Saturday, January 28, 2012
Stop Calling Christians Sinners
I recently witnessed a good friend being put out of fellowship from his local church for unrepentant public sin against his wife. The process was handled in accordance with Matthew Chapter 18, which starts with approaching a sinning brother, confronting him lovingly about his sin.
If he doesn’t repent, one or two others are brought in to confront the person, and if he still won’t repent, then you tell it to the church, and if he still won’t repent, then you treat him as a heathen or tax collector (that’s not a reference to the Internal Revenue Service, but another way of saying you treat him as an unbeliever, as though he were never born again at all).
Although outwardly the process appears to have been handled Scripturally and with humility, as the final disfellowshiping was announced to the congregation I heard something repeatedly that not only bothered me, but I believe actually compounds the problem of sinning in the church.
What I heard repeatedly in that meeting, both in teaching and in prayers, was the referring to all Christians as “sinners”. It was in the context of intended humility, something like, “As we gather to talk about this unrepentant friend of ours, we need to remember that we are all ‘sinners’.”
But of course it wasn’t just a theme of this meeting, but a common one. This referring to all Christians as sinners is common in the typical Bible-believing church. And I want to address it Biblically.
Are Christians sinners?
A Popular Bumper Sticker
But before I answer that question from the Scriptures, I want to introduce the topic by talking about a common bumper sticker that has been around ever since I became a Christian in 1976.
I've never liked the bumper sticker that says, "Christians Are Not Perfect -- Just Forgiven". It's true we're not perfected yet in every way, but it's not true that we're "just forgiven".
A lot more has been accomplished with our regeneration, our "new birth". We are a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.
But there is sometimes a real pride in self-abasement. How's that for an oxymoron? Colossians 2:18 says, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement...”
I have a couple friends who are so into self-abasement that they actually say that God didn't send Jesus to die for us because He loved us, but only for His own glory. Well, He certainly did it for His own glory, but how absurd to deny the very clear John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that...He gave his own begotten Son...".
One friend even claims his favorite Bible verse is in Job 42, when Job says, "I abhor myself". When it's pointed out that "abhor" is a questionable translation, translated “I retract”, for example in the NASB, he says it's still his favorite verse, but he likes “abhor”.
Of course we need to be Christ-centered. Indeed, the more Christ-centered we are, I believe the more we will be amazed at what He has done in us. And the more Christ-centered we are, the more we will walk by the Spirit.
Yet, I believe that, ironically, to deny what God has done in and to us, is a sort of unbelief that quenches the Spirit.
All Christians Are Saints
And that brings me to the main point of this message. The biblical truth is that Christians are NOT Sinners in their new identity. They are Saints.
Now someone may quickly say, “Well sure they’re Saints, whatever that means, but they’re also Sinners. And if you don’t keep calling Christians Sinners then they’ll get all high and mighty and think they’re something.”
So allow me to make two things clear.
1. First, Who should get the glory and credit for all this new creation? Well, the one who did it all, of course, and that’s the Lord. Whatever we are is by grace.
"What do you have, O man, that you did not receive?" -1 Cor. 4:7
"You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created." -Rev. 4:11
2. The second thing I’d like to make clear is that I’m well aware that Christians sin. That’s not the issue.
Before we were born again, we inherited a sin nature, a sin spirit, from Adam.
It’s that sin nature that sends a person who does not believe in Jesus Christ to hell.
And if you’re not born again, you still have that sinful nature, or spirit.
But when you’re born again, the old spirit, the old nature, is put to death in Christ on the cross, and replaced by a new nature. The Bible calls the old spirit “the old man”, and the new spirit, “the new man” or “new creation”.
Do We Have Two Natures?
So then do we have two natures? Two spirits? No, the Bible says the “old man” is dead, was crucified with Christ on the Cross. So we don’t have two natures, we still have one.
But it’s new, and it loves Jesus Christ and it hates sin. It believes in Jesus. Or as we say, YOU believe in Jesus. Because that spirit is YOU, and YOU are that spirit.
Now this spirit has a soul. And for discussion purposes we might say that this soul is our mind, emotions and will. [listen to Mp3 re how our mind, emotions and will were not "born again", but our spirit was]
So this spirit has a soul, and we live in a body.
But the real you, the real me, we are spirits. We are spirit beings. And to top that off, the Bible says that we have been given the Holy Spirit of God to live in us, also. Now we aren’t the Holy Spirit and He is not us, but the Bible does teach that we became one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). That’s amazing.
O.K. So why is this even important? Who cares if we say we have one nature or two natures? Who cares if somebody says we are both a bad spirit and a good spirit? Who cares if somebody says that we are two natures, old and new, battling ourselves?
Well, aside from the value of Truth itself, it’s important because we will live out our lives based on what we think is real. We will tend to ACT like we think we ARE. If we think we are partly evil, we will think it’s “natural” to act evil.
Or to put it another way, if we think we are a Sinner in our nature, in our identity, then we will think it’s “natural” to sin. We will think that, “Hey, this is me. This is who I am. I’m just a Sinner. Of course it’s natural for me to sin.”
And the problem with that thinking is it’s not Biblical.
Is Sinning Against Our Nature As Christians?
The Biblical truth is, when we sin it goes AGAINST our nature. Our new nature. This New Man, this New Creation. Sin goes AGAINST our nature.
So when we sin, we aren’t doing what’s natural, as a believer, but we are violating our own new nature. I’m being redundant on purpose here.
Because when you know the truth that you are not a Sinner, but a Saint, a separated one, a holy one, a new creation, then that truth can help to set you free.
As a believer, you are a new creation, a new spirit, a new identity in Christ, and the more you understand this, and review it, and believe it, the more your life will reflect it.
Let’s just look a little bit at our new identity in Christ. First, we are:
Holy (Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"),
Righteous (2 Cor. 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him"),
Saint of God (Rom. 1:7, "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints"),
Blameless (Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"),
Christ as Our very Life (Col. 3:4, "Christ who is our life"),
A Son of God (Jn. 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name"),
A Citizen of Heaven (Eph. 2:19, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God"),
An Ambassador representing the Kingdom of God (2 Cor. 5:20, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God"),
Son of the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, "And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit"),
Born from Him (Rom. 8:9, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His"),
With all your Needs (not greeds) Supplied (Phil. 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus"),
Blessed with every Spiritual Blessing in Heavenly Places (Eph. 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"),
Unstopped by the obstacles of the world (Phil.4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"),
Navigating our Loving Father’s “obstacle course” designed to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren")
A New Identity
You have a new identity, not that of a Sinner, but of a Saint.
By grace the old you has died, and the new you has come. That’s why Rom. 6:6 says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."
But we have to "reckon" that. We have to "consider that true". We have to "choose to believe that". Rom. 6:11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t deny when you sin. Admit it. Confess it. But recognize that’s not your identity. That’s not who you are. That goes against who you are. You’re dead to sin and alive to God in your spirit, in your nature, through Jesus Christ.
Stop saying you’re a Sinner. “Such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” -1 Cor. 6:11
You WERE a Sinner. Now you are a Saint.
Now Rom. 6:12 makes sense. After Paul tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, Rom. 6:12 says, “THEREFORE do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”
See how that makes sense? If we were still SINNERS it wouldn’t make sense. It would be saying, “since you’re SINNERS, don’t let sin reign in your body.” That doesn’t make sense and that’s why so many Christians are confused. But if you are no LONGER a Sinner, then it makes sense to say, “don’t let sin reign in your body”. It’s not you. It’s AGAINST the new you.
Friend, accept this by faith as your true identity!
Set your mind on it!
Dwell on it!
Meditate on the truth of it!
Then, moment by moment act like it is true! Praise the Lord in all things, whatever circumstances you may encounter, acting as if Christ is expressing His Life through you.
Because He is.