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.