Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sinner or Saint: Which One are YOU?

     In the last year and a half I have heard something said a few times that I hadn't heard in many years, not since the early 80's if I remember correctly. I was in a church in Iowa (I live in Texas) and I heard a pastor whose exegesis and communication of the text was admirable, but then he said, 'Don't call yourself a sinner, you are a saint. You are saved, set apart for God and no longer what you used to be. So consider yourself a saint, not a sinner.' (I used a single quote 'cause this quote is to the best of my memory and not exact.)
Well, what about that? I certainly don't want to belittle the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ, the greatness of God's Amazing Grace, the Wideness of His mercy! Do you? I didn't think so!
But, it seems to me, if you Sin, you're a Sinner. I mean if you Fly you're a flier, right? If you run you're a runner, jog-jogger, drink-drinker, wink-winker! etc. etc.
Now you may say, "Oh come on! That's not what he's saying." (I used double quotes 'cause you might actually say that.) But isn't it? I mean in the final analysis isn't there a bit of "Denial" going on? Reminds me of the ridiculous line in the old Norman Greenbaum song, "Spirit in the Sky" when he says, "Never been a sinner, never sinned. I got a friend in Jesus." (Note gravity of my quote marks.) Yes, when we are justified, its common to say, it's *Just as if I never sinned*. But, we have in fact sinned, and will sin till Jesus comes. Yes, I know, we'll work till Jesus comes, too; but we'll sin as well. And, the Good News of God's Amazing Grace is important for every believer to remember and live in and exult in; daily; without parsing the reality of sin.
     Here is my contention, recommendation, suggestion, and 'urging.' Never shy away from owning and rejoicing in the State of Grace (Ro 5:2) that we are placed into by Almighty God and through faith in His Son. We are Saints! Set apart for the Holy Use of God, even as the Temple vessels. We are Saints, even as the saints of old, who through faith: "conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life." (He 11:33-35)
But, never do you earn the right, or even WANT the right, this side of Heaven, to deny one's internal, inherent wickedness, deceitfulness, pride, and rebellion. In fact, I would suggest that to deny these things is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in you! And that is denying God. And that brings me back to the whole point. I'm Just a Sinner Saved by Grace!

I would also suggest, that until you have wrestled with the current sin in your life and seen incredible victories, its really not time to revel in one's sainthood.

Consider these people; Martin Luther, Corrie ten Boom, and David Brainerd. The list could go on and on but this is a sparse sample of SAINTs who had an Very Active, Holy Spirit imbued conscience and were quick to recognize sin in their lives. They were loathsome of it, they hated it, yet recognized its systemic existence and prayed fervently for victory.
R. C. Sproul may be most noted for one of his best sellers, The Holiness of God. Some folks have had the temerity to suggest that Dr. Sproul must be head and shoulders above others in the Holiness of His life. This amazed and saddened him to hear. As he has said, he wrote it because his sinful heart needed the exposure to the awesome, abject, inflexible Holiness of God, not because he had anymore 'inside track' to holiness than any other believer.

"David Brainerd was an American missionary to the Native Americans who had a particularly fruitful ministry among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey. During his short life he was beset by many difficulties." (from Wiki) But listen to a few excerpts from his journal:

May 13, 1742 Saw much of the wickedness of my heart, that I longed to get away from myself. I never before thought there was so much spiritual pride in my soul. I felt almost pressed to death with my own vileness. Oh what a body of death there is in me. Lord, deliver my soul.

May 15, Indeed I never saw such a week as this before; for I have been almost ready to die with the view of the wickedness of my heart...

 June 30, Spent this day alone in the woods in fasting and prayer; underwent the most dreadful conflicts of my soul that I ever felt... I saw myself so vile... Spent almost the whole day in prayer...I could not bear to think of any Christians showing me respect.

     These are from a man who accomplished more for Christ than I ever have! And yes, with Brainerd and with the Apostle Paul I believe Justification is complete. But remember, the initial justification we have is an accounting term not a term of the soul. Faith has been accredited to us as the Very Righteousness of Christ, but the work on the soul goes on and on. And yes, I believe that the 'old man' is dead, but the uprooting of the vestiges of the body of sin is no less a battle than the driving of the inhabitants of Palestine out of God's Promised Land!

George Whitfield: "When I see myself I seem to be half devil and half beast." And, on another occasion while pressing through the crowds to whom he would preach: "I wonder why the people did not stone so vile a wretch as myself."

But we live in a generation that wants to soften the words, "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a WRETCH like me." OR change Isaac Watts powerful words; "Alas and did my saviour bleed and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred Head for such a worm as I?" I have heard recently that singing the phrase "I'm just a sinner saved by Grace." Is an affront to God because of the word "just." Please! Its not about what I am or have done, that I am now a saint. So speaking from all I have brought to the work of salvation, I AM just a sinner saved by Grace.

In fact, I say that this is blindness and insensitivity to the Spirit of HOLINESS that indwells the life of every believer.

I could go on but remember, I Do Rejoice in God my Savior. I am glad that Sanctification is a work finished and a work progressing. I am glad that no amount of my living wickedness alters my standing in Grace one nano-molecule!

But please, don't tell Christians they aren't sinners. You'll find yourself disagreeing with the Holy Spirit of God!