At a staff meeting, Chuck Swindoll once gave us a tip about interviewing for pastoral positions (as many of us were thought to be candidates for other jobs). He said, “When you preach your first sermon during the interview process, don’t give them the best one you’ve got. In other words [and hear his deep preaching voice come in here], don’t put your best foot forward. Otherwise, when you come back or start your job you won’t have anything but your normal self to give them, and you have already prepared them for something different.” (Yes, that was a paraphrase, but it went something like that.)

Unfortunately, we are always (spiritually speaking) trying to put our best foot forward, both to ourselves and others. We are consumed by what we think others think of us and, in turn, what we think of ourselves. Unknown to us, our lives turn into theatrical performances of lies, manipulation, and deception. And the worst part about it is that we hardly even know it. It becomes second nature.

Of course, we don’t really want to throw up on people at every turn. And, more importantly, people don’t really want us to. But that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about learning to be who we really are and being fine with it.

I would like to say that I learned this in some Bible study, class at seminary, or revelation from an angel. However, such is not the case. I began to learn and practice this (and, please note, I am still just beginning to acknowledge the mass amounts of self-deception I have rooted deep in my soul) in my days at the bars, picking up on girls (yes, you heard that right). I had a good friend who could get just about any girl in town (or so we thought). I was so impressed with him. He could not even count the number of girls he had slept with (and at that point in my life, that is where I wanted to be). He began to teach me the tricks of the trade and, for better or worse, one of his “tricks” was brutal honesty. I cringe at trying to give example of what I mean. (I think there is a difference in being wisely transparent and irresponsibly crass!) But this guy showed me that I did not have to put my best foot forward. In fact, I could lead with my weaknesses. Of course, this had an interesting dynamic at 1 a.m. in the bars. The slurring of truth from a guilt-ridden, wayward Christian may not be the best example, but it is my life. Since then, I have always tried to lead with neither my best foot, nor my worst foot (which is just as bad in the opposite direction), but my real foot.

This is not an easy thing to do. Most people, deep down, are not too proud of themselves. Everyone has their issues. Everyone has significant issues. But we grow up in an environment where veneers are easily constructed and passionately defended. We easily become embarrassed when someone accuses us of some personality deformity. Denial comes so easily, especially when the accusation comes from the outside. Excuses and rebuttals are as natural as any reflex. We fail to see that we are protecting the veneer of a person that does not really exist. However,if others think it exists, that is good enough for us.

Martin Luther could not be accused of wearing a veneer. I don’t think he was too concerned about others’ perceptions of him. In fact, he was fed up with the self-righteousness of his day. Everyone covered up their sins with excuses and denials. So much so, you would think there was not a broken person around him. Everyone had it all figured out. Their faith was perfect, as were their thought lives. This is why I think he wrote such controversial statements. He was trying to set an example, helping people realize that it was okay to be who you really are, even if it is wretched. “Be a sinner, and sin boldly.” That is what he told people. He was not trying to get them to sin more, but to take ownership of who they were. The “boldness” had to do with refusing to hide it from the public’s eye.

Now, I am not saying for you to “be yourself” in the sense that so many people say that today. “I am just going to be myself and if he does not like it, he can . . .” When people say that, they are usually expressing a contentment and pride with who they are at that moment. Taking ownership of who you are does not mean being excited about who you are. Sinning boldly does not mean that boldness necessarily justifies sin. We reveal who we are, and we are willing to confess much that needs to be changed (whether or not we are ever able to change it).

I think this is the reason I love country music so much. It is brutally honest about the idiosyncrasies of humanity while attempting to retain some element of dignity in the process.

Well, this was supposed to be an introduction to a more interesting post, but since I have exceeded my word limit, I will have to turn this into its own post. Now I have to change the title. Hmmm…what should I call it? I got it!

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    19 replies to "How to Sin More Boldly"

    • CMP, this is a really good post. It strikes at the heart of the post-modern dilemma. The front of living in denial and transversely the prejudice of projecting a concept of a Christian who is a holier than thou, when often it is not the case. Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. This may have become cliche, but it IS what a real Christian disciple is. Just like everybody born of a woman, we all have sin issues going on. To project a Christian walk as if one does not, is hypocritical. The salvinic work of Jesus Christ is what allows a Christian disciple to be a sinner, and sin boldly. No not with a licence to sin, rather the boldness of the imputed righteousness of Christ upon us, yesterday, today and forever! Once saved, always saved with many assurances written in Scripture. That is the boldness that the Christian has, sin issues and all, knowing that like the thief on the cross, pardon is immediate, without recourse, just for the asking and believing in Him. That pardon to the thief extends to all who believe on Jesus Christ, and in the hour of our death, we who believe will be with Him in Paradise. This is the blessed hope of the Christian believer. Being holier than thou really has nothing to do with it. None of us are all that, so don’t trip, it’s all good.

    • anonymous

      by the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Cor 15:10a

      other ways to sin boldy…

      – “attempting to retain some element of dignity” ( the state of being worthy, honored, esteemed)

      -acknowledging our condition,no condemnation, but not feeling the weight, the evil, the ugliness…the godly sorrow… forgetting sin always has consequence and forgetting the COST of our sin, forgetting gratitude (having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Rom 5:9 )

      because of stubbornness and unrepentant hearts, wrath is being stored up in the day of wrath; therefore (we want to) consider the members of our earthly bodies as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them we also once walked, when you were living in them. Rom 2:5; Col 3:5-7

      some crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame; for ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

      but, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning us Heb 6:6a

      right?

    • Well I’ll read Luther here myself! 😉 But yes, we need to re-discover a Christian humanity once again, and before its too late!

    • Clint Roberts

      I know this isn’t necessarily the point of the article, but the title suggests something that reminds me of a great quote from Kierkegaard:

      “Let others complain that the times are evil. I complain that they are wretched, for they are without passion. People’s thoughts are as fragile as lace, … It is perhaps possible to regard it as sin for a worm to nourish such thoughts, but not for a human being, who is created in the image of God. Their desires are staid & dull, their passions drowsy. … That is why my soul always turns back to the Old Testament & to Shakespeare. There one still feels that those who speak are human beings; there they hate, there they love, there they murder the enemy, curse his descendants through all generations – there they sin.”

      – Kierkegaard, Either/Or, A Fragment of Life

    • theoldadam

      I do believe that quote by Luther was to his friend Philip Melancthon. He was trying to show Philip what a real sinner he was and that tiptoeing around and carefully trying to sidestep sins, will not take away the fact that he is a full blown sinner.

      And then, because of Christ, that he is free to live life to the fullest. Without fear of not doing the right thing. Be bold!
      Sin boldly (live boldly)!

      And this was immediately after the first part; “but trust in Christ more boldly still.”

    • Good old Luther, no psychobabble in his day! Sadly THIS really is what one gets mostly these days, even from the pulpit!

      Btw, sadly Melancthon is so little known today. What an interesting character!

    • theoldadam

      Melancthon is an interesting character. Although he did and said some good things, his humanism led him to water down and backtrack a bit on Luther’s work.

    • @TOA: I would tend to somewhat agree, but Melanchton’s Loci communes should really be read, they are quite biblical and theological in places. I have a Lutheran friend, that simply loves the guy! Though this friend tends toward the more High Church type of Lutheranism.

    • theoldadam

      Many do love the guy. I tend to lean the other way. The Lutheran Confessions were very good. But they could have been much better.

      I do understand the need to try and maintain some modicum of peace (with the Catholics) at such a volatile time, but the Melancthon wasn’t the bulldog that Luther was with respect to the pure gospel. He left a crack in the door open for the sinner’s contribution (the influence of humanism). Not in all his works, but in others. Luther had to straighten him out on several occasions and wasn’t able to reign him in all the time.

      It’s interesting to note that at Luther’s funeral service, Melancthon took the opportunity to harsh criticize Luther. Some pal.

    • theoldadam

      Fr. Robert,

      This is pretty interesting:

      http://gnesiolutheran.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/nesti.pdf

      Talk about differences that emerged, over time, between Luther and Melancthon.

      Scroll down to Jim Nestingen’s piece, ” Changing Definitions: The Law in Formula VI”

    • theoldadam

      If you don’t have time for the entire piece (not really that long, though) just read about the last 10 paragraphs.

    • @TOA: Thanks! Here is a nice Melanchthon link…

      http://www.lutheranhistory.org/melanchthon/#Works

      He is no doubt a true 16th century humanist Christian, more in the likes to degree of Erasmus, though certainly Reformational.

    • theoldadam

      I’ll check it out, Fr. Robert.

      Yeah…I think ol’ Phil got a bit wobbly in his old age.

    • Lora

      When Samuel Moreland was ready to retire from the English Parliament, he wanted something meaningful to do….so he asked Oliver Cromwell.

      At that time, the French Huguenots were suffering persecution in La Rochelle. So Cromwell asked Moreland to visit them and gather their historical documents befoore they were destroyed.

      The historical documents included Waldensian Confessions of Faith dated 1120 as well as letters by John Calvin and Philip Melanchthon pleading with monarchs to show toleration to the Waldenses as faithful historical Christians.

      Before we make negative statements about humanism, we need to understand the difference between Enlightenment humanism (you are your own god) and Renaissance humanism (we have worth and dignity because we are made in the image of God).
      I realize that as a semi-Pelagian, Erasmus largely ignored depravity in his soteriology.

      Total depravity is foundational to a biblical understanding of soteriology. Nevertheless, Calvin (education as lawyer strongly influenced by Cicero) was a Renaissance humanist. My impression is that he focused on human dignity in all other areas of thought except for his soteriology. Actually, there is a great deal in common between Calvin and Melanchthon.

      An imbalanced focus on total depravity (often called worm theology) is prevalent in fundamentalism and is often the root of spritual abuse.

      The Calvinist teaching of common grace seems to reflect Renaissance humanism – this is what we need to keep in mind.

    • @Lora: We basically agree here! 😉 Indeed “neo-Calvinism” is closer to Renaissance humanism. And Calvin and Melanchton met twice in their life as I remember, and were theological friends. Though they had differences in their shared letters, and Calvin could get dominant theologically.

    • Here’s a nice piece, note I did not quote the whole of the Schaff Letters here of Calvin and Melanchton.

      “O Philip Melanchthon! I appeal to thee who now livest with Christ in the bosom of God, and there art waiting for us till we shall be gathered with thee to that blessed rest. A hundred times, when worn out with labors and oppressed with so many troubles, didst thou repose thy head familiarly on my breast and say, ’Would that I could die in this bosom!’ Since then I have a thousand times wished that it had been granted to us to live together; for certainly thou wouldst thus have had more courage for the inevitable contest, and been stronger to despise envy, and to count as nothing all accusations. In this manner, also, the malice of many would have been restrained who, from thy gentleness which they call weakness, gathered audacity for their attacks.”

      Btw, we should remember that Melanchthon had 12 years on Calvin, but Melanchthon called Calvin “the theologian” out of respect and friendship!

    • John Sobieski

      Michael,

      I still appreciate you even though you like country music. Your next Credo House needs to be in Nashville ….

    • Jeff Ayers

      Solomon was about 2,400 years ahead of Luther’s statement on “Be a sinner and sin boldly”>>>

      Ecclesiastes 7:16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?

      Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

      Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

      Including hating and killing and no doubt the “every thing” included “sinning boldly” and sinning “with all thy might”… and don’t forget to not be overly righteous.

    • G Dunn

      You could call it, “How all men fall short of Shema, the Great Command.”

      98% of all preachers of Christ fall short because they do not worship the ONE True God, but a hybrid Three-in-One God.

      98% of all preachers of Christ fall short in the comprehension and expression of Shema, which is to love YHWH Elohim the One True God with ALL of your heart soul and might.

      Because 98% of preachers do not PREACH Shema. They forgot the first and greatest command which Jesus himself affirms in Mark 12.

      Since only one man ever accomplished Shema, then what can any preacher say about being perfect, mostly charismatic, or holy? Which foot fell short when he attempted to put his BEST foot forward in any case?

      In regards to the Great Command, all men WILL fall short of our Savior who accomplished all from birth to the end of his walk.

      In regards to the Great Command all men will only WANT to do Shema from the baptism of Spirit, which comes from faith and belief in the Messiah, Yeshua Ha Messiach.

      Deut 30
      6 And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.

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