He actually went as far as to say that because I believe in the grace of the cross that must mean that my God will be happy if I remain in "grace" without real changes in my behavior. Which is interesting because Paul received the same questions when he preached on grace:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Now, I know that when speaking to a non-believer in Christ and the authority of the Bible their will be a bit of an unwinnable war between us. So, what I am not trying to do is win them to my side, but explain why I believe that it truly is a big deal to understand a life lived out because of grace instead of a life lived out to receive grace. One is the gospel and the other is historical and contemporary religion. There is a vast difference and it is shown quite clearly in the Scriptures.
Christ tells us this:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3
These statements are a big deal. Ones that I found very hard to understand while dealing with being a religious person hoping that my good works would at some point catch the attention of my Creator.
The real understanding of the cross and it's abundance is not trickery or some sort of mind games. It is real and one that is derived from the Spirit opening up, not only the mind, but the affections of the heart to the One who died for me. The outcome of this affection comes true obedience to the Christ, not some sort of obligation to pay him back in some sort of quasi payment plan.
We actually see this happen in real life as well which prove that this obedience out of gratitude and love is not mere mind games and trickery, but real obedience that isn't burdensome.
Why is it that God sets up pictures for us through our lives that depict what a real relationship with him is like? Think of these. Christians are called the bride of Christ, pointing to marriage and God is also called our Father, pointing to the structure of family.
When thinking of marriage and family, true obedience coming out of love is always distinguished from a mere obligation to be paid because one is a spouse or a child.
When thinking of my marriage, I do those things that please my wife because I love her. I do these things out of gratitude for her love for me and our close relationship through the knitting of souls in marriage. I will at times do the dishes, buy her flowers, take her out, clean up after myself, make the bed, etc. not because this is an obligation in marriage, but because I love her. I want to please her, I want to make her happy and do those things which bring her pleasure. These things are not burdensome, but are done because of my deep rooted love for my wife. I have asked my wife, "If I cheated on you, would you divorce me?" She responded, "although it would be hard, I would do all I could to stay married and honor our marriage and God." Now, do I go off cheating on her to take advantage of the situation? Or, do I understand how much I love her and how much she loves me and honor her?
The same is with Christ. I don't do good things because if I don't he won't love me. I do the things of Christ because of the great love he displayed for my sake on the cross and the resurrection. This is not trickery of the mind, but a correct understanding of the gospel. If it was mere trickery, then what is the difference between a husband who does things for his wife's pleasure out of love and the one who does those things so the wife won't divorce him and take half of his money?
The same can be seen within the structure of the family. As a parent, I don't want mere obedience, no parent truly does. Now, is it nice when our kids are obedient instead of unruly? Yes, but does this prove that they love us? Not at all. You can have two kids that do the same chores with perfection and one could be doing it because they love you and the other could be doing it to stay out of trouble or with the hope of a greater payment in allowance, treats, privileges, etc. And, for the parent, this is a huge deal. When my son does things for my wife because he wants to see her happy, even in little things like making his bed, it is a vast difference if he is doing them so he can get ice cream. One shows a deep understanding of love for his mom, the other shows that he is merely doing the chore to receive payment. The difference is like having a wife that maintains the house because she loves you and a maid that comes in once a week and barely knows you and could care less about you (besides receiving a paycheck).
This is the same with Christ. God doesn't want obedient children that just want to stay out of trouble (hell or judgment) or to receive God's gifts of a good life (which may or may not happen). God desires for the person's heart to be changed in a loving understanding of the depths of redemption that was paid on their behalf. He isn't using trickery of the mind, but is changing the heart to be knitted to his own. This is why when someone understands this love of God, God's commandments are not burdensome. Because God's love and approval of me, has nothing to do with my obedience, but of Christ's obedience.
The proof is found directly in the Bible. Just look at David vs the Pharisees. To be honest, the Pharisees were far superior to David in outward works. David was an adulterer, murderer, depressed and sort of skitzophrenic in his relationship with God. But David was a man that was said to be a man after God's own heart. Why? Because he knew that God was his redemption and although he tried his hardest to live that out, he knew himself to be a sinner in need of help from his Father and future Bridegroom.
On the other hand, you have the Pharisees that were close to perfect on the outside, but Christ called them white washed tombs and sons of the devil. Why? Because they did their works out of obligation for payment of eternal life and God's gifts, not because they loved God.
This isn't trickery. This isn't some sort of mind game. This is true biblical love that is shown in God's work on our behalf, so that we could display his work to others.
King David puts it this way:
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
But, when you think of this: didn’t God say that burnt offerings and sin offering were required? But notice that David says he does these things not to earn God’s favor but does it because he delights to do God’s will, because he loves God.
On the other hand, you have the Pharisees who did good works for payment from God. Jesus had this to say to them:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ”
Jesus wants your heart, not merely your works. But know this: out of a heart that loves God and desires him most, good works will come.
If there is a difference in those relationships that we deal with daily, then we must ask why is there a difference and where did it come from? It came from the God who created us for his glory to do his will because he first loved us.
This isn't some mind game that is made up. This isn't trickery. This is real obedience to One that I love and adore. To him, that makes all the difference, to the homeless guy who gets fed, it doesn't matter...he just wants food.
So, although it looks like the same thing to someone who does not know God, they don't know the heart of the man. So, although two people can be doing the same good works and both look holy, one of them could be doing it out of a loving obedience and the other out of obligation for payment.