Today Fetter Lane examines an important question: if, through faith, we are imputed with Christ's perfect righteousness then can we live in sin? In other words, since we aren't saved by our good works then does it matter how we live?
We again turn to John Wesley's Sermons, # 40, "The Lord our Righteousness" for guidance. He mentions that some may use the excuse of liberty for license:
In the meantime what we are afraid of is this: — lest any should use the phrase, 'The righteousness of Christ,' or, 'The righteousness of Christ is imputed to me,' as a cover for his unrighteousness. We have known this done a thousand times. A man has been reproved, suppose for drunkenness: 'O', said he, 'I pretend to no righteousness of my own; Christ is my righteousness.' Another has been told, that 'the extortioner, the unjust, shall not inherit the kingdom of God:' He replies, with all assurance, 'I am unjust in myself, but I have a spotless righteousness in Christ.' And thus, though a man be as far from the practice as from the tempers of a Christian; though he neither has the mind which was in Christ, nor in any respect walks as he walked; yet he has armour of proof against all conviction, in what he calls the 'righteousness of Christ.'"
Any regular reader of this blog probably can guess what Wesley's reaction to such a notion would be. John Wesley hits the brakes as he continues to preach:
"It is the seeing so many deplorable instances of this kind, which makes us sparing in the use of these expressions. And I cannot but call upon all of you who use them frequently, and beseech you in the name of God, our Saviour, whose you are, and whom you serve, earnestly to guard all that hear you against this accursed abuse of them. O warn them (it may be they will hear your voice) against 'continuing in sin that grace may abound!' Warn them against making 'Christ the minister of sin;' against making void that solemn decree of God, 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,' by a vain imagination of being holy in Christ! O warn them that if they remain unrighteous, the righteousness of Christ will profit them nothing! Cry aloud, (is there not a cause?) that for this very end the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, that 'the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us;' and that we may 'live soberly, religiously, and godly, in this present world.'"
Any "faith" that doesn't produce good works isn't Christian faith. No, we're not saved by our good works--only our faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. However, wonderful Christian fruit inevitably will grow from such a vibrant and real faith.
Never forget the Apostle John's line of demarcation between the saints and the sinners:
"Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." (1Jo 3.7-10 ESV)
I've never found a way around such plain statements by John.