The Ongoing argument – Are you a Saint or a Sinner?


“Dead giveaways”.  That’s what we call them. They are those things that unveil the truth about some subject or person.  For example, you notice a middle aged gentleman driving a red sports car down by the beach in the middle of the day.  Isn’t that a ‘dead giveaway” of a mid-life crisis?  Or you see a young couple browsing through Babies R Us.  Isn’t that a dead giveaway that she is expecting a baby?  I am a college professor who not too long ago received a paper from a student that had the following on the bottom of the last page, "This essay is from – join today!"  Dead giveaway of cheating, isn’t it?

When it comes to how we see ourselves as Christians, there are a few dead giveaways.  One has to do with words…the other has to do with your action.  In other words, how you see yourself, how you view your identity in Jesus will be lived out through your lifestyle, the choices and decisions you make, your attitudes, and habits.  In addition, how you see yourself begins with mental "pictures" and metaphors that we call "words" that shape who we are and how we perceive ourselves.  Frankly, everything you do is a demonstration of how you see your true identity.  That’s why Jesus said; “you will know them by the fruit of their lives” (Matthew 12:33).  You see, here is the truth of scripture – when you entrust your life to Jesus, He not only takes care of your past identity but He gives you a new identity.  As Paul says in Galatians 2:20, the power of sin, and the power of our old nature is gone…it has been crucified, buried in the death of Jesus.  You old identity as “sinner” is gone and defeated while you are given a new identity that of “saint”. 

There has been a debate raging for centuries in Christianity over the identity of a believer.  Are we sinners or saints?   Many Christ-followers struggle in their lives because they have bought into a lie.  For example, a counselor was counseling a teenager and he asked her, “Who are you?” She said, “I am evil”. He said, “you’re not evil; how can a child of God be evil; is that how you see yourself?”  That was how she saw herself and, because of that, she was living an absolutely miserable life.  Many believers get caught up in a downward spiral.  We fail, so we see ourselves as failures, which only leads to more failure.  We sin, we see ourselves as sinners, which only leads to more sin.  The word “sinner” is often used to describe both a person’s performance and identity.  But that’s not the way the bible puts it.  If you’re a Christian, you have a new identity.  When you entered into Christ’s life and became a new creation, you inherited from God a new identity.   Someone once wrote, ”You can no more be a sinner saved by grace than you can be a married single person”.  Do you get that?  Marriage changes your identity and you wear a ring to “remind you of this special occasion”.  If you struggle with sin, as most believers do, it is because you are a saint who sins.  People cannot consistently behave in ways that are inconsistent with the way they perceive themselves.  That’s why the Key issue lies in your personal identity – call yourself a sinner, if the label “sinner” brands your identity, you’ll live that out.  On the other hand, if you call yourself a saint…if every day you say in mirror “hi saint (your name here)”…if you believe that, you’ll find your life becoming consistent to your new identity.  Being a Christian is not a matter of getting something it is a matter of being someone.  A Christian is not just a person who gets grace and goes to heaven.  A Christian is a person whose deepest sense of personal identity has been shaped by the power of God and who is growing to live that out in a fuller sense now and throughout eternity.

Brene Brown's paragraph above succinctly summarizes this struggle…being a "sinner" most of the time is shaped by a "shame-based" personal story.  That story embeds itself in a heart and will not be budged without healing and redemption (enter the Holy Spirit).  ALL of us can deal with guilt and that alone, continues to demonstrate that we deal with the implications of our brokenness (called sin) but to brand ourselves in our identity as a "sinner" only condemns us to a shame-based life.  Our guilt can be forgiven and our NEW identity underscored everytime we embrace the grace of our God.  

I have attached a broader outline of a class I give to my college students.  You can download and read at your leisure.  All I know, is that I can encourage you – let the Holy Spirit call out of you your NEW identity.  Holding on to the old identity will only cement something from which you were released by a miracle of God. 

Download Identity saint-sinner

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