"A faith and practice that make you happy without being holy is but a sham. Indeed, it cannot fail of being utterly mischievous, for it lures and pleases without the least advance toward saving your soul. It only leaves you the more a slave of sin and Satan."1 - Charles G. Finney
Because many today struggle with besetting sin, unable to find the keys to freedom from sin, the innovators have developed a modern gospel that our fathers in the faith would scarcely have recognized. This gospel, rather than showing the way to freedom from sin, instead gives the bound and disillusioned Christian a new way of thinking about the sin that so rules their lives. Itís a means for living a "happy" and "victorious" Christian life without being saved from sin.
This modern gospel does not provide for freedom from sin, but rather freedom to sin. It gives lovers of pleasure license to pursue the sin that they so love, yet without consequence. However, this modern gospel doesnít sooth the minds or hearts of those who hate their sins. Those who hate their sins turn to the innovators looking for freedom, only to be told, "Oh, donít worry, when Jesus sees you He sees you as perfect, for when He sees you, He sees the blood." This tag line of the modern gospel provides little comfort for those who hate their sin, for it is freedom they seek, not just pardon.
Do you hate that sin that rules your life? I have good news for you! God is stronger than sinÖ your sin and mine. Jesus Christ is able to save from sin, not by simply paying the price for sin and thereby saving from the punishment of sin. No, Jesus can save us from our sins, not just from hell. You see, the church today has made it a heaven or hell issue, when all the while it is sin that has separated man from his God. God is in love with man and therefor has found a way to save us from that which keeps us from our beloved savior. However, many have in essence said, "Thatís ok God, Iíll find other joys in life, just keep me out of hell. After all, I believe in you." With many it has become a heaven or hell issue, but with God it is and has always been a sin issue. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Is. 59:2 NIV).
Christians settle for so little when Christ has provided for so much. Many Christians have not found the secrets of forgiveness, cleansing, and sanctification, so they settle for forgiveness (whether real or imagined) and remain bound by sin, wandering in a desert unwilling to pay the price to enter the Promised Land. They are barred from the promised land by either the rebellion of ignoring Godís command to seek Him till they find Him, or by their unbelief that God is really more powerful than the sin that so rules their lives.
"For if, when we were Godís enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Rom. 5:10 NIV). Jesus Christ is able to save from sin. He didnít die only to justify the sinner, but to cleanse the sinner as well. He not only can forgive sin, but He can take sin away! In scripture, the leper is a type of the sinner, and just as Jesus was able to cleanse the leper, He is able to cleanse the sinner as well. And so, to the cleansing of the leper we turn for the truth that will free many from the deception of a god who overlooks or covers up sin because he is too weak deal with it.
Justified, Washed, and Sanctified
Paul writes to the church at Corinth concerning sinners, "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" (1 Cor. 6:11 KJV). In this verse of scripture we see the three levels of cleansing that a Christian must experience in order to be truly clean, and these three experiences are illustrated for us in the ceremonial cleansing of the leper as seen in Leviticus chapter fourteen. The three levels are first: justification, second: washing, and third: sanctification.
Leviticus 14:1-8 reads as follows:
"1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;
4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
6. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:
7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field.
8. And he that is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days."
This verse of scripture contains many wonderful types of Christ and of His payment for our sins, but we will focus on verses seven and eight. Remember we said that the three levels of cleansing found in 1 Cor. 6:11 are justification, washing, and sanctification. We see those three levels of cleansing here in Leviticus 14:7,8. In verse seven, the leper is sprinkled with the blood seven times. This, of course, is a type of Christís blood, and speaks of justification.
Just as the leper was sprinkled seven times, seven being the number of completion, so our justification is not just a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process. 1 John 1:7 says, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." The tense of the word "purifies" (NIV) in this passage indicates a present ongoing process, rather than a past one-time event. Contrary to popular belief, we are not justified one time for all future sins at the time of our conversion2, but rather we are continually justified by Christís blood in response to genuine repentance, and on the condition of walking in the light. It is an ongoing process, for Romans 1:17 says, "ÖThe just shall live by faith." The leper was sprinkled seven times (the number of completion), and we must be sprinkled until our life on Earth is complete.
Christís blood has provided for our justification, which is a legal term that means Christ regards us as innocent or just. Justification not only makes us just in Christís eyes but also cleanses our consciences. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14 KJV).
Justification works by faith; a true faith, which will always produce works (Ja. 2:24). Justification or forgiveness is obtained through repentance, and repentance means to turn away from sin or to change your mind in regard to sin. There is no forgiveness for the person who loves their sin and intends to continue therein, for Hebrews 10:26 says, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins". Ezekiel 3:20, 21 shows us that a righteous man who turns from his righteousness will not have the righteous things that he did remembered. Numbers 15:27-31 shows us that there is a sacrificial offering and forgiveness for a person that sins unintentionally, but for the person that sins willfully and defiantly, there is no sacrifice for their sins, and their guilt remains. There is justification for the person who falls again and again, but not for the person who says, "I'll just go ahead and do what I know is wrong, and then ask the Lord to forgive me", or "I'm going to go my way, even though I know it's not His way."
Proverbs 24:16 says, "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up againÖ". There is justification for the person who falls again and again. Justification is an ongoing process, for the just shall live by faith (Rom 1:17). However, our goal is not justification, but washing and ultimately sanctification. Justification puts us in right standing with God and clears our conscience so that we might draw near to the priest who is able to cleanse us of our sin. "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22 NIV).
"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" (1 Cor. 6:11 KJV). The word "washed" in this passage of scripture is the Greek word "apolouo", which means to wash fully. This is what Paul was told to do with his sins: to wash his sins away by baptism in Acts 22:16. This does not refer to Paulís conversion or justification, for he became a "brother" on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:17). This refers to washing from outward sins or besetting sins, which is typified by the leper washing his cloths in Leviticus 14:8. This speaks of the clean white robe of righteousness. This speaks of outward acts or works of righteousness, for as it says in 1 John 3:7, "ÖHe who does what is right is righteousÖ". Revelation 19:8 says, "íFine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.í (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)".
When I was a teen-ager, I was bound by youthful lusts, sensual sins, and iniquities handed down to me from my father. I went to a Bill Gothard seminar on basic youth conflicts, and was taught that the path to freedom from sin was to "reckon" myself dead to sin, to visualize this process, and to engraft the word of God into my soul by memorizing Romans chapter six, and by meditating therein day and night. So, I did so. In fact, I quoted most of Romans chapter six so much (nearly all day every day) that I can still rattle off some of that chapter today without thought. However, it didnít work. I remained a slave to my sin for many years.
I would meditate on this chapter constantly, and I would repeat it in my head many times per day. Then, when temptation would come, to this scripture I would turn. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, liveÖ" My scripture quoting would end, and to the pigsty of sin I would return, for I was not dead to sinÖ not by a long shot. I was free from sin as long as it made no demand upon me, but when it cracked its whip, I would helplessly follow the tug of its ugly black chains shackled to my wrists and ankles. I was sinís slave and very much alive to sin, and no amount of scripture quoting could change that fact.
I repented and promised and forsook a thousand times. Each time convinced that I would never return to my sin again, but when sin cracked its whip, my will yielded every time without exception. I found no object, no truth with which I could severe the chains that held me in slavery, and so I learned to live the "Christian" life in slavery to sin.
I didnít find freedom from besetting sin until years later, when Jesus, my high priest, whom I had come to love more than my sin, sprinkled clean water on me and cleansed me from my uncleannesses (Ez. 36:25). He also saved me from the idols of my heart and from iniquities handed down from my father. Now, I am dead to these sins, and I have a clean white robe that has been washed in pure water. This is what it speaks of in 1 Corinthians 6:11 when it speaks of being washed. This is what Leviticus 14:8 speaks of when it speaks of washing the leperís clothing. This speaks of freedom and cleansing from besetting sin, from works of the flesh as listed in Galatians chapter five.
Once the leper had washed his clothing, he was required to shave off all of his hair, which speaks of cutting off the dead works of the flesh, or religious works. Some of the very things we do in order to find freedom and cleansing from sin are nothing but works of the flesh. The leper was brought to the priest for cleansing, and anything that draws you near to Christ, anything that brings you into the manifested presence of God is a work of the Spirit. Any religious activity outside of the presence of God is simply an empty form that is meant to hold the substance of heaven, which is the glory of God. Any religious activity that doesnít draw you near to Christ is a dead work of the flesh, a religious sham. Cut it off!
The reason Bill Gothardís method did not work for me was the basic premise behind it, or perhaps the basic premise behind what I understood, rather than what he taught, was in error. I understood that to reckon myself dead to sin meant to believe or pretend that this was already necessarily the case because I was born again. Many Christians in America are deceived by this error concerning many of their positions in Christ. I thought that if I memorized this scripture and meditated on it day and night, thereby engrafting it in my soul, I would then start to walk by faith in that which was already mine. However, now I know that that which is ours by inheritance must be obtained and worked out in us experientially for it to be ours in reality. "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Mat. 6:10 KJV). That which is done in heaven must be worked out in us on Earth.
Now I know by experience that "to reckon" does not mean "to pretend", "to presume", or even "to believe". It means that when God brings you experientially to the place that you become a bondservant by laying down your entire life in a surrender of your will as an act of love, you then see your life as to be lived only for the one you love, rather than for self or sin. You reckon yourself dead to sin and alive to Christ, for every inclination of your heart has already been changed to desire His pleasure over your own. This reckoning is not a sort of pretending, which is meant to bring about the end result, but is rather the logical deduction of your mind when your will has been impaled on the doorpost of love and surrender.
Only God can bring a person to the doorpost. Any reckoning, or visualization, or pretending are only works of the flesh that must be cut off. Only obedience and time spent in Godís presence will precipitate the work of the revelation of the cross that will bring a person to cleansing and freedom from sin. God has provided for our freedom from besetting sin, and our Priest is well able to sprinkle clean water on His own and cleanse us from sin, but only a surrender of the will in love will bring freedom from sin. Only the voluntary surrender of slavery to Christ will break the chains of slavery to sin (Rom. 6:22). Only an embracing of the work of the cross can bring freedom from sin, for "He that is dead is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7).
I once heard a woman telling about her Christian experience. She was radically saved and had a strong commitment to Christ, but could not break her habit of smoking. She tried everything she knew, all to no avail. So, she turned to a spiritual man for advice, knowing that he could share with her the secret to freedom from this addiction. In great wisdom and insight, this man told her, "Donít worry about quitting smoking, just worry about falling in love with Jesus." What insight! This man new the secret to freedom from sin.
Later, as she found herself in love with her savior, she found herself no longer desiring cigarettes. She found that the key to freedom from slavery to sin is slavery to Christ from a heart bound by loveís strong cords. "Jehovah is God, and he hath given us light: Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (Ps. 118:27 NAS). "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Rom. 6:18 NIV). Slavery to Christ out of a heart of love is the key to freedom from slavery to sin. Thatís how we find cleansing from besetting sin. Thatís how we wash our garments as typified by the leper washing his clothing.
There is, however, a deeper cleansing than that of the washing of the garments. To be truly clean, the leper had to wash his body, not just his clothing. This speaks not of outward acts of righteousness but of inward motives of the heart. I Cor. 6:11 says, "ÖBut you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." This word "sanctified" is the Greek word "hagiazo", which means to make holy. This speaks of the hidden motives and desires of the heart; those things that only God sees unless he reveals them to man.
Despite what the religious heart tries to tell us, God is more interested in the motives of the heart than he is with the actions of the person. Since God continually looks upon the heart, He is most interested in cleansing it. We donít see the heart, but rather the outward appearances, and therefor, we are not nearly as interested in pure hearts as God is. "ÖMan looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7 NIV).
If justification is a legal term pertaining to our right standing with God and to a clear conscience, and washing speaks of the righteousness of our outward acts (how we live in secret as well as in public), then sanctification speaks of our nature. It speaks of inward character. It speaks of who we are, and not just what we do, but why we do what we do. Godís desire is to make us into His image, to make our inward nature like His, to make us holy (hagios). "Because it is written, Be ye holy (hagios); for I am holy (hagios)" (1 Pet. 1:6 KJV).
Years ago, I developed a great hunger for God and for the deeper things of God, and I began to seek God. At that time, I looked up to certain men of God much the way a young boy might look up to a professional athlete.
I began to seek God very intensely and had wonderful times of fellowship with God during this time. I had a true hunger for God, but I also had other motives that God just refused to overlook. At times I caught glimpses of some of these motives, but they always seemed so insignificant to me at the time. After all, I was in pursuit of God, what could be more noble than that?
Little by little, God began to show me the motives of my heart. You might say that in all my seeking of God in those years, I never found HimÖinstead, I found myself, and what I found was very ugly. I saw that I was seeking God so I could use Him to make me a great man, like the men of God that I had idolized. I wanted greatness. In fact, I used to wonder who was the greatest man of God on Earth, as though there were some sort of competition with score cards and statistics.
I used to spend many hours per day praying and earnestly seeking God. Of course, I always found it convenient to mention to people how many hours a day I was praying, and I found that I really didnít want God as much as I wanted greatness. I wanted to be great in the eyes of others and much of my hunger for God was just selfish ambition turned religious. This all sounds so vile and so ugly, but you know, I never saw any of it until God began to uncover my motives and make me face them. "How could you not see such vile motives?" you might ask. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9 KJV).
Donít kid yourself. Man is capable of doing the most noble and pious things for purely selfish reasons. Love is supposed to be our soul motive for everything we do, but many times we are motivated by all sorts of things other than love: fear, pride, jealousy, selfishness, deception, ambition. Ambition Ė thereís a motive that can masquerade as true devotion to God. Selfish ambition Ė just desiring to go up instead of down, to be great instead of small, to be seen instead of hidden, first instead of last, important instead of insignificant, used instead of still. We can ignore it, but God sees it.
You see, God sees all our motives as clearly as we see actions, and He overlooks NOTHING. God wonít overlook character for the sake of accomplishment. God is more interested in who you are than He is in what you can do for Him. Heís just kind of funny that way. We are so goal oriented, we believe the end justifies the means. We believe the goal justifies the motives. Not so with God. "For the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him" (2 Chr. 16:9 NAS).
The innovators are so goal oriented that they have created this modern gospel that purports to save man from hell whether his heart is filthy or not. Those that propagate this modern gospel donít so much care whether the man being "saved" ever comes into union with God, so long as he escapes hell and makes heaven, for heaven is their goal. If union with God is at all a focus of the innovators, it is as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Once again, the innovators have missed the very essence of salvation.
Salvation is restoring man to his God. Salvation is saving man from that which keeps him from the one who loves him so. Salvation is the restoration of what was lost in the garden when man sinned against God. Salvation is saving man from sin, not just hell, for it is sin that separates man from his God. Outer darkness is just the logical end for a man who walks in darkness.
This is not the gospel that God has chosen from the beginning, this gospel of heaven without holinessÖ this gospel of heaven as the end and union with God as the means at best, or ignored at worst. No, God has chosen us to salvation, the restoration of man to God, through holiness. "ÖGod hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification (hagiasmos) of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thes. 2:13 KJV). "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness (hagiasmos) no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14 NIV).
Many Christians that have not come into true salvation themselves are out trying to evangelize others. However, a man that has not come into true salvation, salvation in all its fullness, cannot bring true salvation to others. Nor can he appease Godís searching eyes that uncover every hidden motive and intention of the heart. Godís searching eyes look for true love and holiness in the heart of man, and God would rather a man search out the path to true salvation, than to propagate a gospel that is powerless to truly save from sin and selfishness.
Romans 6:22 gives us in concise form, the steps to true salvation: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Are these not the steps that we have gone over already: freedom from sin, slavery to Christ, holiness, and eternal life?
In 1 Peter 1:2, we see these steps in reverse order, "who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying (sanctification) work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ (washing) and sprinkling by his blood (justification) Ö".
Sanctification correlates to the washing of the leperís body, for Ephesians 5:26 says that Christ sanctifies His bride or makes her "Öholy (hagiazo), cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (rhema),". This word "washing" is the Greek word "loutron", which means to wash the body fully, to take a bath, as opposed to washing only part or washing the clothing. This goes beyond simply washing the leperís garments or the outward actions, but cleanses the leperís body, or the motives of the heart. Christís bride not only wears spotless garments, but she is going to be spotless through and through, hallelujah!
I canít tell you how many times Iíve heard preachers say, "God sees you as perfect, for when He sees you, He sees the blood of Jesus." Youíve heard this many times as well, and perhaps have accepted it as gospel. However, this is not the Glorious Gospel handed down to us by our fathers, but a new gospel developed by the innovators to ease the minds of Christians bound by sin. You know, as I read the "letter" sent from Jesus to the seven churches, I see that He saw and addressed their sins, their weaknesses, and their strengths. He didnít see them as perfect. He saw them accurately and with pragmatism. He saw and addressed their true condition. If this is so, then why are preachers forever telling their flocks that they are perfect in Christís eyes? "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness" (Prov. 30:12 KJV).
You see, itís sinful man that covers things up or hides things, just as Adam covered himself to hide his nakedness from God. Thatís just a part of manís fallen nature, and so, the innovators have developed a popular doctrine that fits manís fallen thinking. However, God doesnít cover things up. God doesnít hide things in a sort of stupor of self-deception. Nothing in the universe is hidden from Godís searching eyes, and so, the hearts of men are open before God as well (Pro. 15:11). Heís not interested in covering sin up, any more than He would hide a large cancerous growth with a new sport coat. No, God is interested in saving us from the cancer that threatens our health and life, not with hiding this cancer behind our own ignorance of our true condition, even if we call this ignorance something religious like "the blood of Jesus".
No, God doesnít kid Himself, nor does He hide sin. Yes, God forgives sin, but God isnít stupid, He sees our true condition, even if we donít. "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God" (1 Cor. 4:4,5 NIV).
If you love your sin, then you certainly love this new gospel that the innovators have developed just for you. However, if you hate the sin that keeps you from the One you love, then Iím here to tell you what your heart already knows: Jesus can not only forgive your sin, but cleanse you from your sin and change your very nature. Yes, He is stronger than sin! Yes, He can save from sin! He doesnít have to just find a way to sort of cover it up cause itís too strong for Him to take away. No, Jesus is stronger than the sin that so rules your life! Draw near to Him. Seek Him. Fall in love with your High Priest and He will sprinkle clean water on you and cleanse you from all your iniquities (Ez. 36:25).
When you surrender the surrender of the bondservant, or the love slave, you will find that slavery to Christ will free you from slavery to besetting sin, and youíll free God to begin to work on your nature; your inward character. If you long for freedom from sin, come to your High Priest and get the blood applied, get your garments washed, and get your body cleansed with pure water. Just think, one day it will be said of you, "And such were some of you (speaking of sinners): 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" (1 Cor. 6:11 KJV).
2. The tense and mood of the Greek word translated "justified", as it is used throughout the New Testament, seems to indicate that it is a past, a present ongoing, and a future event, like salvation. The scripture teaches that "I was saved (2 Tim 1:9), I am being saved (1 Cor. 1:18), I will yet be saved (Rom. 5:9,10)." The same can be said of justification (remember, though, that justification and salvation are not synonymous): I was justified when I first believed, I am justified as I repent and walk in the light, and I shall be found just in the day of judgement (Mat. 12:36,37).