Society hates the word sin. One of the only secular sins is to use that term. We’d rather speak about making mistakes, or suffering from an addiction, or having a lapse in judgment. But leave sin out of it!
But we can’t. Not using your turn signal is a mistake (I see you Texas!). Lying to someone’s face is a sin.
Free Grace theology is realistic about the deadly consequences of sin. I think that’s because we know that eternal salvation is a free gift you can’t lose by sinning. That may sound counter-intuitive, but when you know you’re eternally secure, you’ll be less likely to take a warning passage out of context to mean losing your salvation. You’re more likely to take the passage at face value.
For example, here’s some fatherly advice about avoiding adulterous relationships:
Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey
and her words are smoother than oil,
in the end she’s as bitter as wormwood
and as sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps head straight for Sheol.
She doesn’t consider the path of life;
she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable (Prov 5:3-6).
Every sexual temptation seems like a good idea at the time. The foolish man only sees short-term pleasure; the wise man foresees long-term pain. So does every pulp fiction writer who has ever warned about a femme fatale: “She was every man’s dream—and one man’s nightmare.” That story has been told and retold since time immemorial. It begins with honey and ends in bitterness and death. If that sounds extreme, “crimes of passion” remind us that it’s all too common. And yet, foolish men (and women) fall for this trap time and time again.
The Preacher goes on:
So now, sons, listen to me,
and don’t turn away from the words from my mouth.
Keep your way far from her.
Don’t go near the door of her house.
Otherwise, you will give up your vitality to others
and your years to someone cruel;
strangers will drain your resources,
and your hard-earned pay will end up in a foreigner’s house.
At the end of your life, you will lament
when your physical body has been consumed,
and you will say, “How I hated discipline,
and how my heart despised correction.
I didn’t obey my teachers
or listen closely to my instructors.
I am on the verge of complete ruin
before the entire community” (Proverbs 5:7-14).
Don’t follow the temptress around. Don’t flirt with it. Don’t go anywhere near that situation. Run as fast and as far as you can! If you don’t, the Preacher gives us three more outcomes to consider.
First, you’ll waste your time: “you will give up your vitality to others and your years to someone cruel.” Every moment you spend pursuing that adulterous relationship is time you could have spent loving your wife, family, and, most of all, the Lord. If you give up your best years to someone who will destroy you, you don’t get that time back.
Second, you’ll ruin your finances: “your hard-earned pay will end up in a foreigner’s house.” Not only will you be spending family money on a stranger, but infidelity leads to divorce, which costs money. Lots of it. The average divorce costs $12,900, most of which goes to attorney fees, and that’s before the value of the property you’ll lose when you divide the assets. The wise man knows cheap thrills are expensive.
Third, your health can suffer: “At the end of your life, you will lament when your physical body has been consumed.” On any given day, 1 in 5 Americans has a sexually transmitted disease, which costs $16 billion a year. “Free love” can be anything but.
The believer is eternally secure. That’s what Jesus promised (John 3:15-18). But does that mean you’re shielded from the deadly consequences of sin? Not at all. Once saved, always saved is neither a license to sin nor insurance against the destructive consequences that can follow from it.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.