Identity: Saint or Sinner

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 12, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“I’m not perfect. I’m still a sinner. I’m just forgiven.”

How many of us have heard this line? Or used it? Many times I hear it to try to justify ourselves. We know we aren’t perfect people so we tend to pass it off as “we’re just forgiven.” Rarely, if ever, would we consider ourselves ‘saints’ because we know we aren’t perfect, not even close. We know our short-comings. If we are honest with ourselves, we’d admit we mess up every day, several times every day. And we know God’s standard is perfection.

Yet, as Christians, we are the picture of what Christ is like. That is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Just with the name itself, by claiming to belong to Christ, when people look at us, that is the image of God they are going to see. What is the image we are projecting? Most of the time, the image comes from a lack understanding our identity. I again reference Nathan Buck’s “A Lion in a Duck Suit” series. It really paints a solid picture of our identity telling us we are one thing but our behavior is telling something else.

In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to Christ. Our identity is found as citizens of the Kingdom of Darkness or the Kingdom of Heaven. Many of us want to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, but we don’t want other people to know we are. Why? Part of it is that we are fearful of what they will think. We are afraid our identity as a follower of Christ will lead to social rejection. But is that not what we recognized what we would be getting into the day we decided to follow Christ? Or did that not get included in the package when we heard about the Gospel?

Jesus said, “No servant is above his master.” If Jesus suffered, why should we expect not to? Jesus said, “If you are to be my disciple, you must deny yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow me.” Jesus made it clear we have to die to be his disciple. That is what the image of baptism is about. But it is also what the Resurrection is about. We need to die to ourselves. That means to die to our identity. We are to renounce it, turn away from it, and consider it dead. That is our old identity, our old self, also known as the sinful flesh.

But when we die to our sin, when we partake in Jesus’ death, we will also partake in his Resurrection. Our old identity dies, but a new identity arises. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “He who is in Christ is a new creation.” We no longer are identified by what we once were. Our old identity was with the label “sinner.” By sinner, we are not talking about ‘one who sins.’ We are talking about one whose nature, whose propensity, is to sin. Our old identity was “servant of sin” and “seeker of self” and “Citizen of the Kingdom of Darkness.” It is “condemned,” “cursed,” “sinful,” “selfish.” It is “pride,” “gluttonous,” “thief,” “murderer,” “sluggard,” etc. But when we surrender our lives to Christ, that old identity perishes on the cross.

The new identity is “Child of the One True King,” “Bride of Christ,” “Citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven,” “Soldier of God’s Army.” It is also “justified,” “forgiven,” “free,” “redeemed,” “victorious,” “conqueror,” “beloved,” etc. Don’t believe me? What does the record (Scripture) say? What have we been studying in Romans all this time? Jesus said you must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Being born again means you need a new identity, a new name. That identity and that name are given to us when we accept Jesus’ call to repentance.

Are we saints or are we sinners? Daniel 7:27 describes how the authority of heaven was given to the Messiah which was then passed onto the saints. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus tells us all authority under heaven is given unto him… therefore go!” Who are the saints? His followers are. That means us. A saint is not someone whom the Roman Catholic Church deems qualified. A saint is someone who has given his or her life to purposes of Christ. This is not to boast about us, but to show us who God says we are.

Most of us still think of ourselves as sinners. Are we, as born again Christians, who have died to sin and are still dying to sin, ‘sinners’? Actually, no we are not. Do not hear what I am not saying. I am not saying we are without sin. I am not saying we are perfect. We won’t get to that point until our bodies die and the resurrection process is completed. But with our new identity is a new nature. Our old nature was always inclined towards sin. But our new inclination is always inclined towards Christ. We will sin. That is a promise, not a threat. But as Christians under our new identity, when we sin, it will grieve us. We will feel guilt over it, but not guilt of breaking the law. Rather, it will be guilt of grieving a loved one. When we sin, do we feel that?

Charles Spurgeon gives this illustration about the identity change, repeated in this sermon by Paul Washer. You have a pig and you put before him two plates: one plate is the finest fillet, a juicy, rich steak. The other plate is a pile of slop, the worst junk you could call ‘food.’ What will the pig go to? It will go to the slop. But what if you had the power to instantly transform the pig into a man? When you do that, and the man, with his face in the slop, realizes who he is and looks over at you, recognizing where his face is, would he not feel such guilt? The man will still drift over towards the slop because that is what he was so used to eating, but remember this is about identity. Who are you? A pig or a man? What are you attracted to? That reveals your identity.

This battle is the highlight of Romans 7. Paul constantly goes back and forth saying “I do what I don’t want to do but I don’t do what I do want to do.” This is the constantly raging battle between two identities trying to claim one body. Think of your body as terrain, territory. Who owns it - your sinful flesh, or Jesus Christ? Do you know? If not, take a look at the landscape. You can tell who owns it by how it is managed. What is the fruit? How does it look? If properly managed, a wetland will be a lush marsh. But if it in improperly managed, the wetland will turn into a nasty, stinky bog. As Christians, Jesus is in the process of turning the bog of our life of infested, stagnant waters to flowing, purifying waters. It does not happen overnight. Which areas of your life has it turned stagnant? Will you allow Christ to cleanse that piece of the land?

Who are you? What is your identity? Who gets to define you? These are all questions that answer the identity aspect of our worldview. Let us strive to let the King of Kings tells us our identity. If it be lost in sin, let us listen and obey his call to repentance so he can kill that identity and bring us back to life. If our identity be found in Christ, let us live as though that is true. Let today be day one of the rest of our lives, focused evermore towards Christ.

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