The Differences Between Sins, and Mistakes.


Recently, I had a conversation with a person on social media about sins, and mistakes. Their first assertion was that, sins are the willful transgression of the known will of God. The second assertion was that people are not culpable to God for mistakes that they make. Lastly, they failed to define what mistakes are, even when asked several times. I quickly identified this as a Nazarene Church member, because I had been a member for approximately 19 years give or take. I decided since they came to my page to discuss this issue that it was a proper opening to engage them. I typically don’t go to other people’s pages and comment on things I don’t agree with. I see it as bad etiquette, but if they come to me, so be it. Listed below is the section 5.3 Sin, Original and Personal from the Nazarene Church’s Preamble and Articles of Faith;

5.3. We believe that actual or personal sin is a voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person. It is therefore not to be confused with involuntary and inescapable shortcomings, infirmities, faults, mistakes, failures, or other deviations from a standard of perfect conduct that are the residual effects of the Fall. However, such innocent effects do not include attitudes or responses contrary to the spirit of Christ, which may properly be called sins of the spirit. We believe that personal sin is primarily and essentially a violation of the law of love; and that in relation to Christ sin may be defined as unbelief.

(Original sin: Genesis 3; 6:5; Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 1:18-25; 5:12-14; 7:1-8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 John 1:7-8

Personal sin: Matthew 22:36-40 {with 1 John 3:4}; John 8:34-36; 16:8-9; Romans 3:23; 6:15-23; 8:18-24; 14:23; 1 John 1:9-2:4; 3:7-10)”

As you can see from their article, it is what has led some of them to their minimization of sin, thus diminishing the importance of the gospel, as well as creating a legalistic approach to righteousness. This last consequence is also a product of their doctrine of Entire Sanctification. Their doctrine of Entire Sanctification is also a product of their minimization of sin. This is what Article 10 says about Entire Sanctification;

X. Christian Holiness and Entire Sanctification


10. We believe that sanctification is the work of God which transforms believers into the likeness of Christ. It is wrought by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit in initial sanctification, or regeneration (simultaneous with justification), entire sanctification, and the continued perfecting work of the Holy Spirit culminating in glorification. In glorification we are fully conformed to the image of the Son.

We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect.

It is wrought by the baptism with or infilling of the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service. Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by grace through faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.

This experience is also known by various terms representing its different phases, such as “Christian perfection,” “perfect love,” “heart purity,” “the baptism with or infilling of the Holy Spirit,” “the fullness of the blessing,” and “Christian holiness.””

Not that long ago the Nazarene Church made some changes to their Articles of Faith. What I linked to is their current one. They have clarified it to some degree, but you can’t lay all the blame on the average Church goer for their personal affirmation of false doctrines. After reading the Articles of Faith, I can see what they are trying to express, but it can confuse the layman. I think this is mostly due to their Ordo Salutis, and Semi-Pelagianism that is all part of the traditions of a portion of the people in the denomination. From what I understand they are slowly trying to move away from the errors of Semi-Pelagianism that were made in the past.

If you are old enough you’d remember a different looking CotN. The girls mostly wore dresses, and dancing was not allowed. They looked and acted like Pentecostal versions of the Mennonites almost. Some believed that a person could be entirely sinless in their life. That is what their personal understanding of their doctrine of Entire Sanctification looked like. If you read it now, you can see it is a bit more nuanced, but you can also see how it could lead someone to believe the other way. When you look at Wesley’s writings on the topic, if you have a good theological foundation, you can see where he is heading. The problem lies in the fact that so many people are very simple in their education and ability to reason, that they take his work to mean what it appears to mean at a superficial reading. I’m not saying I agree with his conclusions. I actually think he was poorly repaving a road that had been well paved, and traveled long before him, by men more learned and brilliant.

I see Wesley as more of an evangelist and less of a theologian.  I understand him to be attempting to make room for people who don’t know, or believe, everything rightly all the time to still be saved. All of us are wrong all the time about something whether we know it or not. That doesn’t ruin our justification. I used to think the Trinity was best expressed as the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as all three parts of God. I had no idea that was the heresy of partialism. Once I was taught by more mature Christians from scripture that they are three persons, one God I was able to repent of my heresy. Was I not saved back then? I think I was, but I was a material heretic. I was not a formal heretic. If I’d persisted to death in a heresy, and rejected all correction, then I would have proven to be a false convert and formal heretic.

The person I was having the discussion with was of the old fashion persuasion. They didn’t read Wesley. They just took a superficial approach to their denomination’s doctrines and ran with it. So for them, sin was simply willfully transgressing a known law of God and it excludes mistakes, infirmities, failures, faults, emotions, (feelings) and thoughts. They also argued that a Christian will stop sinning completely, even though I showed them 1 John 1:8 and explained that John was addressing Christians. I was also told that if I sinned and then died immediately after, without repenting, that I would go to Hell. This is another one of their misguided beliefs. They believe that a genuine Christian can apostatize by willfully sinning. What I was dealing with was a Semi-Pelagian, not a Wesleyan. It is interesting because they make a categorical error by contrasting sins with mistakes. I don’t know if it ever occurred to them that a sin is always sinful, but a mistake can be sin or not sin. I mentioned this and got no answer. The same can be said for the other things listed that they say are not sin. We know that having a lustful thought pop into your head is a sin, and that we must take every thought captive so it doesn’t come to fruition in deed. We also know that to God we are guilty of that sin. It sure is a good thing that Christ justified me, and paid for all of my sin. I am exceedingly sinful, and exceedingly thankful for His righteousness that He imputed to me upon justification. I think this eludes the Semi-Pelagian. They are in a works righteousness faith where they must maintain their position of being righteous by works. This particular flavor of Semi-Pelagian makes this task less daunting by watering down sin and man’s responsibility. In so doing they rob God of the glory, as it were. So much the worse for them, as many of them are not truly saved, but still lost. Of course, I would not say that all of them are lost. Some may be material heretics, just waiting to be corrected and brought into repentance. Could you be the one to speak into their lives with the truth?

Lost, Saved, Baptized, Rinse and Repeat.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I got saved and baptized when I was a kid, but then I walked away from my faith, and now that I’m an adult, I have come back?” Then, they get baptized again and share their testimony. After a few months of being, “back” they walk away again/backslide. A while later they decide they need to recommit their life to Christ, so they come back to Church and get baptized again. I don’t know how many times, in the Nazarene Church I attended, I heard someone say this, but it was a lot. I didn’t know how to understand this then. I didn’t have the Biblical knowledge to know this was wrong. I knew it was wrong intuitively, but couldn’t build a case Biblically.
I struggled with this myself. Was I really saved that time when I was 19? If so, why am I still fighting these temptations to sin in my life? The Nazarene Church taught, “Entire Sanctification” back then. It was a doctrine that said it was possible for a person to mature spiritually, in this life, to the point where they no longer sinned. I got so frustrated with my constant failings. I cried out to God and told Him, “I can’t do it! I can’t stop sinning! If You want me to stop you are going to have to stop me!” So then came about a 10 year period where I gave up fighting the sins that were too hard to stop on my own. Sure I gave the outward appearance of being a Christian when I was at Church, but at work I still acted like a child. I used profanity all of the time, I told dirty jokes, I engaged in low humor, I entertained hateful thoughts against others because of their political beliefs, and I liked what I saw on television, except I would still cringe when a show used blasphemy. I knew I was doing wrong. I knew from what the Bible said, I was doing these things because my heart desired to do them. I also knew in my head that I didn’t want to keep doing them.
The Church also taught that you could become apostate or lose your salvation if you continued to sin after being saved. This was the doctrine of, “Apostasy.” I remember asking the Pastor about what it said in Hebrews 6, about not being able to be saved after losing your salvation by continuing in willful sin. He explained that was correct. I asked him how anyone can stay saved if that was true. Another person quoted the passage about forgiving 70 times 7. They were trying to tell me if I repent, Christ will keep forgiving me, but if I didn’t repent, and then died, that I would go to hell. All of this didn’t jive with what I was reading in the Bible. It seemed as if people were just cherry-picking passages out of the Bible to justify the way they wanted to live.
The denomination had its own definition of sin. I couldn’t justify it with what I had been reading in the Bible. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I kept committing sins. I felt powerless to be holy like the Church said I must be. My best efforts kept failing. That is why I gave up. The Church said sin was a willful transgression of a known law of God. I asked, “What if I fell into traffic, looked up to see a truck coming, cussed, and then was killed before I could repent?” I was told that was just a mistake, not a sin. So I asked, “What if, I blasphemed instead of cussed, in the same scenario?” I was told I might go to Hell. I was having a difficult time understanding being saved if it was always precariously perched on the narrow ledge of my flawed capacity.
I went down the roads of, “Easy Believism” and “Cheap Grace.” I rejected the doctrines of, “Entire Sanctification and Apostasy.” While I was confused and erring I still knew and was strongly convicted that this was not right either. There is something I am missing. I was going through a very difficult time in my life.  I didn’t trust God with my money, I didn’t trust God with my marriage, and I proved I didn’t trust God by my actions.
A good friend suggested I read the book, “Crazy Love” written by this, Chinese American Pastor from California, with a shaved head. I was not at all anticipating the affect it would have on me or my life. Francis Chan’s book was a kick in my guts. It wasn’t a cruel kick, but rather one that was used by God. He got my attention and exposed how I was lukewarm. I was going to be told, “depart, I never knew you.” It was also about the same time this new radio program was playing on the local A.M. station. This funny, yet serious man named, “Todd Friel” with, “Wretched Radio” kept chipping away at what I had been told by the Church, with truth from the Bible. He was presenting a Reformed view of soteriology. (salvation) It was rocking my world. I was also listening to a local theologian on the same station. His name was Matt Slick. At first I was like, “What’s with this clown’s name? Is he a used car salesman or what?” So I was curious. I went to his website, “CARM.ORG” I read many of his articles and listened to his program and Todd Friel’s program intently and found myself nodding in agreement with them. I got on the internet and watched video after video from Matt Chandler, David Platt, Paul Washer, John Macarthur, R.C. Sproul, Leonard Ravenhill, Martyn Lloyd Jones, and so on. It was like I had this table with a billion puzzle pieces on it, and I only had a couple of corners figured out with some clouds, and these two men were helping me put the pieces together faster than I had ever done before. One day after most of the pieces were put together it was like someone nudged the table and the remaining ones fell into place. It was one of those epiphany moments you have in life.
I don’t want to forget to mention the affect that, “Witness Wednesday” on, “Wretched Radio” had on me. I heard Ray Comfort and Todd Friel presenting the real gospel message to people on the streets and on college campuses. I finally heard the gospel after 15 or so years of believing I was a real Christian. Instead of hearing, “You’ve got a Jesus shaped hole in your heart. Won’t you let Jesus in? God is a gentleman and won’t come in unless you ask Him. He is waiting at the door of your heart, won’t you let Him in?” I was in a state of shock. It was so simple. Why hadn’t anyone preached this to me before?!? Why? Why? Why?! I was so angry with the Church, my friends, and most of all me. How could I not get it? Faith and repentance! Du!
What I had known to be the Christian faith was off by just a scant amount, it seemed Christian, but it was out of phase. Through all of these influences in the middle of my suffering, I heard about real saving faith and repentance that are granted by God. Faith I couldn’t force myself to have in 15 years of trying. Repentance I couldn’t force myself to do, and the effects of these two things. I found myself running headlong into a study of Reformed Theology, the Reformers, the Puritans, and God’s sovereignty. My wife would ask me if we could talk about something other than religion. My co-workers were probably wondering what was going on with me. I would talk about my faith with everyone I met and share the gospel with them. I started evangelizing wherever I went. I actually read my Bible from cover to cover with a reading plan from R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier. I consumed scripture like I had never done before. The word of God became alive to me. Doctrine after doctrine fell into place in a harmony I had never before experienced in all of my piece-meal Bible reading.
I’d be remiss, if I didn’t tell you about the great help Dr. R. C. Sproul’s book, “The Holiness of God” was to me. He corrected the low view of God, the high view of man’s abilities, and the marginal view of sin that I had. It fixed in my head how holy God is, how helpless man is, and how offensive sin is. With this knowledge firmly ensconced in my mind, I could finally put the false teachings behind me.
You see, people don’t get saved and then lose their salvation. They don’t get resaved over and over again. You get saved ONCE! If your life isn’t characterized by growth in knowledge of personal sin and in holiness you aren’t saved. It never happened. Do you read your Bible regularly? Do you hate sin in your life, the sin you used to make room for? Do you love to go to Church and be with God’s people and worship Him together with them? Do you trust Jesus alone for your salvation and righteousness? Do you love to do good works, not out of a sense of duty or obligation, but rather do… YOU… LOVE… to do the good things God has prepared for you to do before creation?
A saved person is a new person. They are a different person. They have a different nature. They are born again. They died to themselves and were resurrected with Christ a new person. I never got this in all those years. I suspected there was more to this religion, but I couldn’t grasp it. I couldn’t comprehend it… yet! Then God worked a double miracle in my life of regeneration, and justification. I trust Him to complete the sanctification that He has started in me. I desire to be conformed to His word and will instead of shrinking from it. I love Jesus! I hope you will to.  Watch the video to get the gospel presented to you.