One of my Facebook friends posted this question: “How can anyone call themselves Christian when they use profanity in their posts?”
Many Christians believe that a person is not saved if they can’t control themselves.
Do I believe that a born-again believer has the power to control their carnal nature? Yes.
Do I believe that the ‘fruits of the spirit’ are evidence of salvation. Yes.
Do I believe that a person is not saved if they fail to show the ‘fruits of the spirit’? Not necessarily. Maybe their fruit just hasn’t ripened yet!
Do I believe that salvation is lost if we occasionally fall into old patterns of behavior? No.
God has declared us righteous because of what Christ did for us not because of anything we can do. This is called ‘justification’; which means: to be judged, regarded or treated as righteous and worthy of salvation. When Jesus died on the cross he vindicated us from the punishment we deserved and at the same time restored the relationship of peace which had been disturbed between God and man. The Holy Spirit enables sinners to believe that God’s verdict of total forgiveness is true and He gives us the confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
However, God’s will is that we become holy as Christ is holy. This indicates that holiness isn’t an automatic by-product of salvation. It’s achieved by continually seeking to eliminate thoughts, words and actions that do not conform to the character of Christ, which is a life-long endeavor. Salvation wipes away our past sins- making our spirits as white as snow. Our minds still have residue from our past. Memories and a lifetime of programming are not deleted upon salvation. The bible says we should become slaves to righteousness; because slaves obey who they serve. We must choose to do what is right. Our faith in Christ and putting our faith into action is what Christianity is all about. Paul called the believers at Corinth ‘carnal’ because they were still yielding to old fleshly emotions such as envy, strife and division instead of bearing the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy and peace. He confessed that although he knew what was right and wanted to do it, he often failed.
Sanctification means to be bound to God; to be conscious of and pledged to the obligations which He has imposed upon us. It’s an awareness of right and wrong arising out of an internal moral consciousness, rather than in response to law or precept. So, observing every letter of the law is not a pre-requisite to being ‘holy’. The term people use to describe this way of being is integrity. Paul tells us that there are people who know God’s law and do wrong anyway, and those who don’t know God’s law and do right because they have the law written in their heart.
The purpose of the Old Testament Law was to make people aware of God’s perfect holiness as opposed to our imperfect, sinful nature. The law was a tool to make man realize he did not have the ability to overcome sin and temptation without God’s help. Attempting to keep every rule and regulation through our own efforts is impossible, and attempting to do the impossible causes us to live under a cloud of condemnation and shame. Christ came to free us from having to work out our own salvation. There is no longer a need for strict rules and regulations on our moral, civil and religious behavior because we have been given the Holy Spirit. He convicts us whenever we are tempted to step out of Christ’s character. The Old Testament believers were obligated to follow the written code of instructions God had given them out of fear of punishment. We are obligated to follow what is written in our hearts out of love.
I obey God not because I fear punishment. I obey Him because I want to do my best to show that I love Him and that I appreciate what He has done for me. It’s my way to honor and respect Him. Love and obedience always go hand in hand. Some days, I must confess, I’ve done much better than others at reining in my emotions. It is difficult to remain calm and objective in the midst of opposition and chaos, and it is almost impossible not to react emotionally to sudden, unprovoked attacks to ones character. For me, that is the most intolerable offense. Yet, I do my best to stay focused on the issues at hand without taking things personally (even when they are meant to be personal).
I know I am not, nor will I ever be, perfect. But, like most other Christians, I try my very best to fly on course- even when stormy winds are raging against me. It’s a daily battle to be sure. Sometimes we all fail miserably. But God knows our hearts. He knows that we want to do what is right and what is good.
Christ is our model and the motivating force behind achieving holiness. Believe that your sanctification is possible because of who you now are in Christ. No matter how many times you fall, and no matter how impossible change may seem to be just keep praying: “Even though I feel like I will never change I choose to believe that ‘All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me’.”
Your salvation is not lost because you fail to be perfect. If that were the case, we’d all be doomed to hell.