The following is a discussion that came about based on a question to Christians. The question read as follows: Which is appropriate for a Christian to say about themselves?
A. I’m a sinner, saved by grace
B. I was a sinner, but I’ve been saved by grace
For me the real point of this little quiz was to provoke people to think about their identity in Christ and how God truly sees those of us who have been saved. While the names of these participants have been exposed to the internet already, I am going to use only first names here. Also I am going to edit some of the comments for the sake of space but will do my best to keep the original sentiment intact. This exercise confirmed for me what I’ve known for quite sometime which is for the most part Christians have an identity crisis; and when we don’t know who we are in Christ it affects every area of our lives.
The overwhelming majority of people who responded see themselves as sinners, more than twenty, even though they claim to be saved and or born-again. I’ll let the responses speak for themselves. Here they are.
Dave: A. for all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God.
Dona: B. I have been made perfect in Christ…!!!
Tammy: We are still capable of sinning…but with his love and forgiveness “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13
Joyce: A…we are still sinners…but, one day we will be like HIM!!
Ron: Not sucking me into this one.
Louie: Thanks so much for the responses but before I tell you my answer let me ask one more question. When Paul addresses his letters to the saints at Rome, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, etc. is he addressing you? If so does that mean the terms “saint” and “sinner” is interchangeable?
Dawn: A. God’s grace saved me. I’m still a human, still sin and won’t be perfect until He calls me home.
Dawn: I believe yes to your follow up question. Saints and sinners are the same. Saints saved by grace.
Louie: Here’s a thought: Before Adam disobeyed (ate the forbidden fruit) he wasn’t a sinner was he? I would say no. This means we don’t have to be a “sinner” to commit a sin. I think the Bible is clear that if we are “in Christ” we are a new creature (saint). This of course doesn’t mean we cannot commit a sin but according to 1 John it does mean we will no longer “practice” sin. So with all that being said, I think B. is the appropriate answer. If Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost I am either lost or found. I cannot be a lost/found person can I? “By His doing you (me) are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). All of this is the work of the cross. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). “All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:9-10).
Tammy H.: This is to your follow up question…saints are not sinless. The word saint means sacred. All who belong to Christ by faith are saints. We are born in sin. You become a saint by being reborn. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t sin.
Tammy H.: I was wrong it is B…sorry. I should have thought longer before answering…
Ron: 1 Cor. 13:9-12: We don’t always see ourselves as he sees us. Face to face is when we see the perfect complete creation. We know that we are complete/perfect in his eyes! Still have to live in an imperfect world in an imperfect sack of flesh! We still make mistakes. Face to face we will know as we are known. Amen
Louie: my thing with this line of questioning is based on my desire for us Christians to really see ourselves as God sees us. Jesus Christ paid much too high a price for us to go around seeing ourselves as sinners. He has bought us with a price, made us whole and set us apart for a purpose. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are a branch for Him to produce fruit through, and we are to be an expression of Christ for the world to see.
Ron: Don’t forget about the thorn that Paul carried around his whole earthly life. Think Grace.
Tim: What difference does it make A or B whether we believe we are a sinner or not?
Louie: Tim, the short answer is we are what we think. If we see ourselves as a sinner we will continue in sin. If we see ourselves as someone freed from sin less sin will manifest. “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Viewing ourselves as a sinner tends to become a cloak for sin. If we see ourselves as that we give ourselves an excuse. Well, I’m a sinner so I guess I can’t help it if I sin, so I might as well.
Ron: Got some people in the Word tonight. If you noticed I never did give my answer. According to the Word I believe in my spirit that the answer is…
Louie: Think about the song “Amazing Grace.” I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Part of being a witness for Christ is telling others I once was one way but now I’m another. It is all about our identity. Here’s another illustration. When we are born we are born a sinner (Pig). When we are born again we become a brand new creature not just a washed off pig. The nature of a pig is to wallow in the mud and like it. Once we are born again we become a new creature let’s say a sheep. The nature of a sheep isn’t to wallow in the mud and like it. No, in fact a sheep may very well find himself in the mud (sin) but rather than stay there he will get up and go the shepherd to clean him. So we are no longer pigs (sinners) we are sheep (saints).
Tim: This is what happens when we take proof texts to try and describe a biblical concept. Paul takes the whole book of Romans to systematically outline the doctrines of Justification and Sanctification. Legally in God’s eyes we are as you say, perfect sinless saints, but experientially we still wrestle with our sinful nature. So in a sense both A. and B. are true. The danger for each is that if we lose sight of our position in Christ we will live like sinners. However, we should not let our guard down to our sinful condition.
Louie: This idea of a sinful nature is a tough one, but I believe once we are born again we no longer have a sinful nature. In fact I believe we humans have no nature of our own. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we were all dead in trespasses and sins and were “by nature” children of wrath because of the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. The good news is now that we are in Christ we are a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). So in my view we are either by nature a child of wrath, because of the spirit of error indwelling us, or we have been born again and have become a partaker of the very nature of Christ. Either way we have no nature of our own rather we are joined to the nature of another.
Tammy S.: Sinner does not mean one who sins. In the Word, sin and death means separation. So a sinner is one who is separated from God by sin. The thing is we should only say about ourselves what God says and He NEVER calls His children sinners so neither should we. You know I bowl sometimes but I don’t identify myself as a bowler. I was a sinner, but I got saved by God’s marvelous grace, and now He says I’m a saint. In my spirit I am the perfect new creature that I am going to be throughout all eternity, and I am in the process of renewing my mind to think like the new creature He created me to be. Hallelujah!!
Tim: Oh boy, this could turn into a big can of worms based on our different understandings of the doctrines of the human condition and such.
Karen: I like to say it like this; I am not a sinner because I sin. I sin because I am a sinner born with a sinful nature however now saved by grace in Jesus name.
Louie: There are no worms here Tim just some people discussing what faith in Jesus Christ means. I don’t think there’s any bad vibes here. “Iron sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Heather: There is none that is perfect…No not one! Salvation is a free gift of undeserved mercy for the sinner, so we are saved by Jesus Christs’ sacrifice and grace. We are to turn from sin and follow Christ. However, we may fall and stumble along the path until we are made perfect in Heaven with our Lord. So we are a sinner, saved by grace. A.
Ron: Are we done yet? Just kidding. Good debate. No winners. Saved by grace through faith. Sinner or saint doesn’t matter what word you use to describe yourself. Saved by grace through faith is what’s important. Amen.
Tammy S.: Thank you Lord for revealing to me who I am in you.
Keith: We are new creatures. Thinking that we are not sinners doesn’t make us not sinners, and having a sinful nature/body doesn’t cause us to sin more…unless we use that excuse. There’s only one human who walked the earth that was sinless: Jesus Christ. There’s no way we can say we ever become sinless, or that we don’t sin anymore. We ALL sin no matter what. So when we do sin, what then? Are you not born again? A child of God anymore? You still are!
Louie: Wow! This was amazing. Obviously there are deep rooted beliefs about whether or not we should call ourselves “sinners” after we’ve been born again. This reminds me of how many people, who have had an addiction, see themselves as an addict forever. To me we have a choice to make either we see ourselves as the world or (tradition) sees us or we see ourselves as the Bible sees us. According to the Word, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I’m going to leave it here but maybe we’ll try another little quiz soon. Thank you so much for the great participation. I’ve learned a lot.
Keith: In addition to being a deep-rooted belief (because of what God’s Word tells us), you/we have to take his Word collectively, as a whole, and base you beliefs on that, not on a verse here and there. **I’m not saying you are I’m speaking in general about KNOWING what God says.
Kelly: After reading all of your posts, I still agree with answer A. Our spirits are saved by faith and God’s grace, and because we seek to be like Him, we ask for His will and guidance in our lives, and we trust Him to “lead us not into temptation,” so to speak. But, while we are still human, our nature is still sinful from birth on. We sin daily…even the slightest rude thought towards another is a sin. Angry reactions and harsh words, even simple sarcasm, to people and circumstances, is sin. Ever thought of another woman Louie? Lust? Ever wished you had as much as someone else? Envy or coveting however you chose to say it. Ever told a teensy weensy, well-meaning lie? It’s still a lie. Ever cursed in your mind but not out loud? God still hears it. Not one of us can say not to any of these. But, as Christians, we know it is wrong, and we repent daily, even minute by minute for some of us (me!!). I am no theologian by any means, and I don’t have 100 verses of scripture to back up what I’m saying. But I DO know I can never lose my salvation, if I am truly saved. And because He lives through me, I can have the strength to go on KNOWING I am a sinner, saved by His grace through my FAITH in Him. It is through that very faith that we turn to Him to forgive us, daily, of our sins and to try to keep from those sins to the very best of our ability. And when I get to see Him, because of my faith and trust in Him, I know I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I screw up daily, not because I want to, but because I am not God. I am not perfect. But I love Him for loving me despite all my wretched faults. And I will sleep well knowing I am a forgiven child of the King every night. God bless you for making me think on this tonight, I hope and pray I haven’t offended anyone with my beliefs. Goodnight.
Louie: No one is indicating a Christian can’t or won’t sin. The original question was about how we identify ourselves. Jesus himself said, “I came to seek and save the lost.” The good news is once He has saved us we are no longer lost. Whenever a blind man was touched by Jesus he went away seeing, so do we still call him a blind man? When a lame man was healed by Jesus, was he still lame? What about Lazarus? After Jesus raised him from the dead would we consider him to still be a dead man? Look to nature for a minute with me. Have you ever looked at a butterfly and said to yourself, “Look at that beautiful caterpillar?” Pertaining to thoughts, do you think, no pun intended, Jesus ever had a “bad” thought? For instance in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus didn’t appear to want to do what God wanted, He said, “my soul is deeply grieved and sorrowful (thoughts and feelings), even unto death” and “If there’s any other way.” Thoughts and feelings come and go all day everyday and we simply cannot control all of them nor do I think they are necessarily sin. There is a place where a thought becomes lust but simply having a renegade thought doesn’t automatically mean it’s sin.
In conclusion let me say, part of my job as a student of the Bible is to question traditions and rituals to see if they line up with the Word of God. I hope this has rattled a few of you, at least to the point of making sure of what you know. All I ask is that you don’t allow your thoughts and feelings to override what God says to be true about you. Our thoughts and feelings are to be the caboose not the engine.
Psalm 23:7a “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”
How we see ourselves really does determine a good portion of how our lives will be. For instance if I see myself as an addict I will probably live in fear of abusing substances even long after I’ve stopped. Of course there is a healthy sort of fear which keeps me realizing that I don’t need to be playing around with them, but I don’t have to label myself as an addict if God has set me free, right?
The Bible tells me that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” So, even though there are programs and good ones mind you, that teach me how to live soberly at some point I have to make a decision whether to believe them or the Word of God.
God created man and gave him dominion of the whole earth. He told him to subdue it and rule over the fish, birds and every living thing that moves on the earth. Of course we know what happened. Adam disobeyed God’s one command to not eat of a certain tree and he became enslaved to the world. He gave up his authority over the planet and became a slave of sin. So part of what Jesus Christ, the last Adam, came to do was to bring authority and dominion back to mankind.
If you look at the story of Moses and the Children of Israel you’ll see a clear example of what a slave mentality will do to you even after you have been freed. Moses led them out of Egypt and into the wilderness. They were freed from the bondage and mistreatment of Pharaoh yet they still longed to go back. It was easier to deliver Israel from the power of Pharaoh than from the power of their perception of who they were. You see being freed from the physical bondage in Egypt didn’t remove their mental slavery. God was using their time in the wilderness to prepare them to take dominion again over the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 8:2 says, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Obviously we know the end result. All but Moses, Joshua and Caleb, of the original Israelites, died in the desert and never entered the Land of Promise. So you see they were truly delivered but never embraced who they were so they never took over the land or lived the life God intended for them. They saw themselves as grasshoppers and God wasn’t going to give the Promised Land to grasshoppers because it wasn’t reserved for grasshoppers it was for his Children.
Sometimes it seems we bring a lot of our troubles on ourselves simply by the way we see ourselves. Some folks remain in a never ending struggle with addiction because they refuse to see themselves as a new creature in Christ. Like the Children of Israel they may have been delivered but in their heart they are secretly longing to go back. How quickly we forget how we were mistreated by the old slave master. Just as the Children of Israel only seemed to remember the good food they used to eat; addicts tend to only remember the, so called, good times they had when using. Never mind how sick or broke you were or how many times you lost a job or were arrested. No, all you can remember is the fun times. Well that is exactly why some are destined to go around the same old mountain again and again rather than entering into the land of rest. I for one decided to see myself as a free child of God who doesn’t have to be ruled over by my circumstances, former addictions or the way the world views me. Won’t you join me? What would happen if Christians actually embraced who God says we are?
The Bible teaches us that in Christ we are Holy, blameless, forgiven, complete, justified and sanctified. We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We are the body of Christ. We are the branches joined to Christ who is the vine. We are no longer a slave to Sin but a slave to righteousness. You see in Christ we have been given back our position of dominion that was lost in Adam. God’s plan is to restore things in order to bring about his ultimate glory in a new heaven and on a new earth.
A friend of mine once told a story of a man that went to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist said, “How are you doing today?” The man replied “pretty good under the circumstances.” The doctor responded “Well, what are you doing under there?” We have been delivered out from under the circumstances so let’s get out from under them what do you say? Set your minds on things above “Where Christ is seated at the right hand of God…Your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
The day after learning about the fixes in our lives and how to deal with them I had a real life situation in which to exercise my knew found insight. It came about by way of a visit from a friend who told me of a life changing event that had taken place just days before.
I had a visit from a man whose daughter used to be wrapped up in addiction. Thank God she has been saved and her life is on the mend, but of course that doesn’t mean she no longer has things in her life that need God’s attention. She had a boyfriend back in those days that apparently hurt her pretty deeply and she’s having a difficult time forgiving him. Well the father, that came to see me, had some great news to tell me. He had just been in a gathering of believers and the ex-boyfriend was one of them. He told me when he found out he was in the crowd he went to talk with him. He said to me, “As I approached him he wasn’t the same man, Louie!” He told me he asked him for forgiveness and told him he forgave him too. He spoke with him for 15 minutes or so and walked away in amazement at the transformation God had performed in this young man’s life.
As you can imagine my friend goes home and is thinking to himself “Wow! God is so great!” He couldn’t wait to tell his wife and daughter the news. There was one problem though, the daughter didn’t respond in the way he had hoped she would in fact she became greatly upset because of the news, became angry and started to cry. You see this guy caused her a lot of pain and at that particular moment she was not prepared to forgive him.
The dad of course wants to fix this situation and wants all involved to be reconciled and made whole in Christ. No one is suggesting they have to start dating again, but this is one of those fixes only God can really fix, but she has to be willing to let God do what only he can do. He is the master of fixing fixes.
This story reminded me of when I was born again and my attempts to convince Tracey I was a changed man. She really didn’t trust me at first, but over a period of time, and her being around me,she eventually became convinced God had done a miracle in my life. I think this is going to be this young ladies path too. If she can get over the initial disappointment and anger long enough to just take a chance at seeing this young man as the new creature in Christ that he is, God can convince her to forgive him.
Walking in the Spirit doesn’t always look or feel good. Walking in the Spirit means we live with the inner knowing that what God says about us is true even if everything else seems contrary to it. For instance you might get a bad report from work or maybe someone says something about you that hurts your feelings. Walking in the Spirit isn’t changed or affected in any way because of these outer situations.
As a believer in Jesus Christ I am a brand new creature. I am no longer dead in trespasses and sins. According to the Word of God I am the righteousness of God in Christ. This is either true of me or it isn’t, and the reason it is true is because it is true. God tells us we are righteous because we have received he who is the righteous one, Jesus his one and only Son. That is all that is required for me to be made righteous.
When that old patriarch Abram believed God he was counted or reckoned righteous. It can never be because of anything he or we can do but rather because God says so. He says, “Here’s my Son, put your faith in him and you will be made righteous.” This of course runs contrary to most of what we have grown up to believe because most of us have always heard: Try harder, if you work at it you’ll become the best at it, and we should always strive to be the best at what we do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give things our best, but what I am saying is when it comes to being righteous it cannot come from trying harder or self improvement. God’s righteousness is not something we can earn, or for that matter, it isn’t even something he can give to us. Jesus Christ is righteousness. In fact 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us “But by his doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…” In other words we aren’t so much given righteousness; rather we are receiving Christ himself who is righteousness. It’s a package deal. We get all Christ is when we get him.
So when it comes to us walking in the Spirit we may be temporarily distracted by outer appearances but they don’t have the final say. We are walking, knowing we are righteous, sanctified and redeemed, only because of who Christ is in us not because everything goes our way or looks and feels right all of the time. Sometimes, in fact, life doesn’t look or feel good at all, but those are the times we look to the Spirit to remember who we are in order for us to keep going. We walk by faith, knowing what is, not by sight in what appears to be.
Written by Louie
Nature is a great way to learn things about God. After all, he is the one who created it. Most people think he created everything from nothing but that simply isn’t true. The Bible even proves this. We read in Hebrews 11 “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” So you see things were made from that which isn’t visible but there was something there that it came out from. In fact it came out from God himself just as when God breathed into Adam the breath of life. It was God’s very own breath that made Adam a living soul. In other words there is some flash or glimmer of God and his character written in everything throughout his creation. “His invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…”
Butterflies are a great example of God’s transformational power. Of course we know a butterfly doesn’t start out as a butterfly but rather a caterpillar. The caterpillar has to go through a transformation or metamorphosis in order to become the butterfly. This transformation takes place in a dark, tight spot called a cocoon. While it’s in the cocoon you can’t see what is happening but we know something miraculous happens because at the appointed time a butterfly emerges leaving no trace of the caterpillar.
There are several changes that take place during this dark time in the cocoon. The caterpillar undergoes dramatic changes to its heart, brain and stomach. Isn’t that something? It needs a new heart. That sounds like what God wants for us. And its brain, well that reminds me of how we have to have our minds renewed.
Since a caterpillar lives on foliage and a butterfly eats nectar it has to have a brand new digestive system. We too have a change of diet from feeding on fleshly and worldly things to a diet of the Spirit.
As I thought about how there has to be a complete transformation in the caterpillar I thought that is exactly like us. When Christ takes up residence within someone they become a new creature. All of the old stuff is gone and everything becomes brand new. We truly become a new creature in Christ.
If only we could see ourselves as the new creature we are rather than thinking we are still the old man. I mean I just can’t see a butterfly flying around thinking “I’m just a caterpillar saved by grace.” I for one have never seen a butterfly and thought “Look at that caterpillar” have you? No, you see the butterfly and think that is truly a miracle. Only God could pull that one off.
This whole idea about the caterpillar and butterfly struck me this morning and I thought about how Adam disobeyed God and became a lower level creature than God intended him to be. It’s as if when he ate of the forbidden tree he became a partaker of the wrong diet: worm food if you will. All along God intended for him to eat only of the butterfly food which is the fruit of the Tree of Life. Since he ate of the forbidden tree it would require a radical transformation to enable him to eat of the Tree of Life.
The way in which the transformation takes place is very much like the way a caterpillar is transformed. A man generally has to go through what many have deemed “The dark night of the soul.” We tend to have to find ourselves in some pretty dark, tight spots before we are willing to be changed. If we are willing though, God will change us into the creature that he’s always wanted us to be, and he will give us a new heart that will long for the things he longs for. He will renew our minds so we will begin to see ourselves as the new creatures we are. Finally we will start to feed on Christ. Jesus said, “He who eats me, he also will live because of me.”
One day there will be some caterpillars standing before God saying, “Didn’t I do this …?” And “didn’t I do that…?” and Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” You see it isn’t about what we do it’s about whether or not we are the kind of creature that can live in the heavenly environment God has created for those that love and trust him. It will be a place only butterflies can access. No amount of correct behavior or good deeds will change us into the kind of creature that lives with God for all eternity. Only God can change us into the kind of creature that can live in the heavenlies throughout all eternity.
Written by Louie