"Repentance is not just a tweak." ~Nancy Guthrie

Hope for the Hearts of Saints and Scoundrels

One day, I stopped apologizing for my boring salvation story. While it’s true that “I once was lost but now am found,” there was no dramatic Damascus Road turnaround for me, no potty mouth to disinfect or cigarettes to snuff out. The real miracle, though, was that God landed with grace in the unseen muck and mire of my heart.

He went right to work on my impatience and continues to pour out his love to dilute my self-centeredness. With my sharp tongue and tendency to self-righteousness, I’m certain there have been days when God has had to work harder at keeping me saved than some of his more colorful converts.

A careful reading of the New Testament bears faithful witness to the blurred lines between the saints and the scoundrels–and who gets to be remembered in which category. With head-spinning frequency, the biblical narrative boldly portrays disciples who become betrayers alongside victorious conversions in which taxpayers become philanthropists and murderers become apostles.

Nancy Guthrie is one of my favorite Bible teachers, and in Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus, she challenges readers’ two dimensional reading of scripture by bringing depth to the characters who interacted with Jesus. As the fears, failures, and desires of these real-life human beings show up in the context of story, I see the heart of Jesus more clearly as he held out hope to saints and scoundrels alike.

We’re All Adopted

The stories of Peter, Stephen, and Paul conjure sunny Sunday school images of faithful following, while simply the names of Judas and Caiaphas suggest “bad guy” vibes. Zacchaeus broke the mold, though, when he left behind his dishonest pursuit of riches and began to follow Jesus. Even the thief on the cross found welcome and transformation. This is good news, for the truth is that we’re all adopted, and fit right into the family of God.

God bent over backwards to make this clear even in the family he chose for Jesus’s earthly pedigree:

The family of Jesus is made up of people who come from less-than-respectable backgrounds and have less-than-perfect records.”

Kindle Loc 554

Jesus Rewrites All the Stories

Peter, Jesus’s most outspoken disciple, derived all his solid Rock-like qualities from his relationship with Jesus. The man we find leading the fledgling church in Acts is truly a new creation.

Paul went from devoted Christian-killer to devoted Christian, and his story bears out the truth that the difference between a saint and a scoundrel is an encounter with the risen Christ. Guthrie (and the Bible!) make it clear that it’s not the presence of sin in a life that condemns us, but, rather, the refusal of God’s grace and forgiveness for that sin.

The only hope for saints and scoundrels alike is the mercy of God, available because of the blood of Christ. It is only by grace that any of us is empowered to become “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Every blessing,

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus simply click on the title or the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo by Jim Wilson on Unsplash

38 thoughts on “Hope for the Hearts of Saints and Scoundrels”

  1. “Guthrie (and the Bible!) make it clear that it’s not the presence of sin in a life that condemns us, but, rather, the refusal of God’s grace and forgiveness for that sin.”

    That will preach!

    As always, thank you for your review of another important book, Michele:)

    Gratefully,

    Katie

    Like

  2. Like you, Michele, Jesus is rewriting my story slowly, with patience and grace. There were no fireworks for me, no single point in time when I thought “NOW I understand everything.” Just the slow turning of my heart toward Christ like a flower toward the sun. I am still a work in progress. We all are.

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    1. Oh, that’s just so true, and it’s where we all need to keep our hearts and heads during times when we are tempted to look down on someone else’s “progress.”
      “Like a flower toward the sun.”
      That’s wonderful!

      Like

    1. Yes, we are being kept all the time. I’ve been studying and thinking about Jesus’s ascension and his position at the right hand of God. He’s pretty busy most days just keeping me saved, but I’m glad he has time for you as well. 🙂

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  3. I read Guthrie’s study of Job back when I was first stacked with chronic pain. It was an excellent study. This one sounds to be just as good. I’ll have to keep this on the list of possible read/study. I wish I was a faster reader!

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  4. My mother always says those who found the Lord early should be especially grateful that they’re protected from the pains and troubles that come with living a long life of sin. Thanks for the review. Many blessings!

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  5. Michele,
    I don’t have a radical salvation story either. I think, however, that our “sort” can be the most dangerous of all because we get caught up in self-righteousness and it takes some humbling to get us off our high horse. I had a very legalistic faith until God wore me down with His furious love and lavish grace.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  6. I love Nancy’s writing, too. This sounds like a good one. I love seeing how God transforms people. I love that fact that sinners of various stripes are included in Jesus’ human pedigree.

    It seems the farther I go in the Christian life, the more I realize just how bad a sinner I really am. I hope that’s a result of more light reaching into deeper nooks and crannies. Somehow we tend to rank inward sins like pride and selfishness (two of my besetting ones) lower than the outward. But the Bible ranks them right up at the top.

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  7. I always appreciate Nancy Guthrie’s words, Michele, and this looks like another good book from her. My childhood salvation story isn’t exciting either, and I definitely have plenty of rough edges that are continuing to be worn (sometimes hacked) off. The older I get, the more I appreciate grace and eternal life.

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  8. I can so relate – both on feeling my salvation story was ho-hum, and on the struggle with self-righteousness. I agree it’s dangerous for us to feel we’re not as close to the edge as we really are. God hates pride! But He seems to send situations to take care of that! That’s one of the reasons I know He loves us!

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  9. I like reading that God landed in your lap without a lot of fanfare. I think it is that way with most of us. No addition/problems here, but God is present. Thanks for linking up.

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  10. I am continually more and more grateful for my “boring salvation story” – not only as I age but also as I grow spiritually and better understand/appreciate the real meaning and true depth of God’s grace and forgiveness!!

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  11. I am not familiar with Nancy Guthrie. You have enticed me to read her works. I too use to feel that my transformation was not noteworthy. But my heart still has some needed renovation. God is constantly refining me to become what he would have me be. The truth as you shared is that I need the Lord just as strongly as the scoundrel. I have no right to stick my nose up in the air because my sins are more hidden than hers. Thank you for this post.

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    1. We do have a rather poisonous tendency to grade sins, based on cultural norms when anything that comes between us and a holy God is unsightly and deadly to our souls.
      I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts here. Hope you’ll give Nancy’s books a try.

      Like

  12. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m struggling to find a comment for this post, I’m not religious, but often find inspiration from your posts. Thanks for joining in with #pocolo and hope to see you back tomorrow

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  14. Saints and scoundrels are only divided by the temptations of the world and the purity of their hearts: neither are exclusive. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

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