When I first began to hear that the Bible’s good news was a whole lot less about me and a whole lot more about Christ, I just didn’t get it. I had grown up under the impression that yes, God loved me and saved me, but His word was the tool I needed to prove myself to Him and to others. Saved by Grace, sure, but now it was my mission to return the favor. To have the responsibility of, and payment for my salvation suddenly ripped from my hands made me feel and act like a baby without its bottle - insecure, scared, and very, very whiny.
As a sinful human being, I am wired to look for the compensation and interest I would surely need to eventually pay back. I looked hard to pinpoint such a downfall. I was positive that a story this good couldn’t be real, and you better believe I fought grace with every bone in my body, only to be carried away after I’d thrown some weary punches. Yet the more I searched the Scriptures and heard the saving power of the word of God, the more I realized repayment would not be necessary. My righteousness before God was passive, earned only through the sacrifice of Jesus.
The only explanation for this lies in the power of the Holy Spirit. On my own, I would have never become convinced that God doesn’t need my good works for His glory. Only because of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the Word of God, am I daily reminded how sinful I am, and therefore how much I need the grace of Jesus. Only through the Holy Spirit, did I come to understand that the Bible is about Jesus saving us from ourselves, but not through ourselves.
Yet now I find myself in a compromisingly ironic situation. For my sinful flesh still continues to whisper to me that what I know is true in Scripture came through my own power of self-discovery. I am left amid the tension of knowing the sweetness of God’s redemptive grace and wanting to make Him known, yet foolishly taking credit for this message in an attempt to assert my own insight.
This is when the Gospel again becomes all about me. I begin to believe that "Kelsi is right” rings sweeter than “Jesus saves.” In this state, I am combative. I argue with anything that breathes about what the Bible really tells us about grace. Or I roll my eyes at people who have never heard the difference between Law and Gospel. Or I am sullen and withdrawn, sticking my nose up in disdain at those around me so focused on their works and sanctification.
You can imagine this might be a frustrating predicament, most certainly to the poor souls around me. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much Scripture I know, I’m a lot less of a convincing Savior than Jesus. Again and again as I impatiently wait for friends or family members to believe me, I cling to myself rather than the true Comforter and Creator.
And yet, repeatedly, in these moments the Holy Spirit saves the day. The Helper reminds me that I am not the lynchpin for anyone's salvation. It is His job to convict the world of sin and righteousness (John 16:8). He bears witness to Jesus (John 15:26).
How freeing it is to then speak in truth about the goodness of grace! Without anger or hesitation, I can remind others in kindness of their true identity in Christ. I trust that God is at work while expecting nothing in return from my neighbor. As the Holy Spirit over and over points me back to the gift of passive righteousness I experience before God, I am free to actively love my neighbor without worrying about what effect my words will have on their salvation.
Let us not be afraid to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus brought to us by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Scriptures. We have freedom to speak loudly and kindly not because of our own abilities and intellect, but because of the power of the very One we speak about. He works through His word to point us to truth. Find rest in the truth that it’s not up to us to change hearts and minds any more than it was up to us to bring about our own repentance and faith. Glory be to God.
Kelsi is a freelance writer and editor of the 1517 Blog. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Reformation Studies from Concordia University Irvine. She lives with her husband, Doug, in Dallas, Texas.