An interesting thing happened one day in a church where the great American businessman Samuel Colgate was a member. During an evangelistic campaign a prostitute came forward and confessed her sins. She was broken-hearted and wept openly. she asked God to save her soul and expressed a desire to join the church. “Ill gladly sit in some back corner,” she said. The preacher hesitated to call for a motion to accept her into membership, and for a few moments the silence was oppressive. Finally, a member stood up and suggested that action on her request be postponed.
At that point Mr. Colgate arose and said with an undertone of sarcasm, “I guess we blundered when we prayed that the Lord would save sinners. We forgot to specify what kind. Wed better ask Him to forgive us for this oversight. The Holy Spirit has touched this woman and made her truly repentant, but apparently the Lord doesnt understand she isnt the type we want Him to rescue.”
Many in the audience blushed with shame. They had been guilty of judging like the Pharisee in the temple who exclaimed self-righteously, “God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 1811).
Another motion was made and the woman was unanimously received into the fellowship. -H.G.G.
Because Christ is in us, we have the assurance that our sins are forgiven. The Lord Jesus came into the world to pay the price for our sins. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15).
Early in the 16th century, England was visited by Erasmus, one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance. While he was at Cambridge, he made a profound impression on at least one of its scholars. Thomas Bilney had been feeling the emptiness of the religion he had been taught. He felt that Erasmus had knowledge of a secret that was hidden from English eyes, and vowed he would purchase every book that came from the great masters pen. Erasmus had translated the New Testament into Latin, so Bilney purchased a copy of it. He summarized its effect upon him by saying:
My soul was sick and I longed for peace, but nowhere could I find it. I went to the priests, and they appointed me penances and pilgrimages. Yet by these things my soul was not set free. But at last I heard of Jesus. It was then, when first the New Testament was set forth by Erasmus, that the light came. I bought the book, being drawn by the Latin rather than by the Word of God, for at that time I knew not what the Word of God meant. On my first reading I chanced upon these words, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” This one sentence through Gods inward working did so light up my poor bruised spirit that the very bones within me leaped for joy and gladness. It was as if, after a long dark night, day had suddenly broke.
Bilney knew himself to be a sinner and trusted Christ to save Him. The indwelling Christ gave him the assurance that his sins were truly forgiven, and he gave his life to unfolding to others the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Some Christians become deeply distressed when they focus on the depths of sin in their own hearts. At that moment, they are vulnerable to the enemy, who seems to whisper, “Look at youyou havent been saved at all! You are every bit as great a sinner as before.” Although these believers long for purity, they see only their own defilement. It is then that the faltering child of God must be reassured that Jesus is a real Savior of real sinners.
When Martin Luther entered the monastery at Erfurt, Germany, he gave himself wholly to prayers, fastings, watchings, laborsall in a gigantic effort to gain peace from the guilt of his sins. But it was the simple testimony of the dean of the theological faculty, John Staupitz, that brought light to his troubled soul. He urged Luther to look away from his deceitful thoughts and evil impulses, and to cast himself wholly in the Redeemers arms. “Trust the righteousness of His life and the atonement of His death,” he said. Luther did that and found peace. But a short time later he lost the joy of his salvation. “Oh, my sin, my sin, my sin!” he lamented. With utmost kindness the dean replied, “Well, would you only be a sinner in appearance and also have a Savior only in appearance?” Then he added, “Know that Jesus Christ is Savior even of those who are great, real sinners, and deserving of utter condemnation.”