(Excerpt from teaching/training classes, used also in pastoral counseling and prison ministry)
“I am not yet what I ought to be, want to be, hope to be in Heaven; but still I am not what I used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” (John Newton, paraphrase)
1. Not Yet What I Ought to Be, Want to Be, Hope to Be (God’s Glorious Future Is Ahead of Us). Jesus’ followers admit that we fall short every day and stumble in many ways (James 3:2), because sanctification is a lifelong process. God the Father adopts us into His family and molds us into Christ’s likeness, making us resemble Jesus, as His little brothers and sisters (Rom 8:19). But the Holy Spirit’s work in us is not yet done. We say with Paul: “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:15,18,19) We still struggle every day with our own remaining sin and admit with Paul: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24,25)
2. Not What I Once Used to Be (Our Sinful Past Is Behind Us). 1 Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.” Thank God, Jesus’ followers are born again (John 3) and made new creatures (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). Romans 6:4 “We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” By God’s grace, we have taken off our old self with its practices and have put on the new self. The Lord is renewing us to resemble Him in knowledge, true righteousness, and holiness (Col 3:10; Eph 4:23,24). We are no longer God’s enemies but His friends and adopted children, at peace with Him (Rom 5:1,10). No longer far away from Him, but brought near by Christ’s blood (Eph 2:13; 2 Cor 5:19,21). True Christians are now redeemed, pardoned, accepted, reconciled to God, never to be rejected, condemned, or cast out.
3. Grace Makes Me What I Am Now (The Lord Enables and Equips Us to Serve Him Now). 1 Cor 15:10 “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me is not without effect.” Phil 2:13 “God works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Eph 2:10 “We are God’s workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We must never boast or brag about our good deeds or progress in the Christian life (Eph 2:8,9). We must give all praise to God and keep on praying for His daily grace to help us follow and serve Him more consistently.
Conclusion: Martin Luther says Jesus’ followers are both sinners and saints, both at the same time, and that the whole life of believers should be repentance. John Newton exemplified this lifestyle. How about us?
|Christians are already||declared righteous because of Jesus’ doing + dying for us||Christ’s work for us as SAVIOR||justification + adoption are instantaneous, completed all at once|
|Christians not yet fully||practicing righteousness, Jesus-like living||Christ’s work in us by the Holy Spirit as SANCTIFIER||sanctification has 3 stages: initial, ongoing + final cleansing|
Adapted and expanded from Jack Wellman, Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane, Kansas. John Newton (1725-1807) was an Anglican pastor, hymn writer, and former slave ship master who was permanently changed by God’s amazing grace.