If God is so gracious and forgiving, why don’t we just sin all we want?
Paul spoke to this idea in Romans:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Romans 6:1 (ESV)
Makes sense, right? The more I sin, the more grace I will enjoy. To paraphrase the old thought: “I love to sin. God loves to forgive. It’s a perfect partnership.”
But then…Paul’s writes to Titus:
For the grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Titus 2:11-12 (ESV)
Why would the grace of God train us to obey? The answer has to do with His goodness toward us…and his instructions for living. If God is good and kind and gracious toward us, then wouldn’t we want to do what he says? After all, the reason you and I sin is because we feel that the sin will bring us more joy/happiness/fulfillment than the obedience.
But when I, having been utterly convinced of His love and grace, realize that he has provided me with guidance on how to live, I WANT TO OBEY HIS WORD. It’s not that I obey to keep his love – because I am in Christ, I can’t lose it. Instead, I seek to obey him because He has proven his goodness and grace.
Of Speeding and Guilt…
This changes everything. Consider Bob and the slightly innocuous example of the speed limit. Bob is recently convicted of God’s commands to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13, 14). Now, when he goes too fast occasionally (it’s impossible to be perfect in obeying the speed limit ALL the time, right?) he feels vague guilt and has a sense that though he is a Christian, God is going to “get him” with a car accident or a blow out. So he obeys…with little or no joy. Whenever he does go the speed limit, he can’t help but feel the Heavenly Cop is spoiling his potential fun.
But what if Bob obeyed the speed limit not out of fear of divine retribution, but out of an understanding that a good God has given him this command out of his love…and therefore means to bless him in his obedience. If he goes slightly over the limit here and there, he needn’t be awash in guilt; God’s love for him is perfect, and Christ has paid the penalty for all his misdeeds, miniscule and otherwise. But now he sets the cruise control at 65 reasoning that God wants what is best for him, and someway, somehow therefore, 65 mph trumps 72.
How to Grow in Obedience
So, how do we change through grace? Consider the lessons of the Garden of Eden from Genesis 3…
- Believe that God has provided you with solid and unerring guidance in his Word. If you doubt the truth of His Word, why would you obey? Satan’s first lie, therefore, to Adam and Eve was designed to make them doubt God’s word (“Did God actually say…?” verse 1) Only those who believe the Bible is true know that they have solid guidance in living. So it is wise to consider the area you struggle to obey, and find a verse to meditate on (even memorize) that articulates God’s will for your life.
- Believe that God is good! Satan’s second lie was to make Adam and Eve doubt God’s goodness. (“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” verse 5) In other words, “God doesn’t have your best in mind. It would be better for you to eat the forbidden fruit.” Satan’s lie regarding God’s goodness is a main reason people fail to obey the Lord. So, when struggling to obey, before you grit your teeth, meditate on his love for you first, thus remembering that his plan for living (not yours) will be best. And be patient, walking in holiness by meditating on God’s love is a lifetime process, not a quick fix solution.
As Paul wrote in Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (ESV). So the Scriptures say that repentance and faith go hand in hand in salvation. You see, when the Spirit of God enables someone to see God’s love and goodness at the cross, he also enables them to see God’s love and goodness in His commands.