Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do What is Pleasing to the Lord

What were you thinking?! Have you ever found yourself asking this question while listening to someone speak or while reading a letter? My pastor was clever enough to ask this question of the Apostle Paul (without any negative implications) as we examined Romans 6:1, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?" (NASB). The answer is an obvious "nuh-uh," but I never before thought to ask myself the reason why Paul addressed this issue. It seems reasonable to assume that he spends time discussing this because there were those who had crept into the church defending the idea of going on sinning because more grace would be given.

One of the odd things you begin to notice as a Christian is the temptation to embrace this line of thinking. I will never be able to prove this (until Heaven) but I have sneaking suspicion that this is one of the Devil's favorite means of tempting believers to sin. Maybe it is just my own personal experience, but I have had to fight this kind of thinking for my entire walk with the Lord. I work hard at hating this kind of reasoning because it is deadly to the one who wants nothing more than to do what pleases God.

Again, maybe it is just me again, but I have a difficult time relating to those who have no problem continuing on in their sinful ways and lifestyle. Why is it that some professing Christians are able to comfortably remain in sin? I would suggest to you that it is one of two things: (1) they are Christians who have strayed, and as my pastor says, "strayed into the far country;" or (2) they were never Christians to begin with and will always be more comfortable in sin and darkness.

"For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14, NASB). How is it that Paul can make such a grand statement? Because Christians were present with Jesus Christ as he died on the cross and rose again. How exactly were we present? Not in time and space, but in a representative way. You see, Christ is the believer's representative and therefore we died with Him and rose with Him. In fact, positionally we are with Christ in the heavens: "and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6, NASB). This brings me back to Romans 6:14: sin is not our master any longer! This is wonderful to consider because even though Christians continue to sin, when we sin it is as free people who hate such actions and seek godliness. Before Christ we were slaves to sin and had no choice but to sin.

The other extreme to those who believe in continuing to sin because of God's never-ending grace, is the perspective that Roman Catholics have: grace-plus-works based salvation. Most conversations I've had with Roman Catholics about Justification have gone something like this:

Me: "Romans 3:21-28 clearly demonstrate that justification is by grace alone through faith alone, apart from any works at all."

Roman Catholic: "Since you believe you're justified by faith alone, what's to stop you from sinning and living however you want to?"

Me: "Justification is through faith alone, but Christians do good works out of love for what Christ has done for them. Said another way, we are justified by faith alone, but a true faith is never alone."

Inevitably these conversations always wind up at Romans 6, and I've pointed out to more than one Roman Catholic that chapter 6 is preceded by chapters 3 and 4. Is it any wonder that those who yet remain in their sins adopt the argument Paul is here refuting? We have to be careful because it is not a matter of being a moderate between those who continue to sin because of grace, and works-righteousness. By a complete contrast, the gospel really is good news because justification is not dependent on good works that we perform. Yet at the same time, once we are justified we are to do good works. Both of these points are vital to the Christian understanding of the gospel and to the life we are to live.

Christian, spend your time trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10), for this is the fruit of the Light of the gospel (Ephesians 5:9).

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