This morning, a man that I have trusted to be a spiritual leader in my life said something that broke my heart - because it was not true - because it was not carefully handling the Word of God. Todays comment brought a fierce, violent upthrust of HUGE RED flags waving vigorously and my heart plumeted. As if this wasn't bad enough, it happened again, with a second individual - a man of God, whom I respect, totally denying what I have always considered an evident truth of Scripture and contradicting the teachings of the Senior Pastor in our church - openly - and only I spoke up against it - all others in the group swallowed these spoon-fed lies like honey.
My heart breaks at this.
Here is what was said. The first man, took us to Jude 20-21 as a reference verse for our study in Colossians, said (quoted as closely as possible but not verbatum), "People say when they sin, 'It's okay, God still loves me' - but that's not true. Here we are instructed to 'keep yourselves' in the love of God. . . If you sin, God does not love you - not in the same way."
This is a lie and a terrible misinterpretation of the Word.
Here is what the Scripture says about the love of God and sin: Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 8:29-39, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?. . . . For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, or any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."
God's love is AGAPE love - unconditional, just like His grace and mercy - bestowed freely on those He has chosen. There is no "condition" upon which God can/will love me more or less. I did nothing to deserve His love in the first place and there is nothing I can do to temper it or change it or lessen it in any way. His love is freely and unreservedly and wholeheartedly poured out to me. Period.
Yes, sin, when I foolishly choose to indulge the flesh, creates a gap between me and my Lord. But it does not change His love for me in any way. Sin is a barrier I put up between God and I that hampers His hearing of my prayers - not because He loves me less or differently in my sin, but because the sin is such an offence that it receives His full attention first.
Consider what you do when you have a child that has asked for some bread - it's a legitimate request, breakfast was several hours ago and you know that child must be hungry - but that child has just drunk something you know to be deadly poison to her - something you had previously and frequently forbidden her to drink. What do you do first? Offer the bread?? NO! You get the kid's stomach pumped. Only when the life-threatening issue is taken care of do you hear the plea for a piece of bread. Sin is poison and dealing with it will always take priority for God in the lives of His beloved children. Does your love for that child change because she drank something you told her not too? God forbid it should be so!
What this man said about God's love being conditioned upon my sin or lack thereof, borders on works-based Christianity. Re-read the Romans 8:29-39 passage again - better yet, read the whole thing out of your own Bible. Then read Romans 8:1-10, "There is therefore NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit . . . But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
Works will not get you into heaven. IF you are His child - There was NOTHING in you or that you did that caused God to choose you and there is NOTHING you can do to cause Him to reject you. His work was *complete* on the cross - He is THE way, THE truth and THE life - no one comes to the Father but by Him.
Now, some will take this and say (as did the Romans) - so then, once we are saved we can sin all we want and our place in heaven is secure. Such a statement reveals a total lack of understanding about what salvation truly is. And this is where we get into what the other spiritual leader in my church said that broke my heart.
He said we have a "sin nature." I boldly spoke up and said, no, we only have one nature (refrencing II Cor 5:17), "old things have passed away; behold ALL things have become new" - when we sin it is because we have heeded the flesh, not because of a sin nature. I was immediately and decisively shut down with refrences to "imputed righteousness" and the self-evident battle we all face daily against sin. At that time, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the Scripture that commands a woman to be silent in the church (I Cor 14:34), so I held my tongue . . . and I wept.
Let's go back to II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." Then Romans 8. The whole chapter is well worth a read through, but I want to pull out verses 9 & 10, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." If we also reference Romans 8:29-30 and then Romans 7:15-25 where Paul clearly shows us that our "nature" - the NEW nature of the Believer, is to desire to do righteousness, "with the mind I myself serve the law of God . . ." then we begin to see that a truly redeemed child of God, will not seek opportunity to sin banking on their eternal security in Christ. A truly redeemed child will SEEK - will DESIRE - will WORK to honor God in all things.
Will we continue to sin? Unfortunately, yes. Our flesh is still with us - it is part of us until we are changed either through death or through the rapture when Christ clothes us with incorruptible bodies. It is strong . . . and some might consider it the "sin nature." But it is no longer our nature - it is now a responsibility. A tool to mold us more into the image of Christ. Every time we come up against the desires of the flesh and choose righteousness, we affirm HIS work in our lives. Everytime we fail and follow the desires of the flesh, we are driven to our knees in humble repentance, and so doing, demonstrate the grace and mercy of our loving Lord to forgive, to teach, to strengthen and encourage. In this we say of our sin, with Paul, "But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find."
Here then is the glorious conclusion: I had nothing to do with my salvation. I have nothing to do with maintaining God's love for me. Moreover, I have nothing to do with growing in spritual maturity (Philippians 1:6). It is ALL of GOD and God ALONE. I have no glory to claim in the beginning, middle, or end of this process because it was and is not of me. Now, having been found a recipient of His gracious mercy, I strive ever more to honor Him in all that I think and say and do. Ever mindful that the flesh in which I dwell is in rebellion against Him, I constantly seek to know Him more - having my mind renewed (Ephesians 4:17-24, esp. v 23; Colossians 3:10; Romans 12:2) so that I might successfully run the race set before me - buffeting my flesh and making it my slave.
God begins the process. He makes the spirit of the believer alive to righteousness and, in so doing, sets in motion the natural processes that will accomplish His work - to perfect us into the image of His Son.