Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reflections | Special Message | Is Grace a License to Sin?

Grace-preachers attract sinners and that is a good thing. If you are a sinner – you have come to the right place! Sinners are welcome in the House of Grace. I wish our churches were magnets for sinners for that would be a sure sign we were preaching the true gospel of grace.

If this scandalizes you then you may want to avert your eyes from the One called the Friend of Sinners. Jesus didn’t wait for sinners to come to Him; He literally went into their homes and got Himself invited to their parties. That’s because grace is for sinners. It is not for those who think they are basically good and decent people. As Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13).

So I suppose I should be thrilled that I get a lot of correspondence from sinners – and I am. What is less thrilling is the correspondence I get from saints who think they are sinners and who want me to validate their choice to act like sinners.

Why do saints act like sinners?

Some may do it out of ignorance (“I am holy? I didn’t know!”) or out of a fatal belief that they can live by law and call it grace (“I’m just trying to live by the red letters of Jesus”). But a saint who acts like a sinner is a hypocrite – they are acting like someone they are not.

In a recent post I dealt with five questions I typically hear from hot-blooded young men. But today I want to answer the biggest question of all…

Is grace a license to sin?

No. It is true that grace brings freedom and that includes the freedom to make poor choices, but if you use your freedom to enslave yourself to sin, then you have missed the point of grace:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

The purpose of grace is to liberate the prisoner and give life to the dead. Grace is also good news for the poor (Lk 4:18-19). So if you use grace to enslave or impoverish yourself by making dumb decisions and indulging the flesh, then you are setting aside grace. You are not using it for its intended purpose. Grace liberates, but if you use your freedom to discard your freedom, then what was the point? You are no better off than when you started.

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Rom 5:20)

Don’t ever fall for the lie that says “I can go on sinning so that grace may abound.” True, your sinning won’t affect God’s love for you, but it will surely affect you. It will enslave you and ultimately kill you. This is not God’s will for your life.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. (Rom 6:1)

Grace is no more a license to sin than electricity is a license to electrocute yourself. True, you can use electricity to electrocute yourself but God forbid that you would! That’s not what it’s for. God created electricity so you could enjoy light and warmth and ESPN’s Sports Center. Grace, like electricity is meant to bring life not death and there is no life in sin.

We need to see sin for what it really is. It is not some benign activity like making coffee or hitting free-throws down the stretch. As God warned Cain, Sin is a crouching beast that desires to master you. Running after Sin is about as smart as poking a pit-bull with a stick.

They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!

The apostle of grace wrote much about how sin enslaves and he wasn’t just talking about sinners: “You are slaves to the one whom you obey” (Rom 6:16). Now please understand I am drawing a big fat line between a saint who occasionally sins and a saint who runs after sin. There is a big difference. The former finds himself doing what he doesn’t want to do; the latter is doing exactly what he wants to do. If you are troubled when you sin, relax – your discomfort is actually a sign of the new nature and new desires within you. Your heart is to please the Lord. But if you are untroubled when you sin – perhaps because you think grace is a license to sin – then wake up and smell the coffee. Something is very wrong.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Tit 2:11-12)

I am aware that some use this scripture to promote behavior modification thus condemning those who are struggling to overcome sin. (If you are trying to overcome sin, check out the excellent links at the end of this post.) The point I want to make here is this: The grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness. So any grace that isn’t teaching you to say “No” is counterfeit grace. Is grace a license to sin? Only if it is fake grace.

So why do I still sin?

I suspect there are two reasons. Either you don’t know who you really are and you are still running on the operating system you had when you followed the way of the world. Or you are an unbeliever. The grace that teaches us to say no only comes through faith. If you don’t believe you can say no then, guess what, you won’t. This is why it is imperative to declare what the Bible says is true about you.

If you are a Christian you are a new creation. The new has come and the old has gone. When you came to Christ you did not sign up for a program of life-long reform and self-improvement. That way lies disaster and disappointment. Christ is your life. Learn to allow Him to express His flawless, sinless life through your earthen vessel.

When you get up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and declare “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am His dearly loved child.” When you’re about to click on a link that you should not click or when reaching for some substance that is killing you, say it again: “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am His dearly loved child.” This is not the power of positive thinking. This is a frail human being tapping into the inexhaustible riches of His transforming grace through faith.

Have faith in God – His grace is powerful! It is the only thing on this earth that can give us freedom from sin and sinning. Live under the fountain of His grace and sin shall not be your master (Rom 6:14).

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