We have all seen them. Before and after pictures. Weight loss products love to use them. And Christians need to use them more.
Actually, many Christians do use them. Most of us, however, put far too much attention on our before picture. Over the years, I have asked many groups of Christians in all parts of the country whether they see themselves more as saints or sinners. Not once have the majority answered “saints!” In fact, the usual response is almost a unanimous vote for “sinner.”
“Sinners,” however, is rarely used of believers in the Bible! Well over 90% of the labels it assigns believers are exalted ones. Here are just a few examples:
“Righteous” – approximately 180 times
“Saints” – 67 times
“Holy” – 36 times
“Chosen” – 23 times and “elect” – 10 times
In striking contrast, Paul calls himself a sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). So also Peter (Luke 5:8 – in the Greek “sinful man” is literally “sinner). That’s it. Jesus never calls his disciples sinners. Not once do Paul or the other New Testament writers address believers as sinners. Instead, there’s a lot of “saints” and “chosen” and “children of God”.
It’s obvious God wants us to see ourselves as how we are in Christ. In other words, he wants us to focus on our after picture. Even though we still sin, when we are in Christ, God sees us as saints. Even though we still often feel guilty, God, over and over tells us we are righteous (not guilty) in Christ. Even though we see ourselves as miserable beggars, he calls us his chosen, his beautiful bride. It’s almost as if he takes us by the shoulders, gives us a good shake, and says: “See who you now are! I have adopted you. I have made you an heir of heaven.”
This is our God-given status in Christ. This is our after picture. And we have this status right now even though we are still in the state and condition of sinning.
Distinguishing between our status and our state is so important. When we jumble them up, we don’t give all the glory God deserves. Think about it for a moment. When we describe ourselves as sinners, we are self-focused. When we describe ourselves with our after picture, with the status we have in Christ, we are Christ-focused.
In addition, we are robbing ourselves of a lot of joy and assurance. If we aren’t clear about our status with God, we might worry if we will go heaven. We might not be so excited about Judgment Day. We might wonder if he has forgotten us here on earth. On and on it goes.
When, however, we focus on our after picture, we can’t help but be filled with joy and confidence. We know we are going to heaven. We can’t wait for Judgment Day to arrive. We know that God has not forgotten us, but as our loving Father, is watching over us every second.
Focusing on our after picture not only affects us. It also serves as a magnet attracting others. When people see what we all have in our new status in Christ, many won’t just be curious, they will want what we have. This, my friends, is what after pictures do. They give people hope.
Focus on your after picture. As you read the Bible, underline every word used to describe believers. I think you will be surprised. Each and every day, get up remembering who you are in Christ. Then thank God by telling others that God wants them to have the same things.
What is your favorite passage that demonstrates your “after” picture?