Of all the questions asked of me by my Muslim friends, this one is very high on the list:
“If Jesus died for your sins and you are forgiven, can you do whatever you want – knowing that you will still go to heaven?”
I believe the Bible itself answers this question very clearly:
#1 – Many people who call themselves “Christians” are simply not Christians. They have not truly repented. If they had, there would be change in their lives: change in their attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. The Bible says you become a “new creation” – a new person – when you invite Jesus to take over control of your life and receive his gift of forgiveness.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Matthew 7:16 – “You will know them by their fruits.”
1 John 1:6 – “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
1 John 2:3,4 – “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
#2 – When you have genuinely accepted Jesus as the Savior of your sins, you want to live for him, obey him, follow him. Your heart is filled with gratitude which overflows into a desire to not do “whatever you want” but to do “whatever He wants.” You just want to please Him and live for Him!
2 Corinthians 5:9 – “we make it our goal to please him.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
#3 – The primary motive in avoiding sin as a Christian is not fear of hell but love for Jesus and for Almighty God.
John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
2 Corinthians 5:14 – “Christ’s love compels us.”
1 John 4:19 – “We love Him because He first loved us.”
#4 – While fear of hell is not a Christian’s motive for pure and righteous living, a healthy and reverential fear of appearing before God the Judge after death (to judge our works, not our sins) is a solid Biblical motivator.
1 Peter 1:17 – “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as ‘foreigners in the land.’”
1 John 2:28 – “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
#5 – When a person commits their life to Jesus and begins to follow him, there is a change in the heart. The Bible actually says you gain a “new heart.” There actually takes place something like a spiritual “heart transplant!”
Ezekiel 36:26 – “I will give you a new heart.”
#6 – After a person becomes “born again,” a new power (grace) comes into their lives – a new power to resist sin.
Titus 2:11, 12 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
When Jesus comes into your heart following true repentance, there is true change. Jesus himself called it being “born again” (The Holy Injeel, The Gospel According To John 3:3). For some people, this change is virtually overnight. They stop swearing, gossiping, envying, boasting, lying, rebelling against parents, stealing, drinking, drugging, and engaging in immorality right away. In essence, they stop living for themselves and begin living for the Lord. This gives them new joy, new freedom, new purpose. They feel alive for the first time in their lives.
For others, the change is slow but sure - like a butterfly coming out of a cacoon. Old sinful habits like those just mentioned die hard but they do eventually die for one who sincerely follows Jesus. It takes time. Years. And it is a battle – a real and constant battle! A battle against 3 adversaries: this world’s anti-God system, our old desires which creep back in, and our adversary the devil.
To all my Muslim friends, please see from these Biblical truths that we who are really Christians can’t just “do whatever we want” after we receive the gift of forgiveness. This would go against everything we believe! Do Christians still sin? Yes, we do. Of course. We fail every day. But generally speaking, the forgiveness we have experienced actually motivates us to forsake sin and live for God out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us.
As one of our old songs of worship says so well regarding this topic:
“. . .love so amazing – so divine – demands my soul, my life, my all.”