Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's nothing wrong with using drugs. We're allowed to do whatever we want and we're going to heaven. Every Christian I ever met agrees. That's the good news... I'm a Christian so I go to heaven no matter what I do, just like it says in Genesis 3:4. Good news, since I'm a drug addict, watch child pornography, and steal from my job. I get to do that stuff--I'm a Christian.
I am reminded of a little sarcastic ditty that my Baylor theology professor shared whenever someone argued that because we are Christians we can sin all we want and still get forgiveness:
"Oh happy day!
What great condition!
Sin all I want
And still get remission!"
Paul said it like this:
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:1-4).
The purpose of grace and forgiveness is not that we have a "get out of jail" card to play whenever we proceed with some sin. The purpose of grace and forgiveness is that our dastardly sins can be wiped up and tossed away so that we can live a "new" life in Christ.
So, Carole, I will have to disagree with you. Those who think that it is OK to sin--just because they expect God to forgive them--have another thing coming!
So, let's think again.
An easy attitude toward sin results from an inadequate experience of what Paul refers to as godly sorrow:
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Let me illustrate: Godly sorrow means that we begin to see our sin as Jesus sees us doing them and, understanding that our sin is breaking His heart.
My wife, Julie, is clueless about where she leaves her keys... and sometimes even her car. I get tired of calls from the mall:
"Roger, I am at the mall. Someone has stolen the car. Should I call the police?"
"OK," I say, "let's think about this. Maybe you just misplaced it. Which parking lot did you park in?"
"I don't remember."
"Do you remember which door you went in?"
"What was the first store you visited?"
"I can't remember."
"OK, this is hard, but think carefully: was the sun coming in the front or back window of the car when you turned in? One of the side windows perhaps?"
"Roger, you're not helping."
She is a little better with her keys--and you can imagine that keys are a lot easier to lose and harder to find than cars. Countless times I've been called back to the church to pick her up and take her home because she can't find her car keys.
One day I'd had enough. I pulled into the church lot and parked beside her car. There were her keys, lying on the front seat of the locked car. "It's happened again," I thought. "I'll get the call tonight around about 10 p.m., right after orchestra rehearsal: 'I can't find my keys; can you come get me?'"
Well, that was the last straw. I unlocked the car; picked up the keys; and headed for the church sanctuary where she was rehearsing a dozen young violinists for a performance on Sunday morning.
I stormed down the aisle, stood over Julie, and shouted angrily, "Do you know where I found these!? No, of course you don't. You left them locked on the front seat of the car. What am I going to have to do? Put them on a rope and hang them around your neck? I threw the keys on the keyboard, turned on my heels, stormed angrily back out of the sanctuary and headed to my office to work on my sermon for Sunday--on 1 Corinthians 13--on love. No joke.
I was wasting my time in working on that sermon. I was feeling overwhelmed with guilt and shame at the way I had just treated Julie. I returned to the church sanctuary and asked Julie, "Will you please forgive me?" Well, fortunately, she was a pastor's wife and she has to forgive. "I forgive you", she said.
I felt better as I walked back to my office. But, I didn't feel great. In fact, I was miserable. The problem was that I had hurt her ten gallons worth of hurt and I was only asking for a pints worth of forgiveness.
It was time to enter into what God calls "godly sorrow." I closed my eyes and replayed the scene as I imagined Jesus was watching my behavior. I saw Him watching from the sidelines as I stormed down the aisle shaking those keys. He sees Julie turn with fear in her eyes as I come at her waiving those keys. He sees the fear in Julie's face as I am abusing my wife. He sees the anger and bitterness in my heart and it is breaking His heart. He begins to weep for Julie. She flinches as I shake the keys in her face; of course she does. I outweigh her by at least 100 pounds.
Jesus turns His attention to the dozen little violinists. I hadn't even noticed them before, their mouths agape. They had never seen their pastor act like this! They were stunned. Jesus was deeply disappointed. Had I shaken someone's faith? Probably so.
My attitude changed as I looked from Christ's perspective. I began to weep as I saw before my eyes the pain and hurt that I had inflicted on at least thirteen people. I remembered that Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that as a husband, my job is to lay down my life for my wife, just as Christ laid down his life for His church. My behavior said not love; I felt like I was crucifying her.
Look at this verse again: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Forgiveness doesn't mean that I can sin all I want and still get remission. Forgiveness means that I try to enter into the sufferings of Christ and begin to see my sin from His perspective.
Only then am I ready to confess my sin, seek forgiveness and allow Christ to restore me to intimate fellowship with Him. One problem with sin is that it impairs our ability to live the powerful, intimate, spirit-filled life, indwelt with the power of God.
The prescription for cleansing is 1 John 1:9. "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Confess means “to agree with,” or to “speak the same thing as.” What it means is that I am to say the same about my sin as God says.
What does God say about my sin? It causes Him pain; my sin drove nails in His hands and feet. I was humbled and deeply saddened to realize that if my sins of abuse, anger, rejection and bitterness toward Julie were the only sins ever committed in the entire history of the world, Jesus would still have died on the cross just for me.
Now it is time to talk with Julie--and not before. I come to ask forgiveness for how I treated her. I recount step by step the sins I committed against her and the children. I talk about how much I have hurt her and how sorry I am for the hurt and pain I have inflicted upon her. Soon, she begins to cry and she is actually in a position where she can honestly forgive me. It is hard for Julie to forgive ten gallons worth of hurt when I was asking only for a pint's worth of forgiveness. Godly sorrow allows me to request ten gallons worth of forgiveness.
Godly sorrow not only gives us an insight into the pain sin brings to God's heart, it is the key to restoring the relationships we mar when we sin.
Carole, the idea that I can sin all I want is a short-sighted minimizing of the devastation of sin. Sin cost Jesus His earthly life. It costs us relationships with others. How can we treat it lightly?
Paul summed up the sad, misguided idea that it is okay to sin with impunity in Ephesians 4:30. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
Well, Carole, I hope that my thoughts are helpful. I also hope that these biblical values and concepts will reorder your perspective about sinning all you want just because you are forgiven.
May God bless you with great days of pure and holy living.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.