"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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    "I'm Not Like THEM!"

    One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” Luke 7:36-40a, ESV

    "I know of them, but I don't associate with their kind." I don't know if you've said these words, but I know I have (and do). In fact, whether you've said similar words or not, you have probably at least thought or felt this way about someone. The instinct is to retract from the person, like he's dirty or poisonous (even if he's not in the room). You don't want other people to think you're like her, because that would be like getting grease on your sport car finish, it would mess up your shine. If you're a Christian, you would die if others thought he was also a Christian, and you'd have to let them know that you're a different kind of Christian. You're a born-again Christian, a real Christian, and this other fellow can't possibly be (just look at how he dresses!).

    It's really too bad that this attitude emanates directly from the core of Pharisaism, because I quite like feeling this way!

    "Pharisaism, you say?" Yes, that should be obvious from the text above. The Pharisee is disgusted by the presence of the "woman of the city, who was a sinner," and even though it's impolite to mention it, he thinks about "what sort of woman this is", and Jesus confronts him about it. Simon has a definite Holier-Than-Thou attitude about the woman.

    Even the heroes of our Anti-Holier-Than-Thou society fall prey to this one. How many movies have you seen where the villain says to the hero, "You and I aren't much different," and the hero's response is an indignant, "I'm nothing like you!"? One of the best movies I ever saw had the hero saying, "That may be true...."

    What is it about us, that we have to let others know "I'm not like them"? Why does it feel good to think that about ourselves? In my estimation it stems from a combination of pride and the fear of man. It's simply part of our nature that we want to feel good about ourselves because of who we are and what we've done (even if it's entirely unrealistic that we've ever done anything good in God's eyes!). And we dread our pride being stripped from us by other people exposing our secret faults (even if they're not so secret). We want others to think about us what we think about ourselves, to keep up the illusion that we're okay without help from The Outside.

    That's "the core of Pharisaism." Hypocrisy. Illusion. Secrets and lies, even to the point of self-delusion. If I can truly be "not like them," then I must be good enough. I don't have to bow my knee to anyone. I don't need the help of some Savior for some forgiveness thing. I can make it on my own. Don't bother me with the truth that I am just like every other person who ever lived, a sinner. Hang out with them? Be associated with them? I don't think so.

    I think you know where I'm going with this. The truth is that you and I are sinners, just like the woman of the city. We have a brotherhood and sisterhood in our sin with every person on the planet: past, present and future. Adolph Hitler? I'm just like him. Bill Clinton? Yep. George Bush? You bet. Mark Foley? Uh huh. Saddam Hussein? Osama Bin Laden? Kim Jong Il? Mohammed? Joseph Smith? That lady who got abortions legalized? What do you think? You can't think of someone bad enough that you can honestly say, "I'm not like him." Sure, you may not have had all the opportunities and power to do what they did, but if God didn't restrain the wickedness in your heart by his Holy Spirit, you would have unleashed worse evils in the world than they (because, believe it or not, God was restraining the wickedness in their hearts, too).

    The point is that you need a Savior no more or less than anyone else who ever lived. The good news is that Jesus came to forgive people just like you and me—there's no other kind of person he came to save! He pronounced pardon for the woman of the city. He told her to go in peace, because her faith had saved her (Lk. 7:48, 50). He didn't pronounce pardon for the Pharisee. Why? Because he was a worse sinner? No. Because he didn't think he was a sinner. He didn't repent. He didn't ask for forgiveness. He didn't believe that Jesus was there for him in the same way he was there for the woman (who was probably a prostitute).

    So, my fellow prostitutes, genocidal maniacs, adulterers, thieves, liars, founders of false religions, corrupt politicians, and pharisees: isn't it good that Jesus lived, died, and rose again for people like us and them alike?

    Posted by Eric Costa on October 21, 2006 01:19 PM


    Eric, thank you for reminding me. Good post!

    Good post. I agree with you, but is there not always a risk that people who (for example, dress immodestly) might be a bad influence on a spiritually immature Christian?

    Stonewall Jackson once said something about how "We are known by the people we ascociate with." HE was a very humble man, and didn't think of himself as better than others, but he was also careful not to go overboard. What are your thoughts on that?

    Thanks for a great post,
    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    Aspiring: There is a risk, even for spiritually mature Christians, of being "contaminated" by people who, for example, dress immodestly. Then again, there's a risk of being tempted when you're just walking through the empty wilderness. Good thing Christianity's not primarily about our behaviors, and watching with whom we associate, because I should have to excise all people from my own life in order to keep myself clean.

    Jesus was known to the Pharisees "by the people he associated with"—as a glutton and drunkard, because he hung out with sinners. He went into the darkest corners of society, and calls us to do the same. Being a Christian doesn't mean we're perfect—the best way to share the Gospel is to show people we're nowhere near perfect, just like them, but that the Savior is perfect, and shares his perfection with us by grace.

    So, if your concern is to keep yourself from the muck of the world—good luck. It might help if you stayed away from the strip clubs. But if your concern is to show people the light of the Gospel, you have to go to the dark places, and associate with sinners in a non-condescending way. You shouldn't have much trouble finding them, and you probably should still stay away from strip clubs. I'm just saying you shouldn't consider yourself too different from the guy who frequents them.

    Mr. Costa,

    I agree with Mr. Sheperd here. I agree that Christ did associate with wine bibbers and tax-collectors. He also walked on water. The Christian's mandate from Scripture is to do that which Christ commands, not to try to imitate Him. Of course by submitting ourselves to Him we will see ourselves conformed unto His image. But we don't accomplish this by "doing" what He did, but by "being" what He was and is.

    As Christians, we are to certainly keep ourselves from the "muck of the world". We are to guard our eyes, ears and hearts from that which is sinful. We are in the world not of it.

    You also say,

    "But if your concern is to show people the light of the Gospel, you have to go to the dark places, and associate with sinners in a non-condescending way."

    ~ To this I'd say, the great commission to preach the Gospel was given to the Church (big "C") not the church (individual Christians). In the Reformed view, it is the Church that is to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This is done through the ministry of preaching and teaching the Word. As individual Christians, we are to share our faith as God's providence allows, but we must keep in mind that it is the Holy Spirit that grows the Church.

    Thanks. Sorry if that was a dumb question - it is the only way I'll learn. ;) I appreciate the swift reply.

    I agree with you and understand much better now.

    It is so true! A few years ago a woman I know whose life was formally in the "entertainment" business- had received Christ and how aweful she was treated by the women in the Church.
    You know, just today I went grocery shopping in a store I usually just pass by....but I felt God drawing me there....and my heart went out to the people in that place....and I thought- if anyone of these were to walk into a Church how many people would they have to pass by until someone stuck out there hand to introduce themselves..How long would they have to attend a Church before someone invited them over for a Christmas dinner....How often we just want to share the Good News with the ones we already know are saved...or the ones with the fine clothes and large pockets...
    I wish I heard more sermons on the outreach of societies "outcasts" and less on us being the elect.

    Mr. McCrory: I agree that we cannot do exactly what Jesus did. I agree that as Christians, one thing we ought to do is guard our hearts and try to get better. That's not really the point of the post, or my previous comment. The point is that no matter how hard you try, how much better you get, you're still not going to be so much better than "them" that you can choose to disassociate from "them." It's not being better that matters, first and foremost. It's being forgiven that matters. And only sinners who know they're forgiven sinners can share the Good News with other sinners.

    I agree that it's the Holy Spirit who grows the Church, and that primarily through the preaching of the Word of God. But I don't think it's accurate to say that "the Reformed view" is that individual Christians sharing the Gospel take a back seat to the corporate Church in the Great Commission. Whatever happened to the Reformation doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers?

    I definately agree with you Mr. Costa about the need to humbly evangelise. Mr. Mcrory definately expressed some of my feeling on this as well. As former sinners, we were (and in many ways still are) as low in sin as the lost to whom we are trying to minister. Likewise, as Christians we have been set apart by God and purified through Christ's righteousness - we do not want to go too far and lower ourselves into sin again.

    So basically I think the point coming from your post and this subsequent discussion is that we are not to lower ourselves to be like the lost (Mr. Mcrory and my point on being careful whom we allow to influence us etc.) but instead, through our humility and understanding that we were only saved through Christ, to share the Gospel so that the lost will be raised up to be like us.

    Am I understanding this correctly?

    Paul is a good example I think. He ascociated with Christians but did not shun non-Christians (he was very humble as an evangelist. He did not go hang out with the immoral but rather with Christians; yet he did not miss the opportunity to preach to whole groups of the lost or to the Philippian jailor.

    Paul did not go out looking for trouble but did preach to the sinners that he encountered.

    Thanks for the discussion, still trying to explore this topic. I appreciate the instruction.

    God bless,
    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    Sorry, I'd like to just add one more comment. I agree with you on the necessity of humility, but I advocated caution above not because I think we should be Pharisees, but because we are so like the sinners that we are ministering to. So I just want to clarify that I was not outright disagreeing with you, but rather asking a clarifying question.

    Thanks a lot!

    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    Mr. Costa you say,

    "I don't think it's accurate to say that "the Reformed view" is that individual Christians sharing the Gospel take a back seat to the corporate Church in the Great Commission."

    ~ We know the Great Commission was given primarily to the Church because of it's mandate. Both discipleship and Baptism (the sacraments) belong in the coporate church, not to individual Christians. The whole concept of sharing a "plan of salvation" or getting someone to recite the "sinner's prayer" are relatively new novelities. True personal evangelism is best done when the person exemplifies Christian living before an unbelieving world. Ideally, doors will be opened to share your faith. But I personally believe it is best accomplished when your able to build a relationship with the other person. It is truly a man-centered approach to think you can knock on a strangers door and convince him to receive Christ.

    I like the was Joel Beeke puts it in Puritan Evangelism,

    "Puritan Evangelism involved declaring the entire economy of redemption by focusing on the saving work of all three Persons of the Trinity, while simutaneously calling sinners to a life of faith and commitment..."

    Yet, I still believe the thrust of Mr. Shepherd's contention stands. It isn't that Christians are better than others, and therefore we should avoid them. Rather Christians need to be discerning as to when and where to engage a sinful culture.

    The post is about humility in engaging others with the Gospel, about not letting pride and the fear of man hinder us from relating to other sinners. It seems that the comments draw us away from that discussion, even if they're worthwhile as their own discussion.

    But as long as we're off topic... I agree that discipleship and the observance of sacraments normally take place in the context of the corporate Church, and that relational evangelism is more effective than the door-to-door variety. But I do remember clearly a certain Philip individually evangelizing, teaching, and baptizing (without establishing a prior relationship) a certain Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. And Philip was "just a deacon," right?


    Ideally, a post will lead into discussion and as far as I'm concerned, I don't care where the Spirit leads us as long as it's edifying and cordial.

    Pentecost took place during the same period as Phillip's account with the Ethiopian as well. Yet we don't go to church looking for flaming tongues of fire sweeping over our heads. Historically, the accounts in Acts were not taken as normative for the Church. The accounts in the Book of Acts are at many times "extraordinary". This is how most of the Reformed tradition percieved it while intrepreting the Book.

    In regards to the call of Phillip, we see this principle in play. Phillip's call to go into the dessert where he'd meet the eunuch came directly from "an angel of the Lord". Again this is not indicative of how the Church would appoint and minister her servants throughout history, but it intimately tied to the begininning of the NT Church and God's direct dealing, many times, with it's figures.

    Loraine Boettner says the following in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination:

    "This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one in entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself."

    I thoroughly agree that you were just as dead in your sins as Hitler, that you have just as great a need of salvation (the need is absolute!), but it seems to me that you exaggerate when you make yourself just like Hitler.

    God's grace may indeed explain the difference, but that does not mean that there is no difference.

    Norman Carter

    Norman: I think that on the exterior, people are not equally as bad as they could be. But on the interior, at the level of our motivations, we are equally as bad. We never do anything from the right intentions, even the apparently good things we do. So in a sense, I am just as bad as anyone else who ever lived—every action of my whole life has been in prideful rebellion against God. That changes when my motivations are transformed by holy desires, graciously given by the Holy Spirit. But even then, all of my actions are corrupted by the lingering flesh, so we still have no reason to boastfully separate ourselves from "them."

    Eric you say,

    "I think that on the exterior, people are not equally as bad as they could be. But on the interior, at the level of our motivations, we are equally as bad."

    As the quote from Boettner shows, that is not a Reformed view of man. Please don't take offense, but I really have to question your understanding of this matter from the Reformed perspective.

    Would you conisder showing your senior pastor or a mentor this thread and see if Mr. Shepherd, Mr. Carter and myself are way off base here, or maybe consider the possibility you need to rethink your position?

    The Reformed faith has never taught every man is equally sinful. We are all fallen by nature; yet we can clearly see the differences in our depravity (i.e. Hilter, Billy Graham) It might we wiser of you to say we all have the same potential for evil rather than saying, "I am just as bad as anyone else who ever lived."

    Great post Eric. So many miss the point that there is no difference in how God views sin. His holiness cannot be in the presence of only one sin. It only takes that one sin to eternally separate us from God. So in a sense, there is absolutely no difference between Hitler and me. I am disturbed by some of the discourse in these posts that still sound Pharisaical. I lower myself into sin every day, every minute. Every time I choose a sin over the supremacy and beauty of Christ, I am no different than any other sinner that I shouldn't be on the same 'low' level as. The only difference is I recognize my desperate need for Christ when I sin. As Luther said - justified yet still sinning..

    Probably more accurate to say "but for the grace of God ..."

    Are believers totally depraved?

    .. the answer is no (By the grace of God). --- the definition of total depravity is that the NATURAL man's many good works, even though in accord with God's commands, are not well pleasing to God when weighed against His ultimate criteria and standard of perfection. The love of God and His law is not the unbelievers' deepest animating motive and principle (nor is it his motive at all), so it does not earn him the right to redemptive blessings from a holy God. The Scripture clearly implies this when it states "...without faith it is impossible to please Him." (Hebrews 11:6a, NASB) and "whatever is not from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)

    Total depravity only means man is lost (Luke 19:10), unspiritual by nature (without the Holy Spirit), and thus he is impotent to recover himself from his ruined estate (John 6:44, 65, Eph 2:1, 2:5; Rom 3:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6). In other words he cannot do any redemptive good. Fallen man does not desire God, he loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19,20) so he will not come into Christ at all except he be reborn by the Holy Spirit (John 1:13, 3:6, John 6:37, 39, 44, 63-66; Rom 9:16).

    But the believer is now indwelt by THE HOLY SPIRIT, and has the mind of Christ thus is able to see the beauty, truth and excellency of Christ. He has been renewed and now has a heart that is able to love Christ and believe in Him. While the principle of depravity weighs heavily on the believer and thus we must continually flee to Christ, but he has now placed that new principle (the Holy Spirit) within us that we may do so. So, while nothing in us makes us to differ from others, the grace and mercy of God has made us to differ through we deserve it not.

    Thank you, John and Art. You have clarified very well the thoughts I've been trying to get across. "But for the grace of God, there go I...."

    Does it feel a little hot in here to y'all? :)

    Mr. Costa, thank you for your explanations. Like I said, I wasn't trying to disagree with you in the beginning (or take the discussion off topic) but just wanted some clarifications from your end for my own understanding. I think I can see where what you were saying and what I was saying mesh - neither of us were contradicting each other.

    I apologize if I have caused any problems in taking this post off topic. I am not a theologian, just a 17 year old "aspiring theologian", so I was just trying to make sense of some things. You and Mr. Mcrory both have excellent points and I have learned a lot. I think that the positions that both of you (and me) have are not all that different - I regret any misunderstandings that may have occurred between the two positions.

    I appreciate the discussion, I really do. I really appreciate Mr. Mcrory's expounding on my question earlier in this discussion to help me make sense. I wasn't trying to stir up anything, just asking questions.

    God be with you,

    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    Isn't comforting to know that the foulest of creation can be saved? That we don't have to bring anything to Jesus in order to be saved and, in fact, are God-hating, rebels running as hard as we could from Jesus when He sought us and brought us to Him? That we still have nothing to offer Him for our sanctification and eventual glorification? That "He that began a good work in us WILL finish it"? How comforting it is to know that it isn't through me that I will inherit eternal life with Him, but through Jesus Christ my Lord. "Nothing do I bring simply to the cross I cling."

    And the same principle goes for hymn singers vs. praise songs; Calvinists vs. Arminians; liturgical vs. unscripted; and last time I checked there was very little tears and intercession for MacLaren, Warren, and all the rest. It is usually well documented criticism but sometimes wrapped in "watchman (and watchwoman) self-righteousness.

    "So, my fellow prostitutes, genocidal maniacs, adulterers, thieves, liars, founders of false religions, corrupt politicians, and pharisees:"

    I understand the point you are making but methinks you may be stopping short with the above statement.

    What saith the scripture:

    The Holy Spirit gave a list not unlike yours in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, but then went on to say this in the eleventh verse;

    "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."

    Hallelujah..."such were some of you". I'm a new creature in Christ, regenerated and putting off the old man...proclaiming the good news to whosoever will. Sanctified, set apart, bought with a price, not my own and eternally thankful.

    The message has not changed...."Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the LORD, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, " [2 cor. 6:17]


    Indeed your description (because of His mercy) is our standing before God. In Christ we are washed and made holy in his sight BY GRACE.

    But in ourselves I know of no one (no Christian) who loves God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and loves their neighbor as their self. Not sure any of us could go 10 minutes with such virtue. We all fall woefully short of this and thus we must continually, even as Christians flee to Christ. At the Lord's Table it is a sign and seal of God's covenant that He will not treat us as our sins deserve, and that includes our continual failings now. We are regenerate and can now please God because we have the mind of Christ, but we often do fail because our faith is weak.. But when we do fail, God has these words for us in 1 Corinthians 11:31-33

    "But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world."

    So God disciplines those he loves when they sin that they may judge their own sin rightly.

    Your point is well taken and should be well heeded by all of us who profess to be disciples of Christ. ALL of us, no exceptions.

    I have been visiting some of these reformed blogs and have seen outright condemnation to salvation on the part of some putting themselves up as leaders, pastors, in the church.

    There is only one corporate Church, the Body Of Christ, and it is not of this world. All things have not yet been sumbitted to Christ, the glory of God. But they will be, and therein will found no Pharisees.

    To Norman,

    "but it seems to me that you exaggerate when you make yourself just like Hitler."

    Sir, with due respect to your person. I don`t think he exaggerated, in fact I think he was quite realistic about our sinful/depraved/detestable nature as the Scripture points out.

    The Word of God also tells us:

    "Anyone who hates (abominates, detests) his brother [in Christ] is [at heart] a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding ([k]persevering) within him."
    1 John 3:15 Amplified Bible

    Let me give you a little testimony of my life when I was a dead walking. Yes, when I was dead in my transgressions, and even at times when I was weak and fell on hating my neighbord, being already a christian!

    I can tell you that I felt quite identified with Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, and the list goes on. But why I felt so identified with them? Because, as the Scripture above declares, I used to kill, to murder, to assasinate, and all carried out in my toughts and mind. And sadly, I did enjoyed it. It was only by His grace that I didn`t go beyond and carry it on in the real scenerio. But according to the Word of God, even to hate your neighbord is already an act of murder before a just God. My wish to kill in the real life was there sir. I also used to hate God.

    Maybe you have never desired or thought about killing someone, or maybe you have never hated anyone before, in this case, well, I am not going to congratulate you, but I`d give full glory to God, thus no flesh will boast before Him. To end my topic. We were worse in many cases than Hitler and all those together. Hitler just carried out what was already on his head. And we were dying beings who just deserved the great condemnation of hell as much as Hitler. But God set us free from our great depravity, and not because we had something "good" as to make Lord said, "Ah, this person is more good than the other one which I saw before who was terrible evil, thus I will call him so he accepts, by his freewill. Well, if this were so, poor beasts of us who are so evil! But blessed be God, He have saved us when we were His enemies.

    Excuse my English.

    God richly bless,

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