From time to time on my blog, I take different approaches to emphasizing that although Christians are “new creations” in Christ, they are still sinners as well. As believers, we are in the process of transformation and have not “arrived” yet. We have received salvation, but not in its fullness yet. The best is yet to come! Meanwhile, we are both saints -and- sinners. I feel that maintaining this balanced perspective about ourselves is critical for the spiritual life.
I suppose at times it may appear that I over-emphasize our sinfulness. Yet, I personally don’t see it that way. In segments of evangelicalism I observe a lopsided over-emphasis on the “saintly” side – we are new creations, victors, must think positive, etc. The approach seems to be that we are saints -or- sinners and any hint at our ability to sin will bring us down. (Yet my experience is that when you ignore your capacity to sin, you often end up stepping in a big pile of it!)
An appropriate emphasis on our sinfulness simply brings a much-needed balance back into the picture. I think Christianity is so very accurate in its “both/and” portrayal of redeemed and un-redeemed humanity. As Mark McMinn points out in his exceptional book Why Sin Matters:
“We are ruined by the effects of sin; we see our brokenness in every aspect of the created order. The damage report is extensive. Yet we are noble, made in God’s image and graciously deemed worthy of redemption.” – Amen!!
In a devotional I recently read, it spoke of the Romanticism that arose in the late 18th century as a reaction to the age of Enlightenment. While there were some advantages to the exaltation of reason, something was lost. Romantic writers emphasized passion over reason, intuition over logic, and the majesty and mystery of nature over scientific analysis. The devotional refers to Marvin Olasky (World magazine) who describes the biblical worldview as “romantic realism.” Olasky states:
“Christianity is both gruesomely accurate in its realistic depiction of abundant sin but also romantically hopeful – for the bridegroom, Christ, does not give up even when repeatedly spurned. The Bible is the romantic realist book that best shows both graves and grace. It doesn’t pretend that life is either heavenly or hellish, but shows how we’re all thigh deep in muck yet able, through God’s grace, to see the sun. Jesus not only turned water into wine but turned Simon, who dreamed of fish, into Peter, a fisher of men – and he can do that to each of us.”
You don’t need to pretend, my friends. You don’t need to pretend to be perfect when you know deep inside that you are not. Yet this does not (and should not) bring despair. It should bring hope and point you to Jesus.
You are not okay, and that is okay! Because there is ONE who bore your sin for you. There is ONE who was perfect because you can’t be. That’s the Lord Jesus Christ who loves you and gave His life for you on the cross. Romans 8:1 reminds us that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Our identity is secure in Christ, and we are not defined by our behavior.
Obsessing over your saintly status, or obsessing over your sinfulness are both prideful. We make it all about us. Obsess over neither and look to Christ!
Are you “in Christ” my friend? Maybe someone reading this has never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a noble ruin worthy of redemption. All you must do is turn to Jesus with a heart of faith.
Devotional mentioned is: A Faith and Culture Devotional, Daily readings in Art, Science, and Life. Zondervan, 2008.