Not Conquering Sin

My wife recently pointed out an article on Preacher’s Files ( about overcoming sin. It took me back to all those sermons that I carefully listened to and followed to the T that did not–I repeat NOT–help me to conquer my sins. Why? First a short summary of the article:

The first item in the article sums up the Church of Christ theology that I grew up with on conquering sin: The proper use of our Bibles will help us to overcome sin. The Churches of Christ, a product of post Renaissance modernism, have always relied on knowledge to conquer anything emotional or volitional in one’s life. (I am referring here to the Restoration Movement, which continues to grow and evolve, about 20% of Churches of Christ are still rigid and sectarian.) So it is natural that they would turn to biblical knowledge. But what biblical knowledge are they talking about? The author of the article emphasizes God’s truth. And what truth you might ask? The truth that sin is sin (as defined in the Bible) and that sin is not pleasing to God, and God will punish sinners.

Whew! Well then let’s skim down and see if there is anything else in this article to help us–oh wait, nope! Nothing else. That is the sum total of how we are to conquer sin: Sin is evil, God will punish us. (Though in his next sermon outline he talks about forgiveness.)

The interesting thing is that this principle is not even biblical. Of course sin is evil and we could come up with all kinds of examples of things that are evil, and on about half of them we might even agree that they are evil items. And we might even agree that God is angry at the hurting and discouraging of people. But if we were to say that that is the sum total of the equipment we are to use to conquer sin, we would actually be counter to New Testament theology.

Let’s start with Jesus: In John 8 they dragged a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and asked him if they should obey the Law of Moses and stone her for adultery. Jesus understood their devious treachery (the Romans would not allow them to stone anyone, and the Law of Moses said to stone both the man and the woman). They were just trying to trap Jesus into making a mistake: either speaking against the Law of Moses (don’t stone her) or speaking against the Romans (stone her). Either way he was toast.

But Jesus was more concerned about the woman and how they had shamed her. He drew the attention away from the woman and wrote on the ground. Finally he said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” (The Law of Moses required the actual witnesses of the crime to throw the first stones.) They all left. Finally he said to the woman: “Does no-one condemn you?” “No-one, Lord,” she replied. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

It is the character of Jesus and his compassion that actually helps us conquer sin. It is looking into his eyes and seeing him not condemn us.

The apostle Paul had met Jesus’ forgiveness head on. In Romans chapter 6 he says: “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Grace is a gift of forgiveness. What conquers sin for us is the promise of forgiveness.

The Guilt Cycle: In literature about alcoholism there is often mention of the Guilt Cycle: First I feel lonely, then I go to my addiction (alcohol) for comfort, then I feel guilty, then I feel even more lonely, so I go to more alcohol, etc. But forgiveness breaks the cycle of Guilt.

It is the forgiveness of Christ that conquers sin.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Faith and Works, Grace, Psychology, Salvation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Not Conquering Sin

  1. BonneChance says:

    “The Churches of Christ, a product of post Renaissance modernism, have always relied on knowledge to conquer anything emotional or volitional in one’s life.”

    Very astute observation. Your conclusion that such theology downplays Christ and His forgiveness is also spot on. Great blog.

  2. Lori says:

    Since all things done by a true Christian has a book, chapter, and verse so that one may “prove all things” then how can “following the blue print in Acts” or any other book of the Bible when used in its context be “unscriptual” or outside of the perrimeters of what God would have us do?
    God uses the Bible to tell us what He wants from us. It isn’t a matter of emotional or legal law. It is what it is. God is the Creator of all. Who are we to say that we can do anything else and still be acceptable to Him?
    I was looking at your website, and I am very concerned. You mentioned staying with your congregation if it was docternally sound, but then much of the reasons sited that the Church of Christ is deemed unacceptable by this site are based on Scripture. God is not the author of confusion, but this site is confusing. Either you are for Bible Truths or you are not. You cannot be both.
    God tells us that we can have assurity of Heaven ….1 John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. ”
    We are saved by Grace through the Blood of Jesus Christ.

    Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

    But the “Faith Only” doctrine held by many is wrong as well, according to God’s Word…James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    So how is one saved? Well, there is full “blue print” in Acts, but that is not the only place in the Bible (however, if it were the only place that would be enough..God said it and that settles it).
    HEAR the word of truth. ( Romans 10:13-17 )
    BELIEVE the truth. ( Hebrews 11:6; John 8:24 )
    REPENT from all sins. ( Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38 )
    CONFESS name of Christ. ( Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:35-39 )
    Be BAPTIZED in His name. ( Mark 16:16; 1Pet 3:21; Col 2:12 )
    WALK in newness of life Be FAITHFUL unto death.( Romans 6:1-4; Revelation 2:10 )

    These are only a few verses that explain God’s Plan for mankind, and yes, Acts is sited but not alone…and again, if it had been just Acts…God gave us Acts.

    I know of “anti” congregations that proclaim that salvation is uncertain, but those congregations have been marked as being unGodly because God does not say that. We can fall from grace … James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

    So let’s put this together. We are saved by God’s grace, grace is freely given to those who have faith and our works show faith. So what happens if we stop our works? I think the answer to that is we would fall from grace. But there are no scriptures to back this up? Think again….

    Matthew 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

    1Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

    1 Tim. 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

    Heb. 2: 1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

    Heb. 3: 12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

    Heb. 4: 1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

    Heb. 4: 11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

    Heb. 12: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

    2 Peter 3: 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.

    The “Buger King Religion…Have It Your Way” is not founded in God’s Word…2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

    Regardless of what the sign outside of your building reads, if you do not follow ONLY the Word of God…ALL of It in Its context…without any man-made creeds, then you cannot belong to Christ and thusly cannot be a child of God.

    John 14:1“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4“And you know the way where I am going.” 5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. ”

    Eph. 4:4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. ”

    The “Church of Christ” is merely a name found in the Bible. Everything including its name must be Bible justified if a congregation is to be sound. What man decides to do with that name will be required of him to justify on the day of judgement.
    Romans 16: 16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. ”

    No one will be allowed by God to take any part of His Word and denounce it for any reason, especially due to it making one uncomfortable.
    Rev. 22:18 “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. ”

    I pray that this has had a beneficial affect on you and your readers, but I fear that it will not. May God bless you according to your works. It is up to you if that is a true blessing or a curse.

    • Kenny G says:


      You wrote: “I know of “anti” congregations that proclaim that salvation is uncertain, but those congregations have been marked as being unGodly because God does not say that. We can fall from grace … James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”” and all I can say to that is, wow, you seem pretty sure that you are the one who is right, not the “anti” COCers. Who marked the anti’s? You?

      Then you go on: “Regardless of what the sign outside of your building reads, if you do not follow ONLY the Word of God…ALL of It in Its context…without any man-made creeds, then you cannot belong to Christ and thusly cannot be a child of God.” You will certainly insist that you follow the creed you just wrote. But that’s a person who believes they can be perfect talking. Are you a perfectionist? Then you will ever be haunted by your imperfections. This is why God made Grace, to free us from perfectionism.

      Hey, good luck with your faith, I’m sure God’s grace will cover you. I’m also sure it’ll cover me. I’m not expecting this to have a beneficial effect…

  3. Hi Lori,

    Just two points that trouble me about your comment:

    1. In your list of what to do to be saved, you left out the action of the Holy Spirit. I have noticed that the Church of Christ deliberately does not follow some of the scriptures, especially the scriptures about the Holy Spirit. In one of the scriptures you cited, Acts 2:38, Luke says that Peter commanded the early believers to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and they would received the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was on the day that the people saw and heard something that the apostles said was clearly from the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

    2. You quote liberally from the book of Hebrews, yet leave out the scriptures that tell the basic theme of the book. The book is written so that the Hebrew believers would be totally convinced that God is on their side, to embolden the Hebrews when they talked to God, so that they would be 100% convinced that they were in God’s family. The Churches of Christ I am familiar with, trade in fear. Yet in Hebrews 2:15 the writer of the book says that fear (of death) is what keeps us in slavery to sin, with our sins unconquered.

    The Baptists teach once saved always saved. The Churches of Christ teach once saved, never saved. Your last item in your plan of salvation is to “be faithful until death”. In fact almost all of the items on your list are things we have to do. Nothing on your list is what God does. Your list shows a distinct lack of faith in God as an active force that loves and saves us. In fact your list is is the opposite of what the book of Hebrews teaches.

  4. Bill in Tennessee says:

    You know, this kind of back and dorth is exactly why I left the Church of Christ — and all religion for that matter. Trying to “prve” something by scripture presupposes a basis of beliving the Bible to be a true revelation from a god, a revelation that just needs to beinterpreted the correct way.

    I don’t believe in God or a god or a three-headed god or gods or ghosts or angels or demons or devils or spirits or witches of cherubim or any of this other nonsense. The legalistic parsing of ancient often-contradictory writings is what the Church of Christ (especially) is all about. You don’t need “God as an active force that loves and saves us.” Saves us from what? From anger that this mean-ass god gave you free will and then intends to send you to hell for exercising it? The CofC teaches that we should be “safe” by obeying convoluted rules tortuously extracted from the Bible. Safe? As if a god is out there somewhere is just waiting for you to step out of the lane so you can be disqualified and sent to the penalty box, in this case an eternal hell? How stupid is it to believe something like that?

    Lori, I urge you to put aside this rationization of an invisible being, never seen or heard from, with his hard-to-decipher rule book (because it really makes no sense). Be free. Bible scriptures are interesting and sometime thought-provoking. But they were written by men for a certain purpose a long time ago. Put aside this childish belief in an invisible friend and rely on you own innate qualities to live a decent moral life. No one needs a god to to that.

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