On my way to Ripley yesterday I saw a vehicle with a license plate on the front, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”. To be honest, I hate that phrase when I see it on license plates, t-shirts, etc. You may not feel that way and that’s fine. You may have it on your car and that’s fine. You may have your “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” t-shirt on right now. There’s nothing wrong with it. While it’s absolutely true that we aren’t perfect, and that we are forgiven, for me it reeks of excusing ourselves to sin or at least not striving toward being more like Jesus.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes in chapter 5 explaining that sin entered the world through Adam , verse 20 says when the law was added (love God, do this… don’t do that…) that our trespass (or sin) increased, that we were even more guilty because we didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t obey God’s laws. Yet, Paul says where sin grew, grace grew all the more. God’s grace does indeed cover our sin. Even the worst sins you or anyone’s ever committed are forgiven by God’s grace through the shed blood of Jesus. He paid for all of our sin and took the penalty due you and me when we ask and trust Him.
But Paul realizes that we can and do often misunderstand things. We misunderstand to the point of arguing over things, thinking we’re right. One person may argue I can do whatever I want because we are no longer under the law, but under grace. Paul says in verse 15, that’s true. We are no longer punished when we don’t follow God’s laws, we’ve been set free from the consequences of sin. But that doesn’t give us permission to sin, EVEN THOUGH God’s grace will abound all the more to cover whatever sin we commit!!!!
In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says we should “be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Are we going to be perfect? Probably not today. The only chance we have is to not to schlep it off. Oh well, I’m not perfect, God knows I’m not perfect, God doesn’t expect me to be perfect….. WHOAAAAAAA. Jesus said, be perfect. God knows we can do better than we do because He has placed in us His Spirit. Paul says sin is no longer your master. Jesus is now your master. You don’t obey sin any longer, you obey Jesus.
Before people are converted (saved), they primarily obey sin and a little Jesus (a little “good”) slips into their lives. After we’re saved, we are to primarily obey Jesus, and a little sin is going to slip into our lives. But we mustn’t excuse our sin, just accepting it and expecting it as part of life. Paul reminds us that we must recognize it, rebuke it, and repent of it.
I believe this is the basis of the question they will ask me when I am ordained next year, “Are you going on to perfection?” On the one hand, it sounds arrogant, but on the other hand, how pathetic is it if all we have is, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”