If the flesh is left alone, it will happily pursue its addictive program of self-comforting and self-medication until we die. The flesh is a master at avoiding emotional pain and avoiding the anxiety caused by on-going sin. As Christians, we are called to turn away from the lusts of the flesh and the idolatrous addictions that the flesh craves, and instead, to be filled by the eternally satisfying presence of God’s Spirit. We are to turn from the pride of life and to be strengthened by the presence of God and not by our self-effort.
Pride – The Master Sin
The pride of life is the master sin. It lies beneath our idolatries and our addictions. It is through our pride that we believe that we have a right to self-comforting. It is through our pride that we give freedom to our lusts, because it is our pride that tells us that we deserve to be satisfied by the things of the world. It is our pride that justifies the existence of our addictions and builds systems of self-defense for justifying our self-comforting behaviors.
Our pride works hand-in-hand with Satan. Through our pride Satan seeks to convince us that we don’t need to depend upon God, because we are strong and self-reliant. Satan causes us to doubt that God loves us, and to question God’s motives. Satan tells us that God wants to take away the pleasures of life and leave us to suffer. Satan tries to give us a spirit of rebellion, who teaches us that we should always feel satisfied, and should never feel emotional pain or feel physically deprived. Satan feeds our pride and encourages us to rebel against the true perception of our own addictions. It is this rebellious spirit that automatically rejects feedback from other Christians when they attempt to point out our sin or our addictions.
Spirit of Rebellion
The spirit of rebellion wraps its lying tentacles around our pride and encourages us to compare ourselves to other people. It helps us examine the lives of other people and to conclude that even if we have an addiction; it isn’t as bad as the other people we know. It is our prideful rebellion that justifies our idolatries. It is our prideful rebellion that resists those who try to speak to us about these sins. It is our prideful rebellion that places the worship of addictions above our worship of God. It is our prideful rebellion that encourages us to lust after the idols of self-love in all of its forms. It is our prideful rebellion that selectively listens to the truth of scripture and disregards anything that would be a challenge to the presence of our lusts and the power of our self-comforting addictions. It is our prideful rebellion that says, “I deserve to have everything I want.”
False Liberty and False Freedom Yield to the Flesh
When we are born again through the Holy Spirit of God — we are born into a new kingdom. Our relationship to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of life, and the spirit of rebellion that dominates the culture of twenty-first century America becomes an obstacle to our relationship with God and to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Along with the new birth and the new heart that is given to those who repent and believe in Jesus, we receive the gift of freedom to live in Christ. This freedom is also called Christian liberty. Sadly, many Christian have been led to accept the modern definition of liberty, which tells Christians that they are free to do whatever pleases them. This teaching excuses them from concern about sin, because God loves them no matter what they do. He never stops loving them and His greatest delight is to see us prosperous and happy. This belief system is much more closely related to a philosophical system than it is to theology, since it marginalizes scripture or minimizes the value of it. People who follow this system of liberty do not live by every word of God, but live by the majority opinions of men, which offer worldly friendship and praise to those who live by the rules of universal tolerance.
True Liberty Yields itself in Love to Jesus
In contrast, the traditional view of Christian liberty, which stretches back to the first century church, reveals that the new birth and the new heart that Christians receive comes with a natural desire to use our Christian liberty to gain mastery over the flesh and its soulish desires. We may be technically free to do what we wish because we are not under the law, however, our new status as Spirit filled adopted children of God turns our attention away from worldly things. The Holy Spirit that lives in the heart of true Christians causes us to desire the things of God and to want to become more like Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit helps us to respond to the words of scripture and to become willing to show our love for Jesus by keeping the commandments that He gave to us in the Gospel books. We choose to put aside our liberty so that we can be bond servants of Jesus, and submit to His will by keeping His commandments, which is the highest calling a Christian can pursue.
The former heart of stone, which was preoccupied with its self-satisfying lifestyle, has been transformed. The heart of stone that managed and organized our lusts, our pride, and our addictions is gone. Even though we have a new heart, the flesh continues to cry out for satisfaction, and the spirit of rebellion continues to resist the Holy Spirit until we choose to deal with these obstacles through the process of our sanctification.
When true Christians are given a new heart, we are also given a heightened sensitivity to sin and the desire to be sanctified. Sensitivity to sin and the desire to be sanctified are indications that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within us. However, since we are free, we can intentionally ignore the presence of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of sin that He reveals to us. We can resist Him and even harden our hearts to His presence and His call to become pure as Jesus is pure. Our rebellious attitude will quench the Spirit. If we persist in our rebellion against the Holy Spirit for a long time, then we will be left to our own devices and resources, which will never be strong enough to overcome sin or to gain mastery over the flesh. In short, if we desire to live for the flesh, then the Holy Spirit will eventually turn us over to the flesh and the power of sin.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit instantaneously removes an addiction from our lives to demonstrate His power to bring the blessings of grace into our lives. However, there will be other sins and other addictions, which will be left for the ongoing work of sanctification. When these are exposed, our intentional response will be required. The process of sanctification begins with justification and it will continue throughout our lives as the Holy Spirit leads us towards greater and greater Christ-likeness. There will be plenty of other forms of lust, pride, idolatry, and rebellion for the Holy Spirit to address during the process of our maturation. The process of being sanctified and conformed to Christ is a lifelong process. It requires us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and to yield to the truth of scripture.
The flesh will not voluntarily submit to the Holy Spirit. It rebels against His sanctifying activity. It demands to be left alone. It does not want a better life or a more holy life. It just wants to lust and be satisfied. The flesh hates the presence of the Holy Spirit and His persistent calls to righteous living. The pathway to overcoming the power of the flesh lies in the presence of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Himself who lives in us. It is through the Holy Spirit that we realize that the power of the flesh, the pride of life, and the rebellious spirit must be overcome. It is through the gentle presence of the Holy Spirit that we become willing to reform ourselves and to take control over the flesh and our pride, and to expel the spirit of rebellion.
When we submit to the Holy Spirit and actively participate in the destruction of self-indulgent patterns of lust, addiction, and idolatry, we are participating in the work of sanctification. When we work to replace the love of self and the love of our own life to the point of death, with an abiding love for God and a love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are doing the work of sanctification. It is through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that we develop a deep compassion for being obedient to God and to scripture. It is the process of sanctification that makes us sensitive to the fate of lost souls, and gives us the desire to reach out to them.
Servants of Sin or Servants of Righteousness
Paul tells us that the demands of the flesh and our participation in sin should be a serious concern for every true Christian. It is so serious that those who indulge the sins of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sadly, many Christians defy Paul’s solemn warning concerning the inheriting of the kingdom of God, and proudly submit to the many lusts of the flesh as if it really doesn’t matter.
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Overcome the Power of the Flesh and Manifest the Fruit of the Spirit
Paul does not teach that we should participate in self-comforting. He does not teach that we should be comforted by our lusts, pride, and the satisfaction of fleshly cravings. He does not teach that we should tolerate the works of the flesh that continue to cry out for satisfaction after we have been justified. Instead, he calls us to overcome the power of the flesh and the power of sin, and to manifest the fruit of the spirit.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
We are called to crucify the flesh along with its many affections and lusts. Paul actually uses the past tense for the word crucify. He is assuming that Christians have dealt with the power of their flesh and are living in the Spirit. We really should stop and prayerfully ask whether we have crucified our flesh. Have we been completely willing for the Holy Spirit to do His sanctifying work in us? Are we really willing to be conformed to Christ, or do we have certain protected areas (addictions and idols) in our lives where we refuse to receive the counsel of the Holy Spirit? Are there some fleshly lusts that we protect and encourage through our pride, because we are not willing to face our pain and our sin? Are we rebelliously pushing against the sanctifying work of the Spirit by clinging to self-comforting? Are we hoping to obtain the fruit of the spirit without crucifying the flesh? Paul made it very clear that “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” He teaches that meekness and the other fruits of the Spirit are produced only after we have become willing to let God remove the dead wood and rotten roots from our lives.
Paul is asking us to examine ourselves. Have we really crucified the flesh or are we just hoping that we will become fruitful without repenting and being transformed? Are you really walking in the Spirit of God?
Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
crucify the Flesh
Paul is assuming that people who have been filled with the Holy Spirit will desire to walk on the narrow way that Jesus described. He is assuming that we will walk toward righteousness and seek to be set apart in holiness. In other words, we are to walk the talk. As a practical matter, all true Christians should be engaged in the process of crucifying the flesh. This is the work of progressive sanctification. It is through the process of being refined, pruned, and transformed that we become more Christ-like. Jesus was a living example of someone who produced every fruit of the spirit that Paul listed. He resisted the temptations of the flesh. He did not submit to the lusts of the eyes, the lust of the flesh or to the pride of life, and he certainly did not possess a rebellious spirit against our Father. Should our goals as Christians be any less than the accomplishments of Jesus?
Withdraw and Flee
The requirement for Christians to withdraw from false teaching and to flee from immorality is clearly taught by Paul in the following passage. This is a call to seek higher spiritual ground and not to compromise. This is an unmistakable call to holiness and righteous living. If you are a Christian, then this applies to you! There are no exceptions. There is no wiggle room. None of us are excluded and none are exempt.
1 Timothy 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
If your mind does not accept the existence of sin and it does not agree that lusts, pride, idolatry, addictions, and rebellion against God are matters of concern for a Christian, then you will have great difficulty making progress in your life as a Christian. This is because the foundation of your life is flawed. If your mind rejects the need to repent, then your current condition will change very little as time goes along. It is quite possible that you will never experience the deeper relationship that God seeks to have with you. If your mind is not in agreement with the need to be sanctified, then your heart will not have the passionate response that needs to be present to make changes in your life. Without a passionate desire to become righteous, you will not be able to activate the will to bring about real changes in your life. Your mind, your heart, and your will must all be in agreement before you can begin to address the lusts, pride idolatries, addictions, and rebellion in your life.
If you are willing to examine yourself and are willing to mourn, then you are in the place that God desires for you. You are moving in God’s will.
How Does a Christian Turn Away from the False Path of Self-Comforting?
1 Corinthians 10:14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
Flee from Your Idols
We must be willing to flee from the idols that we have been using to comfort ourselves. If we are not willing to turn around and flee, then we will stay in bondage. We cannot just stop and keep looking at them or try to moderate our involvement with them. Scripture calls us to flee and leave them behind. There is no other way to escape the self-comforting sin of idolatry.
Repent for the Sin of Self-Comforting
Once we make the commitment to turn away from self-comforting, we must repent for the sin of using the worldly tools of Satan to bring us comfort instead of going to God. Our repentance must begin with being humbled and broken over our specific form of sinfulness. We must grieve, cry, mourn, and ask that God will set us free from living in bondage to Satan. We must be willing to forgive others and pray to receive God’s forgiveness. We must learn to hate the sins that we once loved. This is all part of what it means to have a broken and contrite heart – literally, to be ground to dust. This is all part of mourning. This is all part of how we receive the blessing of true comfort that can only come through God. This is the path to receiving Godly comfort and the path to healing a broken heart. First we repent and mourn, and then we receive the blessing of God’s comfort.
Godly comforting ends in joy.
Jeremiah 31:13 Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
The joy comes after the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit. It comes after sorrow and mourning. It comes after forgiving those who have done evil against us. It comes after repentance. God delivers us from our mourning when we humble ourselves, mourn, and repent for our idolatries and rebellion. He comforts those who have come to reject the destructive path of self-comforting so that they can be comforted by the true Comforter. He gives His blessing to those who, through faith, turn away from the idols of addiction and step into freedom from bondage.
Delivered from the Abyss of Addictive Idolatry
A person who is still subject to being controlled by the idols in his or her life may experience considerable anxiety and emptiness when contemplating the forsaking of his or her idols. Life without the idols of self-comfort may feel like a deep and dark abyss, because there is an absence of a right relationship with God. However, you do not need to live in the abyss. You will be delivered from it when you repent for your idolatry and rebellion against God’s will.
Bring Your Sin to Jesus
God does not entice or manipulate anyone to turn away from self-comforting idolatry. His message is simple. Humble yourself before Jesus. Experience your poverty of spirit, your brokenness, your captivity to sins, your spiritual blindness to sin, and the bruises that your sin has brought into your life. In other words, admit that you have specific forms of lusts, specific forms of pride, specific forms of idolatry, specific addictions, and specific aspects of rebellion, which are crippling your relationship with God. Admit that you are powerless over these sins, and humbly bring these sins to Jesus.
Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Jesus came to set the captives free. If you are worshiping at the altar of self-comfort and rebellion, then you are being held captive. Your broken heart and bruises are being soothed by your addictions. You are living in sin. Jesus wants to open your eyes, deliver you from your bondage, and set you free. The path to freedom begins with repentance. When we repent and renounce our addictive idols, and ask God to give us the strength to trust Him for our comfort, we cross over the abyss of emptiness into the joy of the Lord.
Action on our part is required. A change in attitude is required. We must decide to hate the sins and idols that we once loved. We must realize that we are weak, and that we do not have the strength to overcome our addictive idolatry through our own efforts. We must be willing to depend upon the strong arms of God to strengthen us when we are weak.
Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.
2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Repent and Hate the Sins
After we repent, we must separate ourselves both physically and mentally from our sins. The physical part is easy to understand. If you wish to flee from the idol of alcohol, for example, then you must physically separate from the drug, and then do the mental separation. The mental separation requires us to take a positive and powerful position with respect to the sin of idolatry. We are to repent and to hate the idol that we once loved. We are to hate the addictions, the substance/activity of our addiction, and the destructive effects that it brought into our lives.
Many Christians Refuse to Hate Sin
Many Christians believe that as long as they stop doing a sin, they can still think about the sin with fond memories. If a person does this, then the positive regard for sin becomes an open door to temptation, which can easily cause a person to slide back into the doing of the sin. People can step into a fantasy world and use their memories to have a step by step recollection of certain sins, and actually obtain nearly the same level of satisfaction as if they had physically used their body to commit the sin. This is common with pornography and sins of violence. The call to flee sin and iniquity is a call to hate the sin that we once loved. As Christians, we are called to hate what God hates. God hates sin and we must learn to do the same. Remaining neutral with respect to our sins will keep us in bondage. The sins that we are first and foremost called to hate are our own sins.
Proverbs 6:16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. 20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
Psalm 97:10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 119:128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.
Depart from Iniquity
There are many today in church organizations who deny the importance of sin. They teach that God loves us no matter what we do. This is a false teaching. We are called to live Godly lives in Christ Jesus. We are called to flee from sin and not to engage in evil. We also are not to engage in debate over whether certain sins should be tolerated. There is absolutely no biblical support for a Christian to live with any known sin!
2 Tim 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
Sin Poisons Fellowship
But there will be some who claim to be in the Body of Christ who love themselves and love their own sin more than they love God or the brethren. We are also not to enter into endless debate with such people. We need not seek to lead them into Christian fellowship, because without humility and a lifestyle of repentance, they will be incapable of participating in genuine Christian fellowship. We cannot have true fellowship with anyone who loves his sin more than the brethren. Paul even suggests that we should not even invite them into our homes lest they become a snare for our families. This may sound harsh, but unrepentant sin is a very serious poison in the Body of Christ. Sin is never a neutral matter. Yet some church organizations bless sin by denying that it is an obstacle to having a relationship with God. They teach that God is love and He loves His children unconditionally even if they are sinning. Other church organizations deny the existence of sin altogether and teach that we should not be afraid of God or feel shame about anything. We should just rejoice in the fact that God will never stop loving us, because He already has forgiven all of our sins, past, present, and future.
2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Hate Sin and Fear God
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Proverbs 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
Sin Separates Us from God
God does not look at Christians and smile at our sinfulness. In fact He does not look at us or even hear us when we are in sin. His hatred of sin is so great that our sinfulness is a barrier to having a relationship with Him.
Psalm 101:3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
God does not only turn away from us when we persist in our sin, He actually resists us as long as we refuse to repent for known sins. When we repent, our relationship is restored and we receive His grace.
James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Be Blessed and be Anointed
We are to not only hate sin, but we are to love righteousness. When we do this, we will receive gifts from God.
Romans 4:7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Hebrews 1:9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
If we repent, we will be drawn into a closer relationship with God. We will receive the oil of gladness and be blessed. In other words, we will be happy!
Submit to the Discipline of God
Job 36:10 He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
It is not a sin to be tempted to lust after sin or to worship idols. Temptation is common to every person who has a body of flesh. We have many tools that we can use to combat temptations. First, our hatred of sin sets the stage for resistance. We can use scripture to condemn the sin and its appearance in our minds. We can physically flee from the temptation, and quote scripture to turn our attention back on God. We also can use scripture to push Satan and his servants out of our minds and lives. Finally we can call upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our desire to avoid the temptation. If we have a passive attitude with respect to sin or refuse to hate the sin, we may quickly find ourselves in trouble.
Sin happens when we give into temptation and allow sin to conceive itself in our minds and hearts, which then usually results in the physical deed of sin. Even if the actual deed does not follow, the sin is complete when it runs its course in our minds and there is emotional satisfaction. The sins of lust and adultery follow this pattern (Matthew 5:28). When we are tempted, we are to pray, and God will meet us in our temptations and will give us the strength to overcome our lusts, our pride, our idolatries, and our rebellion. The following passage from Paul gives us a strong warning and solid reassurance that God will help us resist sin.
1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
Many professing Christians hate being exhorted to pursue righteousness and personal discipline. Instead of hating sin, they hate those who seek to bring correction into their live with scripture. Such people are unteachable and uncorrectable. They want to do whatever satisfies the flesh and builds up their pride. They live in a constant state of rebellion against God, scripture, and any Christian who dares to try and bring scripture to bear on their lives. In short, their lives are dominated by the same spirit of rebellion that dominates the worldly culture in the twenty-first century. Such people seek out church organizations that ignore the biblically mandated practice of church discipline, which is to be exercised by the elders of the congregation, so that they can remain free to do whatever pleases them.
Proverbs 5:12 And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;
1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Those who will not listen to correction when presented with scripture and stubbornly cling to their iniquity have no place in the body of Christ. This stubbornness is rooted in self-love and pride, which is grievous sin. The rebellion against biblical authority is never neutral; it always undermines the faith of others. Rebellion and stubbornness jeopardize the stability of the congregation of true believers and weaken the ability to resist evil and to live righteous lives. This is why Jesus gave us the church discipline process through which we are to remove rebellious and stubborn people from the congregation when they refuse to repent for their sins.
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
There are many who say that we do not have the right to judge those who claim to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. If that was so, then why did Jesus speak the preceding words? Paul extends and strengthens the words of Jesus in his letter to Timothy.
1 Timothy 6:3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Tolerance of Sin is the Same as Loving Sin
Tolerance of sin in modern church organizations is seen as a high mark of political correctness. The truth is that we are not called to tolerate sin, but to hate it. We are called to resist evil and to help our brothers and sisters resist sin, flee from sin, and hate sin. We are called to engage in a lifelong process of sanctification, which leads us towards greater righteousness. We are called to reinforce our righteousness by separating ourselves from the ways of the world and to live in purity for the sake of the brethren and to bring greater glory to God. We are call to express our love for Jesus through obeying all that He commanded us to do. We are commanded to make ourselves blameless and spotless before God and to place our lives on His holy altar. We are to be living sacrifices to do His will and pleasure as members of the kingdom of heaven.
The instruction that the prophet Amos gave to the northern tribes of Israel when they stubbornly persisted in their rebellion against God, continues to stand the test of time. Amos describes the problem that the Jews had with God and called for a correction. The correction for a broken relationship with God is the same today as it was in the past. God has not changed. His expectations for His children in the New Testament church remain the same as in the time of the Old Testament prophets.
Amos 5:15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
In other words, turn back to God and repent. Restore the Godly order within the church. Love righteousness and hate sin. Be willing to stand in the judgment place and exercise discipline and judgment so that God’s grace may yet abound over His people.
I pray that each person who reads this study will take the preceding scripture from Amos into his or her prayer closet and meditate upon it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to hate evil and to love the good. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead your congregation into the biblical practice of church discipline.
I pray that you will be led by the Holy Spirit into greater righteousness, and that He will stand with you in the place of discernment and judgment. I pray that He will give you words of knowledge and wisdom to share with the people of God to exhort and encourage them in the ways of the Lord, and to teach them how to mourn and receive comforting from God. I pray that you will receive spiritual discernment, which is needed to rightly judge situations within the congregation and to follow God’s leadership in every matter that comes before you.