Someone was asking me some questions about salvation last night. He seemed confused on what some Christians had said. He asked about the group of people who say that a person can receive Christ, and no matter what they do, they will always be saved. They can do whatever sins make them happy and still go to heaven.
My first thought was 'I only have a couple of minutes. How can I walk this person through this thinking and show him what the Scriptures teach?'. I would like to summarize my thoughts on this subject, right here, so the answer can be clear to my readers as well as to the young man who asked this last night.
We have to go back to the Scriptures and understand, first of all, what happens to a person when they come to Christ. The Bible teaches us that such a person is born again. Being born again comes from God, not just something we do to ourselves. We are adopted into God's family, and God becomes our Father. Our spirit, the part of us that we can't see but lives forever, is now alive, whereas our spirits were dead before we came to Christ. Now we can't see our spirits, and people get tripped up at this point. We tend to look for an outward sign or a feeling to confirm that this has happened to us, but there probably won't be any feelings or anything visible that we can see that will indicate we have been born again. Another thing that happens is that the Holy Spirit of God comes to live inside of the person who has truly come to Christ. The Bible says that the person who is saved is a new creature in Christ. But here is what the issue of concern is; even though a person is truly born again, with a new nature and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside, he or she still has an old nature that will still be tempted to sin. This is where Christians divide and have confusion about salvation.
Throughout the Old Testament, when people sinned, they offered a lamb sacrifice (there were other animal sacrifices as well, but I will just stick with the lamb sacrifice here). Something always had to die because of sin. Not only that, but sin kills us spiritually. The wages of sin is death, the Bible tells us. 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son to become the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. We don't sacrifice lambs anymore to cover our sins, but now we trust in Jesus' death to pay the death penalty for our sins. But Satan's weapon against us is to tempt us to sin. Whenever you see temptation to sin, it is because the devil wants you to sin, because he knows that sin brings death to us. But that is when we turn to Christ. We look to His death and ask for forgiveness for our sins when we do commit sin. God willingly forgives us of our sins because of Jesus' death which paid for sin.
But that raises the question we have about continuing in sin. If Jesus died to pay for our sins, and if God so graciously forgives us of our sins, does that mean we can continue to sin and be ok with God? The Bible answers that question in Romans 6. Paul asks that question of his readers and then answers it himself. His answer is, 'God forbid'. Then we have to ask another question. What does is mean when we do sin? Will God not forgive us because we shouldn't sin? The Apostle John answers that question in one of his epistles. He tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. He also tells us that when we sin, we have an Advocate, who is Jesus Christ, the only righteous One.
So, that almost sounds confusing, until you go back again and look at what happens to a person when they come to Christ in repentance and faith (trust). Is it ok if he or she sins or is it not ok? The person who truly knows God and is 'born again' has a new nature, and a new heart. The new heart can only have good desires. The new heart itself does not sin. The person with this 'new heart' must feed himself or herself spiritually with the word of God. What happens is that the born again person has now 'two' hearts, in a sense. One is the old, sinful heart, which must be put to death daily, and the other is the new heart, given to him or her by God at the time of receiving salvation. The devil still comes along and tempts a person to sin, even though the person has a new heart. The devil will not tempt a person to sin in ways that are obvious to that person, but in sneaky ways that the person won't notice. A born again person has to guard his 'old heart' against the temptations of sin that Satan will still throw at him or her. A saved person will probably only sin in areas that he or she isn't aware of being sin.
A person who has a strong conscience won't commit adultery, for example. But what happens is that little, tiny, almost unnoticeable temptations come about, that seem insignificant, at least in the beginning. Then the bigger ones come. Before you know it, the person is having an affair, yet the sin didn't start out that way. It came about because the tricks of the devil are very subtle and go unnoticed for a long time. That's why Jesus explains the act of committing adultery by simply lusting sexually after a person who they are not married to. We think flirting isn't a big deal, but it is a heart issue that leads to adultery. This is why we need to know what the Scriptures say and use the word of God as a weapon to protect us from the temptation to sin, just as Jesus did in the Wilderness.
So, a saved person can easily be tempted to sin, but now he or she has to power to say 'no' to that sin, because the Holy Spirit will enable him or her to resist. Not only is there the power to resist sin, but now the saved person also has a new heart which will have the desire to not sin. But there is the struggle between the old heart and the new. The struggle is a sign that the person has been born again, and this is good. A person who is not a true believer in Jesus Christ will continue to live in sin, because there is not a new heart that desires to be free from sin.
So, to recap what happens to a person when they repent (turn from living for self to living for God) and trust in Jesus' death for salvation, here is the list:
1. The person is born into God's family
2. The person is fully forgiven by God for their sins
3. The person receives a new heart with Godly desires
4. The Holy Spirit lives inside and gives power to overcome sin
5. The person now has eyes that can see spiritual things (he or she is no longer spiritually blind)
6. The person is now a new creature in Christ
But we must still be aware of the old nature that is still there. The old nature didn't disappear, but now it will contend against the new nature. We are to put to death the old nature, and live out our lives in the new nature, by the power of God. We will slip and fall, but God promises to pick us up again. God also promises to discipline those who are His. This is a good thing. We might not like it, but it is a sign that we are God's children.
So, to answer the young man's question about if we can be saved and continue in sin, I hope this makes it a little clearer. Yes, it is possible and probable that we will still sin. The devil will look for vulnerable places to tempt us. Sin kills us, and he wants us dead and wounded. But we have a new heart that doesn't want to sin anymore. We also have the power of God to resist sin. We don't have to sin anymore and our new status should cause us to be motivated to run away from sin. Sin is not good for us. It is Satan's weapon to wound or kill us. But we can resist his lies because God's truth is in our hearts. We will not want to continue in sin, but we will still struggle against sin until the day our bodies die and we go to be with Him.
It is possible that people who want to continue in sin are really not saved. They might be false converts who are deceived into thinking that it is ok to continue in sin since Jesus paid for our sins. It appears that these people do not have a new heart. For if they did, they would let go of every sin that is holding them down, and receive the Promise of God which is far more valuable than anything sin or the world could offer.
If someone gave you a million dollars, how would you feel toward that person? Let's say, you were very poor, and someone who had a lot of money gave a lot to you. Now you could buy a house to live in. You could have food on your table again. Your physical needs would be met. You would be grateful to that person who helped you out financially. So, let me ask you this question; Would you take the money he gave you and buy a gun and shoot him with it? Of course you wouldn't. You wouldn't if you are a normal person because you have a conscience. That would seem ridiculous. Yet, that is what it is like when we believe we can still sin and have Jesus' blood cover our sins. I am not talking about the struggle we have against sin. All of us have that struggle, if we are believers in Jesus Christ. I am talking about a careless attitude about continuing in sin and thinking that God is all-loving and all-forgiving and sin doesn't matter to Him anymore.
If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, and are struggling with sin, please be assured that God wants you to be delivered from sin. Please don't let your sin, no matter how powerful it seems over you, to keep you from coming to Christ. Some sins are so entangling that it takes time to be set free from them. Some sins that entangle us can be broken through deliverance. God can save anyone, no matter how enslaved to sin you are. God can set you free, so you can know Him and be born again into His family. Please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com for more info or send me an email if you want more information.