I’ve been reading God’s Pursuit of Man, by A.W. Tozer, and have been challenged to reconsider a variety of statements that we hear quite regularly from Christians. The one I’d like to examine today is the idea that there’s no difference between a Christian and one who is not a Christian—only that one has a Saviour and the other does not.

This idea is both true and a lie. That’s what makes it so insidious. If we unequivocally accept the truth of the statement, we also accept the lie.

It’s far better to reject the statement altogether and change it into something wholly true and wholly a lie so that we can better understand the insidiousness of the original statement.

The True Part

A Christian does not have anything naturally and innately within himself that elevates him above anyone else. He starts out in life still sinning, still hating God. Yet when he asks Jesus into his life, Jesus makes sweeping changes and elevates that Christian’s life to a plane hitherto unimagined. But the Christian has no cause for pride in such miraculous work. The change does not originate with him, nor is it sustained by him. God is the only Source of the transformation.

The Lie

A Christian is no different from a non-Christian at all. The only difference is that Jesus is in the equation. Since we still struggle with sin, just as those who aren’t Christians do, we look forward to the victory of heaven because there is no victory here. I don’t need to expect any more of myself. I can live the same life as someone who’s not a Christian, giving in to propagating the same lies and deceits, the same sexual misconduct and bullying and gossip. Only, I will put on a face that’s a little kinder than the average. Then I will be “like Jesus”.

As Tozer correctly points out, these sorts of people are fond of saying, “The only difference is that the Christian has a Saviour.”

Tozer’s response: “A Saviour from what?! …If not from sin and evil conduct and the old, fallen life, then from what?” [1]

The reality is that “a sinner cannot enter the kingdom of God.” [2]

So rather than talking fondly of our “sinner” status (“I’m just an old sinner,” some of us say), let’s repudiate it with the horror and disgust it deserves. Why would we choose to reattach that old label when we are redeemed?

As Tozer states, salvation doesn't just include a “judicial change” in our status, whereby we are no longer sentenced to hell. “It also includes an actual change in the life of the individual.” [4]

That’s why James said, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” [3] Such a faith clings to the judicial change without embracing the actual change. Such a faith wants all the perks of heaven with none of the submission of the cross. That’s why Jesus exhorted us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. [5]

“For whoever would save his life [—that old, former way of controlling our existence, and succumbing to temptation whenever we feel like it—] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake [—by surrendering control over to Him who has conquered sin and death, and who has good plans for us beyond anything we could imagine—] will find it.” (Matthew 16:25, ESV, interior notes mine)

The changes that God makes in our lives are transformational, yet too often we content ourselves with a few surface changes. We pick and choose what we surrender, making sure that we don’t allow Him unsupervised access to the rooms of our life—lest He touch something we don’t want Him to. Yet, as Tozer points out, we are called to “more than a surface change—we mean a transformation as deep as the roots of human life.  If it does not go that deep it does not go deep enough.” [6]

Our salvation is so much more than a “not guilty” verdict. It is life and freedom, transformation and victory. We look upon our former selves, at our former bondage to sin with dismay and compassion, and rejoice in the freedom to live in victory, in the freedom to obey.

Oh, sin is always lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportune moment to tempt and strike us down again. But we can afford to enjoy our liberty from our slavery to sin, for God has brought us out into wide places, to roll in the grass, eat our fill, and be satisfied out of His truest abundance.


[1] A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man, (Chicago: First Moody Publishers, 2015), 49-50 of 214.
[2] Tozer makes this statement on page 50 (of 214) in the book above, but it really originates from 1 Corinthians 6:9.
[3] James 2:17, ESV.
[4] A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man, (Chicago: First Moody Publishers, 2015), 51 of 214.
[5] Matthew 16:24.
[6] A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man, (Chicago: First Moody Publishers, 2015), 51-52 of 214.

(Picture source)