Bill looked straight at me and said it again, his finger in my face: “No mumbling about being just a sinner. Ever!”
I felt like I was being dressed down by my new grandfather. He joined our family when he married my grandmother. Both of them had lost the spouses of their youth. Both of them loved Jesus and cherished their families.
Here was a man who always had a smile, a kind word, and a warm Christian spirit. Up until then, he seemed like the type to keep away from theological debate. But I was wrong. Standing before me, he was as serious as could be.
My teenage boldness got the best of me. So I pushed him a little.
“OK, Bill. But…”
“Isn’t it true? Isn’t it true that you’re a sinner?”
“Oh yes,” he said. “I know my heart. I know my own wickedness!”
“And isn’t it true that we’re saved by grace?”
“Without a doubt,” he said. “Not by works. Salvation is of the Lord. We can’t do a thing to earn it.”
I nodded. “Then… what’s wrong with saying you’re just a sinner saved by grace?”
He shook his head again – vehemently. “It’s the word ‘just.’ Don’t dishonor the Spirit!”
“What do you mean?”
“Trevin, you are not just a sinner saved by grace.” He was preaching now. “You are also a saint indwelled by the very Spirit of God!”
Don’t dishonor the Spirit.
I won’t forget those words. And the longer I’ve reflected on that conversation, the more I’m convinced Bill was right.
The gospel does not end on Good Friday. It’s not finished on Easter Sunday. It’s not even finished a week after Easter when doubting Thomas sees the Lord and believes. It’s not finished at the Ascension, when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father as King of kings and Lord of lords.
No… the gospel message we believe – about Christ crucified and raised – is inextricably tied to Pentecost, the moment when King Jesus sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His people.
“Just a sinner saved by grace” is only half the gospel. It’s true that in Christ, God has wiped the slate clean and has forgiven us our sins. But let’s make sure we don’t leave out the flip side – that not only does He forgive our sins, but He also regenerates us through the power of His Spirit. God is restoring our relationship to Him. He is living within us.
I’m thankful for my Grandpa Bill, especially for reminding me that I’m not just a sinner saved by grace.