One of the phrases I repeat to my son Malachi, multiple times during any give day is, “You have two choices…” The specifics of the choices differ depending on the situation, but the basics are always the same, “…You can disobey and get a spanking, or you can obey and not get a spanking.” You get the idea; and it’s probably the same in your home.
The problem comes when children try to create a third option. The third option is almost always disobedience without punishment. Let me illustrate how a conversation might go in my home:
I say to my son, “Malachi, pick up your toys and put them away.”
And he replies, “I don’t want to.”
“Alright, you have two choices, you can put away your toys and not get a spanking, or you can not put away your toys and get a spanking; your choice buddy.”
And as always, his response is, “Not get a spanking.” He decides very quickly he likes the benefits of option one.
But just because he chooses the benefits of option one, does not mean he will necessarily comply with the requirements of that option. He tries to create a third option where he does not clean up his toys and does not get a spanking. He, of course, is greatly disappointed when he inevitably (and painfully) discovers there is no option three. Eventually, he almost always comes to the realization that it is less painful to simply obey.
We see this same scenario played out perpetually between God and His children. God explains that there are two choices. One is obedience with benefits, and the other is disobedience with consequences. And God’s people have continually acted like children by trying to create a third option, disobedience with benefits and without punishment. In fact, the book of Deuteronomy is almost entirely an explanation of the two choices God gave toIsrael before they entered the Promised Land. I would encourage you to read Deuteronomy 30:15-20:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing theJordanto enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.
From the book of Judges, one can easily observe that the people ofIsraelthought life and prosperity sounded great, but obedience was not so appealing. They chose to disobey and were utterly confused when God disciplined them. You can hear the puzzled dismay in Gideon’s voice when he says to the angel of the Lord, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up fromEgypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian’” (Judges 6:13). This is the same Gideon whose father was an idol worshiper (Judges 6:25)! And he actually had the audacity to ask, “Why then has all this happened to us?” It should have been obvious!
Yet, are we any different today? Have we not invented our own “option three” when we come up with doctrines like Calvin’s “Perseverance of the Saints,” also known as “Once Saved Always Saved”? There are those who believe that once you are a child of God, God will continue blessing you and withhold from you eternal punishment on the Day of Judgment, regardless of how disobedient you may be to Him. It is the same old story of trying to reap the blessings, with no obligation to obey. However, this theology simply doesn’t align with the teachings of the New Testament.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:26-29)?
All of us, to varying degrees, have probably tried to pull this over on God. For all of us have the propensity to be like immature children; trying to create a scenario where we can continue to freely sin and yet avoid the punishment of God. And as my beautiful wife pointed out, this is not what Jesus had in mind when He told us to become like little children!
Because of what the New Testament says, I firmly believe these things to be true:
1. God’s grace is lavished on those who are in Christ (Ephesians 1:7-8). No matter the nature or the magnitude of the sin, when a man or woman is in Christ, the blood makes all past sins disappear; as if they never happened (Psalm 103:12).
2. For those who abide in Christ, there is continual forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7). We continue to fall short of God’s expectations and God’s will for our lives, but the blood of Jesus continues to wash us clean. As we “walk in the light” the blood continues to wash away our sins, no matter what they may be.
3. Abiding in Christ (walking in the light) is not about perfection, but it does require obedience (John 15:10). If walking in the light were perfection, no continual forgiveness would be necessary since perfect people would need no forgiveness. However, walking in the light is about making every effort to obey. Every effort should be made to be obedient in our thoughts, our actions, and our intentions. When one finds he has sinned, he is commanded to repent (Acts 8:22). An unwillingness to repent, no matter the sin, is a disobedience with which God has shown little tolerance (Luke 13:3).
4. If a believer ceases to make an effort to obey, he will fall from grace. I have heard people say the very idea someone could have “fallen away from grace” is a contradiction in terms. However, the phrase is not man-made, it is God breathed. God said, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). The Galatians were walking away from Christ in favor of the Old Law, and many had already fallen from grace. If it is possible for them to fall from grace, why would we consider ourselves to be any more secure? Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Grace is conditioned upon our continual effort to be obedient to the truth.
5. God’s expectations are never unreasonable (1 Corinthians 10:13). We must understand God’s will is not too complicated for us to understand (Romans 12:2). What kind of a God would give commands, to people He created, which they were incapable of obeying? Christ proved perfection was possible, even under the Old Law (Hebrews 4:15). This is what makes His grace even more amazing, He is willing to forgive us for giving in to temptations which we are perfectly capable of resisting (1 Corinthians 10:13)! Praise God for His amazing grace!
I love you! God loves you! God bless you!