By Dot Bowen
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 (NIV)
Years ago, I read a book entitled Grace Gone Wild by Robert Jeffress. Basically, the author addresses the issue of Christians using God’s grace as an excuse to sin. Have you ever said, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission?” This may make us laugh, but the principle lowers our sense of holiness. Dan DeHaan—a respected author, conference speaker, and an influencer among the great leaders of today—once said, “Lower our sense of holiness, and our sense of sin is lowered.” Can you imagine what he would say about our view of sin today? I confess I occasionally find myself laughing at a television program before I realize I am laughing at sin. My parents died in their 60s, and Howard’s mother died at age 98. I often think how shocked they would be with what is shown on television today. What once offended us now brings laughter. Do you think because we have lowered our awareness of sin God’s standard of sin has been lowered? Do you think Jesus laughs at sin when He looks at the nail prints on His hands? Then why as followers of Christ do we?
I almost feel the pressure to not be such a “goody two-shoes” as I write this. Trust me, I’m not a goody two-shoes! I’m just aware that holiness is God’s chief attribute, and His desire is to develop His holiness within me. The concept of holiness occurs 900 times in the Bible and is not just found in the Old Testament. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, explained it in 1 Peter 1:14-16: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I (Jesus) am holy.’” In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul, an Apostle of Jesus, wrote to the church in Corinth: “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
The primary word for holiness means “to cut off” or “to separate.” For the Israelites, circumcision was an outward symbol of being cut off from all other religions. As a follower of Christ, we are to live separate from the world. This means our thinking and our heart’s devotion should be separate from the manner in which the world thinks and what the world loves. I have to step back and ask myself whether I represent Christ’s mind more than I represent the world. Jesus prayed about this very thing! He knew He was not able to take us out of this world and with Him to Heaven so He prayed that the world would not be in us! How ironic that before Jesus went to the cross to die for sin He prayed we would not allow the sin of the world to be in us. No one understood the pain of sin more than Jesus when our sin was placed on Him at the cross.
Why did Jesus care so much about whether we would sin or not? Why didn’t Jesus have the same mentality we have? We know we can ask for forgiveness! I understand this most vividly through the experience of bondage sin brings to us. Because of God’s great love, He encourages us to live separate and set apart so we will live as free people and not slaves to sin. At a very dark time in my life when sin brought pain and bondage, I memorized Romans 6. This was the first time I realized God provided the power for me to choose not to sin. Sin may be fun for a time, but it always leads to bondage. What we once thought we could control begins to control us. I didn’t realize God asked me to live a separate life for my benefit, not His. His desire is for me to live free from sin, not bound by sin. Not only does God command us to choose holiness, He gives us His power to choose holiness. If we are bound by sin, it’s because we choose it.
Further Reading Exodus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 7:1; John 17; Romans 6; Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 15:4