He took a deep breath, looked at me with a slight frown and a helpless look in his eyes and said, “I don’t even want to get up anymore. Sleep is the only place I don’t think about what I’ve done or the pit I’ve dug for myself. When I pull back the covers each morning, and turn to place my feet on the floor, I always have the same thought. I just can’t help but thinking this day is going to end up the same for me. Just counting the hours until I get home. Then have a few drinks, go to bed and see the cycle play out again the next day. I don’t want to live like this anymore. There’s just too much I’ve done, so many mistakes that I can’t get out of, too many people I’ve hurt and the disappointment I’ve created that God will probably never forgive me for. If it wasn’t for my son, I’d probably just cash it all in and disappear. I’m so guilty of so many things and I’m not sure I’ll ever inherit the kingdom of God. I just don’t think there will ever be a way to get myself cleaned up to be acceptable to God and get out of this depressive state of mind and lifestyle.”
I noticed he mentioned God three times in his confession. So, I asked him about his belief in the Lord. He gave me a story of growing up in the bible belt, being baptized in his early teens and then spending a life trying to measure up to what his church, pastors and family told him he needed to do to keep his salvation safe. The result was a multitude of failures in his mind as he was judged by others, that created doubt about his salvation and manifested into a cycle of spiritual mediocrity and a mindset of guilt that led to shame and withdrawal through self-defeat and the condemnation from others that he trusted.
I thought of his words about his guilt over so many things and the thought he wouldn’t inherit the kingdom of God. It made me think of my own experience as I remembered one Sunday years ago with my pastor getting more and more stern as the scripture came of out of his mouth, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” I heard a man shout “AMEN” as my pastor finished these two verses with a fist pound on the lectern. I looked up at the man and thought, “OH MAN . . . I’M SCREWED, I’m guilty of most of those things. I bet he has worked so hard to be perfect and he hasn’t done any of those things. I better get busy getting cleaned up.”
Does this story sound familiar to you? You might relate to it through your own experiences. Hearing this brother’s words, brings a question to my mind . . . Where do we start when we become Christians? What’s our starting point in our hearts and minds? I mean, when a person believes on Christ for salvation through the power of His blood and resurrection, how does that change his or her starting point in thought, attitude and prayer? Why do so many say they are saved by grace through faith, yet still beat themselves up (or get beat up by other Christians) if they screw up and sin? This man was no different. In fact, he started each day with his feet hitting the floor in this dreadful mindset. This misery is how he starts each and every day!!
So, where do we start when we become Christians? What is the basis for beginning our day, walking into the office or school, going to the market or ball game, or making decisions for ourselves, families or interacting with our friends? The answer is in the verse my pastor did not read from in 1st Corinthians 6. He read only verses 9 and 10. If he would have kept reading, the answer about our new starting point becomes very clear. “. . . And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Yes, verse 11 has a big star and exclamation point in the margins next to it in my bible! Paul is writing to Christians in these verses. He's reinforcing the change they went through with their faith. He reminds them of who they used to be and who they've become in Christ.
Think about it. You’re original starting point, your birth, the day your mother pushed you into this world, is 1 Corinthians 6:9/10. You’re born into this world, OF THE WORLD with NO Kingdom inheritance. That is your starting point. Paul is addressing something more than a list of 9 sins. He is addressing your identity that you are born into. But do you notice what he says next? “And such WERE some of you.” (Caps and underline for emphasis by me) “You were washed (forgiven), You were sanctified (made holy), you were justified (moved from a state of sin to a state of grace through faith in Christ and acceptance into God’s Kingdom). Notice that Paul mentions this all in past tense verbiage . . . IT HAS HAPPENED! IT IS DONE! Through your belief in Jesus. Your NEW starting point has been set. When your feet hit the floor tomorrow morning, you’re forgiven, holy and justified through Christ. Do we, as believers, walk this out? Or do we walk out a faith that that is self-deprecating and weak, focusing on who we used to be?
Paul goes on to say we have the righteousness of God through Christ (Romans 3). Combine that with the truth that the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead actually lives inside each and every believer (Romans 8:11) and that there is now NO condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and we can see that our new starting point for every morning we wake, every decision we make, every breath we take, prayer we have, crisis we face or everything we celebrate takes on a meaning of excellence, boldness, confidence and a surety in our identity as Christians as never before. HIS blood and resurrection were THAT POWERFUL brother!! We can't discount the most powerful event for humanity in the history of the world.
Christian, you ARE forgiven, holy, justified and have the righteousness of Jesus, RIGHT NOW, because of your one-time, heartfelt belief in HIM. Imagine your feet hitting the floor each morning with that mindset! Imagine jumping off that hamster wheel of spiritual mediocrity once and for all. Imagine breaking the chains that have held you captive all these years through the message that so many churches and people hold over you about who you used to be . . . A POOR LOWLY SINNER. Guess what brother. That' just not who you are anymore. Your new identity in Christ sets you free, because of nothing you did, but what Jesus did for you the day you surrendered and decided to change your staring point with the grace he gave you through your faith in HIM.