Just because we have the promise of eternal life doesn’t mean we’re going to have forever to change.
In part one of this series, we talked about what it means to fear God and why we need to fear God. God tells us over and over and over again in His word, “Do not be afraid.” It is not that kind of fear. Rather, to fear God is to walk in obedience to Him, to serve Him (Deut. 10:12), and to keep His commandments. While God is slow to anger, we see His righteous wrath throughout His Word. We don’t want that wrath to be turned on us. It might not even happen in our lifetimes– we might find that punishment in eternity.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of grace. And friends, we’re the ones who have made it into a trap. God designed His grace to be a gift, one that is precious. It was designed to cover our sins, like the lintel is covered with the blood of a lamb so that the wrath of God for the Egyptians would pass over the Israelites during Passover, so Jesus’ blood is a cover over us that the wrath of God will pass over us. This cover’s price is heavy. Jesus died on the cross for the grace that is given freely to us. And we’ve taken this beautiful, precious gift and turned it into a way to justify our sins.
If we live without a balance of grace and fear, it’s very easy to fall into the trap we’ve made for ourselves. It’s the attitude that says we can disobey God’s commandments and sin whenever we want because God’s going to give us grace anyway. No matter how many times we sin, we’ll always have the response of, “Oh, well, God will forgive me!” Then we can move on with our lives to sin another day. With this attitude, it seems we can live however we want because “God will forgive us!”
But if we can live however we want, then why did God give us the Law in the first place? I’ll let you in on a little secret and spoil the ending: it’s because we can’t live however we want. Or we can, but it might cost us our eternity.
Romans 6:14-15 says, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!”
Grace is designed to be a cover, not a cover-up. Let me say that again: grace is designed to be a cover, not a cover-up. We need to live life with a balance of grace and fear of the Lord, which, remember, means to be obedient, to serve Him, and to keep His commandments.
In fact, grace empowers us to live a life of obedience. Hebrews 12:28 says, “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear.” It is only by God’s grace that we have the chance to serve God with fear and obedience. God knows we will fail. But His grace means we get to strive to do better. His grace means we won’t be punished instantaneously every time we miss the mark and sin; His grace means we get to try again. But His grace doesn’t mean we have unlimited chances.
Prepare yourself for some convicting because I know I was convicted by this! James 2:17 says, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Which, I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like it’s saying if we aren’t living a life of obedience, we don’t have faith. In this way, to obey is to believe and to believe is to obey. If you believe, you will obey, and only through obedience to God do we have faith. Is anyone else stinging from God’s rod?
That’s a hard one to hear, but in case you don’t believe me (or don’t want to believe me!) here’s another Scripture which confirms this. James 2:24 says, “A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone,” in the NIV version. The NLT translates righteousness as, “right with God.” Faith isn’t enough; belief isn’t enough. We also need to obey if we want to be right with God.
Going back to the first verses we looked at in Romans 6, it continues in verse 16: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
We might think that God’s law restricts us. But truly, it is only through obedience to God that we find freedom– freedom from the bondage of slavery to sin. Remember, faith without works is dead– but works without faith is religion, which in Latin is a “return to bondage.” We can be slaves to perfectionism and doing the righteous thing, just as we can be slaves to sin. We cannot be saved by our works or our obedience– we also need faith and grace. Just as we need a balance of grace and fear, we need a balance between faith and works. While you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, never forget who the author and finisher of our faith is!
Just because we have the hope of eternal life doesn’t mean we’re going to have forever to change. If we choose to be slaves to sin, it will lead to death. The good news is if we choose the Lord as our Master, if we choose to serve Him, He will change us. He’s life changing. If we really have an experience where we meet Jesus, we will be transformed. We won’t have any choice!
I will leave you with this question: are you living like you die to yourself daily or are you living like you’re never going to die?