What If I Can't Hold Out?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the first epistle of John. We are not going to read a Scripture lesson or text as a basis for our message, but a number of the passages of Scripture at which we will be looking will be in the first epistle of John.

We have been discussing a number of things that we have labeled Simple Questions Often Asked . These simple questions have been related to such things as “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”, “What Does It Mean To Be Saved?”, “What Does It Mean To Believe?”. The question, “What does it mean to be saved?”, is often followed by a number of other questions which begin with the words What about: “What About Repentance?”, “What About Baptism?”, “What About Confession?”, “What About Works?”. We have tried to deal with all of those in relation to the Word of God.

The question that we want to consider now is one that I have been asked times without number. Perhaps you have been asked the same question. That question might be phrased any number of ways, but I have phrased it in these words: What if I can't hold out?

The Problem of Living the Life

Oftentimes, when we present the claims of Christ to an individual, he responds to those claims favorably; and then when we suggest that he make a definite decision toward Jesus Christ, he comes back with the question, “What if I can't hold out? I would like to receive Christ as my Savior. I would like to become a Christian, but I don't know whether I can make it or not. I don't know whether I can live it. What if I can't hold out?”

You might phrase this question any number of ways, but I think you get the point. I think you realize that one of the greatest obstacles in the way of people's receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior is the fear that they may not be able to live the life after they have received Christ.

If we were to discuss this with them in greater detail, we would find that they have a number of things in mind. One of those we are going to consider now. If we were to press the question, if we should say to them,“What do you mean by the question, 'What if I can't hold out?', no doubt they would say to us, ‘Well, I mean, what if I sin?'”

Examining the Problem

We want to examine this question in the light of the Word of God. What if I can't hold out? What if I sin after I become a Christian? We propose to examine the question in the light of the Scripture. Listen carefully now because these will be mental pegs upon which you can hang some of the things that I want to leave with you; we want to consider the susceptibility to sin, we want to consider the liability in sin, and we want to consider the responsibility of sin. Let me give you, to begin with, those four words that sound somewhat alike: possibility, susceptibility, liability, responsibility.

The Possibility of Sinning

I asked you to turn to I John as we consider the possibility of sin, and we might add, the probability of sin. It is not only possible that you will sin, but it is highly probable that you will. Notice what I am saying: There is not only a possibility for the Christian to sin, but in all probability, he will sin. Many passages of Scripture would emphasize this truth, but it is brought to our attention in I John, chapter 2, verse 1:

I John 2:

1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Notice the phrase, “my little children.” It is the translation of the Greek word teknon , which really means “my little born-again ones.” He is not talking about little children physically. He is not addressing little children physically. He is addressing children, or adults as the case may be, who have just come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. He says to them, “You who have been born again, I have written these things in this first chapter in order that you may not live under the dominion of sin. That is why I have written. I don't want you to live under the dominion of sin.” But if any man sin—the grammatical construction of this phrase is, if any man commits an act of sin, and in all probability you will—don't throw up your hands, don't quit, don't say, “Well, I will have to go to church and get saved all over again.” Remember that you have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Christ, Our Advocate

The word advocate is another word for lawyer . The picture is a courtroom scene, a heavenly one. God is on the throne. The Devil is there as the prosecuting attorney, and the Lord Jesus Christ is there as the lawyer for the defense because that is literally what the word means. The Devil says to God, “Joe Temple sinned yesterday, and he is worthy of death.” If I had nobody to stand in my defense, I would have to die because the wages of sin is death. If I had nobody to plead my case, death would be the sentence. God is a righteous God, and He must pronounce the sentence according to the principles of righteousness.

But before God has a chance to say anything, the Lord Jesus Christ steps up before the Bench, and He says, “My Father, I plead the case for Joe Temple. Joe Temple many years ago received me as His Savior. He asked me to be his Advocate, and I present My Blood, which covers every sin that he has ever committed.” That is the meaning of this verse: “Little children, little born-again ones, I don't want you to sin; but if you sin, don't throw up your hands and quit. Remember, there is an Advocate.”

The Principle of Sin

So I suggest to you that the possibility of sin in the believer's life is very definitely taught in the Word of God. To re-emphasize this truth and drive the nail a bit deeper, the probability of sin in the life of the believer should be examined in the light to two facts. One of them you will find in verse 8 of I John, chapter 1:

I John 1:

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

I use one word to describe this verse, and this is the word principle because here John is not talking about acts of sin; he is talking about the principle of sin. It is very evident in the original text because of the lack of the article the before the word sin . What we are reading about in verse 8 is that if an individual says that he does not have sinful nature, a nature which is inclined toward sin, then he is deceiving himself, and the truth is not in him. The probability that you will sin is indicated because you have a sin nature dwelling within you.

The Practice of Sin

If you will look at verse 10 of this same chapter, you will find another nail that we will drive down:

I John 1:

10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

We call this the practice of sin. The possibility that you will sin, discussed in the light of the sin principle, is evident. You have a sin nature. The possibility that you will sin is indicated in verse 10, which speaks of the practice of sin. The Word of God says that if any individual declares that he has never committed a sin in the past— which would indicate that he would never commit a sin in the future according to the construction of the original Greek—that individual is making God a liar, and His Word, God's Word, does not dwell in him.

The Susceptibility to Sin

The next word comes naturally to mind in the light of what I have just said—namely, the susceptibility to sin. The probability that you will sin as a Christian is indicated by your susceptibility to sin. You are susceptible to sin so long as you live on this earth in this human body. Let's amplify that a moment and say that you are susceptible to sin through the flesh. Turn to Romans, chapter 7. When I use the word flesh , I am not talking about the flesh that you can pinch. That is an ordinary body. It lives, it dies. The Bible uses the word flesh because this sin principle is related to you only so long as you are alive in this body. A dead man has no temptation to commit adultery. He is dead. A dead man will not lie no matter how attractive you may make the lying. The reason that men commit adultery, the reason that men lie, is that they are living in a body which has for its prime motivating principle, the flesh.

Paul's Discussion of Carnality

In Romans, chapter 7, notice a few verses from the testimony of the Apostle Paul which he gave after he was born again. In verse 14, after discussing the consciousness of sin, he said:

Romans 7:

14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

This is a Christian talking. Carnal is another word for the flesh . The flesh is ever with me, and I am sold under sin. Notice verse 17:

Romans 7:

17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Sin dwells within the lives of believers; that is, the sin principle. In verse 21, he said:

Romans 7:

21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Beloved, if you have never discovered that the Bible says that our lives operate on various principles, which God calls laws , you have missed an important discovery. If you do not realize that this is a law that operates in the life of every believer, you don't realize what you need to realize. Look at this verse again:

Romans 7:

21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

The Appeal of the World System

I say to you that you are susceptible to sin through the flesh. As long as you live in this body, you will be susceptible to sin. Go back with me to I John, chapter 2, for a moment, and notice in verse 15 these words:

I John 2:

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The word for world here is the Greek word cosmos , which refers to a system. It does not refer to the grass and the trees and the sky and everything beautiful that God created for us to enjoy. It refers to the system over which Satan is the potentate. God said, “Don't love that system, for everything that is in that system—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but of the world system”

As long as the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life are about us, you can be sure that you will be susceptible to sin. You will be susceptible to sin so long as you live in this world; so long as the Devil can cause something which is attractive to pass before your eyes, you will be susceptible to sin. So long as the Devil can appeal to the desires which are in your flesh, you will be susceptible to sin. So long as the Devil can appeal to the pride of life, you will be susceptible to sin.

The Appeal of the Devil

One other thing I would suggest to you, and that is that you are susceptible to sin because of the Devil. You recall what is recorded in chapter 6 of the Ephesian letter, verse 11:

Ephesians 6:

11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

This word wiles could be described by many different words—devices, any number of things—but the Devil is out to trip you up. As long as he is out to trip you up, you can be susceptible to sin.

May I digress for a moment to suggest to you something that may not be entirely a digression; it is that the reason that some of you are having so much trouble is that you are believers. Someone recently said to me, “I can't understand it. Before I received Christ as my Savior, I had no trouble. Now that I have received Christ as my Savior, I have nothing but trouble. I cannot understand. Looks as if now that I have turned to God, I would be spared this trouble.” Well, Friend, you have the trouble because the Devil is stirred up. He does not want to lose you from his side, and if he can make your Christian testimony ineffective, he will be well pleased.

The Liability in Sin

I want you to consider with me the third word, the liability of sin, because I would not have any of you take a careless attitude toward sin on the basis of what I have said. When I tell you that it is possible for you, a believer, to sin, and that in all probability you will sin because you are susceptible to sin, I don't want you to think for a moment that you should shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, if that is the way it is, why do I need to be concerned? If I as a Christian am susceptible to sin and in all probability will sin, well, I may as well just go ahead and sin. Why be concerned about it?” That is the reason I want you to consider with me the liability in sin.

The Loss of Fellowship

Listen carefully: There is a liability in sin in the life of the believer. We do not have time to go into it in detail, but I want to suggest to you three liabilities for the believer if he sins. One of them is the loss of fellowship, as is suggested in I John 1:6:

I John 1:

6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

Fellowship? What is that? Your relationship to God. You will recognize that your fellowship with God is broken when you no longer have the direction that you need in your life. You will recognize that your fellowship with God is broken when you are no longer able to pray as once you prayed when you were in fellowship with the Lord. If you want Scriptural reference for that, you may turn to I John 2:10 when you have time, and I John 3:21-22.

The Fruitless Individual

I would suggest to you that not only do you lose fellowship when you sin as a believer, but you become a fruitless individual. For in the second epistle of Peter, chapter 1, verses 8 and 9, we are told that individuals who do not maintain their fellowship with the Lord are barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice the statement, “in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That means that you don't grow. The reason that many folk are still babes in Christ, although they have been Christians a long, long time is that most of that time they have been out of fellowship with the Lord. They have no opportunity for growth in the things of God.

When I speak of fruitfulness, I speak not only of growth in the things of God, but I think of the fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians, chapter 5, verses 22 and 23. One of those fruits is joy. If you sin as a believer, you lose the joy of your salvation. You are not happy. You are miserable. You don't sing any more. You cry most of the time. It is because you have lost the joy of your salvation. And you will have to cry as did David, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

Another fruit listed in the cluster of fruits is peace. If you are out of fellowship with the Lord, you have no real peace in your heart and in your life. You are frightened. You are concerned. You are worried. If you are in fellowship, that would not be the case.

A Lack in Fulfillment

The third liability in relation to sin in the believer's life is related to a word that I am going to use for the sake of alliteration, the word fulfillment . Sin in the life of the believer affects the ultimate fulfillment in the believer's life. In II Peter, chapter 1, verse 11, we are told that if we remain in fellowship with the Lord, then an entrance shall be administered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. John tells us in his first epistle, chapter 2, verse 28, that if we remain in fellowship with the Lord, then we will have confidence to meet the Lord at His coming. When we suggest to you that one of the liabilities in relation to being out of fellowship with God, one of the liabilities of sin in the believer's life, is a lack in your ultimate fulfillment. We are speaking of the time when you will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and realize that much of your life has been wasted because you have been a Christian who has looked upon sin in his life lightly.

The Responsibility for Sin

That brings me to the last word that I want to leave with you, and that is the word responsibility . I want to discuss with you the responsibility for sin. Let me amplify that statement and tell you that what I am talking about is the responsibility when sin appears in the believer's life, not the responsibility in relation to the commission of sin—but when sin appears in the believer's life, who has a responsibility?

The Responsibility to Conquer Sin

Let me suggest to you first that you as an individual have a responsibility in relation to sin. You as a Christian have a responsibility in relation to sin. The first phase of the responsibility I am going to present to you under the word conquer . You as a believer have the responsibility of conquering sin, and I am going to tell you next week how you can do that. You have a responsibility to conquer sin, and you are very plainly told so in Romans, chapter 6, verse 12, where the Spirit of God says to you:

Romans 6:

12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,…

There are no ifs and ands about that: ”Let not sin therefore reign.” It is your responsibility as a believer to conquer sin.

The Responsibility to Confess Sins

Another responsibility I am going to present to you under the word confess . The very moment that you sin, the Holy Spirit will make you conscious of it, and in that very moment you are obligated to confess it, as we are told in I John 1:9:

I John 1:

9If we confess our sins, he God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That little word confess is a simple word, and you know what it means. I will suggest to you that you do not need to wait until you can go to the confessional box and confess it. You are just piling up sins if you do that. You do not need to wait until you can come to church on Sunday morning, and when the invitation is given and you walk down the aisle and say, “I want to rededicate my life.” Most of the time, what you mean by that is that you sinned some time during the week and you don't feel as close to God as you did last week, and you want to make it right. You don't need to do that. The very moment that God makes you conscious of a sin, that very moment that God makes you conscious of a sin, at that very moment you can confess it to God and God forgives because He is obligated to do so.

God's Chastening

In I Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 31, we are told that we have this responsibility, but it is suggested by another word:

I Corinthians 11:

31For if we would judge ourselves [That means our sin, and judging means to confess it.] we should not be judged of the Lord.

That leads me to the third word I want to give to you because responsibility is not yours; it is God's. I want to give you the word chastening . The words conquer and confess belong to you. The word chastening belongs to God. In I Corinthians, chapter 11, we are told of a group of people, Christians, who tolerated sin in their lives. The Apostle said, “This is a dangerous thing for you to do. You need to recognize the sin (verse 31) and judge it. For if we judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (verse 32). What is the Apostle saying? Simply this: that you as a believer must confess your sin. If you do not, God will chasten you for it, and chasten you until you come to the place of confession.

You may ask what kind of chastening that might be. I don't know, for you as an individual; but I do know that in this passage of Scripture at which we are looking, when God judged these people, some of them became weak, some of them became sick, and some of them even died. God's chastening can take that form, if He finds it necessary.

Why God Chastens

You may say, “But if I am God's child, and He loves me, why would He chasten me in this fashion?” Because He cannot send you to Hell. Get that, for some of you may have been wondering why, when I talked about the liability of sin, I did not suggest that you will go to Hell if you do sin. I cannot suggest that to you because the Bible does not suggest it. The Bible teaches that if you are a born-again believer, you cannot be condemned with the world. Look at verse 32:

I Corinthians 11:

32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

If you were studying this in the Greek, you would find that the word that introduces what we call a purpose clause , which means that God has done just what has been said because He can't do what He is just saying. In other words, if you sin, God chastens you as a believer because He cannot send you to Hell. God cannot ignore our sin; God cannot make light of it. He has to do something about it, so He says to you, “Confess it. If you don't confess it,” He says, “I will have to chasten you because I am a righteous God, and I cannot leave the impression with people that sin does not matter.”

Conclusion

What is the question? “What if I can't hold out. What if I sin?” You may sin; you probably will sin because you are susceptible to sin, and I don't want to make light of it. I want to remind you that there is a liability in sin, but I want to remind you that if you sin as a believer, your responsibility is to confess it. If you do not, it is God's responsibility to chasten you until you do.


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