Now, before I start, I just want to remind you that I'm no theologian. I'm just a Christian with a Bible and the Holy Spirit. But I can't ignore this false doctrine any longer, I just have to say something. When I say false doctrine, I'm referring to the teaching that Christians have indwelling sin. I firmly believe that we are all born with a sin nature (indwelling sin). I also want to say that I have no problem understanding that you can be a true believer and accept this doctrine (I did). When I first heard this teaching of indwelling sin for believers, I fought hard against it--or rather my spirit and God's Spirit fought hard against it. I, in my flesh and fear of man fought hard to ignore my spirit and God's, succeeded, and have been since paying the price. And really, I'm not trying to stir up trouble. I'm trying to stir up a revelation of grace and the freedom we are meant to experience.
I've had some idea that I more and more strongly disagree with this doctrine for some time now. But recently the revelation hit me as I was listening to a list of signs of legalism in a sermon. All the signs of legalism are the same things I was taught were proof of indwelling sin. The more I believed this doctrine, the more the fruit of my life proved it: I sinned more and more! I became so cold and distant from God I began to doubt my salvation, and even doubt God existed. I lost the joy and and experience of God's presence and love. I lost hope and stopped fighting the true enemy of my soul--Satan. I believed all the lies he fed me and went into a severe depression. I researched ways to kill myself and lived dreaming of death or running away from everything I've ever believed in and loved--God,family, and friends. This is what legalism does. As described in Galatians 5:19-21:
"...sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
Doesn't this list remind you of something? I thought that indwelling sin was responsible for all these awful things. I thought I had to learn to beat this awful sin out of me somehow. I thought I had to plan and work and re-commit to more rigid spiritual disciplines in order to overcome these things. And if by some miracle I was not doing or thinking these things, I had to search for them and find them somehow residing/hiding deep inside of me. In fact, it's almost as if this doctrine stirred up more sin. But there is only one thing that can stir up sin in this way. That is the law (of works). "...the law came to increase the trespass..." (Gal. 5:20)
It seems to me that this doctrine stands mainly on two passages of Scripture.
First, Jeremiah 17: 9:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
It is so obvious to me that this refers to our condition before salvation. It should be obvious to all. Jesus even said he came for the sick, I mean, he came to heal us, not leave us sick. It is because we were born with deceitful hearts that God says in Ezekiel 36:26, promising us a better covenant,:
"And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."
The other passage is Romans 7. I'm not going into a big argument here, but if you want to read a good argument for an alternative meaning I can highly recommend Terry Virgo's God's Lavish Grace (incidentally this book is endorsed by one Mr. Mahaney for those of you who would be interested to know) And also "Do Christians Still Have a Sinful Nature" by Ryan Rufus. This book deals very simply with all the arguments or concerns/questions you might have (such as why do Christians still sin). I challenge you to at least read and consider the possibilities.
Some months before I was willing to consider that this doctrine was wrong, my dad challenged me to read through Romans and really honestly by the Spirit of God question my beliefs. I was surprised at the results. I was amazed at what God actually says about us, his children. He says we are set free from and dead to sin. He calls us sons, saints, and many others things but NEVER sinners. We are no longer sinners. I've also spent many hours in Galatians, learning that I'd been bewitched, and had fallen from grace. I lived as though severed from Christ in many ways. It was a terrible way to live, and by his grace I hope I will never ever live that way again. I learned that all the things I was striving to attain are completely unattainable in the flesh. Galatians 5:22-24:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
What I'm trying to say is that I believe the doctrine of indwelling sin is actually legalism dressed up as pious and humble sounding doctrine. I believe it is very deceptive and will lead to spiritual ruin. I plan on continuing along these lines in the next couple of posts sharing my testimony of how legalism affects marriage and then parenting, and also the new joy and hope we have found in an ever increasing revelation of God's overflowing love and grace.