Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 1, 2015
A poor sinner saved by grace
Some Christians have an identity problem. The image they have of themselves as followers of Jesus bears little resemblance to New Testament Christians.
Asked if they are Christians, some will reply, “I am trying to be a Christian but you know I am only human.” Others may answer, “I am only a poor sinner saved by grace.”
Such answers probably spring from a desire to be humble. But this is an unfortunate understanding of humility. The problem lies in the idea of “trying.” A Jew does not “try” to be a Jew. He is either a Jew or he is not.
The Christians who thinks of themselves as “poor sinners saved by grace” believe that this explains why they are not perfect as Jesus was. The problem with this way of thinking is that it leaves no room for the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit.
God raised Jesus from the dead so that Christians could receive from his indwelling Spirit the power to live as his disciples. God does not expect us to “try” to live as his disciples. He knows that we cannot do so in our own strength. He provides the power when we provide the willingness.
My neighbor’s children gave him a new riding lawnmower on his 80th birthday. Proudly my friend bragged about his mower having an 18.5 horsepower engine. We chatted about how lawnmowers have changed from the old days when we supplied the muscle power to operate our “push” mowers.
My friend has never tried to cut his grass by pushing his lawnmower across the yard. He cranks up that powerful engine and lets the engine do what it was designed to do. He uses the power available to him. Instead of trying hard to be Christians, we need to do the same thing – tap into the power available to us, the power of the Holy Spirit. His power alone enables us to live as genuine disciples of Jesus.
I call on our friend Paul to verify this idea. For example, in the eighth chapter of Romans Paul explains clearly our identity as Christians. God raised Jesus from the dead so that he could send the Holy Spirit to us. The purpose of the resurrection was not to get us all to heaven but to allow the Holy Spirit to set us free from the power of sin and to put our lives under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Get your Bible and look at Romans, chapter eight, in the NLT, the New Living Translation. You may want to use a highlighter to mark key phrases. Observe how Paul describes Christians:
We “belong to Christ Jesus.”
The power of the Spirit has “freed” us “from the power of sin.”
“God destroyed sin’s control over us.”
We “no longer follow our sinful nature by instead follow the Spirit.”
We are “controlled by the Holy Spirit” and “think about things that please the Spirit.”
We are “not controlled by our sinful nature.”
The Spirit of Christ is “living within us.”
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us.”
We are “led by the Spirit of God.”
We should “behave like God’s very own children.”
These phrases provide us a beautiful window into the true identity of Christians. In light of this how can any of us dare describe ourselves as “only a poor sinner saved by grace”? Of course we are sinners! All have sinned. And we cannot save ourselves. We are saved by grace, not our own merit or anything we can do on our own. But the sinner who repents and is saved becomes a child of God set free from the power of sin! Such a person is so much more than “a poor sinner saved by grace.”
God does expect sinners saved by grace to behave like Jesus. He expects us to live under the control of the Holy Spirit so that we are no longer dogged daily by our sinful nature. We are indeed sinners but by the power of God we are free from the control of sin. We can choose not to sin.
As God’s children we are controlled by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s influence produces in us the character of Christ. Though imperfectly, we do begin to do what Jesus did and treat people like Jesus treated people. Because the Spirit lives within us, we are no longer slaves to sin. We have power, the Spirit’s power, to stay out of the gutter and fix our minds on spiritual things.
We are free to surrender our guilt, exchanging it for the sweet assurance that by the grace of God we are forgiven, reconciled to God. We are no longer servants of fleshly desires; we are now servants of Jesus Christ.
Repeatedly Paul speaks of Christians living “in Christ.” It is a key New Testament concept. The New Living Bible changes it slightly so that Romans 8:1 reads, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” That is a powerful idea – We belong to Christ! As an unrepentant sinner I did not belong to Christ. I belonged to Satan. I was a child of the devil. I was blind, lost in the darkness of my self-will, consumed by the desire to have my own way.
Then I met Christ. I was saved by grace. He set me free from my past, breaking the chains that shackled me. Satan controls me no longer. I have a new Master because I am a new person with new loves, new desires and new ambitions. Now there is no constant struggle to be a Christian for the Spirit gives me the blessed assurance of my salvation and affirms my new identity as a child of God! This assurance frees me from ever again thinking of myself as “only a poor sinner saved by Christ.”
Every day I remind myself that I belong to Christ. I belong to Him by faith through grace. Belonging to Christ means daily I surrender to his control. Yielded to him, the Spirit gives me power to overcome the pull of my sinful nature and to walk where the Spirit directs me.
It all comes down to this: Does the Holy Spirit have the power to break the hold of sin in our lives and set us free to live as redeemed children of God? I believe He does. The key is our relationship to Christ. When we truly belong to Christ, the Holy Spirit will give us all the power we need for holy living. Until then the enormous power of the Holy Spirit will remain available but unreleased in our lives. God forbid that we should neglect the greatest resource available to us. + + +