“Okay, so you are telling me that I am already perfect in Christ because He is my life. So then I am free to go out and sin as much as I can and still be perfect?”
Every teacher of grace gets this objection. If you don’t, you probably are not teaching grace.
“If the work is already finished on my behalf; if I am as spiritual as I will ever be; if I already have the love and acceptance of the Father because of Jesus—then what is there to stop me from sinning?”
And if you don’t know the answer to that, you don’t understand the grace of God.
For some reason, the legalist thinks that rules and standards will stop people from sinning. But it hasn’t worked so far. It didn’t work for the Pharisees in the time of Jesus and it doesn’t work for the legalist today. But the legalist says that’s because the sinners don’t actually live according to the rules. He points out compromises and failures and doubts in the lives of those who sin.
And he’s right. There are compromises and failures and doubts in all our lives. That’s why we need a Savior. That’s why we still need Jesus, even after He reached into our lives and saved us. And the legalist still needs a Savior, just like the rest of us.
The rules were not enough to make us perfect before we came to Jesus and the rules are not enough to keep us perfect after. The rules, God’s rules, are there to warn us of the suffering we will encounter in certain situations. Do we really need the threat of losing our salvation to keep us from adultery or stealing? Are there no other reasons to avoid those things?
When Bobby was little, his mother warned him about touching the hot burner on the stove. He seemed to like playing around the stove, so she told him he had to stay away in order to be safe. Bobby didn’t listen. So Mom told him she would punish him if he came close to touching the hot burner again. He did and she did. She used whatever means she could to keep him safe.
But when Bobby grew up to be a young adult, he came home one day and told his mom that he was going to touch the hot burner. Her days of giving punishment were past, he said. Now he would do what he wanted, and he wanted to touch the stovetop. What would you expect Mom to say?
She said, “Go ahead.”
If Bobby couldn’t do what was right because he trusted her wisdom and love, then he would have to do what he wanted and suffer the consequences. Does this mean that Mom would reject her son? Of course not. She still loved him as much as ever. But he would have to understand that it was her love that gave the prohibition in the first place. He would have to find out for himself that the hot burner would bring him pain. She had wanted to spare him. Mom still loves Bobby, even when he learns that the hot burner hurts.
God loves us and wants to spare us the pain of certain actions and attitudes. Even after we become believers, He wants us to avoid the trouble sin causes. But He doesn’t reject us when we sin. Nothing that He has done for us or in us will go away. We still belong to Him and His life still is in us. We are still perfect new creations in Him.
Does God actually say that we are free to go out and sin all we want? Read the story of the prodigal son. He never says that He will keep us from the trouble our sins will cause. He never says that sin won’t hurt. But He allows us to do what we want. If we cannot trust Him and His love for us, perhaps the consequence of our sin will bring us home.