…because he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

 

The Lord came not to save us in our sins but to save us from our sins. This may appear to be a slight difference but it is significant. He did not enter into the world and die on the cross so that He might remain among His sin-crushed people. Rather He came to lift us out of the darkness and filth of sin and bring us into the kingdom of love. God does not see us in light of our failures, rather He sees us in light of the righteousness of Christ that covers us in our sin. The Bible proclaims, “There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

 

That which has tethered and bound me to the baser instincts and urges of the human soul, that blackness of thought and value that runs contrary to the will of God, those feelings and urges that come from unbridled selfishness, unholy desires, and excessive pride – all of this that can be identified as sin within me I am saved from. God sees me not against the backdrop of my failures but against the backdrop of His righteousness and the future He has prepared for me.

 

He has saved us from our sin by dying in our place. Isaiah the prophet was inspired of God to look hundreds of years into the future and see the sacrifice for our sins that Messiah would make one day. He wrote these words in the prophetic past tense, to emphasize the sureness of their fulfillment, though the event in history was still centuries after Isaiah. “For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of his people he was stricken … the LORD makes his life a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:8,10). A payment for our guilt was made in full, not just in part. If we are not aware of the greatness of His grace, we may think that we can help Christ by punishing ourselves. Yet by continuing to punish ourselves for our sins we diminish the sacrifice of Christ and pay an insult to grace, perhaps unwittingly so, but the result is the same nonetheless.

 

We are like poor beggars God has picked off the street and placed at a banquet table, and we may fumble through our pockets to try and find a penny or two that we will think may help pay for the lavish meal set before us. If we continue in this attitude there is the very real danger of spiritual pride, thinking that our weak and pathetic effort toward righteousness has somehow earned us the grace of God, and it has not. Our response should be gratitude, deep and profound, and humility realizing how greatly God has stooped to save us and how high He has lifted us up. No other response will do.

 

He has saved us from our sin and continues to remove us from the habit of it and the association with it. It is theologically correct to say that through salvation Christ has saved us from the penalty of sin, which is death, from the power of sin, through the presence of the Spirit within us, and one day we shall be saved from the presence of sin, in heaven as we live with Him in His paradise forever.

 

Not only are we like beggars set before a banquet table, but the Lord also dresses us in His righteousness that covers our shame. The one who still tries to put forth some payment for his salvation tries to retain the old filthy rags of self-righteousness, tries to fix them up a bit as he sits at the table of grace, not realizing how inappropriately he is attired. He seeks to come near to grace while holding on to the law. The one, on the other hand, who in humble repentance and deep gratitude ceases to struggle, admits his utter poverty of spirit before God and accepts the grace of God discovers that he is covered with the righteousness of Christ, like someone sitting at a banquet table dressed in the finest and most beautiful of clothes. As Paul proclaimed,

 

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:21-24

 

We are wise to retain the awareness of where we have come from, but it should not dominate our thoughts or lead us to think that God’s power is limited in our life. We are sinners saved by grace, and while we must grasp both of these realities in our lives and keep both thoughts before us, we also must choose one of them to focus on more. We may emphasize in our thoughts the word “sinners” or the words “saved by grace.” We must choose. God would have us focus on His salvation for us, for His grace is greater than our sin. Christ has come to save us from our sin, and to prepare for us a bright and beautiful future.

 

So who are you, believer? Are you the sinner who keeps trying to impress God, or are you the project of God’s grace in Christ, in whom there is no more condemnation, who in humble gratitude sits at the banquet table of grace? Note Kierkegaard’s prayer today and let it for the prayer of gratitude within your heart:

 

Father in Heaven! Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins, so that the thought of Thee when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what Thou didst forgive, not how we went astray but of how Thou didst save us![1]

 


[1] Soren Kierkegaard, The Prayers of Kierkegaard, ed. By Perry D. LeFevre (Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 1956), p. 9.

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