Opinions on faith and life

Is Immaturity A Sin?

2009-03-13

Sounds like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it? But to read many conversations in online Christian boards and blogs, one would think it’s a serious fact.

The best way to neutralize a Christian’s witness is to play the nice card and ask loaded questions. That is, you hit them with things like these:

    Nobody is saved by doctrine You don’t have to have a theology degree to be saved Some of the nicest people I know are ______ (fill in the blank with the name of a religion) The followers of _______ show more Christian love than most Christians

Think about those for a minute. In the first two, the statements are true on their face. But they err in their implications: that although technically you aren’t saved by doctrine, your faith must be doctrinally accurate or it is what the Bible calls vain (1 Cor. 15:2) We are saved by faith because of the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-9), but that faith must be in the Jesus who is God, who died for our sins, who rose again, and who will return for us. And nothing can be added or subtracted from that faith. That, whether anyone wants to call it this or not, is doctrine, and a necessary one in order to be saved.

In the second two, an appeal is made to external behavior. Now to be sure, any Christian who still wallows in sin and shows little love is either lost or immature, but this issue is irrelevant for judging salvation. What does the gospel itself say about behavior? If it’s truly salvation by faith alone it cannot depend upon even the willingness or determination to turn from sin (making it a work of us instead of God), but only on faith in Jesus. We turn from sin after salvation because the Spirit within us convicts us; this is not true of unbelievers who of course do not have the Spirit. They can feel remorse, they can have a conscience, but such turning will not save them, and it is not a prerequisite for saving faith. (You disagree? Show me the scriptures that tie remorse for sins with saving faith. The word repent only means turn the opposite way but doesn’t include what is being turned from; that comes from context, and all instances of charges to repent related to the topic of salvation are about changing one’s belief concerning Jesus.)

So this all amounts to using the immaturity or inconsistency of the believer as a way to keep them from pointing out the lack of saving faith in others. They do in fact call such immaturity a sin, and substitute right behavior for saving faith. They claim to be more Christ-like, flaunting their humility and completely missing the irony therein. Does the Bible not still consider our best efforts at righteousness to be like disgusting rags (Isaiah 64:6)? Is salvation not still by faith alone? Of course there is a great lack of love today among believers, especially clergy who should know better, but this does not change the fact that salvation is by faith, and if your doctrine of the gospel is in error, you are lost. And don’t get me started again on what it means to be loving, as if love never confronts evil or shows any concern about the lost.

Given a choice between the immature believer who shows little outward kindness yet spreads the true gospel, and the holier than thou who refuses to discuss the necessary facts of salvation but only ever talks about community service and acts of kindness, I’ll respond with the same loaded question they always use on us: Which do you think God values more? (see Phil. 1:18). And we should not fall for their false dilemma between outward niceness and doctrine; the two are not in conflict. The kind person needs correct basic doctrine, and the doctrinal person needs kindness. But note that the second at least knows the gospel, while the first may not.

No, immaturity is not a sin, and outward kindness is not proof of salvation. The nice person with no concern for the facts of the gospel is just as lost as the mean person who knows the facts of the gospel but has never grasped the concept of the restored relationship which is the goal and purpose of that gospel. But none of this would be an issue if those of us who do know the gospel would practice it in all its implications (Gal. 5:21-23). Let’s stop giving fodder to those who would gag us.

8 Comments

Lin

"No, immaturity is not a sin, and outward kindness is not proof of salvation."

JC Ryle touches on this in his book, Practical Religion. One area I would disagree is that the immature believer who is truly Born Again does not stay immature. He who begins a good work, finishes it. Those who are truly saved, grow in Holiness, even if it takes a long time. There is the question of fruit and the good tree cannot produce bad fruit.

In a sense, outward kindness masked as being a Born Again believer when they are not is more diabolical. Something I am well aware of. It is the doctrine of ’positive thinking’ that has infested many churches. This means no negative truths because they are mean. This also means we can be mean to folks, if we are discreet about it and it cannot be traced back to us. Lots of deception and passive agressive behavior is involved.

Paula Fether

That’s the thing about behavior, Lin... it’s all we can see, so we really need to be careful. We should of course expect a new believer to grow spiritually, but just as a baby that is neglected will not grow properly, the spiritual newborn can be left on their own and suffer the same lack of growth. God only guarantees to preserve our salvation, not our maturity, and He doesn’t force that maturity on us. Otherwise there’d have been no need for the NT to be written beyond the Gospels.

But of course the important thing is whether we who have been nurtured make sure that we nurture others too. Rather than the common practice of either condemning the immature or not showing any concern at all, we need to help them or see to it that someone else does. And above all, we need to all have a clear grasp of the gospel.

Free With Jesus!

Biblical literalism, oh Glory!

Who You Should Kill

--Unruly or rebellious child. Deut 21:20-21 --Those who curse or hit their parents. Lev 20:9, Ex 21:15 --Worshipers of other gods. Deut 13:6-11 --Psychics, witches. Lev 20:27, Deut 13:6-11, Ex 22:18. --Those who do not believe in Jesus (parable). Luke 19:27. --Those who work on the Sabbath. Ex 35:2 --Moses kills a gentile for this. Num 15:32-36. --Those who are accused by at least two people of wickedness. Deut 17:6. --The children and babies of enemies. Num 31:17, Deut 20:13, Psalm 137:9, Lev 26:29. --Adulterers. Lev 20:10. --Homosexuals. Lev 20:13. --A woman who is not a virgin when married. Deut 22:13-21. --Those who are careless with murderous livestock. Exodus 21:29.

Who You Should Hate

--Those who eat crab or shrimp. Lev 11:10. --Those who sacrifice an animal to God that has a blemish. Deut 17:1. --Those who remarry the same person after divorce. Deut 24:4. --Homosexuals. Lev 18:22. --Those who are proud. Prov 16:5. --A woman who wears pants. Deut 22:5. --A man with long hair (Jesus?). 1Cor 11:14 contradicts Num 6:5, 1Sam 1:11, Jug 13:5. --Those who call others fools Mat 5:22

Should we still do this stuff?

--All OT laws still apply in NT. Matt 5:17-19

Paula Fether

Flaming ignorance, oh mercy!

Are you a Jew, "free"? Only Jews were ever under the OT laws. And do you think you can tell God what He should or shouldn’t decree? Does He shake with fear of your superior sense of justice and fairness?

Any fool can lift verses from the Bible and weave together a giant straw man, and atheists are especially fond of that. But whether you picked your "name" out of mockery or sheer stupidity, the fact is that even the most ignorant rube should know better than to pick a precious few NT references (out of context of course) in an attempt to bash Christians. Did you cut and paste those from infidels dot org or someplace else? And what does your little diatribe have to do with the topic here anyway?

I allowed this one post of yours for the purpose of letting others see an example of the kind of utter nonsense most anti-Christians are made of. Thanks for the illustration!

PS: Although I doubt you’ll be back as most like you are the hit-and-run type, rest assured I won’t let my blog be filled with crap like that. You’ll have to display some intelligence if you want more of your "wisdom" posted here.

PPS: Here’s an example I found of free-of-thought’s wisdom from elsewhere:

But . . . Golf is also a pathetic demonstration of man thinking he is conquoring nature. An extension of the sick Amerikkkan ideal of the endless, pestacide bathed lawn.

Real nature is nothing like the clean controlled lines of a golf course, it is full of complexity, secrets and uncertainty.

Anyways, and a brief comment to the core of your beLIEfs . . . 30,000+ children DIED of starvation today. Why would a god answer YOUR prayers?

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My email: [identical to the one used here]

Such a nice, helpful, understanding individual, eh?

Lin

"That’s the thing about behavior, Lin… it’s all we can see, so we really need to be careful. We should of course expect a new believer to grow spiritually, but just as a baby that is neglected will not grow properly, the spiritual newborn can be left on their own and suffer the same lack of growth. God only guarantees to preserve our salvation, not our maturity, and He doesn’t force that maturity on us. Otherwise there’d have been no need for the NT to be written beyond the Gospels."

I think this is an area where we disagree to some extent. I believe salvation is a supernatual act and that we are changed. I am not saying it is instantaneous at all but I do believe we have a different relationship with sin. What we once loved we now hate. It is different because now our sin grieves us. We have godly sorrow for it and are in continual repentence. All of that is a work of the Holy Spirit, I believe.

But we are fighting the flesh daily, not to mention satan. I do not believe the process of sanctification is a work we do. I can do good works and not be saved but I cannot be saved without bearing good fruit at some point in time.

I guess I would have to look at the opposite and ask can one live any way they want and still believe they are saved? What does being Born Again mean? Becoming a new creature in Christ if we are not changed inwardly which produces outward fruit? this is what I saw taught at the seeker mega that is sending so many folks to hell. Becoming a Christian meant walking an ailse, saying a prayer and getting dipped. That was it. Poof, you are going to heaven. There was no need to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. No need to carry the cross or give up our lives to save them. Even after many years.

I do not believe the Holy Spirit will leave a truly Born Again new Christian alone. What is it that causes one to want to seek first the Kingdom of God?

Paula Fether

I agree, there’s something seriously wrong with anyone who claims to be saved yet whose life never changes. But our reaction to that should be to first of all make sure they were told the complete gospel accurately, and that they understood and accepted this new relationship. If we pin them down and ask, for example, whether their new relationship with God and away from sin includes wallowing in that which God hates, their answer will tell us more than their recitation of the gospel. If they tell us they are struggling then we should help them. But if they try to excuse it then we should rebuke them.

I agree as well that salvation is a supernatural event (see my Go To Heaven article, especially the chart near the end); that’s why I believe in the security of the believer. But I also believe that God will not force spiritual growth upon us, and that it is dangerous ground for us to presume lack of salvation by behavior alone.

And while I also agree that the Holy Spirit will not leave a believer alone, I think He will allow them to be "prodigal" for a time. And who are we to say what stage a person is in that wandering? Here again we must ask the wanderer pointed questions about their grasp of the gospel and challenge them to examine their own behavior, only excluding them from our fellowships if they refuse to repent.

Greg Anderson

It always seems to go back to the old conundrum of salvation and what it means to be saved.

By the looks of the flamer that commented previously, we haven’t done a very good job of living out the good news over the last couple of thousand years since Jesus left earth.

Make no mistake, I am in no way defending the flamer’s hit and run tactics, just pointing out the lack of connection that the world sees between us and Jesus.

Lin also makes a good point about the "lipped" and "dipped" mindset of pop-evangelism and hints about its shallowness if there’s no maturity and discipleship after that point.

We had one golden age in our history as a nation in which the good news of Jesus Christ turned the world upside down and meant something. It was evangelical Christians who started the abolitionist movement and put an end to slavery.

Paula Fether

Good observations Greg. Just as Israel gave God a bad name among many in ancient times, so too the "church" has turned the "easy yoke" of Jesus into another burdensome religion.

I used to wonder whether I should, as many believe, only ever talk about the gospel to the lost, but if the "church" itself has lost its way, then far more effect can be made by getting believers on track first. We are supposed to be witnesses, not chameleons.

In all fairness though, I doubt that even if we had perfectly exemplified Christ all these centuries, some people would still find a reason to mock.