He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." Titus 3:5 (NIV)
Isn't salvation about my past sins and my future in heaven? What does God's grace mean for me today? Sin brings with it two long-term consequences—a penalty against us, and a power within us. God saves us from the penalty and the power.
I want to introduce you to three characters to help you understand how He does this. Their names are Hostile, Helpless and Hopeful. Which one do you identify with most?
Hostile: Without desire or ability
"The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." Romans 8:7 (NIV)
Hostile has no desire to follow God's law. Even if he had the desire, which he doesn't, he does not have the ability. You will meet Hostile all throughout the Bible story:
In Cain's hostility toward God, he became angry and killed Abel (Genesis 4:8). But Pharaoh's hostility was more subtle. When God said "Let my people go" (Exodus 5:1), he just dug in his heels. Hostile's greatest day was when Jesus was brought before the crowd, and they shouted "Crucify him!" (Matthew 27:22-23).
Helpless: Desire without ability
"I see another law at work… waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin…" Romans 7:23 (NIV)
The difference between Helpless and Hostile is that, while Hostile hates God's law, Helpless loves it: "In my inner being, I delight in God's law…" (v22), "I agree that the law is good…" (v16). Hostile would never say these things. He hates God's law.
Helpless knows God's law is good. He wants to do it, but he doesn't have the ability. He's a prisoner in chains, unable to get free. He feels miserable "What a wretched man I am!" and cries out "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (v24).
Hopeful: Desire with ability
"Through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2 (NIV)
Like Helpless, Hopeful has the desire to live a godly life. The difference lies in their abilities. Paul tells Hopeful to "Put to death the misdeeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). Helpless would just say "I'm a prisoner! I can't overcome this enemy."
Hopeful is in an entirely different position! He has the desire to fight against sin in his life, but he also has the ability to prevail. Notice that they face the same battle. Hopeful still feels the power of temptation, and he still has failures. But Hopeful's ability to prevail comes from the Spirit of God who lives in Him.
What God says to you today
To Hostile, God says that He "demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Christ went to the cross so that those who were once enemies of God could become His friends. God loves you, so repent!
Notice the answer God gives when Helpless asks "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25). Christ will rescue you! The Christian life is about the power of God living in you. Ask and you'll receive. Your heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
What does God say to Hopeful? "Put to death the misdeeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). The Spirit is in you! So, fight! When you fail, your enemy comes to you saying "You're so weak. You were never any good. You're my prisoner." The only way to answer him is with the truth, and when you know the truth, it will set you free!
From the series by Pastor Colin S. Smith: Unlocking the Bible, Nature, August 26, 2001.
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