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Unread 09-13-2017, 09:22 AM   #1
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Recurring Sins

What is the difference (if any) between struggling with a recurring sin and living a sinful lifestyle?

In my mind I keep going back to Paul.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold as a slave to sin. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. 21 So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. 22 For in my inner self I delight in Godís law, 23 but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.

Romans 7:14-25 (CSB)

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Unread 09-13-2017, 09:36 PM   #2
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I always viewed it as an attitude issue. I figured battling a recurring sin meant you knew it was wrong and were trying to quit / reaching out for help help / genuinely wanting to get better, whereas living a sinful lifestyle meant knowing it was wrong but not caring to quit, find help, or get better.
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Unread 09-15-2017, 07:40 AM   #3
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Is there a point where those recurring sins lead you down a path (for lack of a better analogy) to a hardened heart?

Is there ever a point where God goes, "You know what? I've had it."


I used to believe so. Now...I'm not sure. The more I study grace the more it blows me away. However, there are still passages where it talks about God hardening people's hearts (Exodus) and giving people over to their own lusts (Romans).
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Unread 09-15-2017, 11:25 AM   #4
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That particular passage from Romans 7 may be referring to pre-conversion sin. It is often read as struggle-with-sin-as-a-christian, but as-Christian-struggle it is neither how it has been historically read (I'm sure some have in history, but you know what I mean) nor is it definitively the best way of reading it. I encourage you to read the passage both ways in light of the flow of Paul's thought in chapters 6 and 8.

I think Richard Gaffin, for example, takes it to be pre-conversion sin.

That all said, it might be the right doctrine from the wrong text. (See other passages in Paul)

As to your question, I am of the mind that we have little comprehension how much grace we are being shown, and that God reveals to us progressively over time how much we have been sustained by grace even while wrestling with sin. Read John Newton, or perhaps Barbara Duguid. We are made alive with Christ, and therefore we should put to death everything that lives within us that causes us to sin. In the meantime, grace.

That may not seem like an answer. Another way of looking at it, I am thinking, is that if you call God's law evil and call sin good, you are living as someone dead in sin and believing as someone dead in sin. This is pretty good evidence that you are not regenerate. But it isn't conclusive. I would be willing to say that someone living that way is a "non-Christian", whether they are or not from a divine perspective, because treating and calling someone not a Christian in that scenario appropriately clarifies the need for repentance. (For the Christian, it is an appropriate warning; for the non-Christian, it is the appropriate warning)

People can get hardened hearts from habitual disobedience to repeated calls to repentance. It is a very dark place to be. I don't think that with this pronouncement one as enough information about whether they are "saved" or not. They need to repent, and God is showing various degrees and kinds of grace until that happens, whether salvific or not.
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Last edited by athanatos; 09-15-2017 at 11:37 AM.
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Unread 09-17-2017, 12:40 AM   #5
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Martin Luther got it right in Theses I of his 95 Theses, in which he said "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

(He started to go wrong in thesis II, however, though his error in Thesis II was probably understandable given the thoroughly and expressly juridical understanding of sacramental confession that Rome had - and still has - at the time).

That digression aside, however, I see the Apostle as relating the truths that every Christian who has been a Christian for some time, knows well: we can and should expect to be tempted until our last breath. Through trials, temptations, and asceticism - prayer and fasting - we do battle with our flesh and train our body to put to death the lusts of the flesh. Part of that is frequent repentance, of which the culmination, in the Orthodox understanding, is bringing that repentance which has already taken place before God in private into the presence of Christ within the Church, witnessed by the presbyter as a representative of the Church who then provides the assurance of pardon through the power Christ gave to His apostles to remit sins (John 20:23).
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Unread 10-11-2017, 06:30 PM   #6
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This has been on my plate for quite some time as well. I've 'struggled' with sinful patterns throughout my Christian pilgrimage so to speak, and I've found myself in places where though I knew the sin was sin and hated it, and felt terribly guilty about it (pornography if you haven't guessed) afterwards I would find myself falling back into it time and time again. I would think about this, whether I crossed the line (if there was a line) into straight up living in sin. After many years of on and off struggle with this I felt so numb about it, I'd find myself not even fighting the temptation, I could face something you could barely call a temptation and just give in knowing the pleasure but also fully aware of the guilt and shame to follow. Even coming to a point of hardly feeling the guilt afterwards, was my heart hardening?

I do believe so. I believe that the recurring sin in my life was a deep bondage and that the failure to properly repent of it (I believe repentance includes turning from sin - at least genuine attempts of turning from sin), hence where I described the lack of a fight of the temptation.

God doesn't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle right? My rather scattered thoughts right now.
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