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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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7 Marks of a Deeply Deadly Sin

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by Tim Challies


Not all sin is the same. While every sin places you under the wrath of God, and while any sin is sufficient to create an eternal chasm between God and man, not every sin is identical. In chapter 9 of his work Overcoming Sin and Temptation, John Owen wants you to think about that besetting sin in your life to consider if it is an “ordinary” sin, or if it is one that is particularly deadly and that, therefore, requires something more than the usual pattern of putting sin to death. The deadliness of a sin is not related so much to the category of that sin, but to how deeply-rooted it is in your life, and to how you have responded to God as he has revealed it to you.


Here are seven marks of a deeply deadly sin.


1. Your sin is deep-rooted and habitual. There may be some sins that have been in your life so long and with such prevalence that you no longer find them shocking or particularly bothersome. Your mind and conscience have grown hard to the sin and it is now deeply ingrained in your thoughts and habits. You, my friend, are in a dangerous place when you have grown ambivalent to that sin. “Unless some extraordinary course be taken, such a person has no ground in the world to expect that his latter end shall be peace.”


The gospel offers no comfort to those who slow-dance with their favorite sin.


2. You proclaim God’s approval, but without battling sin. You know that a certain sin is prevalent in your life, and yet you continue to proclaim that you are accepted in Christ. Even though God has revealed that sin to you, and even though you have made no real attempt to put it to death, still you recount God’s grace to you in the gospel and still you take comfort in the peace of the gospel. Owen wants you to know that you cannot preach God’s peace to yourself while you embrace that one great sin. The gospel offers no comfort to those who slow-dance with their favorite sin.


3. You apply grace and mercy to a sin you do not intend to put to death. You cannot proclaim that the gospel has covered your sin if you do not intend to battle that sin. “To apply mercy to a sin not vigorously mortified is to fulfill the end of the flesh upon the gospel.” Sometimes your heart longs for peace with God, but at the same time it longs for the satisfaction of that sin. In these cases you may rashly look to the gospel to assuage your conscience even though you have no intention of stopping your sin. But the gospel does not allow you to apply God’s mercy and grace to a sin you love and intend to cling to.


4. Sin is frequently successful in seducing your desires. There are times when your heart takes delight in a sin, even though you do not actually commit that sin outwardly. If a sin becomes your delight and has a great hold upon your soul, it is a dangerous sign of a particularly deadly sin. This is true even if you do not commit that sin. If your delight is in sin, not God, your soul is being drawn away from your Savior.


5. You argue against sin only out of fear of impending punishment. It is a sign that sin has taken significant possession of your will when you argue against sin or fail to commit sin only because you fear punishment. In this case you do not delight to do God’s will, but only fear the consequences of disobedience. A true Christian battles sin out of a desire to please God and to find his delight in God.


6. You realize that God is allowing one sin in your life to make you aware of another sin. There are times when God allows you to battle one sin in order to expose a deeper sin. “A new sin may be permitted, as well as a new affliction sent, to bring an old sin to remembrance.” In such a case God is exercising fatherly discipline. If God is disciplining you by allowing another sin or by bringing some kind of affliction, he is sending a message about the hardness or your heart and the depth of your sin. Heed the warning!


7. You have hardened your heart against God as he has exposed your sin before you. God graciously reveals your sin through his Word, through conscience, through other Christians, and through many other means. When he reveals your sin, he also prompts you to take action against it. If you continually reject his help and harden your heart against that sin, you are in a dangerous, dangerous state. “Unspeakable are the evils which attend such a frame of heart. Every particular warning to a man in such an estate is an inestimable mercy; how then does he despise God in them who holds out against them! And what infinite patience is this in God, that he does not cast off such a one, and swear in his wrath that he shall never enter his rest!”


Christian, evaluate your sin, and battle hard against it. It is God’s grace that he reveals your sin, and it is God’s grace that he gives you everything you need to put it to death.

Next Time


Next Thursday we will continue with the tenth chapter of the book. You can still get the book and read along if that is of interest to you.

Your Turn


I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.

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Hi William.


My first post here as I'm a new member.


Thought I might add my understanding and some questions regarding the article you presented.


It would be appropriate to define sin first.


Many just assume sin is a bad behavior. That seems to be the traditional view. But God gives us definitions in His word and it's these alone that we should use to understand scripture.


Here's some examples of sin defined in scripture.


Sin is:

1:Unrighteousness, 1John 5:17.

2:Transgression of the law, 1John 3:4.

3:Unbelief in Jesus, John 16:9

4:Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Matt 12:31


And we all know the wages of sin is death.


Can Christians be charged with the sins defined above?

Answer: No.


1:Our faith is counted for righteousness (Rom 4:5), hence we cannot be charged with the sin of unrighteousness (1John 5:17).


2: Christians are not under the law (Rom 8:2, Rom 10:4, Gal 3:24, Gal 5:18, 1Tim 1:9) hence we cannot be charged with the sin of it's transgression (1John 3:4). Remember that whatever the law says it says to those under it, Rom 3:19.


3: Christians believe on Jesus thus we cannot be charged with the sin of unbelief (John 16:9).


4: Christians do not blaspheme the Holy Spirit.


Thus we see in scripture that Christians "cannot sin" (1John 3:9), we've "ceased from sin"(1Pet 4:1).


Rom 8:33

Who shall lay ANY THING (this includes sin) to the charge of God's elect?


Jesus truly set us free from sin, John 8:36.


This is not saying that we're perfect in behavior (and God disciplines us when we do wrong). Instead it refers to our position in Christ. Our life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:3), thus it's Christ's sinlessness/righteousness/holiness that covers Christians.


With the above in mind, here are my questions regarding the article written by Tim Challies.


1: What scripture does Tim base his point about "habitual" sin. I've not seen any scripture to support this view.

And how is "habitual" determined? Is there any scripture detailing how often the same sin is committed over what given time frame, that deems it to be habitual? If this habitual sin doctrine is to have any credibility then it must offer scriptures detailing what and how is "habitual" determined.


Also does God take into consideration the length of ones life in determining habitual sin? For example are those with death bed salvation more blessed over those who live for years having to dodge the "habitual" sin bullet?


2: Some of Tim's claims suggest that one can lose their salvation if they don't conquer or reduce a favorite sin. Can Tim show from scripture what is God's limit on forgiveness in such cases? Is it 7x70?




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Hello Haz, welcome to the forum!


Your questions are good ones. I do not have all the answers but do wish to engage and participate with you :)


I believe that I actually skimmed over this article initially as I post articles here or there as topic starters. Sometimes I post things for no other reason besides them being presented as good arguments.


I think, Tim is meaning a habitual pattern of behavior. I'm not positive nor am I defending him or his article, but bear with. Ephesians 2:1 describes the unregenerate man as “dead in sin and trespasses." As a result of Adam’s fall into sin, man is born spiritually dead. In this state of spiritual death, man is unable and unwilling to follow and obey God, therefore, habitual sin naturally follows.


As to your question of death bed salvation/conversions, I have thought up the same dilemma. I think looking at Justification and Sanctification may help clarify the problem. Justification Rom. 4:3; 5:1,9; Gal. 2:16; 3:11 is an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life, therefore I have no reason to believe that a deathbed conversion resulting in eternal life are anything other than possible. However, Sanctification is a process, so the emphasis appears to be one of time as a type of proving ground. Where justification comes from outside of us, from God alone, Sanctification comes from God within us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification has no bearing on Justification, even if we don't live a perfect life, we are still Justified. This leads me to Philippians 1:6, "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." The work of grace will never be perfected till the day of Jesus Christ, the day of his appearance. But we may always be confident God will perform his good work, in every soul wherein he has really begun it by regeneration. 1 John 3:9 also comes to mind as you already mentioned. "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." I think John is saying that the one who is regenerate does not habitually abide in sin. He may fall into it, but he does not practice it as a lifestyle. Romans 6:11 - Paul says, “Consider yourselves dead to sin,” he is telling us to remember that, in coming to Christ, the power of sin has been broken in our lives.


Whether people whose days are shortened and may not witness the ongoing work of Sanctification by the Holy Spirit, I think we need clarify whether Salvation is Synergistic or Monergistic? I propose the latter and suggest Salvation was never up to us, if it were ever left up to us we would lose our Salvation even on our deathbeds, that is regardless of the amount of time.


Good points, Haz, and looking forward to your response or other posts.



God bless,


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Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately we can only guess what Tim might be basing his views on.


I have heard of that "habitual"sin view before, but nobody has ever been able to show me any scriptures detailing what and how "habitual" is determined.


I know that some will refer to 1John 3:9, where some Bible translations use the term "practice". And whilst "practice" can be defined as "habitual", it is also defined as "to carry out in action". And considering that other Bible translations of 1John 3:9 say "CANNOT sin", I believe that those versions that use the term "practice" mean it as "to carry out in action", consistent with the "CANNOT sin" Bible translations. We see this is also confirmed in other scriptures such as 1Pet 4:1 which states that we've "CEASED from sin".


Regarding sanctification, the view that this is a gradual process is a commonly held view. But it is not supported in scripture.


Consider Heb 10:10 .

By that will we HAVE BEEN sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.


It was Christ's sacrifice that sanctified us. To suggest that sanctification is a gradual process is to suggest that Christ's sacrifice did not complete the job of sanctifying us (which I'm sure you didn't mean to imply).


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Lemme clarify and perhaps you may correct my understanding of Sanctification as being positional (past) and relational (present)? That is, positionally we are set apart. Relationally - a process of moral and spiritual transformation flowing from justification and adoption through faith in Christ.


Is sanctification a one-time event and a process, the believer’s being and becoming holy? Another words, perfection in holiness is unattainable in this life, therefore, the ongoing process of sanctification never ends until a believer’s glorification - 1 John 1:8-10. In this sense a believer is becoming sanctified by resisting sin and mortifying flesh until taken from this world at death or at the return of Christ.


Westminster Shorter Catechism:


Q: What is sanctification?

A: Sanctification is the work of God's free grace,1 whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,2 and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.3

  1. 2 Thessalonians 2:13. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and of the truth.
  2. Ephesians 4:23-24. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
  3. Romans 6:4, 6, 14. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. . . knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. . . For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
  4. Romans 8:4. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


Your thoughts?

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I see I'll have to try again. I'll try shorter posts and hopefully avoid whatever the error is causing the probs.


I see sanctification as a one time event, as Heb 10:10 confirms.


As for the gradual sanctification view, our physical body is already dead (by faith, crucified with Christ, Rom 6:6) because of sin, Rom 8:10. As it's already dead because of sin, then why would anyone be thinking they can perfect the imperfect physical which is already dead because of sin?


Regarding 1John 1:8,9, it's addressing non-believers who, like Paul before his conversion (Phil 3:6) thought they were sinless/blameless under the law (1John 1:8).

If you read 1John 1 from the beginning you'll see it's evangelical context where it declares eternal life so that they also may have fellowship. It's addressing non-believers who don't already have fellowship.


Also consider that if 1John 1:8 referred to Christians then it would contradict 1John 3:9 which states that Christians "CANNOT sin".


I'll try this post and send part 2 next.

Edited by Haz

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I have heard about such doctrine on gradual sanctification before.

To some degree I agree with the view that God is working in our lives regarding our behavior. He disciplines us when we do wrong, for our own good. Christians are called to love one another and love does no ill to another. Likewise love forgives 7x70 which we certainly need in this imperfect physical life.


The scriptures you quoted I understand do not support the argument for gradual sanctification.


Anyway, I'll attempt to post this reply to see how it goes. Like yesterday I'm getting that window warning about "invalid server response" and had also got another window saying "human recognition" is missing.

Edited by Haz

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As the gradual sanctification doctrine is based on the view that Christians still sin, can I ask what scripture claims that Christians are still charged with sin, as I'm not aware of any such scripture.

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