When Christians Sin

2:24 AM

I wish I can remember the first time I heard about God's grace. Growing up in a Christian family and numbering one more in evangelical congregations, I guess I always knew about it. I took it for granted. Grace was the thing Jesus did on the cross.

We talk about the cross a lot in church. "I'm so thankful Jesus died on the cross for my sins," we say. We say that a lot. Sometimes we remove Jesus from the picture and just talk about the cross and the blood and the sins.

Sins. We talk about sins a lot too.

And it's important, because sin is serious. It offends God. It cleaves relationships in two. It messes things up. That's why we talk about justice and mercy and the cross. But so often we just stay there -- at the cross. At God's mercy. That's what the cross was: God's justice and God's mercy meeting at one point. His sacrifice paid for our sins. Crazy, isn't it?

The thing is -- the thing Christians of all people don't get -- God went far beyond mercy. Christ didn't merely die for the punishment of our sins. He rose -- and crushed death completely. He enabled us to become children of God. He offers us all the resources of heaven simply because we share His name and not because we're superheros. That's what we call grace. That's what we are now: not quivering sinners at the foot of the cross but victors, saints, beloved of God, given the grace to move mountains. That's what I see, anyway, when I read Scripture.

And then I step into a church and that picture changes. We're just sinners saved by grace. We struggle with sin and we always will, and that's why Jesus died on the cross. My sins and my failures and my very tendency to sin gets hammered into my heart: you lose. You let God down. You go back to the beginning of the race every time. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Affirming a general, vague sinfulness is just superficial piety. People nod along, whispering Amen when the preacher says we're all sinners and Jesus paid for those sins, but nobody actually repents of particular sins. We just wallow in this helpless obsession of our own weaknesses and problems. The louder we lament of our sinfulness, the more we get spiritual pats on the back.

Do we hear ourselves? "God offers me this amazing grace, enough to cover all my sins and enable me to love Him and keep His commands, but it isn't enough -- we're just lousy sinners saved by grace. That's all. Nothing special."

Just sinners saved by grace? That's the most glorious label of all!

Grace didn't reach us to keep harping on our sinfulness, to drag us down, to discourage us. Grace tells us to repent, believe and conquer. The thing that marks Christians is not their sin and failure but the atonement through Christ's death and the victory through Christ's resurrection. He gives us the power to overcome weakness and sin, to grow in love and walk in the Spirit.

Yes, Christians sin. There is no place for proud Christians who boast in their own strength, their own piety, their own righteousness (as if anybody possesses those things on his own merit!). But a Christian ought to boast on Christ Jesus and His power to make perfect the worst sinner. We ought to boldly proclaim, "Sin has no hold on me. The old man is dead. Christ lives in me."

The church needs to call people to repent in specific ways, of course. We hold each other accountable. However, the church needs to even more encourage and equip one another to see themselves as God sees them -- as victors, whose robes are washed white in the blood of the Lamb, whose lives belong solely to God, lives all the host of hell cannot snatch away. The law and our efforts and our moping produces death. That's why Christ died and rose -- because grace and mercy and love are far more powerful. They don't produce pretend saints: they make the sinner righteous.

That's what grace is. And that's what we need to talk about on Sunday mornings.

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3 impressions

  1. One day in Bible study, the youth pastor asked us 'Are you a sinner or a saint?' The whole group agreed that we were sinners, Romans 3:23 was quoted, we are completely depraved, etc. But he caught us all off guard when he said, 'No, you're all SAINTS. You have been covered by the blood of Christ and you are pure and blameless in the sight of God.'

    It's not much use freeing prisoners if all they do is talk about the old chains. If they don't live as free men and women.

    So now the question is, are we still living in the shadow of sin? Or in the reality of the resurrection?

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  2. What a wonderful post, I love the way you explained this, very inspiring!

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