Does the Cross Mean I Don’t Need to Obey?

Is it possible that the Christian can live any way they’d like, and still be saved? The idea behind that question is, “Jesus paid it all; it is finished, and my salvation is secure”. So, is it possible? – No. It’s a false question, attempting to give dangerous consolation, or to justify rebellious living. It is true that salvation is based solely on the blood of Christ and the unconditional call of the Father (and even the faith to embrace the call is a gift (Eph 2:8-9)). However, that’s only part of the picture. Salvation means an ensuing life-long war against sin as we seek to bring our hearts, souls, minds, and wills to their knees before God.

I understand that if we say we can live anyway we desire, we will try to qualify it by saying that we can’t avoid growing in righteousness, but isn’t that again misleading? If my flashlight doesn’t turn on, should I assume that since there are batteries in there, and batteries turn it on, that the flashlight is doing exactly what it should? – No, instead I suspect dead batteries to be the reason for the lack of light, and change them as soon as I can. Just as I should if I find my heart dead towards God’s commands. Or, if a friend came to me and said, “Listen, I’m struggling with pornography, and my wife doesn’t know. What should I do?”, I’d be an enemy of him and his family if I said, “Just believe the gospel more, and relax. You’re totally fine because Jesus paid it all”. The Bible instruct us to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18), and the Lord demands that we do exactly that.

In the same way, Paul says to crucify sin, put the old ways to death, and set our minds on things above, where Christ is (See all of Colossians 3). He tells us to wage war against sin, and clad ourselves in the armor of God (Eph 6:10-20). At what point did anyone in the Scriptures tell us that we could live however we wanted and still sleep soundly at night knowing our salvation is secure? We are not secure if we put sin to death, but if we let it run rampant, it would be a sign that the Spirit is not at work in us.

Imagine planting a flower in the middle of the garden, and then never cultivating it, never tilling the soil, nor watering it, nor removing the weeds. Or imagine a garden in which you plant 30 flowers and neglect it. How many will survive? – And if some do survive, what a sad and sorry state your garden is in. The believing soul needs to be constantly grown, challenged, and nourished through the Word of God, prayer, and others. To assume that we can live any way we want and go from there is to undermine the fact that it was rebellion that caused our Fall in the first place. Again, I am not saying that we add anything to our salvation; our adherence to the law cannot save us. However, our neglect of the law will kill us spiritually.

It brings to mind the parable of the wise man who builds his house on the rock, and the fool who builds his house upon the sand. When I picture building a house on sand, I see a sprawling, endless mansion that can be built no matter my design or desire. A beach or desert is limited by very little. Yet when the storms come, it was all for naught.

Building on a rock, however, means not coming with your own designs, but building according to what your foundation offers. You likely won’t have a massive house, and can only build what the size and dimensions of the rock allows, but in turbulent times it will stand.

In this life, the Christian must build him or herself upon Christ alone, and God’s Word alone. We cannot be credited for any aspect of salvation, but we are commanded to put sin to death, to grow in holiness, and to strive to be more Christlike each day. A true believer won’t lose his or her salvation if we, like a dog returning to its vomit, continually return to sin, but we cannot excuse sin in any capacity any more than we can be fine to allow cancer to grow in a healthy person.

Now, if you’re concerned about your salvation, and worried that sin is nullifying the work of Jesus in you, you may think, “So you’re telling me that if I keep falling into sin, I’m in danger of Hell?”. No. A person concerned they aren’t pleasing God is a person who reveres His perfection. If you are worried about your own salvation, it also means you are worried about sin in your life. To in turn tell you that you can live any way you want misses your concern entirely.

Rather, it is a person who is unconcerned with God’s glory that asks how little they need to do to maintain their relationship with the Almighty, assuming that, because Jesus has paid the price, they are signed, sealed, and headed for heaven. A heart that doesn’t respond in obedience (however rocky and slow it may be), is one that hasn’t truly grasped how holy our God is.

A believer cannot live any way they want and still find salvation, because such a person cannot with any certainty be called a believer to begin with. If we come before the cross and see the broken man, hanging there, blood dripping from his mangled form, and hear our own voices shouting, “Crucify him!”, and leave confident that we don’t need to leave our life of sin, we are truly lost, even if we feign faith. Likewise, if we come before the throne of the Almighty, seeing the wonder, the Cherubim, the sea of crystal, hearing the voices of those around the throne shouting, “Holy, holy, holy”, and are not brought to our faces in a near-death-inducing knowledge of our own rebellion, then our hearts have become harder than stone.

It is terrifying and misleading to say we can live any way and still be saved. Why would we seek that assurance? Why would the thought even enter our head? – That is not championing the irresistible grace and unconditional election of our Savior. It is simply finding a new and clever way to spit in God’s face. When we ask if our salvation is secure, we must come to the cross or the throne to be reassured that Jesus did in fact pay it all and nothing in heaven, hell, or anything in between can change that fact. But when we stand there, we cannot possibly walk away without detesting the sin in our lives and seeking to put it to death. If we do, and we feel free to go on in sin, we may speak in the tongue of men and angels, but we have no love for our Lord.

Do not fear a life that strives to obey. Fear a life that strives to justify why we don’t.

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