The phrase “right with God” has received a lot of airtime in recent years. Unfortunately, it comes with its own new-and-improved definition. We truly are made right with God when we receive Jesus’ death and resurrection as full payment for the debt we owe God. But that receiving does not mean a mental agreement or a prayer of appreciation. It is a transfer of ownership. When we accept God’s offer of salvation, we agree to His terms, which means we are under new management (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, all choices from that moment on are to be in line with His owner’s manual, the Bible.
But the current church climate has decided to treat God’s instruction book as a list of suggestions, not commands for obedience. We’ve reinvented Jesus as some sort of buddy, sobriety partner, or coach…anything but Lord and King. As long as His ways coordinate with our desire for happiness, we’re glad to oblige.
But the thousands of martyrs through the years would have a different stance on that. They’ve watched their children sliced in half, their wives and sisters raped, their homes burned, and then faced torture and execution because they refused to compromise the words of God’s book. After reading about the centuries of horrible persecution Christians have suffered, it’s hard to be sympathetic with the west’s version of so-called Christianity that crumbles under any pressure that threatens something it wants.
It’s so much easier to set the Book aside, reinvent a more tolerant Jesus, and declare with joy and conviction that we are “right with God.” The woman who sleeps with her boyfriend every time he’s in town…the man who tosses his wife aside for a younger version...the alcoholic who compartmentalizes his addiction instead of attacking it...the couple seething with bitterness and unforgiveness...the teenager who parties every weekend like she’s Satan’s key apprentice…all declare with boldness that they know they are “right with God.” After all, that one worship song gives them goosebumps and they have Bibles on their nightstands.
The problem with this claim is that when the Holy Spirit moves into a repentant heart, He brings His convictions with Him. When one of His children moves willfully toward disobedience, He comes after us with a heavenly two by four. When we choose to disobey God’s clearly stated commands, Hebrews 12 is clear that our Father disciplines us in a way that jerks us back into line. If we are not being disciplined for willful sin, that passage states very intolerantly that we are not His.
At no time during our disobedience will God confirm to us that we are “right” with Him. That is not God’s voice that we hear whispering, “I understand. I only wants you to be happy.” Sadly, though, if we are not saturating ourselves in His word, then we cannot distinguish His voice from a thousand other deceiving voices. We harden that disobedient part of our hearts, pray to the reinvented Jesus, and bask in the warmth of Satan’s sunlamp.
So how can we know that we are truly “right with God” if we can’t rely on our feelings? We lay a transparency of our lives over His book and see if they match. Of course, there will be slight variations because we sin unintentionally every day. But if there are clear commands we are choosing to violate as an ongoing lifestyle, then we are not “right with God” no matter how warm and cozy we’ve decided we feel. The soulish thrill of sin is a clever substitute for the true peace of being right with God, and the less we study and apply the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), the less likely we are to recognize the deception.
For further study, see Romans 6, the book of 1 John, Matthew 7:13-27, and Luke 14.