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"Do whatever you want to do"

By Gary F. Zeolla

The doctrine of eternal security states that once someone has been saved by faith in Jesus Christ they cannot lose their salvation. They are eternally secure in God's grace. But over the years I have received numerous emails from people who disagree with this doctrine.

Their main objection generally goes something like the following: "If Christians are 'once saved always saved' then it doesn't matter what they do. They will remain saved no matter how much they sin, so they might as well do whatever they want to do. It doesn't matter."

The simple answer to this objection would be, when people truly saved, due to their regenerated natures, their innermost desires would be to live a life pleasing to God. So "doing whatever you want" would mean avoiding sin and pursuing righteousness.

But such a simple answer never seems to satisfy the objectors. So I will try to expand on this response in this article by commenting on several pertinent Scripture passages.

1John 3:9

Every one having been begotten from God is not practicing sin, because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to be sinning, because he has been begotten from God.

I am quoting this verse from my own translation, the Analytical-Literal Translation, as it brings out the import of the present tense verbs used in the verse. This tense usage indicates that John is referring to ongoing actions and not one time acts. If he had been referring to the latter he would have used the aorist tense.

So John is not saying that a Christian cannot ever commit an act of sin. This would contradicts what John himself wrote in 1John 1:8 ("If we claim, 'We do not have sin,' we lead ourselves astray [fig., deceive ourselves], and the truth is not in us"). And most any Christian will confess that at some time since their conversion they have sinned.

However, what I am trying to explain is that when true Christians do sin, the Holy Spirit will convict them. This conviction will take the form of intense guilt. Christians can try to ignore this guilt, but the Holy Spirit will not let them go. He will continue to convict sinning Christians until they finally repent and turn from their sin. And the remembrance of the pain of the guilt and resultant struggle will be an "incentive" for the repentant Christian to not to sin again. So in the future, what they will "want to do" is to avoid that sin.

2Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, [he is] a new creation; the old [things] passed away, look!, all [things] have become new.

If words mean anything, what Paul is saying here is that when people are converted, they are new people, with new desires, new wants. They are changed; they are not the same people that they were before. So when these "new creations" do what ever they want to do, they will not be doing the same things that they were doing before.

So the person who used to enjoy going out and getting drunk every Friday night will no longer enjoy getting drunk. It simply will no longer be a desire. So if you tell that person he can "do whatever he wants to do" his first thought will NOT be "Great, that means I can go ahead and get drunk." This will not be in his thoughts as it is no longer a desire of his.

Now, let me be clear that I am not referring to the alcoholic, the person addicted to drinking. In such a case, God just might remove any desire for drinking from the person immediately at conversion. But in many other cases, that old desire will still be there. However, there will be a more prominent desire to stop drinking.

In other words, while the alcoholic might had gotten drunk before without any remorse or regret, he will no longer be able to do so. In fact, he will now realize the self-destructive nature of his behavior, and his innermost desire will be to stop drinking. So while he might still on occasion "fall off of the wagon," each time he does it will bring on a renewed desired to avoid the behavior in the future. The person might still struggle with alcoholic temptations, but overall his desire will be to "dry out" and to serve God.

1Corinthians 6:9-11

6:9 You* know that unrighteous [ones] will not inherit [the] kingdom of God, do you* not? Stop being led astray [fig., being deceived]; neither sexual sinners nor idolaters nor adulterers nor passive partners in male-male sex nor active partners in male-male sex

6:10 nor covetous [ones] nor thieves nor drunkards nor slanderers [or, abusive persons] nor swindlers will inherit [the] kingdom of God.

6:11 And these some of you* were! _But_ you* yourselves were washed [or, purified], _but_ you* were sanctified, _but_ you* were justified [or, declared righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [or, by] the Spirit of our God!

The important sentence in this passage is "And these some of you* were!" Some of the Corinthians USED TO BE sexual sinners, idolaters, etc, but they no longer are! Why? Because God has changed them. They are born-gain, new creations in Christ.

So the person who used to be a sexual sinner no longer is. Now again, this is not to say that the changed person will not be tempted by an illicit sexual encounter, but the innermost desire of the person will be to not engage in sexually immoral acts. And if he does succumb to temptation, there will be intense guilt afterwards, and he will be led to repentance. And in the future, he will take steps to avoid repeating the sin. The "passing pleasure" of the sin will not be worth the agony of the guilt and the brokenness of the repentance that he knows will follow.

Now, the most controversial area of this verse might be the reference to homosexual behavior. But it should be noted that I translated the pertinent words in such a way as to try to bring out that Paul is referring to behavior and not necessary a person's "orientation."

In other words, a saved homosexual might still have homosexual tendencies, but his changed nature will drive him to avoid engaging in homosexual acts. And again, if he succumbs to temptation, the Holy Spirit will convict him and lead him to repentance. I discuss this subject in much more detail in the article "Homosexuals" in 1Corinthians 6:9, so I won't pursue the subject further here.

But the important point here is that when people are saved, they are changed. They are no longer the same people as they were before. So when they "do whatever they want to do" it will not mean to engage in the acts that formerly defined them. They are now defined by their new natures, which is the desire to live for God.

Romans 7:19-25

7:19 For what good I desire, I do not do, _but_ what evil I do not desire, this I practice.

7:20 But if what _I_ do not desire, this I do, [it is] no longer _I_ [who] produces it, _but_ the sin dwelling in me.

7:21 Consequently, I find the law to me, the one desiring to be doing the good, that with me the evil is present.

7:22 For I delight in the Law of God according to my inner being.

7:23 But I discover a different law in my body parts, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity by the law of the sin that [is] in my members.

7:24 [What] a wretched person I [am]! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?

7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord; so consequently, _I_ myself on the one hand with the mind serve as a slave to the Law of God, on the other hand with the flesh, [the] law of sin.

This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. Some Christians believe that in this passage Paul is expressing his pre-conversion experiences with trying to be saved by living according to the Old Testament Law. Those who hold this view simply cannot believe that the apostle could be having such a struggle with sin as a believer.

But many others, such as yours truly, believe that in this passage Paul is expressing his post-conversion struggle with sin. And if this is the case, it might appear that this passage contradicts some of what I have said above, but in reality it perfectly exemplifies it.

The key verse is verse 22, "For I delight in the Law of God according to my inner being." Paul is telling us that his innermost desire is to live according to God's standards. He expresses this thought throughout by stating that what he truly desires is to do good and to avoid evil.

So his innermost desires are "good." He truly desires to please God, to live for Him, and to avoid evil. But the temptations of the flesh overwhelmed these desires at times and he sins. But when he does sin, there is guilt, intense guilt that simply cannot be ignored. It's so intense, that he cries out, "[What] a wretched person I [am]! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death?"

So if you told Paul to "do whatever you want to do" what he would want to do is to do good and to avoid evil. He would not see this as a license to sin. If anything, he would see it as a license to be able to avoid sin and live for God. That is what "doing whatever your want to do" would mean to Paul.

The most important point here is, if the person who claims to be saved can practice sin, continue in sin, sin repeatedly, without being driven to cry out "[What] a wretched person I [am]" then there is something seriously wrong with that person's conversion experience. The true Christian simply cannot sin without a struggle with guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

What is the first thing that comes to mind if someone tells you that you can "do whatever you want to do?" If you claim to be a Christian and you immediately think of some sin, something is wrong. If you are able to sin without feeling guilt, something is wrong. If you are able to practice sin, to sin repeatedly without some kind of struggle over what you're doing, something is terribly wrong.

What is wrong is that your conversion experience did not change you. You are not a "new creation" in Christ. But a truly Biblical conversion will change you. It must change you. And if you have experienced such a change, when you hear, "do whatever you want to do" you will think about living for God, doing what pleases Him, and this will include avoiding sin. It simply will not mean to you to sin.

If the reader cannot understand this, then may I seriously suggest you need to get on your knees before God. Cry out to Him. Ask Him to change you as only He can. And when He does, then "doing whatever you want to do" will mean something totally different to you than it does now.

What it will mean is living a life that is pleasing to God. And then you know that true joy does not come from sinning but from having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ."


All Scripture references are from The Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Copyright 1999-2001 by Gary F. Zeolla.

"Do whatever you want to do." Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).


Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above article first appeared in the Free Darkness to Light Newsletter.
It was posted on this site September 28, 2003.

Calvinism - Eternal Security and Salvation
Calvinism (Reformed Theology)

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