Sin is Sin. Grace is Grace. A sinner is a sinner, and a saint is a saint.
Recently a former student of mine asked me about something he was reading. He said that in the book, the author stated that we should refrain from using the old adage that a Christian is “just a sinner saved by grace.” Instead we should refer to ourselves as “saints being saved who sometimes sins.”
This is an interesting thought. One that I have wrestled with many times during my discipleship.
One the one hand, there is the startling truth that screams aloud we are sinners! We are nothing more than this. One of the fundamental doctrines of the church teaches that we are depraved. We all carry the disease of sin and death, which eats away at our very flesh and blood. It is a nature that compels us to the dark corners where we can hide as shivering masses fighting against the light. And it is only through this revelation that we can come to know Him. The One. The Messiah. The Savior with the cure for this disease.
And isn’t this the first step? Admission of the problem, diagnosis of the disorder? We must first admit our total depravity in order to beg for the cure.
As Brennan Manning puts it, A ragamuffin is one that knows he is a beggar at the door of God’s mercy! As the bible puts it, the one who beats his chest and cries out for mercy is the one who is forgiven. We are the whore caught in her sin. We are the wretch in the song. And the Gospel is “just” this simple. Those who truly realize their need cry out, like blind Bart in the Bible. These people are the ones who fully trust in the saving Grace of Jesus. These are the ones that have faith. So simple. So easy. So beautiful.
But this is one side of a two sided reality. there is another dimension we must acknowledge.
Jesus says to the whore that there is no condemnation, and then with the next breath states “go and sin no more.” In fact, all of Paul’s teachings echo this sentiment. We are a “new Creation.” We are “lead by the Spirit.” God has put the law of sin and death to…well, death!
The proof is in the puddin’, so to say. The evidence is in the fruit! Those who have surrendered to Him must follow Him. Those who follow Him will begin to change. To be made new.
In fact, Paul admonishes that we press on towards the goal, to become worthy of this high calling. And we must do that! We must remain focused on the things above. We must forget what was behind us, the fact that we were once blind, or sinful, or shameful. We must run the race! Fight the good fight!
BUT! What happens when we slip? When we fall? When signs of that old beggar pop back up in our lives? And it truly is not a matter of if, but when…
WE MUST NOT FORGET! We must never forget! We have a living hope! We must never forget we have been freed! We must never forget from whence we came. When we forget we lose touch of reality. The truth that our righteousness is as filthy rags. We are no better than the heathen down the street. The only difference in us is Him. This is what keeps us humble, loving, and willing to change.
To me it is much like a tight rope. Lean too far and fall, either in legalism or cheap grace. Neither are honoring to God, and both lead to the same pit. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am a sinner, saved by grace, which makes me positionally perfect, yet practically striving…
And if that doesn’t state it correctly, maybe Paul does in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any should boast. ”