Sometimes well-intentioned Bible teachers say pretty stupid things. When I was a teen I heard more than one preacher say something to the effect of, “If you’re not going to follow Christ, you should go out there and live it up—party all the time, get as much pleasure as you can.” This never sat well with me and, unfortunately, at least one guy I went to high school took this advice. Those who said such things were well-intentioned. Their logic was, “If you don’t follow Jesus, you will go to hell. Since your eternity will be ruined, you might as well have as much fun in this life as possible.” There is a certain perverse logic there, but it is completely wrong. Isaiah 48:17b-18:
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea."
While part of this statement is true based on God’s covenant with Israel, I believe it is also true because of the law of the farm—what you sow you will reap. The truth is that the best life you can have on this earth is one that conforms as much as possible to God’s commands and God’s ways. This is because God is the creator and his moral laws have consequences for obedience and for disobedience. The law of gravity works whether you believe in God or not; it works whether you believe in gravity or not. So it is with God’s moral law; those who break God’s laws only break themselves trying to defy it.
It isn’t possible for an unbeliever to really obey God’s word, but you and I both know people who don’t believe in Christ but they do not kill (or hate others), do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie, do not abuse and mistreat others as a general rule of life. None of us can be perfectly obedient and no unbeliever can earn credit with God for whatever obedience they do have to God’s word. But insofar as they do obey God’s laws, they will not suffer the consequences in this life that disobedience always brings. It is always better to obey God than to follow the sinful ways of our nature, our culture, or the enemy.