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Pet Sins, Wolfmueller's Pit Bull, And 'A Dog That Returns To His Vomit'

I'm getting old. In fact, I'm almost 40 years old.

One of the things I will never get used to as a Christian is how, with each passing year, I become more and more conscious of my sinful nature and desperately desire the day when I will be in the Lord's eternal presence without sensing the stain of sin upon my heart and mind.

While I know some Christians who like to talk endlessly about how they are "Living The Victorious Christian Life!" as if they are no longer even tempted to sin ever again, I'm the kind who often wonders if the "wretched man that I am" (Romans 7:24), that bastard "Old Adam" within, will somehow figure out a way to disqualify me and cause me to forfeit my faith when I am seduced by him and the subtle serpent to succumb to sin and, as a result, become the "one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God" (Hebrews 10:29).

So I remember my Baptism, I cling to the promises found in God's Word, and I receive the Lord's Supper as often as I can get it.

Surely, ours is not a "Do-It-Yourself" Gospel, but if there's one thing I will do and that I try to do well, it's to try and remind myself that I don't have to do anything expect repent and believe! I just have to let God do all the work, because He has saved me, and He continues to save me, since I cannot possibly save myself.

We Lutherans are never shy about acknowledging these truths either -- thanks be to God! We talk about things like "Sanctification" and "Simul Justus Et Peccator" to describe what the Bible has to say about this daily struggle or this war that rages within us each and every day and until our last dying breath.

Sadly, that doesn't mean that we always have a proper understanding of this topic though. Thankfully, we can turn to faithful Pastors to help us.

Here's an EXCELLENT 10-minute sound byte of a conversation between Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller and Pastor Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. where Pastor Wolfmueller uses the illustration of a pet "Pit Bull" to help explain Biblical Sanctification as opposed to the half-truth perversions that so many of us (myself included) have believed or continue to believe about this subject.



Wolfmueller's Pit Bull Illustration 


Personally, I think that illustration works for so many reasons and it's much better than the one I first heard some 8 years ago.

I found myself talking to a Non-Denominational Christian Counselor and the topic of "pet sins" (a.k.a. "habitual sins") came up in our conversation. This was before I was a Confessional Lutheran and well before I even had any understanding of the Sacraments and the role that they play in the process of Sanctification.

This man used an analogy where a person's sinful tendencies were like a dog. The more a person gave in to the temptation to sin, the more they were "feeding the dog" and helping it to grow bigger and stronger.

Eventually, the dog would become so big and so powerful that it wouldn't want to be fed the same food any longer to the point where it would turn on its owner, turn on you, and literally bite the hand that was feeding it (if it didn't just eat you to death to begin with!).

I remember thinking how clever that analogy was! It helped me frame my own daily struggles with sin in such a way where I could better understand the true risks involved whenever I wanted to play with my pet sins. Better yet, it pitted me, not against myself, but against some external "phantom beast" type of creature.

Honestly, for awhile there it was great, because it was like me versus the world or a real-life "David And Goliath" type of situation. I was the master of my destiny! I was the master of my own fate! I was the hero of the story!


Notice anything about all of that though? It didn't leave any room whatsoever for Christ and His atoning work upon the cross for me! Come to think of it, Jesus was never mentioned once by this "Christian" Counselor.

Now, contrast that with Pastor Wolfmueller's version. He not only properly identifies the "Pit Bull" for us, but he also warns us against thinking we could ever keep this kind of a ferocious beast in our own homes since such a decision would be akin to pure madness!

I could truly relate to many of the things he had to say about the believer who thinks he/she can reform and train the Pit Bull too.

For me, my approach is slightly different. I put my Pit Bull in another room entirely or keep it locked in the closet. I'll put it there and keep it there for weeks and maybe even months on end. Then, when I don't hear it making any noise or, when I don't actually see it causing any real death and destruction to any loved ones in my home or to any of my property, that's precisely the moment when I'll take a peek to see if my Pit Bull has learned to behave yet.

I'll tiptoe to the door, open it quietly, peak inside and begin to take that first step toward the unholy creature. "This is it!" I think to myself.

Each and every time, I'm convinced that this will be the moment that my Pit Bull cowers in the corner of the room, because it's afraid to see me, his master, and because it's finally learned who's really in control, and that it needs to be less dangerous and destructive and more docile.

Each and every time, however, I barely plant that first foot inside the room before the Pit Bull pounces on me "like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8), and proceeds to shred my leg while ripping my flesh from the bones as if it wants to destroy my soul.

Bottom line? Each and every time, the Pit Bull is always much stronger than it was when I first hid him in the back room of my home. The punishment and separation I had hoped would lead to submission only resulted in more anguish, pain, and suffering for me and my family.

There is no rehabilitating the Pit Bull. There is no reforming the Pit Bull. There is no hiding from the truth. There is only one thing to do; one solution. 

Two Bible passages come to mind...


 

Proverbs 26:11 (ESV) Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

2 Peter 2:1-22 (ESV) But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,d and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”


This is most certainly true.
Dogs were considered one of the filthiest animals in ancient Israel. These unclean animals (according to Levitical law) naturally returned to their uncleanness. That truth speaks for itself in a study like this I think.

While there's a lot to unpack from 2 Peter 2 that we could apply to a piece like this one today, I want to focus on 2 Peter 2:10 that mentions things like the "lust of defiling passion" (likely a possible reference to homosexuality, the sin of the Sodomites), which calls to mind Genesis 19.

That chapter correlates to the previously mentioned "pet sins" embodied by the Pit Bull (at least, in my case it does). In short, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah to serve as a reminder to later generations that unrighteousness, false teaching, immorality, and evil (be they in Lot's day, Peter's day, or today) will eventually result in the carrying out of God's judgment (2 Peter 2:6).

Like Lot, though we still have many faults (many pet sins or a Pit Bull of our own), we also have faith in the Lord and we trust God's Word. We also rely on God's promises of deliverance too (2 Peter 2:7).

Is it possible to fall away from the faith? Yes! The sin against the light -- apostasy in the face of known and acknowledged truth -- has unforeseeable consequences. The heart made alive in Christ becomes hardened against the saving power of God's Word and grace, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for one to be turned back to Christ (2 Peter 2:20-21; John 8:31-32). The final condition of such a person, Jesus says, "is worse than the first" (Luke 11:24-26; 2 Peter 2:18). Thus, it is a grave mistake to imagine that we can receive the Gospel, come to Jesus, and yet continue in destructive ways and return to our sins.


"He also will punish those who willfully turn away from the holy commandment and again entangle themselves in the world's filth (2 Peter 2:20-21), decorate their hearts for Satan (Luke 11:24-26), and despise God's Spirit (Hebrews 10:29)." 
-- Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord XI 83


St. Peter closes his warnings to us about this Pit Bull that's present in our lives when he closes in 2 Peter 2 with two proverbs (the first from Proverbs 26:11; the second from an unknown secular source) to indicate the abiding reality of the sinful nature in every person -- believer and unbeliever. In this context, dogs and sows, both unclean animals, are likened to people who reject God's Word.


"Through Baptism these people threw out unbelief, had their unclean life washed away, and entered into a pure life of faith and love. Now they fall away into unbelief and their own works, and they soil themselves again in filth. ... But if you want to become pious, you must ask God to give you a genuine faith, and you must begin to desist from unbelief. When you receive faith, then good works will come automatically, and you will lead a pure and chaste life. Otherwise you will preserve yourself by no other means. And even if you are unable to conceal the knave in your heart for a while, yet he will finally emerge." 
-- Martin Luther (Luther's Works 30:190-91)


This is why we must never pervert the freedom of the Gospel into an excuse for indulgence!

This is why we must always put the Pit Bull to death!

See, this is why I loved Pastor Wolfmueller's Pit Bull illustration. He rightly points out that a Pit Bull like this must be put down, it must be killed, especially if we ever hope to have peace and security in our own homes and in our own lives. He even discusses the problem with many churches today that preach the Law to its parishioners rather than the Law and the Gospel.

Ok, but why does any of this even matter? Well, I hope that it's clear by now. If not, here's more to prayerfully consider for emphasis...


"When they have heard God's Word, they make light of it again and ignore it. But their wickedness is responsible for this , not God or His election." 
-- Epitome of the Formula of Concord XI 12


Thankfully, God promises to fill those who repent with His own Spirit and bless us through His Word and Sacraments, that we may be whole.

Our Lord says, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature are ever seeking to overcome us through our tribulations. The way of escape is through His Holy Word and Sacraments, for this is how He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith.

The next time we are tempted to indulge in our so-called "pet sins" in our lives, I pray that we will recall Pastor Wolfmueller's "Pit Bull" illustration and remind ourselves that "like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." I know I will.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, animal rights activists will often tell you that when it comes to the Pit Bull, viciousness is taught and not bred or a part of what they are, but when it comes to we human beings, we are all born sinners, enemies of God, and are in need of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive us of our sins against God (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:22-26).



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 4 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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