A Saintly Identity

On Sunday morning, Jurie made the scandalous claim, “I’m not saying that I am a sinner; I was a sinner…. I am a saint.”
I call this claim scandalous because so many of us, in our heart of hearts, believe ourselves to be sinners. We know that we have fallen short of the glory of God. We can recount every time we have gone outside the bounds of the holiness to which God has called us. How can we ever measure up? How can I say I’m not a sinner? Isn’t it blasphemous to say that I’m not a sinner, knowing that I’m nowhere close to perfect?

Not to split hairs, but this conversation – this conflict – comes down to the meaning of the phrase “I am.” In our youth ministry, we have been discussing questions of identity. If someone were to ask you, “Who are you?” what would you say? Would you identify with your profession? “I’m a chemist; I’m a realtor; I’m a corporate trainer; I’m a student.” Would you identify with your family? “I’m a big sister; I’m a mother of three; I’m his/her wife/husband.” Would you identify demographically? “I’m a white female over 40; I’m a South African male living in the U.S. on a work visa.”

The New Testament is filled with scriptures about identity. Consider Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. – Galatians 4:4-7, NIV

He says it somewhat differently when he writes to the Ephesians:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. – Ephesians 2:19-20, NIV

One catchphrase that pops up on the internet is, “Are you a sinner, or are you a saint who sins sometimes?” The phrases, “...since you are his child, God has made you also an heir...,” and “you are… members of his household…,” tell us that God considers us to be saints. To be a sinner is to be a slave to sin. To be a saint is to be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24, NIV). Sometimes, a saint may try on sin like a costume, but it doesn’t change who he is. If you dress your dachshund up like a hot dog, that doesn’t make him taste good with mustard and relish. His nature is “dog.”

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10, NIV

The difference between a Halloween costume and the garments with which God adorns us is this – the one is a false identity; the other changes our identity from the inside. If a child of God lies, that doesn’t make her a liar. She’s a child of God who lied, and she knows that what she has done is against her nature as an heir to the King. And Jesus’ response to her, every time, is, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (Luke 8:11b, NIV). Praise Jesus for our new identity in Him, and rest in the knowledge that He has already forgiven your every sin – past, present, and future – if you believe in Him.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. – Romans 8:14-17, NIV

Curious to dive deeper into this topic? The sermon linked below provides an inspiring look at Jesus’ attitude toward sin and sinners. Feel free to leave your own comments and questions as well; we’d love to hear from you!

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