Becoming a Christian necessarily requires that we acknowledge our sinfulness and recognize our need for saving from our sin and the consequences of our sin, which is death.
What does it mean to sin?
It means that we fall short of the glory of God. We fall short of His beauty, pristine holiness, pure righteousness, and perfect love.
The Bible tells us all have sinned. (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:9)
We are saved from the consequences of our sin (death) through faith in Jesus who is Sovereign God and worthy of our worship and obedience. After we become Christians, we are continually being saved from our sinfulness. This process is called sanctification. God gradually reveals our sin to us and roots it out of us—through the Word, through prayer, through fellowship, through trials, etc. The Bible tells us we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another.
Why is it important for us to understand all of the doctrine of sin and to have a grasp of our own sinfulness? Here are a few reasons:
1) Only the sick need a doctor. Only the lost need saving. Seeing our sinfulness reveals to us our need for saving.
2) Recognizing our sinfulness reminds us of our utter and continual need for God for everything good.
3) Recognizing our sinfulness causes us to give thanks to the God who died for us.
4) Recognizing our sinfulness causes us to have compassion and mercy on those around us.
5) Recognizing our sinfulness allows us to acknowledge that God deserves all the glory in our life, not us.
6) Recognizing our sinfulness and acknowledging it to others enables us to walk in the light—in sincerity and truth, not in shame and guilt.
7) As we confess our sins to others, we can receive help from the Body of Christ.
8) As we confess our sins to others, others will feel more comfortable to do the same.
9) Acknowledging our sinfulness shines a spotlight on the goodness of God.
Our failure to recognize the fact that we are sinners is caused by either: 1) our blindness or unwillingness to soberly assess ourselves; or 2) our failure to see just how good, beautiful, magnificent, holy, and righteous God.
Paul calls himself the foremost of sinners. This is the Paul who dedicated his whole life to God and ministering to God’s people. This is the same Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. Paul acknowledges his pre-Christian past where he persecuted Christians. But in calling himself the foremost of sinners, Paul uses the present tense. I don’t think this is because Paul has committed the most heinous sin than anyone in the world. On the contrary, I think it is because Paul has gotten to know God well. God is big and glorious to Paul. The more he knows God, the more he knows he is not like God.
1 Timothy 1:15-17 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
There are at least two harmful ways of dealing with the fact of our sinfulness.
One of these ways is by becoming obsessed with our sinfulness and our sin. We nitpick ourselves and others. We are excessively introspective or judgmental towards others. We experience condemnation. We over-analyze everything so that we see a sin angle to everything we do. We become so sorrowful over our sin that we miss the joy in the fact that Jesus saved us!
The other harmful way of dealing with our sinfulness is apathy. We may know we are sinful, but God saved us so we are fine. We may know we are not perfect, but we think “I’m not THAT bad.” We may not have thought about it much. We may not want to think about it because sin is a depressing topic. We may think we are sinners so what’s the point in seeking to obey anyways. We avoid God because we don’t want to deal with our sin. We love our sin too much that we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we would have to give it up.
I do firmly believe with all that I am that Jesus is worth it. He is worth every suffering this world has to offer. I know He is good. I really, really believe that. The more I see of His character in the Word, the more I believe that. Accordingly, I know He would not have subjected this world to the type of suffering that it has if it was not worth it. And His Word tells me that. I believe the joy that awaits us more than outweighs the deepest heartache and the ugliest sin. It is still heartbreaking to hear about torture. It is still heartbreaking to hear about starving and neglected and abused children. It is still heartbreaking to hear about illness or death of a dearly loved one.It is still heartbreaking to hear of divorce and rejection and “love” that doesn’t last. It is still heartbreaking to hear about children sick or lost or never had. It is still heartbreaking to hear about aging, ill, suffering and lonely parents and grandparents. It’s heartbreaking to think of the Proverbs 31 woman who never finds a husband. Life still hurts. And Jesus has compassion on us. He hasn’t asked us to endure anything He hasn’t endured Himself—and He is the only one in the World who is innocent. He is our example of how to endure. But it still hurts. This life hurt Him too. Our pain hurts Him. He remembers that we are but dust. He wept with Mary and Martha, even though He knew the outcome was going to be better than they could have dreamed. This is why we weep too—at the suffering we experience and at the suffering of those around us. We are real with Him and with others, and He heals us and grows us in this realness (Bible calls walking in the light). We don’t have to pretend with Him or others and He doesn’t want us to. And He wants us to go to Him… and not simply seek every kind of distraction from the pain.
I think I have been feeling stuck lately, unable to reconcile the glorious picture I see in the Word of how the Body of Christ is supposed to be and what I actually see in the Body of Christ, including myself. Because of this, I have been feeling disillusionment—reluctance to engage with other Christians and even a reluctance to engage with God because the Biblical standard of love and relationship in the Body just does not compute with what I see in myself or others. In fact, my worst experiences in relationships have been with Christians. Somehow this inconsistency made me doubt on some level how what I am seeing in Scripture could even be true! Sometimes it has caused me to "ask" (read: “sinfully accuse God”), “does the gospel really work?!” Today, in conversation with a dear friend, it occurred to me that maybe I am asking the wrong question. The presence of sin does not negate the truth or effectiveness of the gospel. The gospel ASSUMES the presence of sin. The reason it is good news that Jesus died for my sins is because I am sinful and I needed Him to save me—it was/is my only hope! God’s sanctification of me (process of making me holy) is not finished yet. Although I am justified (i.e. forgiven and saved because God the Father looks at Jesus’ perfect work of obedience and His perfect payment of the punishment for my sin), God is doing a work in me and in all of His people today, but He is also not finished! My brothers and sisters in Christ and I still have plenty of sin! We still need gospel application TODAY in our lives because we still sin! And yes, it is true that what I see in myself and what I see around me does not measure up to the beautiful picture and calling I see in God’s Word. Part of the pain of that is the groaning of living in the already (already justified, already seeing in part God’s beauty, already seeing in part how things are supposed to be, already experiencing in part sanctification and redemption) and the not yet (not yet seeing the whole picture of who God is and what His plan is and all the areas where I am not yet in conformity, not experiencing the fullness and completion of His sanctification and redemption, etc.). Living in the already and not yet, produces groaning in us.
It’s all right here in one of my most favorite chapters of Scripture and I never made this connection before:
Romans 8:18-25 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Part of the pain of not being able to reconcile what we see in Scripture and what we see in our lives is that we do have first fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit has done a work in us… but there is much more He is going to do in us. And so we must rest on faith---hope in what is unseen, which includes the promise of God that He is working all things out for our good--which is conforming us to the image of Christ.
Does this make sense?...because this is a raw, rough, unpolished post that is little more than an attempt for me to process and remember what God is teaching me right now.
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