Sometimes we focus too much on theology and theory. It is interesting to try to understand the why’s and the methods by which God works. We understand that a man is saved by grace; that he is saved by faith. But sometimes, some go too far in their assertions of what that means in relation to the life a Christian must live. Their theories state that one cannot overcome sin on a regular continuing basis.
Their theories begin to usurp the place of plain statements of scripture and often excuse a careless attitude toward God’s demand for holy living. And, make no mistake, it is a demand.
Not to dismiss the passages on grace and faith from which the theology proceeds, let us consider some of the “on the other hand” applications made by the same writers inspired by the same Holy Spirit.
Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)
Sort of absolute, “all.” Perfecting is ongoing as is the cleansing—get clean and stay clean.
For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; (Titus 2: 11-12)
Grace instructs all to live righteously, godly.
Holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: (1Tim 1:19)
So, one could go a whole day, or longer with a good conscience! In fact, the grace of God is so powerful in one’s life that he has to “thrust” a good conscience away, shove it aside.
For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication; (1Thess 4:3) Abstain from every form of evil. (1Thess 5:22)
We understand this means to abstain from evil in every shape it comes in. Again, the Holy Spirit is very absolute.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5)
Kill it. Don’t just reduce it. Kill it. Don’t be satisfied with being better than last week or last year, KILL IT!
Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these, I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:21)
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom 6:16)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof: neither present your members unto sin [as] instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace. (Rom 6: 12-14)
Grace is the power to choose whom you serve. To sin is to serve sin and to prove oneself not under grace. Sin is a choice to obey ourselves instead of living in Grace.
But I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected. (1Cor 9:27)
If Paul had to work at it this hard, we know that it is not easy. To buffet is to beat like a boxer. No nonsense about that approach.
With all the theorizing about grace and faith, that one cannot achieve sinlessness, even for a short time, we discourage others from doing what the Scriptures clearly command. Perhaps we could even say, grace has become a cloak to cover impenitence.
To repent means to STOP what one repents of. That is clearly the import of these passages and a dozen of others.
The sermons I have heard that use these verses usually go on to say that we all know we cannot really do this! Really?! Are they not saying to just keep sinning and praying forgiveness that grace may abound (Rom 6:1)?
If God said it, he gives us the power to do it. Doing it is a daily effort. These verses were written to people who had been Christians for some time. Therefore, Grace does not magically make us ok despite the sin or cause God to ignore the sin on the basis of Christ. God expects us to overcome our sin.
Yes, I struggle; more, perhaps on that later. Overcoming is no easy task and getting old is not a solution or else 66 is still too young. The solution is to effectively use the grace of God to renew our minds and transform ourselves.