Three Free Sins
MARCH 24, 2014
As you perhaps know, I’m a fairly controversial teacher. I’ve never quite understood that. There is a disconnect between how I think of myself and how others think of me. I see myself as a rather conservative, benign, old white guy who studies the Bible and tries to tell people what it says. I try to do it so that people won’t get bored and can see the great heritage of truth Christians have and pagans should want. Sometimes in order to get people to listen, I do push the envelope a bit, but I’m just a teacher trying to deal with truth in my life and to teach it to others. That shouldn’t be controversial, right?
People get really angry.
Maybe there is something about me that just ticks people off.
Perhaps people want a guru who lives everything he teaches and they get quite upset when I say that I don’t. The dumbest advice ever given to preachers is that they shouldn’t teach what they don’t live. What? If that were the standard, most preachers would preach only two ten-minute sermons a year…and then repent of one of them.
It could be that one can’t understand and rejoice in radical grace unless one first knows that one needs it. And so, in order to walk down the pedagogical road with me, one has to see the dirt, and some folks are more into being right than being his. Self-righteousness can be a horrible thing.
(I know, I know. What I just wrote was quite self-righteous and I will repent of it later.)
Then it could be that people are angry because what I teach is wrong. Could be. In fact, I sort of think that 50% of what I teach is probably wrong. I just don’t know which 50%.
I don’t think there is anything I say that causes more people to be more upset than my giving away “three free sins.” I think I understand why that upsets people.
It seems that I’m taking sin too lightly. Maybe sometimes I do.
They think that I don’t care about holiness and sanctification. Maybe sometimes that’s true.
There are those who say that I encourage sin. Maybe, but people seemed to be doing okay in that area before I came along…without any encouragement from me.
So wouldn’t it be better if I dropped the “three free sins” thing?
Let me give you an explanation.
The reason we’re so bad is that we’re trying so hard to be good.
I was once told that, when I give away free sins, I’m giving permission for “murder, rape and drunkenness.” Um…well…okay…but not really. While, as a pastor, I did say a number of times that there was nothing wrong with the church that I couldn’t fix with a few funerals, I honestly don’t know any Christian who is looking for permission to murder anyone. I haven’t met any Christians who could hardly wait to be rapists or to get plastered.
And that’s the point.
Every Christian I know wants to be better than he or she is. There may be an exception to that, but I haven’t found one. In other words, most Christians aren’t getting any better and sometimes are getting worse…but they really want to be better.
Do you know why most Christians don’t get any better or why you don’t get any better? It’s because you’re doing it wrong, dummy! You are obsessed with sin and your faith has become another “system of laws” whereby you feel guilty and try and try and try to do better. It doesn’t work, never has worked, and never will work. Only really shallow people keep doing the same thing over and over again with the same result, thinking that the next time the result will be different.
So stop it.
You’re just making a mess out of it. People get better by obsessing on Jesus and his love…not by obsessing on their own sin and disobedience. That’s what the cross is about. It is a covering for sin. So that’s not the issue anymore. Not only that, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account is a gift beyond measure assuring that God’s anger will never be directed at us again.
And by the way, an obsession with sin may be the greatest form of pride. Frankly, it is quite narcissistic. (If you’re going to get neurotic on me, that’s a good place to start.)
So not only does the Christian get three free sins…Christians get unlimited free sins! (Free to us because they are all forgiven…but not free to God.) And I don’t know a better way to get people thinking about God’s unbelievable love and grace than by granting them what he has already granted. The gift one receives along with “free sins” is the gift of an unbelievable, amazing and surprising faithfulness.
It’s how I became a spiritual giant! You can too.