Introduction ( Published Annually)
I feel led to take a short break from the “Eternal Security Series,” and go down a different road for a few articles, with a series called “Dying to Self Series.”
I have always felt that teaching must be based upon God’s Word and not experience, and that being submissive to the Holy Spirit and His leading is paramount.
And while I continue to believe this and practice it now, I believe the Holy Spirit is wanting me to convey something that I’ve been going through personally as of late, something very important that is taught in God’s word.
Outline of this Series
This series on dying-to-self has three parts:
Part 1 – Knowledge – The Problem – Self and Sin
This examination concerns the knowledge necessary to regard the problem of self and sin.
Part 2 – Wisdom – The Solution – From God’s Word
God’s word displays the wisdom that is necessary in order to gain the proper perspective, wherein we gain the correct attitude in learning how to die-to-self.
Part 3 – Understanding and Application – Enabling Dying-To-Self
Understanding, which is perception, Biblical perception, enabled only by the Holy Spirit: gives the opportunity for the correct application of how to specifically practice dying-to-self.
Up front I need to make it very clear that I am a wretched sinner.
I confess that I have wasted many years in my almost six decades pursuing too many worldly and selfish goals, and have done too many things to dishonor my Lord and Savior.
My life has not been the example, only Jesus is.
In fact, in spite of what many Christians present, we are all wretched sinners. John, in writing the first book of John chapter 1, verses 8 through 10 states:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.”
The first verb in this passage is seen in the Greek word (echo) translated into the English words “we have,” and is in the perfect tense, which means it is a current action that will never ever change.
It is obvious that John is referring to the fallen nature, and not the change that takes place with the resurrection body which is created in the spirit.
In verse 10, the Greek word (hamartano) is translated into the English word “sinned.” Though in the English it sounds like it is past tense, it is also in the present tense, meaning it is a current action that never ever changes. (Both of these Greek words are in the active voice, meaning the subject – you and I – do the actions. The listeners or readers of this text, to whom it is addressed do the actions, including the writer himself, John)
There is no getting around the fact that even after we become born-again children of God, we still actively sin due to our sin nature.
Sin is Sin
And worse yet, is that many believers attempt to rationalize their sins by separating sin into two categories, based upon the old testament sacrificial system (see Endnote #1), of intentional and unintentional sins. David said as recorded in Psalms 19:12-13
“Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. (13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.”
The “secret faults” spoken about in Psalms 19:12 is not talking about unintentional sin, as the Hebrew word (sawthar) here for “faults,” actually means hidden sins, sins that are concealed and not seen by everyone.
In fact, both these verses are talking about the same thing, it is not talking about two separate types of sins, the “them” is not found in the text, it is added by the translators to make the English sound correct.
When David speaks about being “innocent from the great transgression,” it means the “great rebellion,” and is speaking about salvation, wherein the Hebrew word “rebellion” is always spoken about as being done by those who are against God, not believers
And yes David was a believer, he was saved by faith as states in Hebrews 11:32-33, states:
“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: (33) Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,”
And Hebrews 11:39, which states:
“And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise”
There is no passage which speaks about unintentional sins, especially if one is attempting to use this to separate themselves from carnal believers.
And for those that would say there are no such thing as carnal believers, why does Paul call them this term and indicates that they are saved based upon the Greek grammar? Now, back to my point.
It is the Greek word for “sin” that makes this point very clear.
“Missing the Mark”
The Greek word “hamartano”, literally means to miss the mark.
It was originally used in the field of archery, where you would have a giant target with the bull’s-eye in the middle. The bull’s eye was the same size as the arrow, and to “miss the mark” was anything outside of a perfect bull’s-eye.
It did not matter if you were an inch off or even if you miss the target altogether. The point of this word is that all sin is missing the mark.
All Sin is the Same
In fact the biblical teaching that all sin is the same comes from the definition of this word.
And too many believers who suggest that there are little sins and big sins, do violence to the understanding of this word.
In fact, when you look up the verbs used concerning the believers’ sins, you’ll find that they are best interpreted as a daily behavior; though is different than a lifestyle which never changes.
This is not to be mistaken concerning the justice of God in choosing to punish certain sins more severely than others. This deals with the idea that there is no such thing as a small sin.
Sin is Anything Opposed to God’s Will
This also encapsulates the idea that we can define sin as anything that is not in alignment with God’s word and will.
Killing is God’s Will?
Meaning, when the Israelites refused to kill every man woman and child as they came into the Promised Land, they were sinning against God.
The point is we must all start from the place of understanding we are wretched sinners.
Yet at the same time, the reason for this short series is to give us pragmatic tools to stop those sins in our life that make us impotent in our ability to glorify God because of allowing sins to overrule us.
Sin Is Not Our Master
This also means that we have control over our choices, which is unlike the unbeliever who has no choice but to sin. We have the choice to avoid sin.
This is what Paul addresses in the book of Romans.
Romans 6:12-18 KJV, states:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (13) Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (14) For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (15) What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. (16) Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (17) But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. (18) Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”
Paul is not saying that you will stop sinning altogether, he is pointing out the fact that sin does not have to be the master of a Christian.
We make daily choices to sin.
And the reason I hit upon sin so hard is that so many Christians justify their sins by saying they are small, never understanding the gravity of this type of heretical statement.
What we must do is be honest about our sins.
And yes, every day you will sin in one way or another.
But this is not to say that sin must be your master and control everything you do.
This is why this series is about pragmatic tools, individual choices that you can make in your life to set sin aside and therefore die to self in the process.
Self only wants to sin, yet the spirit gives us the choice.
I am sick and tired of my small choices (and big ones as well) to commit what some would refer to as small sins.
I wish and desire to serve God more each day, setting aside those sins that so easily beset us, as spoken about in Hebrews 12:1, which states:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
After the author speaks about not performing these sins that are so easily committed by us as habitual, we are instructed to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, which has seen in the book of Philippians as referring to gaining “The Mind of Christ,” which we will deal with in another part of this short series.
Dying to Self
This subject matter is one which is not very popular in most churches these days.
Dying to self, as unpopular as it is, is the forgotten framework that Christianity must hang itself upon, if we are to follow our Lord and Savior.
Starting in part two, we will present pragmatic tools, individual choices and behaviors to achieve the goal of dying to self and therefore serving Christ in a more mature and sacrificial manner.
Having explained the problem that we are dealing with, SELF; let us go on to the first issue which we must deal with before attempting to pragmatically address dying to self.
Always – The First Step
Anything that the believer attempts to do must be fulfilling God’s will, which is being Spirit led.
And the first thing must be to seek the power and leading of the Holy Spirit in anything we endeavor to do, no matter how good it looks – we always need Him.
One of the Scriptures I believe concerning this, which has been misused far too often is Philippians 4:13.
I Can Do All Things through Christ
I believe to gain the correct context on this we need to start it verse 11, which states:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (12) I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Many times when I hear people quote this Scripture it is usually something that profits them and sounds grandiose.
It may concern something sensational or miraculous, yet if we follow the context of Paul lays out we will come to a different conclusion.
You see he starts out prior to verse 11 commending the Thessalonians for having sent him financial help.
God Is in Control of Everything
But then in verse 11 he lets them know that God is the one in control, because God is the one that meets all his needs, and his motivation for seeking their help is not self-centered, but is actually something that will aid them in learning to be generous and grow in faith, and it is God that will reward them for their generosity.
In the “me-centered” society in which we now live, which affects the church as well, this should not be considered an irrelevant subject.
The Right Mindset concerning Suffering
Yet Paul goes on to state that he will do just fine whether he has his needs met or not, because both states — that of need and the state of needs met — will both glorify God.
How uncommon this is, because we see Christians attempt to define glorifying God by humanistic terms such as success, and reaching goals; whereas Paul defines success as glorifying God even if goals are NOT met, even if we go without food or having our needs met.
This reflects the maturity of understanding dying to self, wherein it’s not about us getting what we want, or feel we need, but the Christian walk is about glorifying God, which is especially seen when our needs are NOT met.
How many of Christ’s followers (such as Peter and the disciples), would interpret the death of their leader as failure? Yet through the losing of His life, Jesus brought about success God’s way by glorifying God, and allowing God to maintain His justice in forgiving man because His own perfect Son died in our place.
In the World, You Learn to Win by Losing
You do not learn mature lessons in life by winning, you learn by losing.
It is the disappointment and sense of loss that drives us to strive to win the next time.
With God, You Win in Losing
However, as a believer; we must understand that God is in perfect control of this world and our lives, and even the things where we never win according to the definition of success by the world, are things that can bring great victory by learning to trust God through the tribulation.
Therefore, this first fundamental understanding is that we do not define fulfilling God’s will based upon human definitions of success and completion.
This first lesson is to seek the Holy Spirit and His power, but trust God for the results and the definition of success.
The greatest success that Jesus had, wherein He glorified His Father, was in losing his life on the cross.
The Essence of the Problem
The original final draft of this article did not include this section, which should’ve been added.
It should be obvious by now that the problem that we have concerning dying to self – is self.
It is the fallen nature which precipitates every aspect of our human existence, even those born-again Spirit filled believers wherein sin is no longer their master, yet it is still a daily struggle between the flesh and the spirit.
Any attempt to rationalize our sinful behavior, or to downplay it and minimize it will hinder us in our spiritual journey.
It is in taking personal responsibility for our own choices and the behaviors that arise from those choices, wherein we give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to help us to deal with the problem of self.
In a few days, I will release ongoing parts of this which will cover gaining the “Mind of Christ,” sacrificially loving others first, and other pragmatic tools that we can use in order to gain the ability to die to self a little each day, understanding that each choice that we make to die to self glorifies our Father.
This is Our Goal
It is common to hear preachers address goals without addressing how to get there. There must be objectives to be reached in each goal that are definable and achievable. This series will deal with the tools to reach certain objectives in order to reach the final goal of learning how to die to self.
1. Numbers 15:24
“Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the LORD, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering.”
Notice that even a sin in ignorance demanded sacrifice and punishment as demanded within the sin offering.
WOW. Just got around to reading this due to family here for holidays…and right off I see a glaring error. No Believer can be a sinner, much less a “wretched sinner.” All Believers are Saints, never again Sinners. Truth makes us free from such error.
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Thanks for the comment Lee,
Could you give me more than a few Scriptures to support that view, specifically in regards your “words,” not interpretations of what a passage seems to mean (ie, we are new creations in Christ Jesus), but what it literally says in God’s Word, then I will respond. bb
I have yet to interact with a sinless perfect saint. We are sinners still. Maybe we sin less, but it never goes away. Sadly.
Only He is perfect.
I used to question sinlessness, but life experience in dealing with fellow believers had proven they are not sinless. Not one bit. I consider myself a saved sinner. I try to sin less and I a feel more aware of it then before I was saved.
I loved the part about unintentional sin vs intentional sin. In my opinion all sin is intentional. Great article Brent.
Thanks b. You know, after four decades of trying to fall the Lord, as I grow older and older, I discover more more ways that I’m a sinner. I remember years ago an old Christian saying that discovering God is like a man walking across the desert, parched with no water, no shade, just walking, until he looks and see something he’d never seen before, as if his eyes were open (i.e., the Holy Spirit), and he sees a faraway mountain range that seems pretty small, yet very green and lush indicating there was water and food. As he looks at this mountain and decides. This will save his life, he starts to walk towards the mountain which seems so small and not that far away, only to discover the closer he gets to the mountain the bigger the mountain is and is taking much longer than he thought . To get there. And he noticed that as he got closer and the mountains were larger and larger that he was smaller and smaller. This reminds me of how we Christians should be walking in this life, growing in seen him is being more righteous and more powerful than we ever could conceive yet being blown away that even that thought the day before was way too small. Yet most important to God, is that we realize with each step. How more insignificant and wasted. We are, how sinful we are not deserving of the least of his mercies. Yet, this mindset leads to what I think is one of the most precious attitudes that a born-again believer should develop, it’s called gratitude. And what I’ve found out is that gratitude is the fruit of faith. Show me a Christian. That’s not grateful, and I’ll show you an individual that has not grown in faith, understanding how sinful we are and how great our God is and that his love is more than just amazing, it’s on believable, except that he said it, therefore we should believe. “So then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Thanks for the comment, Brent
I agree, I have grown in gratitude, even saying to God I don’t deserve the comforts I have in life why do you treat me so well? I have struggled with people who keep saying to me if you sin you are of the devil and those who question eternal security and such. They are not taking context in mind when they spit out verses. It is almost like mind control, parroting others. Really digging into word meanings, Greek, Hebrew and figures of speech has really helped me, Thank you for all you do. We are constantly learning and un-learning bad traditions or doctrines. My beliefs were much different 4 years ago than today. I love how you revisit older entries and edit them as you learn more. Thanks again!