Saints & Sinners
I am finding we try to make many things in Christian life an either/or issue when they are really neither one. With God there is almost always a third alternative. I think most of us agree that we are not graced over sinners, and yet we all know by experience that sin dwells in our members (i.e. in our flesh). God clearly tells us that our sin nature was crucified with Christ and His nature became our nature the day we accepted Him (Colossians 3:9). Sin is no longer natural for us. We do not have both a sin-nature and a God-nature residing in us with the one we feed as the winner. In fact, I see that the "dual nature" teaching is dangerous because it lures us into believing the Christian life centers on our efforts. This ultimately leads to a carnal life where we live the Christian life in our own power.
It has been my observation that some of us tend to glory in our identity in Christ rather than in Christ Himself. In other quarters there is a self-abasing attitude which focuses on our wickedness. These two extremes equate to good and evil; however, we are not to be evil and we are not to be good. If we are striving for either one, we are simply eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which is actually the tree of death. We are to eat from the tree of Life (Jesus Christ). Knowing who we are in Christ is not as important as knowing Christ Himself. Any "result" of Jesus taken out of the context of Jesus simply becomes "good" and is ultimately the enemy of Christ.
When counseling and dealing with issues of un-righteousness my only desire is to see Christís nature revealed from within the defeated believer. This encourages defeated people to see that sin is not their nature. For example, I recently counseled a Christian brother who has a cocaine addiction. One of the things I told him is not to believe the lie that he is an addict; he is a child of God. The addiction is simply a flesh issue and is not his nature. His misery when he is involved with drugs proves it. However, the enemy loves to keep him in defeat by holding a "banner of shame" over his head and repeatedly reminding him of the addiction. By the same token, I have counseled with people caught up in self-righteousness who need to be reminded that they are sinners in desperate need of a Savior--not for salvation's sake, but for victory's sake--so they may see the life of Christ revealed. God works from both sides of this issue to meet us right where we live. This is Godís way of raising up the low places and leveling the high places.
The more I grow to know Christ, the more I see how I know nothing of the things of God; therefore, the bottom line for me becomes, "I donít know about all that, but what does this say about Jesus?" The answer lies in Him alone and not in whether I am a saint or a sinner! Paulís claim that he was the chief-est of sinners gives us insight into his life and faith. He began in ministry saying that he was every bit as good as the "super apostles," but by the end of his life he said he was the chief-est of sinners and in his flesh there dwelled no good thing. Is the timing of his statements accidental? What in the world must he have struggled with in order to make such a claim when he was so mature in Christ?
Jesus is enough. Everything else in life comes secondary to Him. Oddly, I have discovered that I refer to other Christians I meet as saints. Because of my own weaknesses and struggles I know that in my flesh there dwells no good thing and I refer to myself as a sinner. I readily admit to being among the chief-est of sinners, yet find tremendous peace in knowing that. In my frustration with sin, I came to a place of desperation that led me to seeing Christ in a new way. So, is knowing you are a sinner a bad thing? A friend of mine once asked, "Can you take up the challenge to stop thinking about your own spiritual condition? What gets your attention gets you. Christ must always get our attention. When we are thinking of our crown, we are not in Christ. When we are thinking of our cross we are not in Christ. The cross and the crown are one in Him." The thing that works death in this sinner is the very thing God is using to bring Life to His saints. This is not an either/or topic because with God there is a third alternative. His name is Jesus.