From the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, the Bible makes it clear that we are all accountable to God for what we do, and that the unrighteous cannot escape His wrath. Therefore, the idea that someone can live in open adultery or homosexual lust and still inherit the kingdom of heaven flies in the face of everything that the Bible teaches. God’s law not only requires righteousness, but also warns us that without righteousness no man shall see God. However, before you start patting yourself on the back, you need to remember that the Bible also tells us that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). [Matthew 5:20, 1Corinthians 6:9, Hebrews 12:14, Matthew 25:31,46, 1Peter 4:18.]
What far too many people fail to understand is that Christ did not die so that we could get into heaven without being righteous (Hebrews 12:14). The gospel is not some sordid plan for filling heaven with the unrepentant (Hebrews 10:29, James 4:4). On the contrary, Christ died to give us a righteousness greater than we could ever attain by obedience to the law. The gospel is His Word of mercy to all who hate their sin, are sorry for their sin and want to be delivered from its shackles. At the same time, those who willfully indulge in sexual sin are deluded if they think that Christ will get them off the hook (James 4:4). Because Christ died to deliver us from sin (not to help us serve sin) true faith cannot exist where there is no sorrow for sin or desire to be delivered from it (Romans 6:16). In short, faith cannot exist without repentance, and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 10:26). [Matthew 5:20&48, 1Corinthians 6:9, Philippians 3:9, Hebrews 10:26, Revelation 21:27, Psalm 34:18 and 51:17, Isaiah 57:15 and 66:2, Galatians 2:21, Proverbs 8:13, 1Corinthians 1:30, Romans 6:6-18, Romans 10:4, Psalm 38:18, Romans 8:10, Romans 3:22, Romans 5:17-21.]
Far too many Christians fail to understand that it is the blood of Christ, not what we do, that makes us righteous in the sight of God. They may have had the gospel explained to them, may acknowledge that they are sinners, and may even believe that Christ died for their sins. However, as long as they are trying to please God by their works, they are not really trusting in Christ for righteousness.
That sort of double-mindedness usually stems from the fact that they are trying to motivate themselves by the law. As a result, even though they acknowledge that they are sinners, they still want to think of themselves as righteous. Therefore, they fail to see themselves as God sees them, and fail to understand that without the forgiveness that is ours in Christ God sees no good in them at all (Romans 7:18, Isaiah 64:6). They may see themselves as seventy, eighty, or even ninety, percent righteous, but they do not, and never have, seen themselves as totally sinful.
When a person who thinks of himself as righteous accepts the gospel, he will not fully understand or appreciate the fact that it is the blood of Christ that makes him righteous. Instead, he will tend to see the gospel as something that lets him get into heaven without being totally righteous, and that distorted understanding opens the door to satanic delusion. He will soon begin to wonder how much he can get away with, and may feel emboldened to commit certain sins. Some people even go so far as to conclude that they can live in sexual (or homosexual) immorality and still be saved. However, they are dead wrong. [Hebrews 10:26, 1Corinthians 5:9-10, James 4:4.]
Satan then leads those who recoil from such immorality in the opposite direction. He snares them by convincing them that faith in Christ is not enough, and leads them to believe that they must have works in addition to faith. Nevertheless, that is a deadly delusion (Galatians 5:4). Therefore, let me make it perfectly clear that the gospel can only be understood correctly by someone who sees himself as totally sinful. In fact, I believe that the Apostle Paul had such a deep understanding of the gospel, because he was deeply aware of his own sins (Romans 7:18, 1Timothy 1:15).
It is only as we come to the point where we see ourselves as totally sinful, that we can recognize freedom from the law as freedom from condemnation rather than freedom from righteousness. Moreover, once we come to that point, we are so thankful to be free of condemnation, that we have no desire to do anything that would bring us back under God's condemnation (Hebrews 10:26). We avoid sin, and try to do what is right, because we appreciate the righteousness that is ours in Christ, not because we are trying to make ourselves righteous. At the same time, as long as we do not sin willfully, no sin is imputed to us (Romans 4:1-8, Romans 7:20, 1Kings 15:5).
In order to illustrate this truth, think of a small boy who has been playing in the mud. The boy is filthy from head to toe, and unable to clean himself up. So his mother gives him a bath, washes his hair, and puts clean clothes on him. She then tells him to stay out of the mud. Now, just as it should be obvious that staying out of the mud is not what made the boy clean, it should also be obvious that avoiding sin is not what makes us clean in the sight of God. Furthermore, just as staying out of the mud will not make the boy any cleaner, avoiding sin will not make us any more righteous. It is the blood of Christ and the blood of Christ alone that makes us clean in the sight of God (1John 1:7). Christ has taken our sin upon Himself, and by cleansing us of sin has given us His righteousness in its place. [Galatians 3:6&21, Galatians 5:5, Romans 10:3-4, Romans 9:30, Romans 4:5-6, Romans 3:21-22, Romans 8:2, 1Thessalonians 4:3-7, Romans 6:6-7, Romans 3:10-28.]
Just as the boy I spoke of earlier could, by rolling in the mud, throw away all of the work his mother went to in cleaning him up. So we, by willful sin, can throw away the righteousness we have in Christ (Hebrews 10:26). Nevertheless, refraining from sin will not make us righteous, any more than refraining from crime will make a criminal innocent. Without God's gift of righteousness we could avoid sin for a million years and still not be righteous.
Just as a bank robber cannot make himself innocent, we cannot make ourselves innocent in the sight of God. Yet, those who are under the delusion of works righteousness not only assume that they can make themselves innocent, but also assume that resisting temptation makes up for past sins. Nevertheless, that is about as irrational as it would be for a bank robber to assume that the banks he passed up somehow made up for the ones he robbed, or that society owed him a reward for passing up some very tempting banks. It is a fool’s delusion!
If you feel convicted by your sin, look to Christ for help. The sacrifice for sin has already been made, and He has secured forgiveness for you by His death on the cross. Believe Him when He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do not fear that your sin is too great, for it is written, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,” and “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1John 1:7, Romans 5:20). Moreover, He has said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).