If I’m “saved by Grace,” why shouldn’t I live a sinful life?

One of the larger misconceptions about Christianity is, “why would I stop sinning if Jesus has already died for my sins?” Christians unfortunately have a poor track-record explaining the concept of “salvation apart from works” vs. “heavenly rewards based on our works.”

While of course Christians don’t want to grieve God by sinning, (Ephesians 4:30) many are unaware that Christians will face judgement before God. This judgement doesn’t concern the ultimate salvation that they have in Jesus’ Christ finished work on the Cross, but it is one where they will give an accounting for the works that they did here on earth before God, and will be rewarded, or have their rewards taken away.

(The following was originally posted on July 14, 2017 on Quora.)

People make this a lot more difficult than it needs to be.

To even be considered a “Christian,” a Christian must “bear good fruit” or produce the works that show that one has truly put their faith in Jesus Christ, rather than give Him lip service only. (Matthew 7:15-20)

While Christians are “saved” by putting their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and as such, accept God’s grace, Christians will also face judgement. Now this judgement is not one concerning salvation, but one where our deeds will be judged. (2 Corinthians 5:9–10) We will be rewarded or our rewards removed, based on our works. We aren’t saved by our works, but we are held accountable and rewarded based on our works at this judgement:

“1 Brothers, I couldn’t talk to you as spiritual people but as worldly people, as mere infants in the Messiah. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you weren’t ready for it. And you’re still not ready! 3 That’s because you are still worldly. As long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, you are worldly and living by human standards, aren’t you? 4 For when one person says, “I follow Paul,” and another person says, “I follow Apollos,” you’re following your own human nature, aren’t you?

5 Who is Apollos, anyhow? Or who is Paul? They’re merely servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord gave to each of us his task. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept everything growing. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is significant, but God, who keeps everything growing, is the one who matters. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have the same goal, and each will receive a reward for his own action. 9 For we are God’s co-workers. You are God’s farmland and God’s building.

10 As an expert builder using the grace that God gave me, I laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each person must be careful how he builds on it. 11 After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that is Jesus the Messiah. 12 Whether a person builds on this foundation with gold, silver, expensive stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 the workmanship of each person will become evident, for the day of judgment will show what it is, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s action. 14 If what a person has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If his work is burned up, he will suffer loss. However, he himself will be saved, but it will be like going through fire.” – 1 Corinthians 3:1–15

Photo: Christal Yuen

Christians get this commandment wrong all of the time. Do you?

Christians the world over have been threatening their children and grandchildren with punishment if they so much as think about saying “Oh my God!” These Christians couldn’t be more misguided.

“You are not to use my name to deceive, thereby defiling the name of your God. I am the Lord.”  -Leviticus 19:12 ISV

Taking the Lord’s name in vain isn’t about using God’s name as a swear word or saying “OMG.” You take the Lord’s name, using His name, in vain, (Leviticus 19:12) when you claim to be His child, grafted into the vine, (Romans 11:11-22) a believer of Christ, but your fruit, (Matthew 7:15-20) your works show that you don’t belong to him.

I take my husband’s name because we are one family. I take God’s name because I am His adopted child. (Ephesians 1:5) If I am not married to my husband, I don’t get to take his name. Likewise, if I’m not God’s child, I don’t get to take His name by calling myself a Christian.

Legally, I could change my last name to pretend that I had a relationship with anyone (for example, if I changed my last name to “Kardashian,”) but I’d be taking that name in vain. I have no relationship with the Kardashians, so I’d be taking the name in vain – clearly using it on false pretenses to increase my standing among other people.

The Pharisees constantly bragged about being Abraham’s seed and the “chosen people” and children of God. (Galatians 3:29) Jesus Himself accused them of taking God’s name in vain as He said they were of their father, the Devil. (John 8)

“You are doing your father’s actions.” They told him, “We’re not illegitimate children. We have one Father, God himself.”

“Jesus told them, ‘If God were your Father, you would’ve loved me, because I came from God and am here. I haven’t come on my own accord, but he sent me. Why don’t you understand what I’ve said? It’s because you can’t listen to my words. You belong to your father the Devil, and you want to carry out the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and has never stood for truth, since there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies…'”  -John 8:41-44 ISV

It is important to note that taking God’s name in vain is a sin, like all sins, that begins in the heart. When a person takes God’s name in vain, he first rejects God in his heart, but verbalizes his approval of and connection with God to bring himself glory.

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and it is those things that make a person unclean. It is out of the heart that evil thoughts come, as well as murder, adultery, sexual immorality, stealing, false testimony, and slander.” -Matthew 15:18-19 ISV

If you want to honor God and make sure that you’re not taking His name in vain, make sure that your actions, your fruit, your works, testify to the fact that you are God’s child. Don’t honor God with your lips only – make sure your actions show who you really are.

“Then the Lord said: “Because these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, worship of me has become merely like rules taught by human beings.”  – Isaiah 29:13 ISV (referenced in Matthew 15:8)

TL;DR – “Faking my name for personal gain, is taking a name in vain. ”

Leviticus 19-12

 

Photo: Kristina Flour

On Faith: Reaching Heaven

I’ve never considered myself to be a religious person, but I’ve always considered myself a staunch believer in Christ Jesus as God. The pomp & circumstance of church never appealed to me but I still consider myself a Christian.

As it so happens, when people know that I’m a Christian but they themselves are not believers, the conversation tends to go like this: “I believe in something, but I don’t know what.  I’m not an atheist but I’m a good person.”

What is this good person stuff about? It never made any sense to me why non-believers, 100% of the time, use this as a clarifier when describing their own religious inclinations to me.

I had a conversation in which a friend said, “I don’t believe Jesus is the only way to get into Heaven because I really can’t believe that a serial killer can get into Heaven just because he believes that Jesus is God and that all the Jews are going to Hell, even the ones that do good things.”

Like I said, I consider myself to be a Christian, so the idea that being a good person has anything to do with salvation is foreign to me, but I can explain why I believe the way that I do.

Imagine you’re on the shore of Massachusetts. You look east across the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. You want to make your way across the Atlantic Ocean to France. Lucky for you, you’ve trained as a swimmer your entire life. To up the ante, let’s just say you’re Michael Phelps and you’re wanting to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

No matter how much you’ve trained, you’re not going to make it across the Atlantic Ocean by yourself. No matter how good of a swimmer you are, no matter how much you’ve trained or how dedicated and focused you are on accomplishing your goal, you will die in the ocean.

Unless you have a boat to save you, you will die. You will miss your mark and you will never make it to France.

You (as Michael Phelps) say, “This isn’t fair. I’m a great swimmer. I’m better than everybody else. In fact I have more gold medals in swimming so I’m the best in the world. I will make it to France because I’m a good swimmer.”

Never mind the fact that you’d die of fatigue, the elements, animal attack or hunger, and generally couldn’t accurately map a course while swimming across the ocean, you dive in and start swimming. Eventually, you succumb to one of the many obstacles and die in the ocean.

On the flip side, Benoît Lecomte jumps in and starts swimming. He has the same goal, to swim across the Atlantic. He wants to make it to the other side, but he knows that no matter how good of a swimmer he is, he can’t do it on his own. Lecomte decides that he’s bringing a boat. This boat is where he rests between swims, has food aboard and protects him from elements and animals. In 1998 Lecomte did just that – he swam across the Atlantic in 73 days and made it to the other side. He could never have accomplished his goal without the aid of a boat.

Now some may argue, “Hey, that’s not fair. Anybody could charter a boat and swim a couple hours a day until they ultimately reach the other side. Heck, they could do zero swimming and still reach the other side of the Atlantic with a boat. That’s not fair! You should have to be a good swimmer to be able to reach the other side. People who have trained all their life to swim and really care about this goal should be able to reach the other side, not just anybody who gets on a boat.”

When it comes down to it, your ability to swim or how hard and dedicated you were to swimming is not the deciding factor as to whether or not you will accomplish your goal. The only deciding factor is – Do You Have A Boat?

Just like in swimming, in life, how good you are according to your own personal, arbitrary standard is not the deciding factor as to whether or not you’re getting into Heaven. If Jesus is the only way to God, which I believe it is, He is your boat. If you want to make it to the other side, you have to get on the boat.

Photo: Thomas Ashlock