Grace attracts sinners.
Since I am someone who preaches radical grace, I often hear from people who are fooling around. Some are looking for help in overcoming sin, but most want an assurance that God will continue to love them despite their bad behavior. More often than not, these messages come from young men who are living as though they were married, even though they are not.
Since I grow weary of being an agony aunt for men who should know better, this letter is addressed to all of you who are wrestling with sin, and particularly to hot-blooded young males. Here are my responses to five commonly asked questions:
1. Will God love me if I keep sinning?
Yes, absolutely! I know this is not what manmade religion has told you, but you need to know that God’s love for you is unrelated to your moral performance. He loves us because he is your Father. There are many variables in life but God’s love is the one constant you can bank on. You can be certain that he loves you.
A better question to ask is, “Do you know and enjoy his love?” The prodigal’s father loved him constantly but the prodigal did not know and benefit from his love for as long as his attention was elsewhere.
Every one of us has needs. These needs are meant to lead us to Jesus (see Php 4:19). If you’re not getting your needs met in Jesus, you will make inferior choices – and this is where the trouble starts.
2. Does God’s grace mean I can continue to live in sin?
No. Grace brings freedom and yes, that includes the freedom to make poor choices, but if you use your freedom to enslave yourself to sin or religion, you have missed the point of grace (Gal 5:1).
A Christian who runs after sin is like a prisoner who has been released into the custody of gracious king, who then uses his freedom to re-offend and do all the things that got him imprisoned in the first place. Now our King is extremely gracious. He won’t send you back to prison. But you may send yourself there.
The King of kings didn’t give his life as your ransom just so that you run back to the clay-pits of Egypt. Egypt is history. You’ve got places to go. Move on to the Promised Land of his love.
3. Will I lose my salvation if I choose to keep sinning?
No. Jesus is your salvation and the Holy Spirit is your eternal guarantee (2 Cor 1:22). If sinning caused us to lose our salvation, heaven would be empty.
But the question troubles me. Religion has got us so obsessed with making heaven and avoiding hell that we’ve put life on hold. The earth is not a waiting room for eternity. This is where Real Life begins (see John 17:3). Don’t put your life on hold by living captive to the flesh. Salvation is not there and then; it’s here and now. God’s will is for you to experience heaven-on-earth today. But choose the way of sin and you’ll experience hell-on-earth.
Religion would have us frame the questions of life in terms of good and evil. “Shouldn’t we do good and avoid evil?” This is fruit from the wrong tree. It’s not that the question above is inherently bad, it just won’t lead you to the right Answer.
The purpose of grace is to give you life where sin has given you death. Grace is the antidote to the poison of sin. Now that you’ve been saved from death, stop drinking the poison. Drink from the well of his life.
4. If God loves me and my salvation is secure, then why can’t I keep doing what I’m doing?
Because sinning is stupid. It’s like texting on the freeway. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
The world will tell you that “if it feels good, do it” and “as long as it’s harming no one, what’s the problem?” These two mantras are flawed. Sin always carries a price tag. Live from your feelings and you’ll end up enslaved to your appetites. You will be a shadow of your real self.
When we seek to save ourselves by doing what seems right in our own sight, we lose ourselves. It is only when we trust Jesus, that we truly live.
Understand that I am not calling you to take a vow of chastity. Following Jesus is not about starving the flesh. Following Jesus is about reckoning yourself dead to the world and allowing him to live his life through you. Trust me, his way is better!
“As long as it’s harming no one…” How do you know it’s not harming no one? Do you have perfect knowledge of the future? Do you know for sure that the lady you’re keeping house with is going to be your wife and not the wife of another? Will she be the mother of your children or the mother of someone else’s children? If you are certain that she will be your wife for life, then marry her. But if you’re uncertain, then stop playing games and man up. People too precious to fool around with.
5. I can’t help myself. I’m not sure that I could stop even if I wanted to.
That’s not a question; that’s a declaration of unbelief in the grace of God that empowers us to say no to ungodliness (Tit 2:12).
In the natural it may be true that you are enslaved to whatever it is you’re doing. You may be in so deep that you can’t see the sun. But that doesn’t mean you are without help and without options. Your Helper is Almighty God! No one is beyond the reach of his transforming love and grace.
I’ve met countless people who have been changed from one kind of person into another by his grace. This happens all the time. But transformation rarely happens among those who don’t believe.
So stop looking at yourself as a victim, and stop speaking lies over your life. Look instead to your Mighty Redeemer. Confess your true identity in Christ. When you get up in the morning and another day of sin beckons, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am my Father’s son and he loves me. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. As he is in heaven, so am I in this world.”
Beliefs need to be spoken and acted upon for them to become real in our experience. The world will try and tell you that you are the product of your choices and behaviors, but God says you are his beloved child. Choose who you will listen to and be who you really are.
For now, I will end with this: Any theology that doesn’t empower you to overcome sin is worse-than-useless. It leaves people worse off because it saddles them with guilt and condemnation.
This is why grace is better than rule-based religion. Grace is not a set of rules that condemn, it is a victorious Overcomer living his overcoming life through you.
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