Deficient / Sufficient Narratives

A guy was telling me recently about his struggles and he finished with a common Christian catch-phrase: "Well, you know, I'm just a sinner saved by grace."

I stopped him. I asked, "Is that what you're telling yourself?" That was exactly what he was telling himself. Day after day, week after week, the podcast playing in his head has been this: you are forgiven.

I told him he was living by an impotent narrative. The story he allowed to have free reign in his life was one that stopped at forgiveness and neglected the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

It's not that the narrative of forgiveness isn't true, it is true. The problem is that it's impotent: it lacks the transformative power to make a difference in a person's life. A forgiven person is thankful, but an empowered person is, well, empowered.

Where does this mentality come from?

Could it be the favorite Christian hymn, "Amazing Grace?"

I don't know, but the most popular line from the song declares: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see."

The song was written in 1772 by John Newton while he reflected on 1 Chronicles 17:16-22.
But here's the rub: I think he meant "I 'was' a wretch," but most of us act like he meant he was still a wretch!

Webster's defines a wretch as, "a miserable, unfortunate, despicable, or vile person." But that doesn't (shouldn't) describe a Christian person who is the recipient of grace, forgiveness, and redemption.

We were acting like wretches, but now we have been reconciled to God and we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. The forgiven person is no longer a wretch, he/she is a saint: a person set apart for the glory of God.

John Eldredge says it well: "There is a widespread belief among Christians today that the heart is desperately wicked - even after a person comes to Christ. It is crippling belief. And it is untrue [see Ezekiel 36:26-27]" (The Ransomed Heart, 41).

Anthony Hoekema goes further: "The Christian is to see himself as a new man in Christ, who has been delivered from the enslavement to sin called the 'old man.' His image of himself, therefore, must be primarily positive, not negative" (The Christian Looks at Himself, 49).

The forgiveness narrative is deficient; the empowerment narrative is sufficient. I urge you to live by the narrative of empowerment.


Related Posts:
The Church: Heroes or Saints?
Are You Well?

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