How did you become a Christian?
This question is frequently asked in many Christian circles. Ask it and you will get one of a thousand different answers, but each will probably start with the same pronoun.
“I asked Jesus into my heart when I was six.”
“I went to youth camp when I was twelve.”
“I attended a revival in high school.”
“I met a friend in college who drug me to church.”
And the list goes on and on…
The Apostle Paul had one of the most dramatic conversion experiences that anyone could have. Blinding light, knocked to the ground, voice from Heaven, the whole nine yards; and yet when he talks about how he and all of us are all saved, he brings none of that up. Instead he states:
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)
Paul says this because when you boil it all down, all of our testimonies are exactly the same. He clearly explains that we are completely passive in our salvation. We are recipients of mercy. We are like infant children getting a bath. We don’t wash ourselves but rather we were washed by another. Nothing good in us or done by us contributed to our salvation. We all got in via the goodness and loving kindness of God and nothing else.
If we are able to get our theological heads wrapped around this truth, we usually get tempted to believe a lie that is just as pernicious as the first lie Adam and Eve believed in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-5). The lie that what God has called good isn’t good enough. It can be better. Needs to be better. Must be better.
God got us in, forgave our sins, and now it’s time to prove to him we were worth the investment. It’s the treadmill trap of trying to make what God has justified look like it doesn’t need justifying. The devilish pursuit of a “Christian life” that looks like it needs no Christ.
The Devil has two primary lies. One coin, two sides. The first is the lie: “Your performance gets you in good standing with God.” If he can’t get you with that one, he moves to: “Your performance keeps you in good standing with God.”
We think the last thing the Devil wants us concerned with is our goodness and godliness (or Godlikeness). But the reality is, that’s the only place he wants our attention. After all, the original lie in the Garden was “This will make you more like God.”
The Devil preached “Don’t you want to be more like God?” to our first parents and he has been preaching that same sermon ever since—often from the pulpits of churches.
The life of the Christian is one of repentance. That includes repenting of grabbing the impossibly heavy ball of Christian progress away from God just long enough to drop it on our brother’s foot. It’s true the Devil certainly doesn’t want us godly or sanctified, but those are promises and not paydays for a job well done.
The Deceiver knows the fastest way to stunt our growth is to keep our eyes on any goodness other than the goodness that got us in. This goodness is outside of us and showed up on the dusty streets of Nazareth in the person of Jesus. The goodness of God has flesh, blood, and nail scarred hands. Jesus is the goodness of God that got you in and the goodness keeps you in.
Daniel is the Director of Christ Hold Fast, an author, church and conference speaker and co-host of the podcasts 40 Minutes in the Old Testament and 30 Minutes in the New Testament. He has served as a church planter, pastor and worship leader and currently lives in Bentonville Arkansas with his wife Jessica and daughter Anna.