Do you obey God? Do you actually do what He says? When you look at your day to day existence, do you find yourself being kind and consistently choosing to do the right thing, even if and especially when it is difficult and costs you something–or do you break the rules when it suits you, act selfishly, and pretty much do what you want?
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God…” (II Corinthians 5:10-11)
There is much written in God’s Word about the forgiveness of sins, but there is also quite a bit about our accountability before God for how we live our lives. This is not to say that we earn our salvation–quite the opposite is true, because, as is frequently quoted, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) Yet there is an indissolvable intertwining of the righteous living God’s people exhibit and the forgiveness they’ve experienced. The entire context of that verse says:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Those who are saved are so by God’s grace, yet a habitual lifestyle of righteous living is part and parcel of one who has been saved. We are His workmanship created for good works. Before we become God’s we live sinful lives; after we become His we live holy lives. My concern is that many of us have veered so far into the realm of forgiveness and grace (which we certainly DO have in Christ), that we’ve forgotten how serious sin is and are no longer sufficiently afraid of committing it in our own lives. Knowing ALL of God’s Word is the counter-balance to veering too far off in any particular direction. Along with the doctrine of grace, we must also remember passages like this one in book of Hebrews:
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-3)
Another such passages is in the book of I Peter:
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;” (I Peter 1:13-17)
It is highly significant that these passages were written to the people of God, not those outside of the church. We are told that if we choose to ignore what God says and continue to sin after we know better there no longer remains hope of forgiveness–only a certain and fearful expectation of His righteous judgement with which he will destroy those who will not turn from their sins. These verses warn us that we should not count Jesus’ sacrifice for us as nothing, that we should not insult the Holy Spirit who calls us to holy living. They tell us that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, that our Heavenly Father judges each of our deeds without any favoritism, and that because of this we are to conduct ourselves during our earthly lives in fear. We are specifically told that we are to place our hope in the grace that we will experience when Jesus is revealed, and warned not to sin like we used to when we didn’t know any better, but rather, to be holy in our daily lives just as God is holy.
These are scary passages, and I suspect that it is because of that we tend to ignore them. We would like to think they and others like them are directed to those who don’t yet know God, to those outside of the church, because then we can keep our own lives out from under the microscope and don’t have to personally confront what they say.
The truth is that God has shown grace to us through Jesus, and will yet show us more grace when Jesus is fully revealed at the end of time, but we must not underestimate the importance of holiness in our own lives. We must not take our own sins lightly–to the contrary, we must avoid them at all cost! Jesus came to save us from our sins–not merely from the penalty for them, but from the sins themselves. As His followers–because we know and love Him and yes, also because we rightly fear the gravity of sin–we are to be an example to the rest of humanity, not be just like them. When people can no longer tell the difference between a Christian and one who is not, it is highly suspect that that “Christian” doesn’t understand what it means to follow Jesus! We are the salt of the earth which, if it has lost its flavor, Jesus said, is no longer fit for anything but to be discarded. Our “flavor” is the holy lives we live through the power Jesus gives.
Don’t let us lose our distinctiveness as Your people. Don’t let me take sin lightly in my own life but avoid it at all cost. Help me be holy, as You, the Lord my God, are holy. Amen.