Modern Christianity tells believers they are accepted by God no matter what. “God loves you just the way you are.”
There is, no doubt, truth to this sentiment, but not when it is taken to mean that God doesn’t care what you do or that God is OK with everything you do. He isn’t. Sin is bad. Always has been and always will be.
So when a guy brings up verses like 2 Corinthians 5:9 that says Paul labored so he might be acceptable to God, or that we are to lay down our lives as a living sacrifice to be acceptable to God or that we should serve righteousness, peace and joy to be acceptable to God, people don’t quite know what to do.
The response is generally to label me a legalist, a denier of grace or other besmirching cliches. In reality, I’ve just read verses to you!
The fact that people only want to hear select verses is nothing new. Most theological camps are clearly defined by what verses they’ve agreed to ignore.
The classic comeback to raising the subject that everything you do as a believer is not acceptable to God, and this may, in fact, mean you are not acceptable to God, is to quote Ephesians 1:6, “Nu-uh, you’re wrong Christ has made me accepted in the beloved. I can do what I want and God accepts me, man.”
The problem with using that snippet of Scripture is that the word “accepted” there is a very poor translation. The actual word means to “be graced,” or to have bestowed. The verse is about grace and how it’s been bestowed to us. Why the King James goes with accepted in the beloved, I really don’t know, but other translations don’t go there.
It is true that a true believer is in Christ and is secure there by faith. But this reality does not mean that God loves a believer’s sin. On the contrary, Paul labored to do what was acceptable to God. The fact Paul has to labor to do what is acceptable means it is quite easy to do what is not acceptable.
Our desire to elevate grace, to minimize good works, and generally get us off the hook for everything remotely serious, has destroyed our ability to hear the plain words of Scripture. We all lose.