What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity/Part 6
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Bill Gillham; ©2005|
|Can Christians sin all they want because God has forgiven them all their sins, past, present and future? Do Christians need to confess their sins if they are already forgiven? And what has God provided through Christ to help Christians deal with their feelings, their emotions, and guilt?|
What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity – Part 6
Can Christians sin all they want because God has forgiven them all their sins, past, present and future? Do Christians need to confess their sins if they are already forgiven? And what has God provided through Christ to help Christians deal with their feelings, their emotions, and guilt?
Dr. John Ankerberg: Today we want to talk about how we should understand and deal with our emotions as we live moment by moment with Jesus Christ. A lot of times our emotions get in the way and we walk by feelings instead of by faith. My guest today, Dr. Bill Gillham, has some wonderful illustrations of how our emotions get in the way and God’s wonderful provisions to help us. Listen:
Dr. Bill Gillham: You know, we feel guilty a lot of times and we try to get right with God, but our emotions just really get in the way. So I want to talk to you very briefly about the emotions. The Scriptures say in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that you are comprised of three parts: spirit, soul and body. And I’m just going to talk about part of the soul here—your mind and the emotions—because I want to use them to illustrate my point with the emotions.
I call your emotions your “feeler.” Now, whatever you set your mind on, your feeler will knee-jerk to that. Your feeler is designed to react, and it’ll react to whatever you set your mind on. Now, let’s say that I’m sitting here and I look over to my right and a snake is poised there, getting ready to strike me on the leg. Now, I’ve expanded your mind and emotions and put them on a 10-point scale to illustrate my point. So I look at the snake and I say, “I believe that I’m in terrible danger here” and that’s a throbbing 10. And my feeler quickly says, “I feel terrified.” And that’s a 10. Now, then, I look over and I see that the snake is made out of rubber and I say, “Well, shoot, I don’t believe I’m in trouble at all.” And so mind instantly goes down to one.
Now, how about feeler? It ain’t buying it, guys. See, God has designed it to come down but it comes down more like a BB sinking in oil. See, it’s real slow.
So let’s say about two hours later my feeler’s down to about a 7 and I open adrawer and a spider runs up my sleeve. Okay, mind quickly says, “I believe I’m in great danger here,” and feeler says, “I feel like I am.” But now look, whereas mind has 10 points to clear to go up from 1 to 10, feeler only had to go from 7 to 10.
So, this process, now, of mind going up and down and feeler going up and down, I believe that the Lord has shown me that something happens to us here on this planet. That according to our environment, our feeler begins to just operate on a fraction of our 10-point scale. And if you’re reared in a real intense kind of an environment, it’ll operate up there in the 7 to 10, or 8 to 10, or 9 to 10, or 9- 1/2 to 10 scale. And you’ll be going through life playing with a short deck.
But I want to assure you that all of us, as I understand it, are not playing with a full deck. We don’t have a full 10-point scale on our emotional Richter Scale there, because our emotions have been programmed from living here on planet Earth.
Now, I call this a “stuck feeler” because it operates so much of the time in that upper area that all the points below your floor disappear. It’s kind of like putting your arm in a cast and leaving it there for two years and then taking the cast off. You’ve still got muscles but what good are they doing you? They have atrophied and they have to be rehabilitated. And I believe God has shown me the same thing happens to your feeler.
Now, the devil will use that phenomenon that I just described to try to control you and get you to walk by how you feel instead of walk by faith.
Ankerberg: Now, maybe as you were listening, you’re beginning to realize that because of your past, your feelings have been stuck way up around the 7, 8 or 9 mark. What can you do? Bill tells us and illustrates what he is talking about with some personal stories from his own life. Listen:
Gillham: Now, gang, your feeler will lie to you because it’s stuck up there above the one somewhere. It’s stuck up around a 5, we’ll say, that’s your threshold. Some of you listening to me, your threshold is 9.5. You’re playing the game of life with a half a point on your Richter Scale. Your feeler is kind of mentally retarded, gang. It can’t think. So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for us to let something control us that can’t even think. Right? We’re to walk by faith—faith in what God says. God’s Word will never lie to you.
Now, we’re going to be talking about your forgiveness and the flesh craves to feel forgiven. Now, the Bible doesn’t talk about feeling forgiven. The Bible talks about being forgiven. And gang, I’ve already demonstrated how your feeler won’t necessarily get the message that you are a forgiven person. You’ve got to go by what God says and absorb that with your mind and believe it and then act like a forgiven person. And if your feeler doesn’t agree, you’ve got to say, “Rain on it! I am not believing that!” because the feeler is lying to me.
Now, let me illustrate this thing about forgiveness. And remember that God is not time dimensional. He’s like a man in a helicopter who hovers over the entire line of your life.
Now, let’s say that during my lost days, there are a lot of sins that I’ve committed. Then I get born again. Now, I was taught that Jesus’ blood washed those sins away because the Bible says that and I claim that and I was forgiven and saved.
Now then, I was also taught that each time I sin after I’m saved that I should confess that sin to God, ask Him to forgive me, and He would then be faithful and just to forgive me of all my sins. Okay, so I kept my ledger square there. Every time I’d sin, I’d try to ask for forgiveness and so forth, and I made it in pretty good shape for a while. And then I hit a situation in my life where we were getting ready to go to Sunday School and I was getting ready to back out. I had the car running and everything. And Annabelle got in the car and just as she was getting in, she said, “Oh, man, I’ve got a run in my hose.”
And so, we’re already running close to the wire. She goes back in the house to change her hose, comes back out, jumps in the car, gets the kids buckled in the backseat. And I looked over at her and I said, “Sugar, if you would take care of stuff like that ahead of time, you wouldn’t make us late.”
And she looked over at me and she said, “Well, if you would help me more with the kids to get them ready instead of reading the Sports page, maybe I’d have had more time to get my hose on right.”
And I said, “It wasn’t the Sports page!! I was reading my Sunday School lesson!”
And I’m backing out of the driveway and now the kids join in and they jump on me and they take her side. And boy, I cut loose! I mean, I committed about 15 sins there and got to Sunday School, got out of the car, got the kids out and so forth. And then I pasted on my smiley face, you know, “Isn’t it wonderful to be saved?” And walked into Sunday School.
“Hey, Bill, how are you doing?”
“Oh, just great. It’s wonderful to be a Christian, isn’t it?”
And so it was about like maybe 11:30 in the morning before I ever got around to asking God to forgive me.
Now, gang, I couldn’t remember some of those sins that I had committed. Oh, I remembered those two—those really biggies where I really unloaded on Annabelle and the kids. So I asked God to forgive me of those two, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out the rest of them. So I asked my mentor, you know, “What do I do about this?”
And he explained, “Oh, well, Bill, God only expects you to ask for forgiveness of the sins that you can remember. Those other ones don’t really count.”
Now, a little alarm went off inside me because as I understood it, God was very uptight about sins. I mean, He gave His own Son that we might have forgiveness of our sins. And He wasn’t about to sweep anything under the rug. And that launched me on a long search through God’s Word to see what God had to say to me about forgiveness. And I’m delighted to say that God showed me that we are forgiven of all our sins.
Look at it like this. From birth to death is your slice of the earth walk. Now, from the present backwards you think of as the past because you’re a time critter. From present forward you think of as the future because you’re a time critter. In fact, you think of now as “the Present” because you’re a time critter. And we’ve already shown that God is like a man in a helicopter who hovers over and sees the entire time dimension as present tense.
Now, you put the cross of Jesus Christ in there and get you saved, how many of your sins did God lay on Christ 2,000 years ago?
And you answer me, “Well, Bill, all my sins were put on Christ.”
Question: “Well, how many of your sins had you committed 2,000 years ago?” And the answer to that is, “None of them.”
Now, I want to ask you a question. Are you telling me, then, that all of your sins were future sins when Jesus went to the cross? Of course. That’s a nobrainer. Can God forgive future sins? If He can’t, we’re all in a peck of trouble in this year! Our modern Christians are in a peck of trouble because all of our sins were future sins when Christ went to the cross. And gang, that’s what the Bible teaches: that God has forgiven us of all our sins.
Ankerberg: Now, what does it mean to say that God has forgiven us all of our sins? How can we comprehend and think about the fact that God has forgiven us not only of the past and the present, but even our future sins? Does that mean that I can sin all I want to because I’m already forgiven? The answer is obviously “no.” But what’s the reason why? I asked Bill to answer this question and here’s what he said. Listen:
Gillham: Well, let me answer your question with a question. How much do you want to? See, you don’t want to. Oh, I know you’re tempted to, but you don’t crave sin. Now, a lot of people, they lie awake at nights dreaming about new innovative ways that they can sin tomorrow. Saved people watch Christian TV to try to figure out how to quit.
God fixed you where you don’t want to sin. He changed your “wanter.” Oh, I know you’re tempted. Now, you want to get your needs met and that’s fine. But you’re not to try to meet your needs yourself. But God’s Word says, “I will supply all of your needs according to Christ’s riches in glory.” Oh, I know you’re tempted. You’re tempted strongly, especially if you’ve got some kind of physical addiction. Let’s say smoking for example. But see, that’s a physical addiction now. I personally am convinced that one of the first things the devil will do to a Christian who smokes is to try to get them to give up cigarettes. Because if he can block you from doing that, if He can keep hammering you with this, with the condemnation, he’ll get you so down on yourself. You’ve got to understand that God has dealt with your sins. He has forgiven you. Of course He’s not winking at your sins. It’s just that He has washed them away with the blood of Jesus Christ and He has invaded you with His Spirit to live an overcoming life through you. And He will let you know when it’s time for you to lay aside your cigarettes and you’ll know that it’s God who has done it instead of you doing it for God.
Ankerberg: In 1 John 1:9 we are told, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Now, the question arises, If God has already forgiven us of all sins past, present and future, then why do we need to confess our sins to Him? Bill explains:
Gillham: Now, maybe you’ll ask, “Are we to confess our sins?” And I believe the answer to that is “Yes. We should confess our sins.” We’ve got to get them up on the table and deal with them and agree with God that we have done this bad thing because if we don’t, we’re going to begin to withdraw inside.
Now, I want to tell you a story about my dog named Bubbles. Annabelle and I were young marrieds and we both taught school. And we had this old English bull dog named Bubbles. In the wintertime we’d leave Bub in our little three-room house and we’d come home after work and open the front door and there we’d have a great reunion and all the wiggling and whining—Bubbles, not Annabelle. And we had a great reunion there. Now, on a couple of occasions when we came home, unlocked the door and walked in, no Bubbles. And we called her, “Hey, Bub!” No Bubbles. So we started looking for her. Couldn’t find her anywhere. I noticed a tuck underneath the bedspread and so I got down on my knees and lifted up that bedspread, looked underneath there and there’s Bub. She’s paralyzed with fear underneath that bed.
And Annabelle says, “Come here. I see the problem.”
And so we go back into the kitchen by the back door and there is this big puddle where Bubbles’ bladder warranty had expired.
Now, Bub is a Christian and I am her God. And her sin has separated her from her God. Now, she doesn’t know that I’ve already dealt with her sin problem. I’ve already dealt with that. I’ve already forgiven her. I gave her a blanket forgiveness. Do you know why? Because I knew her heart. I knew that her heart wasn’t that as soon as I left the house she was going to say, “Oh boy!” and go around and mark all the furniture. Her heart was to please me, her God.
Now, you see, this is why God can trust you and me because He has written His law on our heart. Now, I think that means we have a deep yearning to be pleasing to God now. We want to please God. And God knows that and because of that He has forgiven us of all our sins. But if we don’t confess it, we’re going to hide underneath that bed to keep away from Him.
Now, here’s what you need to do, Christian. If you’re in that situation, you need to get out from underneath that bed.
Ankerberg: Now, doesn’t God say in 1 John 1:9 that we are to confess our sins before He will forgive us? Isn’t our forgiveness conditional upon our confessing them? Bill puts this verse into context and answers that question.
Gillham: Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Well, what about 1 John 1:9?” Well, let’s take a look at that: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Gang, that is the only verse you’re going to find after the cross where you can build half of a case that we’re supposed to ask God to forgive us and then He’ll do so. The only verse after the cross. All the other verses after the cross talk about how we’re already forgiven of all our sins.
Now, I agree with you that we should confess our sins. That’s my Bubbles illustration, the dog. You’ve got to get them up on the table or you will hide under the bed. But you’ve got to get them up on the table understanding that you’ve already forgiven. So the way to do it is, “Sir, I did that. I hate it. I don’t like to live like that. But thank you, God, thank you that I’m a forgiven, righteous saint of God. Thank you.”
Well, then what about 1 John 1:9? Well, folks, Gnosticism was a big problem in the churches at that time. The Gnostics believed that all matter was evil. Therefore, Jesus couldn’t have been a human because He would have been evil, and He couldn’t have been our Savior. So that version of Christianity wasn’t really Christianity at all. They believed the body could go ahead and do its evil things but that you played these kind of mind games with God and kind of these spiritual games and that was okay. In other words, they weren’t really born again.
Now, the little short book of 1 John was inspired by the Holy Spirit to John and it deals with the problem of wheat and tares in the Church. Thirty-one times it contrasts Christians versus non-Christians, or wheat versus tares. I believe that 1 John 1:9 is part of that contrast. And if you’ll read it closely from verse 1 down through 9 and track it down through there, I believe that you’ll see that it’s addressing a lost person who may think that he’s born again but he’s really not.
Ankerberg: Now, many of you have committed sins in the past for which you still feel guilty. Bill gives some wonderful news to those of you who have brought past sin to the Lord, agreed with Him that you did it and turned away from it.
Gillham: I’ll never forget the telephone call one time from a pastor. And when he was a teenager he was sexually promiscuous, and he was promiscuous as a Christian teenager. And finally he got everything right with God and repented of all that and began to walk with God, and the Holy Spirit called him to be a pastor. When he was about 40 years old, married and had some kids and so forth, he had been preaching and exhorting his teenagers and his church against being sexually promiscuous. And he began to feel guilty because he had all these memories about what had happened in his past. And he was really kind of a basket case when he called me. It was between sobs that he was telling me his story. He was all set to resign his church. He just felt so unworthy to be in that position of leadership. And he just felt like he couldn’t exhort them not to do the thing that he had done when he was a teenager as well. And so as we talked, I finally felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me to tell him the story about Bubbles, the dog. And so I shared that with him and shared with him from the Word of God how he was already forgiven of all those sins and that he was completely righteous–meaning he’s all right now; he’s acceptable to God, and completely forgiven and acceptable to God.
And so at the end he says, “Well, then, what can I do?”
I said, “George, you need to agree with God and then get out from under that bed and run into His arms.”
And he wrote me some weeks later and told me that his pastorate was restored; he was renewed in his faith and that he was off and running again. Oh, my brother, my sister, how important it is that you understand that you are a forgiven person! Not so you can sin with abandon. Quite the opposite! It’s so that you can agree with God about the heinousness of your sins and agree with Him that He has forgiven you, and when you sin, you confess that. You get it up on the table real quickly. Don’t get under the bed. Move on out in faith, believing that Christ is living through you, overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil. And He’ll do it.