Why I’m Not The Better Mom, Part 2: In Which I Distance Myself From Heresy

I think I could have been clearer in my last post about my understanding of sanctification. I expanded a bit in the comments after Brad pointed out the lack (thank you!), and hopefully that helps on that score. Here are R.W. Glenn’s timely thoughts on sanctification.

But there’s another way in which I think I could be clearer–and that’s in regard to antinomianism–something I’ve understood in principle, but only recently learned the name for when reading about a crisis going on with Exodus International. Hang in there reader, this is important stuff.

Antinomianism is the belief that God’s moral law has no hold on Christians–that even when living in open, acknowledged sin, you are still acceptable to God because of grace. This is huge in our culture and it’s patting a lot of people on the back on their way to hell.

I want to be crystal clear about this: I believe that one of the marks of a Christian is hatred of sin and love of Jesus (who is our Righteousness). Living in open sin and being impenetrable to correction is a sign that the new birth has not happened.

Here’s why: Because once you’ve been awash with grace and had your sins forgiven (past, present and future) it’s impossible to feel OK about continuing on in sin. I think antinomianism is exactly what Paul addresses in Romans 6 when he says, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means!”

Here’s my understanding from Scripture. The Old Testament moral law of the Bible is completely fulfilled in Jesus–he followed it perfectly AND he followed it perfectly on my behalf, that’s part of substitution. Not only that, he explained the point behind it: heart attitudes. So, he takes “Do not murder,” and explains it, expands it–saying that anyone who hates his brother in his heart has murdered him.

So not only should I not murder, my heart is told not to feel certain things and to feel other things, like love my neighbor. Feelings! That’s utterly impossible for me to control–apart from the new birth. Old Testament rules about hand-washing I can at least try and DO. Feelings? Not so much. The new birth gives me a new heart that gives me new feelings, new desires. My new desires actually want to keep the law that Jesus has given–not to earn my salvation, but as the result of my salvation.

I also need to say a word about repentance. Repentance is not optional for the Christian. It also isn’t some legalistic thing, it’s just evidence of what has happened to us–having our sins forgiven and being born again.

A Christian who doesn’t repent, doesn’t exist.

If you’re a Christian, you’re new heart is a repentant one. And it will be repentant until Jesus comes again, because sin still lives on in us.

Evidence isn’t legalism. It’s just a sign of what’s there. If I say I love God, but hate my brother, there’s a problem, not because God is requiring me to fulfill the law, but because it doesn’t show evidence of a new heart who’s had the law fulfilled on its behalf. Now, I could love God and hate my brother and hate that I hate my brother and be very sorrowful for hating my brother and ask the Lord to give me a loving heart toward my brother. That’s evidence of a new heart. Ask and it will be given to you, dear Christian.

Patience is needed when it comes to turning from sin. We all have blind spots that may take repeated times of pointing out for us to see. The point is, do we want to see? And when we see, do we want to turn?

We must also remember that what Jesus describes as His follower has nothing to do with food, exercise, schedules and the like. Being His follower IS about a host of other things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It IS about turning from sexual impurity, unnatural relations, drunkenness, slander, gossip, cowardice, malice, envy, strife, and so on.

The miracle of the new birth is that my heart actually desires to abide with the Spirit which produces the fruit. The miracle of the new birth is that my heart actually hates sin and wants to turn from it. The struggle against it is still there and very real. We just need to be sure that sin is the issue, not adhering to made-up rules that make us feel superior to others.

Made-up cultural rules are what I want to do away with in the mom-world, but I want to embrace God’s loving, kind, gracious morality, that is for our good, that requires loving our neighbor and (here’s the miracle!) supplies the new heart with which to do it. 

I still can’t be better on my own or meet any requirements apart from Christ.

Antinomianism? No thanks.

The Better Mom? Not me.

Continuing in sin so that grace may abound? May it never be so.

Loving righteousness because of Jesus? Definitely.

Bought with a price, beloved of God, living in an ocean of grace? Yes, thank you Lord.


9 thoughts on “Why I’m Not The Better Mom, Part 2: In Which I Distance Myself From Heresy

  1. Evidence is not necessarily a sign of what’s there and that’s precisely the problem. All Christians without exception say they love God and then turn around and hate their brother or lust after the cute girl across the street or don’t pay their taxes. Even the sorrow afterwards is no evidence of the heart. We can’t see the heart so our job is not to deduce that a person isn’t saved or born again from the so-called “evidence” we see. We are not in the salvation business. God is. Our job is to preach the Law to reveal sin to people and then give them the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake.

    The new birth is not about giving us new feelings or desires, it’s about giving us Christ’s righteousness and that is what we cling to by faith IN SPITE of our feelings or desires or evidences. Even after the new birth, “if we desire to to what is right, we don’t have the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). We don’t do the good we want, but the evil we don’t want is what we keep on doing (Romans 7:19). That’s why we need to be given Christ daily (thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! -Romans 7:25).

    1. Hey Phillipe,

      I appreciate your comment. I want to respond with what I see in the Bible, because I know we agree that it is the Truth!

      I agree that every Christian (I could even say most Americans?) claims to love God. That does not mean that everyone who says they love God, does. How do we know? The Bible tells us this is the case and tells us we’ll know it by their actions. It also tells us we should keep track of who’s who (1 Cor 5). Can we always know for sure? No. We’re not God. But Paul (inspired by God) tells us it’s our duty (for the sake of the purity of the Gospel and Christ’s bride) to judge the church.
      James also talks about the silliness of saying you have faith, but with no evidence to back it up. God’s Word tells us that the new birth is both giving us an alien righteous and making us a new creation with new desires. I love the verse from Rom 7 you quoted. It’s is a picture of our life in the flesh and culminates in perhaps my favorite part of the whole Bible (if I’m allowed that). Here’s the context:
      “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
      (Romans 7:4-6 ESV)

      “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.
      There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
      You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
      (Romans 7:21-25-8:1-10 ESV)

      We are given new desires, because the Spirit of life now reigns in us. Flesh is there, yes, it is a contrary law, but it doesn’t reign. Our heart of stone has been removed and the evidence of it is EVERYWHERE in the life of a believer! Salvation is not hidden under a basket! When it happens, both the world and the Church can see it (Matthew 5)! The work is mysterious and the saving belongs only to God–the evidence of it is glorious and breathtaking for all to see.

      Sorrow over sin marks believers:
      “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.
      For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
      (2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV)

      Lastly, the Bible tells us that there those who must be put away from us because what they say and do doesn’t match who they say they are–this makes a mockery of Jesus on the cross. Paul instructs Timothy to hand over to Satan certain blasphemers who had made shipwreck of their faith. And Paul similarly says in 1 Corinthians that those claiming the name of believer but not matching that claim with their lives must be purged.

      “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
      For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
      Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
      I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
      (1 Corinthians 5 ESV)

      I hope that’s helpful. The Word is my lamp.. I quote it a lot so that I can see where I’m going. Nothing I could say could be as persuasive as it is! Blessings to you.

      1. Thanks. We do indeed agree on the Truth of the Word. However, none of the verses you quote go from evidence to salvation, they more so call out sin which we are indeed to do (call out sin, the sexually immoral, the swindlers, etc…) That is what I meant by preaching the Law – accusing and killing sinners – and the Gospel – offering the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake and thereby giving Life. When you mix evidence with faith, you mix Law and Gospel and you send people to despair and anxiety rather than to the good news of the forgiveness of sins. This was the whole crux of the Reformation.

        The Gospel calls us to look away from ourselves to Christ. As such, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). That includes the supposed evidence we see in ourselves.

  2. By the way… Your aptly named blog, based on the hymn “My hope is built on nothing less” is the perfect example of what I’m saying. Our hope is built on nothing less than Christ’s righteousness. Everything around us, everything we see is “sinking sand”. We direct people away from themselves, away from internal evidences to Christ’s righteousness alone (our dress). Nothing in that hymn points the singer to themselves and their desires, etc. Blessings.

    1. Hi Philippe (sorry I misspelled your name before)
      ,Here’s my best attempt to respond, although I think we may not agree.

      Because of looking to Christ, I am a new creation. Behold, the old has gone, the new has come. Also Scripture says that Christ Himself and the Spirit of God dwell within me as a new creation. That is something quite different than looking inside myself autonomously and not looking to Christ. Quite the contrary, everything is Christ’s work–all the saving and sanctifying. I say with Paul, that I labor, yet it is not I, but Christ in me.

      Repentance and faith hold hands. They can’t be ripped apart. And God’s children, His sheep who hear His voice, who cannot be snatched out of His hand, do not neglect it. They are unable to, because of Christ’s work in them and for them. Whatever he requires, he supplies. And repentance looks like something and it doesn’t look like something else. God tells us what it does and doesn’t look like in some of the passages I mentioned before.

      Antinomianism gives people a false assurance. It doesn’t love people with the truth of the Word–I’m thankful Luther called it out during the reformation and I agree with him, because he agreed with the Bible. My goal in writing was to shed light on it and keep myself in line with the Word.
      Thanks, Abigail

      1. Yes you’re correct, we don’t agree and neither would Luther agree but I rejoice nonetheless that you give all credit to Christ for the saving and sanctifying. However, the categories you use and the way your apply Biblical verses undermine the Gospel and what I believe you really want to say. I also don’t think you correctly understand antinomianism… To preach the Law to convict, accuse and kill sinners as I’ve mentioned above (and believed by Luther and others) is far from antinomianism. It is actually the reverse, it is magnifying the Law and thereby Grace. Luther says this:

        “It is a marvelous thing and unknown to the world to teach Christians to ignore the Law and to live before God as though there were no Law whatever. For if you do not ignore the Law and thus direct your thoughts to grace as though there were no Law but as though there were nothing but grace, you cannot be saved. “For through the Law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). On the other hand, works and the performance of the Law must be demanded in the world as though there were no promise or grace. This is because of the stubborn, proud, and hardhearted, before whose eyes nothing must be set except the Law, in order that they may be terrified and humbled. For the Law was given to terrify and kill the stubborn and to exercise the old man. Both words must be correctly divided, according to the apostle (2 Tim. 2:25 ff.)”

        If you rely on evidence as a mark of faith or of “proper repentance” then you have made of faith a work (regardless of whether or not you admit it) and are now under a curse (Galatians 3:10). Evidence as a mark of salvation or faith turns faith inward, makes it reflective and destroys forensic justification. It literally turns faith into a work. The history of the Church bears this out as well. As I’ve mentioned before, we are to preach the Law to convict and the Gospel to save, that is far from antinomianism.

      2. Ab, I think you are being distracted by a shiny object here. The Luther quote Phil posted describes the role of the law and grace in salvation itself. It does not address the actions of the Christian once he is saved, that is the point of James 2 and, if I’m reading correctly, what you were trying to say. He is making a point that is not really a point other than to cause an argument about something that I don’t think you actually disagree about. Don’t feed the trolls.

  3. My favorite part of this post is:
    “We must also remember that what Jesus describes as His follower has nothing to do with food, exercise, schedules and the like. Being His follower IS about a host of other things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It IS about turning from sexual impurity, unnatural relations, drunkenness, slander, gossip, cowardice, malice, envy, strife, and so on.”

    I think there are many people (I know some) who think they just can’t follow Jesus because it will add all of these extra burdens (diet, exercise, making all their meals for a month in a day, running a home business, etc.), and there are cliques that can form at churches over these things, resulting in some people viewing negatively those that are not implementing this or that.

    I almost think that some of these things don’t even belong on Christian television, magazines, blogs, radio, or in our Sunday School classes and Bible studies. Maybe people should just work out times to develop their interests apart from the church campus. I’m reminded of one TV host who had a segment on his Christian show called “Skinny Wednesday” featuring exercise tips. Maybe Christians who want to run programs like this should just start topical magazines or TV programs and not mix them with Gospel programs. Perhaps it is going too far to suggest that. But it can be a real distraction, and even a misrepresentation, of what it means to be a Christian. You have said it much better, and I hope that what you have written will bring about change.

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