The good news of Jesus Christ is that a solution has arrived for my problem of sin. Religion seeks to treat the symptoms of my sins: to help me stop doing bad things. Jesus treats the disease behind the symptoms: my evil heart. He does this by dying on the cross in my place. The punishment I deserve for my sin is placed on Jesus at the cross. The death penalty I deserve is taken by Jesus in my place. I am then forgiven my sins. Can there be any better news than this? Jesus has taken away the punishment my sin deserves.
But Jesus also rose from the dead and poured out the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is now transforming me day by day to become more and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus is changing me to be what God wants, to have God’s desires, to hate my sin, to live God’s way to please him (Colossians 1:9). The good news of Jesus Christ is that God is dealing with my very nature: with my evil heart, my sin, and not just my sins. God is dealing with the disease of sin in me, not just the symptoms.
But I am still sinful. I will not be fully changed into perfection until Jesus returns (Philippians 3:12). What then are some of the implications of my still being sinful?
First, I need to understand my own conversion. I was a spiritual corpse. I was dead in my sins (Ephesians 2:1). Dead people don’t bring themselves to life. I could not regenerate myself or bring myself to conversion. It seemed like I chose God and turned to him. Indeed the Bible commands that I repent and turn to God (Zechariah 1:4; Mark 1:15). But I am utterly sinful. How can a person dead in their sins turn to God?
Indeed I was running away from God. I had no desire for God. I was running as fast as I could in the opposite direction. We mustn’t minimise sin. God’s pass mark is 100%. Every inclination of the thoughts of my heart is only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5). There is no little secret corner of goodness in my heart that God can fan into flame. We are utterly sinful. I could never choose God and turn to him. I was spiritually dead in my sins.
That is why it is God who saved me. I did not save myself. Did I turn to God so that God then gave me his Holy Spirit? That is impossible. I was dead in my sins. No, Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and poured out his Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). It is the Holy Spirit that drew me to God in repentance and faith. No one can come to God unless God draws him (John 6:44). God puts his Spirit in people to draw them to himself. God turns us to God. We don’t turn ourselves to God. God gives us new birth. We don’t give birth to ourselves.
The work of the Holy Spirit in drawing a sinner to Christ and making Christ’s death effective in us is a necessity. It must be the Holy Spirit that draws us to God. Without the work of the Holy Spirit we cannot turn to Christ.
The order is crucial. I did not turn to God and then receive the Holy Spirit. God poured out his Holy Spirit on me, enabling me to turn to Christ.
God saved me. And God did not save me because he saw I was good; or saw that I would be good; or saw that I would choose him. That reduces salvation again to depending on some goodness in me. I am utterly sinful and salvation is all of God: 100%.
It’s true that I am not a puppet and that I have free will. But I always used my free will for sin, to turn away from God. God’s Holy Spirit overcame my wilfulness and turned me to Christ. God saved me.
I can therefore take no credit in my conversion. I can not see myself as being in any way any better than a non-Christian. Salvation is all of God’s mercy and entirely up to him.
What are the implications of this for how I live as a Christian? Stay tuned for part three, scheduled for 8/11.
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