by Peter Menkin
Guest speaker examines sin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, California for 40 minutes speaking before students, their friends, and the public with the theme, “We can win in our war against sin in our life.” Pastor Jim Fitzpatrick tells how belief influences behavior, citing Romans 6 the Bible during his admirable talk. Readers can hear the sermon in its entirety here.
Part of an ongoing series of sermons by speakers as well as faculty spokeswoman for the Southern Baptist seminary says, “...we often have music (songs and instruments) prior to the sermon – with the attendees singing – very much like a church worship service.” Upcoming guests can be found on the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) website here. “Attendees include students, staff and faculty. The public is welcome, and depending on the speaker, others may attend. For instance, Robert Wilkins will be the speaker selected by our African American Christian Fellowship. He is Young Adult Pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church and President and CEO, YMCA of the East Bay, located in Oakland.”
Pastor Jim Fitzpatrick (Crosspointe Baptist Church) Vancouver, Washington, spoke with this writer.
Note that remarks from the sermon are briefly reported, then significantly followed by comments from Pastor Fitzpatrick on his sermon, as given in an email interview with this writer. Pastor Fitzpatrick answered the questions from his home in Vancouver, Washington, which is near Portland, Oregon.
The preacher starts off by preaching, “’While we’re always told to live a holy life, Romans 6:11-14 tells us how to do so. You can win in your war against sin.’”
Dr. Fitzpatrick is a Doctor of Ministry graduate of Golden Gate Seminary, an adjunct professor at the Seminary’s Pacific Northwest Campus.
The statement from GGBTS ends its report on the sermon with, “Fitzpatrick concluded by urging his listeners to ‘begin new every morning; to commit yourselves daily and to surrender your body and your mind – to offer yourself before the Lord. That is the way to win in your war against sin.’”
The Interview with Pastor Jim Fitzpatrick
From your sermon you say your favorites are Romans 6-8 (two of them). Will you tell me which quotes they are, and cite them or give me the text? These 3 chapters, Romans 6,7, and 8 are my favorites because of their emphasis on growing as Christians to become the holy people God desires us to be. I especially like chapter 8:1- therefore, there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus and 8:31-39 which teaches that believers are secure in Christ. The chapter begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation for believers.
Do you refer to the Bible as reference and source frequently when speaking in the pulpit at Golden Gate Theological Seminary because of the imperative directed by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and others who want Southern Baptist seminaries to rely more heavily on Biblical statement or source? Or are there other reasons? No, I was not aware of what Dr. Mohler said. My belief is that the Bible is God’s written communication to us. It is the source of authority. My comments as a pastor/teacher have no power on their own. The power/authority comes from the written Word of God (The Bible). I am one of many who are considered expository preachers. I always preach directly from the Bible and typically work my way through entire books, line upon line, precept upon precept.
Does your work with youth leadership lead you in this sermon as you find relevance for seminary students, though all may not be so young? Still, they are students. What is your focus for seminary students, as a tone? I just know that all of us, regardless of age struggle with the same issues. For the believer who deeply desires to live a godly life, sin and temptation are continual enemies. I felt it made sense to speak to this particular audience on this topic of Victory over Sin because it is something all Christ- followers desire in our lives.
You say, “You can win in your war against sin.” I note you use Romans 6: 11-14. What specifically tells you this is so? Why Paul, and do you lean towards Paul in your own faith and work as a pastor? These verses are very clear. God wants us to have victory over sin. Each of the four verses clearly teach that or allude to it in some way. Victory over sin does not mean we will ever be sinless in this life, but we can sin less and less as we apply the concepts found in these verses. I don’t necessarily lean towards Paul in my preaching, although I do like the 13 books of the New Testament that he wrote.
Though this question has been touched on, How did you find the seminary listener different from others you’ve had the opportunity to address in a sermon? I am not sure. Again, my feeling is that all people have similar questions, issues, hang ups etc. I do know that I presupposed some Bible knowledge and understanding that I may not have assumed with an audience that does not know the scriptures as thoroughly as this audience does.
Tell us a few words about man as sinner, and why did you choose this topic? We are all sinners. We were born into sin and we willingly choose sin. I chose the topic because we are all in the same boat. We all sin, we all struggle, and we all need help beyond ourselves to defeat sin.
I did like your statement on belief influencing behavior. It is compelling and promising. Is there more to say on, Why or how does our belief influence behavior? Will you say a little more for readers? We act on what we truly believe. If we say we believe something but never act upon it, my guess is we may not really believe it at all. For example, as a follower of Christ, I believe there are not many ways to God but one – faith in Jesus Christ. Because I believe that, I am motivated to share this truth with others.
You don’t mention the devil, as I recall. Is sin created by the devil? So many people would like to know what you think who will look at this article about your sermon on sin. I did not mention the Devil, only because he is not mentioned in this passage. However, I certainly believe in the Devil – the Bible speaks quite a bit about Satan. We see from other passages that the Devil is a liar, a murderer, a deceiver etc. He certainly influences people to sin, although we are responsible for our own sins. I don’t believe it is correct to say the Devil created sin. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of the serpent (the Devil) of their own free will. Jesus was tempted by the Devil, but did not choose to sin.
A logical follow-up to the previous question, at least as it occurs to me: Why can’t man ever be sinless? In a Bible study I attended recently in San Francisco’s Bay Area a man declared more than hopefully that because of Jesus Christ we are forgiven of sin. He believed that and wanted to believe it. We can never be sinless in this life because we are all born with a sin nature = a desire and an ability to sin. The sin nature does not go away when we come to Christ. I would wholeheartedly agree with the man from the Bible Study. Jesus Christ came to bring forgiveness of sin. When we put our faith and trust in Christ as our Savior, we receive the forgiveness for all of our sins – past, present, and future.
Believers will probably be right with you when you say, Sin is slavery. One is free to go, when emancipated, as your story of Abraham Lincoln explained. What does free mean? I did hear you say in your sermon, it means, “Free to live with Jesus.” Anything else? Someone who is free has choices. Believers are free from the control of sin. We don’t have to choose to sin. Instead we are free to make choices that honor and please God.
Your sermon is more than upbeat, it is positive in its statements of promise regarding sin and Jesus Christ. You say, We can win in our war against sin in our life. Have you known anyone who is losing in their war against sin in their life? What has it done to them? I think many believers live defeated lives. The reason for this is often we do not fully embrace the new life we have been given. Christians are not just improved people, they are transformed people. I regularly deal with people who struggle to walk with God and live the kind of life God requires/desires.
Your sermon ends with how sin is a matter of the heart, not the mind. You tell a good story to illustrate this belief. In the sermon that lasts about 40 minutes, and a Southern Baptist sermon can be longer, is that not so? My question becomes: Is it the pastor’s job to help the heart solely, and that of your typical Baptist in the pew? I think effective preaching engages the mind, heart, and will all at once. Christianity is a religion of faith, but our faith is not some crazy leap in the dark. It is more of a step into the light. Christians used to be at the forefront of intellectualism in our society. I think some preaching is strong in volume, but weak in content. The issues we face in life are matters of the heart. We struggle sometimes because our wills are weak. Therefore, it is essential to go after the mind, heart, and will in preaching.
To the final question, and there is a long quote from Luther at the end, so stay with me if you will. Your thoughts and wisdom are invited. Question: Is there a similarity in the different ways Christians see sin. As an example, the following quotation found on an internet discussion list, Yahoo’s Monasticlife. Please comment: Grace is the key word in understanding all that motivates God to be involved in our lives. Grace means we receive that which we do not deserve (salvation and the forgiveness of sin among many other things). I assume there is a different way that some define sin, but the Bible is clear that sin is “missing the mark”, falling short of God’s moral standards in our lives. I like Luther’s quote. I am not sure any of us need any encouragement to sin, we do that pretty well already! However, the point seems to be that which is found in Romans 6:1-4. I would paraphrase it by saying – “the flood of our sin, is overwhelmed by the tidal wave of God’s grace.”
Here's the original quote from Luther's Works, Vol. 48 in a
letter he wrote to Philip Melanchthon on 1 August 1521. There are footnote
numbers embedded in this quote, sorry about that ...
"If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious
grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God
does not save people who are only fictitious; sinners. Be a
sinner and sin; boldly; but believe
and; rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is
victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this
world; we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place
of righteousness; but, as Peter says; we
look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness
dwells. It is enough that by; the riches of God's glory we
have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world; No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit
fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the
purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins
by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner
August 1, 1521"
Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 48: Luther's works, vol. 48 : Letters I (J. J
Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (48:281).
Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Is there anything you’d like to add? I appreciate the opportunity to answer your thought –provoking questions. I also am thankful to Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for the opportunity to share in the recent chapel service. Golden Gate is a great seminary that is doing many innovative and influential things for the kingdom of God in this generation.
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is a Cooperative Program Ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and operates five, fully-accredited campuses in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado. For more information go here: