At the heart of current cultural discussions on morality and sexuality is the idea that one can live however he/she wants. Whether from having sex outside of marriage, having multiple partners/spouses, attempting to “marry” the same-sex, divorce for any reason, or attempting to change gender, we see these viewpoints become more and more popular, even in the church. The whole idea of living however we want is not new, but rather has been around since the Fall.

When Christians speak out against such ideas, they invite ridicule and the accusation of hypocrisy and bigotry. Christians should not be afraid of such criticism, but continue to stand fast on the holiness of God revealed in the His Word (1 Peter 1:13–15). Believers are called out of worldliness to a new life in Christ—to be new creations who shine His light to a perishing world (Matthew 5:10–12; 2 Corinthians 5:17–21).

At the heart of the argument against “living however we want” is the Lord’s call on our lives; it is He who is the Creator, and we are His creation (Psalms 24, 145). People respond to such an argument with, “You can’t judge me for how I live!” Even so, the Lord will judge men because He is the rightful ruler over creation. He who creates has the right to define the terms for how we live (Revelation 1:4).

For example, even in the Christian Church, if a pastor preaches on the holiness of God, or on what God requires of man in light of Christ’s finished and sufficient work, he will get accused of legalism. During World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who ministered in the underground Church in the midst of Nazi Germany, wrote the (now classic) book, The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer argued for a concept of costly grace versus cheap grace. Costly grace was what Jesus did on the cross. Cheap grace is living however we want because of the costly grace of God in Christ. I fear that some people think they need to out-nuance the Bible in order to avoid the accusation of legalism, but by doing so they end up compromising the truth of God’s Word. One example we have in Scripture is where Paul—after explaining when man is left to his own devices will naturally love more of his sin and not God—in Romans 1–3 shows how man can be declared not guilty through Jesus in chapters 4–5.

Romans chapter 6 opens this way after explaining how we can be declared not guilty with the question in verse one, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Such a question is an important one and gets to the heart of our discussion in this chapter.

God’s grace has made us new creations in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17– 21). Christians are not to live however we want, which is Paul’s point in Romans 6:1. Instead, we have a new master in Jesus. We were once dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1–5); we were once held captive to the prince of the “power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Now, Christ has transferred us to His kingdom at the moment of our salvation, and declared us children of God, bought by grace alone (Colossians 1:13). In light of the grace of God that we’ve received, we are to live a new way because we belong to the King, who tells us to put off the old way and walk in the newness of new life in Him (Colossians 3:1–18). Christians are not to walk in the oldness of life, but walk in a manner worthy of the calling they’ve received (Ephesians 4:1).

When Jesus taught about counting the cost, He had in mind the way the disciples would live (Luke 9:23). Jesus is the rightful ruler and covenant Lord (Revelation 1:4). In the ministry of Jesus, we see Him giving many hard words, such as counting the cost and following Him in all of life (Luke 9:23–27). When Jesus spoke hard words, people abandoned Him, despite the fact that it is He alone who can offer eternal life (John 6:60, 66).

Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–9). It is because of what Christ has done that we do not live how we want, nor by our own rules, but by the revealed Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16–17). The Creator has the right to dictate to His creation the terms of eternal life, so living however we want as the people of God cheapens the costly grace of God in Christ alone.

Some Christians think all they have to do is “repent and confess” and all will be well, but the mark of true and genuine repentance is not only sorrow but turning away from sin and returning to the Lord with all your heart (Joel 2:12; Ezekiel 14:6; Acts 26:20). In 1 John 1:6, the apostle says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” What John has in mind here are those who say they can live however they want because they belong to the Lord, but these people aren’t “practicing the truth”. In the previous verse (1 John 1:5), John says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

 John contrasts those who walk in the light with those who don’t, and yet claim to be children of light. With this comparison, he says in verse 8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Then John tells us in verse 9 that we are to confess our sin, which acknowledges our wrongdoing before the holiness of the Lord. Only then will the Lord “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Christians do not cohabit before marriage, nor support/practice the homosexual lifestyle, nor participate in polygamy, pornography, adultery, prostitution, pedophilia, or bestiality because the Lord created the institution of marriage between one man and one woman only (Genesis 2:20–24). Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christians put off the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life by putting on Christ (Colossians 3:1–18; 1 John 2:16). As a result of being transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:15), Christians have a new desire for righteousness, and therefore renounce ungodliness and worldly passions while they await the imminent return of the Lord Jesus (Titus 2:12– 14). Therefore, we live as God requires us—in obedience to the Lord because of the grace we’ve received from Jesus—and increasingly display the fruits of the Spirit in our lives (John 15:9–11; Galatians 5:21–23).

Living however one wants cheapens the costly grace of God in Christ. Paul’s response to this, as described in Romans 8, is that we are to live by the Spirit (Romans 8:5, 13). Paul’s point is that if we desire to live a holy life—a life that pleases and honors God—we will live under the power of the Holy Spirit. This life, however, is possible only because of Christ and the present work of the Holy Spirit.

What should you do in light of the biblical teaching we’ve examined? Understand that you’ve been saved for a purpose. That purpose isn’t just for you, it’s for God’s glory. The life you’ve been called to as a Christian is one of sacrifice. When the first followers of Jesus heard Him say that they were to count the cost and follow Him, many people left His side forever (John 6:60, 66). Those who are Christ’s will obey Him (John 14:15). Those who refuse to obey Him give evidence that they are not His (Matthew 7:20–21). While all our obedience to God is only partial in scope, any obedience is better than none. As Christians, we should see evidence year by year—regardless of how little—that we are growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18).

If there’s no evidence at all in your life that you are being conformed into the image of Christ, you have great reason to be concerned and should examine your salvation (2 Corinthians 13:5). If there is even the tiniest bit of evidence that you’re changing and conforming to the image of Christ, then give glory to God. Such evidence is a means by which God is encouraging you in your faith (2 Peter 1:3–10).

The true Christian goes back to his/her identity in Christ because that is where he/she finds genuine assurance and confidence before God. The fruit of our lives will testify whether our profession is true. This is why our profession of faith must be matched by His possession of our lives. These two things— profession and possession—work together to give Christians assurance and increasing confidence in Christ. If you lack confidence before God, examine your life in light of Christ. See where you’re lacking, then repent and return to your first love—Jesus Christ. He is ready and waiting for you. His throne of grace bids you come to Him. Your Intercessor and High Priest beckons you to Himself (Hebrews 2:17–28, 4:14–16).

While proclaiming that marriage is between one man and one woman will only come with increasing persecution from a secular society, Christians must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We must challenge the worldview of those who reject marriage between one man and one woman, because such a rejection is not merely a rejection of marriage, but an assault on the God of the Bible, from whom this institution came (Genesis 2:20– 24). Christians, we must stand firm upon the Scriptures and declare the whole counsel of God (1 Corinthians 15:1–10; 2 Timothy 3:16–17).

On topics related to gender issues and marriage, we need to understand that the truth of the Word of God matters for our faith and practice. Since the Bible is sufficient, reliable, authoritative, and trustworthy, Christians must believe that God created man in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26–27, 2:20–24). Ultimately, how we view the first few chapters of the Bible will have dramatic and significant implications for how we view the rest of the Bible.

Download December 2023 on Sola Gratia: The Essence of God's Unmerited Favor

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