Does grace save us but leave us unchanged, or are we changed by the grace that saved us?
D. A. Carson says, “Christians never have the right to say, ‘I am smarter than you are,’ because Christians deep down know that they can never be more than fools who have been shown forgiveness and grace.” (The God Who Is There, p. 93)
But the Bible says, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24)
I do not need to go “deep down” to admit that without Christ I would be a fool just like any non-Christian. But I am not without Christ. He did not save me and then left me a fool; rather, by his saving act, he made me wiser. He gave me knowledge and gave me a believing mind to understand the truth. To a non-Christian, I have no right to say, “I was smarter than you,” but likewise, I have no right to say, “I am still not smarter than you.” Rather, I must say, “I am now infinitely superior to you in wisdom, because God’s revelation is infinitely superior to anything that a non-Christian believes. But God made me this way as a gift, a gift that he grants to all those whom he has chosen.”
D. A. Carson says, “We are never more than poor beggars telling other poor beggars where there is bread.” (The God Who Is There, p.93)
If this is true, then Christ did nothing for us. But the Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The Prodigal Son was poor when he shared a place with the pigs, but to say that he remained poor after he returned home would be a slap in the father’s face. Rather, a Christian says, “I was very poor, but Jesus Christ made me rich. I did not become this way by my wisdom or strength, but solely because of his kindness. But the fact remains that I am now rich.”
Surely, if Christians are superior to non-Christians, it is because of God’s grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ. But grace and the gospel effect actual changes in those who believe, so that their power cannot be forever said to be other and external. A grace that is not internalized is a grace scorned. A gospel that is not personalized is a gospel denied. A Christian who has not been made wiser and holier than a non-Christian, is a non-Christian. A humility that denies this is a lazy and ungrateful humility.
You preachers and theologians, may your false humility burn in hell along with the devil’s pride. Stop poisoning Christ’s sheep. Teach a humility that honors the work of Christ.