Joy in Jesus: Christian Self Image

Bob RoaneCounseling, Jesus Christ, Wise living

(Excerpt from teaching/training classes, used also in pastoral counseling and prison ministry)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship (masterpiece, handiwork), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

“I am not yet what I ought to be, want to be, hope to be in Heaven.
But still I am not what I once used to be.
And by God’s grace I am what I am.” (John Newton, paraphrase)

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, because sanctification is a lifelong process.1 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.2 But the Lord’s work in us is not yet done, perfected, completed. So we still say with Paul: “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.”3 We still struggle 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!”4 Bless the Lord. His grace is greater than all our sin!

Face to face I shall behold Him, Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by!
(Song by Carrie Ellis Breck)

Thank God, I am Not What I Once Used to Be (Our Sinful Past Is Behind Us)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through Christ’s resurrection from the dead.” Thank God, Jesus’ followers are already born again and made new creatures.6 “We were buried with Him…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.”7 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.8 Praise God, we are no longer His enemies but His friends and adopted children, at peace with Him.9 We are no longer far away from God, but brought near by Christ’s blood.10 True Christians are now redeemed, pardoned, accepted, and reconciled to God, never to be rejected, condemned, or cast out. Bless Him for saving us!

Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.
(Song by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt)

God’s Grace Makes Me What I Am Now (The Lord Enables and Equips Us to Serve Him Now).

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.”11 “God works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”12 “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”13 We must never boast or brag about our good deeds or progress in the Christian life.14 We need to keep on praying for God’s daily preserving grace to help us persevere in following and serving Him.

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 and running back to God to walk with Him by faith. John Newton exemplified this lifestyle. How about us? R. C. Sproul comments: “In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin. We’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the gospel.”

Who has the power to part the sea? Who has the power to rescue me?
Who has the power to save my soul? Only my sweet Lord.
(Song by David Crowder)

Conclusion: Scripture says that Jesus’ followers 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?

This chart may be helpful:

Christians are already declared righteous because of Jesus’ doing + dying for us Christ’s work for us as SAVIOR regeneration, justification + adoption are  instantaneous, completed all at once
Christians are not yet fully practicing righteousness, Jesus-like living, holiness 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.

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 James 3:2.     2 Rom 8:19,29.     3 Rom 7:15-19.     4 Rom 7:24-25.     5 1 Peter 1:3.     6 John 3:1-8; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15.     7 Romans 6:4. 8 Col 3:10; Eph 4:23-24.     9 Rom 5:1,10.     10 Eph 2:13; 2 Cor 5:19-21.     11 1 Cor 15:10. 12 Phil 2:13.     13 Eph 2:10.     14 Eph 2:8-9.