“There must be no separate truce with any special sin that he loves.” Now, there is a sentence. No, I did not write it, but I can’t seem to get it out of my brain after reading it. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) wrote this in a sermon entitled, Holiness.
In that same sermon, Ryle wrote these gems as well:
- “He and his sin must quarrel if he and God are to be friends.”
- “In attending to these things, he may come far short of perfection; but there is none of them that he can safely neglect.”
What “things” is Ryle writing about?
- “The believer must be like a soldier, daily standing his guard like he is on enemy ground. He must take heed to his behavior every hour of the day, in every company, and in every place. He must be careful over his time, his tongue, his temper, his thoughts, his imagination, his motives, his conduct in every relation of life. He must be diligent about his prayers, his Bible-reading, and his use of Sunday.”
Wow. Not a typical message you hear today. Even mentioning the word holiness from the pulpit stirs up controversy in some circles. Pictures of hair buns and dreary faces immediately surface, but should they? Didn’t Peter tell us to be holy like God is holy? (1 Peter 1:15-16) And, isn’t the third Person of the Trinity called the Holy Spirit? Why the reaction to the call to holiness?
If holiness causes a stir when taught, what about dealing with sin? There is a teaching circulating through the social network world that grace is supreme. Grace covers everything. Grace means you cannot sin any longer. Grace, grace, grace, all you need is grace. Christians are under grace, so what we do really does not matter.
For the record, I am very grateful for God’s glorious grace. Every aspect of it – saving grace, healing grace, preserving grace, empowering grace, and any other aspect of grace you want to accent. I am not a believer in excusing grace however, but amazing grace. Grace is not a license to sin. Grace is not a cover for sin. Grace is not a reason to sin. Grace is a gift to us to assist us in our walk with the Lord.
The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. The cross deals with sin. Sin is confessed and repented of by the believer and forgiveness is received. This grace is a license teaching is not a new teaching but an old one, already dealt with in the pages of the New Testament.
- What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2
- What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Romans 6:15
- Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16
Believers sin, at least John the beloved says so in 1 John. When we sin, we go to our Great High Priest Jesus, confess our sin, and receive forgiveness. We do not, nor should not ever just glibly laugh off our sin as unimportant or not really a big deal. After all, I am under grace so why bother, or so goes the currently popular teaching.
The wages of sin is death and the wages are always paid. Whenever a believer sins, death is unleashed. My sin is forgiven but the consequences of my sinful choices will almost always follow. Yes, there are times that God does not allow those consequences, but that is His realm, not mine. If I lie, steal, lust, cheat, or kill, consequences will follow each of those choices.
- If I lie to my wife, she will eventually find out and her trust of me will weaken.
- If I steal from my job, eventually I will be found out, and lose credibility.
- If I lust after someone or something, while no one may know it, I do, and God does, and my heart has a hard place formed on it that will not soften up until I repent.
- If I cheat on my taxes, eventually the IRS may find it and I could go to jail, or at least end up on the nightly news bringing shame to my Lord and to my family.
- If I kill someone, I will be found out and end up in prison or on death row.
I may be under grace, as some folks teach regarding each of these sins, but while living under that grace, I still may violate trust, weaken creditability, become calloused, end up in debt, or in prison.
Wouldn’t it be better to not use grace as a cover-up for evil but as empowerment to walk in holiness? As Ryle so aptly stated, “There must be no special truce,” and, “He and his sin must quarrel,” if we are to walk under and in grace. A proper understanding of grace should lead to holiness, and not sensuality, carnality, excuses for my flesh, or sinful indulgences.