Goodness, and lawless Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 April 2019

If you know Jesus—really and truly know Jesus, not just know of him—you’re gonna want to follow him. You’re gonna want to do as he teaches, and actually try to obey his commands instead of shrugging them off with, “Well, they’re nice ideals, but they’re not gonna be practical.” You’re gonna want to be good.

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. A rather obvious one: God is good, so shouldn’t those who have the Holy Spirit in us be likewise good? Shouldn’t he encourage us to be good, empower us to do good deeds, be gracious to us when we drop the ball and help us return to goodness? Shouldn’t he point us in the direction of sanctification, of living holy lives, unique from the rest of the world—where goodness is a huge factor in why we’re unique?

Likewise if you don’t wanna be good, not only do you lack the Spirit’s fruit: You’re probably not even Christian. And yes, bluntly saying so has a tendency to really offend people: “Goodness doesn’t make you Christian! That’s legalism. How could you say that?” Well I didn’t say that. I said you have to want to be good. You have to make the effort. You’re gonna suck at it in the beginning; everybody does; it gets easier with practice. And I didn’t say goodness makes you Christian; only the Holy Spirit does that. But the lack of goodness, or substituting it with hypocrisy and hoping no one will notice, indicates the Holy Spirit isn’t in your life—and if he’s not there, you’re not Christian. Period.

Let’s not be naïve. “Obey Jesus” is a hard lifestyle choice. The world is against us. Christianists have gone to a lot of trouble to swap real obedience with their cheap knockoff, and sometimes they’ll fight goodness just as hard as Satan itself. They’ll claim Jesus’s commands were nullified by a new dispensation, or they’re only meant to describe God’s kingdom after Jesus returnsnot before. They’ll claim our resistance to evil is really works righteousness and legalism; that trying to be better is another form of pride; that our commonsense interpretation of God’s commands is extremism, whereas the proper way to interpret them is to water ’em down till they’re nothing but water.

Plus our own selfish tendencies are gonna fight us. And yes, the devil might fight us too… but you’ll find the devil’s far easier to beat than your own flesh. We start off with a lot of ingrained bad habits, and conquering ourselves has to be done first. Which a lot of people never bother to do. Most of us simply relabel all our bad behaviors with Christianese names, and presto-changeo, we’re fixed now! But widespread popular hypocrisy is still hypocrisy.

Still, if we have the Holy Spirit in us, we’ll want to do better. And we’ve got to trust him to help us out with this. We absolutely can’t do it alone. God offers us power to live for him. Grab it with both hands. You accepted his salvation. Now accept his sanctification.

Lawless Christians.

ANTINOMIAN æn(t).i'noʊ.mi.ən adjective. Believes grace frees Christians from any obligation to observe the moral law.
[Antinomianism æn(t).i'noʊ.mi.ən.iz.əm noun]
Matthew 7.19-23 KWL
19 “Every tree not growing good fruit is cut down and thrown into fire.
20 It’s precisely by their fruits that you’ll recognize them.
21 Not everyone who calls me, ‘Master, master!’ will enter the heavenly kingdom.
Just the one who does my heavenly Father’s will.
22 At that time, many will tell me, ‘Master, master! Didn’t we prophesy in your name?
Didn’t we throw out demons in your name? Didn’t we do many powerful things in your name?’
23 And I‘ll explain to them, ‘I never knew you.
Get away from me, all you Law-breakers.’ ”

The words Jesus used for “Law-breakers” is οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν/oi ergadzómenoi tin anomían, “you workers of no Law.” The word for no-Law, anomían, is based on νόμος/nómos, “law.” It’s a good word; I don’t know why we didn’t adopt it instead of creating that weird Latin/Greek hybird antinomian. But whatever.

The reason there are Law-breakers in Christianity is really simple: It’s easier to stay the same, than change. It’s easier to disguise our flaws, than work on them. So that’s what plenty of Christians do: Pretend we’re good when we’re not. And make excuses for whenever people catch us being evil.

We want God’s grace to be a free pass for sin. It’s like a little kid who discovers her dad will replace any toy she breaks, so for fun she gets a hammer and breaks everything. And after her milquetoast dad does nothing to correct her, she does it again and again and again. Antinomians expect God to be exactly like that dad.

Now, antinomians have exceptions. Sin against them, and suddenly they’re all about “justice” (really vengeance) and how some things shouldn’t be forgiven. And certain acts which personally offend them will also cross their boundaries: They don’t like murder, so Christians shouldn’t murder. They don’t like homosexuality, so Christians shouldn’t be gay. They don’t like gun control, so they’ll bend a few verses to support that cause too; plus any other political views which they’d rather defend than the Law.

So sin is acceptable, and obeying God is "legalism”? Um…

Isaiah 5.20-21, 24 KWL
20 How sad for those who say, “To do good is evil. To do evil is good.”
Who decide dark is light, and light dark. Who decide bitter is sweet, and sweet bitter.
21 How sad for those who are “wise” in their own eyes,
who “see what’s right in front of them.”
24 So, like tongues of fire eat up stubble, like dry grass wilts in the flame,
their roots will decay. Their flowers will go up like dust.
For they rejected the LORD of War’s Law.
They treat the Holy One of Israel’s word with contempt.

Y’see, antinomians frequently like to say the Law was only for Old Testament times—but y’notice there were plenty of antinomians in Old Testament times too. The people of Isaiah’s day also believed in God’s grace… and abused it like crazy. Since God forgives all, they kept sinning as usual, and figured their ritual sacrifices made up for it. Instead of goodness, they just killed tons of animals, and remained evil.

God’s response? He was sick of their sacrifices. They no longer meant anything. He didn’t even want to listen to their prayers anymore. He only wanted them to stop sinning; it’s all he ever wanted.

Isaiah 1.11-18 KWL
11 “What are your many sacrifices to me?” says the LORD. “I’m full of burnt-up rams and animal fat.
I’m not interested in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats.
12 When you come before my face, walk in my courtyard, who requested this from your hand?
13 Don’t bring me empty offerings any more! Incense? It disgusts me.
Calling monthly and Sabbath assemblies? I can’t stand wasteful conferences.
14 My soul hates your monthly and special feasts. They’re a burden to me which I tire of carrying.
15 When you spread your hands, I hide my eyes from you.
When you pray ‘great’ prayers, I don’t listen: Your hands are full of blood!
16 Bathe! Get clean! Get rid of the evil deeds before my eyes. Stop doing evil.
17 Learn to do good. Seek right judgments. Straighten out oppressors.
Judge orphans fairly. Defend widows.
18 Come now; let’s decide,” says the LORD. “Your sins are like scarlet dye.
They can be made white like snow. If they’re red like worms, they can become like wool.”

God offered the Hebrews sanctification: He’d make ’em white as snow, white as wool could become. But the Hebrews had to stop sinning. There’s gotta be some give-and-take in our relationship with God. It’s not a one-sided deal, where God’s grace makes us clean and we do nothing. We gotta stop taking him for granted, take him up on his offer, take hold of his power, and stop sinning.

Antinomians insist all these Isaiah quotes refer to the wrong dispensation, but Paul taught the very same stuff.

Romans 6.15-18 KWL
15 So what? May we sin, since we’re not under Law but under grace? Absolutely not!
16 Don’t you realize whenever you offer yourselves as attentive slaves,
you’re the slaves of whatever you pay attention to?
Either that’s sin, which kills you; or obedience, which rights you.
17 Praise God: You were slaves to sin,
yet you wholeheartedly paid attention to the kind of teaching you were given.
18 Freed from sin, you were enslaved by rightness.

Grace isn’t provided to catch us when we deliberately dive into it. It’s to catch us when we unintentionally fall.

1 John 2.1-6 KWL
1 My children, I write these things to you so you won’t sin.
When anyone sins, we have an aide from the Father: Righteous Christ Jesus.
2 He’s the atonement for our sins.
Not only for ours, but for the whole world’s.
3 In this way we know we’ve known him: When we keep his commands.
4 Saying, “I’ve known him,” and not keeping his commands: It’s a lie, and truth isn’t in this.
5 God’s love is truly achieved this way: In whoever can keep God’s word.
In this way we know they’re in God.
6 Any of you saying you owe Jesus loyalty:
You’re to walk in the same way he walked.

By John’s standard, to put it bluntly, antinomians don’t know Jesus. If they did, they’d be as offended by sin as Jesus. They’d try to shun it; they might not be as successful as Jesus, but they’d try, for crying out loud. Grace is for those who try, but they won’t even do that. So we gotta seriously doubt their relationship with Jesus: They don’t give a rip about him. They only want sin without consequence, evil without punishment. They don’t really want his kingdom; they only want to avoid death and hell.

The first step towards sanctification.

Obviously goodness and sanctification aren’t the same thing. Sanctification is when and how God makes us holy, and he actually starts the ball rolling on that before we repent and turn to Jesus and start following him. But like I said, our relationship with God isn’t one-sided. He’s making us holy, and we respond by being good. Goodness is fruit. And since the rest of the world isn’t good, it makes us stand out… which is what holiness is all about.

Whereas if we don’t produce fruit, if we don’t respond properly to the changes the Spirit’s making in us, he’s gonna stop the ship and wait for us to get on board. Notice how some of us are making him wait an awfully long time.

So let’s not! Start fighting temptation. Start calling out to God for help. Create an accountability structure, with trustworthy Christians who can help keep us honest. Confess your sins instead of hiding them. Stop making excuses for your misbehavior; call them what they really are—sins—and make an effort to do better. If you find out they’re serious addictions, get serious help from support groups and counselors.

Christians have a truly sucky reputation of not being good; of being full of excuses and self-righteousness instead. Pagans are fully aware Jesus is good, but his followers not so much. We need to correct that—and as much as possible, make up for that. This too is a tall order. But we gotta try. And at least start.