Two Buts for Two Ways to Live

Tim Brister —  August 26, 2014 — 1 Comment

The Gospel is the good news of salvation for sinners. There is only one category of people Jesus came to die for. As Paul explained in his own testimony, “this is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). The problem, however, is that sinners have an incredibly hard time acknowledging that is exactly who they are–sinners.

The good news is good for people who believe the bad news about their sin. As long as sinners live in unbelief about the bad news of their sin against God, the good news of God’s saving grace in Christ will never be appreciated and appropriated in saving faith. Unbelief in the bad news does not come across as blatant as the picture posted above; rather, it is couched in the form of “but”.

“I know I did some foolish things in my life, but I am older and much more mature now.”
“I realize that I am not perfect, but I am a much better person that most people I know.”
“I understand that I am not as religious as I should be, but I try to go to church as often as I can.”
“I get that I can be selfish at times, but at least I try to help out those who are in need.”
“I know I have done wrong, but I believe the good far outweighs the bad.”

These and numerous other confessions are examples of unbelief in the bad news, and it is the pervasive predicament of the majority of people today. One of the most deceptive schemes of the devil is to convince sinners that being one is not a big deal. The sinfulness of sin is never really fully considered. The disease of a sinful heart is so proud that it would rather live in denial, deception, and defensiveness than be delivered from the cancer itself. The “but” in each of those phrases constitute the frame of a sinner’s heart in bondage to unbelief and removed from the hope of the gospel. The hope of the gospel is unnecessary because, at the end of the day, they are convinced they are basically good–or at least good enough to feel safe and secure in managing sin on their own.

When a person is brought to repentance and faith, one of the principal areas where repentance is expressed is the wholesale removal of “but” from their vocabulary when it comes to the bad news. They go from unbelief to belief regarding their sin against God. By the work of the Spirit, their eyes are opened to see the heinousness of their sin. More than that, they are given spiritual clarity to see Who they have sinned against, and how glorious He really is. Sin is seen as exceedingly sinful in light of the beauty and holiness of God. When a sinner full accepts the bad news of their sin, they realize their plight before God is far beyond any resources or efforts they might offer; instead, they are made desperate beggars for mercy. They own their sin and consequently are brought to an end of themselves, recognizing the work that must be done has to happen outside, from Another.

The good news of the gospel is for sinners who repent of their own “but” (unbelief in the bad news) and rejoice in the “but” that comes from God. This interjection is the ground on which every rescued sinner stands. God intervenes. God pursues. God determines to save. God sets the captives free. God takes the rebels and makes them sons. All of this because of free, sovereign grace.

“I was formerly a child of wrath, but God made me a child of God.”
“I was once blind to my own sin, but God opened my eyes to see my sin covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
“I did not care about the glory of God, but God has transformed me into a trophy of grace.”
“I lived to prove my self-righteousness, but God covered me in the perfect righteousness of His Son as a gift.”
“I hoped in my performance to earn God’s acceptance, but God accepted me through the performance of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.”

The good news of the gospel is summed up in the phrase “but God!” Christians are those who turn from (repentance) unbelief to belief in the bad news about their sin so they can turn to (faith) the only hope for sinners–salvation by sheer grace and sovereign mercy. The response of the gospel requires both, and where there is an absence of clarity regarding sinfulness, there will be an absence of appreciation for God’s salvation by grace.

One of the most challenging things we face in seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ is to convince sinners they are really sinners. Not pretend sinners. Not plastic sinners. Not part-time sinners. But real, full-time sinners before a real, holy, and awesome God. Sinners who are lost, undone, helpless, and desperate for the one thing they need but cannot fix on their own. The good news is that there is real grace for real sinners because a real Savior shed precious blood so that all who come to Him will forever know the Father’s loving embrace.

That’s good news!

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