Monday, July 13, 2020

Anonymous Asks (101)

“If all my sins are forgiven, why do I need to stop sinning?”

The New Testament gives us a fair bit of insight into what forgiven people look and act like. Jesus once told a paralyzed man, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” The expression he used means something like “Cheer up!” That might be a little difficult for most paralyzed people.

But it gives us an idea what Jesus saw as the higher priority, and what is most important in life. If we had to choose between our health and being forgiven our sins, we would be immeasurably better off sick and forgiven than to be healthy and remain guilty in the eyes of God.

Forgiveness matters.

The Natural Response

It matters so much that it affects people who receive it. It makes them do unusual things. A woman once poured costly ointment on the feet of the Lord Jesus, kissing them and wiping them with her hair. That’s not something you see every day, then or now, but Jesus didn’t say there was something wrong with her. He didn’t patronize her or just put up with her; rather, he used her as a role model for his audience. He said she was responding appropriately to having been forgiven: with much love.

Love is the normal, healthy, Christian reaction to forgiveness. And love is not just a feeling that we get heavenly credit for claiming to possess; love can be tested as to its authenticity. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In other words, if you do not obey me, you are demonstrating you don’t love me.

Love as Evidence of Salvation

This wasn’t a new idea. Love and obedience are also linked in the Law. The apostle John puts the relationship between love and obedience to Christ this way: “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.”

That’s pretty unequivocal: keeping Christ’s commandments is love, disobeying them is not love. And it is love that is the clearest evidence that we have been forgiven our sins. A person who claims to be a Christian and wants to continue in his sins is seriously defective in one way or another. We might argue that he is acting completely inconsistently with the forgiveness he has been given and needs to change his ways. Perhaps that is the case.

Knowing and Obeying

More seriously, though, he may be demonstrating something much worse than an immature understanding of the salvation he has received. He may be showing the world that he has not been forgiven at all; that his claim that “Jesus is Lord” is really just a lie, and that he has never really come to know Jesus at all.

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