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Three lies we might easily believe


The following brief article was written by my friend Ray Ortlund and posted on his blog on February 28, 2017. I was deeply moved by it and thought it should be made available again to those who may not have seen it. Continue reading . . . 

The following brief article was written by my friend Ray Ortlund and posted on his blog on February 28, 2017. I was deeply moved by it and thought it should be made available again to those who may not have seen it.

It is very much in the Devil’s interests that we despair. If he can get us to believe any of these three demoralizing lies that he loves to whisper into our thoughts, our powers for Jesus are greatly diminished. And each one seems to us quite plausible.

Lie #1: “You’re a hypocrite. Sure, you’re serving Jesus. But you don’t really mean it. It’s really all about you. You might as well give up.”

Answer: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20). “I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

Lie #2: “You’re a loser. You’ve ruined your life. You’re too damaged by now. You’ll never amount to anything for the Lord. You might as well give up.”

Answer: “. . . the poor, . . . the brokenhearted, . . . the captives, . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations” (Isaiah 61:1-4).

Lie #3: “You’re too small. You’re so buried under the debris of our complex and crowded world today, you’ll never make an impact. You’re making no difference at all. You might as well give up.”

Answer: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28-29).

Each lie is believable, in its way. So we don’t defeat the lies by pushing back with our own beliefs, which are little more than stabs at truth. We push back by declaring God’s Word, which has a decisive finality our own little thoughts cannot generate.


Maybe if we spent more time examining Matthew 28:19-20 instead of expounding on devisve debates we'd all be better off -- however, it's clear if you don't understand that we are born into sin how can you understand the more complex issues??

Last thought / question:

If you are born non elect, guilty of Adam's sin, and God has decreed to withhold the irresistible grace needed to repent and embrace the Truth where does that leave you? What is your hope of forgiveness?

I hear you Michael; I used to think the same way. But that was before the implications of Rom 5:13 (and 4:15) slapped me in the head. Sin is not imputed where there is no law, thus it is not biblically possible that sin could be imputed by natural generation (per WCF). We also know with certainty (from Rom 9) that Jacob and Esau had not done anything evil before they were born (which serves to corroborate with common sense; a baby could not be born guilty of anything, let alone be deserving of eternal damnation in diapers.

We also know from Rom 5 that Adam's posterity did not sin in the same way as Adam therefore we obviously did not commit his sin (again confirming some good old fashioned common grace common sense. Our doctrine of Adam's Headship must not include imputed guilt. Consequences, to be sure, but not culpability. Imputation is all over Rom 4 but nowhere to be found in Rom 5.

What law of God could a newborn have broken?

Just chiming in on this...

I think the idea of federal headship solves this problem if it is true that we were really and truly in Adam. In other words, God can hold us all accountable, even infants and those of diminished capacity, because all of us participated in the sin of Adam. In other words, Adam did not make a choice that we ourselves would not have made had we been in the garden instead. So I think guilt does get imputed to us. But God can sovereignly choose to pardon it, in view of the cross, for those who cannot repent of it because they are too young to understand or lack the mental faculties to do so.

That said, I find it somewhat inconsistent that we would accept the idea of imputed righteousness from Christ and not imputed guilt from Adam. I guess everyone is philosophically okay with getting the righteousness we do not deserve, but somehow not okay with getting the guilt and punishment we most certainly do deserve.

Well, I guess one man's "compatible mystery" is another man's contradiction! I am glad to hear that you, at least, don't agree with the Whitefield remark on this point. Your case would be stronger if the word for impute was used in Rom 5.

Thanks for taking the time.

Thanks for taking the time Sam. I sent a response earlier but I'm not sure if it went through. (Got a pop up about it being spam.) Anyway, if you don't ascribe to the "imputation of Adam's guilt" to his posterity by natural generation and not the law... I apologize for the assumption. I would be glad to hear that you don't!

Actually, I do believe in the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity. I see no other way of reading Romans 5.12ff. But I don't believe anyone is eternally condemned solely for the guilt of his transgression. I believe all those dying in infancy are saved, as are those who are cognitively impaired and incapable of understanding divine revelation. And I would never say that anyone has "no hope." They do have hope: believe the gospel and be saved!

Thanks for taking the time to respond, Sam. I honestly did not expect it and maybe I should have dug deeper into your views. I assumed (and you know what they say about the word ass-u-me! ) that you held to the Reformed theory on the imputation of Adam's guilt to his posterity. If you don't I am glad to hear it. It is biblically (and rationally) impossible that anyone could be born guilty, since sin is not imputed where there is no law (Rom 5:13; 4:15).

I certainly agree that God's sovereignty and our responsibility are compatible with one another even if we can't always understand how.

A question I could never answer as a Calvinist is:

What did Esau and those (allegedly) born non-elect do to deserve being born with no hope?

The imputation of Adam's guilt is a poor and unnecessary inference imposed on Rom 5 and Ps 51. I would need an explicit text before I could assume that God would be just to damn us even if we never actually sinned once in our entire lifetime or that those babies born with illnesses and handicaps must be born guilty of Adam's sin (per George W, Method of Grace and M Henry commentary on Rom 5).

We suffer the consequences of Adam's sin... not the culpability.

Thanks, and sorry if I mistook your position, and if I am coming across dis-respectfully.)

Doug, I'm happy you posted this comment because it gives me the opportunity, ever so brief, to clear up some confusion. The so-called "Calvinism" you describe is not the Calvinism I see in Scripture. Simply put, no one will be held accountable or judged for sins for which he/she is not personally culpable. I am a strong believer in compatibilism, not because it is philosophically or logically airtight, but because I see it everywhere in the Bible. God's absolute sovereignty over all things (including our choices ) and our moral accountability for the choices we make are perfectly compatible. The bottom line is this, no one goes to hell except those who deserve to. Every responsible and respectable Calvinist I know believes that to be true. I encourage you to read Scott Christenson's excellent book, What about Free Will? (Presbyterian and Reformed). Blessings.

Sam, I doubt you will want to post this but I do hope you and Ray will consider it.

A 4th lie is found only among those influenced by unconditional election. It occurs when the devil convinces you that you were born reprobate, with no actual hope in the gospel. I have a dear friend who simply cannot be consoled because he thinks his past sins (that are common to believers) are proof that he does not have the Spirit. He lives in daily agony waiting for God to do something miraculous / irresistible before he can hope in Christ.

We must never teach, even by inference or insinuation, that some people are born hated by God with no bona fide hope in the gospel.

Thanks for all you do but I wish you would reconsider your commitment to Calvinism. It is derogatory to the righteousness of God when we even suggest that there are some people who will be irresistibly damned forever because of a sin they didn't commit, sins they could not prevent, and/or sins they could not even confess properly.

Thanks Sam, for passing this one on. We need these encouraging texts.

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