Friday, November 20, 2009

Are Christians sinners? - a discussion

The exchanges below follow those that took place in an earlier posting titled "Should Christians follow Paul's example and call ourselves sinners?":

C wrote:

Yes, Stanley. Christ has paid the penalty for ALL our sins. Yes, even when we sin, we are still righteous in God's eyes. But where did you get the idea that He no longer see us as sinners? Why all these warnings in the bible? For example,

"We must ALL stand before Christ to be JUDGE. We will each receive whatever we deserve for good or evil we have DONE in this earthly body." ( 2 Cor. 5:10)

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified..The Lord will PUNISH men for all such sins as we already told you and warned you. For God did NOT call us to be IMPURE, but to live a holy life." (1 Thess 4:3-7).

What is wrong for God to see us as righteous because of Christ's act and to see us as sinners for what we really are?

Why cant we call a believer who sins a sinner (James 5:8) ? What is wrong to admit that although one is righteous in the eyes of God, one is also a sinner if one commits a sin?

In the biography or autobiography of great saints, they say towards the end of their lives, they are still sinners. The reason is that as they get closer to God, they become more aware of their sins.

Most unbelievers live in darkness and because their conscience is dead, they are not aware of their sins. As we grow closer to the Light, it will reveal our more of our hidden sins, motives and agendas. We shall out of remorse and Godly sorrow that leads us to repentance.

The more we know we are sinners, the more closer we will draw near to God. It sounds like a paradox, and like most great christian truths, they are paradoxical.

Stanley wrote:

"What is wrong for God to see us as righteous because of Christ's act and to see us as sinners for what we really are.?"

Well, C, I guess you belong to Blaise Pascal's "the righteous, who believe themselves sinners". As for me (and I think Lip Kee as well), I belong to "the righteous, who believe themselves righteous" BUT no worries, you and I will still meet in heaven, just that our journey there will be entirely different experiences ;-)

Lip Kee wrote:

To find common grounds on which to facilitate our communication and enhance mutual understanding among us, I read through all the comments again, and my comments are as follows:

1. For Stanley, the term "Christian" and "sinner" are used to define the spiritual IDENTITY of a person.

A "Christian" is someone who believes in and accepts the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, saved from the prison called "sin", and born again as a child of the most high God. The IDENTITY of a believer, a saved person, a Christian, is that of "the righteousness of God in Christ" (Rom 5:21), even if he were to fail and fall, and commit sinful acts.... Read more.

Does a Christian still have the flesh in him? Does sin in the flesh have an influence over the believer? Is it possible for a child of God to still commit sins? Yes, yes, and yes. But he remains forever a born again child of God. He cannot "un-born" himself from God's family.

In contrast, a "sinner" is an unbelieving, Christ-less, unsaved person who belongs to the tribe of the first Adam and has yet to be reborn into God's family. The IDENTITY of an unsaved person remains that of a "sinner", regardless of how saintly he behaves, and how many good works he has done.

Stanley believes that the real IDENTITY of a Christian is found in the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, and not in the first Adam. As born-again children of God, our true IDENTITY is found in the Spirit (the supernatural), not in the flesh (the natural).

Since we are taught in the Bible to walk NOT by sight (i.e. to perceive and live naturally, to look to ourselves and depend on our self-efforts) but by faith (i.e. to perceive and live super-naturally, to look to Jesus and depend on His grace), we are to see our IDENTITY in Christ, in the Spirit, and not in our humanity, in the natural.

I believe it is in the above sense that Stanley asserts that a Christian (a child of God) can never become a sinner (a non child of God) and should therefore not be addressed as such.

2. For C, the term "sinner" simply describes a person based on his actions and deeds. The term "sinner" does not so much define the identity of a person as it DESCRIBES THE DEEDS performed by him.

Therefore, when a person, regardless of whether he is a believer or an unbeliever, commits a sinful deed, he is described as a sinner.

Here, we are NOT talking about the person's identiy. His identity as a beloved child of God remains intact - he is still fully forgiven, still completely accepted, still perfectly righteous IN CHRIST.

Nevertheless, when seen and described in his humanity, in the natural state (in contrast to the spiritual state which is IN CHRIST), this person is indeed someone who has done wrong and fallen short - a doer of sin, a sinner.

In the sense above, I would agree with C that it is not inappropriate to use the term "sinner" to describe a born again believer.

3. Personally, I think it all boils down to the context in which and the meaning to which we attribute the word "sinner" when we use it. I believe when the context of the usage and our intended meaning are made clear, we will find it easier to appreciate each other, and not disagree with each other so much. :-)

As I've stated in point 2 above, I don't object to the use of the word "sinner" to describe born-again believers. Nevertheless, my personal conviction and strong preference is to use words such as "beloved", "accepted", "Royal Priesthood", "the righteousness of God" etc. to address my fellow siblings in Christ and myself.

I find it can be quite confusing to call a believer the righteousness of God in one breath, and then in the next breath, call him a sinner.

But there is a way out. To avoid any confusion and misunderstanding, we can say, "IN and of ourselves, we are but filthy and sorry sinners, but thanks be to God, IN CHRIST our lovely Savior, we are the precious children of our Abba, fully forgiven and greatly loved by Him. We are the righteousnes of God! :-)


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