Ok, two newsletters in the last two days are prompting me to ask a question. I know there are some very knowledgeable Christians here, even an occasional pastor, that can answer this question.
I’ve always been taught that part of growing closer to God is acknowledging that I am a sinner. And by golly, hard as I try to follow God’s word, I keep slipping up. And I keep confessing to God and asking for forgiveness.
Yesterday, I received an email for a lunch group at my office building, a Christian employees club. It was addressed to “Saints of God.” I thought it was somewhat presumptuous. (When you’re full of pride like I am, you stuggle to stay humble. One of my sins, sorry.)
Today in my Neil Anderson newsletter, he says something similar. (I can’t get a permalink to his article, so I’ll just have to quote it):
A STRUGGLING SAINT
I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate
Perhaps the most vivid description of the contest with sin which goes on in the life of the believer is found in Romans 7:15-25. In verses 15 and 16, Paul describes the problem: “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good.”
Notice that there is only one player in these two verses–the “I,” mentioned nine times. Notice also that this person has a good heart; he agrees with the law of God. But this good-hearted Christian has a behavior problem. He knows what he should be doing but, for some reason, he can’t do it. He agrees with God but ends up doing the very things he hates.
Verses 17-21 uncover the reason for this behavior problem: “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. . . . If I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” How many players are involved now? Two: sin and me. But sin is clearly not me; it’s only dwelling in me. Sin is preventing me from doing what I want to do.
Do these verses say that I am no good, that I am evil, or that I am sin? Absolutely not. They say that I have something dwelling in me which is no good, evil, and sinful, but it’s not me. If I have a sliver in my finger, I could say that I have something in me which is no good. But it’s not me who’s no good. I’m not the sliver. The sliver which is stuck in my finger is no good. I am not sin and I am not a sinner. I am a saint struggling with sin which causes me to do what I don’t want to do.
Romans 6:12 informs us that it is our responsibility not to allow sin to reign in our lives. Sin will reign if we use our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13). We must renounce every such use and submit our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness.
While I agree with the gist of his devotional, I’m not sure I agree with this line: “I am not sin and I am not a sinner. I am a saint struggling with sin which causes me to do what I don’t want to do. ”
I am not a sinner, I’m a saint? That sounds opposite to what I’ve been taught before. What do you think?