Today’s post is a guest post by Lee Ann – a 30 year old Christian single woman. I’m so thankful for her love for Christ and for single women. I am excited to have her on board and hope to get to share many more of her posts in the future.
Have you ever made a mistake (or two, or ten, or one hundred), and thought that your whole life would be ruined because of it? If someone told you about a sin that they committed and then that they felt like they were now going to endure perpetual punishment by God, what would you say? If you are like me, you would explain that this is not how God works. You would likely explain both His mercy and His grace. You would probably explain the difference in consequences and punishment. You would be kind. You would long for the other person to know how much Christ loves them.
Why, then, do we sometimes refuse to believe these truths when we are the sinner being referenced? We love to tell others how His grace covers every blemish and that once covered in His blood, their sins are washed away. We believe this will full authority. Until… we messed up. Then we start to doubt whether His grace can cover THIS sin when we have been THAT girl. And, if we doubt the reach of His grace, we certainly don’t want to believe His mercy can reach us.
God’s grace is often defined as us getting something good that we do not deserve (forgiveness, spiritual blessings and restored relationship with God), and God’s mercy is often defined as us not getting something bad that we do deserve (punishment and condemnation).
I believe these definitions are simple yet profound. I am a sinner, born in a fallen world (Romans 3:23). What I deserve is hell, nothing more and nothing less. What I get is eternity with my King, when I make Jesus the Lord and Savior of my life (John 3:16). (To receive Jesus as LORD means that I place Him in charge of my life from this point on, not myself. I trust Him and obey Him and fully surrender to His wisdom, His will, His way and His plans. I lay down my own wisdom, my plans, my desires, my will, my weakness, my human wisdom and give up all that I am and all that I have to Him. Then I get to receive all that He is and all that He has.)
Most of us can accept this, fully aware of the beauty of both the gift and the Giver. (There are some who struggle with accepting forgiveness, but this post assumes one fully embraces God’s forgiveness) What we struggle to accept is His mercy. God is merciful because God is good, always. (Psalm 86:5) I have heard it said that God favors mercy over wrath. I do not mean to get into a theological debate, but I do believe this is true. We are not to doubt God’s goodness.
When we are fully forgiven, sin no longer has bondage over us (Micah 7:8-20). God does not hold this over us, threatening to recall our sins any time we do not meet His standards. He does not allow the enemy to hold our sins over our head. God alone has authority over our salvation and eternity.
CONSEQUENCES VS. PUNISHMENT
Are there consequences to our sin? Yes.
Do not confuse consequence and punishment.
- Consequences allow us to learn from our mistakes.
- Punishments make us suffer for our mistakes.
Christ suffered the punishment for our sins and absorbed all of God’s wrath against our every sinful thought and deed (1 Peter 3:18). Once Christ is the Lord of my life, I do not have to suffer the punishment and wrath of God for my sins. Jesus’ bloodshed was sufficient. Praise God!
Consequences are a result of an action; punishments are a reaction to an action. I was taught by a wise manger to learn to act instead of react. If my child burns his finger playing with matches that were off limits, I would not burn his toe to punish him. However, I could not take away the blister, the pain, and the scar of the burn. I might choose not to ground him, but I cannot take the burn from him. I can help him with his wound. I can clean the wound, take him to the doctor to be checked out, put ointment on it for him, and bandage it. It may leave a scar, but I wouldn’t stop him from playing an instrument in the band a few years down the road because he burned his finger years before. ( I do not have a child, but this is how I would feel.)
If you have sinned, you most certainly need to bring your sin, tears, and repentance to the cross. If you have sinned by having sex outside of marriage, you are not forever punished. Once Christ has forgiven you, you have a clean slate. However, you may have an STD, a man who chooses not to marry someone who did not protect her purity, or you may have a child out of wedlock. However, God did not cause you to have an STD. God did not cause you to become pregnant. These are consequences of our actions.
Punishment would be to ban you from marriage, which He does not do. (If you have been married and are divorced, I do think you should consider scripture and be in deep prayer before considering remarriage to another man.) We still have free will. God does not force us to love Him and He does not force us to obey His commands. He also does not force us to bear punishment for our own sins, and does not force us to face condemnation. (Romans 8:1-5) THAT is exciting!!
Whether or not you marry is not a question of whether God is blessing you or punishing you.
I believe that He has a perfect will for each of our lives. However, He is not dangling the carrot of marriage and asking us to run, knowing that we will never get there. He asks us to be content in all circumstances and to realize that marriage ultimately does not matter in the question of our eternity. He does not love some ladies more than others and choose to bless them with a husband. Those of us who are single have not angered God and therefore He is choosing to withhold a gift from us. Singleness and marriage are both precious gifts. His purpose is to bring Him glory, in whatever way that may be.
Most of us could choose to marry someone tomorrow, though I do not think this is wise. However, if we did, He would not love us any more or less. He would not bless us any more or less. There would, most likely, be consequences. We may realize that we did not choose wisely, but it would not be a punishment because we chose marriage. It would be the consequence for creating our own path.
God loves you so deeply and personally. I pray that we all understand the depth of His grace and His mercy. I pray that we understand that Christ took our punishment, (when we receive the gift of His grace and mercy AND commit to live in full submission to Him, turning from our sin in mourning over it and turning to Christ), though we will suffer consequences for our sin.