We’re very thankful that so many of you have tracked with us during this sermon series. This past Sunday we concluded by talking about being “raised to life.” At the conclusion of the service, 12 people made the decision to re-commit to following Jesus.
So what now? We might be tempted to “move on,” so to speak, to move past the seemingly simplistic message of the gospel and onto bigger and better things.
And we would be wrong.
My friend Jared finds an analogy in a beloved film:
“In the 1982 film Annie, the titular orphan is swept out of the vile clutches of Miss Hannigan at the inner city orphanage, where she and her friends spent their “hard knock life” mired in menial tasks, and delivered into the gleaming mansion of the billionaire Mr. Warbucks. When she first arrives, she is mesmerized by its size and beauty, and by the scores of cheerful servants. Her hostess asks, “Well, Annie, what would you like to do first?” Annie misunderstands. She says she’d probably like to start by washing the windows, and then she’ll move on to scrub the floors. She’s thinking she needs to get to work. The hostess just wants to know what fun thing she’d like to start her new life doing.
Annie has not realized she is not an orphan any more.
Christian, you are a Christian. You have a new identity. You are in Christ, and Christ is in you. Let your doing emerge from your being. It will not work the other way around.”
If we are not careful, we can make this mistake—we can assume the gospel to be something elementary, something that grants us access into the Father’s house but once we’re there, it’s back to scrubbing and mopping and trying to keep up appearances.
Paul meant something very significant when he told the religious moralists in Galatia that “the righteous shall live by faith” (Gal 3:11). To those in Rome Paul says that “the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Rom 4:5).
Martin Luther used to call this simul iustus et peccator—that we are “simultaneously saints and sinners.” To live as a Christian is to live out of both of these identities. Let me explain.
HUMILITY: THE LIFE OF A SINNER
The gospel first of all inspires humility, because we know that ruined sinners cannot save themselves on their own merits. So to understand ourselves as sinners, we might see the following applications:
- Gospel-motivated humility helps us from feeling superior over others, because we recognize our common struggles with sin.
- Gospel-motivated humility prevents us from dismissing others as being unworthy of God’s love, or dismissing them as “hard cases” who will never darken the doors of our church.
- Humility provokes us to forgive others because the debt of sin has already been taken care of by the blood of Jesus.
- Humility means relating to others with true authenticity and transparency, as we are no longer preoccupied with polishing our reputations.
- Recognizing the pervasive and personal nature of sin helps us grieve the suffering and evil we see in our world, and greet it with tears rather than merely clenched fists.
CONFIDENCE: THE LIFE OF A SAINT
As “saints,” we can have confidence, knowing that while we are sinners, we are growing in the power of God’s indwelling Spirit to conform to the likeness of his Son (Rom 8:29). This process cannot be completed in this life, but at Christ’s return we shall be indescribably changed into something new and pure (1 John 3:1-5).
Therefore, our identity as saints helps us in the following ways:
- Joyful confidence provokes us to pursue God as Father rather than fear him as Judge (Galatians 4:6).
- Confidence helps us recognize that even when we struggle with sin, Jesus serves as our advocate (Rom 8:1; 1 John 2:1).
- Confidence prevents us from feelings of inferiority, because we know that our worth comes not from our own efforts but through the finished work of Jesus. We therefore have no basis for comparing ourselves to others.
- Confidence in Christ’s accomplishment gives us the courage to share the gospel boldly even to those who are hostile, because we know that our reputations are secure in Jesus regardless of what others may think.
- Confidence in God’s Kingdom helps us avoid placing too much of our hope in human governments, and to rightly see the city as a mission field and not a source of earthly comfort.
We need the gospel. We need it every hour of every day of our lives. While we have not hesitated to offer invitations and encourage prayerful decisions, the gospel is a message that cannot be reduced to an “altar call” or a “sinner’s prayer.” The gospel is life. Without it we slide so easily back into a lifestyle of self-indulgence or self-righteousness, both of which lead to moral and spiritual death.
So it’s with confidence that I say to each person reading this, that to believe the gospel is to accept an invitation into a larger world and into a thriving, believing community that seeks to worship God and live out his mission in the present world, even as we await its restoration. You’re needed here, you know.
Welcome to the family.