If we are saved by grace why can’t continue to live in sin?
I recently had a conversation with a friend in which they said that if they are saved by grace than they saw no is no reason they could not just live their life however they want to. I responded by telling my friend that they did not understand how grace or salvation works and that there are a lot of reasons we can’t be saved if we don’t live for God. The most important reasons being we can’t accept the grace of God without first accepting Jesus, and living a life contrary to the teachings of the Bible without giving much thought to Jesus is a sure sigh that a person has no interest whatsoever in Jesus or anything he taught. Such a person is not viewing Jesus as Lord but rather as a get out of hell card.
If a person has been born again and is a follower of Jesus than his or her nature has changed and they no longer want to live for the world. If a person wants to live for the world than that is an extremely strong indication that they have not accepted Jesus and committed to follow him and are therefore not saved.
James, the half brother of Jesus, told us that when we have true faith it is followed by works, saying that faith without works is dead. In this instance the gospel of Jesus could be viewed as a medication that simply believing it will not help as one must actually apply it to see any results.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:14-26 NIV).
James was not in any way suggesting or insinuating that we are saved by our works but rather that if we believe and have the correct information but do nothing with it we are like the man who was told the bridge is out ahead and believes the bridge is out but does not alter his course to avoid going off the bridge into the chasm and certain death; the end result is the man who believed the bridge was out but did nothing about it is the same as it is for a person who didn’t know or didn’t believe that the bridge was out. As James points out, the devils believe in Jesus, and as a result of that belief they tremble at the thought of the judgement they will receive in the end, and yet they still spend the entirety of their existence fighting against God.
Some people think the teachings of James and the teachings of Paul are at odds with one another, but I don’t see it that way. While Paul stressed the importance of grace every chance he got, he still told us that we are not to live a life of sin and said that we must be slaves to righteousness.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Romans 16:15-23 NIV).
As Paul says, we are either a slave to sin and will inherit the punishment that is associated with it, or we are slaves to righteousness and inherit the rewards associated with it. Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven, but a life lived in intentional sin does not lead to salvation and nothing in the Bible suggests that it would. God has never and will never be happy with rebellion and blasphemy.
We are saved by the grace of God and by grace alone, the Bible is extremely clear on this, but many people don’t understand grace or what it means to follow God, and that is why they ask why they can’t just live however they want and still be saved. If you have been saved it is because you have given your heart to God, and a heart that has been given to God desires the things of God and does not desire to sin. Granted, all humans have a sinful nature and some sin will always occur, but once we have given our hearts to God we strive to do what pleases God instead of looking for opportunities and excuses to sin and our sins grieve us instead of bringing us pleasure.
I have to wonder if people who ask why they can't live for the world and in rebellion against God and still be saved think about the implications of their line of thought. To ask why we can’t live a life of wanton sin and still be saved is to want to do absolutely nothing for God and to still have him do everything for us, as if we were entitled, as if God owes us salvation. No one owes us anything, least of all God! We owe to God everything from our first breath to our last and everything in between. Yes, salvation is free and we can’t earn it, but we must accept the terms and conditions, including the non-compete clause that prohibits us from claiming the name of Christian but working for the devil instead. I have worked for several companies that required me to sign a non-compete clause committing to not working for any competitor while in their employ, and God certainly does not want us to be on the devils payroll while we are trying to reap all the benefits of being on God's side.
You don’t hear this line of thought too often in other areas other than religion. I can only imagine how my boss would react if I were to ask her what the minimum amount of effort I could put in at work and not get fired. Imagine if in a marriage if the bride or the groom were to ask their spouse what the minimum amount of effort he or she had to put in and how much infidelity could be tolerated before divorce! Any reasonable person would immediately jump to the logical conclusion that if his or her spouse wanted to be unfaithful than they were not committed to them or the relationship and did not care about their feelings. Just because God is perfect does not mean that he does not have feelings, and the Bible tells us that he is jealous and does not want to share us with the world, idols or the devil.
All throughout the Bible God forbids the worship of idols or other gods and in Deuteronomy 4:23-24 it says, “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God," (NIV). The book of Jonah tells us why God does not want us to worship idols. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them,” (Jonah 2:8 NIV). Worshiping anything other than God is to turn away from God, and multiple times in the Bible, serving or worshiping idols or anything other than God is referred to as “whoring after other gods.”
The Bible compares us to a bride, and says that we are the bride of Christ, but no one wants a bride who is afraid of commitment or refuses to make any commitments and can’t or won’t give up all the other men. Just like everyone wants a faithful spouse, God wants a faithful people.
If we are wanting to see how much sin we can fill our lives with and still not go to hell then we don’t love God at all, we just don’t want to suffer for our sins and misdeeds, and God knows the difference and will judge accordingly. We can’t be Christian and still follow the world or live like the world. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money," (Matthew 6:24 NIV). It would be just as true to say you cannot serve both God and the world.
If we live like the world we may think Jesus was kind of a cool dude, but we are most certainly not following him or devoting our lives to him. When a person is devoted to something it shows in almost every aspect of his or her life, and if your devotion to God doesn't show and you look and act like the world than you are devoted to the world and not to God.
The apostle Paul said that if we are saved we have been changed, and if we are changed than we won’t continue to do the same things we used to do. Before Paul was converted he was over zealous in his attempts at stopping the teachings of Jesus at any cost, including putting those to death who believe in him, but when he was converted he no longer tried to stop the teaching of Jesus and was eventually put to death himself because he refused to renounce Jesus and what he taught.
Being saved makes us a new creature in Christ, and as a natural result, we change to become more like the one we follow, so if we are resistant to change, or change for the worst, than it is not Jesus whom we are following. To put it another way, a way that practically anyone will understand, Think of your favorite sports team and the team you despise the most. Now imagine that a player from the team you hate is traded to the team you love and he or she claimed to be part of the team but kept playing for the other team. That type of behavior would not be accepted and none of the fans, none of the coaches or any of the team members would consider that person to be part of the team.
In regards to world governments, if a person has sworn allegiance to one nation but is working for an opposing nation, either secretly or openly, than that is considered to be treason, the greatest crime that anyone can commit! In past times treason was always dealt with by execution. God is no more lenient of treason than any government is, but he is forgiving and will allow us the chance to return to him, unlike a government; once you rebel against a nation you are never trusted again and are never given the chance to redeem yourself as that would also give you another opportunity to do harm. To serve another god, worship idols or to wantonly sin in open rebellion against God is no less treason than selling American government secrets to Russia or China would be, and it has more far reaching implications, especially in the next life.
Some people have the mindset that they will live it up and before they die they will return to God, repent and be saved. A huge problem with living in sin and thinking that you will repent and turn to God before the end is that we never know when the end will be. A person could be the healthiest person in the world and still die in the middle of the night or get hit by a car on his or her way to work. It is much better to be always be ready to meet God because some things are certain, including the fact that everyone will someday die, and once they die, everyone will stand before God and give an account of his or her life, and then they will be judged.
Choosing the wold is ultimately choosing not to be with God. Sooner or later the bus will leave the station, we just better make sure we are on the right one because there are no transfers, no stops, no detours and no return trips. Once the bus leaves the station our choice is final, and if we decide not to choose a bus than by default we have chosen the wrong bus. There are only two choices; God and the wrong choice. Any choice that does not lead to God is the wrong choice. Similarly, any choice that leads us to God is the right choice.
The Bible tells us to always be ready because Jesus comes as a thief in the night, so in other words, we have no way of knowing when we will meet God, only that we will. If we are ready things will go well for us, and if we are not ready, things will go poorly for us. I am reminded of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where a man picks a cup to drink out of, thinking it to be the cup Jesus drank out of, and just before he died the knight that served as guardian said, "You have chosen poorly." When we choose not to follow God we have chosen poorly indeed. Intentionally living a life of sin and thinking that we will someday repent before it is too late is like playing chicken with the train with a blindfold on and earplugs in.
Jesus wanted to stress the importance of being ready for the kingdom of heaven and told the story of the foolish virgins and the wise virgins who were waiting for the wedding. The wise virgins were prepared and brought enough oil for their lamps, but the foolish virgins didn't bring enough oil and their lamps went out. In the middle of the night the wedding party could be heard coming to get them and the foolish virgins tried to borrow oil from the wise virgins, but the wise knew they would not have enough if the gave away some of theirs and told the foolish virgins to go to the merchants and but their own. By the time the foolish virgins came back with their oil the wedding party had already left, so they came to the gates and tried to get in, but since they did not arrive with the rest of the wedding party they were denied entrance and missed the wedding. (Matthew 25: 1-13).
We are not expected to be perfect to be saved, but we have to make an effort. A team may not cut you for not being the best player, but they will cut you for if you put in no effort or if you play for the other team.
We must repent to be saved. The Bible is clear that repentance comes before forgiveness, and repentance is to turn away from our sins and turn toward God. We can’t expect to be saved if we are not willing to allow Jesus to change us. Yes, Jesus accepts us how we are, but he does not intend us to stay that way, and in fact, he wants us to change. Jesus loves us enough to accept us how we are, and he loves us too much to allow us to stay that way.
Jesus loves everyone enough to die for them, he loves you and he loves me, no matter what we have done, but he also wants us to love him. It is not enough for Jesus to love and accept us, we must also love and accept him. Jesus wants everyone to live with him in heaven, but he will not force us to. If we choose sin and destruction in this life Jesus will let us have it, but if we choose to live with him he will welcome us with open arms. No matter what you have done in life or where you are at, you are not too far gone to change and come to God. If we love God and trust him enough to allow him to change us he will.
I think that perhaps the biggest problem with thinking that living a life of sin is great and that repentance before the end is the way to go is that by doing so we miss out on a life with Jesus by our side. A life with Jesus will be more worth while, more fulfilling, and will lead to more peace and true joy than a life without him ever could. Jesus is not just the only one who can save us from an eternity in hell, he is also the greatest friend that any of us could ever hope to have. However much you think God loves you, multiply that by infinity and that is how much you are actually loved by God.