If you missed it, you can listen to the recording here:
During the preach we gave you the opportunity to text in any follow-up questions that you had. We didn’t get chance to answer all of them (and those that we did answer weren’t recorded). Below is a list of all the questions that were submitted, and some brief thoughts on each of them (and if you want to go deeper into any of them, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see what we can do).
How do you decide what is sinful and so needs God’s grace?
The term ‘sin’ literally means missing the mark. We sin whenever we do, say or think something that goes against God’s will.
In order to determine what falls into this category, we need to understand what the will of God is. There are a few ways we can do this.
1. The Bible – Absolutely the best way to know God’s will and what is right and wrong is by reading the Bible. God has revealed his character, and has shown us what a life that conforms to his character looks like. We can determine whether many things are right and wrong by reading his word.
2. Conscience – We don’t talk about conscience all that often but it is really important. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” We should listen to our conscience and if we sense something is wrong as we are doing it, then we should stop.
3. Community – It’s often easier to spot each other’s blind spots than our own. As we engaged in our community groups we will be able to guide one another and speak into areas of one another’s lives. According to Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Where and How Does Grace Apply if I Fall Short? Where is the Line Then?
The whole point of grace is that it’s for those that fall short. Romans 5:8 tells us that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In the parable of the prodigal son (found in Luke 15), the young man who left home not only fell short in disrespecting his father and asking for his inheritance while his father was still living, but his life then descended into a bigger and bigger mess, yet still he was welcomed home with open arms. No questions asked.
In the same story, the other brother falls short when her refuses to join the celebration, and yet still the Father comes out and pursues him. This is a perfect picture of the grace of God.
Grace is free, and when you fall short, grace is for you.
If There Is No Condemnation in Christ, Why Does He Say This in Luke 17:1: “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come.”?
The context of this verse is an instruction by Jesus not to cause others (particularly new Christians, who he refers to as ‘these little ones’) to sin.
The reason for this concern is two-fold.
Firstly, there is the danger that some may fall away. The parable of the sower refers to some who start well but then ‘fall away’. The apostle John explains that these people were ‘not of us, for if they had been of us they would have continued with us’. Leading new Christians into sin could set them on this path.
Secondly, causing them to sin is against their best interests. Life works best when it is lived God’s way and causing anybody to sin works against their ultimate joy, well-being and is something that we should take care to avoid.
Why/How Does Purity Bring Glory to God?
God himself is pure. According to Habakkuk 1:13, the eyes of the Lord are “too pure to look on evil.” We were made to reflect the image of God and so as we live lives of purity we show God’s image clearly and people will see something of what God is like and this will bring him glory.
In the particular context of sexual purity, we can add the fact that as believers we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are dwelling places of God, and are to be used for his praise and glory. In the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
How do You Differentiate Living by the Spirit and Living by the Law?
In Jeremiah 31, God promises to make a new covenant with his people. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The difference between living by the law and living by the Spirit is the heart. Living by the law is about attempting to adhere to regulations (whether externally imposed or self-imposed) whereas living by the Spirit is from the inside out. It is about changed desires that want to live a life that is pleasing to God.
Where Is the Line Between Living by the Flesh in Romans 1 and Continually Failing with a Particular Thing Like Alcohol, Cigarettes, Sexual Immorality, etc.?
The idea of ‘failing’ with a particular thing implies a desire to live a certain way. ‘Living by the flesh’ means satisfying your desires in the moment and would not have regret, a desire to change or a concept of ‘failing’.
The situation described is much like the struggle described in Romans 7:15. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” This is the struggle of trying to live by the law as a Christian.
The struggle is winnable and constant failures are not inevitable. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2).
Go on being filled with the Spirit. Go on being conformed to the image of Christ. Fill your life with a blazing affection for him and you will grow in your life and your faith, and maturity and holiness will follow.
Was the Spirit ‘Available’, as it Were, to Those Before Pentecost, Before the Holy Spirit Came to the Disciples in Tongues of Fire? Could Those in the Old Testament Live by the Spirit or Only by the Law?
Whilst it is true that some individuals in the Old Testament were filled with the Holy Spirit, this was usually limited to leaders and the purpose was to empower them for a particular task.
What happened when the Spirit came at Pentecost was unprecendented. The prophecy of Joel 2:28 was fulfilled. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”
Now all of God’s people have the Holy Spirit and the dwelling place of God on earth is no longer a temple made from bicks and mortar but the church, the whole people of God. “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
In the Old Testament, believers did their best to follow their law and had faith in a saviour to come who could redeem them as they fall short. Now we know that saviour is Jesus. Like them, we can put our trust in him to redeem us and as we do he gives us his Spirit and empowers us to live for him.
What about Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
In Mark 3:22-30 it says,
“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.’ And he called them to him and said to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin‘ – for they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.'”
The context of this comment was when the pharisees had seen first-hand the ministry of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit, were left unable to deny the power that they had witnessed and yet chose to explain what they had seen by claiming that Jesus was demon-possessed rather than Spirit-filled.
To reach such a point, somebody has put themselves beyond forgiveness – not because God’s grace isn’t vast enough (what Jesus did on the cross is big enough to atone for any sin) but because having seen the full force of the power and love of Jesus and still attribute it to evil spirits, they have so hardened their hearts against him that they will not repent and there is nothing more that they can see of Christ that they have not already seen that can change their mind. They have put themselves beyond forgiveness because they are beyond repentance (and if you are worried about this in your own case, then that worry itself shows the softeness of heart that means you are not in their situation).
John Piper talks about this more here.
For more of the Big Questions series and other teaching from CCM:City, join us at Luther King House in Fallowfield at 6:30pm on Sunday evenings.
Written by:Tom O'Toole