It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all…
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.”
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
– Paul, 1 Timothy 1.15; Romans 1.16-17; 8.1-2
I have never attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but I’ve been told that at some time during the meeting those present struggling to overcome their terrible addiction stand, give their first name, and publicly confess they are alcoholics. There are a number of reasons why that’s done. First, just being there forces the person to face the problem. Second, having faced it he needs to personalize it, admit it’s his problem. Third, he also needs to understand it’s a problem he can’t handle by himself, so he seeks the help of others by openly admitting he’s an alcoholic. And fourth, by finding himself in the company of others admitting the same thing, he’s assured he’s not alone; others are struggling just like him and they need help too – so a support group is formed.
Alcoholics are taught there is strength in numbers. They are encouraged to choose their friends and associates cautiously. They are warned to stay away from places and events where alcohol is prominent. And they are told again and again and again that before they take a drink, call a fellow member of their AA support group.
Alcoholics Anonymous was begun to help people overcome the specific and very serious sin of drunkenness. We support and appreciate their worthwhile work. The fact is they’ve adopted the methods of another organization designed to treat not just one sin, but every sin afflicting people. God’s book refers to that organization as the church of Christ. Though never so designated, the church in reality is an assembly of sinners anonymous.
The only way we can be added to God’s church is by facing the problem of sin, then personalizing it, admitting our personal sins have separated us from God. Repentance is both the sorrow we experience because of our sins and the determination to change, to do whatever is necessary to break free from the power of sin. Confession allows us to admit to God and others that we are sinners and we realize we can’t save ourselves, we can’t handle the problem of sin alone, and so in obedience we plead for God’s grace to save us through Jesus Christ. And finally, as we are lowered beneath the surface in the “watery grave” of baptism, the sinful self is shed, buried, and somehow God in His omnipotence applies the blood of Jesus to our sin-stained souls so that as we are brought up from the water, we rise free from the taint and condemnation of sin!
We understand too there is nothing in what we’ve done to earn our freedom. We were sinners, disobedient, transgressors of God’s law, deserving punishment, not pardon. Therefore, when we assemble, we need to remember who we are and what we were. As we fellowship together, blending our voices and thoughts in songs and prayers, it is with the realization that except for the grace of God, we are all lost and without hope, for there is none righteous, no not one!
There’s a certain amount of intended humiliation involved when a person is compelled to stand before others and admit his alcoholism; one cannot be helped until he is broken to the point of crying for help.
Certainly our assemblies should be filled with celebration, praising God for His goodness, thanking Him for His grace. Yet at the same time, such worship should come from the depths of humble and contrite hearts burdened with the terrible realization that it required the bloody death of an innocent Being to redeem us from sin.
The fellowship we enjoy with each other in Christ is our support group. Without God we have no hope. Without each other, the daily struggle against sin would be almost unbearable. Sinners Anonymous we are, but God designed His church so that His people would have a way to encourage and strengthen and help each other. God wants us to know we’re not alone – there is strength in numbers – and together we’ll help each other through the day.
– My name is Bill and I’m a sinner.