You see, when God sees you now, he mostly sees himself. He sees someone clothed with Christ’s righteousness and filled with Christ’s resurrection power. It’s not that he minimizes the sin and rebellion of your heart. He actually knows it much better than you do. But in Christ, he sees the perfect son or daughter that you have a hard time glimpsing. This is why God asks you to live such a miraculous life: He’s not betting on you.
Some Christians approach spiritual growth like stapling roses to a dead rosebush. But stapling roses on a dead plant doesn’t fix the real problem. In the same way, you won’t grow spiritually by trying to add love, joy, peace, and everything else to your life. You can only do it by driving your roots deep into Christ. The more you embrace his love and promise in the gospel, the more spiritual fruits will appear naturally in your life.
John Owen said that the seed of every sin is in every human heart. Circumstances and temptations and relationships water that seed. But just because God in his grace kept you from heinous sin doesn’t make you different or superior from others. If you hear of someone else’s sin and think, “Well, I know I’d never do anything like that,” then I can assure you that you know nothing of grace or the gospel of Jesus.
You may come from the most jacked-up background, or your resume may be a litany of failures, but God can still bring about his promise through you. It doesn’t matter if you are barren, because Christ supplies everything. If God can make something of Abraham, who the Bible says was “as good as dead,” then he can make something of you. Granddaddy Abraham is proof that God isn’t done with any of us.
Few things destroy you faster than success, especially spiritual success, because it makes you forget how desperately you need grace. John Newton said, “Growth in grace primarily means growth in the realization of your need for grace and in your dependence on it.” You show me a Christian whose dependence on grace is not greater than when he started, and I’ll show you a Christian whose growth is artificial and fragile.
The real gospel teaches us that God saves us and blesses us as a free gift of unmerited grace, and in response to that, we do good works. The perverted gospel reverses that, saying that we do some good works and then God saves and blesses us in response to that. Most of us today are not hung up on the same “good works” that tripped up the first-century Jews. But many Christians today believe the same, false, perverted gospel.