My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. 4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:1-6
Some people have a very cozy relationship with God. It’s called easy-believism, cheap grace, or cozy faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer railed against it in his seminal work, The Cost of Discipleship. He was particularly distressed that so many people who professed Christ involved themselves in the Nazi movement in Germany, following Hitler rather than Christ. Wikipedia summarizes Bonhoeffer’s thoughts this way:
Cheap grace, Bonhoeffer says, is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” … In contrast to cheap grace,
“costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'”
I would offer a slightly nuanced expression of the last part of the equation, more explicitly along the lines of John’s thoughts here. Hearts that are broken and contrite over sin will also desire to follow Jesus. He is our righteousness, the champion of our faith, the fulfillment of all that God has designed us to be. Jesus calls sinners to follow him. He forgives us, looks past our sins, and sets us on a higher path.
Most Christians I know have a desire to follow Jesus. They do not wish to sin. They believe it is wrong to follow the ways of the world, and want to follow Jesus. But those same folks, along with me, fail. We sin. We turn aside from the path of true life. Thank God we have an advocate who pleads our cause before the Father. Jesus’ plea is simple: “I died for them,” Jesus says, “have mercy!”
When we receive Jesus’ call to follow him, we are moving toward the heavenly Father. We are embracing his grace. We are forgiven. That is an every-day calling, a way of life, and moves us from a cozy faith to a vibrant and living way of life.