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Remodeled Sinners

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It’s almost a universal principle that having a car in high school makes you popular.  I didn’t have one, but one of my best friends did.  I still remember the day I first laid my eyes on it.  It was an older car but it looked impeccable.  From the new coat of paint to the aftermarket rims, his car was a sight for the sore eyes of high school kids who were tired of taking the bus.  After the final bell rang on one fateful day, my friends and I piled into his car and rolled down the windows in eager expectation.  Unfortunately for us, our ride that day was a short one. 

We didn’t make it to the end of the block before the car came to a sputtering halt.  As dark smoke plumed from the hood, we slowly rolled our windows back up knowing that the fun was over. In disbelief, my friend got out of the car and kicked the front tire in frustration.  He had bought a lemon.  With little to offer in the way of comfort, the rest of us slowly made our way to the bus stop, digging in our pockets for bus tokens.

The idea of conversion is something that has traditionally confounded people.  Is the change we see in ourselves as Christians due to white knuckled adherence to a new pattern of behavior?  Was the untangling of our sinful mess done of our own accord? Those who have adopted this line of thinking have ultimately been left in patterns of failure and bitterness.  The truth is that to simply try harder is no different than to put a new paint job on a 1980 Ford Fiesta…you'll inevitably be left stranded on the side of the highway.

As we look to scripture, we’re able to gain a clearer understanding.  In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus, in the midst of a conversation with Nicodemus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  What a profound statement.  Christ makes clear that in order to enter the kingdom, we don’t simply make changes to who we are, we are utterly different in kind.  In this newly presented paradigm, our first birth, and all that came along with it, are essentially rubbish.  This statement likely left the Pharisee Nicodemus dumbfounded…

The response to such a proclamation is predictable though…How? (John 3:4) 

Nothing short of a gracious gift of God.  Paul writes in Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”  To be justified, or declared righteous, is not an act of sheer willpower or merit, it is an act of God alone.  Nicodemus placed his religious hope in his lineage and law keeping.  Christ turned his world upside down by informing him that none of that was enough. For us to claim any credit for being born again not only posits an unearned contribution on our end, it diminishes the very nature of God.  

We are not sinners remodeled, we are new creatures altogether (2 Cor 5:17) and temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) who are justified and continually sanctified by the unearned grace of God.  Living in the humility this knowledge produces will rightfully lead to the truthful understanding of who we are, and more importantly, who God is.

Posted by Shawn Thomas