This article was written about 6 years ago. I think I could "amen" it even more loudly now than then.
Tobey and I were talking this week with someone about what I’ve learned the last five years or so. Particularly, what have I learned about being a Christian. Here is my answer: I’m really not a good person. That is what I’ve learned. Of course I’ve learned other things. But that may be the main one: I’m really not as good as I thought I was.
Now I definitely grew up believing that everyone was a sinner. I’ve known Romans 3.23 as long as I can remember. But I think my attitude through much of my growing up years was that I (and my church-going compatriots) were among the sinners who really weren’t all that bad. There were sinners…and then there were SINNERS. And I was definitely in the lower-case sinners club.
Did I need God’s grace and forgiveness? Sure. Everybody does. But those people out there sure needed it a lot more than I did! I was one of those who sinned every now and again. I needed forgiveness sprinkled in here and there. But basically I was pretty good.
I really think that this is what I thought it meant to be a Christian. Now, of course, I wouldn’t have described it exactly this way. I would have spoken in terms that almost all Bible-believing people do. “Are you a sinner?” “Well of course, we’re all sinners!” “Do you need a Savior?” “Certainly. Everybody needs a Savior.”
Now, while these statements are correct, do you see that they are woefully inadequate? Being a Christian is not simply believing that we are all sinners—but that I myself am a terrible sinner! Being a Christian doesn’t simply mean we accept that all people need the Savior—but that I myself am in desperate need of His sacrifice on my behalf.
And for goodness sake, being a Christian doesn’t mean that I think I’m one of the lesser sinners. One is not a Christian because he has his act together, goes to church, and is a pretty nice person. But sadly, that is what many, many people, who go to church every Sunday believe.
Again, they would never go so far as to say: “I am saved by my good works.” No, No. That would be heresy. But many of the same people who would never claim to be saved by works would also be unwilling to admit of themselves: “I am not a good person. I am a bad person.” But isn’t that what the Bible says? When the Bible proclaims: “there is none righteous, not even one…there is none who seeks for God…there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3.10-12)—isn’t it talking about me?
If I am honest with myself, I do not have to look very deeply into my heart, my thoughts, and my actions to discern that the Bible speaks truth here. But only when I do am I a candidate for God’s grace. For Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.