Sin: part 2, what to do about it?

In part one, I defined sin. The sin or righteousness of our deeds is deeper than the surface appearance. This designation–sin or righteousness–is according to which teacher is behind our deeds. The focus of this post has to do with the question “what do we do about sin?” In order to answer that question I will be showing many quotes from various sources on the internet and from the Works of George Fox.

Traditional Christianity answers the question “what are we to do about sin?” as follows:

  1. Sin tempts the best of saints and the godliest commit sin. However, all the sins of believers are imputed to Jesus, and he died for them. God credits Jesus’ righteousness to the believers. (See https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A259/sin-and-what-to-do-about-it)
  2. Reading, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word will help you keep your mind and heart focused on Him, rather than on earthly temptations. (See https://www.godlife.com/en/devotional/5-tips-for-avoiding-sin) [note: by “God’s Word” they mean the Bible.]
  3. Your soul can be free from sin even though your body still sins. Being free from sin on a soul level should mean that you also seek freedom from sin on a physical level…even though it can never be permanently reached. (see https://www.wikihow.com/Be-Free-from-Sin)
  4. [Luther’s “simul justus et peccator”] summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view…[W]ith this formula, Luther was saying, in our justification we are one and the same time righteous or just, and sinners…He was saying from one perspective, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, from a different perspective, we are sinners; and how he defines that is simple. In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin; we’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the gospel. (see https://www.ligonier.org/blog/simul-justus-et-peccator/)
  5. Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven. Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness. (The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin, p. 498-499)

The common thread in all the above is that Jesus’ death took care of our guilt, but he is not able to prevent us from sinning. As far as sinning goes, their conclusion is that there is nothing to be done about it until we die. The above statements give Jesus the unusual power of deceiving the Father into seeing righteousness when what I am doing is unrighteousness. This is not good news. This is not the heart of the gospel.

In Lecture 3 of his series on Rediscovering the Teaching of George Fox, Lewis Benson said this about justified sinners:

Mainstream Christianity puts the emphasis on Christ’s priestly office. His saving work is seen as atoning for our sin, forgiving us for sin, and pardoning us for sin…he delivers us from the consequences of sin, but does not deliver us from captivity to sin. By his atoning act on the cross, he reconciles us to God but does not give us the power to overcome sin and temptation. Therefore we will not know victory over sin until we pass into the next world. The theological term for this atoning act of Christ as our priest is “justification,” and a Christian is defined, according to this doctrine, as a justified sinner. It seemed never to occur to John Calvin that the sin of a justified sinner could lead to just as disastrous and tragic personal, social, and historical consequences as the sin of an unjustified sinner. Fox was in revolt against this kind of Christianity. He maintained that Christ also has the power to save us from captivity to sin. When he preached that “Christ has come to teach his people himself,” he was proclaiming that Christ is the expected “prophet like Moses” who is able to teach us what is right and what is wrong, and to give us the power to do the right and reject the wrong. He is able to save us from sin, and not, as the Calvinists maintain, unable to do more than save us from its consequences. (See http://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/407697401?profile=original)

If George Fox was in revolt against the Christianity displayed in numbers 1-5 above, what did he have to say regarding what we are to do about sin?

And dwelling in the light, there is no occasion at all of stumbling, for all things are discovered with the light: thou that lovest it, here is thy teacher; when thou art walking abroad, it is present with thee in thy bosom; thou needest not to say, lo here, or lo there: and as thou liest in thy bed it is present to teach thee, and judge thy wandering mind, which would wander abroad, and thy high thoughts and imaginations, and makes them subject; for following thy thoughts thou art quickly lost. But dwelling in this light, it will discover to thee the body of sin, and thy corruptions, and fallen estate, where thou art, and multitude of thoughts: in that light which shews thee all this, stand, neither go to the right hand, nor to the left: here is patience exercised, here is thy will subjected, here thou wilt see the mercies of God made manifest in death: here thou wilt see the drinking of the waters of Shiloah, which run softly, and the promises of God fulfilled, which are to the seed, which seed is Christ: here thou wilt find a saviour, and the election thou wilt come to know, and the reprobation, and what is cast from God, and what enters: he that can own me here, and receive my testimony into his heart, the immortal seed is born up, and his own will thrust forth, for it is not him that willeth, nor him that runneth, but the election obtaineth it, and God that shews mercy; for the first step of peace is to stand still in the light (which discovers things contrary to it) for power and strength to stand against that nature which the light discovers: here grace grows, here is God alone glorified and exalted, and the unknown truth, unknown to the world, made manifest, which draws up that which lies in the prison, and refresheth it in time, up to God, out of time, through time. (Works of Fox, Vol. IV, pp.17-18)

Right away we see how Fox’s statement differs from 1-5 above. “Dwelling in the light, there is no occasion at all of stumbling…thou that lovest it, here is thy teacher.” Instead of an absentee Christ, he is present with us in his light when we are walking abroad, in our bosom, and when we lie in bed. And rather than the ever loosing battle against sin advocated in numbers 1-5 we are shown the steps of living without sin. “the first step of peace is to stand still in the light (which discovers things contrary to it) for power and strength to stand against that nature which the light discovers…”

Are you hearing this teacher?

Lets look at this from a different angle. Fox also wrote:

And the first Adam was made a living soul, and he died by eating of that which God forbid him, and so all died in Adam; and the last Adam, Christ Jesus, was made a quickening spirit; and it is he that quickens them that be dead in sins and trespasses, and makes them alive; and his grace, which brings salvation, hath appeared to all men, for them to believe in; and he doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world; and he saith, I am the living bread, which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’…for, by eating of that which God forbade, came death; and by eating of that which Christ gives and commands, comes life: so they remain in the death for want of believing and eating, who came into death by disobeying and eating. (Works Vol. V, pp. 417-418)

“…by eating of that which Christ gives and commands, comes life.” How do we eat his flesh? Jesus explained to the disciples, “The flesh profits nothing, it is the spirit that gives life. The words I speak to you, these are spirit, these are life.” (See John 6:63)

Are you eating the words of this teacher?

In his letter to Lady Claypool Fox wrote:

This is the word of the Lord God unto you all; what the light doth make manifest and discover, as temptations, distractions, confusions; do not look at the temptations, confusions, corruptions; but at the light which discovers them and makes them manifest; and with the same light you may feel over them, to receive power to stand against them. The same light which lets you see sin and transgression, will let you see the covenant of God, which blots out your sin and transgression, which gives victory and dominion over it, and brings into covenant with God. For looking down at sin, corruption, and distraction, ye are swallowed up in it; but looking at the light, which discovers them, ye will see over them. That will give victory, and ye will find grace and strength; there is the first step to peace. That will bring salvation; and by it ye may see to the beginning, and the ” Glory that was with the Father before the world began;” and come to know the seed of God, which is the heir of the promise of God, and of the world which hath no end; and which bruises the head of the serpent, who stops people from coming to God. That ye may feel the power of an endless life, the power of God which is immortal, which brings the immortal soul up to the immortal God, in whom it doth rejoice. So in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, God Almighty strengthen thee.’ (Works of Fox, Vol. I, pp. 376-377)

Are you looking at the light?

Fox stated in SOME PRINCIPLES OF THE Elect People of God Who in Scorn are called QUAKERS, For all People throughout all Christendome to Read over, and thereby their own States to Consider:

And this Light is within, by which all these things are seen, and you that love this Light, you will see…Christ the Mediator, Christ the Way, the Life, the Wisdom, the Sanctifier, the Redeemer, the Offering for your Sins, and the Sins of the whole World; in that Light you will have the Testimony of it; and so he that believes will have the Testimony and Witness in himself.

And so you all being Enlightened with the Light, receiving it, you receive Christ; you receive not Darkness nor the Prince of Darkness; And as many of you as do receive Christ, to them he will give Power to become the Sons of God; (Mark) you shall have Power through which you shall know Sonship, and not onely [only] to stand against Sin and Evil, but become Sons of God.

…and that is the Light which doth make manifest to every one of you, what you have done, said, thought, and acted, and which doth reprove you; and if you love the Light, ye love Christ, and love your Salvation, and Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and the Offering for Sin, and see him which makes an end of Sin, and destroyes the Devil which brought it in, and his Works, he that destroyes brings in Everlasting Righteousness in you: But…if you hate this Light, and go on in Sin and Evil, that will be your Condemnation; for this Light is with you at your Labours, and in your Beds, and in your Occasions, and Tradings, shewing all your Words and all your Thoughts, Deeds and Actions, which if you love it, it will lead you into the new Life, from the old, out of the Separation, and Degeneration from God his Life, and Image; and with the Light you will see Christ a King to rule you, who hath all Power in Heaven and Earth given to him; And with the Light you will see him a Prophet, to open to you, and a Priest to offer for you to the Father; and in the Light you will see more Light; it shining in your hearts it will give you the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ your Saviour; And with the Light you will see the Kingdom of Heaven within, that never consented to Sin and Evil; like unto a grain of Mustard-seed, the leven that levens into the new lump: And with this Light you will see the Field, which is the World, set in your hearts, where the Pearl is hid, and with what you may dig to find the Pearl, the Power of God; and what you must sell for its sake to purchase the Field. (see http://qhpress.org/texts/gfprinc.html)

Are you loving this light?

These four questions indicate the four stepping stones for dealing with sin. “Are you hearing this teacher? Are you eating the words of this teacher? Are you looking at the light? Are you loving the light?” This process is not a cover-up job as proposed by the teaching of traditional Christianity. Hearing the teacher, feeding on the words of this teacher, looking at the light, and loving the light bring about a transformation of life that can’t be achieved in any other manner. Sin and death–the darkness worked by Satan–are destroyed and thrown out and we begin to live the righteousness of Christ. “Justified” and “sinner” can no longer dwell side by side. The sinner cannot be held “innocent” (i.e. justified), for the light that shows the sinner his sin shows the way out of sin, and is his condemnation if it is not followed. The heart of the gospel is the power of God through the presence of Christ, which works actual righteousness within us rather than imputing to us something that is not deserved. The heart of the gospel is available to all through the light of Christ that enlightens everyone.

About Ellis Hein

I am a woodturner and the author of The Woodturner's Project Book. I have a life-long interest in the gospel preached by George Fox and the early Quakers. You can see some of my material on that subject at http://nffquaker.org/profiles/blog/list?user=1zw2th7nj9p89.
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