Friday, June 26, 2015

Have You Died to Sin?

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 
Romans 6:1-3

Someone asked me recently about the nature of obedience and its relationship to salvation. As I was researching the question, my mind wandered to those who take "by faith alone" to the extreme. There are those who believe that all you have to do is pray a prayer at some point and then you receive your Get Out of Hell Free card for life. They then take this idea as a license to sin, claiming all the while that in their life of sin, God's grace will still save them.

As we see in Romans 6 here, these people have been around from the beginning. Paul's response to them was this: "How can we who have died to sin still live in it?" The simple answer is that we cannot. John makes that abundantly clear:

6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:6-10 (ESV) (emphasis mine)

The tragedy in all of this is there are people who simply don't know this or refuse to accept it. They believe that a life of a sin is compatible with a saving faith. The Bible tells us in many places that there are people who think they are saved and really are not. Matthew 7:21-23 says there will be those turned away from the very gates of heaven who believed at the time they died they had a saving faith. Jesus says He will tell these people He never knew them.

If we think hard enough, we all know people who fall into that category to varying degrees. There was a contemporary of Billy Graham named Charles Templeton. Both were evangelists in the 1940's. God undoubtedly used Mr. Templeton to save many people. Yet in the end, he died an atheist. 

On a more personal note, I had a friend and mentor in college who had been married for something like 15 years. They were a model of faith, did ministry together, and had moved hundreds of miles from home to plant a church. One day, his wife just went crazy. She turned her back on everything she believed, began having an affair, and eventually divorced her husband. 

It doesn't matter how long you think you've been walking with God or how many good things you have done in His name. None of us are exempt from the need to constantly examine our lives and ask this question: Do I look more like Jesus today than I did last week or last month or last year? Philippians 2:13 says that God gives those that are His both the desire and the ability to obey Him and do His work. If you truly belong to God, if you are truly covered by the blood of Jesus, you have died to sin, and you will be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). 

Let no one misunderstand what I am saying. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn our salvation. The Bible emphatically teaches that we are saved by faith alone. But no one can be saved by a "faith" that is alone apart from the evidence of obedience. There is no such thing as a "carnal" Christian. Either your faith is changing you to look more like Jesus, or it will not save you. There is no middle ground.

Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?
Luke 6:46

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, 
so also faith without works is dead.
James 2:26