For any fans of the Andy Griffith show, whether you watched them when they originally aired as I did or caught them on the almost daily reruns, you probably are familiar with the title of today’s essay. Or if you are a fan of bluegrass music or older country music you may also be familiar with the term. For the rest of you it refers to someone playing a stringed instrument, most likely a guitar or banjo, and smiling in the pure pleasure of making music. I have fond memories of watching Andy pick his guitar. Especially when the Darlings were in town and they would play together. So what does pickin’ n grinnin’ have to do with the usually subject of these essays, God’s Word? Some Christians are pickin’ n grinnin’ when it comes to God’s Word. What I mean by that is they pick the verses that appeal to them while ignoring ones they do not like.
I want to remind those who do this is that God’s Word is not a spiritual buffet where we pick the things we like and move on past the less palatable parts. Or we pick only verses that point in one direction and ignore the rest. One such area is free will verses divine providence or as some will be more familiar with Calvinism or Arminianism. But that is for a future post.
Another area I just found out is “do Christians still sin or not”. The reason I say I just found this out is that from my personal experience and that of Christians around me I have always believed that even though we are saved we still sin. To believe that Christians no longer sin means either I have a distorted view of what sin is, doubtful as God is very clear what sin is, or I and every Christian I know is fooling themselves and we are not saved, again doubtful as the road to salvation is also very clear. If it was just me that would be one thing, but for that many to be wrong including every pastor I have ever had and every Christian writer I have read to be wrong seems a bit farfetched.
When this happened it is usually because the person has decided to accept only one side of what God is telling us while ignoring the rest. The reason can be that it seems God is contradicting Himself so let’s pick one side and just forget about the other verses. While this may make us feel better about God and His Word it leaves us open to attack from unbelievers when they point out these so called contradictions. When confronted by a seeming contradiction I turn to sources I trust to guide me through the hard parts and in the end I always find that it is not God contradicting Himself but my lack of understanding that is the problem. That is why we need mature mentors to guide us. For as Paul writes “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV) When we finally stand before God in all His glory then we will be able to understand all that is now unclear and that which is clear will become clearer.
The comment about Christians and sin caused me to take a look at what God says about believers and sin. After all I know I am saved and I know that I still harbor sinful thought and do things that I wish I did not do so this is an important question that I need answered. Fortunately God as always supplies the answers. Below are the verses I found. Let’s take a brief look at each group.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10 ESV)
John is very clear in these verses from 1 John that we are not to claim that we do not sin. In fact making such a claim is tantamount to calling Jesus a liar.
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:13-25 ESV)
When I have a personal question about faith I like to read what Paul says. He brings the Christian struggle alive for me. I figure if Paul struggled with something then I am in good company when I experience the same struggles. In the above verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans we see that Paul struggled with sin in his life. He fought the urges to do wrong with his desire as a follow of Christ to live a sin free life. Paul was the greatest evangelist in the history of the church. If he struggled with sin then how are we to expect anything less in our lives.
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12-16 ESV)
Once again I turn to Paul and his first letter to Timothy, Paul’s disciple and someone Paul thought of as a son. Paul is telling Timothy that Jesus came into the world to save sinners of which he is the foremost. Paul uses the present tense. Paul is not telling Timothy he was a sinner but that he continues to sin. These verses coupled with the above verses from Romans tell us of the struggles Paul faced and that each Christian has and will face in their lives even though we have accepted Christ and our sins have already been paid for.
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV)
In this verse from Ecclesiastes God tells us that there is not a righteous man, that is a man right with God or saved, who never sins. Now you may quibble that this is from the Old Testament and would not apply to Christian believers but that then means that none of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets were saved. But we know from Hebrews that this is not true. Abraham was declared righteous and we know that David was a man after God’s own heart. The best way I ever heard it explained is that the people before Jesus came were saved looking forward to the Messiah and we are saved looking back to Him. Clearly this verse says that the righteous do sin. The good news is that all our sins are covered. Those in the past, those in the future and those we will commit. When we claim that Christians should never sin or no longer sin we are in essence doing Satan’s work for him as we cast doubt in the minds of others.
Each of us comes to the Lord in a different state of sin but none come in a sin free state. Once we accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation the Holy Spirit begins to work on and in us transforming us from the old self to the new self. The transformation will be a lifelong process as we are still in the old sinful body. Please do not mistake what I just wrote. We are at the time we accept Jesus transformed spiritually and we are immediately saved, a salvation that is eternal and cannot be taken away. But just as Paul wrote we still inhibit a sinful body that carries the curse of original sin. Only when we are free from that body and in our new bodies will be sin no more. One additional thought, our salvation did not take away our free will. We still can decide to sin or not sin. Unfortunately sometime we make foolish choices. What we will find is that as we overcome our sins we will come to recognize actions that one time seemed ok, now we know to be sinful and we become acutely aware of each sin.
One final warning. It is dangerous to claim special knowledge about God or special insight in the Word. God’s Word is there for all and has the same meaning for all. God and His Word are unchanging. When we claim special knowledge we commit the same heresy as did the Gnostics. God does not hide His message in secret codes or between the lines. God’s message is there for all. We always need to interpret God’s Word based on the entirety of the Word not the parts we agree with or some claim to special knowledge or inspiration. If I find myself at odds with the rest of Christianity I need to take stock and see why if I am right than everyone for almost two thousand years has been wrong. If I an honest with myself I realize that it is me that is in error rather than everyone else. Yes some things are hard to understand but that is why we call on those more mature in the faith than us and sometimes we just need to take it on faith that even though we do not fully understand now all will be made clear in the end. And of course everything we do or say needs to be in a loving manner always showing the love of Christ even when we disagree. Lastly, even though we still sin, it is not a license to sin. To willfully sin is a slap in the face of God.
Have a blessed day,
PS: I will take a look at the verses that seem to indicate that we no longer sin in the near future. Also, This may be my last post until next Wednesday as our internet is down and we will not get a tech out until then. Right now I am using my cell phone to get to the internet, not the most economical way.