Driving home this evening, I got to thinking about what I’ve written here the last few days. Much of it centers around how we Christians perceive ourselves and what Christ has done for us. It’s the question of whether we see ourselves as sinners or saints.
The more I read the Scriptures, the more I realize we’re misunderstanding the extent of Christ’s work on the cross. And in that misunderstanding, we fall back into a grossly mistaken position.
The New Testament draws clear lines of distinction between sinners and saints. We, however, like to blur those distinctions whenever we call our post-conversion selves “sinners.” But I don’t see Paul going back to that well all the time. When he writes a letter to a church, he doesn’t say, “To all the sinners in the church of….” No, he repeatedly uses the word saints.
In truth, you and I are saints who are being changed by God through the putting off of our old sin nature. Our identities got swapped out. God doesn’t look at us as sinners, but saints because of the salvation purchased for us by Christ.
So why is it that so many of us go back to that hangdog “sinner” appellation? Aren’t we giving up what Christ did for us at the cross? If we truly are new creations in Christ, if He’s paid the penalty on our behalf, and He’s secured for us access to the Father, why do we fall back into thinking of ourselves as sinners and not saints?
If anything, the epistles drive this home:
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
—1 John 3:1a
If we don’t have this mentality, then we’re missing out on what it means to be alive in Christ.
- set our expectations low and don’t believe God for the impossible because we still think we’re aliens and strangers,
- fail to appropriate what Christ has purchased for us on the cross, because we mistakenly think the sinner in us is triumphant over the saint, and
- muddle through and lament, rather than walk in our inheritance as children of God.
I’ve got to believe that our failure to move beyond identifying primarily as sinners is one reason why our churches lack power. It explains why so much of what we attempt for the Kingdom fails. It shows why so many of us limp through our days rather than rising on wings like eagles.
Church, it’s time to step out of the sinner ghetto and walk in the sainthood Christ so dearly paid for!