves.

Before any of us rushes to condemn this as unfair, let me remind you that we have all personally sinned. Romans 5 seems to imply the we all sinned “in and with” Adam; our sin is the same as his and we are all personally guilty. All sin is idolatry. Adam sought to have what was rightfully God’s for himself (Genesis 3:6) in seeking to be like God; he believed the Serpent’s lie that eating the fruit would put him in competition with God and he ate. When we sin we are always ultimately seeking to heap glory reserved for God on ourselves (Col 3:5).

What’s really unfair is the murder of Jesus on the behalf of unrighteous men (Romans 5:8 again). Romans 5 teaches us that it is the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ which makes forgiveness of sin possible. Just as through one man sin and death entered the whole world, so too is sin dealt with by one man. The glorious truth is that while we are all complicit in Adam’s sin, both by God’s just imputation and our own personal sin, God imputes Christ’s perfect work to us by simple faith. And by faith our sin is imputed to Him and punished on the cross:

“…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

There is no need to dispute the imputation of anyone’s sin to anyone else! Imputation is good.

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A little cud for you to chew in this election year:

One thing that always interests me is how often a faulty model of anthropology (human nature) shirt circuits men who are otherwise highly intelligent. I’ve commented before that Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, must be one of the smartest men alive, at least I hoped so because his decisions impacted my life so much.  Below, Greenspan acknowledges a mistake in a recent article published at MSNBC.com:

“Greenspan, 82, acknowledged under questioning that he had made a “mistake” in believing that banks, operating in their own self-interest, would do what was necessary to protect their shareholders and institutions. Greenspan called that “a flaw in the model … that defines how the world works.”

I think that the basic flaw in Greenspan’s thinking was in underestimating the human capacity for selfishness. In the case of the recent banking and lending crisis, that selfishness drove banks to take excessive risks in pursuit of profit. The possibility of failure was outweighed by the prospect of getting rich. A Biblical anthropology (Romans 3 for example) would have instructed Greenspan that this kind of behavior was indeed a risk. Risk is always in play for humans that are neither sovereign or omniscient. Compound this with a corrupt nature and you get people who take unreasonable risk. People who take unreasonable rsik ultimately get nailed.

And boy are we all getting nailed. Checked the Nikkei lately?

Now I can’t just take poor Alan behind the woodshed. Their is no kind of restraint that can keep men in check. Who’s going to restrain them? More men? Really, this is the fundamental dilemma of human government. It is put in place by God to restrain evil (Romans 13:4), and yet it is composed of sinful men. This is the real reason why debates between government regulation and deregulation are so bitterly argued. It is further the same issue at play when we compare pure capitalism and socialism; the free market vs. a market totally controlled by the government. Likewise with views on the purpose of prisons, welfare, law enforcement, you name it.

How does this apply? The human spirit dictates that it wants to be free, but sin drives us to pursue our own freedom at the expense of others (1 Tim 3:1-3). Ultimately, the sinful human heart wants to be God (Isaiah 14:14). Government seeks to allow basic freedoms, yet finds it necessary to increasingly restrict those freedoms as sinful humans seek to fully express that idolatry of their hearts (2 Pet 3:3).

I constantly hear a wrong view of man at the heart of debates over social issues. In my opinion it is the sole reason that neither side ever seems close to resolving any of the questions. Of course, the problem is that when we work with the correct premise, that man is fallen and ultimately acts selfishly, nobody wants to accept the only realistic conclusion: regeneration and theocracy.

In other words, the people need a new heart and they need God as their King (Jeremiah 37).

We will have to wait for the Second Coming to see this. Until then Christians can function as salt and light to help humanity hold this tenuous balance between order and chaos. Biblical anthropology is a key to understanding how to live in a world that survives by ignoring their contradictions of its reasons. A Biblical view of the future keeps one from despair.

Now, if I could just get a copy of the Bible in front of Bernanke…

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“Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” (John 13:36-38)

Ever gotten a spiritual “strawberry” on your chin? Ever charged out of church ready to conquer the forces of Hell, only to fall on your face midweek? Ever ridden a wave of enthusiasm right into a reef of your own foolishness? I sure have.

Good news for schleps like us: Jesus is supremely patient. Jesus knows that our enthusiasm often outstrips our maturity. have a look at Peter. Often ready to jump in with both feet, Peter is pushed back by his Teacher on many occasions. He even garnered to “Satan” gloss once (Matt 16:23). And yet, his hubris goes unchecked.

A few weeks back, I was having a great conversation with my wife about the anguish of unconquered sin. Our spirits really smart when we fall into transgression that we are familiar with. Repeated offense of the same kind really shines a light on our hearts. Beyond guilt, it brings feelings of shame, doubt, and grief. We are very familiar with the greatness of the price paid for us (Rom 5:6), and it tears us up to see that we’re squandering the great cost of the Savior’s blood.

Peter felt this too. Luke 22:61 tells us that upon Peter’s third denial of Jesus, that He made eye contact with Peter. I can’t imagine how great Peter’s sorrow must have been.

But again, this is meant to bring us some encouragement. In the context of Jesus’ grounding of Peter in John 13, let’s highlight a few heartening observations:

  1. Jesus checks Peter but doesn’t reject Him.
  2. Jesus want to be with Peter. Jesus goes on the explain in John 14 that He must go ahead of the disciples, to the Father, to prepare their way to the Father. In this, Jesus is making it possible to Peter to follow Him, just not yet. Jesus is only telling Peter that he isn’t yet ready, not that he can’t come.
  3. Jesus, by going to His Father, is going to trigger blessings that will overcome Peter’s weakness. Particularly Jesus tells us that His going is to drive them into prayer (14:13), make the capable of “greater works” (14:12), give them peace (14:27) and send the Holy Spirit (14:26).
  4. Jesus underlines the importance of the fact that, like all other believers, Peter will eventually succeed because of his spiritual union with Christ through the coming Holy Spirit (John 15).

You know, the mark of self-righteousness is eagerness to punish. When we sin, there are often many people ready to scorn us and put the “Matthew 18” screws to us. It’s a mistake to think that Jesus regards our sin in this way. Yes, it is absolutely true that God hates our sin, and Jesus shows this by sternly putting Peter in his place. Yet, Jesus ultimate goal is that we glorify God on earth as He did when HE was here, Himself (John 13:31-35). that His response to our sin is serious, and yet gentle, is proof of this.

Let us proceed with a greater love of Christ. Let us be strengthened by a disdain of our sin, and yet be unvanquished by its emergence. let us show mercy to fellow sinners, and yet call them to accountability. Let us confes our sin, and appeal to Christ for the power to overcome it.

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One final note on our local tragedy: The system is down

In the week it’s been since the shooting deaths at Von Maur here in Omaha, I’ve contemplated whether I should move on, topically. I see that many of you enjoyed the video of my daughter taking her first sled ride with me. I would like to return to less onerous subjects, but I feel like there’s just one last issue that I need to address.

Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that before I was a Christian, I was a graduate student in psychology. After I became a Christian, the more I learned about the Bible, the more I became convicted that Biblical worldview and psychology were at odds (click here fore more). What I took from my time in psychology education and some work in public mental health is that this man man system is utterly powerless to truly help people, especially in light of their problem with sin.

So in the aftermath of Robert Hawkins’ violence against the image of God, the local public mental health yokels moved to hold a press conference. It seems that every time there is a major episode of violence in this country, it turns out that the shooter was someone who managed to between the cracks of social services. This was not the case for Robert Hawkins, and they wanted to make sure we knew it. In fact, local social services had spent around $250,000 over more than a decade to try and help him.

It really seemed like they were heading off accusations that the system had failed, again. Ironically, their defense was proof that the system had indeed failed. In the days that followed, I’ve heard nobody ask what good the system is if 1/4-MILLION dollars does someone absolutely no good. probably no-one will.

I’ve held for a long time that psychology is fatally flawed. While it can describe and predict behavior, it cannot change the heart. Psychology looks to the human intellect as the sole source of truth, and views human nature as basically good. Neither assumptions are Biblical (Rom 3:10 and Prov 14:12 for starters). Since its assumption are flawed, psychology cannot reach a correct conclusion. The products of the system are proof of this. Yes people can be helped, but the root of sin can only be covered, and usually it finds some way to manifest itself again. Sadly, Robert Hawkins found no peace whatsoever in the”system.” I’d gamble that some amount of his despair was generated by all of the failed offers of help. If all of that effort was to no avail, then what?

Robert Hawkins story is tragic. What he did was despicable, but it was only the outworking of the same kind of sinful heart we all have. The system trains some people, but it cures none. It covers sin, redirects it, disguises it, but cannot kill it. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ kills the deeds of the body of sin (Romans 6:6). Again, my prayers are such that this tragedy yields opportunity for His gospel to be declared, not in condemnation of the dead, but for the sake of the living.

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Robert Hawkin’s emotional wringer

In the days following the killing of 8 persons at the Von Maur department store in Omaha by 19-year-old Robert Hawkins, emotions have run the gamut in my household. As we’ve sorted through our feelings, I wanted to share with you some of the conclusions drawn by my wife, Amy, and I:

  1. Anger and outrage: What Hawkins did was inexcusable. It’s one thing, though sinful, to take your own life. It’s something else entirely to murder eight people that have never met you. Had Hawkins at least attacked people he knew, people he was angry with, it would make more sense. These people were minding their own business. What Hawkins did was sin, and as Christians we are called to agree with God about evil in the world.
  2. Grief: My wife, particularly, was deeply disturbed by what happened. We recognized some of the victims fro our time spent shopping at the store. We are both saddened by the untimely loss of human life. Sometimes I feel that Christians think they aren’t supposed to be brought so low, like their trust in Christ is some kind of invisible shield against heartbreak. The opposite is true: as we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), we are moved even more by violence against His creation.
  3. Humility: Events like these draw me back to the truth that I am a sinner, and that without God’s grace I am capable of the same kind of evil (1 Cor 6:11) committed by Hawkins. This kind of reflection shuts my mouth and makes me hang my head. I am relieved that God has shown me mercy, and yet I am moved by how much I don’t deserve it.
  4. Shame: Honestly, I think that the way that some people react is awful. When I was standing by the perfume counter in Younkers, wondering why the mall entrances were being locked, on of the ladies working at the perfume counter informed me, very flippantly, that there had bee a shooting. After I got out of the mall area, someone I spoke with later joked that the shooter was probably angry about the Christmas shopping rush. What it is that brings the worst out of people at times like this, I don’t know. The human race is pretty sad sometimes.
  5. Pride: I mean the good kind. I mean that the way others selflessly rush to the aid of those in danger, while putting themselves on the line is incredible. As I was escaping the scene, already I saw police, guns drawn, entering the mall at multiple entrances. That man is made in the image of God informs us as to why people have a capacity for self-sacrifice. My heart swells when I consider what these people risk.
  6. Strength: While we grieve, we are not overcome by this tragedy (2 Cor 6:8-10). As Christians we understand life in light of eternity. Death does not remind us of a hopeless fate (1 Thes 4:13). the grace of God holds our head up, and in time of crisis we can glorify God by showing the world the power that we have in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
  7. Hope: I know that times like these have people thinking about what really matters. They consider what their life is for, and wonder if their lives have any meaning. We saw this nationally after 9/11 when people openly questions the role of a good God and the face of so much evil. A customer of mine wondered that aloud on Thursday morning and provided my a chance to share the gospel. I am hopeful in this that for some time tis subject will open the door to examine the hearts of men in our city of Omaha. It makes me think of the way the Christ was crucified on the passover. Here was God made human flesh (Col 1:29, 2:9) hanging on the cross. As the Passover was a Jewish holiday that taught that blood must be shed for judgment to pass-over, there was the Lamb of God (John 1:29) for all the world to see: Our Passover (1 Cor 5:7). In the face of this brutal violence, we are directed to the birth of the Savior, brought into the world to die for our sins.

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Gun violence in Omaha hits too close to home

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As many of you know, nine people were killed and five were injured today at Omaha’s Westroads Mall. A gunman walked in and started shooting. By the end, he took his own life. As yet it isn’t known whether this man had help, or acted alone. A live grenade was found at the mall last weekend. Whether the two incidents are connected is not yet known either. In any case, tis is a tragic day for the city Omaha.

Omaha is the city that I call home. In fact, I had apparently walked into Westroads Mall just minutes after the shooting began. Having stopped in to pick up an order from a mall store, the department store I had entered had just closed both its mall doors. An announcement sounded overhead that there had been and ‘incident’ and that the outdoor exits should be used. I quickly left the store but had difficulty leaving because of the sudden influx of police and emergency vehicles. In the hours to come, the death toll has risen dramatically. I’m still in a bit of shock over what has happen. Von Maur, the department where this violence occurred, is a favorite for my wife and I. Pictured above is an entrance we’ve used many times. We’re both waiting and wondering whether we will recognize any of the victims.

When I got home I watched the local television coverage with my wife. My kids are young and pretty well oblivious. I told my daughter that something bad had happened. She asked what had happened. I didn’t want t tell here where it happened, because that would have meaning for her. I told her that a bad man had hurt some people.

She asked “Are they OK?” I answered “No, they died.” to which she responded, “Did it hurt?” I told her that it probably did hurt. She wanted to know if the bad man got hurt. I told her that he had died, too.

I’ve written on the subject of violence before. With this terrible tragedy, hitting so close to home, in a store that my whole family frequents, I am prompted to explore the subject of discussing sin and death with our children. I don’t want to shield my children from this subject. They don’t need to know details, but I can hide this important topic from them.

This event is a proper occasion to tell your children, who are old enough (my daughter is 3 1/2 and pretty conversant) about death. Death is the consequence of sin (Rom 6:23) and all have sinned (Rom 3:23).

I followed up with my daughter by trying to explain death to her, being like going to sleep and not waking up. She wanted to know if they went to heaven. I said that some of them did, if they believed that Jesus took away the penalty for their sins of the cross. “Consequences” is the word we have come to use when we are trying to connect her discipline with God’s judgment. We discuss the fact that sins have consequences when we discipline our children. When we explain the gospel to our children, we explain that God never sins, and that to go to heaven, you cannot sin. We remind them that everyone has sinned and so nobody can go to heaven. Then we refer to their personal sin and point to Jesus as the way we can have our consequences taken away; that God put our consequences of Jesus on the cross.

Madison (my daughter) doesn’t put all the pieces together. Not yet. Her questions indicate that she grasps some of it, though. She even finished my presentation of the gospel by jumping to the idea of substitution. In her words “I have to give my consequences to Jesus on the cross.” On a dark day, I find that encouraging.

In the meantime, we are busily erecting the context in which the gospel will make sense. On such a dark day for our city, I praise God that it affords me an opportunity to tell others, like my children, about Jesus Christ. After all, none of us are more than a moment away from eternity. I hope that the murders will yield and opportunity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the city of Omaha, not in judgment of the dead, but for the salvation of the living.

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Yes, you read it correctly. In college I majored in psychology with a minor in applied statistics. I originally moved to Nebraska as a graduate student in counseling psychology. Shortly after I was born again, and immediately began seeing the conflicts between the humanism of psychology and the Bible’s testimony about human nature. After a short period of trying to find a way to follow my Biblical convictions and maintain working in my field of training, I decided that as a Christian I had to leave the field entirely.

The place of Christians in the field of psychology is another discussion for another time. I believe that behavioral fields of psychology, while overly complex, do a good job at organizing and describing behavior. Biological fields of psychology, though they reduce man to a sophisticated animal, does a good job of studying the brain and how it works. Really, the main problem with psychology (and a fatal problem at that) is not in describing or even predicting behavior, but in explaining it. Since psychology depends on the basic principle that man is good, all explanations of motive and thought processes must be wrong. Psychology does well with the outside, but fails with the inside because its assumptions about human nature are wrong.

My reason for bringing up my education is this: I have been gaining a much greater understanding lately of how the Bible describes the inner working of the mind. There have been several sources for my increased understanding, such as Jonathan Edwards and my exposure to Puritan thinking. I’ve always seen that while psychological models for behavior are too complex in their human foolishness, the Biblical model is simple.

But what is that model?

In a word (no…three words!): intellect, affections, and will.

Or, as we call them in the Fudge household: the knows-it, the wants-it, and the does-it.

The division of the human mind in this way is implied in Scripture. John MacArthur, in “The Gospel According to the Apostles (Faith Works)” breaks it down beautifully from Hebrews 11. I’ll get back to the subject soon to break it down in greater detail, but in short it goes as follows:

  1. The intellect is the rational mind that assesses things on the basis of truth. Intellect deals in information. Intellect identifies things we know to be right and wrong and submits its opinion to the will. The intellect can be deceived or over-ridden, but is always a participant.
  2. The affections are the emotional element of the mind. Affections respond to the information gathered by the intellect as generate desire or repulsion. Affections also place pressure on the will to seek out or to turn away.
  3. The will is that part of the mind that produces action. The bases its decision on the appeals of the intellect and the affections.

Normally, the intellect informs the affection, and the affections move the will. the intellect tells the Christian that something is sinful, and the affections drive us to avoid that thing.

However, sin short-circuits this process. For example, the intellect may inform the affections that lust is sinful, but the affections sinfully long after that object of lust and motivate the will to pursue the object, and adultery is the result.

This understanding of the mind is invaluable as we seek to mortify sin, especially the MANY ways that sin attempts to interrupt and hijack the process. I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts with you as I seek to understand myself more.

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