Remember Who You Were

Take a minute to think about the power of the Gospel in your life. Think about how Jesus rescued you from an eternity in hell and liberated you from slavery to sin.

The longer we’ve been Christians, the easier it becomes to forget how desperately we needed salvation, it seems to me. We get involved in whatever ministry God calls us into, and sometimes those ministries can make us feel pretty prideful. Over the years, memories of life before Christ dim a little… or a lot. Oh sure, we can give our testimony when asked, but often we word it in such a way that we present ourselves, rather than Jesus, as the heroes. And then we dwell upon all the wonderful things we’ve done for the Lord.

Certainly, we don’t want to go on and on describing our sinful lives prior to our conversions. Reliving sinful memories usually caters to our flesh, both by arousing old emotions in us and by distracting attention away from Jesus. As a new Christian, I’d frequently hear about my friends detail their past involvement in drugs, sex and alcohol, tacking on hasty comments about Jesus turning their lives around. I’d often wonder if I was genuinely saved, since I lacked such a sordid past. For years, I exaggerated my dabbling in astrologically, just to create a sense of contrast. Wallowing in our pasts, however, doesn’t really give the glory to God.

That said, Scripture indicates that we need to remember enough of who we were apart from Christ that we continually rejoice in His saving grace. Consider this familiar passage from 1 Corinthians:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NASB95)

While these verses definitely apply when we address the topic of homosexuality, they appear immediately after Paul rebukes the Corinthians for going to lawsuits with one another. Apparently the apostle wanted his readers to remember where God found then so that they’d walk in humility toward each other. He also wanted them to remember what Christ had done in saving them so that they’d walk in holiness.

Does that mean we ought to go around beating our breasts and wearing sackcloth and ashes? Not exactly. When Jesus took the punishment for our sins, He imputed His righteousness to us (Romans 3:21-22, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Like the Corinthians, we no longer identify ourselves by our pasts. Rather, we rejoice that the Lord declares us holy through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, we dare not slip intro attitudes of self-righteousness, taking salvation for granted. On the contrary, God wants us to remember who we were prior to His intervention in our lives. Those memories are particularity important as we rub shoulders with unbelievers.

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:1-7 (NASB95)

Paul again emphasizes that we required a Savior because of our former enslavement to sinful passions and behaviors. Humbly looking back to our desperate need for salvation, and then to the mercy God showed in bringing us to salvation, enables us to treat others with respect and compassion.

More importantly, remembering our condition apart from Christ highlights His amazing grace in saving us. It keeps us from thinking that we did Him a tremendous favor by accepting Him. Remembering His magnificent grace and mercy of snatching us from the jaws of hell, even though we did nothing to deserve such a wonderful rescue, causes us to worship Him. It places the attention squarely on Him, bringing glory to His Name as we reflect on His goodness.

We have a wonderful Savior, do we not?

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