Many people are confused about their identity. Who am I? I must be a sinner because I sin,they think. But, there is a clear and important distinction between sinning and being a sinner.
Christians are not sinners, yet still sin, hopefully less and less as they grow in the Lord. How can I say one is not a sinner if a person sins? It goes to the heart of the Gospel. Our very natures were transformed when Born Again. Being a sinner says something about one’s nature, and if one is Born Again his or her nature is no longer that of a sinner, but a saint. One has become a New Creation, perfected in spirit. We see all through the book of Acts and Paul’s letters that the word “saint” is used of all Christian believers.
But, do we sin? – Of course – it’s obvious! We know that’s true! Anyone who says they don’t sin is self-deceived, and indeed does make God out to be a liar (1 John 1:10). John writes in 1John 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Then in various places in the rest of the letter, John says words like, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning…” (1John 3:9).
Is John contradicting himself? No! We grow out of sin, but it is a lifetime process -we don’t make a knowing “practice” of sin, and, if we are Born Again, God chooses not to see sin. He put it all on Jesus at the cross. The sin issue has been dealt with. After all, as verse 9 continues, “…for God’s seed abides in him [us], and he [we] cannot keep on sinning because he has [we have] been born of God. It’s a work of grace that we cooperate with in faith, and various areas of what had been sin habit are gradually worked out of us. Wonderful savior – He saved us from our sin, and His saving grace continues.
“Sinner Saved by Grace – No, that gives us a wrong idea of who we are in Christ”
It gives Christians a wrong idea of who they are in Christ to say they are sinners saved by grace. Yes, they are saved by grace, but no, they are no longer sinners by nature. God looks on our spirit man, which is entirely new. We did once, but we no longer have a sin nature. The old man is dead, and what we need to do now is renew our minds to God’s Word to gradually overcome the old baggage,the old ways of living and wrong teaching that we received..
When we focus on sin conscientiousness, we easily fall into more sin. And it is a slap in the face to Jesus. When we focus on Jesus, His grace given to us, His gift of righteousness, we have the confidence to tap into the power of the Gospel, the Living Word, through the Holy Spirit, to overcome.
And, of course, when we do sin, we turn from it back to Jesus; we confess, agreeing with God that it is sin, and appropriate with thanksgiving the forgiveness won for us at the cross, and get up and go on, remembering that Jesus dealt with the sin issue. Now what we have is a faith issue. Do we believe and do we receive the finished work of Christ?
Remember, Jesus did make us righteous at the cross, appropriated when we received Him by faith as Lord and Savior. We don’t lose that righteousness when we sin. After all, it isn’t our self-righteousness that makes us righteous, it is His Gift of Righteousness. When your child misbehaves, you don’t kick that child out of the family, and you don’t love them any less. Forgiveness of their failings as they are learning is a forgone conclusion. You make it right and go on.
That’s what repenting (turning back) and confession (agreeing with God – not that I’m a sinner, but that I have sinned) are all about. It doesn’t earn our forgiveness – that’s a foregone conclusion– Jesus took all or sins at the cross. It frees our heart to go on. It also protects us from the enemy, for “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18). And, we “keep” ourselves by being “kept” in Christ (1 Thess. 5:23, Jude 1:1). It is a joyful thing to be able to let go and say “God, you are right,” and to appreciate His love and forgiveness and security in the family of God.
So, who am I? I am a saint, because I have been saved by grace. My spirit is recreated. My soul – mind, will, emotions, personality – is now in the process of growing and overcoming, playing catch-up with my Born Again spirit over my lifetime, with His help. Looking in the mirror of God’s Living Word, I see who I have been made to be in Christ, containing the very glory of the Lord, and I am “transformed from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18), day by day. And He will keep us and present us “blameless” when the time comes:
“Now to Him who is able to keep [guard, preserve] you from stumbling [falling, without sin],and to present [Gr. ‘histēmi’ Strong’s 2476 ‘stand, abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set’] you faultless [unblemished, blameless, spotless] before [in] the presence of His glory [His glorious presence] with exceeding [great] joy“(Jude 1:24, using NKJV with other translations).
Hallelujah! That’s why we can say with confidence and expectation, along with John, “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20), yet patiently wait as He uses us for His work in this world to love, proclaim and advance His Kingdom, allowing Him to live through us to bring in the Harvest. So, saints of God, Arise!