License to Sin

The Omega Letter Intelligence Digest
Vol: 148 Issue: 2 - Thursday, January 02, 2014

License to Sin 
Note: Today's Letter was an exceptional teaching to contemplate as we make our way into the New Year.  J.L. Robb's column, "Auld Lang Syne" gives us a brief summery of the disturbing events of 2013.
Many Christians view the doctrine of eternal security as a 'license' to sin. This line of reasoning asks a perfectly legitimate question: "If one is eternally secure, then what is the incentive to live a Christ-centered life?"
Add up all the arguments against eternal security with me. There are lots of them, and all of them have some relevant Scripture that seems to back those arguments up.
But virtually all of the arguments against eternal security share the same fatal flaw. They all argue from the same perspective of sin. The best way I can think of to explain what I mean is to use the story of a popular, but grossly overweight preacher I once saw on TV.
In the course of his sermon, he pointed accusingly at his audience, saying, "If you smoke, you are defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit." He went on to list a half-dozen Scriptures to confirm his position -- a position that I share, I might add.
The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Smoking not only causes serious physical damage to the Temple, it makes it smell bad, look bad and does nothing to edify either the Temple or its Occupant.
But I noticed that preacher had NOTHING to say about defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit with Twinkies and Double-Fudge Chocolate Overboard Brownies. Obesity is at least as dangerous as smoking. It does serious physical damage to the Temple; it looks bad, and does nothing to edify either the Temple or its Occupant.
Most of the same Scriptures that argue against smoking are even more applicable to viewing obesity as a habitual and even disqualifying sin. While Scripture doesn't address smoking, it equates a glutton with a drunkard;
". . . He is a glutton, and a drunkard." (Deuteronomy21:20)
"For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty. . ." (Proverbs 23:21)
"The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber. . ." (Matthew 11:19Luke 7:34)
Let me put the question to you. If smoking is a case of habitual sin, then what is overeating?
Even making allowances for medical conditions that slow the metabolism, is it THEORETICALLY possible that our overweight preacher could slim down to a healthy weight?
What would be required to accomplish this transformation?
The same thing that is necessary to quit smoking. Getting control of one's lustful appetites. Setting aside that sin that doth so easily beset us. Denying one's appetites, putting food in its proper perspective as fuel for the body.
If a fat person is truly saved, then the evidence that they have gotten their appetites under control and are living a Christ-like life would be reflected by their 32 inch waistlines, no?
Now, back to the original point about the fatal flaw in the arguments against eternal security. They all share the human perspective about sin and they judge it accordingly. Smoking is a much worse sin in the eyes of a person who does not smoke. Obesity is much less sinful to a fat person.
There is a story about a dinner conversation between evangelists H. A. Ironside and D. L. Moody. After dinner, Dr. Ironside lit up a cigar. Dr. Moody exclaimed, "Sir, that offends me!" Dr. Ironside poked Dr. Moody's prodigious middle, and replied, "Sir, that offends ME."
Is a fat person claiming a 'license to sin' when he eats a Big Mac? Conversely, is a fat person, by virtue of his inability to control his appetites, not really saved?
Full Disclosure: At two hundred pounds and just five feet ten, I am no lightweight. According to the charts, I am at least thirty pounds overweight. By that standard, there is at least fifteen percent more of me than there ought to be. I haven't been able to put on a pair of thirty-two inch jeans since I was 25.
Is that evidence that I am lost? I don't think so. Of course, I also don't think of last night's dinner as an example of my inability to control my lust, (although I was full enough to survive long before I finished my baked potato. But I LIKE baked potatoes.)
In my own view, if I committed any dinner-table sin, it was in NOT finishing everything on my plate, since I always have a twinge of guilt scraping uneaten, but perfectly good food into the trash container.
("There are starving children in India who would do anything to have what you just threw away!")
Every argument against eternal security judges sin according to the way their dominant culture does. American Christians almost universally see smoking as a sin. But in cultures where smoking is socially acceptable, smoking is as invisible to them as obesity is to Americans.
Christians in the Bible Belt almost universally see drinking alcohol in any amount to be a sin, but think nothing of eating steak four times a week for dinner.
And I know many Christians on the West Coast who think nothing of a glass of wine or a beer with their dinner. (But order a steak and get prepared for a lecture about cholesterol and heart disease and defiling the Temple.)
And, as in the case of the overweight preacher, most arguments against eternal security also revolve around some sin that the naysayer doesn't personally struggle with.
The Bible says that all sin is equal in God's eyes. He doesn't distinguish between anger and murder, or between lustful thoughts and adultery. Scripture says that merely calling someone 'a fool' puts one in danger of hellfire. (Matthew 5:22-28)
We are the ones who view sin according to our view of its sinfulness, judge it according to our standards, and then imperiously pronounce some sins less unacceptable than others.
If flipping someone off in traffic is equal in God's eyes to murder, then does that mean that smokers are habitual sinners more at risk of damnation than the obese?
Now, to another question that advocates of temporal security have trouble with. If one can sin oneself out of salvation, which sin is THE one? If it isn't any one sin, but rather, a sinful lifestyle, who determines what is a disqualifying sinful lifestyle?
Is a habitual smoker living a disqualifying sinful lifestyle? What about the person struggling with a life-long battle with obesity? For that matter, what about the person who struggles with alcohol addiction? What about a drug addict? Is a drug addict worse than an alcoholic, a smoker or the habitually obese?
You see, the second we take judgment for sin out of God's Hands and put it in our own, we run into all kinds of problems.
Even the person who argues against eternal security knows that he is himself a sinner. When asked how they reconcile that position with their own sin, they invariably point to 1st John 1:9;
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness," -- at the same time, making the unspoken argument that while THEY are sincere, the habitual sinner must not be.
The Bible says that eternal life is the product of grace through faith, and not of works, because God KNOWS our works. Of our works, (both good and bad), He says , "we are ALL as an unclean thing, and ALL our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6)
Eternal security is not a license to sin. Humans don't need a license to do what is natural to them. They need Someone they can trust to do for them what they are unable to do for themselves.
"For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." (Hebrews2:18)
To answer the question, "If one is eternally secure, then what is the incentive to live a Christ-centered life?", Paul says that each of us will one day stand before the Bema Seat to be judged for the things we've done in this life.
It is at the Bema Seat that Christ awards us whatever crowns we've earned; the Crown of Rejoicing, the Martyr's Crown, the Crown of Righteousness, the Crown of Life, etc.
Some of us will stand before the Righteous Judge to see all our supposedly 'good works' burned up like so much wood, hay and stubble.
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward."
But, Paul says, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire." (1st Corinthians 3:13-15)
God IS faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:25)
I am not arguing that sin has no consequences, either temporal or in eternity, because sin DOES have consequences, both here and now, and in eternity.
Neither do I take the position that sinners needn't repent and turn from their wicked ways. But that is not a single 'work', it is an ongoing, lifelong process. There is always going to be another sin requiring repentance until we are at last separated from the flesh by death.
Personally, I believe that God is not done with me yet, and that, with God's help, the best is yet to come. I still have my struggles, but I know that my relationship with God is, by definition, eternal.
My relationship is with the One "Who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." (Jude 24) and was secured for me, without my help, by Jesus Christ.
He KNOWS my struggles, and I know that He won't abandon me when the going gets tough. (He and I both remember when things were a lot worse.)
Eternal security isn't a license to sin. It is Divine license to get back up again when we fall.

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