My life prior to the day I came to Christ was a train wreck of sin, addiction, and self-centeredness. I have written some of the details about this phase of my existence previously and won’t recount them again here (but feel free to read through my older blogs, maybe start with This is Real). In Luke 7, when the woman comes in and anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume, he uses the opportunity for this teaching moment: “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much.” (Luke 7:47) I can tell you that I truly identify with this, for I know I have been forgiven a lot. I love Jesus because he has forgiven me for so much!
But what, then, about my life after that day I came to Christ? Was I suddenly perfect, never to sin again? The Apostle John wrote these words: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (1 John 1:8) And certainly, this is the case for me. In fact, in many ways my life after I came to Christ could also be described as a train wreck. While my conversion had a profound effect on me – the change was surely dramatic – but I could not escape the very thing that caused my need for Jesus in the first place: self!
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul described himself as the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). This is a Bible verse with which I can truly identify. I have been a Christian for nearly 30 years and I am still sometimes surprised God hasn’t just cast me into the lake of fire. But that is just the thing: when our dependence on Christ is genuine, we can’t be so bad as to out-sin God’s grace. Paul wrote these words in Romans 7, verses 21-25: “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
So what can we understand from this? Indeed, this has been something I have struggled to comprehend. Let me take a shot at summarizing: when we are saved through grace, and we are forgiven much, the Holy Spirit comes into our very soul and we start to be recreated. This is very well-stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” So at the moment of our salvation we start a journey called “sanctification” in which we grow more and more Christ-like. We seek His truth in the Bible and we start making earnest effort to please him by the way we live, but we are not yet perfect.
I suspect for some, this journey of sanctification proceeds more quickly than it does for others. I wish I could profess that my journey took the fast track, but it did not. My battle with self-will often sent me spiraling backwards, and there surely have been times in my Christian walk where my life may not have looked that much different than the unsaved. This is something for which I am certainly not proud, quite the opposite; but it reminds me daily just how much I have been forgiven and just how deep and wide the grace of God truly is.
This principle is also summarized nicely in Paul’s prayer for our spiritual growth: “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)
And this grace of God can be yours, too. If you are already a believer, I encourage you to study the Word of God daily, to regularly attend a strong, Bible-preaching church, and to be active with other believers in a small group or Bible study setting. And if you have not yet made the decision to place your faith in Jesus, why not do so right here, right now. Just admit to God you are a sinner, and ask for his forgiveness. It is that simple!
The Bible tells us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart!
May God bless you richly as you seek Him. For all those who earnestly seek, shall find.
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