The body of believers, since the time of the Apostles, has been beset by heresies. Paul knew this as well as anyone, and he repeatedly wrote staunch warnings against false teachings. He wanted to make sure that those who truly followed Christ stayed true to their faith and did not stumble in the wind. Yes, even in those days; those old days when travel between towns could take days or even weeks, false doctrine and heretical beliefs spread like wildfire and threatened to corrupt a person’s faith in the risen Christ.
Today, this effect is ever the more potent.
In the modern day, ideas can circle the globe instantly. As I write this, it occurs to me that people from other continents may read this – and they may read it just minutes or hours after I post it. A thousand years ago, a message may have taken months to make it from one side of a continent to another, if it made it at all. But now, ideas spread instantly and effortlessly. They spread seamlessly. A blurring of cultures and concepts is occurring, and this has serious implications for our faith as Christians.
But I’m not here today to discuss how false doctrine or heretical teachings spread. I’m not writing to discuss strategies for fighting their proliferation. Rather, I’m here to single out and analyze one particular heresy that is extraordinarily popular in today’s evangelical scene. And that heresy, quite simply, is this – that the grace given to us through Christ can serve as a license for sin.
This is a damnable doctrine. It is as far removed from scripture as you can get. It is poisonous. It ruins lives. It destroys faith. I believed it once – far, far more recently than I’d like to admit, in fact – and looking back, I realize just how corrosive it is to true, genuine faith in the risen Lord. Nothing good comes from it. It is a lie directly out of Hell, and it is perhaps the worst belief a professing Christian can possibly hold.
What Makes it So Dangerous?
One of the biggest ways that this “doctrine” is so dangerous lies in its deceptive power. Think about it. We know the following things as Christians:
- We are all sinners in need of a Savior
- Jesus Christ came and died for the forgiveness of sins
- If we believe in Him and call unto Him for salvation, He will save us because He cannot be unfaithful to His own.
To the mature or passionate believer, these facts are reason for immense celebration. They look upon their Lord with love and with great respect. They have been forgiven much, and because of their thankfulness to God, the thought of sinning simply “because it’s covered by the blood and will be forgiven” is offensive to them.
But it’s not the same way with every Christian.
For immature believers, or those who may only believe that they’re believers, these facts can be interpreted as a license for sin. I’ve heard it many times in my own life, and furthermore, I’ve heard it most often from the youth – “Well, I can sin because Christ forgives me. I’m covered.” They take their limited understandings of the doctrine of Grace and they twist it to their own selfish ends. Their minds are using logic to make the assumption; since I’m a sinner, and since Christ died for all sins, then all I must do is believe in Him and confess Him with my words, and I will be saved from my sins. This means I can sin as much as I want, in any way I want, and Christ will still forgive me and I’ll go to Heaven.
Yes, to the immature Christian, this is logical. It makes perfect sense. That’s what’s so dangerous about this belief – it makes perfect sense to the uninformed or the underdeveloped. It makes perfect sense, but it’s a trap, and a devastatingly tricky trap at that.
Of course, up until now, we’ve discussed how this belief works. It’s dangerous because it’s tricky. It’s dangerous because it’s deceptive. But why? If one is caught in this big snare, what makes it so bad?
The main reason is in the damage it does to the sinner’s conscience. You see, we’re all born with a God-given conscience, or internal moral compass. Every human has one, whether they’re born into a Christian culture, a Muslim culture, a Hindu culture, or an atheistic culture. In fact, if you travelled around the world throughout history, you’d find that the majority of cultures would have some sort of prohibition against killing others. You’d find prohibitions against rape, against violence, against taking advantage of people, and much more. All human societies throughout history have had morality, and the morality has been – barring some differences – quite similar.
Now, returning to the notion of the built-in conscience, one of the biggest things that a person must realize is that he/she is a sinner in need of a savior. And your conscience, your sensitivity to sin, is what helps you to see this. This is why Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:23). Notice the use of the word repent here. To repent is to change over, to confess and forsake, to be willing to leave something behind. Repentance requires a person to see their sins, recognize them as bad, and then be willing to forsake their sins and turn to a new way of life – namely, the life Jesus calls them to.
However, note also that Jesus says another curious thing in that passage: “I have not come to call the righteous…” I must admit that when I read that verse for the first time, I was left in confusion. After all, Romans 3:10 tells us, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” For the longest time, it didn’t make sense to me. But then, after some examination, it suddenly made perfect sense.
What Christ is talking about here is the difference between those who acknowledge and see the nature of their sins, and those who do not. When Jesus walked the earth, His greatest opponents were the Pharisees. You’d have expected that those who would oppose Him most would have been non-Jews. Perhaps the Romans, or maybe some other faction of society, one would think. But instead, it was those who claimed to be God’s own people. They claimed to be of the Lord, but when Christ routinely implored upon them to see their follies, they refused. They called the Son of God a madman. They were “righteous” only insofar as they trusted and believed in their own abilities to save and distinguish them. They did not recognize their own need for a savior, because they thought themselves above such a thing. Hence, Jesus essentially said, “I have not come to call those who will not listen, but rather, those who do and can listen.”
Now, we’ll take this very concept and circle back to the concept of “the license for sin.” You see, those Pharisees had hardened their hearts. They had dulled their consciences. You can harden your heart against God. That’s not popular to say in today’s world, but it’s true. Contrary to what popular evangelicalism will tell you, words alone cannot save you. A confession of faith alone cannot save you. It can’t save you, unless you’ve got the intention and heart behind it. God knows those who are truly His, and He also sees those who are just mixed in with the flock but don’t truly want Him.
For the one who sins because he “knows Christ will cover it,” there is grave danger. There is a point at which a person will stop caring. There is a time when, after enough intentional, willful sinning, a person can harden their heart beyond repentance. They will essentially become a Pharisee. They believed in the idea of grace, and they claimed to believe in the Son of God, but they simply used it as an insurance policy while they did everything they wanted to do. They treated the grace of God as a cheap thing for so long, in such a hideous way, that they moved themselves beyond the ability to repent and forsake their sins in a turn to Christ.
Yes, it can happen. And if a person keeps on sinning, if he keeps on cheapening the grace of God to cover selfish desires, then there may well come a day when repentance is impossible. And if repentance is impossible, then salvation is impossible.
This is a scary message, but it’s truth. The good thing is, if you can still turn – if you can still feel the weight of your sins, and your need for a savior – you are not beyond repentance. I am convinced that it takes a lot to harden oneself to the point of no return. It isn’t easy. It may be different for everyone. But it can happen, and it is something that should be of utmost concern for the “fence-straddling” Christian.
Therefore, if the thought of having potentially done this scares you, if it terrifies you, then use it as a motivation to seek the Lord right now and repent. Repent with all your heart – He will listen to you. And if you confess your sins, if you ask for forgiveness with a genuine heart, you will be restored to your Lord. Trust me… I’ve been in this circumstance. I’ve been to the point where I was absolutely weighed down with the fear that I was beyond saving. But I cried to the Lord out of a desperate heart, and He came in. He came to allay my fears, and He came to correct my wayward heart. He taught me the importance of seeing Him as the all-sufficient God, of counting Him as my highest treasure for all time. This has been a journey, and I’m still in the middle of it, but each day I can see His mercies fresh and new.
Brother, sister, it is my prayer today that you’ll seek the Lord. It’s my prayer that you will turn to Him with a heart of genuineness. And if you feel as though you’ve gone too far, pray to Him. Pray to Him with all you have in you. Cry out to Him. Go to your knees and weep. And if you call to Him out of a genuine desire to be reconciled to Him, He will be faithful to show you the way. He will restore you. A bruised reed and a smoldering wick He will not put out. He will disciple you, lead you, and show you the true path to life in Him. He loves you, and He wants your heart above all things. He is not willing that any would perish, but that all would come to repentance.
Please, repent today. Repent while you’ve still got life in you, and awake from your spiritual slumber. Repent, because His mercy, while great, will someday run out. Run to Him, and run to Him with everything you have.
Your God awaits you with great love and great mercy.