Conservative Friend

    An Outreach of Stillwater Monthly Meeting of Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends

An Evangelical Christian asks questions about sinlessness and perfection

Q: You say that "Even after “being born again" or reciting a sinner's prayer, it is possible to turn away from Him, and lose the Grace."  What do you mean by this? I was under the impression that once you say the sinner's prayer or accept Christ you are sure to go to heaven.

A: You can use the free will God gave you to reject Him, even after you have experienced some measure of grace.  This is what Paul called "making shipwreck of faith," in Timothy 1:19, and then also where he writes about those who, "after having tasted the heavenly gift and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, again fall away," Hebrews 6:4-6.  He doesn't compel you to accept Him at any time, nor does He overlook the truth in your heart because you tell people that you have accepted Him, but show by your life that it isn't so.  No sinner's prayer will save you if you don't let Jesus in the door, or if you push Him back out again.  If there is nothing to be done after accepting Christ, then there is no purpose to leading a Christian life, or of worshipping God, or of pursuing a special relationship with Him.  If there is no possibility of falling away, then all the Christian life after the conversion moment is needless.

Q: I guess it is not possible to live sin-free because we all have a tendency to sin. You have talked about the Quaker goal of achieving a "less sinful state". What do you mean by this?

A: Justification is regarded by Quakers as part of the process of sanctification.  They occur simultaneously, and you can fall away if you turn away from God and refuse to let the Light transform you.  But with God's help, you can live a life free of actual, worldly sin.

Roman Catholics believe that their sins are forgiven because of the merit provided through the sacraments of the church, which are dispensed in rites, pilgrimages, prayers, and such, and not by an inner change in the worshipper.  It is done to the worshipper, externally.  No evidence of a genuine turning towards God is necessary to consider oneself "saved."  A life of willful sin can continue.

Protestants believe that their sins are forgiven because of the sufferings and death of Christ on the cross, through which God forgives them through imputing Jesus’s righteousness to them, and not by any inner change in the worshipper.  Again, no evidence of a genuine turning towards God is necessary to consider oneself "saved."  Again, a life of willful sin can continue.

Both views ignore the words of Jesus, who said, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."  Jesus died on the cross in order to reconcile us to God.  Quakers traditionally believe that His death provides us the opportunity and the power to actually become a follower of His will:  "Henceforth, I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth:  but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."  Jesus makes His will known to us most importantly through the agency of His Light, and secondly through outward means such as inspired scripture.   And what He wants are followers who actually strive to live a life free of sin, and He is willing to help make that possible.

So here is the difficult point:  We are not justified by works.  But good works follow necessarily as an indicator that we have accepted a relationship with Him through the application of our free will.  If opening the door on which Jesus knocks is to be considered a work, then we are justified by works to that extent. But if we look at it as an obligation which we force on God--that is, if we believe that our good works are the agent of our salvation--then we miss the mark.

The key is that God offers us the opportunity to become a genuine traveler in His company.  Over time, if we do not resist it, the Light makes changes in us that bring us more and more into accordance with God’s plans for us--we become more and more like what He wanted us to be.  Over time, we sin less and less, as we become more and more in tune with His will.  How clean a state of sinlessness is enough is not up to us--that decision belongs to Jesus.  And providentially for us, Jesus is a merciful and compassionate judge.

Quakers believe that we are called to be perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect.  We are called to live a life as free of sin as we can.  We believe that if God wants to bring a Christian to a state of sinless perfection, then He has that right and that power.  We do not limit the power of the Holy Spirit in that matter.

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