There are many Christians today who choose an active lifestyle in defiance against God. The frightening part is, many of them are probably unaware, or have chosen to overlook the consequences that brings about. They have excused themselves into a self-seeking lifestyle so much that it’s become acceptable to them. They’ve replaced the standards of God with their own standards, and their justification for their defiance is nothing short of an abuse of the grace God gives.
Before I go any further in writing, I want to list two synonyms for the word ‘abuse’.
I want to focus on these two words, and how devastating they are to Christians. Even though they both share the same definition, they each hold specific connotations which can be attributed to a defiant lifestyle against God.
Ephesians 4:30 says “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” NIV
What causes a person to grieve? Mistreating someone is a guaranteed way to cause grief. When I was around the age of thirteen I stole five dollars from my dad. I needed it to pay a debt to someone, and I was fearful of the consequences if I didn’t pay it. I knew where my dad kept his money, and I had open access to it if I needed it. Kids are notorious for always wanting small amounts of change, so all I ever needed to do was ask, and most of the time he would let me get what I needed. It was that easy, because my dad trusted me not to take anything more. Why, then, didn’t I just ask my dad for the money to pay off this debt? It meant having to explain the situation to him, which I severely wanted to avoid, and I wasn’t sure my dad would give it to me. I didn’t want to deal with the impending consequence of getting my butt kicked by the person I owed money to, and I thought sidestepping around the chance of being told no by my dad would be the best option. I decided to just take it. It was easier to mistreat the trust my dad had in me and abuse the already open access to it than it was for me to ask him and run the risk being told no. This mistreatment and abuse of privilege didn’t happen because I didn’t love my dad, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I used my dad’s love and trust to my advantage to do and get what I wanted.
My mistreatment of my dad’s love and trust in me upset him. It hurt him. I had caused my dad to grieve. The defiance I had toward my dad caused a set of consequences that were far more severe than what would have been physically issued by the kid I owed money to had I not paid him. My dad cut me off. Not from his love, of course, but from his trust in me. When we grieve the Holy Spirit we cause the same consequence of being cut off from God, only God isn’t the one who is doing the cutting – we are. With each act of willful defiance we have in our lives, we separate ourselves from God’s presence, and trust. God’s trust in us is different from that of human trust. When people lose trust in other people it causes them to grow leery and cautious. God’s trust in us is rooted in our trust in Him. God already knows what we’re going to do before we do it, but God continually searches our hearts and reveals Himself to us through our obedience to his will. You could say that when God loses his trust in us, what’s really happening is we’re losing our trust in God.
So why do we mistreat God? Why did I mistreat my dad the way I did? I wanted something from my dad, but I wasn’t sure he would give it to me, so I did what I wanted to ensure I got my way, and I paid the price for that. God provides for us what we need, but not always what we want. Our wants can quickly lead to a path of self-seeking behavior to fulfill our own desires, and that will always come at a price.
James 1:14 says “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” NIV
“Dragged away” is an interesting way for the author to put it. It suggests that we are being ripped away from something much better than what our own sinful desires could ever offer.
Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” NIV
We were created to do good things. Good things bring about good things. God has a plan for our lives that has been perfectly prepared for us, but just because we have knowledge of that doesn’t mean we fully accept it or apply it to our lives. Our flesh is in a constant state of conflict with what God has in mind vs our wants. Not that every want is bad, but our wants often come from a place of our own fleshly desires that contradict what God has in mind for us, so, like I did with my dad, we’re afraid God will say no. We’ve lost our trust in God, and in turn we mistreat him to get our way. So where does that lead us? We begin to misuse God’s grace.
It may seem like an impossible thing to misuse God, but we do it everyday. We hold on to things in our life that are keeping us from submersing ourselves in the richness and fullness of God’s presence, and we excuse it by saying things such as “I think God would be okay with this.” or “I’m just being me. This is who I am, and God understands that.” I can’t even begin to tell you how dead wrong that concept is, yet it’s a concept that far too many of us Christians have. Not only is it dead wrong, it’s extremely dangerous territory for anyone to be in.
Ephesians 4:27 says “and do not give the devil a foothold.” NIV
Anything, I repeat, anything that diverts your eyes away from God will with absolute certainty destroy you. It’s that simple. If it’s so simple, then why do we constantly entertain the things that are contradictory to Christ? There’s another simple answer: Because we want to. We choose to. We’re not ready to give up our desires, so we continue to flirt with them and indulge them. We disregard what the bible says, and create our own set of rules to follow. We’re essentially rewriting the Word of God to suit our own standards. How arrogant and foolish. And we do this with the full expectation that God will meet us and honor his covenant with us by continuing to give us grace. What I’m going to say next will probably be met with great opposition, but I firmly believe it to be true: God does not accept us unconditionally. He loves us unconditionally, he offers salvation unconditionally, but love and acceptance are two different things. The scripture has this to say:
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” NIV
Proverbs 8:17 ” I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” NIV
John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” NIV
Romans 2:7-11 “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” NIV
Luke 13:27 “But he will reply, I don’t know you or where you came from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” NIV
These five passages of scripture very clearly tell us everything we need to know about God’s grace.
- God loved us while we were still sinners.
- If we seek out God we will find him
- If we believe in God, we will live. If we reject God, we will die.
- If we reject the truth, we will be in trouble.
- God will not accept us into his house if He does not know us.
When I said earlier that God does not accept us unconditionally, I wasn’t referring to what He offers us. No one deserves anything from God, so his gift of salvation alone speaks to his willingness and longing to want us. Even Paul referred to himself as ‘the chief of sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15), and God used him mightily. It is by His grace through faith we receive it as a gift (Ephesians 2:8). When we accept that gift however, there is a change, a transformation that occurs in our lives that calls us to be free. That is its very purpose.
Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” NIV
We cannot continue to make excuse after excuse after excuse to stay in an ongoing relationship with a past which we were set free from and expect to gain anything good from it. As Paul states, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil”. The bible was written to be a love letter to us as much as it was to be a warning. The Word of God is full of warnings for us to heed. If we continue to misuse God’s grace by indulging our own desires, and mistreating the Holy Spirit by grieving Him, what is that really saying about our relationship with Christ? It sounds like we don’t really have one.
I’m writing this as a plea to anyone who reads it, whether Christian or not. The basic principals outlined here, though biblical in nature, can be applied to any relationship. A true relationship is not one side taking advantage of the other side for their own selfish desires. I urge you, the reader, as much as I do myself, to closely examine your relationship with Christ. Look at the things in your life that prevent you from being completely in His presence. If you have to second guess something, or if you feel the need to defend your choices, or if you feel the slightest bit guilty about something, chances are those are the very things that God is asking you to lay down and walk away from because they are cutting you off from him. It’s not easy. It never is, and it never will be. But we have hope in the one who knows us best, and wants us to draw nearer to him.