– John Newton
Not What I Hope to Be
All believers must honestly admit that we’re not what we hope to be because sanctification is a lifelong process. If you read Paul in Romans 7 you can see why this is true; “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15), “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom 7:18-19). Anyone agree with Paul on this? I still struggle every day and declare before God “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Rom 7:24) but Paul answers this rhetorical question of his in the very next verse about from Whom this deliverance comes; “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25)!
Not What I Used to Be
So I think we all agree that we are not what we hope to be but neither are we what we used to be as Paul writes that “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). We were once enemies of God (Rom 5:10) but now we have peace with God (Rom 5:1) since “he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). This was because “he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Eph 2:17). We were once enemies and far removed from Him but we are not what we used to be because of the precious blood of the Lamb of God shed for us.
What I Am
Martin Luther once wrote that the believer is both a sinner and saint; both at the same time. God still accepts us though because we have become the righteousness of God, as it is written, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). This was only possible because “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19) and this came by no human effort or works but purely as a gift of God, otherwise knowing human nature we’d surely be bragging about it (Eph 2:8-9).
We are not what we used to be by the grace of God, we are not what we ought to be which is why it is the Spirit of “God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13) and we are who we are, a child of God, because Jesus took upon Himself God’s wrath so we wouldn’t have too.