Ep. 438 Am I a Sinner or a Saint, or Both?

Ep. 11 Am I a Sinner or a Saint, or Both

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Shows Main Idea – On the radio today, a well-known pastor says that Christians should not describe themselves as “sinners saved by grace” but “saints who occasionally sin.” If we define ourselves as the first, he says, “What a dangerous, miserable way to live.” As Christians, how much focus should there be on the reality of daily sin versus the spiritual reality of our identification with Christ and His holiness dwelling within us? What does this practically look like in daily living?” –Supporting Member

Show Notes

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I don’t have the context for what the well-known pastor said, and context matters. Our supporter did not tell me who the preacher was, which is excellent; I don’t want to make it about him but about the idea conveyed. Part of this argument might be semantics, but I do not have the context, so it’s hard to know.

However, she is asking a practical question, which will be my approach to serving our supporting members. We must have a practical understanding of how to live well in God’s world. How are we to think and talk about being a sinner and saint?

Chicken or Egg?

  • I sin. Therefore, I am a sinner.
  • I am a sinner. Therefore, I sin.

I agree with the second point. John said it this way, and as you listen, notice the “we, us, and our” as he talks about the condition of sinners.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10).

To say, “I’m a sinner saved by grace,” is a good descriptor. I would say, “I’m a sinner not fully saved,” which speaks to who I am today in God’s world today. When I say “not fully saved,” I’m speaking of our complete salvation as understood in the Ordo Salutis. E.g., glorification is not our practical reality yet, though it will be our assured experience.

  • Definitive sanctification means we have all we need to mature.
  • Progressive sanctification speaks to our ongoing growth into Christlikeness, implying we sin.

“We are not dominated by sin. We are not dominated by righteousness. We are dominated by conflict.” –John McArthur

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It’s a Battle

Paul understood this two-part tension between a sinner and a saint:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Paul also talked about how to live out being a sinner saved by grace practically:

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

  • In both texts, Paul understood that we are still battling sin, as MacArthur suggests. If we don’t understand that a war is happening in us, we may fall prey to deception and dysfunction.
  • Granted, there is a negative implication that if we do acknowledge our sinfulness, we will develop a navel-gazing, woe-is-me mindset. I agree fully because some folks do not have sound orthodoxy or orthopraxy.
  • However, we won’t find the help we need if we don’t recognize our ability to sin. There is an analogy here: knowing you are physically sick motivates you to find help.

We want to own our sins so we can talk about our sins so we can find help for our sins so we can be free from sins. –Rick Thomas

Seven Points about Honesty

Do you see how acknowledging sin is being honest? Being honest about fallenness should not bind us to what we were before Christ saved us but free us to live out our identity in Christ more practically.

  • Hope: It offers hope to those in need. Imagine a struggling Christian novice who comes to a person who tells them they should not acknowledge they are a sinner.
  • Integrity: We have a problem, and God has an answer. It’s a matter of integrity to talk about our issues, opening the door to God’s solutions.
  • Exalts His Goodness: Saying I have a problem and God has an answer speaks to His goodness. He is kind to the humble.
  • Exalts His Power: It lifts up the possibilities of what God can do. To say I’m a sinner lowers me while promoting His strength in my weakness.
  • Exalts Christ: He came to help sinners, not just in salvation. Christ is the solution to the entire Ordo.
  • Self-awareness: When we are honest about who we are, it perpetuates a sober self-assessment while not pretending to be something we are not.
  • Sin Is Real: Saying sin is not part of our problem hides the obvious and keeps us from finding help. Folks from punitive religious backgrounds struggle to be honest about their lives.

Direct Video Messages

Seven Side-effects

  • Not Transparent
  • Life of Deception
  • Distorts and Hardens the Conscience
  • Sense of Loneliness
  • Isolating from Others
  • Perpetuate Sin Patterns
  • Seek Comforting Escapes

Seven Honest Hindrances

  • They don’t feel safe because of past reactions from others.
  • They are nervous to terrified that anyone will learn their secrets.
  • They can become vindictive and slanderous if you challenge them.
  • They recategorize sin so they can feel better about themselves.
  • They don’t like to talk about sin—at least not their own.
  • They may interpret “sin talk” wrongly; they can only hear wrong motives.
  • They live an out-of-balance Christian life.

Call to Action

  1. Do you sin? Then you are a sinner.
  2. Are you born again? Then you are a saint.
  3. Do you live under the gloomy cloud of your sinfulness? If you do, you must recalibrate your mind to the gospel. Your identity is in Christ.
  4. Do you live a saint identity but dismiss the reality of your sinfulness? If yes, you must recalibrate your mind to the gospel, or you’ll fall prey to some of the traps I mentioned.
  5. You are not under the domination of sin or the domination of righteousness, but you’re in a conflict. What does John McArthur’s statement mean to you?
  6. If you are born again, you are God’s child. You are a saint, and that is your identity. You are not a perfect saint. You will live well in God’s world by owning both truths. You want to find a community that believes these things. They won’t judge or pummel you but will come alongside you to help you. Will you speak to someone about this paragraph? Discuss how you can change and how your friend can assist you.

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