Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďSINNERS SEEING CHRISTIANíS SINSĒ

First Peter 4.8

Last Sunday night I brought an exposition and sermon dealing with father Abrahamís experiences with faith. This morning I want to follow up on that sermon because of the amount of feedback I have received from that sermon.

To remind you, faith is a subject of such vast importance to every believer because faith is the means by which any relationship is established and maintained with God. The principle, as it is stated in Godís Word, is ďthe just shall live by faith.Ē[1]

What has disturbed some, who considered the four episodes scripture refers to in father Abrahamís life when genuine faith was exhibited, is the undeniable fact that when Abraham came out of Ur of the Chaldees by faith, Hebrews 11.8, he was not justified by that faith. The Bible is very clear, from Genesis 15.6, as well as from Romans 4.3 and Galatians 3.6, that Abraham was justified, so as to as a sinner have peace with God, not when he came out of Ur of the Chaldees, but approximately ten years later when we are told that his faith was counted unto him for righteousness.

Thus, Abraham exhibited what I have termed seeking faith for approximately ten years before he was justified by faith. Decades later, when he offered up Isaac, he displayed faith again. Then, over the last decades of his life, when he lived out his remaining years with Isaac and Jacob, he lived by faith.

It is the assertion that many so-called Christians are not really justified, have not actually been saved from their sins, which causes so much consternation. However, keep in mind that in the Parable of the Sower the Lord Jesus Christ clearly taught that ďhe that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it,Ē Matthew 13.20, was in reality among those in the parable who were still lost, despite their apparent response to the gospel.

Did you catch that? My Lord stated that ďwith joyĒ those still lost received the gospel. I am convinced that Abrahamís faith in coming out of Ur of the Chaldees, Genesis 12.1-4, but not being justified until Genesis 15.6, is the experience of many so-called professing Christians these days. They have heard the gospel (yes, even receiving it with joy), they have responded with faith, but they have not yet actually come to Christ, and so have not yet experienced the new birth, have not been justified by faith.

Are you among those who have responded by faith, but have not yet come to Christ, have not yet been saved from your sins? I am persuaded there are many people, especially those who have an evangelical background (Do you have an evangelical background?), who are where Abraham spiritually was after God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees, but before he had that saving faith which was counted unto him for righteousness.

In the intervening days since I last preached to you, I have given prayerful thought to the plight of sinners in this type of situation. Oh, how many people may be in this same circumstance because ministers of the gospel do not personally and carefully deal with sinners as they should, but turn them over to someone far less skilled and discerning. Were you dealt with by a so-called soul winner, or by an altar worker? Perhaps an unskilled pastor dealt with you. The result? A guy ends up thinking he is converted because he heard the gospel and believed, and because someone took it upon himself to tell him he was saved. That someone may even have presumed to give the poor fellow something purported to be the assurance of salvation, which in reality only the Spirit of God should take upon Himself to give anyone.

So, time passes. The shine wears off. The glow diminishes. The supposed Christian fellow finds himself frustrated and confused. He experiences no power over sins in his life. He wonders at the lack of anything remotely like joy unspeakable and full of glory. Over time, he becomes discouraged and despondent. He wonders if the promises of God are true.

In many cases, in most cases, such a fellow drifts to the sidelines or drops completely out of sight. Unbeknownst to that poor fellow, his experiences are so much like Abrahamís in Genesis chapters 12, 13 and 14, so much like so many of Christís disciples who believed but did not believe, and so much like others in the New Testament who exercised faith, but it turned out that they believed in vain.

Please know that my heart goes out to such a guy. My heart breaks for such a poor gal. They hear the truth, they think they grasp its importance, and they honestly think they have faith. However, their lives reflect nothing of the joy and victory they were led to believe was a part of every Christianís life.

How can I help a person like that? How can I minister to a person who thought she was saved, but has had to grudgingly admit to herself that she has no victory, no joy, no peace, and no real assurance of salvation, left with only a stubborn refusal to admit that she is still lost?

Grant that this morningís message is not the be all and end all of every sinner who finds himself having exercised faith that was real faith, but which was not saving faith. Yet I trust this morningís message will address one of the problems that sometimes afflicts such disillusioned, confused, frightened, and all too often disappointed pretenders.

My text is First Peter 4.8: ďAnd above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.Ē

Charity, of course, is love. Love covers a multitude of sins. There are usually three parties involved when a sinner has believed in vain, has exercised faith, but is still unsaved.

First, there is God. Of course, He is utterly without blame because He is holy, and righteous, and good, and merciful, and gracious. It is a tragic mistake to ever blame God for anything. He, the all-wise God, is also good and worthy of no blame.

Second, there is the minister of the gospel. My minister I could be referring to one person, or to a number of people. Whether it is the preacher or the altar worker, the Sunday School teacher or the door knocking soul winner, this minister would be the person or persons who dealt with the sinner when he thought he was saved. This minister would be the person or persons who prematurely drew the net. This minister would be the person or persons who gave a false assurance of salvation to someone who had a false hope.

What can you do about that person or those people when you look back? You cannot do anything. If you were spiritually mishandled by someone, or by several people, you need to just let it go. There is nothing you can do about that now.

If you now understand that they did not get you saved, or if you now understand that they led you astray or gave you a false assurance based upon a false hope, move past that.

If they did not get you saved, remember that they did not get you lost, either. You are lost because of your sins and no one elseís sins, so stay focused on your own condition.

Where you are right now is lost. You are where Abraham was after he came out of Ur of the Chaldees, but before his faith was counted unto him for righteousness. You have exercised faith. You have believed as much as you know how. However, you, and just about everyone else with any kind of discernment, knows you are still lost.

What is your problem? Is there a hang-up? Perhaps there is a distraction that diverts your attention. Allow me to use our text to shed some light on what may be a problem in your life. The fault cannot lie with God. Though another person or other people may share some of the blame, you simply cannot do anything about other people. That leaves you with yourself and your own personal sins to deal with.

What could you be doing that hinders your progress, that interferes with your striving, that distracts you from looking unto Jesus, the Author, and Finisher of the faith? I think the problem may be that you are taking note of Christianís sins.

You look around and see my flaws, or her inconsistencies, or their erratic behavior, or our lack of devotion. In short, you see the sins of this person, of that person, and of that other fellow over there, and what they do really irritates you, really discourages you, and perhaps from time to time enrages you.

Would you like to know why you see those things? Ever think about how such behavior so easily comes to your attention? You are disobeying the Lord Jesus Christís command to love your neighbor as yourself. As well, because you have no love for your fellow man, particularly Christians, because the love that should cover a multitude of sins is not present to cover their sins, you see them all . . . and their sins bother you.

Let me comment on your lack of love for Godís people, your keen eye for Christianís sins and shortcomings, and your disobedience to the Saviorís command to love your neighbor so much that you are not only willing, but also eager, to overlook those sins.

My purpose is not to scold you.

My intent is not to offend you.

My desire is to use Godís Word to rebuke and correct you so that you actually, really, genuinely, come to Christ.

First, SUCH BEHAVIOR IS SINFUL

Keep in mind what we are focusing our attention on, your tendency to look at a Christianís sins and to become frustrated, angry, discouraged, and who knows what else, because of those sins. Such observations of other peopleís sins reveal that you do not love.

Remember, love is not a feeling, so you can have wonderful feelings toward someone and not truly love him. Love is displayed by your behavior. Therefore, if that personís sins are not covered from your sight, if you notice that personís sins all the time, you do not love him. Therefore, no matter how sinful that other personís sins happen to be, your behavior is also sinful. Whose sins are worse, an erratic and inconsistent child of God whose sins are washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ, or a lost man who uses the sins of other people to justify not becoming a Christian?

Please do not for a second think that I am in any way excusing any Christianís sins. I am vigorous in rebuking Christians for wrongdoing and for being stumbling blocks to the unconverted. However, no lost person will ever be able to demand that everyone else clean up their act so he can focus his attention on the Savior. You need to focus your attention on the Savior no matter what anyone else does.

Not loving someone enough to overlook their sins so you can properly deal with your own sins is a violation of the second great commandment. It is a sin against God, and you need to stop taking note of other peopleís sins. Love them enough to overlook their sins, at least until you are saved yourself.

Second, SUCH BEHAVIOR REVEALS IGNORANCE

How is noticing and being distracted by Christianís sins ignorant? Such distractions are evidence of ignorance of a tragic misunderstanding of the doctrines of justification and sanctification.

Let me lay the groundwork to explain what I mean by reading from a wonderful book written by a 19th century Scottish theologian named James Buchanan:

Most of the leading errors on the subject of Justification may be traced to obscure or defective views in regard to the nature or import of imputation, and have arisen from supposingóeither that it consists in the infusion of moral qualities, in which case Justification is confounded with Sanctificationóor that, in so far as imputation may be distinguished from such infusion, it is founded, at least, on the moral qualities which thus become inherent, in which case Justification has for its immediate ground a personal, and not a vicarious, righteousness.[2]

Would you like me to paraphrase what Buchanan has written here? To paraphrase Buchanan, justification and sanctification are different, though they are always companions. Justification refers to the immediate change of a personís standing before God without changing the person, while sanctification refers to the change of the person over time.

So you see, when a sinner looks at Christians and becomes horrified by our sins, that sinner betrays his or her own confusion about justification and sanctification. No one becomes better by being justified, only better off. Sanctification results in a Christian becoming better, but only gradually, and never completely.

Romans 5.8 reads, ďBut God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Ē

First John 1.10 reads, ďIf we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.Ē

Therefore, you see, we are sinners when we are justified, and we remain sinners for the rest of our lives. The conclusion? Though Christians should be dealt with for sinning, all Christians do commit sins. As well, all Christians will continue to commit sins until the day we die.

Therefore, to be overmuch distracted by a Christianís sins reveals a flawed understanding of what happens when someone is saved, and displays an unrealistic and unscriptural expectation of any Christianís behavior.

Am I granting permission for Christians to sin? Heavens, no. I could write a book about the terrible consequences of Christians sinning, and how their sins hindered sinners from coming to Christ. However, donít you allow any Christianís sins to keep you from coming to Christ.

Third, SUCH BEHAVIOR IS PROUD

From point #1, we know that it is sinful to take note of otherís sins when the love you should have for them would cover their sins from your sight. From point #2, we know that such behavior also reveals ignorance about the true nature of justification and sanctification. Now we attend to the pride that motivates a sinner to focus on Christianís sins.

We do not need convincing that sinners are depraved. Sinful hearts are ďdeceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,Ē according to Jeremiah 17.9. Therefore, accompanying every sinnerís depravity is an astonishing capacity for self-deception. We see that in the phrase ďdeceitful above all things.Ē Nothing is more capable of deceit than a sinnerís own heart.

With that, let me review for you how a sinnerís pride will motivate him to deceive himself with respect to attention he pays to the sins of Christians. I read Second Corinthians 10.12: ďFor we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.Ē

It is a tendency that all are prone to, but which is deadly for those who are lost, looking at the sins of Christians so you can weigh them against your own sins. Why does the lost fellow do this? I assure you, it is more than curiosity. It is also more than just innocently noticing what other people do. It is what the lost manís proud heart grabs hold of to use in the comparison game he plays to enable him to feel good about himself.

Please turn to Luke 18.9, where we find a most applicable parable:

9††††† And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10†††† Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11†††† The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12†††† I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13†††† And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14†††† I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

If you remove this parable from its distinctively Jewish context, what you have is one lost fellow who makes himself feel better by comparing himself with someone else, who he thinks is somehow beneath him. It takes little imagination to picture a 21st century church-going lost man doing the very same thing with this church member and that church member.

Here is the scenario: The lost man has come to church, has believed the gospel, has exercised faith, but has not been saved. He has no joy from the indwelling Spirit of God because the Spirit of God does not indwell him. Neither does he enjoy real victory over sin. Frustrated and confused, he will not consider the possibility that he is not genuinely converted because when he compares his own behavior to others, say to church members, by his own reckoning he comes out ahead. Of course, just such a conclusion makes him feel better about himself, bolsters his ego, and puffs his pride, so he hangs on to that conclusion, not knowing that comparing himself with anyone else is not wise . . . because he thereby provides false comfort to his lost soul.

Every genuinely converted person is prone to wandering, has to fight against the tendency to slide backwards, what the Puritans called the declension of the soul. Therefore, any time a sinner looks at a Christian to find evidence to comfort himself in his lost condition by finding fault in the Christianís life he will almost certainly succeed. He will succeed for at least two reasons: First, he will succeed in his search for sin in the Christianís life, because one almost finds what one is looking for. If you look for fault and shortcoming in my life, I promise that you will find it. Second, he will succeed in his search for sin in the Christianís life because he is, of necessity, looking on the outside of the person.

However, God looks upon the heart.[3] Therefore, when God sees that with the heart that person has believed unto righteousness He has no issue with him. His sins have been cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. The sinner, on the other hand, may find plenty to complain about.

When this happens, there are two extremely serious problems occurring: First, when a sinner looks at a Christianís sins he is not looking at his own. Or, at least, he is not looking at his own, as he should. Second, when a sinner looks at a Christianís sins he is not looking at Jesus.

Why is that significant? The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, left heavenís glory and took upon Himself flesh, suffered and bled and died for sins on the cross, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God, was buried and rose from the dead after three days and three nights, and now sits at His fatherís right hand on high. Before you ever truly respond to the gospel to the saving of your soul, you must see your sins for what they are, damning and defiling. However, so long as you are looking at anyone elseís sins, even the sins of Christians, you will see their sins as damning and defiling and not your own as damning and defiling. Not seeing your own sins as damning and defiling, and not impressed that the holiness of God demands your punishment for your own sins, you will not turn from your sins and flee to the safe haven and refuge for your soul, which is Jesus Christ.

There you have it. For who knows how long you have sat dead in the water, making no progress in your Christian life . . . because you have no Christian life. You have made the mistake of supposing faith was the same as life, not knowing what even in the case of father Abraham, faith was exercised that did not result in the salvation of his soul.

My friend, you are not saved . . . yet. You need to give up this false hope that you are born again, abandon this delusion that you are genuinely converted, and let go of this false hope that you have that your sins are forgiven.

Yes, you did respond by faith to Godís Word sometime back, like Abraham coming from Ur of the Chaldees into the Promised Land. However, Abraham was later justified, and you, too, now need to be justified. And until you are justified, you remain in your sins, with the condemnation of God hanging over you, awaiting certain punishment for your sins.

So, what to do now? Acknowledge your condition. Abandon the pretense of being a Christian. Begin now to strive to enter in at the strait gate, and purpose to continue striving until you truly come to Christ.



[1] Habakkuk 2.4; Romans 1.17; Galatians 3.11; Hebrews 10.38

[2] James Buchanan (1804-1870), The Doctrine of Justification: An Outline of Its History in the Church and of Its Exposition from Scripture, (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006), page 323.

[3] 1 Samuel 16.7

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org