“We’re not called sinners because we sin,” my dad says. “We sin because we’re sinners.”
Behavior grows out of identity, you see. (Another reason to drop “cheat” from your HEP vocabulary.)
This definition is important because those of us who’ve “put on Christ” and the new life he offers us– we have a new identity.
We’re not sinners any more.
Charles Swindoll in his book The Grace Awakening, Urges Believers to look hard at Romans 6, and makes a challenging observation:
Most Christians have been better trained to expect and handle their sin than to expect and enjoy their freedom. The shame and self-imposed guilt this brings is enormous, to say nothing of the “I’m defeated” message it reinforces.
Are you ready for a maverick thought? Once we truely grasp the freedom grace brings, we can spend lengthy periods of our lives wihtou sinning or feeling ashamed. Yes, we can! And why not? Why should sin gain the mastery over us? Who says we cannot help but yield to it? How unbiblical!
You see, most of us are so programmed to sin that we wait for it to happen. …
You have not been programmed to yield yourself unto God as those who have power over sin.
That new power– rooted in our new identity– is a LOT of what Romans 6 talks about:
- How can we who died to sin still live in it?
- Our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin
- You too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires (The new identity means we have the choice to obey where previously we had no choice)
- For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace. (Glorious promise!)
- Having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
These words give me a hope I don’t remember ever basking in this much: We speak of being slaves to sin, the compulsion and the helplessness we were locked into in our lost state.
Now we (who are redeemed) find ourselves slaves to righteousness.
A new identity and a new servitude.
Sin is no longer the Default Mode.
This is a Big Deal because I don’t think I’ve lived this way on-purpose. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at Sin as completely optional.
Then Sunday (I’d been swimming in these ideas since Saturday, the day before) the man bringing the massage wrapped up with 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.
When I am watching a mystery or one of my body-a-week shows, I pay attention to the way things are said more than I do in real life.
For one thing, every speaker’s words were chosen by a writer, and I can guess that any hints I pick up on are probably real and not just in my own head.
One thing about every good mystery is that the answer is always on the table.
It might be concealed or misrepresented, but it’s there. When the answer is revealed the audience can see how clever everything was (or wasn’t) and know the truth from all angles.
In a similar way, when I go into my life and its demands (and temptations to sin) it makes a tremendous difference to me whether I’ll have to swim on my own, or if I’ve got a rope to hold onto.
God has promised a way of escape.
The answer is on the table.
How encouraging is that?!
So much of my anxiety comes from a sense of feeling trapped. Of being out of options.
And when I’m stressed I am more likely to sin with my mouth.
What a relief to hear I am not bound to this!
He will provide a way of escape.
I’m thinking that we do not have to be enslaved to any specific sin, and by grace as we are made aware of a particular sin, we are empowered to repent and even that desire for that particular sin can be taken from us. In that way we have the victory through Christ.
What I would be concerned about is the idea that we as Christians have it all together on our own – or even with God’s help. I cringe at the thought of people sitting in church as though they have it all together and didn’t just sin in some way that very morning. Perhaps I’m just concerned that people might believe that they are no longer sinners and can therefore sit in church basking in their own (self) righteousness.
I still think that as we mature in Christ the very depths of our sin will be made more apparent to us so that we can be freed from it. Then we can continue praising God our whole lives as we see glimpses of the great depth of the (and our) fall and the corresponding offer of Christ’s beautiful righteousness imputed to us.
I’m not saying that is what Charles Swindoll was necessarily saying by that quote… but I’ve sat in a few churches where the pressure to be perfect concerns me.
To some extent, any topic or conversation like this is going to hinge on definitions.
I expect I could agree or disagree with most of your statements depending on how we define Sin or sinning, but in my definition, avoiding Sin is a completely different animal than “having it all together.”
And While I have ample proof from my own life that I am too broken to “have it all together,” I believe from the scriptures that (specifically “with God’s help”) we can avoid sin.
Thanks to Jay’s wonderful managerial skill, I can have a Sunday morning where I do not sin before or on my way to church.
My thoughts on those mornings have nothing to with my togetherness. More often I am full of gratitude about this man I love most in the world.
I’ll even go out on a limb and say there are times when I feel myself in closer and deeper fellowship with God because I haven’t been screwing up as frequently.
I’m glad you brought up perfection (the pressure to be perfect) at the end there, because I didn’t see before that moment how the freedom to not-sin could look like the trap of needing to be perfect, and that wasn’t the angle I meant to show.
What Swindoll talks about (in the book, perhaps I didn’t represent it well), is how this emphasis on restoring relationship (e.g. 1 John 1:9) takes precedence in our Christian training over the training in (say) self-denial or way-of-escape (he uses Rom. 6:13, but I still prefer 1 Cor. 10:13).
The freedom I am given in this revelation is not just in I-don’t-have-to-sin. The freedom is in assuming that (since Sin is no longer my default state) that these things I desire or am drawn to are not automatically suspect, Even if they’re not on my Christian neighbor’s list-of-perfect.
If I am not a sinner by nature; if I have been given the mind of Christ, and have died with him in order to become a weapon of righteousness (!), it isn’t anything about, Yay-I’m awesome-to-not-sin!
It’s about, Praise the God who has made me fearfully and wonderfully unique to fulfill this specific purpose!
It makes a tremendous difference in my heart and motivation when I know something is *possible.*
Maybe it’s just me, but some glorious, attractive thing, once *possible* becomes my ambition and impetus.
I think it’s related to my addiction to the learning curve, but also to my hope that requires feeding.
I do not have a strong, vibrant hope. It is not in me to have that energy.
I must be a prisoner of hope.
And fed, to be kept alive.