WHAT IF I SIN?
By Fred Pruitt
I have been sharing the union message since 1981. From then until now, questions about sin have been on the forefront of people’s minds almost every time we have shared the truth that through the Spirit we have been birthed into a union with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. People will often take that at first, but when we say when we walk it is Christ walking, or when we speak it is Christ speaking, in other words all our words and actions are through the Spirit Christ in, through and AS us, a lot of folks balk at that and the sin questions start pouring out.
I put no blame or assign no shame to anyone because of that. It’s what we have been taught for nearly 2000 years. It’s pretty much in the “tradition” of almost all sects and denominations of the Church of Christ since the first and second generations of the first fathers were finally all gone. Sin consciousness. It was pervasive in Catholicism and in the Reformation the Protestants took it with them.
(Let me stop right here and say, I am not protesting against the individuals who brought those things in, as if I am something better and would not have done it myself. That was their time. Now this time is ours.)
That set me thinking about American history from the time the first Europeans arrived and began to colonize. The current moral and political issues aside, they had their work cut out for them. That is an understatement. The first English and other British isle folk that arrived came to a place that they had to carve out of the wilderness and learn the ways of that land immediately, or they wouldn’t be able to make it work. Once all the supplies they brought from the mother country were offloaded from the ship to the shore, that was it, at least for months. They had to make it last until the next ship would arrive, perhaps a year or more away.
I live in a world where if I have the money I can have most anything I want most anytime I want. All those original colonists had was a forest and earth, a few tools and seeds of various kinds, maybe a few animals, sacks of flour, salt and probably some salted meat and fish. And there was no store to run to if they ran out of anything.
Many died. Some from sickness, some from starvation, some from conflict with the natives. But all didn’t die. Quite a number lived. They cleared land and planted crops. It took years, but, except for some dainties that could only be manufactured or acquired from European sources, in a generation or so they became self-sufficient in terms of food production and self-defense.
It was really tough for those first ones, but their sacrifices and often deaths paved the way for others to come, who also suffered hardship in their subsequent generations, as the new nation was forming itself. They all paid the price and the price was their labor and their lives, always bringing in more others. And everyone that came from the beginning until now, came because of a hope and belief that they could have a better life.
I know that looks like I’m talking about “immigrants” but I’m not. What I am pointing out in this story was that they were responsible for their own survival. They had to succeed or they would die. Nature is merciless. They had to learn most of it on their own, though those that established and maintained friendly relations with the local inhabitants, often learned from them how to hunt and make a living off the land, and many other things.
Alright now, leaving American history. Leaving the 17th century and winding up in 1973 when the Spirit took us from Georgia to California and put us in an unusual church. It was a denominational Pentecostal church, and I didn’t know these terms at the time, but they had an Arminian point of view of the scriptures. A whole bunch of stuff defines what Armianism actually is, but the aspect emphasized where we were was the constant exhortation to be vigilant because if you blinked wrong you could lose your salvation. I exaggerate, but that’s about how it came across in my psyche. It’s the opposite of the doctrine of eternal security. What I heard in my brain was crazy freakie horrifyingly terrifyingly real eternal IN-security.
That’s why I was so scared when we left them in 1980. We had arrived seven years before, in June 1973, new in our baby-love of Jesus, praising God and passing the mashed potatoes. Hallelujah, God I love you! Free as a bird.
When we left in April 1980, I was as scared as a rabbit being chased by a pack of hounds. I was scared I was going to hell, and even was partly made to believe I was already there. It wasn’t fear of the dark or the fear of uncertainty, it was existential fear, a fear in the center of my being, uncontrollable, raging, trying to claw its way out of my innards and invade and destroy my whole universe.
Two things knocked it out, and a third sent it back to its pit forever. The first salve that appeared in two parts, even before the storm began in earnest, came the night after turning in our resignations to the ministers. First night as a “civilian” sort of. They had been supposedly our “shepherds” (covers), during those years and as such we were bound by oath and their commandment to obey them and allow their words and decisions to be as if they were God’s words and decisions for us. It was supposed to be our “security.” Thinking about it that night, in realizing I no longer had them to “catch me if I fall,” so to speak, I said a funny little thing out loud to myself that at the moment the words came out of my mouth, it sounded like an unfortunate thing or a disappointment because we had lost something. The words were, “Gosh, I don’t have them anymore. All I’ve got is God.”
Then suddenly it hit me. ALL I’VE GOT IS GOD! ALL I’VE GOT IS GOD! ALL I’VE GOT IS GOD!
And the second part came at bedtime. I read Psalm 4 and came to verse 8 –
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”
I still didn’t see it all. But the light was lighting itself. At the point of my greatest darkness, the light shined. It was after that within a few days the storm came in like Hurricane Katrina in my soul and body, and it twisted me around and around for many days and weeks.
But in the middle of that, the second salve came, the one I wrote down on a slip of paper and carried in my wallet for years and years, that I’ve quoted often because I began to know the true grace of God, how precious it was and unbelievable. The faith it stirred in me that God would get me through this and onto sure footing somehow, though I couldn’t think how, has been the same faith that has almost operated itself (yet not faith, but grace – it all works together) in me every day since.
“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Ps 73:24). THOU SHALT stood out, and I knew it wasn’t talking about me. HE would do it. And there I stayed within while the storm without still raged for a few more months, after our arrival back home to Georgia.
The knockout punch that sent it back to the pit forever, was another oft-described event in my life, with Janis and I sitting across from Norman Grubb in his wingback chair. I confessed I “needed a minister” and he sat up erect and his arm extended toward me and he said, “You don’t need any man to teach you, you have the Teacher in you!”
ZOOM!!! LIGHTNING BOLT!!! That was in September 1980, and I’m still feeling the heat of that lightning bolt!
Now, why have I said all this when the original question was, “What if I sin?”
It’s because everybody is looking around for security while ignoring the only Security there is in the universe.
Honestly, historically believers have turned to “Church” doctrine or teaching to find answers to serious questions, none of them more serious or even as serious as knowing our “status” in God. We read books, we take courses, attend seminars, listen to audios and watch videos, to see if anybody has the answers or better answers than they have at the moment.
It’s like the children of Israel at the base of Mount Sinai. “Moses, please go up the mountain for us, we’re scared. Please go up there and find out from God what we’re to do and not do, and come down and tell us, because we’re scared of him. The mountain itself scares us, with the smoke and fire and lightnings we see high above. So you go for us, please, Moses. We’ll stay down here.”
So Moses goes up, has a lot of conversation with God, and then after a bad first try, comes down the mountain with the tablets of the law and reads it all to the people. Moses asks the people if they’re going to abide by the law or not, and they all say in unison, “All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.” (Ex 19:8).
Even without the union question, the once saved always saved doctrine gets mentioned often. Do you believe in the doctrine of eternal security, they ask. That’s quite sacrosanct, too. But no, I don’t believe in the doctrine of eternal security. I believe God is my security. He promised me He will guide me my whole life and He would bring me to glory Himself. Since I heard that word in myself, I don’t need the solace of what my church says. If we really want security in our lives, we won’t find it in our creeds or books or the “positions” of our church. It’s “in us.” That’s where we find it.
There is a HUGE movement afoot these days, to get rid of the “faith aspect” of our life in Christ. I see the whole notion ridiculed and mocked by some. Don’t people realize that this is the tool God gave us (and by the Spirit operates in us). It’s just like Moses’ rod. God told him to pick it up and use it.
It’s like a muscle, and a muscle grows larger by exercise. It’s God’s tool; it’s Grace’s tool; it’s the Spirit’s tool! Jesus didn’t say, “When I come back, will I find grace, or good teaching, or mighty prophesyings?” No, He said, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b).
And that must be the answer to “what if I sin?” Or the often companion question to that, “If I’m in union and I sin, who is sinning?”
What people are looking for is a sure-fire set of words, a formula, that’s 100% guaranteed to work. And there isn’t one that hasn’t already been given to this question. It’s been given but just by this question alone we can see folks do not believe the answer that has been given.
The answer is, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16).
The answer to “how to walk in the Spirit” is the same for the sin question. It isn’t a “given” that all this works like a charm for us. The Spirit does it, but it wrenches our being inside out in the doing of it, and that is we find these answers in God only. He IS the answer. The Spirit is the Teacher.
These are the things we more or less “gut it out” with the Lord. Whatever we hear, whatever we read, whatever we hear from our instructors or ministers, goes inside the answer and is part of it, but taken in its simplicity, I’ve always “experienced” the walk through Paul’s word that from my first reading also became my word:
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Tim 1:12).
Want a formula? We find Him to be the only formula there is.
One last story and I’ll stop. There was a time more than thirty years ago, a number of us got together and very innocently tried to piece together all the aspects of the “union message,” and make a little book or handbook to pass out so people could find out the particulars of the message and could learn to “operate” as Christ through having all this stuff hammered out, debated, finding solutions by consensus, and put in plain language so all could understand.
One statement that floated around those meetings and then became very much in the forefront for a while was this: Everything (deeds, thoughts, feelings, etc.) was either Christ or Satan. It was an attempt, to be able to identify on a moment by moment basis, which of them was operating us or our brothers and sisters in Christ. Eventually it went into the ridiculous. Whereas in our wonderful beginning in union life understanding that had happened to so many of us, when Norman was always urging us every moment of every day to see Christ, even seeing through possible questionable behavior of our brethren in Christ, to Christ underneath all that they or we were doing. See Christ only, was Norman’s constant mantra.
But this was the opposite. Having opened the door to identify “both,” Christ operating here, Satan operating there, guess which one we started seeing the most of?
If you guessed Satan, you guessed correctly. But not just Satan the author of violence or of theft or of lies and deceit or sex stuff, but Satan appearing to others in looks in someone’s eyes, or in nuances of how they said things, tones of voice, funny little laughs. How did we get here? I started to ask when I began to see it.
What we thought we had discovered was the sure-fire way to NOT SIN. We even had charts and could show you on the dry-erase boards we carried around with us. But it had the opposite effect. Suddenly sin was everywhere again. Except in the head honchos.
We can’t reason from flesh to spirit. In other words, to judge the flesh in the flesh, i.e., by outer appearances primarily, we see and judge after the flesh. And what we receive is flesh. However, by faith looking through flesh to God, we are not seeing after the flesh, but of the Spirit, and the reaping is of the Spirit.
And finally this is where we’re going to find our answers to these sin questions and whether or not God is upholding me. If all we have is “it’s what my church teaches,” we only have a guideline that may go this way or that when the storms come.
Want answers! Ask your Teacher! Your INNER Teacher! We can go on the mountain now. We can exist in the smoke and fire and lightning and the quaking earth. We CAN walk through fire, WE CAN find sustenance in a dry and thirsty land! That is WHO we are in Christ.
Jesus and Peter walking on water. Yeah, Peter sank; it was his first time! But he DID get out of the boat! He really learned something. The rest of them in that instance were cowering in fear in the boat, maybe contemplating the doctrines they were going to come up with, as Peter leapt into the sea. And I’m sure they all made note of the fact that Peter didn’t last long, that the Lord had to reach out His hand at the last moment to keep Peter from drowning. They may have seen Peter’s partial failure, but missed the greater truth they saw demonstrated before their eyes, that the Savior’s hand is always outstretched to save.
We’re not afraid of falling into sin. Not because we believe a teaching that says we can’t sin, or we no longer believe in sin. We believe because we know the One Who holds us dear. We believe because we’ve known His outstretched arm, pulling us out of this or that, whether we thought it was our fault or not. His arm held no condemnation for us. We believe because we have nowhere else to go. He speaks (in us) the Word of Eternal Life.
We ARE that Life.
What if I sin? Stop asking that. That’s a question of unbelief. He’s no sinner, and He’s got you, lives in you, and is One with you. That’s where you plant your feet.
All “walking in the Spirit” is, is walking by faith. There’s no way to hold your mouth. There’s not a certain gait we have to have in our spiritual hip. Studying and learning scripture is wonderful but it won’t cause you to walk in the Spirit. But when you realize by the Spirit Col 1:27 and Gal 2:20, you realize He is the walker, the doer, in us, and at the same time we begin to see the paradox. Yes He IS all those things I just mentioned. But also, I am walking, I am doing, it feels like me, sounds like me. It IS me. And Him at the same time.
Don’t try to logically analyze that, the answer isn’t there. The answer is in the walking.
“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17).